Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Letter to My Granddaughter and How We Escaped the Lysol Police

The Year 2050

Dear Granddaughter,

You’ve always wanted to know how and why we ended up living in Mexico. Now that I am on my deathbed, I want to share this story with you, so you can document our family’s history and its many tortuous paths from one end of the world to another.

Well you were only a baby when there came a plague upon the world.  Our adoptive country, where we had made a life, having escaped wars and dictatorships from our native one, was now in the hands of a leader whose head was in the place of his ass and his ass sat proudly on his shoulders where his head should have been. Your Daddy was lucky enough to have gotten a job opportunity with a toilet paper cartel across the southern border in Tijuana. He and your mama left overnight with the help of a kind Coyote who took pity on the desperate people in this country and was taking many across the border into Mexico.

Your mother, who was an accomplished actress entertained the members of the toilet paper cartel every night when they gathered in the local dive, with her performance art, raising consciousness about Zoom racketeering, and other such calamities. So, the cartel owed your Daddy a favor, and they vowed to help him and his family. But you were small and fragile, and we decided it was too dangerous to take you along on that long journey. Your Daddy promised he would send for us after he and your mama got settled in Mexico.

At this time, the leader of this country woke up one morning and through the crack of his ass that was sitting on top of his head came this order that all the population had to be injected with Lysol. He mobilized all the army reserves, police and state troopers to catch whoever they saw walking in the street and give them a Lysol injection. Apparently he got that idea from his vice president who appeared to him in a dream in the shape of a snake and he said: “Mr. President, Your Highness, Supreme Leader, I think my people found a cure for the plague. The only thing is that the cure might be a bit worse than the problem.” “What is it Mike? Tell me, I trust you like no other.” “Well, Mr. President, Supreme Leader,” said the vice president channeling his voice and spirit through his favorite cobra snake: ”We have to inject the population with disinfectant, Lysol, bleach, whatever we can find. Apparently, the disinfectant goes directly to the lungs which are infected and kills the plague and cleanses the entire person from within, you know, sort of like the holly spirit would do it.” “It sounds brilliant, amazing! What’s the problem?” “Well, the problem is, Your Highness, that in the disinfection process the lungs are burned and destroyed and the patient dies. The survival rate is only 3%.” “That high?” said the president. “Well, it’s a rough estimate, we could lower it even more if we added some cyanide to the Lysol. This way only the 1% are left alive.” “I knew you were the only one I could trust Mike, you are a genius, you and Jesus Christ.”

So dear Granddaughter, men with syringes filled with disinfectant were lurking at every street corner. I knew then that I had to do everything in my power to escape and join your father and mother in Mexico. So, one dark night with no moon, I thought the time had come for the last resort: using the vampire traditions of my ancestors.

When I left my native country, three quarters of a century ago, I didn’t think for a second that I would ever make use of that backwards practice which had caused our people to be stereotyped around the world. But at the last minute I took in my purse the vial with the vampire spit that kills on contact. That night I wrapped you well in waterproof swaddles, hid you in my bag, took the vial with vampire spit and ran for my life. I walked for many days and nights, hiding in forests, canyons, deserted houses that had once been inhabited by people who had died of the disinfectant injections. And as I ran and ran for my life and yours, I left drops of vampire spit behind everywhere we passed. The Lysol police were falling like flies. It was us or them. We arrived at the border with Mexico on the fifth day.

A kind Coyote saw us and helped us cross over in exchange for the vampire spit. He hid us in his transport of face masks in the back of his truck. Your mother and father met us the next day and took us to their beautiful house on a nice street in the city, filled with bougainvillea and azaleas and blooming cacti and all kinds of other wonders. And it is this very house you have grown up in and have known as your home. And I will tell you one last little secret my girl: I had a second little vial of that precious vampire spit the night we crossed with the help of the Coyote. I kept one for us just in case you ever must deal with the Lysol police again. It’s in the tiny purple cupboard in the basement where I kept all my vampire memorabilia from the old world. Only you can open it, it’s one of those special devices you open with your eyes. Only use it as a last resort. I can die peacefully now that I shared our story with you. In your turn share it with your children and grandchildren, so they learn from the lessons of the past.

Domnica Radulescu, in Mexico

Domnica Radulescu, in Mexico City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting Gabriela and Keeping Calm and Kind During Crazy Times

As I am still in New York after the cancellation of my immigrant art festival, I decided to watch and observe people, the streets, the public spaces and behaviors, while of course minding all the safety rules of social distancing and hygiene.  So far everywhere I’ve been, New Yorkers exhibit model behavior.  From the wonderful staff at the Bernie Wohl Center where our event was going to take place and where we had one rehearsal before closing, to the hotel concierge and cleaning staff, to restaurant staff, to random people in the street or at Starbucks, people are poised, calm and kind, even laughing, having fun and most importantly mindful of each other. Also, the hotel staff assured me that I will be refunded for all the nights I am canceling due to my early departure in order return sooner to my hometown of Lexington of Virginia.

This morning, as usual I stepped down from my hotel in the Upper West side to get my soymilk cappuccino at the nearby Starbucks.  The staff was all smiles and kindness even joking around and not a bit phased, though the manager was giving “time to wash your hands” signals every half an our or so.

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But the nicest thing happened while I was sitting down at the only available table with my cappuccino and oatmeal. The larger seating area upstairs had been closed off, most likely due to the pandemic, so I was lucky to get the only available table with two benches facing each other.  A young woman with a couple of bags noticed the closed off area as well as the table where I was sitting and was going to go away looking a bit disappointed. I said: “you are welcome to sit here, please, I don’t mind it at all.” She was very grateful and for a while we each sat in silence facing each other, me reading the news on my phone, then taking some notes in my notebook, she drinking her orange juice and making some phone calls.  At some point I decided to break the silence and said: “Hard times, hm?” She looked back, smiled and said: “Yes, but if we are careful it’s going to be ok, we are lucky, we have our homes, we have food.” Indeed, I thought, so lucky are we to have homes and food as I remembered the several homeless people literally sleeping on the hard sidewalk yesterday as I walked to Central Park from my hotel.  She said: “it’s not the end of the world,” “indeed I said, only the end of the world is the end of the world, we are still here.”

We started talking and sharing about our lives, where we live and where we are from, the usual. I found out she was born in the Dominican Republic but lived for most of her life in New York, first in Manhattan, right nearby to where we were on the Upper West side, that she had recently moved to Brooklyn which she loved thanks to the wide spaces, the openness, the neighborhood feeling and the houses. I shared I was from Virginia and had come to New York for the show which had been cancelled and I was ok with that, thankful we at least had a rehearsal, that I was going to return home soon and felt calm and hopeful. She said: “You seem so cheerful,” and I said: “yes, what good is it to stay worried and dark?” She said: “So you decided to come out today?” I said: “Sure, I feel cooped up in my hotel room, it’s a beautiful day to walk around.”  She inquired very delicately about my origins, not the usual abrupt and intrusive “Where are you from?” Then she guessed I was European and then wanted to guess what part of Europe.

She did guess I was East European and guessed I was an artist, called me Bohemian, complemented me on my style.  We ended up spending almost an hour talking and sharing until we heard again the manager call out to the employees to wash their hands which was pretext for more fun bantering and joking around.  Upon leaving she told me her name was Gabriella and I told her my name, we complemented each other on our beautiful names. I left Starbucks feeling joyous and hopeful and decided to walk around some more in the crisp brilliant air of this day.

As I walked down the beautiful streets, Broadway, Amsterdam, I thought of worse times in history, such as the war my parents had survived, the devastating earthquake I survived in Bucharest in 1977, September 11 of course which my new friend Gabriella had also reminded me of, and which had given New Yorkers a true badge of honor for courage and endurance, and of course devastating epidemics like the plague.  I have been thinking a lot these days of great books about the plague and of course two favorites always come to mind: Albert Camus’s La Peste, and Bocaccio’s Decameron.  And I find their lessons more precious and relevant now than ever: hold on to kindness, be courageous, keep your sense of humor, treasure every moment, hold on to beauty, engage in storytelling, help others.  And count your blessings you weren’t born in 14th century Italy when soap and clean water were not in abundance, chamber pots were poured out of windows, testing kits had not been invented, not to mention the internet.  Oh, but wait, they didn’t have Trump, they had the Medicis, who though corrupt were smart, educated and patrons of the arts! Well, nothing is perfect! Keep washing your hands though and keep your spirit strong!

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This is myself with actresses and playwrights Emily Blake (left) and Jessica Carmona (right) at a chocolate and wine bar in New York on the night of Saturday 14th celebrating our work for the canceled immigrant art festival that would have opened exactly on that evening. We co-organized and produced it.

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Emily Blake in rehearsal on March 12th at the Bernie Wohl Center, performing the monologue titled Lula’s Nightmare from my play ‘Welcome to the Jungle of Calais’ which was part of the festival.

Update to the original essay.

I wrote this a few days ago while I was still in New York. By the time I left the city yesterday, restaurants and bars were all closing or were getting ready to close that evening, the Starbucks where I got my daily coffee was still open, but all sitting was taken away. However, the staff were the same kind, lovely and smiling people as before.

People in New York are practicing “random acts of kindness” such as this one: a woman was seen carrying a huge trash bag filled with necessities for the homeless and go by homeless people and giving away foods, clothing items, cleaning supplies.

I am now back in my hometown of Lexington, where things are as calm as ever, the trees are blooming, and the birds are singing. I’ve never felt luckier to live here than I do now. I am however self-quarantining in a separate room in my house given that I just returned from New York to make sure I am fine. And I feel fortunate to have a back yard where I can walk and breathe fresh air.

As soon as I am back to normal, I plan to volunteer at the local food banks. My dear partner is tripling his hours of volunteering for the local food banks.

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Domnica Radulescu, in New York on the upper west side, March 2020