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Day 17: DIY, a Cause That Refreshes

I’ve received an unsigned email I’d like to answer. A reader from my own neighborhood wrote to question the assertion by the Czech scientist that toxoplasmosis makes men slovenly and rebellious. “If 80% of Germans have it, where did all those scrubbed Hitler Youth come from? Wasn’t obedience the problem there?” A good point that any Czech should know well.

IT ONLY SOUNDS LIKE BIRDS ARE LAUGHING AT US (Art by Leanne Johnson)The message went on to challenge my statement a week ago that no one was organizing volunteers. “Right under your preachy nose we’ve started distributing food and medical supplies to people who can’t help themselves. If your feet still function, you will find our tables at Tompkins Square Park and Astor Place. You should get some exercise and share some of the equipment you thoughtfully accumulated. Donate masks to your neighbors. Especially children.”

The writer is apparently a woman, to judge from her conceptual handle. A spirited one.

I was delighted to read about her group, the Lower East Side Do It Yourself Committee. I instantly googled and found notices for meetings and handouts at historic St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery (actually located on Second Avenue). The idea that some of my neighbors recognize the peril and are taking care of themselves seemed revolutionary. I was inspired to venture forth.

This took willpower. I wasted two hours. Tidying up. Trying to start conversations with my girlfriend, who thinks it’s risky. Petting Sneeky. Choosing from the limited selection of excursion clothes by the door. (What’s this week’s New Black?) Poking my phone for incoming orders. Eventually I wondered if I’d developed agoraphobia. That got me moving.

DIY in the Sun

A blast of sunlight blinded me as I descended to the vestibule. My heart thumped wildly. Not from fear—more like a four-year-old kid’s at first light on Christmas. I tore off my jacket in the doorway and floated down the street in the warmest rays I’ve felt since the February thaw. I felt blessed by the sun. Imagine the tan we’d get wearing only masks, goggles, and gloves.

The LES DIY has potential. Some of their literature blames the government for whatever’s gone wrong, but that’s how most people think around here. Once they get past yearning for Big Brother to do more, they get down to business—which assumes we need to do just about everything for ourselves. Yay!

The group is enlisting volunteers to help folks obtain food and medicine. There were so many people surrounding the table at the park that I couldn’t reach the woman tending it. What I don’t touch or breathe can’t kill me. At Astor Place I encountered a table manned by a drummer who used to shake his hair with various bands at the Lakeside Lounge when he wasn’t shooting pool around the corner. Today, he was friendly and efficient under a gleaming tattooed skull.

The LES DIY sells Dr. Grattan Woodson’s Good Home Treatment Of Influenza (free download) for little more than the copying cost. They have a signup list for people who’ve recovered from H5N1 and who feel safe circulating. There were few names. I offered to donate some masks for the volunteers.

Then I bought some fish. Small wonder that seafood sells at black market prices these days. Certifiably free of bird flu! But wild salmon for $42 a pound? The vendors shrug impressively. I found some farmed tilapia at the old free-range salmon price. My moody roommate marinated it in a decent white wine while we guzzled the rest of the bottle.

That proved relaxing enough for me to tell her about my stroll. I’m thinking we should take walks together, enveloped in protective gear like lunar explorers as we mutter sweet nuffings. A small step for man, a giant step for romance. My cute alien seems intrigued.

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