A few days ago, I took a break from my COVID-19 lockdown and drove up Wilton Drive. South Florida’s queer Main Street looked sad and forlorn, and unusually empty.
Three months ago, the Drive was a teeming thoroughfare, full of bustling bars, restaurants, shops, and art galleries as well as people walking, running, biking, shopping, eating, drinking, dancing, or cruising.
Now the shops are closed, restaurants are only open for takeout, and the few people you see on the Drive are walking, running, or biking for their health. Though the change was heartbreaking, I realized that it was necessary to protect us from a virus that threatens to kill us all.
I sighed, picked up a copy of SFGN from a nearby distribution box, and returned to the refuge that I call home.
Much has been written about life under the coronavirus; a pandemic that forced most humans to give up most of what we took for granted and retreat to our homes.
Those who cannot do so are the people who provide essential services or work tirelessly to heal the sick or to keep us safe. For the first responders and frontline warriors in the battle against COVID-19 I have nothing but gratitude, respect, and admiration.
For myself, like most everyone else I limit my outdoor excursions to shopping trips, daily walks for exercise and an occasional drive. I practice social distancing and wear a makeshift face mask made up of a “Play Safe” bandana left over from the eighties and two rubber bands that I use to hold it around my ears. My social life is mostly limited to phone calls to and from relatives and friends, though I make an exception for occasional visits to and from my boyfriend, Ron Farago.
Unlike many of you, I currently live alone, without a partner, roommate or even a pet. However, I managed to avoid much of the lockdown culture that seems to have emerged to save most pandemic shut-ins from the consequences of cabin fever.
Though I signed up for a couple of apps, TikTok is not one of them: I am certain that humanity does not need to see me sing or dance at home in my underwear (or less). Nor do I subscribe to Netflix, though I might eventually do so considering all the good movies and shows (LGBT or otherwise) that service provides.
But if I do, I will try my best to avoid “Tiger King,” which for some reason has become the runaway hit of the Age of Coronavirus. Joe Exotic seems to be one of the most disgusting people around, even if he is gay, and his exploits are not worth celebrating with a television show. But even Joe Exotic’s antics are preferable to Donald Trump’s daily press briefings, exercises in narcissism that Trump uses to replace his beloved MAGA rallies. The same goes for Trump’s avid follower, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose incompetence almost equals that of his idol. On the other hand, I was favorably impressed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom I remember for his work during the height of the AIDS epidemic, scarf lady Dr. Deborah Birx, and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, humanized by this pandemic.
Life goes on, even with the coronavirus upon us. We just must do what we can, in order to stay healthy. Though I miss the good old days, only a few months ago, I disagreed with right-wing activists and politicians who want to return to business as usual right away. It is better to be safe than sorry. Stay on the right path and hope for better days.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.