Friday the 13th and the city feels like it’s emptying out. I feel a twitchy need to assign significance to the date nowadays. I’m beginning to understand the street preachers and late night radio voices who root through arcane numerology and biblical verses that implicate Wall Street, Hollywood, and the United Nations. Anything for a semblance of control.

This morning I walked into an empty barbershop. “Is it strange to get a haircut today?” I asked, waving my hands at the general atmosphere of pandemic anxiety. “No, no,” they said. “Please come in. We need the business.”

The president declared a national emergency this afternoon. He also insisted this epidemic wasn’t his problem. Gatherings of more than five hundred people are forbidden in New York City. Some supermarkets have no more rice, water, and toilet paper. Rumors circulate about closed schools and suspended subway service. Copies of Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year from 1665 are back-ordered through April. Nearly everyone I know has rewatched Contagion.

Each night in 2020, I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these days into my memory. Before the world changed completely.
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As I scrolled through the radio dial in search of voices to keep me company, I began to understand the appeal of its doomsday preachers and fear-merchants.
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For a glimpse into the brainpan of America, you can’t beat late-night AM radio.