I was laid off from my full-time job writing for a TV series on the morning of March 12.
The company pulled the pandemic plug and a producer interrupted the first shot of the morning to tell an entire cast and crew on location on the streets of the South Bronx to go home.
That’s a wrap. Laid off. See you when the plague lifts.
It’s an odd feeling knowing that you had nothing to do but head home as the big doors to the universe were swiftly closing. I’d been taking the LIRR, a subway, and city bus to get to work every day, wearing gloves but not yet a mask. I wasn’t cavalier. I washed my hands as often as I could. I tried to keep my hands away from my face. But when your job actually shutters, reality sets in.
People are dying. Don’t be one of them.
Soon ambulance sirens would be wailing across the city and out to the burbs and across America.
I returned to the production studio in Manhattan, picked up some papers, and then used my Metro Card to get a ticket from a machine for a cross-town city bus. I let three other people board before me. I then climbed through a rear door with my hands in my pockets, trying not to touch a pole, a seat, a door, my face, or another human.
I sat in the rear of the bus looking at people who boarded on the stops before I reached my destination to transfer to the subway. I shouldered through the doors, off the bus, and descended the subway stairs, swiping my card again, and nabbed an uptown subway. I stood with my back on a door and exited at Penn Station.
The trip seemed longer than usual with death swirling in the air. I kept thinking if one person coughs or sneezes on me, I could get the virus. Please not today, not before I made it home.
I dodged people until I caught the LIRR and when I got home, I slammed the door.
In the 60 odd days since, I have not left my house. Like tens of millions of Americans, I settled in and watched the news until it started making me ill. With stress. And sadness, despair, fear, and rage at the lack of preparedness of our national leaders to respond to the basic needs for personal protection equipment for our gallant first responders and medical workers and ventilators and hospital beds, and offering instead insane magical thinking about injecting bleach, touting snake oil cures, and outright lies about the availability of testing.
TV Writer Netflix Binges
After a lifetime working in daily newspapers and then college teaching and writing for an historic TV cop drama, I now had little to do — except write for this coveted space every two weeks and read and watch TV and learn all over again the great art of being a lazy bastard.
To pass the untold free time ahead and avoid the insatiable 24-hour furnace of cable news, I opened my laptop in bed and watched Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Apple streaming services.
I lost myself in season two of “Babylon Berlin” on Netflix, retreating into the dance halls and crime scenes of Berlin between WWI and WWII, a multi-episode murder mystery with great characters, twists, turns, action, and cliffhangers. When I got hungry between episodes, I had chicken Marsala with roasted potatoes and broccoli delivered from a local Italian joint, paying with a debit card, adding a generous tip for the brave delivery guy who left the order outside the door after ringing the bell.
I’d already become so lazy that it was a pain in the butt to walk to the front door and take the food in.
After sanitizing the bag and wrappers and washing my hands and then dousing them with alcohol, I’d eat and hit Next Episode and let my little machine tell me stories that had nothing to do with COVID-19.
My son, 20, home from his shuttered upstate college, ran to the chain drug store and stocked up on soda, chips, cookies, ice cream, peanut butter cups, dark chocolate, and other essentials for lazy bastardry.
Days dimmed to nights as I watched six seasons of “Bosch,” the terrific Amazon Los Angeles cop series starring Titus Welliver, who is wonderful in the title role based on the excellent novels of Michael Connelly, who shares my love of Hieronymus Bosch, the 14th-Century painter of bizarre, near-psychedelic hellscapes and saints with faces like gargoyles. “Bosch” became so addictive that my clock turned upside down. I watched all night till the birds sang and slept into the afternoon. It was like getting jet lag from being a lazy bastard.
From Bed To Couch
I made protein shakes and coffee for breakfast, had pizza and salad delivered for lunch, and chicken tenders and fries sent from another restaurant.
I then moved all the way from my bed to the couch and watched a few seasons of “Bordertown,” about a Finnish cop swept up in engrossing cases on the Russian border that span three and four episodes, often ensnaring his family in the treachery and the homicides. Two seasons of “Ozark” reminds you how talented Jason Bateman is as an actor and director until wall-to-wall hillbillies creeped me out. So, I watched “The Valhalla Murders” that took me south of the border, and then was mesmerized by a terrific performance by Amy Ryan in “Lost Girls” about the close-to-home murdered girls of Gilgo Beach.
Just by ignoring the news — except for the daily fireside chats from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which is news we all could use — allowed me to re-watch the great Helen Mirren in a few seasons of “Prime Suspect.” On Sunday nights, I watched “Columbo” on Me TV and I watched endless reruns of “SVU” on USA and ION, reminding me of how lucky I am to be associated with this great show. And then I inclined through “The Banker” and “Defending Jacob” on Apple. I tried watching the Netflix doc on Joe Exotic but I kept rooting for the tigers to devour every unlikable character involved. I switched to “Money Heist,” which is fun and 13 episodes long.
Italian Food And Movies
Every day I ordered something new from my Italian place — eggplant, chicken Francaise, chicken parm and pasta — and I mixed these up with HBO’s “Homeland” finale, “The English Game,” “Freud,” and an odd film called “Curtiz” about Michael Curtiz, the miserable human being but great director of “Casablanca.”
I have become so good at this lazy bastard act that I watched all four episodes of the really well done “Unorthodox” in one night. And then pigged out on the compelling “Giri/Haji,” a limited series about a Tokyo detective traveling to London to find his estranged brother for a Yakuza murder. Watching this all the way through was like flying to Japan, as it turned my clock back to normal hours.
It’s been two months of take-out Italian and movies and mini-series and lying around the house like a lazy bastard. I haven’t had this much lazy time since those Sunday afternoons waiting for supper on my mother’s couch.
I was getting really good at doing next to nothing.
Then last week I got a call from my boss. “Rumor has it we’ll be going back to work at the end of May,” he said, which made the clicker drop from my hand.
Yes, I’ll be working from home — no LIRR, subway, and buses any time soon. But I’ll have to get out of bed early in the morning, get my lazy buns off the couch, and move all the way to the kitchen table to sit at my laptop and get to work.
Writing for a TV show.