On The Road: The Ides Of March Are Upon Us - 27 East

Arts & Living

Arts & Living / 1688359

On The Road: The Ides Of March Are Upon Us

icon 2 Photos
The plague doctor mask.

The plague doctor mask.

A 17th century doctor.

A 17th century doctor.

authorAnnette Hinkle on Mar 16, 2020

In hindsight, maybe I should have taken the signs more seriously. But back then, my mind was in a much different place.

At that point, in the drab days of mid-February, I was looking for a little relief, so the invitation for a social night out came as a welcome diversion. Specifically, it was an invite to a Mardi Gras-themed dinner party at a friend’s house and, as I had hoped, it provided much camaraderie, punctuated with a collection of colorful masks and decorations, moody candlelight, and wonderful creole-inspired food and drink.

But there was also a tarot card reader present.

After dinner, she set up shop at a small table in the living room, inviting each of us to sit with her, one by one, and draw a couple of cards from the deck to get a glimpse of our inner lives and truths.

That’s when things got kinda spooky.

A little backstory here:

For the last month and a half, I have been a truly absent participant from the wider world, having spent literally every one of the last 42 days inside the confines of my East Hampton home. Even my workload has occurred remotely, thanks to my trusty MacBook, Wi-Fi and the couch.

To put it simply, I’ve been social distancing since long before the current social distancing trend was fashionable and critical to survival.

In truth, my withdrawal from society has had nothing to do with this novel coronavirus and everything to do with surgery. More specifically, hip replacement.

That’s right. In early February, I traveled into Manhattan to willingly be anesthetized, cut open, and fitted with a bit of titanium and ceramic to replace a right hip joint that had basically given up on the world. I was “bone on bone,” as they like to say in orthopedic circles, with a bit of dysplasia and several bone spurs (real ones) thrown in for good measure.

Blame it on genetics, my surgeon said.

So I did, and I got down to business to make it all go away.

Oddly enough, when I went to sleep for surgery that first week in February, all was right in the world. But when I woke up, I realized much had gone awry during my time “down under.”

For one, the impeachment matter, which had been the top news story the previous day, had simply vanished by a vote in the Senate. … And Rush Limbaugh? He was wearing a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

What? Where am I? I wondered as I emerged from sedation, rubbed my eyes and looked to see if someone had placed ruby slippers on my feet under the sheets in my hospital bed.

Alas, my feet were bare. But there was a freshly stapled 7-inch scar on my thigh, so at least I knew I had a new bionic hip to carry me into these uncertain and disquieting times. Thank goodness for well-timed pain medication, I thought, as I lay back down and drifted off into oblivion.

But it wasn’t just the national political stage that seemed surreal. There were other oddities nagging at me about the whole state of things beyond the Union, and I got the sense that I should be paying more attention to signs and coincidences that came my way.

For example, the night before surgery, my husband, Adam, and I drove into Manhattan to stay at a hotel, reasoning it would be easier to get to the hospital on time the next morning. Upon check-in, however, we learned it was actually two hotels — or, rather, one hotel that consisted of two very narrow buildings located directly across the street from one another.

When we were handed our card key, we were informed that our room was across 32nd Street in what they referred to as the “North Tower.”

“Really?” I wondered. “Is that the best term to use in describing tall buildings in Manhattan these days?”

Then I saw our room number written on the key envelope: 911. I kid you not.

Had I been the superstitious type, I might have been inclined to call off the whole operation, but I was determined to power through. Even with the next stranger-than-fiction event that occurred the following morning.

That’s when we pushed the elevator button upon exiting our room and were met with a panel flashing lights with all sorts of confusing symbols instead of floor numbers — indicating that there would be no elevator coming to retrieve us. So we took the stairs and our luggage down all nine floors — not a disaster, mind you, but certainly supremely ironic in that it was the only way out of the North Tower after exiting room 911 on my way to get a hip replacement.

Strange, but true.

Still, I chose to ignore any deeper meaning and came home post-surgery with a sore hip, walker, cane and extra-high potty seats throughout the house (talk about a dignity bring-down). Within a few days, I was working again, albeit from home, probably sooner than I should have. My head was still groggy, my walking skills unsteady, and my sleeping ability limited.

Then came the tarot reading.

That night I drew two cards. The first was the Hanged Man — a guy literally hanging upside down from a scaffold by his right leg (boy, did I know that feeling). The second card, the Three of Swords, pictured a heart plunged through with a trio of blades.

The tarot card reader paused and said that the first card indicated that I was in the throes of a “forced pause,” while the second meant I was trying to do too much too soon. In short, I reasoned, something beyond my control had intervened to hinder me (surgery) and I needed to listen to it by taking a rest and slowing down (work).

At least that’s what it meant on February 22, the day I randomly picked those two tarot cards from the deck. But now, they strike me as being eerily prescient on a global scale.

In the last few days, schools, governments and cultural institutions across the country have shut down, supermarket shelves have been wiped clean by locust-like hoarders, and COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire. In short, the whole country (indeed, the world) has been driven into a “forced pause,” with virtually everything and everyone at a standstill, including the workaholics in our midst.

Given the events of the past couple of weeks and the rapid rise of this disease, in hindsight, I couldn’t have picked a better time in the last century to self-quarantine for a month and a half. Not since the flu pandemic of 1918 have the predictions for our species been so dire.

In the weeks since the Mardi Gras party, there’s another mask that seems to have become particularly relevant, and it’s one I bought a number of years ago on a visit to Venice, a city now eerily deserted under quarantine orders. This mask sits on my mantel and is a replica of the bird-like beak that plague doctors donned to treat illness in the 17th century. If seeing that on your deathbed didn’t scare the hell out of you, I’m not sure what would.

But there was a reason for the design. The theory was that by putting aromatic herbs into the far end of the beak, the doctor would avoid catching the illness, which they thought was spread by miasma, or “bad air.”

At least that’s what I’ve heard.

Apparently, a lot of people in Venice dress as plague doctors to celebrate the city’s Carnival, the last two days of which were canceled this year due to, you guessed it, our own modern-day plague.

On Tuesday, I’m scheduled to travel into New York, which everyone has fled, to meet with my hip surgeon for my six-week follow-up appointment. I was worried about dealing with St. Patrick’s Day parade traffic, but that’s become a non-issue, of course.

In another bit of well-timed irony, I suspect my surgeon may give me the go ahead to resume driving and get back to the office — just as everyone else is leaving the office to go hide and work at home, and the office is officially closed.

With surgical masks nowhere to be found these days, I’m thinking of pressing that plague doctor beak into service for the trip into Manhattan.

Yes, what a month it’s been — interpreting Tarot cards, strange omens and plague masks. What could possibly go wrong? Yet despite the most dire predictions — or perhaps because of them — people do seem to be taking this thing seriously, which means, somehow, we’ll get through it and, hopefully, come out relatively intact on the other side.

In the meantime, all I can say is “Introverts, Unite!” But please be sure to do it in the privacy and safety of your own home.

You May Also Like:

VIDEO: The Show Must Go On: The Arts in a Time of Lockdown

Much of art is meant to be a communal experience. But the COVID-19 pandemic has ... 5 Jun 2020 by Staff Writer

This Summer It’s ‘All For The Hall’

Guild Hall has reinvented its traditional season of events to announce a new, redesigned 2020 ... 2 Jun 2020 by Staff Writer

BCMF Concerts Postponed

Because of circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this summer’s Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Long ... by Staff Writer

Free Solo Is A True Cliffhanger

This week, Hamptons DocFest adds another “Fest Favorite” documentary to its website. This time, it’s ... by Staff Writer

‘Best Jams’ Virtual Concert Will ‘Feed the Need’ This Weekend

There are a lot of people in this neck of the woods who are missing ... by Annette Hinkle

When Life Imitiates Fiction: Merrell’s Novel ‘Shirley’ Makes It To The Movies

“Shirley,” a major new motion picture starring Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg, is set to ... by Annette Hinkle

Cooking With The Countess

The Southampton History Museum is hosting a live monthly Zoom cooking show that will take place in the kitchen of one of the Port of Missing Men, the last, private Gilded Age estate in Southampton. The home was built as a hunting retreat on North Sea’s Cow Neck in the 1920s by H.H. Rogers, Jr., whose father was the wealthiest man in the country in 1910. “Cooking with the Countess” features Mrs. Peter A. Salm, also known as The Countess von Salm-Hoogstraeten, and her private chef, Brian Hetrich, behind the stove in the vast kitchen at the Port of Missing ... by Staff Writer

Bert Stern’s Marilyn Monroe Photos At Keyes Gallery

Keyes Gallery in Sag Harbor in collaboration with the Bert Stern Estate is releasing a series of new, limited edition prints from “The Last Sitting” with Marilyn Monroe that took place at the legendary Bel-Air Hotel in Beverly Hills in 1962. Called “The Red Show,” the exhibition opens at Keyes Gallery on Main Street Sag Harbor on Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14, 10 a.m., to 7 p.m. and remains on view through July 6. Sterns photographic artworks of Monroe are black and white, along with sepia toned, hauntingly beautiful prints with themes of red. These works are sourced ... by Staff Writer

Bloomsday Is Close At Hand

Attention all fans of great literature and superb acting – Bloomsday approaches! Join Guild Hall on Tuesday, June 16, from 8 to 10 p.m. to celebrate one of Ireland (and the world’s) finest writers, James Joyce, and his novel “Ulysses” as read and performed by a legend of the American stage, Austin Pendleton. This one-night-only virtual live reading by Pendleton is directed by Elizabeth Falk and is a one man play by Joe Beck. Joyce’s most famous work “Ulysses” (1922) is based on Homer’s “The Odyssey” and follows the movements of Leopold Bloom through a single day on June 16th, ... by Staff Writer

Bartley’s Artistic Quarantine

Please Note: This event has been suspended as of June 3, 2020 — notification will be posted if it is rescheduled. - ed Artists don’t stop working just because they’re socially distancing. On Friday, June 5, at 5 p.m. Alicia G. Longwell, Ph.D., The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator at the Parrish Art Museum, will lead a live-stream illustrated conversation with Sag Harbor-based photographer and Parrish collection artist Mary Ellen Bartley, who recently completed a 30-day photography project in quarantine. “Mary Ellen Bartley’s story unfolded during a socially-distanced conversation on a neighboring front porch and I immediately wanted ... by Staff Writer

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported