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Isolation Insight

Updated: May 26, 2021

By Naomi Serviss

Things I’ve learned this year:

I don’t look good in boho blouses with tassels.

Revlon Root Erase costs six dollars online.

Zoom family gatherings are better than nothing.

Masks are accessories with benefits.

I’m venturing out with cautious optimism in this new Pandemic Lite world.

There is no Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead! jubilation.

This is not a time for rejoicing.

Guarded and respectful enthusiasm is more like it.

Quarantine was barely tolerable.

Social isolation, the pits.

We have a civic duty to respect scientific data.

I blame mask confusion on a bungled, prematurish CDC pronouncement.

I get the gist.

Logic coupled with personal comfort zone works for me.

If someone sneezes downwind, I cover half my face and serpentine away.

My 6 a.m. Central Park walk-encounters provide a plethora of mask-wearing druthers.

Most folk have a black mask hanging casually from a lobe or under the chin.

Others go commando, full frontal features exposed.

When a masked walker crosses my path, up goes my mask.

A courteous, perhaps unnecessary gesture. But why not?

I see it as a respectful nod to my fellow early risers.

Fewer were masked this morning.

The puppy playgroups were equally represented by maskers and non.

The mood was jolly.

There was unfiltered laughter when the wee brindle Frenchie intercepted a red rubber ball from a shocked sturdy shepherd.

How could you not laugh at a stocky pipsqueak pup’s derring-do?

Our world is cracking open—in a good way. Slowly.

I’m squirmy. I want pre-pandemic “normal,” stat.

I know I’m not the only one.

Trying to be more patient and Zen-y.

My meditation teacher is right when he says, “practice patience.”

He printed and distributed Patience pocket cards.

I have one, somewhere.

Maybe if I’m patient it will turn up.

My attitude has shifted from the panic-stricken, “We need more toilet paper and HOW much is Lysol now?” to being grateful for every breath.

My schmoozy nature compels me to greet fellow park enthusiasts and their dogs.

Between you and me, I’m just into their dogs.

In a benign, non-dognapping-vibe way.

Chatting with a motley assortment of colorful characters enriches my days.

José is typically seated on his usual bench.

He practices daily yoga stretches. He is nobly serene, with great posture.

Loki, his sidekick chihuahua, poses.

Younger is a Central Park Conservancy employee. We exchange pleasantries and share weather forecasts.

His signature, “Ciao” is a hint he’s had enough of me.

Last week he gestured me over.

He held a thin plastic supermarket bag.

Out came a battered, century-old photo. Thirty or so well-suited young men posed rigidly. Obviously well-to-do, they wore their privilege like a crown.

Barely discernible letters were written in the lower right-hand corner.

It looked like De Young with a smudged Broadway address.

I got this at the Chelsea Flea Market on Sunday. Find out what it is,” Younger said.

He didn’t know I was a journalist, but apparently sensed I was willing and able.

Intrigued, I took the photo and bopped around online.

After a few false starts, I got lucky.

The print had been processed at the Joseph de Young Photo Gallery, located in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. On Broadway.

I printed out the info and presented it to Younger the next day.

He wanted its value checked.

“Ciao,” I said, sensing a second request.

Woodie Webber is an Upper West Side plein air artist who paints in Central Park.

He and his wife have a one-year-old son who loves Broadway musicals.

I’ve been listening to Anthony Newley belting classics from Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, for months.

Woodie’s canvas echoed stately blooming trees and vibrant grass.

The verdant lawn and burnt orange earth tones complemented the blue sky.

I wished Woodie good cheer and wandered on.

At Summit Rock, birders hoisting powerful binoculars craned their heads upwards.

Another thing I learned this year:

Birders are not chatty.

I drank my water and headed back.

Woodie was touching up his canvas.

His painting was impressionistic and evocative.

The colors hummed.

I promised to check his website.

His body of work is impressive.

I was compelled.

Woodie and I had shared a perfect moment.

I was part of his narrative that day.

The painting haunted me. In a good way.

We don’t have much wall space.

And yet.

I emailed Woodie about the painting’s availability.

Days passed and I didn’t hear back.

Disappointed, I let it go.

A week later he wrote back.

My email had been dumped in his spam folder.

Woodie was humbled by my affection for his art.

It’s home now, prominently displayed in a golden metal frame.

The frame highlights the warm tones.

Bringing unfettered joy.


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including



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