Last Day of Room 11

Photograph of the interior of a bar. Glassware and gruit line the far edge of the bar. A bartender is pouring a drink a few seats down. In the background is large dark shelf full is liquor bottles.

On 8 September 2014 I walked to the Best Buy in my neighborhood and purchased the Canon SX700HS point-and-shoot that I had been researching for the previous few weeks. Then I walked on a few blocks to my favorite neighborhood bar, Room 11, for a celebratory drink to accompany opening the camera, fondling it and reading through the manual. This is the first picture I took with the camera. Shawn was my favorite bartender there. I never took this picture off the card, so if I scrolled forward through my pictures one arrow-press too far, I landed back at the beginning, on this one. I have looked at this picture probably thousands of times (I retired the point-and-shoot in 2019 after purchasing my fist DSLR).

Yesterday Room 11 posted on their Facebook page that they were selling the remains of their booze collection, glass and silverware, and closing indefinitely, owing to the pandemic.

In my former life, that I was a barfly was a huge part of my identity. As a boozehound, I have gone through so many phases that broadened and deepened my booze knowledge. My parents, a college duo, The Pearl, Flowers, The Monkey, the Tabard Inn, House of Foong Lin. Room 11 was one of the best bars I’ve ever known. It was intimate, dark, full of beguiling bottles shimmering in the low light. It was less a restaurant, more like a theater of bar tending, its bar a stage, it’s wall of bottles a set, it’s beautiful barware props. When I started going there, the Tabard Inn had taught me to love vermouth and Campari. Room 11 was a masterclass in Amari.

After each bar has passed out of my life, it has been hard to imagine it ever being equaled. And sometimes it has taken years. But there has eventually been some new gem. But I don’t know. I’m older now. I don’t drink so much anymore. I have a kid now. There is no time for lollygagging. And there is little spare money. Maybe Room 11 was the capstone of a drinking career that is past now. Still, it is terrible to see Room 11 as another casualty of COVID-19.

We Are Totally Fucked

COVID Tracking Project's daily four graphs: Daily Tests, Daily Cases, Currently Hospitalized and Daily Deaths. All have two humps from earlier in the year that subside, and a third one rising wildly, far higher than any of the previous ones.

We are totally fucked. There is no way we’re not going back on lockdown. This is the way it goes: the rate of positive tests goes up, then, followed by a couple of week lag, the rate of hospitalization follows, followed by another couple of week lag, then the death rate goes up. 1,506 people died from COVID-19 today. The experts keep on making these predictions that keep on turning out to be too conservative. The current warning is that daily deaths could go over 2,000 per day. We are going to go over 2,000 deaths per day next week. The thing we should be thinking is that we are going to go over 3,000 death per day this winter. That’s going to be 100,000 Americans dead per month.

“But people aren’t dying at the same rate from COVID-19 as they were early in the pandemic” (compare the bumps in the pink and grey graphs). We’ve learned things. We have some treatments now. But remember that whole discussion we had about flattening the curve back in Spring? You will also remember that there were two lines on those graphs back then: one was COVID-19 infections and the other line was hospital capacity. The importance of flattening the curve was so as not to exceed hospital capacity. What doctors have learned and the treatments we’ve developed don’t do anything if you can’t get into a hospital where they can be administered. We are already at nearly 80,000 people currently hospitalized. We are about to start exceeding hospital capacity all over the country, at which point the death rate is going to skyrocket. “But we can surge capacity.” The only reason we could surge capacity in Spring was because COVID-19 outbreaks were limited to a few regions in California, Washington and New York. It’s everywhere now. There is no area that can afford to loan personnel to other states. Once hospital capacity is exceeded, that’s it: people are going to start dying anonymously at home.

For the next 60 days, the Federal government isn’t going to do a thing about this. In fact, insofar as the Trump administration can be said to have a policy at all, unchecked spread is it. Almost as shocking is the degree to which Democrats in Congress and Governorships are supine in the face of Trump’s total abdication. The next two months are going to be the most gruesome of any of our lives.