Getting by: Hugging Trees with Vicki Rovere on Ludlow Street
In our ongoing series “Getting By,” Lower East Side residents and business owners share, in their own words, how they’re navigating the new normal of pandemic times. In this installment, operator of the longtime Ludlow Street Free Store, Vicki Rovere, penned her thoughts.
I live alone, and after a while in lockdown, I really hankered for a hug. It seemed to me that rubbing back-to-back would be pretty safe, but I couldn’t get any cooperation.
I devised a street-theater piece but had no takers for that, either. [Two people stand a safe distance from each other, looking at each other longingly. Standing by is a person in a hazmat suit with a large trash bin. Hazmat-person squirts sanitizer into the offered palms of the two participants and they thoroughly “wash” their hands, singing whatever. Then hazmat-person places a clear plastic bag over each of their heads. They rush into each other’s arms and hug for as long as they can keep breathing. They step apart, hazmat-person plucks the bags from their heads and puts them in the trash. They stand at a safe distance from each other blowing kisses to each other and to the hazmat person]
The participants in one chat group I sent this to recommended tree-hugging.
When I moved to Ludlow Street 48 years ago, I could lean out my fourth-floor window and see nary a tree. Now, there’s a sturdy one across the street in front of 150. Late at night, I went out resignedly and wrapped my arms around it. I reported back to the group: “It was a comforting sensation; the tree felt very strong and supportive. But knowing how stressful it can be to be an urban tree, I felt that in some sense I was ripping it off. You can’t hug a person without permission, yet I didn’t ask the tree. I also tried leaning against it but it wasn’t totally perpendicular so that was a little awkward.”
One response: “I believe even street trees are wise and slow so I can imagine it really loved your hug but you needed to wait a long time for it to say thank you.”