On a recent Tuesday, the sick were milling around the ward, many of them visibly weak but stirring to life. An elderly woman danced by herself in a corner. A 10-year-old staged her make-believe wedding in a giant white dress she’d lifted from a pile of donated clothing. A 23-year-old buried his head in the MP3 player/radio that his nurses had bought him. “Chris Brown,” he said, pointing at his headphones. Out came a survivor, Pendu Naileh, who said it was a song that carried her through the gloom of the last two weeks: “I Know Who I Am,” a Liberian gospel standard. She’d sung it with a nurse in her moments of depression. She sang it again within minutes of walking free, as nurses clapped along and shouted “Amen!” “I working miracles!” Ms. Naileh belted out, pushing her fists through the air. And then she broke into tears. She’d been discharged on the same day her husband was admitted.
Drew Hinshaw’s work from Liberia has been both deeply humanizing and incredibly sad. A welcome rejection of the crass sensationalism that characterizes most reporting on Ebola.
Later, drunk and alone back at the Jungle Villa, she tells the camera, “This is so un-fun.” Then she offers a sweeping critical appraisal of the entire enterprise, voicing an opinion that I suspect is widely shared by viewers who have lasted this long: “Like, if you’re not gonna to get wild in the pool, that is boring as (beep) to me.”
What a wonderful feeling to get tossed by a large wave, your body twisting completely around until it’s slammed backwards into the beach.
It was a feeling I’d almost forgotten, “getting worked.” It reminded me of being a teenage ski bum, losing an edge and hurtling down a steep slope or overturning a kayak in a river. It had been years.
After crawling my way up the sand somewhat breathless it was time to go. We gathered our magazines and beach umbrella and started picking our way through the hundred thousand glistening bodies that lay between us and 98th street, Rockaway.
Going to a New York beach is a very different experience from the West Coast where I grew up. Here, people like to be near each other. Towels, umbrellas and coolers, concessions, life guards and popsicle carts. There are no joggers. No real swimmers. Just thousands of bodies getting battered by the surf in unison. Sometimes paddle ball.
I took a video once from the top of the Coney Island Ferris Wheel of the beach below where it looks like some incredible animal migration. A million penguins alighting on an Antarctic ice sheet or eight hundred thousand wildebeests crossing the Okavongo Delta.