Cynthia Rodriguez, July 20, 2020 (Part 1)

Dublin Core

Title

Cynthia Rodriguez, July 20, 2020 (Part 1)

Subject

COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020-
COVID-19 (Disease)

Description

Cynthia Rodriguez talks about how the current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting her, her friends and family, her experience as a full time student and her work as an artist and musician. She also talks about prayer and meditation and civil rights activism including Black Lives Matter.

Publisher

Special Collections and Archives, Trexler Library, Muhlenberg College

Date

2020-07-20

Contributor

This oral history recording was sponsored in part by the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium, with generous support provided by a grant to Lafayette College from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Rights

Copyright for this oral history recording is held by the interview subject.

This oral history is made available with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). The public can access and share the interview for educational, research, and other noncommercial purposes as long as they identify the original source.

Relation

40 Years of Public Health Experiences in the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community

Format

video

Language

English

Type

Movingimage

Identifier

PH40_31

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Liz Bradbury

Interviewee

Cynthia Rodriguez

Original Format

video/mpeg

Duration

01:12:29

OHMS Object Text

5.4 July 20, 2020 Cynthia Rodriguez, July 20, 2020 (Part 1) PH40_31 01:12:29 LVLGBT40 40 Years of Public Health Experiences in the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Muhlenberg College: Trexler Library Oral History Repository This oral history recording was sponsored in part by the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium, with generous support provided by a grant to Lafayette College from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020- COVID-19 (Disease) Cynthia Rodriguez Liz Bradbury video/mpeg RodriguezCynthia_2020072020_video.mp4 1:|16(8)|29(7)|52(8)|79(11)|110(1)|132(14)|149(2)|162(12)|173(2)|183(15)|197(7)|219(12)|252(4)|263(4)|277(1)|292(12)|301(6)|317(5)|333(17)|347(4)|357(1)|370(10)|381(5)|390(10)|400(15)|411(5)|425(2)|446(5)|460(3)|471(4)|494(6)|503(8)|513(5)|526(3)|535(9)|564(5)|575(4)|590(5)|599(10)|613(15)|626(13)|641(12)|656(10)|669(11)|679(14)|693(11)|707(1)|718(7)|735(1)|749(10)|764(1)|778(1)|802(7)|811(6)|827(11)|845(16)|860(12)|870(14)|888(8)|897(12)|921(7)|944(11)|958(5)|969(12)|989(11)|1000(1)|1010(9)|1024(1)|1034(4)|1049(3)|1058(11)|1082(13) 0 https://youtu.be/NTfNbI4wEBk YouTube video 0 Interview Introduction CYNTHIA RODRIGUEZ: Okay. LIZ BRADBURY: I have this little backup recording where I’ve got the voice recording too just in case the thing doesn’t work or record. And I’m going to read you this, this thing. So with this project the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and Trexler Library at Muhlenberg College will collaborate on forty years of -- oh, wait, I didn’t do some stuff. I’ve got to pin you, I forgot to do that, and I forgot to turn off my phone. I’ll start again. Pin video and I got the audio on. Okay. And I just want to be sure my phone is off. (clears throat) I’m sorry. 243 Current living/work/school situation LB: Okay. These are just general things. You can talk about anything you want, but just to check in, let’s start with some basic questions and ask who’s in your house with you? CR: My mom -- LB: So you’re -- CR: -- my mum. LB: Okay, so that’s cool. You’re both there all the time? Are you working? 368 Missing summer classes because of upcoming surgery LB: So what’s it like being a student? And now, you’re doing everything online, I would assume. Are you taking classes in the summer? CR: I did not have to take any classes this summer because originally, I was supposed to get surgery on my left foot, which did not happen because of COVID because they had cut out elective surgeries when the pandemic started. 438 Thoughts on Cedar Crest College opening back up/taking classes during the pandemic LB: Do you think that Cedar Crest will open for students, or is it all going to be online? CR: So far, what we’ve heard, but of course, things can change because they’ve been changing so quickly like all the time depending on how it’s going with the pandemic. As of right now, we are supposed to get what they’re calling a hybrid now experience in the fall, which honestly, I’m used to it anyway because I usually pick at least one online class per semester, so that’s a normal thing for me. 756 How the pandemic has changed school life/artistic work CR: They really give you opportunities there to even perform at the school. We had, prior to all this going down, like a student showcase every month that we would perform, show what we learned, so I was already performing with my guitar. The theater club held this big show at the end of the semester in our big main theater. 945 Keeping mom healthy during pandemic/keeping outings minimal LB: So have you been pretty much staying in, or what have you been doing? CR: Well, definitely like everybody else during quarantine, we stayed put here. We don’t really take any chances. I’m very protective of my mom. Even after green light or not, I don’t care about all that. 1075 Receiving government aid LB: Yeah, have you gotten additional money from the government or as you --? CR: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s helped a little bit and the fact that we don’t have a mortgage anymore because we’ve had this house forever. All those little things helped a lot. 1098 Communicating during the pandemic/Keeping busy during the pandemic/Coping with personal difficulties LB: So have you been communicating with a lot of people on media like this or by phone or texting or -- more than you would normally do compared to...? I would guess that you’re very involved with MCC, wouldn’t you say that? CR: Oh, yeah, yeah. But I’ve kept very, very busy. We’ve known each other for a while. You know I keep very busy with a lot of activities and I stay... From the beginning of this pandemic, I made a decision to keep some kind of structure in my life like a schedule because it’s so easy to fall into this rut. 1628 Friend who had to leave Italy during pandemic/Knowing people who have contracted Covid-19 LB: Let me ask you something. Do you know anybody that’s had the -- have -- has had the coronavirus or anybody that like [who got that?]? CR: Actually, yes, especially in the beginning because I think a lot of people did not... They weren’t taking it seriously, I don’t think, you know? And so I think people were a lot more careless in the beginning because they just didn’t know before everyone’s wearing masks and I don’t think... 2165 Protecting self and family from catching Covid-19 CR: I feel like it’s just too new for us to really nail anything down, to really know about it. So with all that, that’s all I need. I just protect myself across the board. I don’t care what’s like -- unless they really learn about it, figure it out, get a vaccine, whatever, I feel we’re going to take these precautions the rest of the year until next year. 2330 Participating in the Black Lives Matter movement CR: And speaking of that, the other thing that I got involved with unfortunately, not that I was trying to do that now during COVID, I’ve been part of the Black Lives Matter movement the whole time it’s been around, for seven years now, I think, ish. And since like Trayvon Martin times, been involved with that, been using actually the same signs that I made a long time ago at my old studio, and I wasn’t going to do that. 2492 Thoughts on Dr. Rachel Levine/Governor Tom Wolf's handling of the pandemic LB: What do you think about...? And then one of the things we have here in the state of Pennsylvania is that we get to see Dr. Rachel Levine on the news, and she’s the secretary of health. Have you had a chance to see her? She’s transgender, and she is speaking about -- I mean, we really have pretty good leadership in the state of Pennsylvania. Has that affected you, or have you had a chance to see that? 2668 Frustrations over state opening too soon/People not wanting to take Covid precautions CR: I really wish we had done that longer honestly. I wish we’d have done... I’m just being honest about that. I feel like we opened too soon. I think we went the whole business as usual too soon, and now, we’re seeing a spike. It’s totally going to affect the -- all school for everybody across the board and for the whole country. 2958 Concerns over children returning to school during pandemic/for parents during pandemic/caretakers and healthcare workers CR: That’s a big concern for me for people when kids go back to school. I think that’s my biggest concern is kids coming -- basically coming back home and bringing this stuff -- even if they’re not sick, if they don't have symptoms coming home and infecting their parents, grandparents. That’s a big concern of mine. 3132 Working at the Allentown Women's Center and concerns for former colleagues CR: I used to work at Allentown Women’s Center for six years, all my best friends work there. Oh, that’s been like a nightmare just worrying about them, and every time I talk to them, not being able to be close to them any time soon, like, “You guys, really be careful,” and it’s -- LB: Are they open? CR: -- and praying for them every day. Hmm? 3308 Uncertainty over how the pandemic will pan out LB: We’re still in the beginning of it too. CR: Huh? LB: We’re just at the beginning of it too. We don’t even know what’s going to happen. I mean if people are looking at this video of you talking thirty years from now, they know what happened. 3377 Source of hope during pandemic LB: What’s giving you hope? I mean, what’s the best thing that’s happened out of this, or what’s really giving you hope, or generally, what gives you hope? CR: I think the biggest thing that’s kept me together like mentally, emotionally, everything is probably I’m really grateful for my spirituality honestly. 3434 Importance of staying connected digitally/having support systems CR: I think is really important for people to have that support system and a Zoom account (laughs) to really connect with people because it is -- I feel bad for anyone that doesn’t have that connection via... Like if they don’t have good internet or a laptop or whatever, I really feel for them because that’s like the lifeline for most people to the outside world. 3521 Using Tinder during the pandemic/Forming a romantic relationship during the pandemic LB: Are you using any dating apps or any queer dating apps or anything? CR: (laughs) Yeah, Tinder is probably not the best -- LB: (overlapping dialogue ; inaudible) CR: (laughs) Yeah. Yeah, I feel like you have to be really, really careful. Shoot, I haven’t done like online dating app [00:59:00] or anything for years. 3653 Heightened feelings of loneliness during the pandemic CR: If somebody wasn’t partnered before this went down, this is like -- then it’s been -- I know it’s been tough for people. I got lucky, but I know like that’s -- it is what it is though. Huh? LB: I think people who are living alone, completely alone, it’s very, very hard for them. 3756 Thoughts for the future LB: So we’re pretty much at the end of this. I wanted to just ask you in the future, we hope that somebody -- well, I think people will look at these. These are very interesting artifacts because comparing this to the flu that happened a hundred years ago, a hundred and two years ago, the flu epidemic of 1918, they didn’t have social media then. 4154 Wanting to get in contact with old friends from Spain LB: You spent a lot of time in Europe or you were in Europe last year for three and a half months, and I’m sure you have friends in other countries too that -- have you been communicating with those people in other countries about what that -- their experiences were, or was it mostly students that were from here that you were around? 4263 Conclusion LB: Yeah. Well, this has been a great interview. I really, really appreciate you taking your time to do this with me today, and -- CR: Thank you. LB: -- I appreciate it very much. MovingImage Cynthia Rodriguez talks about how the current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting her, her friends and family, her experience as a full time student and her work as an artist and musician. She also talks about prayer and meditation and civil rights activism including Black Lives Matter. Cynthia Rodriguez Part 1 2020-07-20 CYNTHIA RODRIGUEZ: Okay.  LIZ BRADBURY: I have this little backup recording where I&#039 ; ve got the voice recording too just in case the thing doesn&#039 ; t work or record. And I&#039 ; m going to read you this, this thing. So with this project the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and Trexler Library at Muhlenberg College will collaborate on forty years of -- oh, wait, I didn&#039 ; t do some stuff. I&#039 ; ve got to pin you, I forgot to do that, and I forgot to turn off my phone. I&#039 ; ll start again. Pin video and I got the audio on. Okay. And I just want to be sure my phone is off. (clears throat) I&#039 ; m sorry.  CR: Make sure I don&#039 ; t get interrupted. (speaking Spanish) Sorry.  LB: (Spanish), right?  CR: Yeah, yeah.  LB: Okay, I&#039 ; ll start again. With this project, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and the Trexler Library at Muhlenberg College will collaborate on forty years of public health experiences in the Lehigh Valley LGBT community collecting and curating local LGBT health experiences from HIV/AIDS to COVID-19. My name is Liz Bradbury, and I&#039 ; m here with Cynthia Rodriguez to talk to her about her experiences in the Lehigh Valley community during this time of the COVID-19 epidemic as part of the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive. We&#039 ; re meeting on Zoom on July 20th, 2020. So thank you so much, Cynthia, for being willing to speak with us today. To start, can you please state your full name and spell it for me please?  CR: Sure. It&#039 ; s Cynthia, C-Y-N-T-H-I-A, Rodriguez, R-O-D-R-I-G-U-E-Z. LB: Okay. And will you please share your birthdate?  CR: Sure, it&#039 ; s 04/29/71. I am forty-nine years old.  LB: Okay, and what town are you in? CR: I&#039 ; m in Allentown, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.  LB: Great. This is the consent portion. So do you consent to this interview today? CR: Yes, ma&#039 ; am.  LB: Okay. Do you consent to having this interview being transcribed, digitized, and made publicly available online in searchable formats? CR: Yes.  LB: Do you consent to the LGBT Archive using your interview for educational purposes in other formats including films, articles, websites, presentations, and other things we may not even understand now because it&#039 ; ll be --  CR: Yeah.  LB: -- in the future? Great. Do you understand that you&#039 ; ll have 30 days after the electronic delivery of the transcript to review your interview and identify parts you&#039 ; d like to delete and or withdraw from the project? You can withdraw the whole thing if you --?  CR: Yes. LB: So what is your zip code? CR: It is 18109. LB: Okay, and you just stated your age. You said you&#039 ; re forty-nine.  CR: Yes.  LB: And how do you identify within the LGBT community? So you could say anything about how you identify within the community.  CR: I would identify myself as a soft butch lesbian.  LB: Okay. And here are some things to talk about, and we can talk about all sorts of different -- and would you say that you&#039 ; re cisgender? CR: Yes.  LB: Okay. These are just general things. You can talk about anything you want, but just to check in, let&#039 ; s start with some basic questions and ask who&#039 ; s in your house with you?  CR: My mom --  LB: So you&#039 ; re --  CR: -- my mum. LB: Okay, so that&#039 ; s cool. You&#039 ; re both there all the time? Are you working? CR: Yeah, I work part time. I&#039 ; ve been mostly working part time since I went back to school as a full-time student. LB: Uh-huh. So what are you doing?  CR: I clean part time. I was working at Stonewall for -- as a security for a few years, and that ended this year especially with everything closing.  LB: Yeah. So --  LB: And I&#039 ; m a full-time student.  CR: Oh, so you&#039 ; re still a full-time student?  LB: Yes, I am right now. I graduated from LCCC with an associate&#039 ; s in general studies, and now I&#039 ; ve been -- I&#039 ; m in Cedar Crest College. I am an art therapy major, and, God willing, I&#039 ; ll be graduating in the spring and going into their master&#039 ; s program in the fall. CR: A master&#039 ; s in Cedar Crest?  LB: Yes.  CR: Oh, cool.  LB: And --  CR: Yeah, I&#039 ; m planning to do it all the way. I&#039 ; m going to get -- go for my doctorate after that, hopefully at Drexel in art therapy.  LB: Uh-huh. So your master&#039 ; s will be in art therapy too? CR: Yeah, I&#039 ; m getting a bachelor&#039 ; s in art therapy at Cedar Crest in the spring, then from there immediately, I&#039 ; ll be going into their master&#039 ; s program for art therapy in the fall, so I can get my license to practice. And I plan on continuing my education for art therapy hopefully at Drexel because there are very few places in the northeast that do that, that offer that program for art therapists, so yeah. So my ultimate goal is to have my own practice and hopefully come back to Cedar Crest as a professor.  LB: Oh, cool, that&#039 ; d be neat. Yeah. So what&#039 ; s it like being a student? And now, you&#039 ; re doing everything online, I would assume. Are you taking classes in the summer? CR: I did not have to take any classes this summer because originally, I was supposed to get surgery on my left foot, which did not happen because of COVID because they had cut out elective surgeries when the pandemic started. And by the time they allowed it, it was too late for me to do that since class is starting soon, and there&#039 ; s a long recovery time for the type of surgery I&#039 ; m getting. It&#039 ; s about a few months of recovery time at least because it&#039 ; s the Achilles tendon.  LB: Oh, God, yeah. CR: Yeah, I had it done on my right foot when I had a bone here -- a bone spur removed. I was laid up all summer. That was five years ago, and they said that I would eventually have to get it on my left foot, which that would have been this year because I can only do that during the summer because of school. So since that didn&#039 ; t happen, it&#039 ; s been postponed till next summer after graduation.  LB: Do you think that Cedar Crest will open for students, or is it all going to be online?  CR: So far, what we&#039 ; ve heard, but of course, things can change because they&#039 ; ve been changing so quickly like all the time depending on how it&#039 ; s going with the pandemic. As of right now, we are supposed to get what they&#039 ; re calling a hybrid now experience in the fall, which honestly, I&#039 ; m used to it anyway because I usually pick at least one online class per semester, so that&#039 ; s a normal thing for me. However, if things change, students may have to switch some classes because it&#039 ; s some things -- I don&#039 ; t know how they&#039 ; re going to navigate that as far as classes that we really need to do live, hands-on especially being like an art/psych major, which is basically what an art therapy major is. I can see maybe one, possibly two classes that I can do online. The rest, I don&#039 ; t know because it&#039 ; s -- I&#039 ; m supposed to take printing, print shop this fall, so I don&#039 ; t know how that&#039 ; s going to work. With the ceramics class, our professor got creative thankfully. He basically sent us home with a bunch of clay and told us to make stuff, and (laughs) he was much more lenient. He was like, &quot ; You can be abstract.&quot ; I&#039 ; m thinking of course, you know, and we would like video and all kinds of stuff. They do the best they can. We did that for art therapy and -- but for... We&#039 ; ll see. And then for music, I minor in music, it depends on the instructors, which are basically like independent contractors there anyway, that you meet one-on-one. I take an instrument every semester. I have learned guitar, piano there, and this semester, I&#039 ; m supposed to do drums. I don&#039 ; t know how that&#039 ; s going to work. I did plan on getting my own set anyway, so I don&#039 ; t know. We have to get creative. Maybe they can teach me while I have my drum set in front of the laptop. I have no idea. It&#039 ; s going to be a lot of fun trying to figure it out. Everyone jokes that I&#039 ; m trying to become my -- a one -- because I sing too, my own one-woman band, so... I love music, and I love having that opportunity at Cedar Crest to learn all these instruments. After this semester for my last undergrad semester, I was planning to learn sax. So if I&#039 ; m done there, I&#039 ; ll have like four instruments at least under my belt, but -- so things like that. Depending on how they figure that out, I may have to switch classes last minute. Honestly, I&#039 ; m really trying to stay flexible mentally to be ready for anything and just go with the flow. Because these days, I feel if you don&#039 ; t have that mentality, you can just really go nuts. And I know that that may not vibe with the people that are not too good with change and are so accustomed to like a set schedule and so structured. But you really can&#039 ; t be like that these days. You know, this pandemic I realized, well, you kind of have to go with the flow or you&#039 ; re going to really stress yourself out.  LB: Yeah. Do you have a saxophone?  CR: No, but I would totally be getting one (laughs) if it all works out well for the spring. Amazon is your best friend during quarantine.  LB: (overlapping dialogue ; inaudible) in a way, yeah. I was going to say I have a C saxophone, which is a --  CR: Nice. LB: -- which I will be happy to give you for as long as you want.  CR: No way, wow.  LB: I haven&#039 ; t used it in a long time. I was studying clarinet, and one of the things I found -- and I don&#039 ; t want to be discouraging you -- but if you&#039 ; ve never played the saxophone or clarinet before, it&#039 ; s hard to learn it as an adult. Like piano and guitar is pretty -- and -- but like Trish and I, she wanted to learn violin and I wanted to learn clarinet actually, they just -- it&#039 ; s very hard to learn those as adults. You can pick up piano great but -- [boy?]. But anyway, so I have a C saxophone with a mouthpiece and everything. CR: Oh, great.  LB: That&#039 ; s a marching band saxophone. So it&#039 ; s not really the jazz kind, but it&#039 ; s like a regular saxophone. And so if you want to have that, I will lend that to you probably forever because I can&#039 ; t imagine --  CR: (laughs) LB: -- as I --  CR: Permanently borrow your saxophone? LB: You could permanently borrow. I can&#039 ; t imagine me needing this and if --  CR: Thank you.  LB: -- and I said to Trish, &quot ; I wish I knew somebody that needed to borrow the saxophone, I would be happy to --&quot ;   CR: That would be great, thank you, thank you so much.  LB: Get to that point, feel free, and I will lend you.  CR: Great. LB: I haven&#039 ; t used it in a long time. I had it refurbished right before when I was using it, but that was a long time ago, so I don&#039 ; t know --  CR: Oh, wow. LB: -- if it works. CR: Yeah, it&#039 ; s been great. They really give you opportunities there to even perform at the school. We had, prior to all this going down, like a student showcase every month that we would perform, show what we learned, so I was already performing with my guitar. The theater club held this big show at the end of the semester in our big main theater. To be onstage with the whole school, I mean it was great. It was great. I felt like a rock star because I have an electric guitar as well, and I was doing that. They&#039 ; re fantastic. I mean we had a lot of... That&#039 ; s going to be the kind of -- like one of the tougher things going back, not really being able to fully enjoy like some of the activities that we had. Like, we have a great theater department. I was heavily involved with that. I was part of their stage crew backstage like painting, building sets. And the biggest thing that I&#039 ; m warned honestly like with the creative things there was they were going to do this play this past semester called Silent Sky, which I was really excited about. The head of the theater department took me out to lunch last summer when I came back from studying abroad in Spain, and she gave me the script to read and offered me a solo art exhibit in the lobby of the theater to go with this play, like a whole woman-centered kind of exhibit to go with the play. Because the play if you&#039 ; re not familiar with it, it&#039 ; s like that one movie Hidden Figures about the female astronomers or NASA, working in that?. Yeah, it was similar to that. I think it was a true story too. So we had this whole thing. They had just printed -- they had just printed the posters for me for my exhibit right before the school shut down --  LB: No.  CR: -- in mid-March. Oh, it was... That would have been a huge break. I was already in the middle of working on these four major, big, installation mixed-media pieces I had set. I got the approval of like the cabinet, the school, the president who -- oh, actually she&#039 ; s -- we&#039 ; re -- really we&#039 ; re real tight over there at the college, Elizabeth. I had her on my radio show that I had there, and she was like, &quot ; Oh, I&#039 ; d love to have you back here as a professor.&quot ; She&#039 ; s really cool, Elizabeth Meade. But, yeah, I was really excited. I went through this whole approval process. I even had my own art assistant and I was doing all this stuff working with the theater department excited about having the show and a reception and the whole thing and then, boom, then that happens, so we closed. LB: Yeah, that&#039 ; s tough.  CR: Yes.  LB: So have you been pretty much staying in, or what have you been doing?  CR: Well, definitely like everybody else during quarantine, we stayed put here. We don&#039 ; t really take any chances. I&#039 ; m very protective of my mom. Even after green light or not, I don&#039 ; t care about all that. Because I feel green light does not mean the pandemic is over, which I think people have been confusing the two. Yeah, she&#039 ; s been like grounded for months now. But she goes out like when -- with another immediate family member. I mean, we basically have a hazmat thing on her because we don&#039 ; t want to take any chances. I have an elderly parent, and we&#039 ; re both actually immune compromised. I have diabetes, so I have to watch. It was -- [unless changed?] that it&#039 ; s probably not one of the best things to have during this pandemic right now, diabetes. So I&#039 ; ve been really, really careful, very minimal contact to no contact with anybody. And honestly, Liz, it&#039 ; s not even more for me. I will probably survive for the most part, but I don&#039 ; t think she would, so I can&#039 ; t -- I don&#039 ; t take any chances with that.  LB: Yeah, (overlapping dialogue ; inaudible) --  CR: We keep it very minimal. I don&#039 ; t go to many places other than my part-time job. I clean a doctor&#039 ; s office a couple of times a week, so I was considered essential, so I never stopped working for this cleaning service. I was thankful for that, you know, so... I haven&#039 ; t stopped working throughout the whole time. But fortunately, I get to work by myself, so I didn&#039 ; t have to worry about being around anyone.  LB: Yeah, have you gotten additional money from the government or as you --?  CR: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.That&#039 ; s helped a little bit and the fact that we don&#039 ; t have a mortgage anymore because we&#039 ; ve had this house forever. All those little things helped a lot.  LB: Yeah, that makes a big difference.  CR: Oh yeah, a big, big difference.  LB: It&#039 ; s (inaudible) how that changes. So have you been communicating with a lot of people on media like this or by phone or texting or -- more than you would normally do compared to...? I would guess that you&#039 ; re very involved with MCC, wouldn&#039 ; t you say that?  CR: Oh, yeah, yeah. But I&#039 ; ve kept very, very busy. We&#039 ; ve known each other for a while. You know I keep very busy with a lot of activities and I stay... From the beginning of this pandemic, I made a decision to keep some kind of structure in my life like a schedule because it&#039 ; s so easy to fall into this rut. I would joke about it nonstop when it first started. I was posting on Facebook, but I will be like, &quot ; There is no excuse to not wear pants people,&quot ; you know, like yeah... (laughter) And I&#039 ; ve had to push myself, but I would -- especially with school and being online, just it can be like -- you can get lazy. I would make an effort to just keep the routine. I would get up every day, take a shower, brush my teeth, put on real clothes. I didn&#039 ; t want to roam around in pajamas all day. That was a huge, huge thing for me because I know how it&#039 ; s so easy to fall into. It&#039 ; s so easy, so I really made an effort. Even if I was going to stay in the house all day, it didn&#039 ; t matter. We have a yard and stuff. Fortunately, we get to like go outside and not be cooped up all day. But almost from the beginning, I started going to the park more. I go almost every day to our local park just to -- even if it&#039 ; s just to get some air and sunshine. I wasn&#039 ; t going to be cooped up for just -- yeah. I thought that was really important. With the activities, well, school kept me till the end -- almost the end of May, I want to say -- no, like mid-May. That kept me pretty busy because I had six classes, so that&#039 ; s enough to keep you busy for a while. Other than that, after that ended, I realized I had to -- other than working a little bit, I had to do more things, so... During this whole thing, I joined the Red Cross, and I&#039 ; ve been in training for one of their jobs, a caseworker but -- that you could do online. That was like a safe job. But now, I want to expand to like in-person stuff, possibly transport blood and things like that from blood drives and things like that. There&#039 ; s like a million jobs they had there, volunteer work that you can do for them. As of right now, what I&#039 ; ve been doing lately for them -- to help clients that seek help from the Red Cross. I&#039 ; m one of their Spanish interpreters now, so that&#039 ; s been -- you know, that&#039 ; s just on the phone or, yes, that can be via Zoom or whatever, but there are plenty of meetings, opportunities. They provide free training on a lot of stuff when you&#039 ; re a volunteer, first aid, CPR, etc., which I&#039 ; m certified in all that anyway because of prior jobs but... So I did that to occupy my time, and I just felt like I wanted to give back and help the community a little bit in the pandemic. Because you can just get in your head a lot and just feel sorry for yourself about it, and I&#039 ; m not about that. It was like I just want to get out of my head, help other people, and just be proactive about it, you know? Like, you can be proactive during a crisis like this just like anything else and just do your part. So other than that, I took up learning American Sign Language. I&#039 ; ve been taking an ESL course because I love learning different languages, and I&#039 ; ve always wanted to learn sign language. So I&#039 ; m working on becoming trilingual, and I want to practice with other people via Zoom that speak as well. With one, I&#039 ; ve been doing that with a friend of mine. So I&#039 ; m doing that, and, yeah, just I, like, over cope. I do a lot of stuff and play my guitars, keyboard, and writing, doing art. It&#039 ; s a ton of stuff. And I feel like the other thing that I&#039 ; ve heard a lot from the beginning of the pandemic that I&#039 ; ve never -- I never had to deal with even during the crisis, oh, I&#039 ; m bored, I&#039 ; m bored. Boredom seemed to be like a huge issue with people when it first started and I guess even now, but I&#039 ; m never bored. That&#039 ; s not even part of my vocabulary. (laughs) Like before crisis, after, during, whatever, I still feel like I don&#039 ; t even have enough time in the day usually to do everything that I want to do because I feel like it&#039 ; s really what you make of it. And I can be indoors forever, and I&#039 ; ll never find -- like I&#039 ; ll never not find something to do. I always write a to-do list every day, I&#039 ; ve never stopped, I&#039 ; ve been doing that for years. I&#039 ; m also in recovery. So I was a sponsor, and I do step work in Al-Anon for friends and families of alcoholics. I&#039 ; m not one myself, but you basically follow the same program. So that&#039 ; s kept me busy too as of last about a year or so I&#039 ; ve been in it. And so I do that and I&#039 ; m now the chair the -- the new chair of the meeting every Friday night. So I work on that. My relationship ended that I had almost a year and a half. She was an alcoholic, so I got into Al-Anon to kind of be a support or whatever, but unfortunately, that ended during the beginning of the pandemic. And so that was probably the hardest part for me was dealing with a double whammy, oh, pandemic and a breakup, yay, things are great, so... (laughs) But I have a big support system, family, friends, people from church, and just everybody, so I made it through. The professors were great. Everyone was very patient and understanding about, like, everything. So I got through that. I decided to stay in the program for myself because it&#039 ; s still good. So everybody could use that probably. So I do that. So, as far as communicating with people, I&#039 ; ve never stopped. It&#039 ; s been like business as usual just like via the internet, and it&#039 ; s been fantastic, and I had no problems with it. I&#039 ; m practically in Zoom meetings Monday through Friday with all different people with -- I talk to my advisor, the therapist. And I have a behavior specialist for adult ADHD that I was diagnosed, which would explain all my activity probably a lot, and I&#039 ; m on medication for that Adderall, so I have a shrink I talk to once a month about that. And, yeah, my sponsor, advisor from school. So I&#039 ; m basically in the meeting, and plus, I do Zoom things, like I said, with sign language. I do guitar jams with a friend from Georgia who was my roommate in Spain. So I keep super busy like... But that&#039 ; s Monday through Friday, Zooming all week, and I&#039 ; ve been involved with a big online lesbian community, lesbians around the country, Canada, and Europe that I talk to regularly almost every day with this chat forum, and we meet via Zoom. So I keep really, really busy with all that stuff. I just have to close this door just real quick so --  LB: Okay.  CR: -- just to minimize noise a little bit.  (pause)  CR: Sorry about that.  LB: No problem. CR: I&#039 ; m just like rattling, but it&#039 ; s been really --  LB: Well, let me --  CR: Huh? LB: Let me ask you something. Do you know anybody that&#039 ; s had the -- have -- has had the coronavirus or anybody that like [who got that?]? CR: Actually, yes, especially in the beginning because I think a lot of people did not... They weren&#039 ; t taking it seriously, I don&#039 ; t think, you know? And so I think people were a lot more careless in the beginning because they just didn&#039 ; t know before everyone&#039 ; s wearing masks and I don&#039 ; t think... You know, the weird thing is -- well, not like funny, funny, but when this all started months -- maybe by the beginning of March, I already definitely could tell that it was going to be bad. I knew like for some -- like I knew it was going to get to this point, and people thought I was being paranoid including my ex-girlfriend and her mom. It&#039 ; s funny like as this was all approaching and I just saw the signs, and I remember talking to them about it. Like, I was, &quot ; This is going to be -- this is really going to be bad. This is going to big. I think everything is about to change really soon,&quot ; and they were like, &quot ; Oh, no, no, don&#039 ; t worry. This is just going to pass by like Y2K.&quot ; (laughs)  LB: Oh.  CR: I was like, &quot ; Y2K? I don&#039 ; t think so.&quot ; (laughter) I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; I don&#039 ; t think so. I think this is really going to hit everybody like they&#039 ; re not expecting it.&quot ; Because I was watching Europe and everything, and I knew it was going to be bad. I knew something big was coming, and I had a friend from school who was kind of stuck in Italy for a minute. Because the way -- I went to Spain last spring, it was her turn this summer, and she was in Rome, and I felt so bad for her. I had a bad feeling that it was going to be very short-lived, and she had been planning for this for a year and so excited, and then halfway through the trip, they sent her home. They cut off all study abroad programs, and I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Wow, I had a good time last spring.&quot ; I was there three and a half months. That was fantastic. She had to come home because that was just when Italy was closing basically, and if she wouldn&#039 ; t have left when she did, she would have totally been stuck over there, you know, so... I remember already by mid-March, I had started getting masks and all kinds of stuff. And I remember getting -- giving my ex and her mom supplies just before all this started, and they thought I was just being paranoid, which I kind of am naturally anyway, but it was really coming in handy, you know? I remember bringing them -- towards the end, I brought this box. I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; I&#039 ; m calling it -- this the anti-COVID box.&quot ; I brought them a bunch of -- this was, yeah, like before mid-March -- a bunch of latex gloves, masks, sanitizer before they all started going off the shelf, and I remember they laughed at me. They were like, &quot ; Oh, no, this is --&quot ; I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Hold on to this. Trust me, you&#039 ; re going to need it,&quot ; you know? LB: Yes.  CR: And what happens? I was thinking to myself afterwards ; I&#039 ; m like, I&#039 ; m sure they&#039 ; re sitting around thinking, yeah, she called it.  LB: Yeah, she called it.  CR: (laughs) Yeah, so... LB: So you know people who&#039 ; ve had it or...? CR: Oh, yeah, I was going to tell you --  LB: Yeah.  CR: Hold on one second. (pause) CR: Sorry about that. It was really scary in the beginning. Probably, oh, gosh, almost a month, going -- so it started in mid-March, it all got shut down. Maybe almost for a month, one person after another who I knew what was starting to get it, some really, really close friends. And I think it was just coupled with the breakup and trying to finish school online, everything was so chaotic. Now, of course, they&#039 ; re going to be totally ready and prepared all summer, but it was so sudden and everyone -- and they just had to adapt, we all had to adapt right away in such a short period of time. The professors were going nuts like, &quot ; How are we going to do this?&quot ; It was just all so new in the beginning, and just with everything else, the life stuff, it was crazy. I had a slight breakdown at first, like emotionally between that and friends getting sick and then I was getting worried about getting sick and my mom, so really buckling down, and we&#039 ; re not going anywhere. It was a really kind of a state of panic almost in the beginning. And I had some really close friends from other states getting it. My one friend, she&#039 ; s still recovering, she lives in -- originally from Alabama, one of my best friends, and she is in Kansas. She&#039 ; s a professor of biology there. I&#039 ; m pretty sure she got it at her school. She got very sick from corona, and she was already immune compromised. Now, she&#039 ; s still dealing with the after effects, like the stuff that it dealt. She no longer has corona that I know of, but it did some damage with the other stuff that she has, so she&#039 ; s still dealing with that. Last time, she was at the Mayo Clinic.  LB: Oh, my.  CR: And my friend from Georgia that I mentioned before, my guitar buddy who I met in Barcelona, Spain, with -- we&#039 ; ve kept in touch forever, like in touch since then with each other. She got it twice, and she&#039 ; s young, a young, heathy girl in her twenties. I feel like people are really... They have this illusion that, oh yeah, well, I&#039 ; m not immune compromised, so I&#039 ; m not... No, no, no, this is hitting and killing some healthy, young people out there. There&#039 ; s a sixteen-year-old I know from -- that my sister-in-law knows that -- a local person that died from it, a teenager. A friend of mine from church had several family members die from it. My brother had some friends in New York City that he grew up with and already knew for a long time that died from it. It just seemed like at least several times a week, we heard that somebody passed away. So when people got sick, we got really scared. I have one cousin -- and unfortunately, a lot of them are usually people that work a lot with the public. One cousin of mine, we were worried about her going back to work again. She works in a nursing home, and she got it pretty bad. And she had to stay home for a while. Luckily -- I don&#039 ; t know how she didn&#039 ; t get the rest of her family sick, but somehow, she didn&#039 ; t. She was isolated pretty well. So from all these people who are sick, their whole -- I would hear about their whole... It&#039 ; s not just when you&#039 ; re sick like at home with loved ones. You&#039 ; re not just under quarantine, but you&#039 ; re like under quarantine under quarantine because it&#039 ; s like you have to literally isolate yourself in your little bedroom with your cat or whatever, which now dogs and cats are getting it too apparently, you know? But --  LB: Yeah, but it doesn&#039 ; t make them sick, and they can&#039 ; t give it to anyone else, so it&#039 ; s kind of a weird thing. Like they&#039 ; re carriers --  CR: It is weird. LB: -- you know? I don&#039 ; t think --  CR: And like --  LB: -- not really a danger I think to humans --  CR: It&#039 ; s --  LB: -- or to the pets, kind of an odd --  CR: Hopefully not. I mean it&#039 ; s like you hear... I feel like we still don&#039 ; t even know enough about it --  LB: But that is better --  CR: -- to know everything and then I heard that there&#039 ; s more than one strain. I mean you never know like... And it hits everyone differently, different -- it&#039 ; s just so crazy. I feel like it&#039 ; s just too new for us to really nail anything down, to really know about it. So with all that, that&#039 ; s all I need. I just protect myself across the board. I don&#039 ; t care what&#039 ; s like -- unless they really learn about it, figure it out, get a vaccine, whatever, I feel we&#039 ; re going to take these precautions the rest of the year until next year. (sighs) Because I&#039 ; m supposed to graduate in the spring ; I&#039 ; m really hoping. I don&#039 ; t see that happening honestly, but I&#039 ; m really hoping things go back to normal. I&#039 ; ve waited so long, like over (laughs) 20 years to go back to school, to be able to walk that stage again with a four-year degree, and do the whole thing, cap and gown, etc., like the whole... I&#039 ; m really, really, really excited about doing that like I did at LCCC. And I really want my mom to be able to be there, so... Like in my family, we&#039 ; re doing everything we can to keep her safe and healthy.  LB: So that&#039 ; s your biggest concern is to keep your family healthy and safe?  CR: Oh, yeah. That&#039 ; s been my number one priority. I feel like when a pandemic like this happens, which is like what, around your ears, it really makes you... I feel that the whole quarantine time -- at least for me and I hope a lot of people took this opportunity to do that. Maybe it&#039 ; s because -- (coughs) excuse me -- in recovery or I&#039 ; ve always been really spiritual because of my church or whatever it maybe. I took a lot of time to reflect about things, about life, you know?  LB: Mm-hmm. CR: That&#039 ; s when you really realize what&#039 ; s important. And I think not being able to go out and about and be so distracted as we usually are, and be stuck with family or whatever, like more time than you&#039 ; re usually used to, to get to know each other and to really just reflect on what&#039 ; s most important. This is a really big, rude awakening, kind of harsh reminder especially for those people that have lost people. There have been like entire families almost wiped out in this stuff, and it&#039 ; s really heartbreaking and sad. And I think with the time off from not being in school or at work or whatever it&#039 ; s been for people -- I feel like that definitely was an opportunity for people to change a lot of things. And speaking of that, the other thing that I got involved with unfortunately, not that I was trying to do that now during COVID, I&#039 ; ve been part of the Black Lives Matter movement the whole time it&#039 ; s been around, for seven years now, I think, ish. And since like Trayvon Martin times, been involved with that, been using actually the same signs that I made a long time ago at my old studio, and I wasn&#039 ; t going to do that. I wasn&#039 ; t going to jump in to any rallies or anything any time soon. Under normal circumstances, I would have been to everything. I&#039 ; ve been doing that for a long time, but it&#039 ; s -- but it was, of course, like a real concern and... But like my mask and I never take that off outside, and I really stayed. Like, I kept my distance from people. People got too close, I mean I got paranoid. I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Back up, like immunocompromised&quot ; you know like --?  LB: Yeah.  CR: So I&#039 ; ve been really super careful about that. But I&#039 ; ve been to a couple of rallies: one for George Floyd and the one from -- for Allentown that happened recently. So I&#039 ; ve been involved -- pretty involved with that and a whole bunch of people in both rallies and just involved with a lot of the local organizations. I&#039 ; ve been a member of Make the Road PA for some years now.  LB: (inaudible) CR: I did some stuff for them. So still doing my activist thing with all that. Unfortunately, that was something that was completely for me -- this shouldn&#039 ; t be unexpected I guess, but that was an unexpected thing to deal with I felt like in the middle of all this going on, but I don&#039 ; t know. I guess everything happens for a reason, and there has been some change happening, which is good, more than I&#039 ; ve seen the whole time I&#039 ; ve been part of that movement. I think like any other -- like everything else, I feel like some things have gotten a little out of control. I feel like some real good, legitimate change whether it&#039 ; s doing any kind of reform [and things?], it&#039 ; s great. But when it goes to the -- starts going to the direction like, &quot ; We&#039 ; re going to take out the seventh episode of The Office&quot ; and stuff like that, it&#039 ; s like come on. That&#039 ; s not like -- you know that&#039 ; s not what it&#039 ; s about. Yeah.  LB: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.. What do you think about...? And then one of the things we have here in the state of Pennsylvania is that we get to see Dr. Rachel Levine on the news, and she&#039 ; s the secretary of health. Have you had a chance to see her? She&#039 ; s transgender, and she is speaking about -- I mean, we really have pretty good leadership in the state of Pennsylvania. Has that affected you, or have you had a chance to see that?  CR: Yeah, I&#039 ; ve seen her. Yeah, she seems pretty cool I think. I think she&#039 ; s been harassed a little bit especially during -- with now... I think she&#039 ; s been doing a good job, and this is kind of dumb, like just focusing on the fact that she&#039 ; s a trans woman. Like big deal, you know what I mean? As long as she&#039 ; s doing her job, I don&#039 ; t care what she is, you know what I mean? It&#039 ; s like... That I don&#039 ; t get. I don&#039 ; t think it has anything to do with somebody&#039 ; s job performance --  LB: [Work?]. CR: I think a lot of people just use that as an excuse for their hate speech or whatever they need to do but -- yeah. So I don&#039 ; t have any problems with that. Honestly -- I&#039 ; m going to plug in my laptop soon before it dies. Hold on.  LB: Okay.  CR: I&#039 ; m in the living room trying to get (inaudible). All right. I know like our governor, Wolf, right?  LB: Yes.  CR: Yeah. He&#039 ; s been under some fire with the way he dealt -- honestly, I like him. I like the way he&#039 ; s dealt with it. I was all okay with the whole shut down and everything. Sure, and probably because it was easier for me ; I was already an essential worker and going to school or whatever. But to me lives come first. I&#039 ; m sorry, but it&#039 ; s like we can deal with all that later. If we don&#039 ; t take care of this, it&#039 ; s not going to matter. Nobody is going to be around for it, then we won&#039 ; t have to worry about anything. But I totally agree with the way he did it. There&#039 ; s a reason why we&#039 ; re one of the states that had the lowest like the COVID, what, the report of how many cases we have and all that. They said we dealt with it pretty good. I know we&#039 ; re spiking a little bit now, but it&#039 ; s not like Florida or the way New York City was. It could have been way worse, and I think because he did what he did that it&#039 ; s not like Florida. I know it&#039 ; s inconvenient and this and that, but you do what you have to do. I mean this is... How often do we deal with this? I really wish we had done that longer honestly. I wish we&#039 ; d have done... I&#039 ; m just being honest about that. I feel like we opened too soon. I think we went the whole business as usual too soon, and now, we&#039 ; re seeing a spike. It&#039 ; s totally going to affect the -- all school for everybody across the board and for the whole country. I feel like this is dragging out probably way more than it should. And to tell you the truth, Liz, I knew it was going to be like this. I knew back in like March when everybody thought I was being paranoid, I knew that it was coming, it was going to be bad, and that it was going to drag on because that&#039 ; s how we are in this country. Like Americans, we are so stubborn and so just dumb when it comes to this kind of stuff and --  LB: You think that that&#039 ; s like your most frustrating thing? That it&#039 ; s really frustrating that you go out and people aren&#039 ; t wearing masks or like that and --?  CR: Yeah. I knew they were going to turn it into some kind of rights thing. Like, these people had come out and -- oh, it&#039 ; s disgusting and comparing it to -- it&#039 ; s making it like a civil rights issue. It&#039 ; s like, &quot ; What are you doing?&quot ; and, &quot ; Oh, like we have a right,&quot ; or like a sign that I saw, My Body, My Choice. Like, no, you don&#039 ; t get to steal like the prochoice movement&#039 ; s stuff for your stupid, like I don&#039 ; t want to wear a mask campaign. I feel like this has really brought out -- this pandemic, a lot of people&#039 ; s true colors, like a lot of people&#039 ; s true color. Like you can see. And I think it&#039 ; s really sad. I feel like... You can just see the people are just out there just for themselves. Like, they&#039 ; re just showing that they just have no concern or care about anybody else but themselves, you know?  LB: Mm-hmm.  CR: And it&#039 ; s just so selfish what&#039 ; s going on right now. Like when people get sick and they&#039 ; re like, &quot ; Oh, that&#039 ; s my problem,&quot ; whatever. I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; No, any time anybody&#039 ; s sick now anymore, it&#039 ; s everybody&#039 ; s problem. That&#039 ; s the whole point.&quot ; I mean you have to be careful. You have to like think about other people. You just can&#039 ; t go out there hacking away or whatever and thinking that people aren&#039 ; t going to think you&#039 ; re sick with COVID. Everything has changed. I feel like a lot of people don&#039 ; t want to accept the new normal. Like it sucks, it&#039 ; s not ideal, nobody wants to live like this right now, but unfortunately, it&#039 ; s reality, and the more we realize that, I feel like the quicker we&#039 ; ll get this over with. But I feel like they&#039 ; re just unnecessarily prolonging it being stubborn and going out with signs like, &quot ; Let me play golf, let me go get my haircut.&quot ; (laughs) It&#039 ; s just so ridiculous.  LB: (overlapping dialogue ; inaudible) really, really being cut back. (laughs) I mean just play golf if you wear a mask because now like I want to be able to play golf and not wear a mask, you know? We&#039 ; re like, &quot ; Just for [heaven sakes?],&quot ; you know?  CR: Yeah, yeah. It&#039 ; s like, whoa, I&#039 ; m so glad you have your priorities straight, you know? (laughter) LB: No kidding.  CR: I mean it&#039 ; s just like it&#039 ; s not for themselves especially for other people you&#039 ; re going to be around. It&#039 ; s like, do you want to see your parents or grandparents again? The more you do that, the more you have to isolate from your loved ones because then you can&#039 ; t be around them. You&#039 ; re like literally putting people in danger unnecessarily, and that&#039 ; s terrible. And I&#039 ; ve heard left and right, stories about, oh, like older people passing away because they were around people they probably shouldn&#039 ; t have been around, and a lot of them are their close relatives. I really feel that people don&#039 ; t realize they&#039 ; re like killing their own relatives by doing -- not following these precautions. We have a responsibility to take care of the most vulnerable people in our society. You&#039 ; ve got to be a little considerate. That&#039 ; s a big concern for me for people when kids go back to school. I think that&#039 ; s my biggest concern is kids coming -- basically coming back home and bringing this stuff -- even if they&#039 ; re not sick, if they don&#039 ; t have symptoms coming home and infecting their parents, grandparents. That&#039 ; s a big concern of mine. I mean kids are great, but honestly, I&#039 ; m staying away from them this entire time. (laughs) I&#039 ; ve really avoided them at all costs. I know that sounds terrible, but --  LB: [Like with their family?] --  CR: -- that&#039 ; s how I feel.  LB: I mean everybody knows that. You take your kid to day care, they&#039 ; re going to get a cold.  CR: Oh, yeah.  LB: This is far more contagious than a cold or the flu, the regular flu. I know a person who&#039 ; s a pediatrician who was asked by some of her parents of the patients she has, &quot ; Well, can I take my kid to daycare?&quot ; She said, &quot ; Well, if you don&#039 ; t mind them getting it.&quot ; Here&#039 ; s the thing ; I mean you think that they don&#039 ; t get a cold, they don&#039 ; t get every single infection, everything from the head lice (laughs) to infections to poison ivy, to -- well you name it, your kids are infected if it&#039 ; s in day care of if it&#039 ; s in school. That&#039 ; s why -- you know?  CR: Yeah, I&#039 ; m so glad I don&#039 ; t have to deal with that. I mean, you&#039 ; ve got to love them, but it&#039 ; s like they&#039 ; re literally, little germ buckets walking around right now, and I just can&#039 ; t -- I can&#039 ; t deal with it literally. (laughs) I avoid them like anything right now but... I really, really feel for the parents that have to navigate that whole thing, their life with parenthood and the pandemic. That must be awful, especially the parents that I know, especially the single mom parents that don&#039 ; t have that option. Oh, you can&#039 ; t take them to daycare, they don&#039 ; t have school, what do you do with them? They have to go to work especially the ones -- like my one ex that works at a -- what is it, like a nursing home environment, that whole thing. She&#039 ; s the caretaker forever, and these people are constantly worried about bringing stuff home to their kids, you know?  LB: Right.  CR: And very, very... The best people I know, I know a lot of caretakers, a lot of therapists and everything, and they&#039 ; re all struggling with that. Most of the closest people I know are in health care, so of course, that was a big concern. That was a big worry having so many loved ones in health care like the women&#039 ; s clinic. I used to work at Allentown Women&#039 ; s Center for six years, all my best friends work there. Oh, that&#039 ; s been like a nightmare just worrying about them, and every time I talk to them, not being able to be close to them any time soon, like, &quot ; You guys, really be careful,&quot ; and it&#039 ; s --  LB: Are they open?  CR: -- and praying for them every day. Hmm? LB: Are they open?  CR: Yeah. They&#039 ; ve been open since the beginning. They&#039 ; re considered essentials, women&#039 ; s health. They do abortions, but they do like GYN health care. They&#039 ; ve been --  LB: A lot of trans health --  CR: -- about forty years.  LB: Yeah.  CR: Yeah, now the past... It&#039 ; s been a few years now. They have a whole trans health initiative. I&#039 ; m proud to say that I got them into -- I put them on the gay map, so to speak, in Lehigh Valley a long time ago back in... I was working -- started in 2005 till 2011 when Jenn Boulanger was there, and I got them to PrideFest, and I was translating a bunch of things in Spanish. I was in charge of -- the bilingual counselor there, I was in charge of the Spanish-speaking patients since we got them -- we started this whole LGBT initiative thing, and so, yeah, they&#039 ; ve grown a lot. They&#039 ; ve grown a lot in their services, but yeah, being at a doctor&#039 ; s office, like that&#039 ; s been really scary. All my best friends are there, and it&#039 ; s already bad enough with that kind of business. It&#039 ; s already a risky field to begin with. Like prior to the pandemic, it was -- when I was there, it was hard because of protestors, and you get threats. You get bomb threats, you get that kind of stuff all the time really, so they were already in danger even before this but then the pandemic comes rolling around, and then you have to worry about your friends getting sick. That&#039 ; s been stressful. So I always check in with them all the time about that because, yeah, I&#039 ; d be devastated if anything happened to any of my girls there. Yeah, because those are the best women I know ever, and we&#039 ; ve been through a lot together, so... Like I said, this really makes you think what&#039 ; s important and you end up -- I don&#039 ; t know if you&#039 ; ve done it, but I know especially in the beginning, you got used to quarantine and everything, I was reconnecting with people I hadn&#039 ; t talked to for a while --  LB: Yeah, absolutely.  CR: -- you know? Yeah, and you wonder like, who&#039 ; s going to survive this, who&#039 ; s not going to survive this. In the long run when it&#039 ; s all over, like who&#039 ; s going to be left? I started thinking about stuff like that.  LB: We&#039 ; re still in the beginning of it too.  CR: Huh?  LB: We&#039 ; re just at the beginning of it too. We don&#039 ; t even know what&#039 ; s going to happen. I mean if people are looking at this video of you talking thirty years from now, they know what happened. They may not know what the individual experiences for people would be, but they know what&#039 ; s going to happen with regard to this and how it&#039 ; s going to change the world, and we don&#039 ; t. And people who think that this is going to be back to normal, I mean we had employees at the center or other people that we&#039 ; re working with us would say, &quot ; Well, you know in September...&quot ; Actually, somebody just asked me to do a training in September, I said, &quot ; Well, I can&#039 ; t --&quot ; What I said was, &quot ; If I can absolutely guarantee that a person at risk won&#039 ; t be at -- there won&#039 ; t be any risk for someone who has high risk there, yes, I&#039 ; ll do it in person.&quot ; Well, I know that&#039 ; s not going to happen, so there&#039 ; s no way that that&#039 ; s going to happen. Nobody can foresee that. Unless they came out with a vaccine tomorrow that eradicated the entire thing, well, that&#039 ; s going to happen, you know?  CR: Right.  LB: It&#039 ; s just not, so anyway. What&#039 ; s giving you hope? I mean, what&#039 ; s the best thing that&#039 ; s happened out of this, or what&#039 ; s really giving you hope, or generally, what gives you hope?  CR: I think the biggest thing that&#039 ; s kept me together like mentally, emotionally, everything is probably I&#039 ; m really grateful for my spirituality honestly. And I did this prior to all this happening. I pray and meditate every single day, so I&#039 ; m very grateful for that. I&#039 ; ve been attending church online, visiting several actually in the area, the Gregory Edwards Church and mine. My spirituality, I feel like, and the program recovery, it&#039 ; s given so much comfort so that that&#039 ; s helped a lot. I feel very blessed and lucky to have that and also my support system. I think is really important for people to have that support system and a Zoom account (laughs) to really connect with people because it is -- I feel bad for anyone that doesn&#039 ; t have that connection via... Like if they don&#039 ; t have good internet or a laptop or whatever, I really feel for them because that&#039 ; s like the lifeline for most people to the outside world. The support system I have that I&#039 ; ve made for myself from people from school, from church, from other like mental health professionals. Honestly, I feel that we&#039 ; re all going to have -- I think we&#039 ; re feeling the effects of it already especially from quarantine, and I&#039 ; ve talked about this with them. I think we&#039 ; re all going to have some form of PTSD from this thing, you know? And I feel like everyone can benefit from some kind of professional help when this is all over or even more like during because it&#039 ; s a lot. It&#039 ; s a lot especially for people like me that are... Well, I&#039 ; m kind of an ambivert I guess. I can do both like still stay at home and be introvert and extro-- but I am mostly extroverted. The quarantine, that&#039 ; s probably the biggest thing like being out there and hanging out with people and being around people and hugging, and just the whole very people person and [there be?] --  LB: Are you using any dating apps or any queer dating apps or anything?  CR: (laughs) Yeah, Tinder is probably not the best --  LB: (overlapping dialogue ; inaudible)  CR: (laughs) Yeah. Yeah, I feel like you have to be really, really careful. Shoot, I haven&#039 ; t done like online dating app or anything for years. Fortunately being involved, I think being involved in so many circles really improves your chances of dating. But luckily, even after the break, I&#039 ; m thinking, oh, cool, so dating is not going to happen any time soon. But fortunately, somebody from my recovery group -- we were friends before, we&#039 ; re kind of seeing each other now. So I guess I&#039 ; m like in a rebound relationship now you can say, so I got lucky with that. And we&#039 ; ve kind of screened each other like physically and everything. She works by herself, a caseworker, so it&#039 ; s worked out. It&#039 ; s really worked out that we were able to like get together and know that we&#039 ; re safe because we&#039 ; re -- we&#039 ; ve been isolating. (laughs) So I got lucky with that. But, yeah, I know that&#039 ; s not usually the case with most people, and I really hope that people aren&#039 ; t doing that too much. And if they are, I don&#039 ; t really know how you could do that safely at this point and not consider like --  LB: That&#039 ; s why they say --  CR: -- the people (overlapping dialogue ; inaudible) -- huh?  LB: -- right now, you&#039 ; re your own best friend.  CR: Yeah, yeah. (laughs) Absolutely. Yeah, you have to be safe like that especially these days.  LB: Sex during corona, you&#039 ; re your own best friend is the --  CR: Seriously, yeah, because it&#039 ; s like -- because in the end -- that&#039 ; s all the things I considered. Like in the end, I&#039 ; m thinking, is it really worth hooking up with someone right now and then taking that home to your relatives?  LB: Yeah, (inaudible). CR: Is it really worth it in the long run? I&#039 ; m like, nope. So, yeah, it&#039 ; s tough. If somebody wasn&#039 ; t partnered before this went down, this is like -- then it&#039 ; s been -- I know it&#039 ; s been tough for people. I got lucky, but I know like that&#039 ; s -- it is what it is though. Huh? LB: I think people who are living alone, completely alone, it&#039 ; s very, very hard for them.  CR: Sure.  LB: It&#039 ; s an off thing. I say that to Trish every day. I say, &quot ; We&#039 ; re so lucky that we get to be here. We&#039 ; re also so lucky that we have a big enough house that we don&#039 ; t have to be in the same room every day,&quot ; you know?  CR: Right, right, right. (laughs) Definitely, oh, my gosh, and I think that was a big thing too I heard was -- I forgot what country it was. That definitely the corona has gone down and it&#039 ; s going back to normal, and divorce rates are up because people just got so sick of each other, you know? LB: Well --  CR: I could see that.  LB: -- a lot of people are looking at their smaller apartments, like people who lived in New York City that were very in small -- like the lodge that I just sleep there, are really looking at different kinds of living arrangements. I don&#039 ; t know if I can ever -- maybe I can never imagine. What if I get stuck doing this again? I have to move to the suburbs, or I have to have more of a communal living situation where a group of people are living together so that they don&#039 ; t have to be alone. They said that like every pet in the -- all the dogs and cats that were in, the strays, everybody adopted them because -- in all the places because people didn&#039 ; t want to not have anything to hug. And I think it was a big deal. I think a big deal. So we&#039 ; re pretty much at the end of this. I wanted to just ask you in the future, we hope that somebody -- well, I think people will look at these. These are very interesting artifacts because comparing this to the flu that happened a hundred years ago, a hundred and two years ago, the flu epidemic of 1918, they didn&#039 ; t have social media then. On the other hand, they didn&#039 ; t really know how dangerous it was, and that&#039 ; s why so many more people died. I mean fifty million people died in that flu epidemic and for a lot of -- one of the reasons is that people weren&#039 ; t sharing information. They weren&#039 ; t telling each other really how they were communicating and how they had to do distance and stuff. You weren&#039 ; t allowed to talk about that really. I think for a lot of us who are concerned about other people, the biggest frustration is elected officials who are leaders who were saying to people, &quot ; Well, so what if people die? Go ahead and open. It&#039 ; s only fourteen thousand children that are going to die,&quot ; that kind of stuff. So that makes us all nuts but.. And it&#039 ; s ridiculous because there&#039 ; s no finite number. We have no idea what this is going to do, and we also know that there has been indication that people -- scientists have said if every single person in the United States wore a mask for three months, this would be over.  CR: Mm-hmm, yeah.  LB: Right?  CR: Yeah.  LB: Literally, it would end it. It would end the thing. But people won&#039 ; t wear their masks ; it&#039 ; s crazy. But anyway, what I wanted to ask you is people would be looking at this, so now you&#039 ; re talking to the future and you&#039 ; re going to tell them. Tell them one -- a couple of phrases about sort of what&#039 ; s happening and what you hope is going to happen and to just communicate the feeling of -- like your feelings about how things are now and maybe some hope and what you&#039 ; ll hope it&#039 ; s going to turn out to be and that kind of stuff. What would you say to them?  CR: Well, to kind of piggyback on what you just said, I realized that when it first started, like everything shutting down in mid-March or whatever, in some countries, this was already winding down in some places. I think already in China, like it was already winding down, and it wasn&#039 ; t really a long time overall when you look at it because they were really strict with themselves about that. Unfortunately, I don&#039 ; t think that&#039 ; s going to happen here any time soon. I wouldn&#039 ; t be surprised at all if it&#039 ; s not already the country where it lasts the longest because of so many people fighting it. They wouldn&#039 ; t even put up with that in other countries. They haven&#039 ; t as far as I know like the protesting about wearing masks and all that. Yeah, I feel that this has really, like I said, been an opportunity to really -- to unite and just fight this together and just follow what we&#039 ; re supposed to do. But honestly, I feel that it has divided us as well unfortunately, and I can&#039 ; t say that I&#039 ; m surprised by that. It&#039 ; s really disappointing. That combined with other things that we already had here that we&#039 ; re dealing with. Don&#039 ; t even get me started on our so-called leadership of the country. I think that&#039 ; s a huge, huge part. They have not set a good example in how to deal with this crisis, and I feel that it says a lot. Like whatever the leaders are doing, they&#039 ; re leading by example or they&#039 ; re supposed to be, people are going to follow that. And I&#039 ; ve literally heard, I&#039 ; m sure you did too, on the news, I literally heard people saying like on the beach, &quot ; Well, the president doesn&#039 ; t wear a mask, why should I?&quot ; That says a lot, and I feel like things would have been one hundred percent completely different if we had somebody else there who would have spotted this a long time ago. It should have been taken care of like the end of last year honestly. If that would have happened, things would have been totally different. So I feel like we were not prepared for this at all, but we should have seen this coming a mile away. Unfortunately, we haven&#039 ; t, we didn&#039 ; t, and this is the result of that but I&#039 ; m hoping that... And I think sadly, it&#039 ; s going to take another serious wave for it to really kick in, for a lot of people to really realize it especially the people that are still saying, I don&#039 ; t know why, that it&#039 ; s -- I don&#039 ; t know where they&#039 ; re getting this information from, that it&#039 ; s a hoax. People have been dying and getting sick. I feel like they&#039 ; re the ones that need to get sick or have someone around them to really understand. I don&#039 ; t wish this on anybody, but it&#039 ; s like, what is it going to take, you know?  LB: Right.  CR: So it&#039 ; s been really scary. And it&#039 ; s almost like you have to walk on eggshells and have this constant stress over you all the time. Like, am I going to get it? Am I going to bring this home today? It&#039 ; s like we shouldn&#039 ; t have to live like that, and it doesn&#039 ; t have to be like that. But hopefully, we&#039 ; ll get through it, and a lot of lessons I&#039 ; m hoping we&#039 ; ll learn to be better prepared, hopefully to have better leadership in the figure. We do have an election -- a big election coming up, so I hope that&#039 ; s reflected in the upcoming elections. If it&#039 ; s not, then it&#039 ; s like, have we really learned anything? So I think there are so many lessons to be learned with the pandemic on a very, very personal level, on a level like your community. It takes a village, you know?LB: Yeah.  CR: National level, international level. I mean so many lessons. You need to take this opportunity to really reflect on so many things and not act like it&#039 ; s business as usual because it&#039 ; s not, and it&#039 ; s not going to be for a long time.  LB: Yeah. You spent a lot of time in Europe or you were in Europe last year for three and a half months, and I&#039 ; m sure you have friends in other countries too that -- have you been communicating with those people in other countries about what that -- their experiences were, or was it mostly students that were from here that you were around?  CR: Mostly students, but that&#039 ; s a good question. I did make some friends over there mostly from the university. I was -- actually became good friends with my professors that I ended up hanging out with early -- like we hang out with them and fellow artists over there that I worked with. It&#039 ; s a shame ; I haven&#039 ; t gotten in touch with them. I should even if it&#039 ; s just via WhatsApp or whatever. That&#039 ; s been a great source of -- for communication. Yeah, I&#039 ; m going to check up on them with that because I know Spain was in a major lockdown, major lockdown, but they seem to have done pretty well with it as well. That&#039 ; s what I noticed. The ones that had that most strict lockdown, quarantine procedures are the ones that came out better off in the long run, you know? I really wish we could have done that here. I knew we wouldn&#039 ; t be able to, I just -- I knew. There would just be too much of a hassle, too much ruckus with all these crazy groups going out there on the steps of city hall with -- or wherever it was with their guns and what -- it&#039 ; s so ridiculous. I&#039 ; m just -- I can&#039 ; t -- you know like -- yeah. I think that&#039 ; s just really dragging it out, and we&#039 ; ll eventually learn the hard way, so... LB: Yeah. Well, this has been a great interview. I really, really appreciate you taking your time to do this with me today, and --  CR: Thank you.  LB: -- I appreciate it very much. You do get that thirty day -- we&#039 ; ll try to get the transcript. This goes to a college, a transcripts groups that they transcribe this into writing so that you can look at it then you have some time to look at it and stuff. I can&#039 ; t imagine that you would want to take anything out. Everything you said was brilliant --  CR: Thank you.  LB: -- needless to say. And let me give my best wishes to your mom and take care of yourself, and I really appreciate all of that. and I appreciate all the stuff you&#039 ; ve done over the many, many years that you&#039 ; ve done. I think we&#039 ; ve known each other for at least twenty-five years.  CR: Oh gosh, yeah, yeah.  LB: So yeah, and you&#039 ; ve always been there working on this stuff and always very, very vocal and very... And one of the things I was thinking about because I have the same quality as you, is artists are never bored. You always have something.  CR: (laughs) Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.  LB: Especially since we have the internet where we can show our art on the internet. So it&#039 ; s like, --  CR: Oh yeah.  LB: -- well, nobody can see the work I&#039 ; m doing. You can --  CR: Yeah.  LB: You work all the time, and maybe in some way, kind of cool that you get the time to just work and work. I&#039 ; ve made two paintings yesterday, so I really do understand it. CR: Excellent, yeah.  LB: Thank you very much. I&#039 ; m going to stop the recording here.  CR: Sure.  LB: Thanks --  CR: Okay, yeah, no -- END OF VIDEO FILE Copyright for this oral history recording is held by the interview subject. video This oral history is made available with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0). The public can access and share the interview for educational, research, and other noncommercial purposes as long as they identify the original source 0

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“Cynthia Rodriguez, July 20, 2020 (Part 1),” Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive Oral History Repository, accessed May 28, 2024, https://trexlerworks.muhlenberg.edu/lgbt_oralhistory/items/show/40.