I go out to buy a dinner as smoke drifts in New York

By Alex P. Vidal

“No matter the natural disaster I’ve covered, whether it’s a wildfire or flood, I always come back with a much greater perspective.”—Ginger Zee

AGAINST the advice of New York City Mayor Eric Adams for all residents in the Big Apple to remain indoors (which many of us found to be impossible) to avoid the poisonous smoke from the wildfires in Canada that drifted over large parts of the United States, I went outdoors in the Upper East Manhattan for 15 to 20 minutes at past 4 o’clock in the afternoon June 8 (Thursday).

Two reasons:

  1. I wanted to check the “real score” outside as it was the second day since the New York Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality health advisory for Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island as well as surrounding suburbs.

The advisory has been extended to midnight June 9 (Friday).

  1. I went to buy my dinner (a “smashburger” and French fries).

From the Park Avenue, I walked toward the Lexington Avenue wearing a N95 mask, a reminiscent of the recent Covid-19 years. I took some “selfies” along the way.

I was expecting to be engulfed in a Mars-like “hazardous” smog and meet an “apocalyptic” orange hazy skyline as what was reported on TV and the news websites earlier.

N95 face masks filter 95 percent of airborne particles, according to California’s health department (we still have some of those left from the pandemic), or respirator masks, which we can find in hardware stores or online.


So what’s the “real score”? It was safe to walk outdoors and the smoke was slightly gone; I noticed 90 percent of New Yorkers ignored the face mask advisory (after the pandemic, no one would want to be suffocated while “hiding” his face again).

It’s OK to defy Mayor Adams and the city and state health authorities as long as I covered both my nose and mouth—and didn’t miss a dinner.

There was no reported death or hospitalization for those who went outdoors and didn’t wear any mask. For most of those walking in the sidewalks, life was normal.

The bigger challenge for me would be Friday (June 9) morning as I’d be walking from the 67th to 51st Street going to First Avenue in the United Nations. That’s more than 30 minutes of walk.

Friday and over the weekend, New Yorkers can reportedly expect gradually improving air quality. Rain showers early next week is expected to help clean the air of the dangerous smoke particles.

All signs actually point to Friday (June 9) being another bad—but slightly better—day when it comes to air quality. Meteorologists had predicted poor air quality through the weekend, albeit with gradual improvements.

New York started the day Thursday (June 8) at the top of the list of cities with the worst air pollution in the world, with unhealthy levels of pollutants in the air. But conditions did not deteriorate as they did Wednesday (June 7).

We’ve been warned air quality would still be at unhealthy levels, and experts urged those at risk—young people, older adults and those with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions—to take precautions.


NOT A PHYSICAL DEATH. What Friedrich Nietzsche meant when he wrote that “God is dead” was not literally the physical death of God.

Shakespeare did not say “To be, or not to be.” He wrote it, but Hamlet says it. Neither did Nietzsche say “God is dead”; a “madman” does. While it is true that Nietzsche himself went mad at 45, there is still a difference between life and literature, even when the latter is called philosophy, according to biographer Mike Macrone.

Not that there are “unbelievers” in the world, for that was always true; nor simply that God does not exist. For if “God is dead,” then He must have once been alive; but this is paradoxical, since if God were ever alive, He, being eternal, could never die.

The madman speaks not of the believer’s God, who always was and always will be, but rather of what God represented and meant to his culture.This God was a “shared belief” in God, and it is such belief that was expiring in 19th century Europe.

“Where once God stood–at the center of knowledge and meaning–there is now a void. Science and philosophy alike treat God as irrelevant, and once again man has become the measure of all things,” according to Macrone.

Westerners have “killed” the God of their ancestors in turning over more toward nature and away from the supernatural. The believers in Nietzsche’s tale think seeking God is rather funny; only the madman realizes the terrible gravity of God’s death.

“Not that he laments it; in fact, he calls it a ‘great deed,’ but a deed likely too great for us, the murderers, to bear,” added Macrone.

A religion such as Christianity, despite the teachings of Jesus, perpetuates intolerance and conformity, which Nietzsche found especially repugnant.

Whatever is old, habitual, normative, or dogmatic, he thought, is contrary to life and to dignity; it manifests what he called a “slave mentality.” In a sense, for a man and a woman to live, he or she must “kill” God–must overcome dogma, conformity, superstition, and fear.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)