The night before the lockdown started in California, Times reporter Jack Nicas persuaded the staff of his local watering hole to share their finances and lives over the next two months.
Kenny Bloom, a bartender, was fairly zen as the staff served one last night of drinks. “Am I worried? Of course I’m worried. Is it the end of the world, though? No,” he said. “If society crashes, whatever. We’ll rebuild it.”
Antoine Towers, the bouncer, was more fatalistic. He forecast riots. “Three weeks of not making any money?” he said, standing outside the bar. “People are going to do what they have to do.”
Santos, a Guatemalan immigrant, pressed burgers to the grill. He and his six children in the Bay Area had all received word that day that they no longer had jobs. He planned to return to the three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Oakland that he shared with 11 family members and stay put.
“I want to respect the law,” he said in Spanish. “But my worry is my rent, food.”
By early April, weeks into joblessness, he was still optimistic. He had begun taking morning walks in the hills and leading nightly family prayer circles. “Almost every day, we are praying that God takes control,” said Santos, who asked to be identified only by his first name because of his family’s immigration status.
Standing in the driveway, amid scattered children’s toys and bags of empty cans collected from the Hatch, he said the family had just barely made their $2,860 rent for March, plus about $500 more for utilities. He and his children had applied for jobs at a recycling plant and a tortilla-chip factory, but were turned away. “We are OK right now, assuming this ends in a week or two,” he said. “But if this goes on longer, then it really worries me.”