It's Been Awhile...
What does "awhile" even mean anymore?
I admit that I’ve been feeling moody the past few weeks. There was some pendulum-swing between understanding that I should stay inside and the reality of it sinking in. Every weekend has been more beautiful than the last, and these are weekends when we should be camping and hiking. Instead, we mostly stay inside. We stay inside because it’s the right thing to do when 100 people a day are still dying in area hospitals.
We are the folks who stuck it out in New York because this is our home right now and the thought of taking our possibly infectious bodies and belongings to someone else’s home didn’t feel right to us. With the exception of some long lines and the shelter-in-place rules, our lives have been largely unaffected. We have not been sick. Our families are safe. Our neighbors are safe. Our jobs are safe. And yet, I will never be able to forget this time.
New York as we know it has undergone a substantial change, the same way I have, the same way we all have. When I see the articles claiming New York will never feel like New York again, I can’t help but rage. New York became quiet because that was what was required of us. When other cities opened like petulant children who can’t sit still, who can’t behave, New York continued to hold steady, and what emerged in those quiet times, has been miraculous to behold. The sound of the birds where only bustle lived before. The empty slits of streets between skyscrapers. The ingenuity of neighborhood restaurants who sold us cocktails to go, and growers of cold iced coffee. The way our neighbors meet on Zoom calls every Wednesday at 6 to check-in on each other. The way we get groceries for our neighbor and she returns the favor with oh-so-perfect cookies. I don’t judge those who left—they have their reasons—but what they missed can never be reclaimed, no matter how much they should try—and there was so much they missed.
I don’t judge them because there have been scary bits too. With most people inside, the drug dealers in our neighborhood seemed to take over the streets. Most mornings when I take Jack to the park, it is filled with addicts coming down off their evening highs, sprawled out on the grass or wooden benches. They use my favorite tree as a toilet, they leave their garbage everywhere. The grass in our beautiful park remains un-mowed. And the worst part is someone is killing birds again—I spotted two this week, head twisted or torn off completely. Darkness breeds darkness.
And then there is the injustice made visible: I feared for the “essential workers” I saw on their way to jobs or making deliveries. They looked ragged, desperate, with dirty masks and threadbare gloves. I begrudge my neighbors for every package that arrives—tiny distractions that create such risk for someone else. We donate the money saved from monthly student loan payments to the health wagon, to the diaper bank, to the food bank. We tip 50%, 100%, every time. It’s the very least we can do, and it it’s still not enough.
Like any good springtime, people and places are starting to emerge again. In the park across the street, cheerful music blares from someone’s radio. A woman does yoga in the grass with her mask on. The cars have returned and so has the bustle. Bingo and dominoes come out. The ice cream truck circles. New York is back…almost.
When Manhattan Was Mannahatta: A Stroll Through the Centuries
17 artists capture New York as seen from their windows.
A truly fascinating look at how the city has quieted during the pandemic.
There is no escape from work, and it is exhausting.
I will always read a Sesame Street piece.
Sandra Oh is endlessly fascinating.
The Federal Writers Project brought forth some of the greatest American writers. Maybe it’s time for the government to save writers again?
You must read this piece on Calvin and Hobbes and quarantine.
Fuck the Bread. The Bread Is Over.
To all my neighbors…
Edna Lewis had unsung culinary sisters. Flora Mae Hunter was one.
Nearly a decade ago now, I worked with someone who was very sensitive to scent; allergic is probably a better description, because certain scents could make her throat seize. She asked that her co-workers not wear perfume, so of course, I complied.
My personal scent hadn’t changed since I was 16 anyway, and David has no sense of smell, so it didn’t mean that much to me at the time. After I left the job, I never resumed my perfume habit, too worried there might be others walking around with a similar allergy. The truth is, sometimes I missed it a little, as a sort of personal signature. The stairwell in our building is flooded with someone’s perfume. I close my eyes every time I take Jack out and take a big breath in. It’s a pleasurable mystery.
Which is why the timing of Avery Trufleman’s episode on perfume, from her Articles of Interest series, had such perfect timing. Trufleman explores the origins of wearing scents and explains why different cultures are attracted to different scents. As someone taking showers less often, I finally caught a whiff of my own sweat scent recently. I would have usually ran to shower, lest someone else be exposed to it, but I sat with it all day instead. I noticed it has both a sweet and slightly woody scent that delighted me. It’s not perfume, but it’s nice.
This “Feel it all, babe” playlist.
These nature recordings from the world’s national parks. I recommend listening to them splayed out, like a starfish, on your bed or floor.
The Great is actually pretty great.
Normal People the movie is, whew, much better than the book.
Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech will cheer us up.
I made these skillet beans with anchovy breadcrumbs and ate the entire pan by myself.
A good Monday night dinner might be this breakfast hash.
Farro is a vastly underestimated grain. Here are 27 ways to use it.
Get on these black bean tacos—stat.
This broccoli and egg fried rice sounds satisfying.
Trust me, my friend, you could probably use a salad.
PS: I’m testing out a new platform to deliver the newsletter. What do you think of it?