Fixing on the lodestar of the future

Inspiring events and generous acts in a quarantined NYC


As if this alpaca family wasn’t enough of a welcome distraction from the present, a baby has arrived to steal the show. Photo: Kate Hooker

Bonjour mes amis, and welcome to yet another week of this exceptionally strange life we all live now, this time with new and improved weather and a flatter curve. Over the course of the past week, it feels like there’s been a palpable shift in our collective psyche from day-to-day survival mode to a more long-term examination of the great unknown that stretches ahead. In recent days, all of my conversations have involved anecdotes about people packing up and leaving NYC for good, my employer announced that we won’t be going back to our open office space (which now seems like an insanely arrogant double dog dare to infectious germs) until at least January, and the internet is mired with depressing proclamations about how urban life as we know it is over. Molly Jong-Fast mounted a defiant counterargument to the “New York is toast” refrain in this piece in The Atlantic yesterday, which posits that the inevitable reincarnation will actually be better, and I’m going to go with that for now, not just as it applies to the city I love but also to myself. 

If my Twitter recon is to be trusted, it seems a lot of us have been surprised by some quarantine-induced epiphanies. I could have predicted the alacrity with which I dispensed with underwires and any discernible skin care routine when left to my own devices, but not my sudden lack of interest in keeping up with the news or that I would become obsessed with birds, a subject in which I’ve displayed little to no interest for my entire life until now. These days, though, I’m the proud owner of three different bird feeders and a book that helps me identify North American backyard species by call and I’m blown away by this inexplicable, nerdy detour. A friend recently observed that every exposure to the natural word, no matter how small, feels strikingly acute and vivid right now, and I’m in complete agreement. Regular readers may recall that when I first decamped to my mom’s place just north of the city back in March, I made a routine of visiting her neighbors’ alpacas, which are the most calming creatures on Earth. Well, as of this weekend, there’s a baby alpaca in the mix, and I’m powerless against its undeniable charms. I hope that my newfound appreciation for every animal and new bloom I encounter carries over into my post-pandemic life, just as I am trying to remain hopeful that the old guard of post-capitalism run amok will not survive the transition to New York’s next iteration. 

While we wait and see what the future holds, though, there’s still the business of virtual events to partake in this week, which is important both in terms of maintaining a connection to the larger cultural world and to support local businesses and artists. Tonight, for example, Nitehawk is hosting an online screening of The Painter and the Thief, a Sundance-winner about a Czech painter who befriends the person who steals her work, followed by an interview with the director.  In the alternative, St. Ann’s Warehouse is streaming The Encounter, a well-reviewed one-man show about an American photojournalist who happens upon a mystical Amazon tribe, for free now through Monday. BAM is in the middle of its annual DanceAfrica festival, which has moved into the online space with an array of dance lessons and parties and a virtual bazaar, and the beloved summer tradition known as Mister Sunday is hosting a virtual season opener on Sunday from 5-9pm. I’m planning to check out In Weird Cities, a new podcast from BB’s own Kara Zuaro that features interviews with famous musicians from one city at a time (first stop: Austin). Tomorrow, the Hester Street Fair is hosting an online Dark Rose 101 class to get us all in the mood for some Springtime day drinking, and the Art Students League will be streaming a conversation with art critic Jerry Saltz on how to live life more creatively. The Spring Issue of the always fabulous Pop-Up Magazine premieres on Wednesday, in a new at-home format, and they’ve also been partnering with some of their contributors on a weekly newsletter chock full of DIY diversions, like How to Always Win at Board Games and How to Make Art from Junk Mail. Speaking of DIY, the Brant Foundation is holding a contest to reimagine Jeff Koons’ Puppy sculpture using materials of your choice, and the deadline is June 1, so you’ve got time to come up with something really exquisite. On Tuesday night, I’ll personally be firing up Netflix on Tuesday to watch the premiere of Hannah Gadsby’s newest comedy special, Douglas

Otherwise, I’ll be doing what I do best in COVID-times this week, which means relentless food inventory management, light to negligible exercise, frequent cocktails, commenting extensively to anyone who will listen on how weirdly time passes, and hopefully making lots of visits to this freaky, furry, alien baby that has taken over my life. I hope you all get into some good stuff this Memorial Day weekend, and that we’re all able to reflect on the sacrifices made by brave individuals in furtherance of the common good and the profound losses we’ve endured while at the same time fixing on the lodestar of a future beyond this current crisis that is brighter than anything we might have imagined before.

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