A magical thing happened last week: my schedule started to fill up with meetings and events, real life, in-person spaces in my days and evenings I will be dedicating to being with other people outside of my house. If you had told me a year and a half ago I would be so joyful for such a thing--well, I don't know if I wouldn’t have believed you because that is always what I moved to New York for.
I don’t have to jabber anymore about how I was out all the time because...I will just be out all the time. It was during the pandemic--which of course, still continues but seems to have loosened its grip at the very least--that I found myself living the life I had always dreaded: working during the day, watching television and reading at night before going to bed. There are times when I worry now if I will be able to resume full speed or if I’ll get stuck, or if I’ll be more careful about how I spend my time or if it’ll just be a gradual process of reentering the world.
True to form, I have been grasping at any available opportunities to return to normalcy. There were miraculous days where I finished work before 5pm and, elated, paused and asked myself what exactly I wanted to do in that moment. One day the answer was take myself down to the West Village for a massive caprese sandwich and sit by the Hudson River watching the sun set. Another day, the answer was sitting in Prospect Park reading all my back issues of New York magazine that had piled up, with a bahn mi and bubble tea from Hanco’s (sandwiches seem to be involved quite often?).
And one more was dressing up in my new slip dress, taking myself to Maria Elena Valdes’s Muxelandia exhibition at the Tumbao Gallery in Williamsburg, chronicling the lives of the people embodying what’s known as Mexico’s third gender. Afterward I twirled my wrap around my shoulders and trotted over to the newly opened Black Spring Books, nestled next to the writer Henry James’s former home, and perused the shelves of used paperbacks. I searched desperately for a sandwich, only to end up at Oasis, a relic of my youth I knew in its days a few blocks south of its current location. It was a staple of drunk nights in the neighborhood before the yuppies moved in, when we’d shove our faces into falafel sandwiches at 1am before hopping on the L back to Manhattan because there was no Lyft and no chance in hell of getting a cab in that neighborhood and even if you did it’d cost a million dollars (and, frankly, it still does now). I have vague recollections of going there with my friend Rachel after a CHERYL party, covered in sweat as well as the fake blood and fake cocaine performers threw at us from the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Reflecting on being able to move through the world again makes me remember the other times I felt most alive.
I take myself later to Live From Outer Space, a comedy show at The Cobra Club in Bushwick. The time disappears into fabulous sets from people who spent all pandemic cooped up, not being able to perform live, but who still deliver the goods. And while I realize it’s weird to go to a comedy show alone, or maybe not just weird but, uh, deeply unusual, I’ve resolved that after a year with far fewer escapades than usual, to say the very least, I’ve resolved it’s just better to go wherever I want and have an experience than to stay home. When I want to go out these days, even if it’s at the last minute, I am just listening to that voice. A burger at P.J. Clarke’s. Ramps with egg noodles and garlic at Golden Diner followed by kuih talam and lychee rose tea at Kopitiam. Curling up in the park with an iced coffee and a good book.Which is not to say I don’t seek out company, either. Bri and I do not stop laughing and spilling T from the moment we sit down for drinks at Automatic Slim’s, only to be driven out by yuppies in white sneakers with bad manners but after a heap of cocktails it was probably time anyway. How delightful to laugh so uproariously with a friend in a place that’s not my home, that has shelter from the rain. Which, incidentally, I don’t mind traversing to get there and back--it’s almost like nothing can stop me from having a good time anymore. But I don’t know if something within my control could ever do that.
Steven Jude and I share springy small plates at Baker and Co in the West Village, where we wait a few short minutes behind Scott Adsit, who played Pete Hornberger on 30 Rock. Morgan and I eat bagels and play chess in Washington Square Park. I lose every game and it’s hilarious and I would play again in a heartbeat.
Everything is slowly ticking back to life. There is something magical about being able to witness it, especially after having been on the other side for so long. The light! It is at the end of the tunnel! And so, gleefully, are we.