Almost Normal. July marks the 5th month of quarantine. And things are finally feeling normal. Or rather, it feels as if the world has recalibrated to this new normal. Where our movements have been restricted.Where most actions are taken online. Where our voices have been digitized.
Whereas during early quarantine days it was the gloomy and cold that kept us in, these days it’s the high heat and humidity. And it is in this high heat and humidity that we are reintroduced with the world.
New York City is opening up, people are moving around. There is still a general sense of uneasiness, of guilt for being out and about, of having fun. We don’t deserve it. Not us. Not here in America.
4th of July this year was uneventful. Fireworks in the neighborhood have been going on for weeks already (and still continue…). It felt a little wrong to be celebrating a country that has neglected its residents. Last year felt like a different life. And in many ways, it was. I was in a different city (Chicago), had a different occupation (grad student), and spent the day at the beach and house party. Something so normal that feels so out of reach these days.
Lately I’ve been really nostalgic for life in Chicago. All those sweaty days spent walking the streets of that clean, nice smelling city (ahem, New York City, step it up), talking to strangers, waiting for the train, spending hours at coffee shops trying in vain to get some writing done.
Places I’d support if I were still there:
I’m inspired by
It’s hard enough finding a sense of community in a big city. It’s even harder during a pandemic. But this month, I’ve gotten to know Chinatown a little bit and the community it fosters. Starting in the early days of the pandemic, back in March, there were several community grown initiatives that aimed to support Chinatown, which got hit long before the rest of the city shut down. Many of them have developed various programs that support local businesses while feeding the older at risk residents in the neighborhood.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt close to Chinatown. It’s always been a destination to me. That place we go to to get groceries, to get a family meal, a regular pilgrimage into the city. I often forget that for many, this is home, this is a history in America that dates far beyond my own. Beneath the gaudy dragon gates and exotic font choices, there are so many stories from a community that has a fraught history in this country. Stories that were once shaped by exclusionary laws and now once again face xenophobia. It’s fascinating how tight knit it feels. The energy of the few blocks, the sense of casual familiarity among the people, the nuances of the politics and the dynamics of the streets.
Chinatown was one of the last places I went to before we were told to stay at home. The second week of March, it already felt eerily empty. Few people in the stores and restaurants. The people in the streets seemed to be local to the neighborhood, rather than the usual tourists.
These days, while the East Village is teeming with a rather alarming amount of people dining out, Chinatown is still quiet. The shop owners sit outside their shops like one would sit on a stoop. Delivery people on bikes slide in and out at regular intervals. Pedestrians are few and far between. But Chinatown continues to do what it does best, survive. Despite all the closed doors and abandoned inventory, there is an unmistakeable sense of grit underlying the quiet surface, a determination to save the neighborhood, to live another day.
Renewed love for Hamilton, but more specifically, Hamilton TikTok.
Appreciation for celebrities entertaining us while we do absolutely nothing useful. Seriously, thank you Taylor and thank you Beyonce.
Sliding into random people’s DMs. We’ve finally reached the point in quarantine when I feel like I can actually make friends online and talk to strangers around the world with shared interests.
Produce boxes. Like this one from Dig Acres that was delivered to my door within 30 minutes and filled with enough veggies to last me two weeks.
Picnics. They’re about as fun as we can afford these days. And even in uncomfortable heat and humidity, it’s nice to get out and see the city you live in.
My picnic essentials: fresh fruit, bread from a local bakery, real tableware, and tonic water to stay hydrated without feeling tempted to chug water and then have to find a bathroom.
We’re still spending 95% of life within the confines of our residences and so I’m still cooking. Not sure if it’s a new habit (seriously every weekend I have an itch to start on another baking project), or if it’s just boredom and craving something to do that doesn’t involve staring at a screen.
But anyways, I have enough content to program @prettycarbs through 2021. And am probably going to start posting more recipe content here each week in addition to all the places we can’t go.