New York

Salt, Fat, Acid, Defeat

Salt, Fat, Acid, Defeat

The restaurant before and after Covid

Pandemic-era restaurant culture extends and amplifies forces that were already apparent under the old regime: the numbing frictionlessness of delivery food, the retreat into private spaces, the appification of everything. By raising the cost of staying afloat online, Grubhub and Yelp have contributed more to the demise of Covid-era restaurants than their survival. Delivery workers’ bodies are now deemed essential, but their paychecks remain as murderously trivial as ever.

All Eyes, No Skin

All Eyes, No Skin

On virtual Archtober

When I get tired I stop at an awning above a tall sidewalk table and an unopened Corona, thinking I’m at a bar. It turns out to be a barber shop, but the man inside insists I sit down as long as I like, and even lets me drink his Corona. The sidewalk is uneven, and this particular stretch of Flatbush is dusty and empty. The awning is not a particularly attractive color, nor does it really sit in my memory. But it was not created to be looked at; it was created to be used, and it was.

Everything Must Go

I realized I could no longer discount my feelings

Sometimes you could see where someone had fingernailed away the successive stickers to confirm the original discounted price, in the service of some private calculation or intimate feeling. In this peeling, there was some kind of retracing of the chain of events in capital and carbon that had accumulated into the original prices: cost of material extraction, cost of the labor of manufacture, cost of shipping, cost of marketing—plus obsolete speculation about what the market would bear on top of that.

Young and Homeless During Covid-19

Young and Homeless During Covid-19

“They want to close everything?”

Lala considered herself good at avoiding attention on the subway at night by sitting up straight, her feet on the floor and her arms pulled inside the sleeves of both of her sweatshirts, “balled up in a ball.” Corday sat next to her, his head in her lap. During periods of wakefulness, phones offered precious distraction, and Lala didn’t like to let the battery dip past 20 percent. She had accidentally paid for a Hulu subscription, so while they rode she watched movies, or scrolled through Facebook, looking at pictures of hairdos and limited-edition food: Captain Crunch ice cream, Sour Patch Toll House cookies, a four-pack of bright red Seagrams Escapes.

Such Things Have Done Harm

Such Things Have Done Harm

The only people I ever hear saying the world needs stories are the people involved in telling them

We should be willing to demand more than fellow feeling. The New York City Council crowed about its progressivism in passing a billion-dollar reduction in the NYPD’s budget. That number would just about return the department budget to the levels it was under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration. It is indicative of a dangerous lack of imagination if the best we can do is make a tacit admission that it was unwise to give the police more resources in the years after the rise of Black Lives Matter.

The Dead Live Longer

The Dead Live Longer

My dead ex-friend had a beautiful, long neck

Her mother’s prophecy struck me as a terrible, sinister curse: You, daughter, will die before me. The curse of a miserable woman who should never have had a child. A daughter. A Greek curse, though I don’t know of a Greek tragedy with that in its story. Here is a daughter cursed by her mother, who becomes a curse to her friends. I wasn’t alone.

Epilogue for a Way of Life

Epilogue for a Way of Life

We were a sick society and getting sicker

The Decameron came to mind first, but as the weeks went on, our minds wandered to reruns of The Jetsons that we used to watch as kids. A smug depiction of an optimized society so stratified that its beneficiaries literally lived above the clouds, The Jetsons always made us wonder about all the people living below, on Earth, in cities abandoned by the techno-optimists of the future. Now we knew.