This month, we reached (and exceeded) 100 days in “lockdown.” While we’re leaving the house much more often than in March or April, it was an emotionally charged month as the country erupted in protests, in response to the systemic racism and police brutality that continues to suffocate Black Americans.
Protests continued throughout most of the month, and in some parts of the city, like where we live, gave way to violence and looting. For several nights in a row, we lay awake at night while listening to windows in our street being smashed in (including that of the business we live above), gunfire and screaming. It was a harrowing few weeks, but the outrage is beyond justified and change is grossly overdue. As a white person holding an enormous amount of privilege, I’ve done a lot of learning and reflection (including acknowledging that learning about racism via books rather than through a lived experience is in itself a privilege).
America’s history of slavery has left deep scars, but Australia has it’s own demons of racism and inequality, especially towards the Indigenous community. Through my research, which was a humbling experience, I learned about Children’s Ground, a charitable organisation led by Aboriginal communities. They have several projects and initiatives, but their flagship program is culturally appropriate schooling for Indigenous children, where the curriculum is taught in the childrens’ first language and involves significant cultural programming that is ignored in the white school system. I’ve started a recurring monthly donation, and encourage any Australians interested in supporting Indigenous children and the preservation of our country’s most ancient culture to check them out.
Back to New York. Streets that were already quiet became even more eerie, lined with boarded up windows. Weeks on from the swell of protests, artwork and graffiti has started to cover the plywood boarding up windows. Some of it is important and thought-provoking, some of it is uplifting and beautiful, some of it is angry and devastating, and some of it is ugly scrawl.
The streets are getting noticeably filthy – and New York already has a pretty low bar for cleanliness. Commercial tenants are responsible for keeping the sidewalks outside their store clean, naturally, as many aren’t operating, they’re not driving into the city just to sweep their patch of sidewalk. Unfortunately, everyone else has forgotten how to use the bin. The streets are regularly pretty filthy, with litter from take out packaging, spilt garbage bags and disturbingly, urine. Peeing in public is on the rise, thanks to to-go cocktails & no access to public bathrooms. The city is really going from strength to strength.
We’re getting out of the house more, but we’re still not using the subway or ubers, so we’re limited to transport on foot. Aside from the Uber I’d catch up to Midtown, from where I’d take the Jitney to the North Fork, I haven’t been north of 10th since March.
Things started to improve at the end of June, when Elizabeth Street Garden reopened. Finally being able to sit in a garden was a huge mental relief!
Throwback: How different the world was in June 2019!
Getting to know the North Fork
Americans will find this weird, but I was thrilled to see my first racoon on one of my trips!
Sunset over the Hudson
Elizabeth St Garden Re-Opening!
Best afternoon – movie, reading bridshead revisited in ESG, burrata and campari spritz at epistrophy, came home and it bucketed rain.
favourite ones are the Froze with slices of lemon, peach and lime from The Grey Dog, and the cocktail slushie at Mother’s Ruin, which changes daily – bourbone pear cinnamon. Frozen Margaritas at ruby’s and lombardis’
I miss Australia.
I’m not one to get homesick, normally. I came to America with a clear understanding that I’m lucky to call a country with free healthcare, a fairly good public school system and a functioning welfare system, home. I had no illusions about America being some promised land. I knew New York was a nutsy place to live, but I wanted to do it anyway and braced myself for the lower lows, which would accompany the highs of living in such a dynamic city.
Before lockdown, I was deeply in love with living here. With my new job, life was starting to fall into place and I was grateful every day – I regularly marvelled at my luck to be living a long-held dream. I walked around our neighbourhood, spontaneously marvelling at little details and the general fact that this was our temporary home. I loved it all.
Without the highest highs that make this city so exciting, living here is a bit more of a slog. On top of that, as Australia bounces back from a crisis that was far less serious than it was here, I’m reminded of how very lucky I am to be able to return to a country that can effectively manage public health and safety. Being an island makes things easier, but there are also hundreds of choices that people and governments have made, big and small, over the last fifty years and in the past few weeks, that have made the situation more bearable at home. (Note: Unfortunately, Australia is now going through a terrible second wave).
All this extra time for navel gazing has made me take a long look at what is important. It’s a terrible cliche, but I think the ways I’ve changed in the last few weeks can’t be undone. I struggle to understand how I wholeheartedly signed up for the life I lived before – even the life I lived before I moved to New York. It’s not “life-changing” stuff, but it is going to change the way I live my life.
All this solitude and time spent indoors has given me lots of time to think. I’ve felt my attention shift inward and I’ve had less external distractions, apart from work. I’ve found a new appreciation for my home, and I miss my friends and family from Australia more than ever.
Eating & Drinking
David & I were hoping to dine at Estela on our anniversary this year, but as we’re still in lockdown, we ordered in from Rezdora. It was actually my favourite anniversary yet – all the perks of eating at home (our choice of music, a private dining room) without any of the heavy lifting.
We added Coffee Project in the East Village and Gasoline Alley in NoHo to our coffee roster. Urban Backyard and Cafe Integral, both in Nolita, are my current favourites.
I’m not sure how I got through so many books in June – I tend to have a few books on the go at once, so sometimes I end up finishing several that I start the month (or sometimes months!) before.
- How to do Nothing – Jenny Odell – I kind of struggle to sum up this book, because it’s not your standard “digital detox” self help book. Odell is an artist, and her essays are reflective, sometimes quite abstract, and very thought provoking. It’s not a quick or easy read, but it was a wake up call and definitely set me on the path to simplifying my life and questioning more of the structures that we live within.
- Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh – Now one of my favourite books, Brideshead is a beautiful, glittering and emotional tale about one young man’s experience of falling in love with a family. It’s set in the heyday of the 1920s, but was written while Waugh was away at war, as he pined for the world he lost. Likewise, in some of the darkest days of the 21st century to date, it was a beautiful escape.
- Me & White Supremacy by Layla F Saad – This book has shot to the top of the bestseller charts as anti-racism reading lists circulate the Internet. I wish they made this required readings in schools – it’s clear, concise and crucial understanding for white people, who are blind to how much privilege they have, and how it affects every aspect of modern life. Humbling, eye-opening and very very important.
- Happy Inside by Michelle Ogundehin – Written by an interior designer and former magazine editor, Happy Inside is one of the most instructive and genuinely useful design resources I’ve ever found. I’ve never read anything like it when it comes to design, and I found it SUPER inspiring! I kind of skipped over the parts that became quite prescriptive to health & wellness, because despite it generally being good advice the author has no health qualifications that I’m aware of, and it started to veer into woo territory a bit. Plus, I was there for tips on decorating my kitchen rather than filling my pantry! The design component is so strong though I still really recommend reading it if you’re looking to improve your living quarters – and who isn’t, these days?
- The Guest List by Lucy Hooper – I read this one for book club in two days, it’s a really quick, easy read and quite short. I loved her debut mystery/thriller, The Hunting Party, and in the same way The Guest List has of-the-moment characters and storylines and a great, beautiful but eerie setting. However, I thought the way all the storylines merged was a little far fetched, and the ending felt a little rushed. Her first book haunted me for days, and had a much more surprising twist. If you’re a fan of her work though, you’ll enjoy this, and I’ll still read whatever she writes next!
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adiche – I feel like I’d been chipping away at this book for months, and catching little snatches of it here and there probably wasn’t the best way to read it. It’s a widely acclaimed and hugely popular book, and I really enjoyed it – I think it has inspired similar fiction, so as I’m very late to the party on it it doesn’t feel quite as fresh as perhaps it did when it first came out, because I’ve read work like it since. Still a great read, especially if you live in the US or are spending much time here.
- Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy. I started this in March, and made pretty slow progress since I’ve been reading multiple other books at the same time. I enjoyed it at first, and in parts, but I found a lot of it pretty slow. Of Tolstoy’s two epic tomes, prefer War & Peace!
- The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo – I love a multi-generational family saga. This is probably one of my favourite fiction books of this genre, it was so moving, entertaining and distracting – and so human. A really beautiful book.
- Modern Love: Essays from the New York Times I thought I was going to love this, but I’ll probably donate my copy. Some of the short stories were very moving, but I also think, as much as I hate to admit it, it translates even better to the small screen. Netflix has adapted several essays into episodes, and the stories come to life much more on the screen.
I haven’t watched much of anything so far this month, since I’ve used the little downtime I have at home to either read or clean the apartment, both of which I find more therapeutic!
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