If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, shots of desolate streets in Italy, and a nearly empty Times Square at night, have starkly told the tale of the sheer magnitude of the coronavirus lockdown.
But a set of images sent to BlackBook by an amateur photographer colleague struck us as particularly jarring. On a sunny Thursday afternoon in New York’s Soho, the streets were literally deserted—completely, and utterly devoid of human life…or even automobile traffic.
Soho, for those who might be unfamiliar, is one of downtown NYC’s most vibrant shopping neighborhoods, often coming under criticism for its rampant over-commercialization these last couple of decades—after being a haven for artists and galleries back in the ’80s and ’90s. But instead we now see boarded up Coach and Dolce & Gabbana shops (Louis Vuitton did it a bit more stylishly), and a lonely picture of Fanelli Cafe, a Gotham legend dating back to 1847, with its graffiti’d security doors pulled down for some yet to be determined period.
That it was a beautiful day in regards to weather only serves to emphasize the eeriness of it all.
Curiously enough, for those of us who have long complained about barely being able to walk down the street in Soho for the weekend crush of tourists, likely nothing would make us happier right now than to see those hordes return…and start shopping again.
Sheltering-in-place has seemed to generate a sort of mini-zeitgeist of focusing on the “little things”—reading those unread books, spending more time with pets. But such ominous times just as much call for decidedly grand gestures, especially artistic ones.
Of course, when seeking grand gestures, one can reliably look north and west to the PDX, where The Dandy Warhols are hunkered down at home in Portland (at least we think they are), trying to make sense of this insidious pandemic just like the rest of us. But the mind of Courtney Taylor-Taylor tends to quickly soar beyond the pragmatic…
And so perfectly timed comes the release of this extravagant but quiet “head-music symphony,” intriguingly titled Tafelmuzik Means More When You’re Alone (and recorded by Jake Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the band’s Odditorium studio). By extravagant, we mean that it clocks in at four hours—which might just mean synching it to a much-needed extended at-home meditation session.
Tafelmusik, incidentally, was music written to be played at feasts and banquets and such, from sometime during the 16th Century to sometime during the 18th. But curiously enough, it’s easy to imagine the Eno-esque soundscapes soundtracking a 21st Century space mission.
“The music itself felt like just the right medicine for these troubled times,” explains the Dandies’ Zia McCabe. “It could help cure the boredom of being stuck inside. I also think it will be a very special treat for everyone who first enjoys this musical journey alone, when they finally get to hear it as the backdrop next time they’re allowed a proper feast with some of the friends they’ve been missing.”
Available today on Bandcamp, it’s a steal at just $11.11. Plus, a dollar from each sale goes to Sweet Relief, an organization dedicated to supporting the daily struggle of being dedicated to a life of making music—which has certainly been made even harder now.
Central St. Martin’s graduate Shanan Campanaro founded Eskayel in 2008 as an eco-conscious textile studio. The Brooklyn based workshop has since been committed to marrying environmental responsibility and rigorous craftsmanship, using regional production and sustainably sourced materials. Every one-of-a-kind design is actually based on a nature or travel inspired painting by Campanaro herself, with end products including highly-coveted hand-tied rugs, wall coverings, home linens, furnishings and beyond.
For our new Corona Stories series, she expounds on the need to maintain routine during the pandemic crisis.
Striving to Maintain Some Sense of Normality
After safely rushing my husband home from Switzerland after the travel ban announcement, and situating my employees to work from home, I wanted to reach out to our Eskayel friends and family, but, to say what, exactly, as news seemed to be changing by the hour? I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this design community and to have fostered so many long term relationships with my clients and peers, both creatively and personally. So what I really wanted to know is…how was everybody doing? How was this situation affecting my clients and friends personally and professionally?
It is so important for us to stay connected at this time when we are all so physically distanced. It is essential for us to share our experiences so that we can better support each other.
For me, some things have been a bit easier: I’m fortunate enough to live one block away from the studio. Because of this, we have been able to operate almost normally—requests for swatches are being sent out—while the rest of our staff safely works remotely on projects from home. But other things have been harder, like worrying about family in California, or friends who own shops and restaurants that had to close; not to mention sharing their anxiety about the financial implications and the impact it could have on my small business.
All of us at Eskayel felt it was important to send positive energy and support into the universe, with the belief that we will come together to overcome this hardship and bounce back more resilient and connected than ever. We are committed to continuing to share beautiful and inspiring designs, and to celebrate the ongoing work of designers in our community and around the world.
We are prioritizing keeping our staff and our spaces and servicing our clients as best as we can. My husband and I do yoga every morning during the same time we would typically be at our favorite local studio. We FaceTime with our staff at 10 am from the studio to maintain a schedule and sense of normalcy. Maintaining normal office hours until 6 pm as we always did helps the day go by, ending with a rewarding walk for some fresh air, followed by cooking and possibly drinking a bit more than usual. Last night I went on the house party app with all my girlfriends and we had a drink together. In a way, I am more connected virtually to people than I have ever been before.
From her galvanizing 2018 anthem “Be the Change,” to last year’s poignant single “Ask For Help,” we’ve come to love Senegalese born, New York based songstress Marieme for her fearless, incisive ability to take on weighty subject matter, and deliver the message in the most shiver-inducing, thought-provoking of ways. Her debut EP was released later in 2019, definitely exhibiting her inimitable style, a sultry, jazz-infused modern soul music.
As part of our new Corona Stories series, she characteristically goes beyond simple well-wishing, to reminding us that “hate” is a virus that we have to confront, and unflinchingly attempt to extinguish, every single day.
Hate: The Most Dangerous Virus of All
These times have me delving deeper into the nature of viruses, which in turn made me start thinking about how hate spreads. How it mutates, how we catch it, and its effects.
Hate is a virus!
It’s an energy force with the nature of a virus.
The nature of a virus is to find a host, destroy and multiply. Just like a virus kills the cells, hate attaches itself to a host, destroys the host’s personality, common sense, ability to think rationally, and self-love. Those of us with weaker spiritual immune systems are the most susceptible to it. And not knowing yourself is the cause of a weak spiritual immune system. You come to know yourself by not holding on to pain, to traumas.
Some are taught hate by hateful elders, thus multiplying the virus outside of the host body. Creating an army of people who don’t love themselves!
As technology has advanced beyond the evolution of the soul, hate has hitched a ride to the world via the internet, amplifying its powers.
The interesting thing about hate though is that its antidote has always been with us. LOVE!
MALIN + GOETZ opened their first shop in Chelsea in 2004, before the concept of “conscious” beauty had become a matter-of-fact part of our everyday lives. Since then, they’ve opened additional “modern apothecaries” in NYC’s NoLIta and on Madison Avenue, as well as locations in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and London. And their thoughtfully created skincare, beauty and fragrance products—with their strikingly minimally designed packaging—have made so many of our hotel stays just a little more memorable.
From their jojoba exfoliating cleansers, to their vibrant peppermint body scrubs, to their meadowfoam oil balms, and on to their cannabis eau de parfum and elegant candle collection, M+G have continued to redefine the concept of contemporary body, hair and facial care.
For our new Corona Stories series, Co-Founder Matthew Malin took a moment to jot down some personal thoughts.
Finding Solace in Pets + Daffodils
Andrew Goetz and I (and our Pug, Mr. Greenberg) have been self-isolating at our home in Hudson, NY. We are fortunate to WFH from a beautiful part of the world. We have closed our stores and remain focused on how to best support our staff and customers—health and safety first—while remaining optimistic for our future. We are confident that the world will get past this as a shared, common concern for one another everywhere. I already find our immediate community kinder with small gestures and comments.
It is important for us to have a distraction from the day’s stressors—of which there are many. While some of the day is focused on work, there is joy in simple pleasures—a silver lining of our time at home. We read a lot. Our dog is an endless source of joy and having him around is pure happiness. Reconnecting regularly with our elderly parents, friends, family and co-workers is time well spent. We are lucky to have our garden and spring has arrived. We are planting vegetables, enjoying the daffodils, and weeding in earnest.
We wish everyone well and good health during these difficult times.
Gloria Gaynor is a legend of song and a voice of inspiration, whose most recent and truly exhilarating album, 2019’s Testimony, saw her take the well-deserved prize for Best Roots Gospel album at this year’s Grammy Awards. And earlier this month, her very cleverly conceived hand washing #iwillsurvivechallenge video went viral around the world, adding some necessary levity to this globally insidious pandemic.
For the inaugural BlackBook Corona Stories – Going Viral, she implores us to use this time as an opportunity to remember that our sense of kindness and compassion both now, and long after, should always extend as far and wide as possible.
In The Face of a Common Enemy
I was totally shocked when I learned how far and wide my video of me singing “I Will Survive” and washing my hands for my TikTok #iwillsurvivechallenge was seen. I wanted to share with as many as I could, of course, a reminder of how little time and effort it takes to employ the first line of defense against COVID-19. I didn’t want it to be a reminder of a dark time, but wanted to make it lighthearted and fun.
Whenever we think about COVID-19 we, of course, feel deep concern for our own welfare and the welfare of our loved ones, and if we and our loved ones are okay. The more civic minded among us will begin to be concerned about our friends, neighbors and if the threat is big enough, our countrymen. I feel that COVID-19 has come at a time when not many of us had been thinking beyond our immediate family and friends as far as welfare is concerned. The world has become so small with air travel, telephone, television, cell phones and the Internet.
We know things about each other we’ve never been privy to before. We know other cultures and foods, how we look, what we eat and wear almost intimately, yet we’ve grown apart in affection. I think the bigger the group of people interacting with one another, the less intimacy is involved. We’ve become so common to one another that we take each other for granted, but don’t really care about each other beyond our personal close family and friends. We’re so caught up in experiencing THINGS, that we forget to really experience ONE ANOTHER. COVID-19 is forcing us to notice and care about each other, if only superficially for now. We want to know if the person across the street is ill, has been around someone who might have been ill?
Do they have the kind of job or does anything in their daily routine cause them to be around someone who has been infected? Might the person in the supermarket in front of me know or interact with someone that I know that might get close enough to transmit the virus to them or me? We’re passing on vital information to others that is helpful in preventing and lessening the effects of the virus. We’re trying to suggest and share ways of occupying our time, and abate our boredom and restlessness of spending more than normal time at home, as well as that of our children.
When we get over and past this, as we will, I for one, hope that we retain some of the camaraderie, caring, concern and support for our fellow man that is being exhibited now. I hope and pray that we learn to care and keep caring, share and keep sharing the good and great things about us and our fellow man.
Since exploding onto the scene in 2010 with the now classic single “Pumped Up Kicks,” Foster the People have released three albums—their debut Torches the following year, plus 2014’s Supermodel, and 2017’s Sacred Hearts Club—which have proven them to be a band that could reliably conjure a massive hook, while also taking on lyrical subjects that decisively tap into the visceral tenor of our times.
And despite four years having passed since their last long-player, they have remained front and center of the musical zeitgeist, with regular single releases (we loved last September’s new-wavey “Pick U Up”), including a new one, “It’s Okay To Be Human,” which really hits home right now. They have also continued to tour—in fact, they have a full slate of European summer festival dates ahead, something to look forward to on the other side of the coronavirus outbreak.
In the meantime, singer Mark Foster has taken the time out to write down his thought-provoking insights on this ominous pandemic that has veritably ground the world to a halt.
Time For a Pause
This is the first time in my life I have ever seen the world unite around a singular cause. I’ve heard about it happening in the past. I’ve heard stories about what it felt like after World War II ended; when people were broken, in mourning, but optimistic about rebuilding a better world. There was a feeling of unity after the twin towers fell and shook the nation. There was a sense of unity after the terrorist attack on the Bataclan in Paris; but the essence of the feeling was different. This feels different. Maybe it feels different because the past tragedies were thrust upon us in an act of human violence; being punched in the stomach by our fellow man. Maybe it’s because they were isolated incidents that the survivors could look at from a distance and mourn in the safety of their own home. I haven’t put my finger on why this time it’s different. It just is.
The fear is different. The uncertainty is different. The unity is also different. As I woke up this morning to texts from friends and family with updates, warnings, and the desire to connect with other people, I found myself thinking about the beauty of this pause. The entire world has pressed pause. It’s as if mother earth said, “O.K. you degenerates give me the wheel. I’m gonna steer us back in the right direction.”
Sometimes, a pause is the only thing that can bring clarity to the manic momentum of the rat race we’ve allowed to hijack our humanity. Sometimes a pause is what we need to remind us that we are not gods. We forget that we’re actually sensitive, vulnerable, weak creatures that need to breathe oxygen multiple times a minute, drink water, eat food, and maintain an internal temperature of 98.6 degrees. It’s easy to forget about our vulnerabilities when we have been spoiled with the comforts of societal excess.
Man is born with an instinct to go further than the previous generation; to achieve more than our mothers and fathers. We are born with an innate fear that when we take our last breath, we will be forgotten. Our fear of death drives us to leave behind some kind of legacy to be remembered forever. We want to feel like we made a difference. We want to build. To create. Whether it’s a legacy by passing our DNA to children, breaking “impossible” world records, or building skyscrapers that tower above the clouds, we have a deep desire to feel like we matter. In that desire, we tend to make a lot of mistakes chasing the trophy while turning a blind eye to the trail of dead we leave in our wake.
In today’s world, the end is much more important than the means. If you become the greatest at what you do, it doesn’t matter how you got there. It just matters that you’re at the top of the hill. We want to be famous. We want to be rich. We want to be special. We want to have likes on Instagram, friends on Facebook, and retweets on Twitter.
In an age where everything is more connected than ever before, this attitude has seemed to affect, and infect cultures that historically have placed the health of society over the success of the individual. This western philosophy of being the god of our own universe is contagious. “Your truth is your truth. My truth is mine.” It’s got a seductive ring to it.
The age of misinformation and creating our own narrative has dangerously replaced reality. In our quest for power, we’ve learned if we create our own reality, nobody can tell us we’re wrong; or we failed, or we’re not on the right path. The spoils don’t go to the victor. They go to the person who successfully shapes the perception of who won the battle.
Our greedy endeavors got us here, no doubt. This tiny virus has effectively put its finger on the very core of our selfishness. We’ve become gluttons in industry; destroying the planet with pollution, waste, and excess out of our hedonistic desires to accumulate wealth. We’ve become lords over the land we inherited, denying people the right to partake in the very dream we are benefitting from. Unchecked capitalism encourages us to enjoy the view from the best possible vantage point, even if that means building our castle on the bodies of others.
The evidence is now overwhelming that we are facing the most dangerous enemy the world has seen since the atomic bomb was introduced to the world in 1945. If this is not contained, there will be millions of deaths. This isn’t just a physical virus. It’s an economic virus. And when the economy suffers, people die. In the coming months, our survival is dependent on our willingness to put the needs of others ahead of our personal comforts. It is the ultimate test of our willingness to sacrifice our personal luxuries for a stranger’s necessities. Are we willing to trust each other enough to buy only what is necessary if that means our anonymous neighbors will have a fighting chance of survival?
Sometimes the only way to shake us out of our arrogance, is to remind us that we are only human. The world existed before we were born, and we don’t know what happens after we die. This is the most terrifying thought that exists in our mind. It goes against our very nature of living our lives like we are gods. We spend most of our life consciously or unconsciously suppressing this question. We try our best to “be in the moment.” But the truth is, when we’re confronted by a tangible threat to our survival, these internal tenets of our faith-in-self disappear and we return to the most haunting question we are born with: why are we here, what are we supposed to do while we’re here, and why does any of it matter?
My hope is that as we are in this pause of reflection, we will dig within ourselves and find our soul again. I hope we will reach out to people in need and give them the other half of our sandwich. I hope that our governments work together, comparing their research and sharing their best scientists work to collectively find a vaccine. I hope our employers and heads of companies will reach into their profit margins and share a piece of the pie with the workers that helped build the empires they lead. I hope that landlords will be patient with their tenants paying rent on the first of the month, knowing that they may have been laid off of their job. I hope banks will give a grace period to debtors paying back their loans. I hope our farmers will continue to supply us with the food we need at a reasonable price. I hope that healthy people will respect the fact that they may carry a virus that could take the life of someone less fortunate. I hope that in these times of fear, we will have faith. Faith in nature. Faith in our fellow humans. Faith in our scientists. Faith in our doctors and nurses. Faith in our government to govern with empathy. Faith in a higher power to help us find the solution and save us from ourselves.
Fear, pride, greed, and selfishness will cause unnecessary deaths. I encourage our leaders to lead with humility. We will come out of this on the other side stronger and more connected. When this storm passes, we can’t forget what it feels like right now. We are fragile. We are not gods. We came into this world with nothing, and if we live our lives only for ourselves, we will leave the world with nothing.
From the first time your parents took you out for a “fancy” dinner, on through to graduation celebrations, weddings, and surely all those special meals you’ve shared with friends and family that you’ll never forget, restaurants have provided the setting for a wide, and visceral swath of our lives.
Now, shockingly, as if we were suddenly thrust into the middle of a terrifying dystopian novel, an insidious virus has forced nearly the entire American restaurant industry to grind to a halt in order to literally save our lives. Some will not survive several weeks without income, and many just barely.
However, you need not stand idly by—there are two big things you can do to help. First, consider how many times in a normal week you would be eating out, and then order takeout from a favorite restaurant as if you were actually planning to dine there…and maybe throw in an extra night of doing so, if you can. But more importantly, go to restaurants’ websites and buy gift certificates—as many as you possibly can.
“Purchasing gift certificates from any of your favorite restaurants, is one of the best ways to support local business,” urges Nathalie Hudson, Co-Owner of Dante in NYC’s West Village, winner of the 2019 World’s Best Bar award. “At Dante we are continuing to pay the wages of our core team and also the health care for all of our employees…every little bit helps. Gift cards are a great way to inject a little cash flow into businesses which currently have none, and are doing everything that they can to look after and support their employees.”
So yes, buy them from your favorite little corner Indian or Chinese place; buy them from the trendy hotspots that you always hit up for an Instagrammable night out; and just buy them from anywhere that you can’t wait to return to once the coronavirus scare is over.
It can even even provide a welcome distraction from our harsh reality to start planning future nights out, while paying for them in advance, to show your support in these difficult times. Also, think of anyone who has a birthday coming up, or what your parents’ favorite restaurant is, or maybe an important client that you’d like to treat…and buy one for them, as well.
The restaurant industry has enriched our lives immeasurably, and they really, really need us to help them pull through—as it will likely be the hardest hit business in America.
As Chef Salil Mehta, of Michelin starred Laut and the newer Laut Singapura—both in the Flatiron—so succinctly puts it, “Dining bonds are a genius idea, as it allows the community to support their favorite restaurants, and allows restaurants to make the brave decision to shut down as they know business awaits.”
Best of all, it will give you the feeling of making a difference, during a crisis that has left so many feeling utterly powerless.
“Our focus should be on supporting each other and our community in a safe and proactive way,” says Executive Chef Randall DeFalco of Ama, which opened earlier this month at Long Island City’s Paper Factory, serving globally-inspired cuisine in an industrial chic space. “During tough times it is important to remain unified, and together we will get through this. When you can, support your local restaurants through purchasing take-out, delivery and gift vouchers, it will go a long way in helping our employees and business.”
But we cannot stress enough that patience is needed right now, as the sudden shift to delivery and take-out has created the expected logistical problems—with Grubhub, Postmates, and Doordash all being pushed to the limit. When you have a moment of feeling frustrated, remember that everything is being done to save lives, while also maintaining the connection between the restaurants and consumers.
Satoru Yasumatsu, Co-Owner os HALL and o.d.o by ODO, explicates it best: “It is challenging not only from the standpoint of absorbing increased delivery service fee, but also implementing internal procedure change. Additionally, we are working on communications with our customers in a calm manner and about sanitary measures we are taking to ensure safety. Though difficult, we have received some enquires from regulars offering their support, and their messages keep us hopeful to do better in near future when we come back.”
When AWOLNATION debuted the single “The Best” in autumn of 2019, it seemed as if it could easily serve duel purpose as an inspiration for reaching for greatness, and an accidental parody of an American president who has little idea of what such greatness actually requires.
Now the exalted LA band have just released a new version featuring the fierce young British-Canadian songstress Alice Merton (whose 2017 single “No Roots” has racked up an astonishing 219 million views on YouTube). But in the context of this harrowing current coronavirus outbreak, the lyrics to the track have seemingly taken on an entirely new meaning. Indeed, as Merton and AWOLNATION frontman Aaron Bruno together intone, “Me I wanna walk a little bit taller, oh / Me I wanna feel a little bit stronger, oh / Me I wanna think a little bit smarter,” it sounds like a veritable survival mantra.
Perhaps more importantly, it also reminds us of the power of music to reach across crisis and unite us when we need it most. And in truth never have we needed it more.
“I’m very excited to have Alice join me on this song,” Bruno enthuses. “I’m glad that we were able to connect to create this new version, even though we are in different parts of the world as we all stay home right now.”
Both Merton and AWOLNATION have upcoming live dates that may face rescheduling due to the global pandemic. Stay tuned.