Today is my birthday. One year ago today I had my last social gathering without masks: two friends came over to my apartment for Chinese food and board games.
Four days before my birthday I had seen my last live theater, the inadvertent closing performance of The Inheritance (Broadway was to shut down completely the next day, March 12th, which marked for me the moment New York began taking this seriously).
Four days after my birthday my office shifted from skeleton crew to full remote and I had my first COVID symptoms (neither of my friends got sick). I recovered. Many did not. New York became a haunted city and I was shut up in my apartment for the transition.
This is mostly a theater blog. I don't properly know how to talk about theater right now. I don't know how to fully mourn what we've lost when we still don't know the extent of what's gone. TheaterMania published a seven-part serialized oral history of theater professionals remembering those last few uncertain days before the shutdown. Even reading this valuable artifact doesn't tell us all that's gone. It reminds us of the shows that didn't quite happen, the ones postponed and the ones now never to be. But we don't know when it's coming back, or how it will come back, or who will still be here when it does. And we can't interview the dead. I try not to talk about it a lot--it hurts too much--
In the Before Times, I joked leading up to my birthday that I was entering my Bobby Baby year. The low percentage of friends who got the joke highlights that I don't have enough musical theater nerd friends but I digress. I don't even know if I had any expectations from a Bobby Baby year. Sure, I'm perpetually single, but I don't have an entire cadre of good and crazy people my married friends. It's been years since I've thought of Fourteenth Street as the center of the universe. The idea of another hundred people getting off of the train sets my heart racing, and not in a good way. And I know a number of friends who would currently agree with Kathy: "There's a time to come to New York and a time to leave."
I'm not ready to write a eulogy. One year in, these are the things I'm grateful for:
- My health, my home, my employment. I know how lucky I am to still have all three.
- Frontline and essential workers, whose heroism and sacrifice can never be adequately appreciated.
- My family, both biological and chosen, scattered to the Zoom winds as they are. My getting sick so early in the shutdown prompted us to keep in regular daily contact, something we've been able to maintain with more ease than in the Before Times.
- My friends. I love you.
- My new D&D group, made up of several coworkers. It is irreverent and silly and I can't believe my character hasn't been killed yet. Also I have two magic capes.
- The determination of creators to keep creating art. Theater groups like APT, Wise Children, Old Vic, Theater in Quarantine, and Irish Rep have managed to create engaging new work remotely in this new hybrid medium of theater and film. As well as specialty events like the Take Me to the World concert, the continuation of the Apple Family play saga, and a gaggle of Christmas Carols.
- Watch parties for Jingle Jangle and The Prom.
- The bodega downstairs.
- My new singing teacher Julia in Brazil.
- The existence of Sense8. And Good Omens. And Jane Austen adaptations.
- Jigsaw puzzles.
- Rosamund Pike.
- Talia Hibbert and Casey McQuinston.
- Making Thanksgiving stuffing together over Zoom.
- My churro-scented candle.
- The vaccines finally rolling out.
- The internet. I don't think I could have maintained any breadth of sanity without it.
- Realizing I can imagine a future time again.
I don't know what the new normal will be. The old normal was broken, toxic, racist as fuck, and unacceptable. But a new post-pandemic something is feeling less impossibly far away than it did even four months ago.
So I'm going to blow out the candles and make a wish. I hope to see you soon.
Edit from March 12th: I initially drafted this early in the week, before the anniversaries really started clanging in my head and I got very depressed. I don't think I could have composed the gratitude list after the 11th, at least not with the proper sincerity, so it's just as well I did my homework early. In the grand scheme I know rationally it's such a small thing to complain about, but I feel so sad and lonely and directionless so much of the time. I wander around my little box of an apartment and it doesn't matter and I've barely written anything in a year and everyone is so far away I may as well be tucked into a little pocket dimension, like Viola in Bly Manor. I know it's not true. I know it's not true. I know it's not true. To quote another Sondheim score: And we'll be together tomorrow, and we'll be together on Monday, and we'll be together on April and Christmas and next year ...