I live a few houses down from our neighborhood’s main drag, Forest Avenue. And ever since the city has allowed restaurants to open outdoors, we’ve been clucking about their permissiveness. We’ve seen unmasked patrons hugging, drinking heavily and hanging out at close quarters, and we’re worried that it’s not going to end well.
We’ve been in New York all summer, not on our Umbrian mountaintop (damn you, novel coronavirus!). And for the most part, we’ve continued our distancing. We don’t go out much, except for walking with the pup, and visiting the weekly greenmarket and a local fruit and vegetable stand. We haven’t hung out with our kids, and we’ve turned down social distant dinner invitations from close friends. I’m not liking it, but as our fake suntanner in chief says, it is what it is.
It’s definitely not like the old days. In a past lifetime, the one that ended 3 years, 7 months, and 13 days ago, I used to ride the ferry into work with a jolly bunch of people. We called–still call, actually–ourselves The Ferry Posse. We usually sat in one spot and violated the quiet zone with our jokes and giggling. We were serious, too, as we all got older, our kids grew, our jobs changed or inevitably got more annoying. We tried doing the virtual bit early in the lockdown and it was fun, as far as that goes. And there’s a looonnnngggg Apple Messages text thread that serves as a sort of posse glue.
That changed when last week, one of the posse members suggested that we meet at Snug Harbor’s community supported agriculture’s Wednesday distribution. If you follow my moves on social media, you’ll know that I post tons of photos from the Harbor, mainly of the decorative garden. The complex also hosts a working organic vegetable farm, which in normal times supplies restaurants and also has a CSA. (We used to belong to local CSAs but stopped when we ended up spending summers abroad. And we had no idea earlier this year that we’d basically be on lockdown for a few years. At least it feels like that.)
I know what you’re thinking of the CSA distribution: earnest vegetarians getting together for some yoga before walking off with their organic parsnips. But no. This, folks, is hipster north shore Staten Island, where people try to sneak a bit of fun into everything.
The fun in this instance is the occupation of the old fruit stand by the Burrito Bar, a local Tex-Mex restaurant with a psychedelic hippie vibe. Its popupP stand sells potent magaritas by the 16 ounce cupful or by the bottle, with some guacamole and chips on the side. So while I did overhear a granola type say to another, “Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the Buddha,” I heard more from the excellent speakers blasting everything from King Sunny Adé to Toots and the Maytals and Daft Punk, courtesy of makerparkradio.nyc. (Maker park is a collective space near the old docks where artists and craftspeople can create whatever it is they do, and these folks supply the soundtrack. They have seriously good taste and they stream their programming.)
So, okay, pre-pandemic, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But it was great to see a few friends IN THE SAME MEATSPACE on a warm summer night. The lighting, even with the clouds, was excellent. It reminded me of the ironic twist facing The Spartan Woman and me: Just as we start thinking about living elsewhere, this part of Staten Island is becoming a really interesting place to live.
I’ll be less censorious of the people up the street, I promise. But Peter, Lenny, Kathy and I did keep our distance from once another. I remember one fist bump, which the Italian government during the worst of that country’s pandemic said was acceptable.
And I’ll be there next Wednesday.
PS: We did get some of the great stuff that the farm produces. It had a huge surplus of zucchine flowers, which Kathy-not-my-wife bought and gave out to, I think, eight of us.