I’ve gone inside buildings a few times in the past two weeks. This is a novelty. I’ve been avoiding buildings other than my home since the start of quarantine in mid-March, ordering groceries delivered and meeting friends in the park if I go out.
My last couple of indoor outings that month were a concert at the Lincoln Theatre (Jonathan Richman, Will Oldham) and a poetry workshop at Loyalty Books in Petworth (Danielle is running a Zoom version of these throughout September). A few days later, D.C. Writers Salon, where I host morning writing sessions shut down and moved to Zoom. I’d had no one join me in person that last week. Early mornings are a tough sell even without a mysterious pandemic. On my way home on March 13, I noticed a line had formed down the block to get in to Trader Joe’s before 9 a.m.
With the calendar turning to September and the weather cooling, I’m thinking of all the indoor happenings that won’t be happening. Music venues. Movie theaters. Normally, there is a flood of cultural happenings after Labor Day. Those that are still happening are outdoors or on Zoom.
Restaurants are trying to get going again. They’ve set up shop in barricaded parking lanes. How welcoming will those be in November or December? Business looks slow even at these makeshift patios. The restaurant next door spent the weekend moving its equipment in to storage. They’re keeping their other shop across town open.
Today I’ve been reading about the underground film scene that blossomed in New York in the 1960s in J. Hoberman and Johnathan Rosenbaum’s Midnight Movies. The stories of Jonas Mekas, Jack Smith and Andy Warhol at improvised showings of amateur shot film had me dreaming up experimental art movie happenings, gathering friends and crowding in to the gallery downstairs, or taking over some theater. I imagined a film festival of all the strange and mundane clips we’ve taken on our phones this past year. But for now, it would have to be a quiet affair. A few people in the room at a time.
It’s still not safe to go indoors in large numbers. No crowded dance floors. No concerts. Everything is going to have to be outdoors for a while yet. The 9:30 Club, down the block from me, sent out an email with a blank calendar and a photo of its darkened stage today. A group called Save Our Stages is organizing to preserve the live music industry. I want them to survive, but I’m more worried about families staying healthy, paying the rent. Of course musicians’ families need to stay healthy and pay the rent too. Maybe let’s hope for good outdoor music weather in the meantime.