We’re done with that crap.
ASTORIA, NYC- It’s not what I expected but it works. NYC still prohibits people from dining inside restaurants or drinking inside bars, so what did these establishments do? They took over the streets.
At the end of May a bar on the corner of my street took over the parking spaces around their establishment as an F-U to the city for declining the local businesses’ request to shut down the street so they could serve their clientele while abiding by social distancing protocols. The bar had a Hawaiian theme and they set up colorful barriers around the parking spaces decked out with plants, plastic pineapples, and hula crap. I patronized them on this occasion and bought a ridiculously expensive drink just because I thought what they were doing was cool — it was certainly illegal and I took it as an indication that the people here have had enough of the totalitarian restrictions. It was a stunt and only lasted a day.
But as we moved through the phases of re-opening and the city gave permission to bars and restaurants to take over the parking spots in front of their businesses and pretty much much every establishment took them up on the offer.
Last week the streets of NYC were alive with small construction crews building makeshift enclosures around parking spots — some used wood, others cinder blocks, while a few sought to get creative: a wine bar surrounded their parking spots with oak barrels. The Hawaiian bar that I previously mentioned partnered with the floral shop next door to them and covered their enclosure with flowers.
The complexion of the city has completely change this summer — this is something new — and it will probably be logged into the place’s storied history. Someday you will hear people asking each other, “Do you remember when we had that pandemic and all the bars served in the streets?” or old-timers telling their grand kids about the year when everyone went bonkers and ate their dinners in parking spots.
“I hate it,” one bar manager shrugged as she pointed to the wooden enclosure in the street in front of us, shattering the first joyful meditation about the city that I’ve had in months. “I don’t know what the difference is if I talk to you without a mask on out here or in there,” she continued as she pointed to some tables ten feet inside the bar. “It’s just social control.”
I had to agree. Then, as if to emphasize her point, we caught sight of an inspector for the housing department creeping over and taking photos with his smartphone of their enclosure. As this is NYC, setting these things up is an administrative clusterfuck. The department of housing, the fire department, and the department of transportation all have regulations for how the enclosures need to be constructed, and, of course, their recommendations vary. So businesses are being told by the fire department to set things up one way just to be fined by the department of transportation for following their orders … then the department of housing comes around with a fine for listening to the DOT … then the fire department returns and says … Some have called it a blatant moneymaker for the city.
But for me it’s pretty sweet. I can walk down the street from, cafe to cafe, bar to bar, sit outside on a warm summer day, just writing on my laptop drinking beer. The streets are full of people dining and drinking, and there is this quasi European vibe throughout the city. It reminds me of Prague:
PRAGUE, Czech Republic- I heard the sound of strangers laughing all day — and sometimes all night — long. They are sitting out on the patios of cafes, they are bellowing from the doorways of bars, they are hanging out chatting in front of restaurants. When I walk down the streets here I see hundreds of people dining, drinking, chatting. They are spending time with each other. They are not on their phones. Their combined vocalizations crescendo in a sweet kind of music that tells me: these people are happy to be together.
It’s nice to be in a place like this.
Summertime in Prague.
Who wants to sit inside of a bar on a warm summer day anyway? While I can’t say that I like outdoor dining being force fed to me, I must admit that I relish its flavor.
The pandemic is over in New York City. In all of New York State we only had like 16 deaths yesterday. On some days NYC doesn’t have any deaths at all. While the authorities are quick to tell us that this is because they’ve done such a good job at keeping us safe the reality is exactly the opposite: the virus spread rampant and inevitably worked itself out of a job. In some neighborhoods, antibody tests are coming back 68% positive. Then there’s the new research that’s showing that 40-60% of people have resistance to Covid from the start… and the well-known fact that many virus, including Sars-Cov-2, tend to decrease in potency the more they spread. Then there’s the simple reality that the subways are packed, the bars and restaurants’ outdoor seating is full, people are back to work, and cases are continuing to fall. It just really isn’t here anymore.
This is called nature — not masks, not quarantine, not social distancing, not vaccination, not outdoor dining, just plain old nature.
Everywhere in the world will follow the same path as NYC regardless of intervention method. Italy is already there — clinically the virus no longer exists. For those countries smart enough to allow nature to do its thing or incompetent enough to be unable to stop it, the end of the Covid pandemic is near. For the more administratively adept states that were able to contain the initial spread — such as China and South Korea — well, you’re still just getting started, suckers.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
July 18, 2020, 2:03 pm
“For the more administratively adept states that were able to contain the initial spread — such as China and South Korea — well, you’re still just getting started, suckers.”
I love that. The ones pushing for governments to be more controlling seem to not have an answer to one question “Then What?” We all wear masks for months….. Then what? We only allow bars/restaurants outside…. Until winter comes…. Then What? I was reading about the 1918 flu. It seems that some of the precautions they took allowed the more dangerous strain to get a better hold. I could imagine that by distancing and mask wearing we might have allowed the dangerous strain to spread as well or better than the less dangerous strain. People who were really sick mostly avoided people and people took precautions around them. Those who were not very sick, who would have otherwise gone to work and spread it everywhere instead stayed home and wore masks, thereby not spreading it as well.
We are opening up, other than a few hotspots. Winter will come and people will start to get sick with the flu, and maybe more of the Covid….. Then What? Close down some more? Nope, not going to happen. There will be riots in the streets…. Oh, that’s already started.
July 18, 2020, 11:31 pm
One thing that has come from this virus is an army of armchair epidemiologists.