Wow, for such a short week, it nearly did me in! Anyone else feel that way? I suppose this is where we insert all sorts of Mercury in Retrograde jokes, right? Thankfully, the one thing grounding me at the moment is a renewed commitment to moving my body lately, ideally for a 3 mile run each day. Without fail, no matter what mood I'm in before, I always feel considerably more accomplished for having gone out and completed it. Even if I have to drag myself there.
Do you have a daily habit/ritual/tradition that keeps you centered? I'd love to hear it!
And on that note, I hope you enjoy this week's internet cocktail of culture, news and general headlines that have caught my eye. Moreover, I hope your weekend is restful and that Mercury doesn't get the best of you.
"I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace, when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights," Smith said in her speech at the graduation ceremony for Lake Highlands High School in Dallas.
"When Naomi Osaka dropped out of the French Open on Monday, after declining to attend media interviews that she said could trigger her anxiety, she wasn’t just protecting her mental health. She was sending a message to the establishment of one of the world’s most elite sports: I will not be controlled.
We just started watching this series on Apple TV+ last night and I'm really impressed with the ground it covers — highly recommend putting it on your watch list, especially with Mental Health Awareness Month having just passed.
With zero reparations in sight. This excerpt is particularly poignant:
"Yet no one offered any sort of reparations to the survivors: the before-mentioned Lessie Benningfield Randle, 106; Viola Fletcher, 107; and Hughes Van Ellis Sr., 100. Even when overtures were made by the survivors to meet with commission organizers, they were met with silence. Instead, the commission controlled the narrative—fundraising and publicizing the centennial as a tourist attraction and resulting in what some are calling a “Disneyland experience of the massacre.”'
Welcome back to another monthly installment of all the documentaries I've watched recently. Last month, in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, all the films I watched focused on different AAPI stories. I will note that I found most documentary/film curation for AAPI month to be quite lacking across Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc. and actually found quite a few independently hosted on YouTube/Vimeo and other hosting platforms. Hence, you'll notice a few of these stories are not necessarily American stories, as I cast the net a bit wider to include Asian and Pacific Islander stories in general. I did, of course, have a few notable standout favorites — both Amy Tan: An Unintended Memoir and American Revolutionary — The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs are excellent watches about two inspiring trailblazing women. Highly recommend putting them first on your "to-watch-next" list.
Standing Above the Clouds: Native Hawaiian activists try to protect a sacred mountain from the proposed construction of the world's largest telescope. Available on YouTube, 7/10 IMDb rating
The Claudia Kishi Club: The premise revolves around the director Sue Ding interviewing people about the character of Claudia Kishi, part of The Baby-Sitters Club, and her importance being an Japanese-American character. Available on Netflix, 6.9/10 IMDb rating
Asian Americans: A five episode series about the role of Asian Americans in shaping American history and identity. A great history refresher for a lot of figures and topics that were likely glossed over or omitted entirely in your history classes. Available via PBS on Amazon, 8.2/10 IMDb rating
Spelling the Dream: Directed by Sam Rega and written by Sam Rega and Chris Weller. The premise of the film revolves around competitive spelling bees, which have been dominated by Indian-Americans in recent times. Available on Netflix, 6.9/10 IMDb rating
The Problem with Apu: Comic Hari Kondabolu examines the East Indian cartoon character Apu on the long-running TV series "The Simpsons." Available on Amazon and HBOMax, 3.5/10 IMDb rating
My Love — Six Stories of True Love: Six longtime couples from around the world share their love stories in portraits filmed over the course of one year. Episode three follows a sweet couple in Japan — Kinuko who has cared for Haruhei ever since they met at a facility where he was being treated for leprosy. But now it's his turn to be the caretaker for her. Available on Netflix, 7.6/10 IMDb rating
Good Luck Soup: Filmmaker Matthew Hashiguchi explores how Japanese heritage influenced his Japanese-American family before and after World War II. Available on Amazon, 8.7/10 IMDb rating
Ulam — Main Dish: The first food documentary following the rise of the Filipino food movement via the chefs crossing over to the center of the American table. Available on Hulu, 7.1/10 IMDb rating
Kusama — Infinity: Artist Yayoi Kusama's journey from a conservative upbringing in Japan to her brush with fame in America during the 1960s. Available on Hulu, 7.2/10 IMDb rating
Twinsters: A French fashion design student stumbles upon a familiar face on YouTube: her own. Finding the resemblance uncanny, she sends the video's American creator a message and the two discover that they are, in fact, twins separated at birth. Available on Amazon, 7.6 IMDb rating
During my many walks around the city over the course of lockdown, visiting The Plaza always felt particularly comforting to me. In the best of times, the hotel sits so proudly at the corner of bustling 5th Avenue traffic, a stoic guard watching over Central Park. And in the most quiet of times, like much of 2020, it felt like an old friend I needed to see every so often — a beacon of what makes New York so special; a magic that could never be extinguished. In those early months of quarantine, I’d pass those iconic gilded doors and think to myself, “I can’t wait for the day you’re open once again.” And I’d daydream about a return of parties and late night rendezvous that lead to midnight champagne and dancing until our feet hurt, dressed in our very finest. If the city is our oyster, the Plaza is most certainly the pearl. A testament to everything that heady, whirlwind New York romance is made of. And each time I’d walk past, I promised myself to savor the moment their doors were open once more — a moment, I’m so pleased to announce is finally upon us.
As of a few weeks ago, our dear Plaza, the stomping grounds of so many quintessential “only in New York” memories is re-opening and I, for one, may have teared up a bit when I breezed through their gold revolving doors for the first time in far too many months. My dear Plaza, it’s so lovely to see you again. I’ve missed you so.
And in case you want to get in the overly sentimental Plaza mood like me, look no further than today's playlist, which I think would be fitting for roaming the many grand hallways and ballrooms of my favorite New York institution. Heck, would be perfect for dancing down the hallway, too.
True to form, we've decided to stay put here in New York for Memorial Day weekend, because if you must know, long weekends are absolutely magical here in the city. Like a playground meant just for you. Looking forward to snagging tables at a few of our favorite restaurants in the village, planning far too many picnics and renting a car for a late Monday afternoon drive. What are you planning for the long weekend ahead? Staying local or heading out of town?
With that said, I'm looking forward to signing off this weekend. Less screen time, more nap time in the sun, please! Hope you have a beautiful long weekend, my friends!
An important read this week, as we've passed the one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. I found this excerpt to be particularly poignant:
"There is an intimate yet still unexplored relationship between mourning and democracy. We tend to see mourning as a temporary disruption of “normal” life — a cycle of pain, denial and eventual acceptance. This picture is both right and wrong. Mourning is a movement toward wholeness by way of acknowledging brokenness. But it is less a terminable process than a way of being in the world."
The long-awaited reunion special is an uneasy continuation of the sitcom’s easy fantasies. This excerpt also summed up our thoughts on how Gen Z views Friends today:
"A reason Friends has become so popular with people who were not yet born when it premiered, critics have surmised, is that the show revels in the constraints of physical immediacy. Friends’ world is hermetic. Its characters interact not over the cool distance of the digital—text, TikTok—but rather in person. They live next door to one another, across the street from one another, down the block from one another. Their lives are shaped by the fatalism of actual proximity."
Congrats to my friend Katie Sturino on the release of her new book, Body Talk! Here's a brief synopsis: "With Body Talk, an illustrated guide-meets-workbook, Sturino is here to help you stop obsessing about your body issues, focus on self-love, and free up space in your brain for creative and productive energy. Complete with empowering affirmations, relatable anecdotes, and actionable takeaways, as well as space to answer prompts and jot down feelings and inspirations, Body Talk encourages you to spend less time thinking about how you look and what you eat and more time discovering your inner fierceness."
The most memorable scents are transportive, aren't they? To a time and a place in our minds. A one-way train ticket to a feeling, just out of reach. Which is why, when it comes to Clive Christian's suite of fragrances, I'm never disappointed by the places I'm whisked away to and their latest addition — Matsukita — is no exception. With top notes of green bergamot, fused with pink pepper, spicy nutmeg and hints of jasmine and mate tea, I can just imagine the feeling of an open train window, fresh air from rolling fields of wild flowers kissing my face as an afternoon tea service passes in the hallway. The promise of adventure beckoning my name as the conductor calls my stop, the late spring sun warming my skin. Mysterious and complex, it's exactly how I like to feel at the start of a big trip — like anything can and will happen.
Anti-abortion-rights activists have turned their arguments away from protecting democracy and toward maximizing protection for fetal life. Here's an excerpt that I found particularly chilling:
"The abortion debate has never been about just Roe—and it’s never been about letting a popular majority have a say. What’s new is that this argument now meets a receptive Supreme Court for the first time in more than a generation."
In the words of Viola Fletcher, who was just 7 years old when the massacre happened:
"I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams," Fletcher told lawmakers. "I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot."
New York City has had 108 mayors. Not a single one of them has been a woman—but that could change in 2021 as three female candidates emerge as strong, competitive contenders in the June 22 Democratic primary.
As I mentioned on Stories last week, the recent flare up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a subject that I admittedly know very little about and have been doing my best to educate myself from a variety of sources on both sides. I found this chronology from the Washington Post to be extremely helpful — but I recognize it's nearly impossible for the nuances of such a complex, heated situation to be summed up succinctly in just one article. My heart breaks over the violence, death toll on both sides and the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Palestinian hate crimes spurred from this. Praying for peace for both sides, now that a ceasefire has hopefully been reached.
This week, between the news cycle and a handful of deadlines that crept up on me, I needed a seriously relaxed playlist. Something that might hit like a much needed cocktail at the end of the day. Since we haven't gravitated toward folk songs lately, I figured I would start with a few melodic favorites by The Staves, Nick Mulvey and Ray LaMontagne and see where it took me. Sometimes, I like to think these playlists of mine are extremely thematic and other times, I'm purely just looking for songs that pull me toward an emotion I've been mulling over lately. Perhaps it's the pandemic wearing on me more than I realized or the heaviness I'm feeling in general about the state of the world, but it's been nice taking more time to be quiet, reflect and truly feel what I've been feeling.
If you're in a similar boat this week, I hope this playlist lifts your spirits, or at the very least, cradles them. And, in case you happen to listen all the way through, you'll notice I just had to end on a little note of Dolly — the Queen of always making us feel better, am I right?
Happy Friday, everyone! I don't know about you, but this week has completely taken it out of me. And I'm afraid I have more deadlines to tackle this weekend. Granted, I'm not upset by the prospect of having more work come in (quite the opposite actually, especially after how 2020 rocked things!) but it's been testing my time management lately. This weekend, I hope to escape for an afternoon (perhaps tomorrow) to sit in the sunshine and read in the park. Yes, I could certainly use some Vitamin D, ASAP.
Whatever you have planned this weekend, I hope it brings you some calm!
And for all my mothers, mothers-to-be, mother figures, rich aunties, mothers of fur babies, grieving mothers, women who chose not to pursue motherhood and women who can't pursue motherhood, I see you, I love you and I'm sending you lots of love this Mother's Day. Especially my own mother. I love you, dearly.
A photographer in Berlin is capturing the lives of the consciously child-free.I know this article has been making the rounds lately but I think it's a really timely read. Here's an excerpt that stood out to me:
"What’s selfish is having children that you don’t want or can’t properly care for,” she said. “There’s such a taboo in saying, ‘The reason I don’t have kids is because I don’t want them.’” She argues that it’s more socially acceptable to quip that a fancy boat or expensive holidays are your child. “And those jokes perpetuate the selfish misperception.”
Perhaps part of this social unacceptability is that with an admission to never having children comes an underlying acknowledgment that women have sex for pleasure. When many are still threatened by women’s sexual agency, some experts have argued that having sex for fun, rather than reproduction, is an affront to the long political and religious history of policingfemale sexuality and reproductive rights."
A May Day rally in Istanbul, a SpaceX splashdown in Florida, an early cicada in Maryland, camels in a Chinese desert, a diving competition in Tokyo, orienteering in Ukraine, an oil fire in Iraq, and much more.
Do you have a favorite Beatles song? I know — it's nearly impossible to narrow down. And I have many top contenders, but I always revert back to my longtime favorite from the 1965 Help! album: "I've Just Seen a Face." Coincidentally enough, it fits perfectly with this week's obsession with meet cutes in film, TV and yes, real life. Here's a snippet of the lyrics to show you what I mean:
"I've just seen a face // I can't forget the time or place // Where we just met // She's just the girl for me // And I want all the world to see // We've met // Had it been another day // I might have looked the other way // And I'd have never been aware // But as it is I'll dream of her // Tonight"
And isn't that just the magic of serendipitous meetings? Mere chance and circumstance — a glance, a passing encounter, a happy accident causing the crossing of two paths?
With that spirit in mind, this week's playlist is dedicated to all the chance encounters — of friends and lovers in equal measure. Sometimes, all it takes is being open to the possibility of it (as opposed to looking for it specifically) that sets the right people in our path, exactly when we need them there.
My two cents? Listen to this playlist for your next neighborhood/park walk and don't look at your phone. Be present. Take in your surroundings. Be acutely aware of them. Appreciate them. And see who else might be doing the same. You might be pleasantly surprised by what (or who!) you find.
Welcome back to another monthly installment of all the documentaries I've watched recently. April wasn't a prolific month for me when it came to watching documentaries, largely because I took a week off to spend some time upstate with my good friend, Serena. But that isn't to say there aren't some amazing films on deck this time around. Most notably, we have two Oscar nominated films — Time (get the tissues ready!) and My Octopus Teacher (Oscar winner) — and a binge-worthy true crime series, This Is A Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist. Oh, and of course, we have my love, Stanley Tucci, whose series Searching for Italy may not be your typical documentary series I feature in these round ups, but he's just too delightful of a human not to include.
Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy: Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci travels across Italy to discover the secrets and delights of the country's regional cuisines. (And let's just say, it's a major dose of eye candy for all the senses!) Available on Hulu, 8.7/10 IMDb rating
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel: One of the leading figures in fashion for decades, Diana Vreeland's life is presented from her beginnings in Paris, to her work as a columnist and magazine editor, and to her role as a curator of a fashion museum. Available on Amazon, 7.5/10 IMDb rating
Elizabeth & Margaret: Love and Loyalty: An exploration of the relationship between the Queen and her younger sister. Princess Margaret sacrificed her happiness for her sibling and the monarchy. Available on Netflix, 7.3/10 IMDb rating
The Eye of Istanbul: The legendary Armenian-Turkish photographer Ara Guler captures the essence of Istanbul over 60 years. Available on Amazon, 7.7/10 IMDb rating
The Line King: Al Hirschfeld: This documentary from Susan Warms Dryfoos follows the life and career of accomplished caricaturist and artist Al Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld rises to prominence drawing caricatures of Broadway actors and other celebrities for the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times in the 1920s. His portrayals quickly become a rite of passage for rising theater actors. Available on Amazon, 7/10 IMDb rating
Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace: Follows the artist as he steps out of his comfort zone to create a series of paintings of women for the first time. Kehinde casts his models on the streets of New York and then enlists Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy to create couture gowns for each woman. Available on Amazon, 6.4/10 IMDb rating
Time: Entrepreneur Fox Rich spends the last two decades campaigning for the release of her husband, Rob G. Rich, who is serving a 60-year prison sentence for a robbery they both committed in the early 1990s in a moment of desperation. Available on Amazon, 6.9/10 IMDb rating
My Love: Six Stories of True Love: Six longtime couples from around the world share their love stories in portraits filmed over the course of one year. Available on Netflix, 7.9/10 IMDb rating
Searching for Sheela: Searching for Sheela is a 2021 Indian documentary film created, directed and executive produced by Shakun Batra. The film traces the life of Ma Anand Sheela, who was the spokesperson of the Rajneesh movement, after she returns to India after 35 years. Available on Netflix, 4/10 IMDb (I won't lie — this wasn't nearly as great as Wild, Wild Country.)
My Octopus Teacher: A diver swims with an octopus that lives in a kelp forest off the coast of South Africa. Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. 8.1/10 IMDb rating
Life in Color: David Attenborough explores the vital role that colour plays in the daily life of various species. For us humans, it is a source of aesthetic beauty and expression, but for animals it is an essential tool used for survival and without it, there would be catastrophic consequences. Available on Netflix, 8.6/10 IMDb rating
Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb: Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb is a 2020 British documentary film directed by James Tovell. The film follows a team of Egyptian archeologists that discover a tomb from the 25th century BC in the Saqqara necropolis, just outside of Cairo that had been untouched for 4,400 years. Available on Netflix, 7.2/10 IMDb rating
Now tell me, what documentaries have you recently watched? Any favorites?
I'm sure it surprises no one when I say that an event that calls for a dramatic hat has my name all over it. So with the Kentucky Derby now almost upon us — tomorrow in fact — I'm currently planning a little springtime picnic in Central Park to toast to the races! In case you're in the market for a whiskey springtime cocktail yourself, I'm sharing the most delicious recipe for a Woodford Spire — perfect for all this sunshine we're finally basking in, in New York. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to start placing a few bets.
1.5 parts of Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
I know many of us largely feel like there's "light at the end of the tunnel" with the vaccine rolling out steadily here in the United States. But the situation is only worsening in other places in the world, like India. Journalist Riddhi Dastidar put together this fabulous resource doc of all the charities and organizations that need our help right now in getting the COVID crisis under control in India. I know financial donations aren't feasible for everyone right now, but every little bit counts.
The internet has decided that Pfizer is significantly cooler than Moderna—but why? (I have a sneaky suspicion, for years to come, we will identify with the vaccine we were given in a strange pseudo-status thing.)
Sometimes, the best company you can ask for is your own. As an introvert myself, I realize that statement is likely biased, but I don’t think it’s any less true for my extroverts. There's lasting happiness in finding contentment when you're stripped of all activities, all events, all distractions. As a young girl, I favored time spent alone with my books and journals, usually opting for smaller friend group activities in lieu of large parties and it took me years to realize that wasn't something to be ashamed about. Now as an adult, some of my favorite weekends, despite how much I love my friends and of course my guy, involve a good amount of solo time. Reading on a park bench, strolling through a museum for the afternoon or even, when theaters were still open, catching a matinée at the Paris Theater — a courtship between me, myself and I. A chance to sit alone with my thoughts.
Of course, much of the past year has pushed us all to the limits of how much we can actually take of ourselves without the surface cracking a bit and trust me when I say, my surface has cracked, too. I miss my family. I miss my friends. And good God, I miss hopping on a plane! But yet, it's reaffirmed for me the things I really do relish in making time for — things that fuel me and me alone. So as we're sitting here on the precipice of normality on the horizon, and perhaps a wave of pressure to over commit to each and every social invite that comes our way once vaccinations start to fully roll out, I figured we could all use a gentle reminder that there's no need to rush out the gates to start "living publicly" again either. Because really, life was buzzing along this whole time, quietly and vastly differently of course with a lot more solo time than perhaps we're all used to, but buzzing just the same, whether we realized it or not. If you find yourself feeling burnt out or overcommitted in the weeks, months to come, I hope this post reminds you there's absolutely nothing stopping you from setting up time with the best company around — and that's you, and you alone.
As for this week's playlist? Well, let's just say it's not at all tainted by my bitterness at the reality I wasn't picked as an extra for the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 4, which is currently filming in NYC. No, I'm not upset in the slightest. I promise.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to don my 60s best and dance to these tracks until I feel better. (But again, my feelings aren't hurt. Truly.)
During the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I read the book Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. As sometimes is the case with pivotal pieces of literature in my life, certain books really stick with me well after I read them, usually deeply intertwined with whatever was happening to me personally while I was reading the book. What's left when I reflect back on it — is usually an assortment of visceral memories of how I was feeling, what I was thinking, what was important to me at that time and how the characters accompanied me during a very specific chapter of my life. And Love in the Time of Cholera — she's a big one for me.
If you're unfamiliar with the storyline, it spans the late 19th, early 20th century love story of Florentino and Fermina — two star-crossed lovers in Colombia who fall for each other early in their youth. Over the course of the next five or six decades of their lives, you follow Florentino and Fermina weave in and out of each other's stories — first banned from marrying by their families, then separated by their own choosing opting instead to marry other partners — all while cholera rages on as an ever present, ever looming threat. Eventually, after spending much of their lives apart, they're reunited almost inexplicably — a testament to love in all the strange ways it finds us, leaves us, comes back to us and sometimes leaves us again.
When I first read the book, I was on the brink of a lot of changes — graduating from college, ending a long-term relationship and generally, trying to figure out what trajectory I wanted my life to take next. I suppose the narrative of this novel unnerved me at the time, because I couldn't quite see the beauty of a non-linear love story yet. Or even a love story that felt largely unresolved as theirs did at many moments. But if the past year has taught me anything, it's that the paths we navigate for our nearest and most intimate relationships with others (and ourselves) are rarely ever straight and narrow. They're filled with detours. Dead ends. Wild U-turns. One-way streets. Riddled with tragedy and joy alike. You may walk them alone. Or you may walk with a partner. And sometimes, you might walk them alone again. But the important thing is — you keep walking them.
All of this is to say — I really enjoyed reading through all your love stories in the time of Corona and I'm so incredibly honored that you decided to share them with me. Each one is a beautiful insight into a time in all our lives that will largely shape us, hopefully for the better, for years to come. As noted, all stories here are anonymous and will take about 20 minutes to read from start to finish. So I'd definitely refill that cup of coffee now, if I were you.
1. "For the first few months of the pandemic, we slept in two different rooms. My husband is a fire fighter/EMT and back then there was so much uncertainty and we were trying to just stay alive. Even after we figured out the risk and how to be smart about it, due to quarantines and long shifts, he was still working so many days away from home. But this February, almost a year later, we both got assigned to work at the local vaccination clinic. The 10 hour days together, him vaccinating, me registering and filling out cards, felt like a miracle. Every time we sit at that table is a moment to be grateful and see how blessed we are to still be here, together."
2. "I connected with someone during a mutual friend's virtual birthday party. We acknowledged our mutual attraction for each other but, as we're on opposite ends of the country, agreed to continue getting to know each other platonically. It's been wonderful so far, especially since we're both emotionally mature and available enough to healthily maintain that boundary. We may meet in-person by the end of the year, which is exciting, and I'm at a place in life where I'm content with either remaining as good friends or becoming something more. The past year taught me that life is really unpredictable and enjoying things as they are in the present moment is the best outlook and mindset. Including in love (and I mean all forms of it)!"
3. "Not only did I move across country to a new city, where naturally meeting anyone is tough but to do so in a pandemic where human interaction is actually dangerous, was a problem. So where does one turn to? Of course, dating apps. Yet, I'm the type who shines in person rather than over dating apps. They just don't work for guys like me. Alas, I tried a couple COVID dates, super cute movie nights on my roof with takeout since we couldn't go anywhere but, it was all forced and. just confirming my doubts with dating apps. Therefore, as a hopeful/hopeless romantic, I'll wait patiently for human interaction to exist again and maybe I'll meet her at a coffee shop, the grocery store or even the dog park. The story is to be continued..."
4. "Celebrated our first full year of dating and ended up engaged at the curtain close of 2020. He surprised me with an in apartment chef and musician and my parents (our quarantine pod). It was the most wonderful evening and gives me an exciting task to focus on whilst navigating 2021!"
5. "At home 24/7 with my husband. We found a routine, we missed going out for dates, we made each other laugh and only occasionally drove each other crazy. I realized through all this togetherness that I am so grateful that he's the one I. have chosen to spend my life with."
6. "Me and an acquaintance both went through tough and unexpected break ups during COVID and he reached out to me (we weren't close, originally) offering support when I mentioned mine. I think he said something like, 'I'm sure you have a lot of people to talk to' and I don't know why I felt like brutal honesty was the best policy but I responded with something like, 'No, actually I really don't' and without expecting anything in return, he just started texting me. Asking if I wanted to make plans and then actually following through with them. He's also far away, geographically, and I don't know where things will end up but having someone who actually offers support and then follows through with that support? An easy, no-expectations friendship, full of humor, good movies and bad TikToks — it's been wonderful."
7. "I think COVID brought us closer and make us deal with topics we wouldn't have dealt with. Was it all rainbows and roses? Heavens, no! It's been rough, but overall, helpful. And I've learned we need a bigger place if we are going to live together."
8. "My boyfriend and I met in August of the pandemic on a dating app. I was moving to Chelsea and was looking forward to the dating scene downtown. I thought it was going to be a couple of awkward dates and then we'd move on. But I was wrong. We had an instant connection. I was badly sunburnt on our first date and was already so comfortable, I picked at my flaking skin! I was mortified when I realized what I was doing but apparently that didn't scare him away. We started seeing each other 4-5 nights a week. A month into our relationship, we broke his leg playing soccer and things escalated pretty quickly. I became his emergency contact for the surgery and helped take care of him the first couple of weeks post-operation. Fast forward 7 months, we're still together and planning to move in together this summer.
Prior to dating him, I've had a very strict 'no boys allowed' rule in my space. A week or so after my move, I had a chair delivered that I couldn't push up the stairs of my four story walk up by myself. He offered to help me move it and I had to tell him about my rule of not allowing non-serious relationships hangout. He just said okay and asked what time he should come by. The man not only walked across town in the rain to help me, he showed up with a bottle of champagne for me to celebrate my first solo apartment. After moving the chair, he didn't question me or try to overstay his welcome, and I packed my things for our night at his place. On the walk back to his, he offered to carry one of my bags. I told him no, I let him help me once today and it was a big ask, so we're good for the month.
We got stopped at a light and he squeezed my arm, kissed my head and said, 'I know it's hard to ask for help. And I know you can do it, I know you can do anything. I just want to make the walk a little more comfortable for you, so can I please carry one of your bags?'
And that was the night I knew I wanted to keep him around for a long time."
9. "My boyfriend and I moved in together after two months of dating. Four months later, the pandemic began and we spent the majority of it in a studio apartment. There were a lot of ups and downs and I learned a lot about myself, including that I love living alone. I asked him to move out after living together for over a year. We. are still dating but I learned that I want a relationship without co-habitating."
10. "What about if I decided to date myself this past year and see how self-kindness and goal-setting and quietude has literally changed my life in every single aspect I could have ever fathomed?!"
11. "After being married for six years, I had a wake up call that we grew as partners, working/studying/building homes everywhere we moved and raising kids — but we were never US. At least, my side of the story...I realized that most of the time, I felt alone. When when he was gone, I didn't miss him. When he was around, I became negative and toxic. I didn't recognize myself anymore. I tried so hard over the years (I am a romantic person and suppose he is not) setting up dates, dressing up but I felt like I was hitting walls or unheard. Then it all died and it all just became mundane routine. I hate routine. I lost myself and so we have been on a break since then. What will come, I don't know but I finally stepped up to do something for myself, my first time being selfish and it hurts, but otherwise, it wouldn't be me anymore."
12. "Shortly prior to the pandemic, I had retired after 40 years in ECE (Educational Credential Evaluators). I was enjoying substituting and volunteering at my former school. Then lockdown. Lockdown with my husband of 27 years who had been at home with a comfortable routine which did not include me! We learned to walk together, outside every day. We dressed for the weather. It's the simplest thing to do. When one of us didn't want to go, the other lent encouragement. We've actually become healthier. We've also shared a newfound enjoyment of British mystery series. Most evenings we will watch an episode, only one, so as to make it last. Such very simple things but they've brought us closer. Sometimes we say that we're grateful to have each other to spend the pandemic together."
13. "A couple great dates:
We rode electric scooters from Fort Mason to Crissy Field in San Francisco. We had amazing chemistry right off the bat (7 hours on the phone chemistry) so we both had the idea to do something kitschy for our first date. He picked me up after work on Saturday and we did it.
Walked our dogs together."
14. "I was a serial dater and during the pandemic I was still dating someone but I wasn't being fulfilled in a way that I dream to be with a partner — emotionally, intellectually, culturally etc. — and so instead of trying to just 'stick it out' for either a subconscious fear of being lonely, I decided to just stop and really be kind to myself like a partner would: spoiling myself, accepting myself, pushing myself and learning to love myself. And this has catapulted my success in my career, my emotional and mental well-being and through a profound sustainable connection with family and friends continents over. If I hadn't been single/'alone' (in quotes because I never truly felt alone) during the pandemic, I would not have become the person I am today. And the gratitude I have for others who have changed my life thus far, is the same gratitude I have to myself for giving me a freedom I never thought I would feel."
15. "I had the sweetest COVID romance. A friend set us up (long distance, SF - LA) late August and we had FaceTime dates until we decided to fly and work out of Oahu. It was supposed to be 12 days but ended up being 51. We event got a 1-month lease together. I thought he was the one. But then a big religious difference couldn't be overcome (I'm not religious, he is, and he needed me to convert). So at the end of Hawaii, we broke up.
That's the super reader's digest version but there were so many sweet moments in there. Our first FaceTime date, he asked if I wanted to have a 'happy hour' date. I assumed it was BYOB but he took the time to Google three local places close to me that delivered cocktails and asked me to pick. It's such a shame we couldn't compromise on religion because he was a sweetheart. But boundaries are boundaries and his church (arguably a cult) was way too intense for me."
16. "As doctors aren't sure what effects there will be if you have had COVID and decide to have children, my best friend (who is a midwife, as well as certified OBGYN and therapist) and I decided to have a child before getting vaccinated. We both went to facilities and if everything is fine/a good match, they'll make embryos in June, freeze them and my friend will use them in the winter of 2022.
Why? Well, I'm single, one of my last girlfriends died horrifically, the break up with the girlfriend after that was so hard, it took me more than a year to get over.
During quarantine and general life, I've grown so much and defined so many things for myself. One of those revelations is being OK if I don't have another partner. However, I do want children.
I've already sacrificed so much in my life, I'm not willing to make many more compromises. I also have a multitude of goals I still want to achieve. Through online and in-person COVID dating, nothing has clicked."
17. "Been with my partner for 5 years now and we've had wild adventures. From moving countries, food poisoning, living in a van together, long distance, traveling and so many dates around the world. Corona was our hardest time yet! I worked from home, but my partner is an essential worker for the trains. My favorite memories together in 2020 is our themed (at home) date nights. A cocktail and dinner themed to a country, sometimes a movie to match, sometimes a Marvel movie. Came out of lockdown (Australia) is COVID free now!) a little wounded but still bonded and full of love for each other and a few precious memories during a really tough time."
18. "In September, we had our second son. Normally, my husband is a stay at home dad, and I go into the office every day. But since March of last year, I've felt so lucky to be home. There have been hard times, mentally and emotionally, but I still have my job, I still have my family. I've spent the first 7 months of my baby's life at home with him. We were unscathed from all this. Sometimes I feel a sense of survivor's guilt, because I know the rest of the world is hurting so deeply."
19. "I ended an abusive relationship at the beginning of COVID with no job, no home and no money. It was the hardest and scariest thing I've done as a single mom." (This reader also shared two blog posts she wrote on the subject, which she has given me permission to share with you all, in hopes it helps someone else! You can read her first post here and second post here.)
20. "A missed connection in NYC turned into a long distance correspondence. Our talks soon spanned 13 hours. From morning to night, from evening to sunrise in the three time zones between us, we confessed our inner most fears and desires and admitted our growing feelings for each other. 2020 was riddled with so many uncertainties in many different ways, but I'd never thought I would experience it in romance. Spring turned into summer and life has a funny way of evolving in other ways, too. Our 13 hour Zoom conversations whittled down to 30 minute phone calls and then finally down to absolute silence. My last few words to him were left unanswered. A ghost of a pandemic romance."
"I decided to just stop and really be kind to myself like a partner would: spoiling myself, accepting myself, pushing myself and learning to love myself."
21. "I learned that my partner is who I want by my side when shit hits the fan. We navigated graduating college in a horrible economy, a pandemic, starting new jobs (thankfully), death, social injustice etc. and they made it bearable and were able to find happiness even in those dark moments. Those goes for my friends as well. This past year made me realize who really is there for you even if it's over an awkward Zoom happy hour."
22. "My partner and I have no seen each other since March 18, 2020. We were on vacation in Mexico when COVID was declared a pandemic and we flew home to our separate destinations. Prior to the pandemic, we didn't mind being long distance because we traveled around the world together. Now, separated by closed borders for 13 months and counting, we're rethinking distance. I try not to think about the situation because I always end up sobbing. I even miss the mundane moments, like discussing how to flush the toilet. Now I'm looking for a job overseas so that we can be together."
23. "Moved in with my boyfriend and a year later, I can actually call him my partner.
I went through a period of mourning that I didn't realize I needed until I was in the midst of it. Truly mourning my single life, I spent so much time working to get to a place of pure bliss as a single person the years before meeting my boyfriend that when it came time to giving up my last bit of 'just me' which was my studio apartment that was with me through the whole time, it was really hard. I didn't realize I felt that way until we moved into together. Plus, not just moving in together but working on the same sofa. The first few months were hard but once I came out of my mourning and let myself have that time, I truly felt like a fully bloomed flower. And now I know the true meaning of partner."
24. "Man, COVID shattered it all for me. From reshaping my view of myself to reminding me why I married my husband. COVID was hard but it only brought us closer. We have been tested many times during our decade together and without fail we have always grown closer during hard times.
When we had our daughter three months early and had to navigate stress like I have never felt, we grew closer. He loved me through months/years of self distraction so COVID was not going to fuck with out bond. We compromised a lot and learned to truly coexist in a world that was put on pause. There was no hiding from each other anymore and allowing life to help us hide our issues. Like every time before we took the task of making COVID our bitch on together and here we are. I love him so much and I hope to god Coco (our mini human) feels the love every day. Lord knows Pupic (their dog) sure does."
25. "I have two vastly different experience over the last year dating digitally/trying to make a connection when we're so isolated. The first was six months of confusion and excitement but ultimately no emotional intimacy. I think it really dragged out because we were exclusive for safety's sake but it turned out we wanted different things. I think some of the difficulty was not seeing each other in a normal environment meant it was more difficult to understand where the other person was coming from. If we had met in a bar on a night out, it would have been very clear from the beginning.
Now, I have been seeing someone for two months and it's fun and secure and easy. Which makes me feel that at this point, when we're used to all the complications and precautions of dating in a pandemic, it goes back to the basics. If you're feeling that connection and feeling good about it, then that's all you need. A rollercoaster relationship might be good for TV but in real life, it shouldn't be a headache or a heartache."
26. "I broke up with my boyfriend of 10 years and fell back in love with myself."
27. "We had big travel plans for April 2020 and we weren't going to start planning a wedding until after that. COVID cancelled our travel plans and after a few months in our apartment, we really wanted to buy a house sooner rather than later. I've always said I would need to be married before buying property with a partner. We were talking about it in like May/June, and we were like, well...why don't we get married? It escalated from the backyard elopement we initially envisioned, but we still had a very small (and affordable) wedding in September. It was just our six immediate family members in person and our friends and extended family got to watch the ceremony on Zoom. It was really wonderful. Super happy about how it turned out. Without COVID, we wouldn't had a bigger wedding and I really, really loved having a tiny one instead. We asked our family to prepare some remarks (a poem, advice, a memory, whatever) over the meal afterwards and it was one of my favorite parts of our wedding. Definitely wouldn't have been able to do that if had something bigger."
28. "Mine isn't a new love story, but an old one reignited. I never needed a reason to reignite my love for my husband, but being with him 24/7 was one of the loveliest and invigorating experiences for us and something we didn't know we so desperately needed. I was always in love with my husband, but being in quarantine last year with him made me fall even more madly and irrevocably in love with my husband."
29. "My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship for five years now and when news of the virus broke out, I was shattered for many reasons and one was that I didn't know when we would be seeing each other again safely. I remember crying and feeling overwhelmed, but through the days, we both learned as the world had stopped or felt that way that now we weren't rushing through our days, as we both were in school and working from home at the time. We realized now we had more time to connect, not just at nights but throughout the day, we would call, FaceTime or Zoom call each other, sometimes we would just keep doing our thing and it felt nice to know the other person was there even through a video. We learned to communicate better, we cherished that we grew closer, although the pandemic was horrible and sad, we tried to hold onto the good and see some light on the very dark days.
After 10 months of not seeing each other, we finally reunited in November 2020 and because we were studying from home, we got to spend six months together, as before when we traveled to see one another, it would just be four weeks the most we could see each other. So even though all of the pandemic had been sad, worrying and scary, we both tried to hold onto the good and light and the opportunity that we we got to spend together and with our families. It's hard to see the good at times especially in hard moments we dealt with this as it was all new to everyone but my take on it when I feel sad is to remember we got an opportunity to stop rushing and pay attention to small details we didn't before and cherish and not take for granted moments with our loved ones and each other."
30. "My boyfriend and I had lived together for a year before lockdown here in England but I can say with absolute certainty that we are better communicators than we ever were before and have become even closer. The lockdowns also made us value every moment that we've been able to spend going for meals or dates or days out more than we did before. Some of our best dates have been in the gaps between lockdowns over the last year. We didn't actually want to go back to work (out of the house) because we realized how much we really enjoy each others company. Of course, we had moments of tension and challenges like anyone but they were so far outweighed by all the positives and I'm incredibly grateful for the year that we were able to spend together, both on furlough and working from home. There will probably (hopefully!) never be a time that we can spend an entire year together and while so many things have happened, I will always be happy that we had the time together and continue to."
31. "My fiancé proposed to me on March 2nd of last year, which I'd been waiting for, for so long! It was so exciting for us as high school sweethearts who have been long distance for years since I left for college, he enlisted in the Air Force, then I moved again for law school. Unfortunately, within about a week of the proposal, COVID was declared a pandemic and I realized that we'd have to wait a little longer to be married. While that was a huge disappointment, distance learning for my last semester of law school meant I could quarantine with him in Oklahoma, where he is based. Those extra months of time together were so amazing — we usually only see each other for weekends or a week here a few times a year. But now, I'm back in California and waiting fro him to finish his contract with the Air Force and come home so we can safely be married, surrounded by our friends and family next June. I've been bittersweet to have to wait even longer to be married but to also have so much extra time together."
32. "I live in Lawrence, KS and I went on a university trip (not a student anymore, but was invited with some friends who are staff and faculty) to London at the beginning of March 2020. The pandemic started becoming very real when we were over there. Classes started getting cancelled when the students got back etc. I met a guy who was a non-traditional student and he was my age. The friends who I originally went on the trip with went back to the States early, leaving me with a bunch of students I barely knew and an English professor! The guy and I basically had three day date, going to museums, drinking in pubs etc. We realized we lived four blocks from each other and had all the same friends. We flew back to the States and. had to quarantine immediately upon arrival. We essentially quarantined together for two. weeks and have been together ever since."
33. "Our story began in November. Corona didn't change much about dating here in Croatia. We met, we kissed, we fell in love. He works abroad (Germany), travels back and forth every month, so he gets tested a lot. It's hard to be me apart, but that's just a regular long distance relationship thing. Can't wait to see him again. We don't do video calls or stuff like that, keeping it old school."
34. "I was living in Paris in 2020 and my boyfriend (he's French) went to Vietnam in January on a two month work trip. He was supposed to be back in April but when the pandemic hit, he was stuck in Vietnam until September. My French visa ran out in July (I'm American) so I had to go back to New York before he could finally come home to France. Leaving without seeing him and knowing I was going even further away was one of the most heartbreaking things about this year. Since then, we haven't been able to see each other because borders between the US and France are still closed. It's been January 24 of last year (15 months!). I almost cried getting the first shot of my vaccine last week because I hope it means I can travel to see him soon."
35. "Russel and I met and dated briefly in high school. We broke up, as kids do, but we stayed friends. After college, I moved to NYC, he to Oregon. Through the years, we stayed in touch mainly via him sending me postcards from his travels or him stopping by our hometown to say hello to my mom (who would then call me and question why I wasn't with Russel. My answer was always, 'Mom, we're just friends!')" But to him, I was always something more. About three weeks before the pandemic shut everything down I moved to LA for a job. The pandemic hit and Russel and I were trapped on the west coast together, albeit far apart. We reconnected via text and phone and talked often during 2020. There was a spark, something was there; I was dying to know what it was. In January 2021, he got a job in SoCal. I drove up to meet him, to see what would happen. I ended up staying the whole week. We fell in love, we're still together. This is what I like to call a "silver lining of the pandemic."
36. "I was single before the pandemic. I feel like the pandemic helped put things into perspective for me. Work had always made me happy, but the early months of the pandemic helped me recognize that work couldn't be the only thing that made me happy and even as. an introvert, I was really craving social interaction (none of my friends had stayed in the city). Since the first couple of months were super lonely, I had a lot of time for introspection and reflection. I realized the qualities that were actually important to me in a significant other. Also, I would only put in the effort and get tested for someone I felt a genuine connection with.
I did meet someone wonderful (via Bumble) and our first couple. of dates were virtual cooking dates and picnic dates outside which was a nice change from the usual coffee or drinks. The one (extremely tiny) silver lining during this time has been that our relationship has stayed in a bubble and we've been able to focus on just spending quality time together and learning more about each other. Usually, I'd get more distracted with social activities with friends, work travel and other stuff. We were able to have our own mini-Thanksgiving and mini-Christmas celebrations, since in a usual year, we'd both be heading back to our parents' homes, which was quite lovely."
37. "My husband and I got married in August of 2020. Our wedding went from 100 people, to 50 people, to 30 people. Two weeks out, we found out my father (stuck out of the country) and older sister (tested positive for COVID — she's fine now) could not come. To be honest, I strongly considered cancelling everything. At the end of the day, our love story during Corona was not just out love for each other, but the love we felt from our community, both present at our ceremony and via Zoom. We got so many messages of love. In summary, there were many tears and lots of champagne."
38. "I moved into my ex's empty West Village apartment and then packed it up when the lease ended."
39. "Feels really hard to have missed out essentially on the entire year of my 20s when I'm in my prime."
40. "My boyfriend and I started dating at the start of the pandemic. Moved in together after three weeks."
41. "It was nice to have someone to quarantine with at first, then realized he wasn't even close to being the person for me at all But grew a lot during that relationship."
42. "Always wanted to elope, but feared upsetting our family. Pandemic = perfect excuse!"
43. "My girlfriend. and I have been dating for over five years. We had only lived together for about six months when the pandemic shut the city down. In every way, she worked to help me feel comfortable, safe and cared for during one of the scariest periods of our lives. She exemplified love in action this past year. I could not be more grateful for the person she is."
"Our 13 hour Zoom conversations whittled down to 30 minute phone calls and then finally down to absolute silence. My last few words to him were left unanswered. A ghost of a pandemic romance."
44. "It was early October. I was suffering through a bad break up from a toxic, abusive relationship (in addition to all the pandemic loneliness). I was on dating apps because I needed a distraction. I had connected with several guys, had gone on a few dates, but I wasn’t particularly excited about anyone of them. Then one Sunday, I matched with him. He was older, handsome, but still had this cool air about him.
We decided to meet on a rainy Monday morning (Columbus Day to be exact), because neither one of us had work. I was excited but also noncommittal about it because likely, he’d be “just like the rest of them.”
I entered the back room of Blue Stone Lane on Greenwich, the perfect little enclave for this type of tête-à-tête. It was just us two and another couple. We introduced ourselves and quickly got into conversation. But not just any old small talk. It was more like we had known each other for years. It was magical. I felt an instant connection, almost in love (a rare occurrence).
The rain was tapping the tin roof in a rhythmic pattern. It was so romantic. I felt like I was in a movie. We ate breakfast and drank coffee, but that was almost an afterthought. I was lost in him, and it felt like he was in me. Hours passed and we realized we soon had to leave because we both had to get on with our day. I could’ve stayed forever. He offered to walk me home with an umbrella, but I declined - my heart was skipping faster than I could keep up with my thoughts and I just needed to process this chance encounter.
I texted him when I got home to thank him and he responded immediately with “I don’t know what you did, but I can’t stop thinking about you. Can I see you again this week?” I was floating on cloud 9. “I’d love that”, I responded. And so our whirlwind romance began.
I came to find out he was my neighbor, the building next door. That made it easy, convenient, but also dangerous.
We dove head first into it. We went on dates and spent our days flirting. I’d meet him for coffee just before he got his work day started. He’d text me in the middle of the day to tell me he was thinking of me and asked me if I was available for dinner so he could see me. He even asked me to be his girlfriend. I was smitten. It was such a pleasant, unexpected surprise. I almost forgot about the depression I was in.
Things remained this way for about a month. But you know what they say, “the higher you climb, the harder you fall”. And sure enough, he abruptly ended things. No explanation, just a token, “I’m not feeling it”. I was devastated. I hadn’t been vulnerable or been willing to open myself up to anyone for a very long time. I gave him all of me. He broke my heart.
That was the end of November 2020. I felt lost, more loss, again. It was really hard to accept, difficult to understand because I had no answers.
Fast forward, he still lives right next to me, so naturally, I think about him everyday. I’ve run into him a couple of times and I’ve avoided contact, although he’s seen me on those occasions. A piece of me has always secretly been waiting for a text to set in - “how are you?” or “I saw you today”. That hasn’t happened.
I continue to date, but let’s just say, I haven’t let myself be vulnerable ever again."
The other day, after I finished shooting in Central Park, instead of opting to pack up my things right away and head back home to edit, I decided I'd rather sit under a big cherry blossom tree and rest. Admittedly, it's not something I allow myself to do very often, especially when I'm working on a deadline, like I was that day. But something inside me tugged me to do it. So I cozied up at the base of a wide, fluffy blossom tree and I actually closed my eyes for a good few minutes, listening to the sound of bicyclists breeze past, children laughing near Bethesda Fountain and the faint humming of someone's portable stereo in the distance. It's an amazing thing — to just rest in nature, isn't it? Your body absorbs so much just by being in it. When I opened my eyes, the breeze had kissed off many of the cherry blossom petals, which were now falling all around me like a delicate April snow fall. And I felt the warm urge to sit longer because New York in the spring is just too pretty to ignore.
I know the world feels unbearably heavy right now — my heart has been weighing a lot lately with the news cycle these days, as I'm sure is the case for a lot of you, as well. I hope you can find some rest and solace this weekend with whatever you're passionate about. Close friends in your quarantine pod, a good book, a long walk, something creative that gets you out of your own head or even a nap under a big, favorite tree. Sending you all a big hug and all my love.
All payment handles noted in the post above have been coordinated directly with Chyna for her and Daunte Jr. only. These needs and cash tags have been confirmed and told by Chyna herself and any other information on HER behalf should be questioned. Nicolette has also compiled a list of action items here on ways we can help the Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center communities.
When I think about last spring, April of 2020, my mind flashes to a lot of places and just one place all once — and that's our apartment here in New York. I won't lie — it's hard to reflect back on and even the sound of a siren today, a seemingly normal occurrence in a city this size, makes me think about walking down 7th Avenue on what would by all accounts be a beautiful spring evening, to only find it deserted. Stores and restaurants shuttered, with nothing but a consistent ambulance wail piercing the 70 degree skies.
I know I'm not alone when I say that each day in 2020 brought a new sense of fear and anxiety, while we tried our best to remain hopeful that little by little, light would lead us out of such a dark time. Plans were canceled. Family visits were postponed indefinitely. Harrowing headlines punched us in the stomach. And we lost loved ones. Too many loved ones. The world of our making — of theater, of concerts, of crowded restaurants, stopped spinning. Practically overnight. Of course, the outside natural world didn't stop, as winter slowly loosened its grip, giving way to spring. I remember watching the tree in front of our window, my portal to the outside world as I thought of it then, admiring it as it stretched its limbs and flowered once more. Birds chirped, happily unaware — flitting from branch to branch, perhaps building a nest or two. It was a spring season none of us could touch. None of us could bask in. None of us could relish. How could we? The stakes were too high to do so.
I thought about all this last week, as I sat under the wide branches of a cherry blossom tree in Central Park. Petals seemed to float around me as the breeze kissed them, the early morning sun dappling through to warm my dawn chilled skin. If last spring was seemingly stolen, I thought to myself, I would try my hardest to steal it back this time around, in all the ways that I (safely) could. Starting first with this magnificent tree near the Strawberry Fields entrance — the perfect spot to sit alone with my thoughts, as the city I love slowly comes to life for the day. Now tell me, how are you relishing spring these days?
As for this week's playlist, I'll admit it's a bit of a mixed bag of artists and genres (which is exactly how I like it) but I promise there was an undercurrent of "feel good nostalgia" running through it, perhaps perfect for your next spring evening walk when you need to clear your head and lift your spirits. I know this week (and the past several weeks/months/past year) have been incredibly heavy so I wanted to put something together that could make you feel reassured, and songs from my youth always make me feel that way. And if all else fails, listen to Des'ree on repeat until further notice.
Allen v. Farrow: A four-part series documenting the accusation of sexual abuse against Woody Allen involving Dylan, his then 7-year-old daughter with Mia Farrow; their subsequent custody trial, the revelation of Allen's relationship with Farrow's daughter, Soon-Yi; and the controversial aftermath in the years that followed. Available on HBO Max, 6.3/10 IMDb rating
Framing Britney Spears: People close to Britney Spears and lawyers tied to her conservatorship now reassess her phenomenal career and brutal downfall, as she battles her father in court over who should control her life. Available on Hulu, 6.9/10 IMDb rating
Tina: A revealing and intimate look at the life and career of musical icon Tina Turner, charting her improbable rise to early fame, her personal and professional struggles throughout her life and her resurgence as a global phenomenon in the 1980s. Available on HBO Max, 8.2/10 IMDb rating
And She Could Be Next: And She Could Be Next tells the story of a defiant movement of women of color, transforming politics from the ground up. The two-part series follows candidates and organizers across the country, asking whether democracy itself can be preserved—and made stronger—by those most marginalized. Available on Amazon
RBG: An intimate portrait of an unlikely rock star: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With unprecedented access, the filmmakers explore how her early legal battles changed the world for women. Available on Hulu, 7.6/10 IMDb rating
Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning: Photographer Dorothea Lange had the ability to capture the human condition, most notably through her photo of the Migrant Mother, which continues to stand as a haunting symbol of the Great Depression. Available on Amazon,7.7/10 IMDb rating
Amazing Grace: In 1972, after a series of 11 consecuive hits, Aretha Franklin recorded `Amazing Grace,' the most successful gospel album of all time at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Available on Hulu, 7.5/10 IMDb rating
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold: Actor and director Griffin Dunne uses a treasure trove of archival footage to chronicle Joan Didion's influential career. Available on Netflix, 7.4/10 IMDb rating
Unladylike 2020: Unsung Women who Changed America — Anna May Wong: Anna May Wong, the first Asian American female movie star, had a long and varied career spanning silent and sound film, stage, radio and television. Overcoming severe racism in an era when Asian protagonists in Hollywood movies were typically performed by white actors in yellow face, Wong starred in classics such as The Toll of the Sea, The Thief of Bagdad and Shanghai Express. Available on Amazon as part of a series
Major!: The experiences of a Black transgender woman as she recounts her life and the fight for human rights for people in her community. For over 40 years, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy has spoken openly about empowering transgender people. Available on Amazon, 8.2/10 IMDb rating
Dolores: Raising 11 children while wrestling with gender bias, union defeat and victory, and nearly dying after a San Francisco Police beating, Dolores Huerta bucks 1950s gender conventions to co-found the country's first farmworkers' union. Available on YouTube, 7.1/10 IMDb rating
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution: Crip Camp starts in 1971 at Camp Jened, a summer camp in New York described as a "loose, free-spirited camp designed for teens with disabilities". Starring Larry Allison, Judith Heumann, James LeBrecht, Denise Sherer Jacobson, and Stephen Hofmann, the film focuses on those campers who turned themselves into activists for the disability rights movement and follows their fight for accessibility legislation. Executive producers include Barack and Michelle Obama and it's currently nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary.
Unladylike 2020: Unsung Women who Changed America — Tye Leung Schulze: Tye Leung Schulze resisted domestic servitude and an arranged child marriage to become an advocate for the rights of Asian immigrant victims of human trafficking in San Francisco. She became the first Chinese American woman to work for the federal government, as a translator at the Angel Island Immigration Station and the first Chinese American woman to vote in a US presidential election. Available on Amazon as part of a series.
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners: A documentary that chronicles the life of young college professor Angela Davis, and how her social activism implicates her in a botched kidnapping attempt that ends with a shootout, four dead, and her name on the FBI's 10 most wanted list. Available on Tubi, 7/10 IMDb rating
Gloria: In Her Own Words: Produced and directed by Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Peter Kunhardt (HBO's JFK: In His Own Words and Teddy: In His Own Words), Gloria: In Her Own Words blends interviews of Steinem in her Manhattan apartment, archival footage, photographs from throughout her life and clips from press interviews over the years. Available on Amazon, 7.7/10 IMDb rating
Equal Means Equal: Filmmaker Kamala Lopez spearheads a national media campaign to raise awareness for the need for women's equality under Federal law. Available on Amazon, 6.3/10 IMDb rating
Audrey: Filmmaker Helena Coan examines the remarkable life and career of actress, fashion icon and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn. Available on Netflix, 7.2/10 IMDb rating
20 Feet From Stardom: Filmmaker Morgan Neville shines a long-overdue spotlight on the hit-making contributions of longtime backup singers like Darlene Love and Merry Clayton. Available on Amazon, 7.4/10 IMDb rating
Now tell me, what documentaries have you recently watched? Any favorites?
Earlier last week week, I received my first COVID vaccination shot and quite unsurprisingly, it opened a floodgate of emotions for me. Gratitude. Relief. Shock. Pure unbridled joy. Humility. Unmistakable sadness. And even more gratitude. Since I figured I couldn't be the only person still processing how they feel about their vaccination (and perhaps more importantly, still processing how they feel about all of 2020), I opened up the stage for you all to submit your vaccination story — the idea being so that we could all collectively peek into each other's minds and hearts at what we hope is the bookend to a year that rocked us all to our core. All submissions below are anonymous and many I couldn't help but cry after reading. OK, I'll confess. I cried the entire time while reading these and then again, while compiling them here.
Moreover, there are quite a few even that punched me straight back to March of 2020, and I think we'd all do right to remember how we felt at that time. I don't say that to encourage us to feel controlled by the trauma of it but more so that we honor it to ensure the trauma wasn't in vain. Enough from me though — here are your vaccination stories that you so graciously shared with me. May they be a testament to what we endured, how we carried each other, how a great deal of brave men and women carried us all and just how incredible science can be when we trust in it.
1. "I'm a health care worker in NYC so I got my first dose a few months ago, but cried after it happened. Mostly in disbelief that there was finally a light at the end of a very dark and traumatic tunnel but also because I felt a sense of hope for the first time in over a year. Having to go almost two years without seeing my family, living alone in a studio apartment and watching people die daily and others not taking COVID seriously really took a toll on my mental health. It's so exciting to see everyone getting vaccinated and to watch the city slowly come back to life again. It feels like we are so close to the finish line. I cannot wait to hug people again, my patients included."
2. "The emotions that overcame me were quite surprising. I think we have all tried to be so strong while also trying so hard to stay healthy. I have fallen to my knees countless times praying for all those affected — physically, emotionally, financially — from day one. We are so many days out now and so much in this world has changed. But finally, all the change is headed in one direction, in the right one. We all remain unchanged after this. And we will all come out better and stronger. Still praying for all those we have lost and for all those who have experienced such loss. The lady in line in front of me hugged the person who administered the vaccine. I felt the very same way and wanted to, but was still reluctant to hug anyone. It's a great feeling knowing I can finally hug others. Life is too short not to..."
3. "Like many in 2020, I was praying for a hopeful situation to fight COVID. As the possibility of having a vaccine ready in the same year was increasing, I admittedly was one of the naysayers about getting it when it would be made available.
Call it culture caution knowing Blacks and other POC haven't had the best historical experience when it comes to new medical practices and having things injected into our bodies. But after doing some research and hearing from friends who are doctors, I felt more at ease to get vaccinated.
Though I had been uncertain, I have a precondition and have been lucky enough to not get COVID, but knew I needed to ensure my best health. So I finally decided that I would get vaccinated and I'm proud to say that I'm one shot in with one more to go.
I surprisingly got emotional and teared up after my first dose because I felt that my small act for myself, is also for the greater safety of everyone else and I'd be on the road to connect with friends, family and my godfather who I haven't seen in over a year. Shot number two is on deck for Friday and I'm very much ready!"
4. "In 2020, my husband and I planned to have a baby but once COVID hit, we decided to put that on hold. When we both got out first dose of the vaccine last week, I got emotional because I've been missing my parents a lot but also because this means we can resume family planning with a bit more confidence knowing that we have a layer of protection. Once we are both vaccinated, we are going to start trying again!"
5. "I work in marketing/communications for a hospital. We held a media event when the first shots were given to frontline healthcare workers back in December. I got to witness the first wave of doctors and other care team members who had spent the last several months caring for those in our COVID-19 units. It was humbling, inspiring and uplifting. After watching dozens of doctors line up to receive their shots, I had no doubt in my mind that I would accept the first opportunity to receive a vaccine."
6. "I'm not yet eligible in California. But the other week, my boyfriend got an email at 12:55 about a pop-up clinic run by the county one town over doing walk ups with extra shots. I had just finished a 30 minute spin bike ride, dripping sweat and gross. Ran out the door and got to the site by 1:23pm. We waited in line for two hours not knowing how many shots they had if we'd get one. We both did. I started crying in the parking lot from relief. Seeing family in three weeks for the first time in almost two years."
7. "We flew to Oklahoma (where both my husband and I are from) because my husband is Cherokee and the Cherokee Nation had vaccine availability very early on. We got vaccinated on March 18th and shortly after, they opened up availability to all Oklahomans. I felt really emotional for many reasons, mostly because we have actually stayed home this entire time. But there was also a layer of history that made me feel emotional, grateful and a little guilty. I, a white woman, was vaccinated by a group of people who had every right to withhold their resources or charge for shots and they didn't. It was a really beautiful thing."
8. "I got mine last week at the same hospital, my father-in-law passed away at last year due to COVID. It was almost a year to the date of his death. He got sick in the very beginning of the pandemic and it was so unexpected because we didn't know anything about the virus. It was something positive to think about a year after his death, that in that time a vaccine that could keep us safe was developed and we got to get it. So, so grateful for the vaccine."
9. "I was actually able to get my first shop in January and second in early February. My boyfriend is a teacher and made his appointment at the Javits Center as soon as he was eligible. At the suggestion of a friend, I went to his appointment with him and asked if there was any way I could get one too and they said yes! At first, I didn't tell anyone because I felt like I cheated or somehow took a shot away from others. But after talking to some friends in healthcare, they all reassured me that the goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible and I didn't need to worry. So I've come around now to just feeling very grateful that I had that opportunity a couple of months ago. I feel fortunate that I haven't had to deal with the stress of finding an appointment and proud of the scientists that made it happen. I didn't think I'd be vaccinated until end of summer at the earliest so I'm feeling all the hope and joy that 30% of New Yorkers have had their first shot and that we'll be back to some semblance of normal perhaps sooner than originally expected."
10. "I received my first vaccination in Chicago at Northwestern Hospital. As a pregnant woman with asthma, I have been extremely nervous about the last year. As I was high risk before and now even at a higher risk with my baby. I was having a difficult time deciding if this was the right choice to get vaccinated while pregnant. I've received lots of unsolicited advice, but after my own research and consulting with my doctors, I'm happy I moved forward with my decision. As I sat down to receive my first vaccine, the nurse asked me how I felt to which I replied, "Excited, but nervous because I'm pregnant!" She said she was pregnant and already had both shots. I completely felt my body relax and knew I was making the right choice for me and my family."
11. "Mostly, I was very excited to get the vaccine. As I arrived at the site, I got a bit more nervous. —the only reason being I was hoping I wouldn't have adverse reaction [...] My most memorable moment with the staff was probably when I was talking to the practitioner administering the shot. She asked which arm I preferred and in turn, I asked her which was more popular, if any. She suggested my non-dominant arm because soreness at the injection site is one of the most common side effects. [...] Ever since things shut down, I haven't been able to see my grandmother. Speaking through the phone and email is great, she isn't super into social media and even refuses to get a Facebook but nothing beats giving her a hug and telling her I love her. I can't wait to be fully vaccinated so I can do that again."
12. "I've been struggling with agoraphobia and OCD during this pandemic to the point where it was hard to leave my house. It's a tough position to know you're being mentally "irrational" being afraid to leave the house while simultaneously told to stay at home. This illness got me a vaccine recommendation, outside at a hospital full of people. Two masks, a face shield, gloves and a panic attack later where I was in line at a mass vaccine site waiting in tears, freaked out to be around more people than I had in a year. As soon as the needle was in my arm, it was relief. I literally pictured the sirens that had been on loop in my mind, turning off. Overwhelming gratitude doesn't even begin to describe it."
13. "My grandfather received a life-saving kidney transplant in 2017 and COVID was especially scary for him because of how immunocompromised from he was. My husband is also immunocompromised from his medication for Crohn's disease. We didn't get to see my grandparents at all really in 2020 because of COVID — they live on the other side of the country and were really hunkered down. Well, we had to fly out last month because my grandfather ended up contracting COVID from a home healthcare worker and he ended up passing away. Not even two weeks later, my husband had his first vaccine appointment. I cried so much on the drive because it meant I'd never again have to worry about losing him to COVID the way I lost my grandfather. I prayed every day for this kind of safety and I ended up getting my own first shot on Monday. Every single day I wake up and say something to my grandpa in my head, just a little, "I love you" to fight the survivor's guilt. I am incredibly thankful to be alive and that my husband is safe. This pandemic has finally taken something truly meaningful from me (whatever about social plans or unemployment — I care about our lives more) and losing my grandfather has been the worst thing to ever happen to me. I am so thankful to modern medicine that I will never, ever have to experience that kind of pain of watching him or anyone else I know die of COVID ever again."
14. "I work for a vaccine site, so I see a lot of emotional responses and general faith in humanity kind of thing. Specially during the first few weeks and months, when it was only for seniors and those with underlying conditions. Every day we went to the site, we were thanked for everything we do, you could see people really getting teary eyed while waiting during observation. There was a sense of community and family, too. The craziest and most proof that people want the vaccine and are happy to get it was during one of the snowstorms and icy conditions the next day...we didn't close but we expected a lot of people to cancel. Turns out, out of the 2,000 scheduled, about 1,700 still came! I kind of have mixed feelings about that though because I feel like that also shows desperation. It's been a roller coaster for so many of our county's seniors. I'm a social worker, that's why I work for the vaccine site and the work is not done for making the vaccines more accessible to the most vulnerable people."
15. "My 16 year old, who made her own decision to be vaccinated, had her first dose of Pfizer the other day. I felt such joyful, expansive tears in my heart. Such awe in and gratitude for the scientists, doctors, nurses, volunteers and politicians who made it possible in such a relatively short period of time. I definitely felt the awesome weight of participating in a significant moment in human history. I felt so proud of my "maturing before my eyes" 16 year-old daughter. I felt such warmth and gratitude for the woman who gave my daughter her shot, how clearly and completely she explained the possible side effects and what to do if she experienced them. She was so calm and kind. It was a completely joy-filled experience."
16. "The day I got my first dose felt miraculous. I couldn't believe my family and I had gotten through this — though separately — unscathed. After all of our sacrifice and quiet moments, it felt like a gift and a reward to receive the vaccine. "It's a miracle!" I would shout to everyone; the receptionist, my colleagues and the doctor administering the dose. The feeling I feel now that my loved ones are fully vaccinated is indescribable. I am so grateful to our essential workers, the scientists and those who, like us, sacrificed so much to bring us to this opportunity."
17. "I had an appointment for 11:15pm on a Saturday when the Javits Center was doing Johnson & Johnson overnight. It was the most exciting Saturday night I'd had in a year! I was in sweats but changed into *real pants* and picked a top with easy arm access, washed my hair and put on makeup so the vaccination site staff would see me at my best. I cried more when I made the appointment, but teared up on the way there thinking of how this moment was a culmination of so much hard work by our healthcare and science heroes."
18. "Like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. Also, felt like a celebrity who just won an award. The nurses/workers at the Long Island City vaccine center were all smiles and some even congratulated me as I exited the site. Overall, grateful."
19. "I've been taking care of my 92 year-old grandmother over the past year while working a full time job. Trying to explain to her what is happening and why we must do certain things but can't do others is a relationship with her I never thought I'd have. It also made me extra careful because I didn't want to get her sick, so I gave up a lot of time with friends (safely), exercising, any sort of personal time because she needed to go for drives. We're both vaccinated and I teared up getting my shot because for the first time, it felt like there would be hope."
20. "I've been struggling career-wise since I graduated college and had absolutely no passion for my job and was (still am) almost every day at work. Having a degree in biology, I've always considered going back to school to be a nurse but never acted on it because it would take too long. After another soul crushing week at work, I got my first vaccine on Friday afternoon and the vibes in the room were so uplifting I could've cried from happiness. The nurse that gave me my vaccine was the same age as me and was incredibly kind and excited to give me my shot. I knew in that moment I had to do what she was doing, not in a lab (I work in pharma) but in real life, helping people. A few weeks ago, when I got my second shot, it was given by the same nurse and I told her how much she inspired me and she started to tear up and I did, too. We've all been through so much the past year and I finally can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I enrolled in summer school for pre-requisites!"
"It's a great feeling knowing I can finally hug others. Life is too short not to..."
21. "I was able to make appointments for my parents, a few of their coworkers, then eventually my partner and myself! We were lucky enough to have appointments within 15 minutes of each other so we got to the wait together before and after. As we start there in the CVS after our first shot, I swear I could've cried. We just stared at each other in disbelief and pure joy. It really was a life changing moment. There's so much hope now that I have it! Also, I get my second shot tomorrow, a day before my birthday! Best present ever."
22. "I live in Poland where the pandemic hit hard. On top of that, I was pregnant and went to the hospital to give birth during the "hardest" lockdown in my country. So when I heart that they were going to vaccinate teachers (yep, my profession) I was thrilled. However, only working ones and I was on maternity leave...Fortunately, they have changed it and I could take Astrazeneca, maybe not my choice of vaccine but still better than nothing. Currently, I'm 9 weeks after the first shot and it's OK. Waiting for the second dose."
23. "My vaccine experience was pretty boring honestly. I waited in the Walgreens line, got the shot and left. I didn't have side effects outside of a sore arm for a day which I'm grateful for but I was definitely expecting to burst into tears and just...didn't. I think it'll hit me at another time but right now, I almost feel too close for comfort, like someone's going to pull the rug out from under me. Like it's not quite real yet. Don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful and know how lucky I am, but it's more of a quiet appreciation than a big, dramatic feeling."
24. "I volunteer at a local rural vaccination center in the UK and the overwhelming majority feel the same way you and others do — amazement at the efficiency and simplicity of the process, gratitude for being called up to receive theirs and hope for the future. At our center, patients are vaccinated in groups and that makes it feel even more of a shared experience with everyone moving forward together. I feel fortunate to be able to help people take a step closer to their future and to be in a position to contribute towards making sure as many people as possible come out of this alive and healthy."
25. "I'm a city employee (not in healthcare). I did multiple shifts at a city-run vaccination site downtown and got my first shot at the end of my first shift. It was incredibly emotion and rewarding to be vaccinated and also to play a small role in helping a few thousand people get theirs!"
26. "It hit me near the midtown tunnel on my drive home. I saw the NYC skyline and cried."
27. "Drove two hours for the first one. Did it for my mom who didn't make it to see 2021."
28. "It was so surreal!I had to drive 65 miles round trip and I got it in my car. (I live in Georgia.)"
29. "I showed up bra-less and with a thankful heart! I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel."
30. "I'm a teacher and when I got my first one, the pharmacist said it had been a fun day because all day she'd only given shots to teachers and everyone was so happy. She celebrated with each of us!"
31. "I screamed to the doctor, "THIS IS A MIRACLE!" and I cried."
32. "As soon as I received the final shot, I started tearing up. I knew the sacrifices, the stress, the death of others and the sorrow in their families. But I didn't realize how much I was grinning until the last shot was done. Over a year of bated breath — an exhale of emotional release."
33. "I teared up when I was waiting in line and then during my 15 minutes waiting time. Hope!"
34. "I didn't want to do it until I decided to fly to visit my sister in the United States so I had do."
35. "It was the best, most reassuring feeling. It felt like progress and one step closer to normalcy."
36. "Shock and giddiness that I finally actually got one!"
37. "A kind volunteer saw that I was pregnant and let me skip the line at my second appointment."
38. "Relieved I will have some freedom during maternity leave since I had zero while I was pregnant."
39. "Surreal, happy, but also kept waiting for the orchestral score or a sunbeam to shine through."
40. "I felt so lucky and grateful in that moment, to make any contribution towards ending this awful pandemic. So many people cannot yet access the vaccine and we are so lucky in America to be able to get it now. I only wish everyone who was eligible would get the shot!"
41. "As a teacher, I felt relief, happiness and a bit of moral superiority."
42. "I cried on the Uber ride to get my first shot. Looking out the window and silently reflecting on everything I'd (we'd) been through this past year. A culmination of everything an overwhelming sense of gratitude and hope! Also, teared up after the nurse was done and put the bandage on. We made eye contact and shared a moment — it felt like a shared victory. So thankful for the work of so many who carried us on their backs through this thing."
43. "At Moscone Center in San Francisco, volunteers were smiling and happy. At the exits, they played pop music and people were dancing and giving socially distanced high fives and elbow hellos. And they said "Congratulations on your vaccination" or "It's a big day." and it felt like a big, happy day indeed. It was a very emotional and inspiring experience (made me want to volunteer but alas, everyone had the same idea and there were no volunteer slots available)."
"Drove two hours for the first one. Did it for my mom who didn't make it to see 2021."
44. "I did not expect to get emotional because I was more excited than anything, but as I was walking up to the Javits Center this morning, I started tearing up. And then when I saw the signs they're scheduled to vaccinate some 9,300 New Yorkers that day, it got me again. I knew returning to NYC was the right thing to do, mainly because I missed it like crazy the last five months, but also because I knew how well they were going to handle the vaccine rollout and today moved like clockwork. In and out in 30 minutes (because of the observation period). I know we will have a long way to go but it feels like there's actually a light at the end of the tunnel now."
45. "I was living in Atlanta and moving to NYC in two days. Alabama opened up eligibility to lawyers and did not have any residency requirements so I found an appointment at a CVS in a very random small town about two hours away for the next day. The nurse and three other people in line were also from Atlanta. I (luckily!) was able to make an appointment for my second dose in NYC at a CVS in Times Square (of all places). It was very surreal. I felt utter excitement getting my first dose but the second felt much more solemn...an eerily quiet Times Square outside but I was surrounded by New Yorkers that lived through an unimaginable year. When the nurse put the bandaid on with a cheerful "Congratulations!" I started to cry. I felt joy, relief, sadness over everyone that didn't make it to this point and such an overwhelming sense of gratitude."
46. "My aunt who heads the general physician department at a state hospital in the suburbs of Chicago worked four weeks straight at one point last year. She finally had a long weekend and the doctor in charge that weekend was diagnosed with COVID and my aunt aunt went back into work for another weekend. Two days off at a stretch was vacation to her. In December, when she got her first shot, I was so relieved for her and her family. Last Tuesday, when I got my first shot, I was excited but so relieved that health care workers have one less person (two including my husband) to worry about. I called my aunt saying I'll visit her this summer and she was so excited, I could hear it her in voice. I can't wait to see this incredible woman."
47. "My parents and I got our vaccines on my dad's birthday — a year later from the day we had our last family celebration together indoors before everything went wrong. I remember we all felt so unsure about things and were trying to get my sister and cousin flights home from London where they were studying. I couldn't believe that exactly a year later we would be getting the vaccine and I definitely didn't realize how much immediate relief it would provide. My parents got their shots before me and as I drove to the clinic, I cried in relief. The past year has been filled with anxiety, especially because I live with my parents right now and never wanted them to get sick, so to know they were safe and protected was the most amazing gift. I am so grateful for everyone who made the vaccines possible and I hope that we can all start living fuller lives again soon!"
48. "I got my vaccination at Javits Center I told the nurse I was nervous and that I get queasy from blood/needles. The doctor came over and suggested laying me down for the shot instead. They changed the conversation while I was getting the shot and were so kind. I lay there for about 10 minutes and the nurse walked me out with a bottle of water and a sticker in my hand! The military was intimidating but the nurses were so kind of another level."
49."I was so grateful to everyone, thanking all the volunteers individually. They were so happy for the gratitude! It was beyond efficient too as everything in Hong Kong is. The gal who gave me my shot complimented me on my perfume and looked it up then and there. Her name is Painsy. I hope I get her again on Monday. She can't get the vaccine because of allergies."
50. "Since January, I've been working a few days a week at several of the NYC-run vaccination sites. My most memorable experience was in the beginning of January when the vaccine was first made available to people 75+. Family after family would carefully and slowly walk their elderly matriarch, patriarch, great aunts and uncles, parents and other loved ones — sometimes with a cane, sometimes locked arm in arm to their vaccine table. Though each family was different, the feeling they emanated after the vaccine was administered was the same — like a thousand pounds of weight was lifted off of each family members shoulders. Their precious and vulnerable loved one was finally protected. We would see hundreds of families in a day and it made the vaccination room (a converted middle school cafeteria) feel overwhelmingly electric with a sense of relief and hope."
51. "I got vaccinated today! It was exciting and I was a little nervous, not about getting it but more about the potential side effects. It was quick, very organized and I definitely was grateful. I also made sure to thank each staff member I came in contact with. And when I sat with my administering nurse, I learned that her name was also Sandy! We chatted about how rate it is to meet other Sandys and before I knew it, I was done."
52. "One memorable moment was that this stab actually bled; the first dose didn't. It was unexpected for both me and the pharmacist who administered the vaccine so we both sort of made the same shocked expression!"
53. "I received an appointment for the Moderna shot in a town about 15 minutes from where I live. I was over the moon while also being nervous — of needles, potential side effects and a feeling of "what if this doesn't work and we continue living this way?" The minute I found out I was getting a Moderna shot (or the Dolly shot), I burst into tears of joy and optimism but also so much gratitude! For those scientists who got us to this point. Those who funded it to this point. The nurses and the staff hosting the vaccine clinics.
For my second dose, I wore sequins. I mean, it only felt appropriate as a tribute to Dolly and a tribute to the hope of a new day ahead. I've never felt more appreciative of modern medicine or universal health care than I did while receiving my second shot."
54. "My vaccine experience was uneventful — Pfizer at JAVax Center — minimum side effects. What was special about the experience were the National Guard personnel stationed there. I thanked each one for their service — they were kind, efficient and thoughtful. I was told there were no stickers left when asked for one. As I was about to leave a young woman — Sargent Giles — came up to me: she had located a sticker since I seemed so disappointed and handed it to me. A small but signifiant act of kindness, which somehow represented "we're all in this together."
A very kind reader left me a comment saying that my posts allow them to "experience New York in such a way that is both exciting and invigorating — as if it's this new, unexplored, uncharted land." And that really struck me as perhaps the highest compliment I've ever received. You see, no matter where you live in the world and no matter how familiar it may feel, if I can in some small way encourage you all to seek with fresh eyes, to marvel with renewed wonder, to explore with unbridled curiosity, well then, I'll feel like my online "influence" (whatever that means) will have been put to good use. Of course, this isn't to say every moment of every day will feel like uncharted territory, far from it I'm sure, but when it does strike, when it does tap you on the shoulder to beckon you to follow, you'll never regret running after it. I promise.
Of course, this got me thinking — I'd love to hear the best compliment anyone has ever given you? Was it something a stranger said while you were walking down the sidewalk? Or perhaps a really heartfelt thought from a friend or family member? More importantly, how did it make you feel? I'd love to hear, especially since I think we're all inclined to not talk about compliments out of fear of sounding vain — when really, I think that only makes us deflect them in the end. Or worse yet, we stop ourselves before giving them to other people.
And I, for one, will hopefully be one of them! I loved this excerpt:
"Americans are good at lots of different things, but going on vacation is not one of them. Every year in parts of Europe, summer turns into a mini-sabbatical. In Norway, during the tradition of fellesferie, the nation simply shuts down for a few weeks of July fun. In Italy, so many people take the last two weeks of August off that Rome’s transit system runs on a reduced “festivi” schedule. Meanwhile, guess which industrialized country is the only one that doesn’t guarantee time off to its workers? Guess which country left 768 million vacation days on the table in 2018? Guess which country … arghhhhhhhh."
Raise your hand if you've also been binge watching Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy on CNN. Last weekend, my boyfriend and I devoured the show. And I mean, we ate up every last, savory detail. What a beautiful, transportive program, made all the more poignant given that we're all home bound these days and can't jet off to Sicily or Capri or Rome (sigh). For the indoctrinated, Tucci (yes, that Tucci who I can't separate from The Devil Wears Prada) explores different regions of Italy, discussing culture, history, art and even some politics along the way all centered around one thing — why, food of course.
Naturally, Italy is the main character in this series and the cinematography is truly breathtaking — a visual feast for all the senses (confession: I might have started drooling during certain meals), but I think it's Tucci here who really emerges as an unsung hero himself. His wit, his charm, his ease in jumping back and forth between Italian and English and even his ability to broach certain subjects like immigration and refugees — make him my latest celebrity crush. Trust me, when you see him casually strolling down the streets of Rome in his perfectly cuffed linen trousers and unbuttoned, fitted shirt, you'll see what I mean.
So today, in honor of Tucci, Italy and all things wanderlust, today's playlist was curated with the idea of a big Italian road trip in mind. I hope it makes you twirl and dance around your apartment (or your neighborhood!) the same way it's done for me. Andiamo! (Fair warning though: you might crave copious amounts of Italian food while listening to this.)
Do you have any kindred spirits in your life? People who, in some inexplicable way, resonate at the same frequency as you, the same energy — I like to think of them as a phrase in the same paragraph as me, perhaps even the same sentence. Usually they share common interests, values and world views — and sometimes, if you're lucky, there's an unshakable feeling of déjà vu when you meet them, a fleeting memory from a past life of yours and theirs.
Of course, kindred spirits by design don't come around often (that's what makes them so special!) and if you happen to throw a global pandemic into the mix, the odds of meeting them certainly don't roll out in your favor either. But! Oh the operative but! When they do come around — it's magical! And Léanne is most certainly one of those friends for me — I could tell the moment we started walking around the Frick together, making up fanciful narratives for all the paintings and statues we passed.
You see, Léanne is a fellow old soul. One who loves history, art, cinema, storytelling and any and every excuse to dress up like she’s in a period drama just as much as I do — all of which I say to remind whoever may need to hear it today, that making new friends is certainly never easy. As someone with introverted tendencies, I know that. Moreover, it can be downright daunting the older we get and the more set in our ways we become. But (there's that operative but again!), every once in a while, the universe gives us little nudges that I've come to learn we shouldn't ignore, because they usually lead us somewhere amazing. In case there's a person you've been meaning to reach out to lately, to strike up or perhaps even rekindle a friendship with (safely mind you, given that social gatherings look vastly different these days), I hope this caption is the nudge you needed from the universe to do so.
After watching that horrific video of a 65 year-old woman being beaten in broad daylight here in NYC earlier this week, I'm beyond disheartened. I found this article to be very insightful with six Asian American women who are leaders in their fields sharing the solutions they believe will help stop Asian hate.
Have you been watching the trial this week? Even if you're not, I think this op-ed piece is terribly poignant to read — a reminder of the stakes, so to speak. Here's an excerpt that punched me in the stomach when I read it:
"As we settle into this trial, Black America is forced to watch — and rewatch — the slow-motion murder of yet another innocent Black person as the prosecution works to show just how depraved Chauvin’s actions were on May 25, 2020. It’s beyond challenging and painful to relive this day as an onlooker with no personal connection to Floyd, but an intimate understanding, nonetheless. Floyd begged for his life 27 times. Twenty-seven times. He begged until he had no breath left with which to speak, and even still, as his body lay drained of its life, Chauvin’s knee remained. I can think of no better metaphor for what it is like to live and die while Black in America — under the weight of White supremacy — than this one."
After a lot of online hunting and finger crossing, I was able to land a COVID vaccination appointment slot for Monday. While each state and city is run quite differently, I would recommend all my New Yorkers to check the CVS website between midnight and 1am to refresh for any new appointment slots that might pop up. Don't give up, just keep refreshing! It's also worthwhile checking these sites often, usually on the hour and every quarter hour interval, i.e. 1:00, 1:15, 1:30, 1:45.
When I was in elementary school, my mom insisted on picking us up from school most days, as opposed to letting us ride the bus home. While part of me, like any kid who feels deprived of "what the other kids are doing" felt like I'd rather be chatting with my friends and swapping leftover cookies we didn't eat at lunch on the bus, there was something undeniably nice about hopping in my mom's car at the end of the day. Like we had the rest of the day to get into trouble. And by getting into trouble, I mean heading over to Barnes and Noble where I might pick out a new book. Or perhaps to her favorite antique store, where I'd help her pick out silver pieces to add to her tea set.
She'd be sitting there, in her Toyota Landcruiser, sunglasses on, blasting her favorite radio station — Magic 95.5. I can still remember the station jingle and I bet if I heard some of the disc jockey voices, I'd be transported straight back, to the backseat with my sister, windows rolled down (the A/C didn't work well in her car), singing along to the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Annie Lennox and, of course, the inimitable Tina Turner. Strong front women, with grit, with style, with presence.
Last night, like some of you perhaps, we watched the Tina Turner documentary on HBO, and I was instantly reminded of these late afternoon drives with my mom. And it made me smile. So this week's playlist is a sweet homage to Tina, of course, and a few of the other leading ladies of that era who, without my 10-year old self realizing it, taught me something about love, heartache, owning your own power and, yes, throwing your hair around wildly while you dance, because why the hell not?
What will life look like after all this? I don't know about you, but this question has been on my mind a lot lately. I've been pushing it back, trying to distract myself with other things, other tasks to get done and yet, it always returns. And you know what also returns with it? This strange combination of optimism and trepidation. The former because I'm so heartbroken by the devastation this pandemic has left in its wake and the latter, because I think I've finally found a rhythm in life that suits me. That doesn't drain me.
OK, I know that's strange to say — especially given how much I do miss my family and my friends and good God, what I wouldn't do to hop on a flight out of town— trust me, I want life to return to some semblance of it's normal pace. But there's also quite a bit about my newfound patterns and routines that make me happy. Like waking up early and going to bed early. No big evening plans, with back to back brand events that derail my downtime. The need to get creative at home with my own camera. Long talks while making dinner at home with my boyfriend. The welcome solitude of a neighborhood walk.
In a lot of ways, throughout the hardships of this past year, I've created a cocoon for myself— mainly out of necessity, sure, but now that I'm here in it, it's hard to feel excited about breaking out of it just yet. I feel safe and balanced in it. Can anyone else relate?
Whenever I think about the debate of gun control in this country, I think about this PBS Town Hall with then President Obama, where he quite pragmatically outlines how and why we need common sense gun control laws in less than 5 minutes. The fact that I can vividly remember when the Columbine shooting happened in 1999 (a kid not much younger than those involved) and can recall, in a hazy blur mind you, all the mass shootings that have occurred since, with zero progress made on gun control, well, that's just horrifyingly tragic.
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s hit song and Grammy performance mirrors how millennial Black women are challenging respectability politics, says hip-hop scholar Aria S. Halliday. A great read anddddd you will get 'WAP' stuck in your head. Sorry, not sorry.
Why does the gender wage gap still exist? And what can be done to close it? This article unpacks the issue, in light of March 24th just passing— the date that marks just how far most women in America need to work into the new year in order to match their male counterpart's pay. And that date varies on race.
Over this past summer, I wrote a post all about romanticizing your life. A means of putting yourself and the details that inspire you on pedestals. A means of seeking out inspiration, no matter where you may be. A means of seeing yourself as the main character in a movie that you really want to see. A character you admire, one you root for. You can read the full post here.
Of course, I chuckled at the fact this past summer, Gen Z latched onto a similar idea — a phrase that aptly goes: "main character energy." And you know what every main character needs? An incredible soundtrack. One that narrates without narrating, cueing the quiet moments of introspection, the depths of melancholy and the swell of elation without uttering a word.
Oddly enough, just last week, Allie mentioned my other job really should be as a music supervisor for films and TV shows and before she could even finish her sentence, I yelled out, "I know! I would love that!" There's something about the subtlety to a beautiful musical score that conveys so much emotion and feeling for an audience — and I'm endlessly inspired by people who get to tell stories that way.
All of this is to say, this week's playlist is a sampling of some of my favorite (mainly orchestral) musical numbers from beloved movies and shows. I hope it reminds you, in some small way, that your scenes are always the most important ones.
The smell of daffodils as you pass your corner bodega. Fleetwood Mac playing from an open apartment window. The lingering sound of Saturday chatter outside your go-to cafe. The feeling of warmth washing over you as you walk down the sunny side of the street. Iced coffee and a good book enjoyed on someone else's stoop. Spring must be here in the city. And I was so happy to walk around with her this weekend. Like greeting an old friend. Almost strange to think this time last year, she and I couldn't really spend time together. Couldn't enjoy a walk along the water. Couldn't enjoy the newfound sunshine thanks to daylight savings. Couldn't enjoy a ferry ride in the same way. Much of spring last year was shrouded. In fear. In isolation. In uncertainty.
Of course, this isn't to say all of our struggle is behind us. Far from it. But as I mentioned in my "Memories of Your Last Day" post here, I do feel like we're slowly turning a corner. And the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how faint and distant, is certainly approaching us little by little each day.
With that renewed spirit in mind, I wanted to resume my seasonal bucket list posts here on the blog. They've become relatively infrequent as of this past year, largely due to so much of the world being in flux, so today, I'm reinstating it for my own seasonal happiness. A way of keeping the big and small things I can control in focus and in my mind — something to look forward to in the coming months, as life hopefully starts to resume its old former rhythmic patterns.
Quite a few of you have been asking if my photos might be available for sale and I'm happy to report, I'm finally getting my print shop up and running!
Sign up for a virtual dance lesson with my guy — perhaps a salsa class?
Rent a small, single propeller airplane for a shoot idea I've been dreaming about for weeks now.
Make more middle of the week, photo shoot excursions to different parts of New York. I enjoy them greatly because it's a wonderful way to stretch my legs and see a new part of the state, while also pushing my storytelling forward. Oheka Castle, Boldt Castle and the Vanderbilt Museum are high on my list!
"You tell yourself that the world cannot be filled with this much hate, hoping that one day these thoughts will erase the pain and that compassion will somehow manifest itself into every being - but the reality is, there is so much hate. In fact, you don’t need to travel far to witness it because sometimes, it will walk through your front door to let itself in. America has failed us as a community. Not only did the former administration fuel anti-Asian sentiment, but this nation has failed us from the beginning - from the Chinese Exclusion Act to utilizing Asians as the model minority to justify racist anti-Blackness ideals - America has always had a racist history of vilifying minorities in a time of crisis, while allowing white supremacy to roam its streets.
The senseless shooting in Atlanta yesterday is just more reason why we must all rise up to not only #StopAsianHate, but to proactively protect Asian communities. They were our women and they did not deserve this fate. They were daughters, mothers, sister, wives. As Asian women, we are often taught to stay silent and compliant, not to draw attention to the problem with the possibility of creating more problems, but this will no longer be. To my AAPI brothers and sisters, I hope we can use this anger, fear, sadness to root out hate. To our allies, please do what you can, not just as a display of solidarity, but participate in a more active role to uplift our community - we are not the virus."
I shared a few resources in yesterday's blog post but this guide is an extremely comprehensive starting point for allyship resources, key organizations to donate to and current stats and legislation measures.
"Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in."
~ Leonard Cohen
I remember listening to this Leonard Cohen song — "Anthem"— the day after the 2016 Presidential election, and just a few days after Cohen's passing. There's an introspectiveness and melancholy to Cohen's storytelling through song that always seems to find me when I need it most, in the most unexplained, but welcome ways. Sadly, I've needed Cohen more and more often the past several years. For many reasons, really. And for one reason mainly.
Cohen wasn't known to explain his music often but he did give a rare insight to "Anthem" in a radio interview segment from 1992. Given the horrific crimes we've witnessed this week in Atlanta against our Asian American Pacific Islander community— and in the previous months as well, largely thanks to inflammatory and racist rhetoric from a former United States President, I thought Cohen's words here could help us find our purpose and our courage to keep fighting for the humanity of others. To keep working to let the light in.
"The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring” they’re few and far between but you can find them.
This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.
And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things."
Like many of you, I am heartbroken, gutted and devastated by the proliferation of hate crimes against our minority communities in this country. And this week's mass shooting, that resulted in the murder of 8 people, 6 of whom, were Asian women is another horrific punch to the stomach. Make no mistake, this was a racially motivated hate crime, no matter how the shooter might explain his "bad day" defense. Which means, I can't even begin to imagine the pain and fear my AAPI friends are going through— to feel unwelcome and unsafe in America, their home.
Sadly, the older I get, the more I realize, there isn't much that surprises me anymore, particularly when it comes to racism in this country. And I hate that it's currently 2021, and that previous sentence is largely true for all of you reading this, too. Racism is an insidious, heinous disease that can yes, explode in the ways we've seen it splashed across headlines, particularly this last year alone. But the even more dangerous thing about racism is that it largely courses through a seedy underbelly, oftentimes undetected or at least, unchecked. Our own history books are a prime example of this, with omissions of important figures, alterations of events or complete falsifying of the truth. All in effort to perpetuate a narrative that supports and upholds systems of white supremacy.
To circle this back with Cohen, I know I may not have the perfect words at all times, but I am committed to standing with those who need me. Because we all need each other. To listen. To learn. To understand. To empathize. To champion. To defend. To love. Until we all receive those basic human rights, until we ALL feel safe, none of us are safe.
If you'd like to dive into ways to get involved or perhaps better understand how we can all take action against hate crimes, particularly in regards to our AAPI communities, I've put together a brief and by no means comprehensive resource list of stats, organizations and charities working to stop Asian hate. Please join me in helping to let the light in.
40% of U.S. adults believe "it has become more common for people to express racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began" (Source: Pew Research)
More than 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans were reported between March and May of 2020, according to a United Nations Report (Source: CBS News)
By late April, a coalition of Asian-American groups that had created a reporting center called Stop AAPI Hate, said it had received almost 1,500 reports of incidents of racism, hate speech, discrimination, and physical attacks against Asians and Asian-Americans. (Source: Human Rights Watch)
Create to Stop Hate: If you are or know anyone who is an AAPI artist, brand, creative or maker, this organization is currently looking for submissions to be auctioned off as a means of raising funds for Stop AAIP Hate, the organization I listed above. For questions regarding submissions, head to the @createtostophate Instagram profile for more details.
And as always, if you have any resources you'd like to add to the above list, please do let me know!
This week's playlist started first with the Black Pumas song "Colors."
And it snowballed from there. I actually went for a long walk around the neighborhood last night with this as my soundtrack and it struck all the right notes for me. Introspective. Feel-good. Quiet at the right moments. Beat on your chest at others. Given how heavy the world feels, especially at this very moment, I wanted to create a playlist that helped clear your mind but also lift your heart.
Just a heads up: there's a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Los Coast and Gary Clark, Jr. that will most definitely make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. In a good way. Hope you enjoy!
Without fail, this is usually my favorite dinner conversation subject — a fact that I'm sure surprises none of you. If you happen to tune into my Stories on a semi regular basis, you know I love playing a documentary in the background while I work. Perhaps I'll be editing photos and videos. Perhaps I'll be writing and catching up on admin work. Perhaps I'll be shooting a few self-portraits in our living room. I just find it to be a relaxing way to focus on my tasks for the day with a current of something interesting, educational or thought-provoking buzzing in the room.
I suppose you could ask why don't I just tune in for podcasts — a valid question, but I think I prefer the format of a documentary more. There's something about the music accompaniment, the breath allowed in a film that feels easier to digest in passing. When I listen to a podcast, I feel like I have to pay attention the whole time or I'm completely lost.
As such, I'm happy to be kicking off a new monthly series where I recap all the documentaries I watched the previous month. And perhaps quite fittingly, our first installment happens to be for February, where I committed to watching a new documentary each day about a different Black historical figure, in honor of Black History Month. In case you're looking for something new and substantive in nature, I have 16 films waiting for you here!
Hitsville: The Making of Motown: A look at the birth of Motown in Detroit in 1958 until its relocation to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. Featuring rare performances, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage offer insight into the history and cultural impact of Motown Records. Available on Hulu, 7.4/10 IMDb rating
Miles Davis: Birth of Cool: Unpack the mythology of Miles Davis and learn the true story of a jazz legend with never-before-seen footage and celebrity interviews. Available on Netflix, 7.4/10 IMDb rating
All By Myself: The Eartha Kitt Story The Eartha Kitt Story is a deeply moving and personal account of the iconic star's life and career. Her strong, independent manner portrays a woman who has lived and loved for herself, her music and her child.Available on Amazon, 7.6/10 IMDb rating
August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand Explore the life and legacy of August Wilson, the playwright some call America's Shakespeare, who chronicled the 20th-century black experience. Available on Amazon, 7.8/10 IMDb rating
Count Basie: Through His Own Eyes This revealing biography, told in Count Basie's own words, uncovers for the first time the private passions and ambitions that inspired the world-famous bandleader and pianist. Available on Amazon, 6.8/10 IMDb rating
Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things Canvassing six decades of Ella Fitzgerald's astonishing trajectory from a teenager living on the streets of Harlem to her life changing appearance at the Apollo Theatre, Just One Of Those Things illustrates her sublime transformation, reconstructing the stale stock narrative into a well-rounded examination of her mixed fortunes. Available on Amazon, 6.8/10 IMDb rating
John Lewis: Good Trouble Using interviews and rare archival footage, John Lewis: Good Trouble chronicles Lewis' 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration. Available on Amazon, 7.2/10 IMDb rating
How It Feels To Be Free The inspiring story of how six iconic Black female entertainers – Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier – challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process. Part of the PBS series American Masters. Available on Amazon, 8.1/10 IMDb
Nina Simone: What Happened Miss Simone? On stage, Nina Simone was known for her utterly free, uninhibited musical expression, which enthralled audiences and attracted life-long fans. But amid the violent, haunting, and senseless day-to-day of the civil rights era in 1960s America, Simone struggled to reconcile her artistic identity and ambition with her devotion to a movement. Culled from hours of autobiographical tapes, this new film unveils the unmitigated ego of a brilliant artist and the absurdities of her time. Available on Netflix, 7.6/10 IMDb rating
The Gospel According to André Leon Talley From the segregated American South to the fashion capitals of the world, operatic fashion editor André Leon Talley's life and career are on full display, in a poignant portrait that includes appearances by Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Bethann Hardison, Valentino, and Manolo Blahnik. Available on Hulu, 6.5 IMDb rating
A Ballerina's Tale A feature documentary on Black ballerina Misty Copeland that examines her prodigious rise, her potentially career ending injury alongside themes of race and body image in the elite ballet world. Available on Amazon, 6.4/10 IMDb rating
Being SerenaBeing Serena is a documentary series chronicling tennis icon Serena Williams at a pivotal moment in her personal and professional life. Provides viewers unprecedented access to Williams during her pregnancy, new motherhood and marriage, while documenting her journey back to supremacy on the court. The intimate first-person show delves into her landmark career, family life and expanding role as a businesswoman and investor in the worlds of tech, fashion, fitness and philanthropy. Available on HBO Max, 5.8/10 IMDb rating
My Brother Jesus After an unorthodox painting of Jesus goes viral, the artist and his muse discuss its significance in the wake of BLM protests in Richmond, Virginia. Available on YouTube via the Netflix film club, no IMDb rating yet
Charley Pride: I'm Just Me Traces the journey of Charley Pride, from his humble beginnings as a sharecropper's son on a cotton farm in segregated Sledge, Mississippi to his career as a baseball player and his meteoric rise as a trailblazing country music superstar. Available on Amazon, 8.6/10 IMDb rating
Gil Scott-Heron: Black Wax Black Wax is a musical-political entertainment film produced and directed by Robert Mugge. It centers on the late Black poet-singer-songwriter Gil Scott-Heron - the man Melody Maker called "the most dangerous musician alive" and many dubbed the forefather of rap music - and his Midnight Band. HD from the original 16mm film and lovingly restored. Available on Amazon, 8/10 IMDb rating
The Case of the Three Sided Dream Exploring the phenomenal life of multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who went from blind infant, to child prodigy, to adult visionary, to political activist, and finally to paralyzed showman. Available on Amazon, 7.4/10 IMDb rating
Now tell me, what documentaries have you recently watched? Any favorites?
"We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were." ~ Joan Didion
I've been thinking about this Joan Didion quote a lot lately. Particularly in regards to this past year. A year that many of us, I'm sure, would resoundingly say, we will likely never forget. A year that brought deafening silence to our streets. A year that left so much pain and devastation and loss in its wake. A year that, despite our best efforts to stay connected, left us feeling more and more alone by the day. Sometimes by the minute. A year seared into our memories — our lives turned upside down seemingly overnight. To forget it at this point, seems almost impossible. Unthinkable perhaps.
And yet, that's the thing about hard memories, isn't it? They're the first thing you try to block out. To run away from. To avoid. At this stage, I'm not sure where we'll net out when we all reflect back on the year 2020, especially as it becomes a more distant, bad nightmare in the years to come. As someone who is incredibly thankful for the fact she emerged relatively unscathed (for the most part) from the pandemic, with the health of her close friends and family in good standing, it's been a year that's made me vow to myself over and over again the same realization: "I can't ever forget how fortunate I am."
But the same creeping fear returns to whisper back, "You will forget." Maybe that's self-preservation talking. Perhaps it's just lazy convenience. Or maybe it's faulty nerve connections in our brains — age taking its toll as it inevitably does one way or another.
Whatever the reason, everything that follows past this point is a means of reminding myself (and perhaps some of you) for an idle Tuesday down the road, let's say in 2052. A recording of my chapter in New York City at the brink of the strangest year where I witnessed, first hand, the world almost instantly, stop spinning.
March of 2020 for me started off on a hectic note. Fashion week had concluded just a few weeks prior and I had two back to back work trips almost immediately afterward — the first to St. Lucia and the second was a press tour around California. It was a blur of flights, rental cars, taxis and Ubers, early call times and late night dinners, waiting in TSA lines, lugging around overly packed luggage and trying to document it all the while. I vividly remember feeling exhausted in a visceral way, vowing to myself, "I need to take a break from traveling for awhile" not realizing just how ironic that statement would feel over the coming weeks.
Of course, COVID was a very real news story at this point developing around the world, but the murmurings of it potentially locking down the United States didn't feel concrete enough to worry about. Surely, that wouldn't happen here. That couldn't happen here, could it? It wasn't until we were sitting at LAX on March 8, waiting for our final red eye flight home to JFK that it hit me just how deserted the airport was. No crowds. No long check in lines. TSA was a breeze. We sat in the lounge area for Delta, sipping coffee and reviewing headlines. Our flight was eerily empty. Even the crew carried themselves in a way that felt like they knew something we didn't. Something palpable felt looming in the air. I closed my eyes at takeoff and reminded myself, "You'll be home soon."
That week back in New York felt oddly calm at first, now that I think about it. I fell back into work, prepping for projects, editing photos for brand review, riding a packed subway around the city for meetings. Life was still beating along as it always does, as it always had. I was scheduled to host a brand event here in the city on March 12, a little soirée uptown on Madison Avenue. In a flurry of text messages, I was reminding my friends of the details for the event, letting them know how much I was looking forward to seeing them. We joked back and forth about picking up extra toilet paper and hand sanitizer, not truly seeing the tsunami wave that was about to hit us all.
On Wednesday March 11th a day before my event, the NBA announced their cancellation of the 2020 season until further notice. Around that time, NYC had over 700 confirmed cases of COVID, rising each day and schools were slated to close, with NYC restaurants, bars and businesses to follow soon after. I distinctly remember sitting in Fairfax, one of my favorite restaurants in the village where I often work, texting my manager, "We need to cancel tomorrow's event, right?"
Looking up and around at the restaurant I was working from, I started to wonder, "Should I even be here? Is this safe? How can I tell if I'm actually 6 feet from the patrons next to me?" If I'm being completely honest, had I known that would have been my last time in a restaurant for many, many months, I think I'd relish it a bit more. Perhaps order that indulgent burger on the menu as opposed to the salad. Maybe ask for that cocktail, instead of the green tea. I suppose a part of me still believed, as I'm sure we all did in those initial weeks, this will pass. Give it some time and things will be back to normal soon.
I sent out a mass text to everyone I had invited to my party, letting them know the event was canceled and that I wanted them all to stay safe and stay at home. The tone was very much "This is crazy but I'll see you soon."
I packed up my laptop, settled my bill with the waiter and walked home. It was an usually warm March day and I had a craving to sit out on my fire escape. So I did, blissfully unaware that same fire escape would largely become my window to the world for the better part of the next 365 days to follow. That night, my boyfriend and I placed an online grocery delivery order, somewhat encouraged by the idea of trying to cook more at home — a goal we typically failed at thanks to Seamless — and settled in for the night. Two homebodies not necessarily upset at the prospect of a now very clear social calendar.
Of course, the weeks, and subsequent months that followed were unlike anything this homebody anticipated. How could I? How could any of us? Those initial weeks in March and April were hardest for me. I'd wake up each day, tune in for Gov. Cuomo's daily Coronavirus briefings and try to make some sense of our new reality. The numbers were staggering. PPE was scarce. Hospital beds were limited. And here I was, living in the U.S. epicenter of it all. Miles away from my family. Scared to go outside. Or be near anyone. With work contracts indefinitely pushed back, some altogether canceled, I wasn't sure how my business would ultimately fare through this storm.
Outside, the city hibernated, streets and avenues where life usually bustled, now lay dormant, except for the constant echoing of an ambulance siren piercing the March sky. I know I'm not alone when I say it was a living nightmare. None of us knew what each day would bring, in big and small ways. And that anxiety was downright crippling at times.
To cope, I threw myself into creative outlets — photography, writing, editing — but when the weight of the world forces you into a bubble of your own making, it's only a matter of time before those outlets don't fuel you in the same way they used to. But then again, what option did we have? The stakes were too high. So we persisted on.
I'd like to pause here and remind my future self in 2052, that 2020 held a lot of promise, as well. Some silver linings that showed us our true strength, our connections, our resilience. Some unexpected outcomes of solidarity and commitment. Some big and small blessings and yes, some hard, long overdue reckonings that showed us just how broken and fractured our society really is. In a lot of ways, 2020 opened our eyes and hearts to insidious social injustices that had been persisting for far too long. I can't definitively say 2020 was the catalyst, but I do think it played a pivotal role in helping us truly see and recognize our own humanities and those of others.
I never want to forget that. Moreover, we can't forget that.
I titled this post "memories of your last normal day" for a reason — not so much for us to yearn for a time before this all happened, but more so as a reminder as to what's at stake if we forget about the 365 days that followed that last normal day. In order for us to return to some semblance of life as knew it, we have to honor the price we paid over the course of 2020. And my friends, that price was high. Extremely high.
"We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were."
Perhaps Didion is right. She often is. Perhaps to forget is just a part of human nature. And maybe that's the inevitable thing we have to fight here, with every ounce of our being. We have to remind ourselves of who and what we used to be, what we went through, what we overcame, whether we liked it or not, or we're predestined, doomed even, to wrestle with it at 4am maybe in the year 2052, when our mind goes wandering.
So in the spirit of remembering, here's a sampling of your last "normal day" memories that you shared with me on Instagram. May their recounting be a harbinger for brighter days ahead. For brighter days for us all.
I went to the pub. We hung out all afternoon in the sun.
I went to a department store that was closing that day to buy things for my daughter's 21st birthday in June! I never thought we'd still be in lockdown then three months later.
I was in Cozumel, checking the news before snorkeling and realized we would return to a lockdown.
We had a family game night.
I ate tacos while overlooking the city with my best friend of 25 years. It was damn near perfect.
I saw my five day old niece and then didn't see her for three months even though I only lived 5 miles away.
Unfortunately, I can't remember.
I went out with friends in the Mission (in San Francisco) thinking we'd see each other in two weeks.
I went to dinner with a girlfriend at Hillstone (in NYC) because we joked it might be our last meal out.
It was actually my birthday! I went out for a dinner at a crowded restaurant with family.
Peeking through my curtains to see if there was a free seat at my favorite spot across the street.
I remember standing on the train platform and thinking how gorgeous the weather was!
I went out with a friend for some sushi at a Japanese food center in London and then for a glass of wine.
Family style dinner with 8 girlfriends sharing dishes and drinks and laughs.
My daily 200 mile commute for work, 100 miles each way.
My husband and I used to go to the movies a lot, our last one was March 10th. We saw Emma.
Celebrated my birthday and met strangers while out dancing at a crowded bar.
A packed Trader Joe's with my mom, mask-less. Received an email recommending we work from home.
I went on a date for the first time in two years -- we then virtually dated all quarantine.
Happy hour with coworkers and a venue tour for my 12/21 wedding. I thought I was planning ahead.
Spent hours wandering through the National Art Gallery in DC.
I was at school. The last day with the kids.
I remember my students being very excited that school was going to be canceled. How naive we were.
I saw Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall.
Now tell me, what memories do you have of your last "normal" day?
Sometimes, the smallest details distract me in the biggest way. Yesterday for instance, the afternoon sunshine poured in through our living room windows, creating the most beautiful shadows across our coffee table. I immediately stopped writing the email I was mid-typing and grabbed my camera. Ten minutes later, I was dipping this vintage Chanel bottle into its own mini private pool, pearls and all, thinking almost out loud to myself how divine a bath of Chanel No. 5 would feel.
Then, I started to notice all the imperfections on the bottle itself. Little scratches here and there, fading in the ink on the label, small patches of age discoloration — and it made me love it even more. So much charm and character packed into one small bottle that I was just now getting to fully appreciate, magnified underwater.
Where am I going with all this? No where really, other than to remind you to celebrate and honor the small details. No matter how fleeting, whenever and however you can. Even if it’s just the afternoon sun, reminding you to look up from your laptop every once and a while.
As we find ourselves at the one year anniversary of a chapter that has changed all our lives in big and small ways, I hope you can remember to take joy in details — at least for me, they've made all the difference these past 365 days.
My friends at Farfetch asked me to join a tribute they were putting together for International Women's Day earlier this week and I'm so honored to be featured alongside so many amazing women, whose platforms I truly admire in this space. We were asked to emulate a favorite female icon and I made a younger Krystal proud by selecting Amelia Earhart, an aviation pioneer who I dressed up as when I was younger for a school project. Love when things come full circle like that.
I know this isn't the sexiest thing in our list today but trust me, you should be getting a jump start on your taxes now — there are a lot of changes this year that could cut your bill or even generate extra refunds.
If you're still thinking about last Sunday's Oprah interview — I'm in the same boat. This essay on colorism is a great, succinct read — here's an excerpt that stood out to me:
"Is “light-skin privilege” a thing? Yes. It is, and I say this as a Black woman with lighter skin. I do not take pleasure in recognizing that I have experienced a certain level of privilege due to my skin tone at some point in my life. But just as heterosexuals must acknowledge their privilege and as Whites must acknowledge theirs, I have to recognize that in the U.S., Black folks who have lighter skin often experience preferential treatment. If this weren’t the case, colorism would not exist."
Frida Kahlo. Dolly Parton. Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Toni Morrison. Susan La Flesche Picotte.
Of course, if given the chance, I'd add many, many more women to that list. But for now, as of this moment, these ladies have made the cut for my dream dinner. An intimate soirée that I'll only ever be able to host in my mind, which means, 1.) the venue is most definitely a Tuscan villa 2.) everything is catered and 3.) there's no curfew, so I hope my esteemed guests stay for many bottles of wine after dinner, enjoying the Italian summer air with me. Of course, we could certainly add a few notable men to this list, dead or alive, but in light of this month being Women's History Month, I'd much prefer to focus on the ladies, wouldn't you?
Earlier this week, I asked you all for your dream dinner invite list and I was so blown away by the responses! So many familiar faces yes, but it was the unfamiliar ones that got me the most excited! Today, I wanted to compile all your responses, with brief bios (even though you know most of these women), in case you need a little inspiration the next time you're asked to plan a very hypothetical, but no less magical, dinner with your closest role models and inspirations.
So without further delay, let's introduce our guests, shall we?
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Inspired by the country's popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.
Dolly Parton is is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actress, author, businesswoman, and humanitarian, known primarily for her work in country music. She's sold over 100 million records worldwide and also donated $1 million of her own money to the development of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death in September 2020.
Toni Morrison was an American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor who won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved (1987); she gained worldwide recognition when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.
Susan La Flesche Picotte was a Native American doctor and reformer in the late 19th century. She is widely acknowledged as one of the first Native Americans to earn a medical degree. She campaigned for public health and for the formal, legal allotment of land to members of the Omaha tribe.
Anna May Wong was an American actress, considered to be the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star, as well as the first Chinese American actress to gain international recognition. Her varied career spanned silent film, sound film, television, stage, and radio.
Princess Diana was a member of the British royal family. She was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales—the heir apparent to the British throne—and was the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. Diana's activism and glamour made her an international icon and earned her enduring popularity as well as unprecedented public scrutiny, exacerbated by her tumultuous private life.
Nina Simone was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.
Mary Magdalene was a woman who, according to the four canonical gospels, traveled with Jesus as one of his followers and was a witness to his crucifixion and its aftermath.
Marlene Dietrich was a German-born American actress and singer. Her career spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s. In 1999 the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth greatest female screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema.
Dijana Budisavljevic was an Austrian humanitarian who led a major relief effort in Yugoslavia during World War II.
Erykah Badu is an American singer-songwriter, record producer and actress. She has been called the Queen of Neo soul.
Meryl Streep is an American actress and singer. Often described as the "best actress of her generation" Streep is particularly known for her versatility and accents. She has received a number of accolades, including being nominated for a record 21 Academy Awards, of which she has won three and a record 32 Golden Globe nominations, winning nine.
Michelle Obama is an American attorney and author who served as the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017.
Madame VP Kamala Harris is an American politician and attorney serving as the 49th vice president of the United States. She is the United States' first female vice president, the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history, and the first Black and first Asian American vice president.
Shirley Chisholm was an American politician, educator, and author. In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York's 12th congressional district for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In the 1972 United States presidential election, she became the first African-American candidate for a major party's nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
AOC is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district since 2019.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.
Eartha Kitt was an American singer, actress, dancer, voice actress, comedienne, activist, author, and songwriter known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 recordings of "C'est si bon" and the Christmas novelty song "Santa Baby", both of which reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Orson Welles once called her the "most exciting woman in the world"
Jane Fonda is an American actress, political activist, environmentalist, and former fashion model. She is the recipient of various accolades including two Academy Awards, two BAFTA Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, the AFI Life Achievement Award, the Honorary Golden Lion and the Cecil B. DeMille Award.
Bessie Coleman was an early American civil aviator. She was the first Black woman and first Native-American to hold a pilot license.
Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. During her 35-year career at NASA and its predecessor, she earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations and helped pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks. The space agency noted her "historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist".
Anna Wintour is a British-American journalist who has served as editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988 and global chief content officer for Condé Nast since 2020; she is also artistic director of Condé Nast and global editorial director of Vogue.
Gloria Steinem is an American feminist journalist and social political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the American feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Sinéad Burke is an Irish writer, academic and disability activist, popular for her TED talk 'Why design should include everyone.' She is the Director of consulting organization 'Tilting the Lens', working to raise the baseline standards in accessibility, to design an equitable and accessible world.
Janis Irwin is a Canadian politician who was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in the 2019 Alberta general election and is a champion of women's and LGBTQ2S+ rights.
Amanda Gorman is a poet and activist. Her work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization, as well as the African diaspora. Gorman was the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate and she became the youngest inaugural poet in 2021 as she delivered her poem "The Hill We Climb" at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden.