We are all artist recluses now

Photo of Daiden Kent, artist, skater, Bronx Native, in Wash Sq park last week

We are all shut ins now. Home schoolers. First thing in the morning banana bread bakers. Midday dance party throwers. Living room obstacle course makers. Late night drawers. Yes, there will be a lot of content streamed. But hopefully there will be some made.

A week ago I was making friends with and getting inspired by artist-skater kids in Washington Square Park on my off-day. Watching their mesmerizing laps around the pseudo-bowl of the dry water fountain, that grind of wheels on pavement. Then after awhile striking up conversation and making connections. One kid born in the same hospital as my son. Two from the Bronx, one who attended an elite boarding high school, plucked from Soundview public schools and soon getting free trips to Greece with his wealthy boarding school friends, now a junior at NYU, dreams of being a creative director (though what does that even mean? we laughed.)

An off day from my run of Border People where I could finally relax and enjoy New York. Remember why I wanted to move there for years and did for several. Not just power through the cold on my way to and from performances, through the flu (regular kind, February 3rd), in my puffy coat and long johns, grinding.

Hanging with the artsy skater kids, growing nostalgic about that golden time of high school when you’d gather almost every day with your crew of friends and share music, movies, raps, ideas, jokes, impressions, shit that happened in class or on the back of the bus or at lunch. That rapacious consumption of culture and shaping of aesthetic that every artist needs to have at some point.

Wasn’t handshaking. Taking precautions. Enjoying connection from a distance. But no idea that the NBA was about to be postponed. That the next morning the rest of my run would get cancelled, that I’d be home to Oakland on a flight the next night. That we’d be on “shelter in house” within the week.

But here we are. On a bike ride Sunday, I dropped into a few Open Houses for single family homes on sale. Always love flexing one of my “stretch personas” — people you can look like cause you fit the type even if it’s not you at all. Marching into a 5 bedroom 5 bath home listed for 1.9 mil in my Patagonia jacket and bike helmet, the agents thinking perhaps I’m their dream — a tech conqueror with a mountain of IPO cheddar, ready to slap down asking plus 30% right there and then, all cash. It’s a fun bubble to burst. It’s one of the few I can.

Yesterday biking before lockdown I had a different thought. As I texted with my freelancer friends about the economic wrecking ball this will be for us. “I have no idea when I’m going to work again,” a photographer friend texted me. “Yeah, me too. Scary.” I texted back. But seeing all these houses for sale I couldn’t help but laugh. As I mull writing another think piece about how this is a great opportunity to slow down, there’s some asshole out there making a killing. Going long on some small arcana of the market. Buying and holding and leveraging. I texted this to my friend. He texted back, “But that asshole dies alone.” I chuckled. Emotionally probably yes, even if it’s by asphyxiation face down in a pile of blow on a five thousand dollar glass coffee table surrounded by a gaggle of hangers on and enablers.

The New York run feels of a different era, and it was. There were many great nights of audiences connecting and feeling the show. Working Theater’s audiences are great. Lots of working class folks, big groups from unions. Some nights of call and response, “You know that’s right!” And “Yes, say it” after certain lines. And yes some hard times of missing family and scrutiny and the pressure of New York productions. But now there can only be gratitude that I got to do it before Covid-19 turned our world inside out, or just turned us all inside. For those who came out to the show, thank you for your energy. For those who missed it, my condolences on your loss. It was fire.

Now we enter this global crisis nested in the form of a bizarre social experiment. Witnessing this disaster play out in slow motion. Only thing to do is to maintain our distance and stay away from each other. We all in this together, even if that togetherness is checking our phones, then looking up and going, aah, and tossing them down and engaging with our children and lovers. It’s a disaster economically. Knowing gigs in April and May will soon be cancelled, perhaps ones in June too. As a parent it’s hard. Also fascinating, as we all get a three month taste of home school. We are all DIYers now. We are all content creators now. In the hardest parts of the run, I dreamed of going camping with my family this summer. Maybe that won’t happen now. Or maybe that starts now. Just in our living room and backyard. And at night I get to be an artsy skater kid, consuming art, making things. We are all high school artsy kids, looking at cool shit in our living rooms at night, dreaming up the next thing, knowing this too shall pass.

Actor, playwright, journalist, sports fan, politico.

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