I just got back from 2019, and it was incredible. Last night started at 6:30pm with a dance class. Not any old jazzercise. This is a class I have taken on-and-off since 2002. The choreographer, Tootsie Olan, is an incredible force of nature who over two decades has become a friend. Whenever I live in New York or visit from my stints on the West Coast, I take the class. It’s my anchor in the city, my entry point, therapy for body, brain and soul, and my church. If you walk in creaky or slumbering because the city or life has worn you down, the wall-to-wall music and motion will leave you amped and keyed directly back into the singular pulse that makes New York New York.
Of course, the city that never sleeps has been quite sleepy for two years now. So the gang from dance class — a group of people I used to see weekly for years — became online friends throughout the pandemic. Last night we reunited without Zoom backgrounds for a pop-up class to test the waters of re-entry. The last time we were all together was March 7, 2020, dancing on the rooftop of a chic hotel in Brooklyn, a one-day event that Tootsie hosted so her devoted fans could do yoga and dance for a full Saturday. Funny enough, that retreat was called “The Day.” Without knowing it, Tootsie gave us a clear marker for when the life of the city abruptly stopped. On The Day.
Because it had been so long, class was, well…euphoric. I usually leave on a high, but we all left at 7:30 transported out of the slog of the last 23 months, whether our swollen pandemic bodies were truly ready for it or not. Tootsie joined our small group for a drink afterward. All tried-and-true New Yorkers, and no one knew quite where to go, in SoHo of all places, for a cocktail. What’s open? Which restaurants survived? Do we need reservations? Do we want an indoor space or outdoor, in the actual place or a pop-up tent on the street? Is everyone comfortable? Did everyone bring their masks? Does everyone have their vaccination card or the app handy? Grabbing a drink with friends is not the same act it used to be. In a recovering New York, it can be a daunting task.
We settled into SoHo Park, an informal beer-hall-type place that seemed as good as any to accommodate a band of sweaty friends on a rainy evening. A Friday night in New York City, and the place was empty…