No matter how many post-apocalyptic comic books, movies and TV shows I've read and watched (and wrestled with in my own work), I wasn't emotionally prepared for what's happening right now on earth. I toggle between a bleak feeling of claustrophobia and semi-panic while feeling crackling bursts of faux-bravado to face what's happening and what's to come. Ultimately, I trust that NO ONE wants to shut it all down but we gotta help crush this deadly health crisis, post-haste! And, that means making sacrifices of every kind. We had to postpone my new play, THE WAR OF WOO. So many dreams and jobs derailed -- across the board. But, we gotta do what's smart, practical, and right -- and hang in there. Let it blow over and pick up the pieces.
I'm currently at my shared art studio alone (everyone else is working from home). Word came in from the NYC mayor warning us that the city will most likely have to "shelter in place." Which means I need to pack up my art table, scanner, art supplies/etc., and SOMEHOW move it from Gowanus to Carroll Gardens, into my PACKED-TO-THE-GILLS apartment, along with my girlfriend and her stuff. Or, lose the ability to draw my one paying gig producing my own post-apocalyptic series, The Red Hook.
As I consolidate, I'm reminded of what I crave most about a shared art studio. The creative energy. The camaraderie. The hot topics discussed passionately yet respectfully. The provocative parlays that keeps us real and authentic. The new ideas and creative innovations by proximity. The family a studio engenders.
I believe it was cartoonist Jessica Abel who nicknamed me "Hugs" Haspiel at the Small Press Expo in the mid-to-late 1990s. I'm a spirited soul who provokes the possibility of people, especially artists. I connect to people via honesty, empathy, and touch. A high-five. A hug. A slap on the shoulder. A meaningful look. It's the way I navigate and negotiate humanity. Over the decades, those kinds of physical interactions diminished to a stand still, a different kind of quarantine, as the monsters of corporate America and toxic individuals were put on blast for bad behavior. Rightfully so. But, I miss my cavalier days of candor. I've learned something from them, too. Now, I hesitate to hug.
These days a cough is akin to an invisible bullet that can lodge into your lungs and suffocate you. So, we're forced to practice social distancing. Physically abandon each other. However, like the days of 9/11, we make more eye contact. You okay?
I know we will get through this isolation. This plague. We have to. Because people need each other. We need our stories. We pass a narrative baton between each other to communicate and connect by device. So, the story expands and never ends. Ironically, the very thing that's keeping us away from each other is making us closer.