The Special Shelf: Staying Entertained Through a COVID Winter

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How do you occupy yourself for seven months when the very necessary needs of touch, togetherness, and collectivity are just not possible (or acceptable)? 

There is an abundance of Arts-related options to keep the mind and body occupied during the Pandemic. Streaming services in abundance, with what seems like a new one surfacing every couple of weeks, are covering all sorts of niches. (The best assortment of LGBTQIA+ films, so far, are via Tubi, a free service with limited ads.) I’ve gotten by without sinking further into a depressive whirl just sifting through the sprawl of riches out there on Netflix, Amazon, Shudder, Hulu, Ovid, OnlyFans, Criterion, Film Movement Plus, HBO Max, and Peacock (also, for the record, high speed Internet should be a public utility; it is absolutely necessary to countless aspects of modern living). 

But there’s more than just that if you just search around a little bit. There’s a lot of joy and biochemical necessity to be found just by taking a daily walk and getting a bit of sunlight. If you’re not necessarily a dog or cat person, perhaps a fish would be a nice, soothing friend to spend some time with. And never underestimate the value of YouTube tutorials when it comes to learning everything from the perfect smoky eye, fixing a misbehaving toilet, experimenting with unconventional spices (y’all, spicy panang rice krispie treats are all that), or dusting the inside of your computer without breaking it. 

There are countless musicians, drag artists, and comedians who have found a way to bring their art directly into the homes of fans and enthusiasts, and much in the way that social media (for good or ill) helped to democratize the link between icons and fans, the immediacy of pandemic art has helped solidify those relationships. It’s now possible to see drag icon Jackie Beat (WigstockFlawless, the recent delight Stage Mother), Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood, or members of Texan rock collective Shinyribs on a weekly basis. It’s a living illustration of the cosmic theory of checks and balances that we sincerely hope some aspect of the universe is operating under, because if not, the alternative is just too terrible to countenance. 

Comedian/Activist Maria Bamford (Lady DynamiteThe Maria Bamford Show) periodically has intimate Zoom shows where she tests new material, sometimes even in one-on-one situations. Always an innovator, Bamford is one of the artists I imagine taking this evolving experience of what pandemic art even is and crafting something transcendent and amazing. Hopefully, we’ll see what will come of that. 

If you’re into intersectional luxury, Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show premiered recently on Amazon Prime, and there hasn’t been anything quite like its imagination and diverse array of models and sumptuous underthings. Anytime you get a real-real fashion experience this devoted to representing all sorts of people that traditional haute couture tends to minimize or elide, that’s something. But this whole effort feels like a party, and perhaps it will give you the gumption to do some living room modeling right along with it. 

Covid-19 has hit the world of theatre exponentially hard, and it’s inspiring to see how those artists have adapted, like Nashville’s own Verge Theatre, who’ve been doing vital online conferences during the pandemic. Their conVERGEnce series pull together a lot of informed and intriguing people to discuss the issues that proliferate in contemporary theatre and social interactions, so they’re keeping those vital conversations going even when they can’t put on live performances with in-person attendees. It’s such a treacherous time for arts nonprofits, so anything that can be done to help keep these organizations alive is a good thing. 

If you need the feeling of transportation to feel like you’re truly getting away from it all, there’s always the drive-in. If you’re in the Nashville area, the Belcourt has been doing drive-in screenings in their parking lot on weekends. But if you’re feeling a tad more adventurous and want some non-quotidien scenery, there are several other drive-in theatres all within a forty to ninety-mile radius from Davidson County, and there’s a lot to be said for reclaiming the act of a drive-in movie with your sweetheart from the decades of heterosexual patriarchy which has claimed that iconography as its own. 

Going even more expansive, there are also campers (or Winnebagos, family buses, or Mystery Machines, depending on your personal lexicon). It’s a safe way to travel without having to worry about the unpredictable nature of hotel circumstances, and if you’re of an outdoorsy nature or practicing for a post-societal collapse liberated queer future, it provides you a central, mobile base from which to explore. 

But the most important aspect of any kind of activity is to wear a mask, keep socially distant, and respect the physical space of others. The LGBTQIA+ community knows all too well what it means to have to take up the burden of education and prevention for all when an indifferent, sometimes hostile government/political faction is shoveling crazy. So take care of yourself, and metonymically, everyone else. Because if everyone would just wear a mask consistently, it would change the whole dynamic of the pandemic.