Buena Pascua, as the proprietor of the jug wine store taught me yesterday. I did my good deed delivering jug wine and chocolate Easter eggs to my friend Nicole and her four year old daughter. The eggs provided a few minutes of relief from the tedium. I hope the jug of wine I delivered lasts a little longer.
Also yesterday, a Facebook friend, which is a euphemism for a guy I flirted with at a swank New York cocktail party once, posted videos of crowds in his native El Salvador celebrating a Good Friday of yore. For me, it’s got to the point with Covid-19 that watching scenes of crowds congregating is as scary as watching a horror film. Everyone is going to die!
The El Salvador video reminded me of when I traveled in Italy my senior year of college. I was sleeping at a hostel when a loud scraping sound awoke me. It wasn’t until I looked outside and saw a chiseled Christ shouldering an enormous wood cross past my window that I realized it was Good Friday and I was in a Catholic country. Beholding Christ in this manner, I briefly considered conversion.
One of the things I was looking forward to in Barcelona was a good segrada semana, with lots of cross dragging and religious drag. I’m not religious, but who doesn’t love a good spectacle. I think of Easter pageants as the Church’s interpretation of a gay parade, although the Church probably thinks of it the other way around. Plus the grand Sagrada Familia is a 15 minute walk from here, so Easter here is certain to be a top notch religious spectacle with top notch drag. And, I’m going to write it even if some divine instrument strikes me dead, Sagrada Familia has got to be the most phallic church ever.
My friend’s El Salvador video also reminded me how Easter celebrations differ by country. I don’t think you’ll see this Salvadorian ritual in Rome any time soon, even after salvation in the form of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Vatican influence seems to follow an inverse-square law: strict adherence is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from Rome. For instance, Italy still adheres to strict boy-girl marriage, whereas in Spain, it’s anything goes. If Easter teaches us anything, it’s that all you need to create a another Christian sect is distance from the Pope and a new spin on the significance of Christ and his resurrection.
Alas, unless you live in places like Kansas that encourage infectious church gatherings, no religious congregations this year. The same is true, of course, for other cultural events.
This is one part of the Covid-19 pandemic that’s very different from the AIDS crisis. During AIDS, sex was dangerous, but hanging out with gay friends wasn’t. My friend Rabih wrote a funny-not-funny piece called How to Bartend which describes the San Francisco Spikes gay soccer team that we both played on (I’m number 4 in the photo, in case you’re wondering, and Rabih is to my left). The Spikes was my gay church, a safe group of gay men with whom I could process the horror of AIDS.
Who’d have thunk sports would be so important during AIDS, but it was. Gay Games II in 1986 took place in the scariest moments of the AIDS crisis. Allow me to set the stage. San Francisco’s Castro district was a ghost town, as it were. People were still confused about transmission. No one went out to bars. We were busy visiting our sick friends in hospitals and hospices. Everyone was dying. No one seemed to care.
The influx of gay athletes Gay Games II resurrected the Castro. The neighborhood filled up with fabulous athletes girding their loins with a drink at a gay bar before the games. It was like a ventilator to an unconscious Covid-19 patient. It was like someone flipped a switch and said, hey, it’s okay to have a drink, okay to take a time-out from the horror and let your hair down.
So what happens to religion, sports, and the arts in the time of Covid? How do religious, cultural, and sports institutions survive? It’s a question that’s on my mind because I’m on the board of the Moab Music Festival. Like many other arts organizations, we’re making it up as we go along. I haven’t seen the agenda for next month’s board meeting, but I already know the most difficult topic.
The reaction so far in sports has been to donate money, which is great, but then what? California Governor Newsom already has suggested there will be no professional sports events for the rest of 2020. In Taiwan, which had one of the most successful Covid-19 responses, basketball teams are playing each other with small crowds under lockdown conditions. Perhaps this model will show other sports leagues a way to resume play. I’m guessing professional leagues are exploring technology to bring remote crowds to such events.
It’s encouraging to see early artistic responses to Covid-19. Give artists an inch and they’ll create a new planet. That’s their job.
Writers continue to write, although Covid-19 changes plans. The book I’m completing, Dear Mustafa, is set during AIDS and during 9/11. You can bet I’m looking for connections to how Covid-19 is changing the world the way AIDS and 9/11 previously changed the world.
Charles Stross, who provides great insights into the Afro-Haitian origins of zombie stories, is scrapping a book because the Covid-19 pandemic is a better version of the story he planned to tell.
And the whole theme of this untitled novel was going to be: this is elite panic, and this is disaster capitalism, and this is what really happens during a zombie epidemic, and these things are not the same—
And then COVID-19 came along and basically rendered the whole thing unneccessary because we are all getting a real world crash-course in how we deal with people suffering from a viral pandemic, and we do not generally deal with them using shotguns and baseball bats even if they’re so contagious that contact might kill us.Author Charles Stross on the difficulty of writing SciFi in the 21st century
By now you’ve probably seen one of those videos with a bazillion people performing as though they were together in a concert hall. You also probably have no idea how the magic happens. I didn’t either until Brad sent me a link on how to make your own concert with remote musicians. [Hint: it’s time consuming.]
This is not a new technique. My friend Charles Yang was one of the musicians who made this kind of video as a multi-layered solo piece early on. Here’s a recording of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love from nine years ago.
So, let’s have a short Covid-19 Easter concert, shall we?
Let’s follow up Charles with True Colors from the Camden Voices in the UK.
Next up is Family Lockdown Boogie, which does not use remote performers, but is a fun look at family “fun.”
Here’s a recording of a live performance that has nothing to do with Easter, but ties together Barcelona and the United States. Pete Seger performs Viva la Quince Brigada, also known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, in Barcelona in 1993. It’s a song about a mostly American, Canadian, Irish, and English brigade that volunteered to fight the rebels during the Spanish Civil War in July 1936.
For our last piece today, I’m taking us back to San Francisco, the home of the first and second Gay Games. Here’s the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performing Truly Brave for the all the Covid-19 healthcare workers and first responders out there.
Buena Pascua from Barcelona!