Neighborhood Photographers Document Life in Lockdown
Reflecting nigh on 100 days of solitude, I should be writing a love letter to Bloomingdale Aging in Place, or "BAiP" as everyone calls it. A bit over ten years old, this network of neighbors has proven itself to be the insta-community just waiting for anyone who wanted to join and meet-up hyperlocally. Did you ever watch "Cheers"? It's like that bar. But without walls. And no taps. You walk in, and everyone knows your name. BAiP is a perfect third place.
Its network of neighbors has launched nearly 100 different social and activity groups in the last decade. Groups that meet monthly, weekly and in some cases daily.
But when Covid-19 hit and flung all BAiPers into their respective corners, with a halt to in-person social activities, it was hard to predict what might happen.
Three months later, there are more than 100 people meeting up -- sometimes three times a week -- to join remote yoga classes and then stick around in a post-yogic haze for breakouts just to schmooze, share, check in, be.
Many of the activity groups have not missed a beat, moving swiftly online and picking up when Mother Nature thwarted them from meeting together in cinemas and museums, in parks and living rooms. Each group its own mini-community led by a neighbor, when beheld together these dozens of groups weave into a tight-knit fabric of connectivity for nearly 1500 people throughout Bloomingdale. The grassroots, neighbor-to-neighbor model not only has proven resilient and responsive, but it has also been a lifeboat ferrying from desert island to desert island keeping us castaways connected while we all endure the strange pause.
Knowing that with a click, three times a week, I can jump in for a yoga class, instantly connect, and lay eyes on all these neighbors makes me feel a solidarity like the one I feel at 7 p.m. sharing glimpses and furtive waves with neighbors across the street, ringing my bell as fast and hard as I can to keep up with the cheers.
And while these classes are great for body and spirit, BAiP's neighbor-led groups are the community-building engine at its core, and despite worst initial fears, many have found a way to persevere online.
One of BAiP's oldest living room groups, Photography, is led by Block Association cameraman and ubermensch Ozzie Alfonso. Just as Covid-19 struck, Ozzie sent out word to the neighbors in his group that the next theme to shoot would be "Life in the Time of Coronavirus." Slightly ahead of the wave, the crew got out there way back a lifetime ago when the crocuses were starting to come up. Over the weeks, they began documenting our neighborhood, our stores and streets, our residences.
Below is the very special, personal gallery that these local photographers produced. To view more of this group's work, see the dozens of their beautiful galleries here.
For me, coronavirus is a clarion call, like the one intoned by Allen Ginsberg at the end of Scorsese's documentary on Bob Dylan's magical mythical tour, the Rolling Thunder Revue. It's as if this virus is saying the same:
"Try to get yourself together, clean up your act, find your community. Pick up on some kind of redemption of your own consciousness, become more mindful of your own friends, your own work, your own proper meditation, your own proper art, your own beauty. Go out and make it for your own eternity."
Here's hoping that if we take one kernel of truth back out into the social world with us when we emerge it is one akin to BAiP's truth: build the community you aspire to and they will come.
This Block Association and its sister organization, BAiP, spawned here 11 years ago, deserve your TLC. We have work to do, people. And redemption of our consciousness may be the one true gift to arise from this ordeal.