Pandemic Diary August 2021: Misty Watercolor Memories

Me and my freshman dorm 

This month marks the 28th anniversary of me moving to NYC. My boss was moving his daughter into the same NYU dorm I lived in yesterday.  While it was probably emotional for him, it stirred up a lot for me as well.

Living in NYC is never easy.  At every turn, it challenges you to leave. To stay is a fight—a financial, emotional, and logistical one. You put up with roommates, mice, roaches, ridiculous apartment layouts, questionable landlords, sticky subway poles, sweltering subway platforms just to survive. And in those moments, you wonder why. 

But then you stand on a rooftop on a summer night and hear Broadway performers singing Sunday in the Park with George and it’s unbelievably magical. You and your roommates all laugh and scream standing on the sofa with broomsticks fruitlessly chasing a mouse around the room. You overhear someone telling a story on the subway so good that you wish you could change subway lines with them to keep listening to them tell it. You meet one of your favorite playwrights and tell them how much their work meant to you and then you go out on the street and burst into tears. And these odd little bits add to up to the reasons why you stay.

I’ve lived in Seattle, Los Angeles, and the suburbs of DC. None of those places every felt right. When I left for Seattle, I sobbed as the plane took off.  But as my friend Laura said recently “I’m never sad to come home to NYC.”

When I first got here, arriving from a small town, I felt like I did not speak the language.  Over time I acclimated. A veneer of jadedness covers us all as a coping mechanism. There are too many people. There’s too much life happening around you.  Alas, you cannot take it all in and process it and still keep your sanity.

I was visiting Boulder Colorado once and as I walked down the street everyone said hello to me. It was terrifying.  New Yorkers are not more mean or callous. But you just cannot smile and say hello to everyone walking down the street (nor should you).  Whenever I have fainted in public, people have rushed to my aid. Whenever I have cried on a subway car, I have been left alone to do just that.

I’m not sure I recognize the girl who moved here 28 years ago. There have been a lot of unexpected tangents in my journey from that day until now. And what this city is, what it means to be here, and what it means to stay has taken on a whole different gloss since March 2020.

But when I circle my local park practicing my Korean vocabulary aloud, no one looks at me funny. Kids are playing on the swings and running though fountains. People play volleyball, soccer, basketball all at the same time and all somehow manage to share the limited pavement. Intrepid neighbors are selling food and drink out of coolers to the players and their onlookers.  And this feels like home.



In honor of my youthful memories of being a young idiot in the big city, I give you Nevertheless about twentysomethings making bad choices.

Song Kang deserves a grown-up vehicle after acting in so many teen dramas. Nevertheless delivers on mature themes but in a half-cocked way. It feels like someone thought a sex drama with half-naked Song Kang would be enough. But it turns out you need to invest in the characters a bit more.

Yu Na-bi (Han So-hee) is a struggling art student who is humiliated by her first boyfriend, an older man and art teacher. She swears off love after this.  When she encounters a flirty metal sculpture student Park Jae-eon (Song Kang) and known-bad boy she’s not sure how to navigate her lust for him and what she knows she needs.  So, she gives into the lust and they have a no-strings attached fling. But the red flags add up to too much for her and she calls it off. But she cannot avoid him at school completely. The show also follows several other couples in her art class and their struggles with being casual, having secret crushes, and slow-burn discovering their feelings for someone else.

At ten episodes, this show is uber-horny but lacking in story. We are left with a lot of internal monologues from Na-bi that never say or express much. Or are so literal I almost punched the TV.

She’s got some baggage from her mother which informs why she may be running away from this relationship, but also why she struggles to live “passionately.” Park Jae-eon has some mom issues too but they are barely explored. Also, they opt to shoot him frequently from the back of the head showing off his butterfly (na-bi in Korean) tattoo on his neck.  This turns him into a frustrating faceless cypher. 

His entire character is set up to be a carefree, maybe-or-maybe-not two-timing jerk. He’s a fuckboi and yet the series thinks it can somehow redeem him but having him change zero percent of his ways. Do not make me root for THIS GUY even if he is played by the precious Song Kang.

I wish I could say that choosing lust over reason feels liberating or sex positive here. But the way the characters are written it feels like toxic, self-harm. And while we’ve all been dumb in our 20s about the wrong people it’s hard to cheer for anyone else doing the same.