Writing the Apocalypse: Apoclayptic Cocktails

Happy Hour in Tompkins Square Park. The writer (far left) and friends. | Photo by Johan Vipper


“Writing the Apocalypse” is a weekly series featuring the poems, essays, and recollections of Puma Perl, with subject matter influenced by her experiences as a NYC resident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apocalyptic Cocktails | By Puma Perl

What’s the point of drinking without a bar to lean on and the unspoken possibility of a drunken indiscretion? The consumption of alcohol is not much fun when there’s little chance of shameful behavior, or, at the very least, regret.

In the East Village, people gather on street corners and in parks, drink Happy Hour cocktails, and maneuver their straws beneath their masks. Some give up on the choice between breathing and sipping, and linger in doorways, maskless, trying to ignore the glares of passersby. For the most part, there is no touching; flirtation is a waste of the energy required to drink, breathe, and keep fear and paranoia at bay.

We don’t know how to say hello or goodbye. What do you do with your arms and hands when embracing is forbidden? We make inane gestures, pretend hugs, kisses thrown behind paper and cloth barriers. Masks have become fashion statements, political proclamations, and fundraising tools. Wear the Rolling Stones on your face, support a bar, pull up a zombie gaiter, tie a bandana around your head. I wonder how gang members are dealing with Crips and Bloods symbols worn by dog walkers and accountants. The Hell’s Angels are long gone from 3rd Street; they probably have their own brand, it they’re wearing them at all. Everyone has their own brand except for those who stick with the utilitarian paper masks, cooler than cloth and easier to manipulate.

Nice Mask, Ma, a young man told my daughter, noting her Wu Tang symbol on basic black. A new pick-up culture based on hiding your face. But the eyes are revealing, unless you keep your large shades on in which case there’s often a resemblance to a bug.

Drinks to go is popular throughout the boroughs. Julie told me about a solitary excursion in her Brooklyn neighborhood, balancing a plastic bag containing a Margarita on the handlebars of her bike. The drink itself was in a waxed cup. It all felt so sad and lame, she said. I drank it in bed in my own glass with my own salt. I felt so confused last night by my drink, she added, It made me even sadder, and, picturing the salt slowly falling from the rim of her paper cup onto her clean sheets as she sat on her bed losing interest in the entire idea, I found that it made me even sadder, too.

© puma perl, 07/15/2020

Julie on the bed. | Self-portrait by Julie Turley

Puma Perl is a poet and writer, with five solo collections in print. The most recent is Birthdays Before and After (Beyond Baroque Books, 2019.) She is the producer/creator of Puma’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll, and she performs regularly with her band Puma Perl and Friends. She’s received three New York Press Association awards in recognition of her journalism, and is the recipient of the 2016 Acker Award in the category of writing. Her most recent books can be found by clicking here.

Sad margarita. | Photo by Julie Turley


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