The coronavirus pandemic is like an invisible natural disaster happened — a situation where, weirdly, the physical world remains unchanged, but inside hospitals and homes, people suffer terribly, and stunning economic destruction takes place. As the weeks have progressed, however, there has been a physical change here, even if the sun still shines and daffodils still shoot up. You’ve almost definitely seen photos of various notable locations (Times Square, the bridges) suddenly devoid of people. But March has reduced the city in tangible waves, in less notable places: New York becomes quieter and quieter.
The result is bizarre and foreign, like walking through a giant false-front movie set.
Generally, the ongoing state of New York is noise: cars, bars, music up from the street, silverware clinking and gently thudding in restaurants with sidewalk tables, people spilling out of those restaurants and waiting for tables on the curb, teen crisis and romance on the subway platform, the whole thing. Like anywhere else, you catch the accompanying ambient scenes of life all the time — e.g., a father, in pristine Jordans, carefully decking out a picnic table for his daughter’s birthday party (pink tablecloth, pink plates, pink cups, pink balloons) in Brooklyn Bridge Park last summer — just with, maybe, a higher frequency of good scenes and bad scenes because of the sheer crush of humanity. But above all: the endless, glowing hum of noise.