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Excerpt from Feral City by Jeremiah Moss, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Feral City

On Finding Liberation in Lockdown New York

by Jeremiah Moss

Feral City by Jeremiah Moss X
Feral City by Jeremiah Moss
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  • Published:
    Oct 2022, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

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2.

EMPTINESS GIVES PERMISSION

Just like that, the New People abandon New York. On the weekend before lockdown, the bars are packed. Young hyper-normals go roving past in drunken mobs, grabbing a last hurrah—and a dose of coronavirus. On Monday, March 16, 2020, I wake to a ghost town, the streets gone tumbleweed quiet. No cars, no people, my building relaxed into stillness. All the market-rate tenants have gone. While the rest of us were stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer, the heiress vanished, along with the downstairs people who leave bags of garbage in the hall. The Influencer has taken refuge at her family's home in a master-planned gated community with its own private airport. On her Instagram she puts up photos of palm trees and golf courses, complains about the dark roots in her quarantined hair, and styles a poolside picnic with Moët rosé, baguette, and brie. Hashtag blessed.

As soon as the New People leave, the Amazon packages stop coming. Doors stop slamming. Washing machines stop shivering the timbers of the building. No more screeching in the halls. No more Instagram photo shoots. No more Alpha Boys giving me the finger. And it's not just my building. Friends across social media say it's happening everywhere—the New People have fled. At night, when I look from my windows to the windows of other buildings, half have gone dark. Everyone is supposed to be home, sheltering in place, but no one is home. Except for the Remainders. The Leftovers. We stay, taking our temperatures and waiting for the virus to find us. As for the rest, it's as if they've been raptured away.

A velvet drape of silence falls across the neighborhood. Along the avenue, traffic evaporates, turning a thundering river into a noiseless canyon. Living above a clamorous intersection, I have wished for such quiet, but this is plague quiet and it unsettles me. There is nothing human out there. A police car drifts by, blaring its dystopian recording: "Due to the current health emergency, members of the public are reminded to keep a safe distance of six feet from others while in public places to reduce the spread of the coronavirus." The voice is digitized, dropping into the uncanny valley somewhere between real and hyperreal. This is where we live now.

"Millennials cooped up by the coronavirus head back home," the Times announces. They're not afraid of getting sick; they just don't want to be bored, stuck in New York with nothing to do. They want to be "comfortable," they say, to play "childhood board games" and "watch TV" with their parents. At their age, the last place I wanted to be was back in my mother's house, playing Candyland and watching Wheel of Fortune. When terrorism shook the city on 9/11, I didn't consider going home. New York was home. I came as a fugitive and don't relate to the desire to return. This is not generational. When the Times says "millennials," they don't mean all the millennials. They don't mean the immigrant and working-class millennials, the restaurant deliveryman, laundromat washerwoman, grocery cashier, ER nurse millennials. They don't mean the queer artist black sheep of the family millennials, the punk-rock millennials, the diehard New York, in sickness and in health millennials. They don't mean the native-born, nowhere-else-to-go millennials either. To freely choose to "go home" requires another place in which you feel at home. For others, belonging is bound up in New York.

We who remain worry about our laundry. Should we sit in the laundromat, breathing its deadly air? Or drop it off and take a different chance, the virus offloading from the washerwoman's well-intentioned hands? As my dirty clothes pile up, as laundromats close and my friends take to scrubbing underwear in buckets, I think about the washer/dryer in the abandoned apartment next door. The fire escape window is probably unlocked. I could slip right in.

Excerpted from Feral City: On Finding Liberation in Lockdown New York by Jeremiah Moss. Copyright © 2022 by Jeremiah Moss. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

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