Monday Morning, Shifting Gears

In these pages the impacts of the pandemic have not been a regular feature, but since early on it was clear we would be feeling the impact for a long time. Each passing week has given us reason to think about how we can adjust what we do. Click the image to the right for a conversation with an illustrator who captures that spirit of adjustment in his own context. At the end of the conversation you can see past cover illustrations that have themes related to bicycles. Not a bad way to start a new week:

As covid-19 infection rates have risen in New York, and the city braces for winter, it can be hard to see a reason for optimism. For his latest New Yorker cover, R. Kikuo Johnson finds one: the welcome surge of cycling across the boroughs. We recently talked to Johnson about biking, working from home, and one of his favorite views in the city.

This is such a lovely image amid dark times. Was there a moment when inspiration struck?

When I think of New York City, the first image that comes to mind is the view from the Williamsburg Bridge. From the top, you see the whole city at once: skyscrapers, graffiti, at least four bridges, the Statue of Liberty, sweating crowds in a rush. For as long as I’ve lived here, the bridge has been my gateway to Manhattan, and then my link back home to Brooklyn. This isn’t the first New Yorker cover that flowed from my sitting on a bike saddle and making that crossing.

Were you already working at home? Has quarantine been productive for you, or are you feeling its toll?

I’ve spent most of my adult life in pajamas, drawing in my living room and having my groceries delivered—I was very fortunate in being prepared for quarantine. With fewer social demands, I’ve finally been making headway on a graphic novel that I’ve been wanting to do for years, so that’s been a silver lining.

How do you feel about the city being reshaped by the pandemic? The diminished traffic, empty stores and office buildings, closed restaurants . . .

I’ve been reminding myself that New York will, hopefully, never be quite like this again, and I’ve been trying to take stock of the good changes: parks where every blanket has a picnic and an open bottle of wine, the outdoor dining that I always envied in Europe, and streets closed to cars and covered in chalk drawings. When New York is back at full steam, I hope we’ll keep at least a bit of that spirit…

Read the whole conversation here.

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