37 minutes | Apr 13, 2020

Episode 85: The World in Lockdown

Now this is a place I never thought we would record from. This is my apartment, on west 97th street, in Manhattan, New York, USA. That sound is our daily 7pm cacerolazo outside. The cacerolazo, the banging of pots and casserole pans, was a South American invention, a form of earshot solidarity for times of government lockdown. I heard it in person a few months ago in Beirut, during their street revolution. It had already spread across the globe, even ahead of the virus, a contagious good, a clanking cri de coeur of all those who want to think up a better world.

Our family is, thankfully, in good health. Many of our friends are not, though they have largely been able to slog through their fevers, uncounted and untested, in their apartments. A couple weeks ago, I thought about fleeing New York. We saw what was coming: we took our kids out of middle school a few days before the school system shut down. But the panic that gripped me left soon enough, and reason took over. I knew from talking to my aunt in Madrid that it was people like me, panicky city-dwellers who wanted to wait out the pandemic in the countryside, who actually helped spread the disease. So I stopped googling rental cars and with my newfound moral resolve I wrote an essay for The Atlantic Magazine about the selfish folly of escaping New York City in the middle of the pandemic. The title, which my editors overruled, was going to simply be: I’m not fucking leaving.

Now I am faced with a similar question, about this show, actually. This show has had its share of pivots over the last couple years, from the death of its co-creator on down the line, and in light of a total and indefinite lockdown, it did cross my mind last week to just fold it up. But I can’t. The world and the people in it are too fascinating, especially now, when every country on earth is facing the same problem all at once.

So, The Trip will continue. Instead of the old format of a single in-depth, in-person interview each episode, this version will checking in with a handful of people around the world each week to hear about their lives in lockdown. Seven minutes or so each from each person, just enough for a flavor of their lives in this moment. The scheduled guest for this week, according the old calendar of The Trip, was going to be Berlin-based author Musa Okwonga. Instead he’s on this episode telling me what he’s going to wear to dazzle Berlin the day the curfew breaks. Saba Imtiaz, an old friend of Roads & Kingdoms, calls in from Karachi in part to tell the story of a pigeon who became too bold in the empty streets. That aunt in Madrid I mentioned before, Alexis Meyners—she’s technically my aunt but she’s my age and she’s a close friend—talks to me about falling in love with her neighbors during their long and harsh confinement. And chef Magnus Nilsson, late of Fäviken restaurant, a favorite collaborator of mine, talks about disease and rebirth in his apple orchard in southern Sweden.

The Trip is now available on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Your rating and review make a huge difference. I’d would also love to hear from you directly on Instagram @nthornburgh or on Twitter. I’m looking for more people in more places to check-in with around the world under lockdown, from Boise to Baku. If you know a person with a good lockdown story, or if you are one yourself, let me know. We will meet you there.

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