A Quarantine Year in Review

Well folks, it’s been one full year since our lives all fundamentally changed. If you’d have asked me a year ago where we’d be by now, I would have told you hmmph, this nonsense will all pass in a few weeks and we’ll be back to normal in no time. But that was the 2020 Professor. 2020 Professor initially thought that COVID was like getting a cold. 2020 Professor also spoke about himself in the 3rd person. 2020 Professor was an idiot.

The 2021 Professor is a little wiser, fatter, and poorer. Okay, yes, he still talks about himself in the 3rd person (baby steps, people) but he has learned a lot of valuable life lessons in the past year. So to mark the occasion, he thought he would give you an update of the highs and lows of last 12 months with the Professor’s Pandemic Year in Review.

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Firstly, a message to humanity. Come on guys… let’s stop eating/humping/cuddling bats, no matter how tasty/sexy/cute they might be. I know, it’s easy just to point the finger of blame at China. But let’s be honest, haven’t we all looked the occasional bat and thought hmm, I’d love to stick that on the grill? I know I have. But how about we just stick to good old American corn-fed hormone-filled meat the way Mother Nature intended? Okay, yes, we did have mad cow disease a few years back, but at least that’s a cool name! Mad Cow sounds like the nickname for your crazy buddy down at the pub. COVID 19 sounds like one of those food colorings they put in Fruit Loops that give your kids ADHD. (Maybe if we gave pandemics cooler names, people would stop panic buying toilet paper. Just a thought.)

Anyway, since this pandemic hit our shores, things have changed dramatically for us all. Those in charge (and I use this term loosely) asked us to accept these restrictions on our lives as the “new normal.” Ugh. Accepting the “new normal” is like having to be okay with uncle Larry’s hand on your inner thigh at family get-togethers. It’s never gonna feel “normal,” and uncle Larry can go screw himself.

(On a positive note, young people are now qualified to talk about “the good ol’ days” without coming off as pretentious.)

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And here in New York, the year has seen some drastic changes in the lives of us jazz musicians. But not always for the worse.

Here are some NYC highlights:

-Even though there were no gigs, 2020 was a period of unparalleled economic prosperity for NY jazz musicians, who, upon receiving their unemployment insurance, saw their income double or even triple as a result! (It was, however, a sobering reminder of how much normal people make in real jobs.) I can now buy brand name medications instead of whatever my guy on the corner brings in from Mexico. Olé!

-As reported in the news last year, NY venues had closed for months on end. And with lack of human interference, rats moved in and began to take over some Manhattan bars and restaurants! (Given the level of hygiene of midtown venues, in some cases this was probably an improvement.)

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In 2021, things are slowly getting better. With the vaccine rolling out, New York is slowly starting to open up again. But there are no gigs yet. So I’ve devised a system to maintain COVID restrictions while giving much-needed work to NY jazz musicians. It’s a win-win.

Whoever's Left Jazz BandFor example: health regulations currently restrict NY restaurants to a maximum 30% capacity. Instead of actively turning people away to police these restrictions, each establishment should just hire a free jazz band. Playing Ornette Coleman tunes will keep people away, while giving much-needed work to musicians. (Nothing keeps people away quite like some free jazz.)

In public spaces, social distancing requires 6’ distance between people. Hiring banjo players in public spaces would be an effective way to disperse crowds in those areas.

So that’s the year in review. What will the coming year have in store for us? Only time will tell. But no matter what, you can be sure the Professor will be there for you, talking about himself in the 3rd person, with his hand resting reassuringly on your inner thigh.

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Reedman extraordinaire Adrian Cunningham is the leader of Professor Cunningham and his Old School Jazz Band, based in New York City. Adrian Cunningham was voted in a 2017 Hot House Jazz Magazine readers’ poll the Best Alto Sax Player in New York. His most recent album is Duologue, issued on the Arbors Jazz label. Visit him on the world wide web: www.adriancunningham.com.

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