A few years ago, you may recall that Adrienne and I were lucky enough to travel to Japan for a week or so. In addition to eating our fill of ramen and conveyor belt sushi, we took in quite a few moments of serene, placid beauty, like when we hiked up to the Chureito Pagoda and gazed out over the landscape, Mount Fuji rising majestically in the distance. You know what else we saw that offered us a little enlightenment and introspection? People wearing masks—on the subway, in the department stores, walking around, wherever. It was no big deal to those who were wearing them, like a pair of sunglasses or an extra scarf, because it’s long been standard practice there to mask up. At one point it was explained to Adrienne and me that the mask was not worn from germaphobia, but most likely because the wearer felt a little under the weather themselves, and was trying to be polite and conscientious. In Japan—which currently has a little over 16,000 known COVID-19 cases and 850 known deaths, with a population of 126 million people—the mask thing is so not a big deal. All the corner stores and groceries carry them, in all manner of style, from Hello Kitty to ninja black. We even bought a few as novelty gifts, naïve American turistas that we were (and nowadays kind of wishing we had scooped up a few more!).
Right now, in this country, we seem to be having a huge shit-fit over wearing a mask, as if it’s some existential threat to don a little fabric. While many of us are doing our civic duty and wrapping up our potentially disease-spewing faceholes, some of us are either too lazy or too stubborn to put one on. So I’m here to tell you, having seen the proverbial future half a world away: better get used to it. This is one area where the COVID-19 crisis should actually bring about this long overdue social practice, something we should’ve been doing all along and something we should definitely incorporate into our routines for the foreseeable future. Maybe not necessarily everyone all the time forever, but the ubiquity and nonchalance of mask-wearing should be something we get comfortable with. (And anyone who is grumbling about “muh liberdies,” just remember that for now, in this country as in Japan, you can wear or not wear a mask in the grocery store or most other public places. But keep in mind those around you have the same right to judge your stubborn, careless ass and stay as far away from you as they can.)
There was a time early in the pandemic when masks were in short supply and I realize not everyone has the means to travel the world and see how other cultures operate, so it’s understandable that the introduction of mask-wearing into American society has been a bit of a steep learning curve. But inventories abound now, from surgical grade to the myriad options being produced by crafty sewers everywhere, in styles that range from manly-manly to ultra-femme. There really is no excuse to not have a mask handy and ready to wear at any moment.
Alright, enough lecturing from me. There’s plenty to get to in this packed issue—which also marks year 16 of ANTIGRAVITY’s existence. It’s been a wild ride since issue #1, way back in June 2004. And while it sucks that we can’t throw ourselves the usual throwdown birthday party, we’ll still find a way to celebrate. Because really, every issue is a gift, a miracle of sorts, never to be taken for granted. So thank you for reading; hope to see y’all next month.
cover image by Ruth Mascelli
back cover illustration by Adem Vant Hull
photo this page by Dan Fox, mask by Susan Fox