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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

“wait, aren’t you poor?”

As you may know, I live in London, where we have been under a fairly strict coronavirus lockdown for the past three weeks, a lockdown scheduled to last for another week, in an effort to slow down the spread of this bastard bug. I will not here go into the British government’s appalling handling of this crisis, which is second only to America’s, but follow me on Twitter for daily raging against it all.

Anyway, I vowed on social media to make the most of this lockdown by taking a walk of at least five miles each day, since there’s pretty much no other reason to leave the house and I need a reason to leave the house, and that I would post interesting photos from my rambles to keep me accountable. And so far, I’ve mostly kept to it. You can see those photos and my commentary on my Twitter feed#LockdownDailyWalk — and also on my Facebook feed. There’s some interesting stuff there, if I may say so myself.

And so: I got an email yesterday from a reader, in response to my #LockdownDailyWalk posts, who was all, “Hey, I thought you couldn’t afford to live in the cool parts of London, what’s up?”

And I told him the truth: I’m still broke. I’m still a starving writer. But I was incredibly lucky, at the beginning of this year, to find a new living situation that is a vast improvement on my previous one. Now I am ensconced in a reasonably priced room in a house in Battersea, which is more central than I was before, and a much nicer area. (Between my mostly awful housemates and the direness of the area, I probably would have killed someone if I’d had to lock down in the place I was living prior to this.)

That said: I am a grown-ass woman living, basically, in one room. I have the use of the rest of the house, to a degree, but it’s not my house. And that’s been tougher than it would have been sans pandemic. As anyone who lives in a city like New York or London (or Paris or Tokyo, etc) would tell you, it’s not so bad having small living quarters in an amazing city because you’re not home that much. That has not been the case this year.

I’m not complaining, not really. My housemates are lovely (one of them is a charmingly laid-back cat, who has been good for my mental health this year), the house is really nice, and Battersea is awesome. I have made life choices that have prioritized my sanity and my creativity over financial security, and that’s on me. I wish I was in a position to afford my own place, but that simply isn’t in the cards right now. But where I am now is probably the best I can expect for myself at the moment.

Even so, I never imagined that this is where I would be in my 50s. I guess I still have hope that I will someday find real, solid success in the sense that our capitalist culture expects, the kind that will allow me to live the sort of life I’d prefer. Maybe that’s delusional. But that’s a whole ’nother story. The moral of this one is: Don’t be too jealous of the apparent coolness of my life. It has come with tradeoffs that you might not have wanted to make.

In sum: Not to be too crass, but if you like my work and you’re not hurting during this plague year, I have a Patreon and a Paypal and could definitely make good use of your cash if you were so inclined as to throw some my way.


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