better now

publisher's note 

A hundred years from now we might still wake up early on a Sunday morning in one part of town to pick up a couch in another after an evening of drinking, or maybe defending the controversial decision not to drink. There's a new novel out about New York in that not-so-distant future, when the city south of a certain street (is it 14th? 42nd? 43rd?) is navigated exclusively via canals and other new waterways. The tide that comes in each morning and goes out each afternoon becomes something to think about as you plan your day, not unlike subway service changes. Throughout the book, probably, the characters wonder about and are nostalgic for the pre-climate-change city, for Alphabet City and Battery Park and everything else that's found itself at the bottom of the ocean. 

And it's not hard to imagine that some of the the things written about in this fifth issue of ours – the diner that opens at 3:00 AM, the hidden warehouse "sexless sex party," the human bus driver, affordable theater options – may too seem one day like ancient underwater history. These future readers might even decide that they've missed the boat, came too late, that this city may have been worthwhile in 2017 but is in 2057 totally over, no place for artists or cranks or free-thinking people. And maybe, for once, they'll be right. 

But they're not right yet. It's easy to idealize earlier decades as being better or grittier or more golden, when the Sunday New York Times was a few pounds heavier and would take the week to work through fully. Instead, we'll probably remember this time by the strange emotions generated by early-morning push notifications from the same publication, often registered so immediately upon waking that the senselessness of the latest mass shooting or political scandal can feel like a sign you're still dreaming. 

It's hopefully safe to assume that feeling won't be romanticized as part of an exciting crisis era in the late-2010s. But amid the firehouse of data we're pumping out daily behind us into history, it might not be remembered at all. The stories and dispatches in this issue try to answer: what did it feel like to live here now – to visit Coney Island in winter, to foster local conversation about womanhood, to seek out an outlet for progressive politics in your community?

 As always, thank you for reading.