From a Little Town to Lexington Avenue During the Pandemic
By James “Mac” Christopher
After fleeing Queens for my rural childhood home at the peak of the pandemic, I took an offer in October 2020 to be an Artist in Residence at the Roger Smith Hotel, stepping back into the clamor of the city with a mix of excitement and uncertainty.
It was a first date with a city I was in love with. I had lived in New York City for seven years and never thought I’d leave. All things considered, I was blessed compared to others. In April 2020, I moved back in with my parents in South Salem, NY. A dirt road, acres of woods, coyotes and one corner deli became my new normal.
When the vaccines finally arrived, it became the opportunity of a lifetime. To live in the Roger Smith Hotel as a writer was a dream come true. As soon as I stepped onto Lexington Avenue, and saw the immortal spire of the Chrysler Building, the endless stream of taxi cabs and the mosaic of diversity, my anxiety faded away.
I soon met fellow artists hibernating at the hotel amidst the ongoing fear of COVID-19, from outstanding video producers to Grammy-winning musicians. Creativity was everywhere, both palpable and intangible. From the artwork festooning every corridor to the electricity of finally collaborating with like-minded thinkers in the greatest city in the world.
For the past few months, my day-to-day work includes going to eclectic events in the Roger Smith Penthouse and writing about them (such as Latin Grammy winner Pedro Giraudo Tango Quartet), interviewing fellow artists in residence and sharing their stories, doing podcasts and writing about the greatest city of the world from a first-hand perspective.
Living in a hotel long-term seemed strange at first, but I’ve since warmed to the idea of having a bevy of amazing, varied food options right on the block, along with a gym next door and the whole city at my doorsteps.
The Roger Smith Hotel’s marquee says the place is ‘an idea’. That can mean many things to many people. To me, it has meant the bold embrace of hope and artistry. As it has for decades, the property champions the city’s bastion of creative talent. Even when it seemed that Manhattan had no hope, the lights were still on.
And now, the streets are once again bustling while the city life blossoms anew like an eternal spring. As always, the Roger Smith Hotel is here to welcome us all back, whether you’ve lived in New York City for your entire life or are seeing it for the first time.