IT IS A profoundly strange thing to sit here and write this and pretend as though everything is normal in the world. At this moment, around the third week of March, we’re putting the finishing touches on the magazine, and I am reading scraps of self-motivation pinned to my bulletin board: an excerpt from McSweeney’s that reads, in part, “[Treat] your demons with the respect they deserve, and with enough prescriptions to keep you wearing pants.” A note from my wife that reads, in full, “Oh hai.” A note I once wrote to myself in a difficult time to be kind, to do good, to see beauty in the world.
These notes suggest normalcy. As does the routine of extinguishing the small (mostly metaphorical) fires and big fires that inevitably blaze up as deadlines are missed and photo shoots get pushed back, a dance with which we’ve become so intimately familiar in getting this magazine out the door. But because this is not a normal time, to push the curtain back for a moment and expose the clockwork of what we do here, this has been a month in which so much of what we’ve come to expect of our routines, our norms, have effectively become … strange. It’s a word that doesn’t capture what it’s been like these past few months, as COVID-19 vaulted from a blip on the media’s radar to something that’s eclipsed everything. To echo what so many others have said: It is a very strange time to be alive.
To push back the curtain even further: The magazine that you hold in your hands is not the magazine we’d expected to publish. For much of the past couple weeks, we’ve been getting press releases from what feels like just about every local entity with a public face— venues, restaurants, community organizations, nonprofits—that needed to tell the world, Yes, us too. We’re canceling, we’re postponing, we’re taking a break. Some weren’t terribly relevant, others forced us to rethink our coverage, (our cover feature, for instance, had originally been pegged to Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week, now postponed until fall 2020), but they all sent the same message: Everyone has felt this.
AS A MAGAZINE, on a very basic level, we offer an escape—a means of putting distance (at least imagined) between yourself and the world at hand. We provide stories of bobwhite quail and James Beard Award-winning restaurants and an abandoned theme park that has still, despite all odds, remained in the public eye more than 26 years after closing its gate. But I’d also encourage you, during whatever escape you find, to not lose sight of what’s important, to not only be mindful and empathetic of those who aren’t so fortunate, but to remember some comforts. There’s comfort in knowing that the world will still be standing when you wake up tomorrow. There’s comfort in knowing that these events have brought out the very best in people. There’s comfort in reading scraps of paper that you pinned to a piece of cork board months ago—in recalling that then, as now, it’s never been more important to be kind, to do good, to see beauty in the world, and seeing that they’re all still there, and so are you.