‘Are you ready for the Boog?’ I had no idea what my neighbor in Connecticut was talking about. ‘Look it up,’ he said. ‘And make sure you get your Hawaiian shirt before they’re gone.’ Then he had to run. He was clearing the hillside next to his house so he could have a better shot at the wild turkeys.
The Boog, it turns out, is the Boogaloo 2020. The Big Igloo. The Big Luau — hence the Hawaiian shirts. The moment when civil war breaks out in America, triggered by a collapse in government. It’s the latest fixation for the ammo-and-Spam militias who are constantly predicting invasion by the United Nations or takeover by Hillary Clinton and the Deep State. The virus and its lockdowns have them all amped up about civil liberties. First the government makes you wear a mask to go to the supermarket. Next they’ll be after your guns.
The name Boogaloo comes from a 1984 breakdancing film, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. A boogaloo is a kind of funky dance. But the joke about the title is that you can basically put anything before the colon and it makes as much sense. Mike Pence 2: Electric Boogaloo. And for all those now locking and loading on their front porches, it’s Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo. Or the Boog. The Boog-ready were the ones who stormed the Michigan Capitol at the end of April wearing bandanas and carrying rifles to protest against the lockdowns. They think George Soros concocted the virus in order to profit from the financial crash and the vaccine, which they suspect he is keeping in a desk drawer.
I once covered a trial of white supremacists in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They were a ratty bunch of skinheads who called themselves, ambitiously, the Aryan Nations. They spent most of their time lurching around a dismal compound with their dogs, bemoaning their fate. Then every few years, they did something awful. One of them killed a state trooper. A splinter group robbed several banks, and killed a Jewish DJ. They threatened an American Indian woman at gunpoint when her car backfired near their compound and they thought she was shooting at them. Lawsuits piled up and eventually their compound was seized and burned to the ground by the local fire department in a training exercise. They were marginal and impotent, laughable even, their violence spasmodic. All this Boog talk and the President’s dangerous incoherence rouses these loons. Their dogs are snarling and clambering up the chainlink fences which used to contain them from society. The highest unemployment since the Great Depression won’t help. But perhaps I’m getting as paranoid about them as they are about Nancy Pelosi. The only way to settle it will be a Breakin’ 2-style Trump-Biden dance-off, no guns allowed.
I broke lockdown this week to take my 17-year-old son around Lower Manhattan. We parked in SoHo and walked down as far as the Battery, where daffodils bloomed and men fished in the harbor. If you’ve got some heavy tackle and big chunks of bait, you can catch striped bass. Either way, you get a splendid view of the Statue of Liberty. There were plenty of people taking it in.
The Financial District was desolate. A Japanese woman squatted underneath the statue of the Charging Bull in Bowling Green taking photographs of herself. Up in Foley Square, a skateboarder was at work, skittering down the wide stone steps of the State Supreme Court, across an empty Centre Street, while a cameraman skated behind him, holding his camera at knee height. My son recognized him immediately. Mark Suciu, he assured me, wasn’t your average gnarly ripper from the pages of Thrasher magazine. He turned pro while studying for his degree in English literature and posts about the books he reads to his 146,000 Instagram followers. It was hard to see the magic as he repeated the same flips and tricks again and again. But later that night, I watched one of his films, Verso. It is utterly beautiful, moody and très New Wave. It’ll be interesting to see what he has done with all this emptiness.
When 2,500 ultra-Orthodox Jewish men gathered on the streets of Williamsburg recently to mourn Rabbi Chaim Mertz, killed by the virus, the police had their hands full. Mayor Bill de Blasio showed up in person to disperse the crowd. It is always a bad look when law and order swarms an Orthodox Jewish community, even if they are flouting lockdown rules. De Blasio was accused of stoking anti-Semitism and whimpered an apology.
One of the greatest portrayals of the tightrope of New York life, the everyday grudges and nudges that can blow up under pressure, is Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The film’s narrator is a local DJ, Mister Señor Love Daddy, played by Samuel L. Jackson. When he tires of all the racial head-banging, he breaks from his smooth repartee and interjects: ‘Yo! Hold up! Time out! Time out! Y’all take a chill!’ It would look good now printed on a Hawaiian shirt.
This article is in The Spectator’s June 2020 US edition.