High Maintenance is a super chill series that celebrates New York City’s diversity: Schneller
Series celebrates the inadvertent intersections of people in polyglot New York City and illuminates the risks inherent in that freedom, writes Johanna Schneller.
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The Show: High Maintenance, Season 2, Episode 4 (HBO)
The Moment: The tuna bagel
Baruch (Luzer Twersky), a Hasidic Jew who’s strayed off the path, is dancing with a stranger, Marina, at a gay club in Brooklyn. “You dance like a wild man,” she tells him. “You seem free.”
She’s from Moscow. He’s from “not far from here. South Williamsburg.”
She points to the curls by his ears. “How do you keep it so curly?” she asks.
“Twist it around your finger,” he says, shrugging.
They go to a deli. Baruch tears into a tuna bagel and begins choking. Marina calls for help. One of the club’s performers, who stopped in for contact lens solution, rushes over. He’s covered head to toe in glitter body paint.
“I’m a doctor,” the performer says. He does an emergency tracheotomy. The deli patrons watch, wincing. “He’s breathing,” the doctor says. “He’s going to be fine. Do you have that contact solution?”
This is currently my favourite series. In each episode, The Guy (series creator Ben Sinclair), who navigates New York City with a bike and a backpack, sells weed to someone and then we follow that someone’s story. The tone is supernaturalistic. The shots feel caught on the fly.
But watch again and you see that everything is there for a reason. The Lucky Charms the Hasidic guys eat. The number of times in this episode that people say the word “free.” The way the gay performers say good night: “Be safe, don’t get attacked.”
In its super-chill way, this series is an answer to Trump despair. It celebrates the inadvertent intersections of people in a polyglot city, the beauty of random individuals sparking against one another. But it also illuminates the risks inherent in that freedom and how easily it can be lost.
Johanna Schneller is a media connoisseur who zeroes in on pop-culture moments.
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