Vital Moments

Late Spring Is Coming

In this installment of our social column: Matthieu Aikins, Dean Baquet, Mark Yarm, Tina Brown, Leah Finnegan, Kim Kelly, Micah Uetricht, Jad Adumbrad, Molly Jong-Fast, and more…

It’s the second to last day of April already, May Day is around the corner, and revolution (or at least a lot of solidarity) is in the air. The galas, award ceremonies, and release parties keep coming, but they’ve taken on a more contemplative, serious tone. Amidst it all, people are still having fun, reveling in the victories wrested from the darkness. Here’s some of the stuff of life that was lived this past week…


On Thursday, April 21, the Overseas Press Club of America hosted its annual awards dinner at Cipriani 25 Broadway. When his New York Times Magazine story on the fall of Kabul won a National Magazine Award earlier in the month, Matthieu Aikins was in Europe, promoting the French translation of his new book The Naked Don’t Fear the Water. So it was gratifying to be in the Italian neo-renaissance Great Hall to receive a pair of awards with the teams from The Times who’d worked on stories about Afghanistan. But the evening’s emotional poignancy came from being reunited with people he’d worked closely with during the chaos of the previous summer. “Although it feels like the world’s attention has moved on to Ukraine and people are not thinking about Afghanistan as much anymore, it’s certainly still in our thoughts. We were just emotional about all that. And there were some Afghan colleagues as well, who had been evacuated, who were there,” he said. “The experience of doing these stories and of the people that you write them about, people that you work with — many of them are still in Afghanistan — that’s not something that is changed by awards or award ceremonies,” he added, “but it’s fun to put on a tuxedo.”

The tux he wore for the occasion had been spun up bespoke by a tailor in Karachi, Pakistan. “Karachi also has a kind of swanky social life,” he recalled. It fit right in when he had his picture taken with Times executive editor Dean Baquet. After the awards, Aikins joined a procession to The Dead Rabbit cocktail bar. “It’s kind of an old tavern with sawdust on the floor,” he said. “The last OPC award that I won, in 2015, we ended up at a little nightclub where Naomi Campbell was DJing.” This year was more lowkey. “I think we’re getting older,” he said with a laugh. Ian Urbina, who’d come up from D.C. to accept an award for a story he’d written for The New Yorker, didn’t stick around for any afterparties. “I’m sort of awkward and antisocial when it comes to these sorts of things,” he said. “I bolted as soon as it was over and went back to my hotel.”

Input features editor Mark Yarm celebrated his birthday last weekend upstate in Kingston. “My actual birthday is April 25,” he confided, “which fans of the Sandra Bullock vehicle Miss Congeniality will recognize as ‘the perfect date’ — ‘not too hot, not too cold … all you need is a light jacket.’ Which explains the inscription on the delicious cake my wife, Bonnie, had made to mark the occasion.”

On Tuesday, former Vanity Fair, New Yorker, and Talk top editor Tina Brown celebrated the launch of her new book, The Palace Papers, at Michael’s in Midtown. In the course of the celebrations, Gawker editor-in-chief Leah Finnegan managed to wander into Atlantic contributing writer Thomas Chatterton Williams, who, according to Finnegan’s account, told her, “You are disgusting. You are not successful. You are disgusting.”

On Wednesday, Teen Vogue columnist and labor reporter Kim Kelly launched her book Fight Like Hell at the Powerhouse Arena bookstore in Dumbo. Among the celebrants were Intercept columnist Natasha Lennard, Teen Vogue politics director Allegra Kirkland and news and politics editor Lexi McMenamin, and anarchists and representatives from unions who had followed Kelly’s work, including a member of her father’s union, Operating Engineers Local 825 which represents heavy equipment operators in New Jersey and the Hudson Valley. “It was a nice mix of old friends and new friends,” Kelly said. “I had some friends from the heavy metal world that came out to the event and surprised me, which was really nice to see that kind of crossover.”

Kelly spoke with Andscape senior culture critic Soraya Nadia McDonald before signing books. She was surprised by how long the latter portion lasted. “It took a while because there was a really long line of people that wanted to get their books signed. I didn’t anticipate that,” she said. “By the end, they were kind of kicking us out because the workers needed to go home.” Afterward, she walked over to the 68 Jay Street Bar with a gaggle of friends and comrades. “I spent a lot of time at that bar over the years after various meetings at the Verso loft,” she said, “so it felt pretty nice to be able to head back there.”

Also on Wednesday, Jacobin top editor Micah Uetricht attended attorney Steven Donziger’s release party at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg. Donziger had just finished a six-month sentence on a contempt of court charge, which had been prosecuted on behalf of the U.S. government by Chevron’s lawyers after Donziger won a case against the oil giant in Ecuador. Amnesty International called his detention “arbitrary.” He spoke in front of the packed venue with Amazon Union organizer Chris Smalls and Chapo Trap House’s Will Menaker. Uetricht couldn’t resist when he heard about the grouping earlier that day. “The dream team of Chris Smalls and Donziger, who have given two of the biggest middle fingers to corporate America in a very long time,” he said, “you couldn’t not go see the two of them together.” He saw Donziger — who later tweeted that he’d danced the night away in elation — celebrating up close. “I was in the back room, I saw Donziger being feted by a crowd of mostly young Brooklyn hipster types,” he said. “He looked like he was having a good time and it looked like people were really, truly excited to see him, which I imagine must be a great feeling when you’ve been under house arrest for nearly a thousand days.”

Before Donziger, Smalls, and Menaker took the stage, Uetricht spoke with Tim Hunter, a candidate for New York Assembly District 43. “The recent news about Donziger and Amazon had me, as a leftist, feeling the best I’ve felt since probably Bernie Sanders Nevada victory in 2020. Both in terms of the objective state of the world and the state of the left, in particular, it’s been a pretty brutal two years. Bad news just keeps coming,” he said. “Both of those announcements, but particularly the Amazon victory, this victory against this corporation that has endlessly deep pockets to try to destroy any attempts by workers at organizing, the fact that this group of really scrappy workers pulled off what still feels like a heist against the world’s richest man, it’s just intoxicatingly exciting.”

“Both Chris Smalls and Steve Donziger had a serious sense of swag about them,” Uetricht added. “I’m hoping Donziger’s release and the Amazon victory are harbingers of a new vibe shift.”


Tonight: Former Radiolab host Jad Adumbrad will attend a concert supporting Ukraine at 7 p.m. at The Kosciuszko Foundation on the Upper East Side.

All Weekend: A deluge of parties surrounding the White House Correspondents Dinner will overtake Washington D.C. Atlantic newsletter writer and Daily Beast podcaster Molly Jong-Fast hosted one of the first with NBC’s Jonathan Allen on Thursday night. Unlike many New Yorkers, she was excited to travel to the nation’s capital. “Because I live in New York, I’m always convinced I’m missing everything,” she said on Thursday afternoon. “I love D.C. Everyone’s like, ‘You’re so weird,’ but I love it here. I think it’s really a great little city and I’m always happy to come down here. I know that’s a moral failing, but…” She’ll spend the rest of the weekend at the other parties, though she noted she won’t be able to make all of them. “A lot of these parties are at the same time,” she said, “which seems a bit problematic.” She’s determined to enjoy it all the same, in part because her escape to D.C. is so hard-won. “I have three teenagers and three dogs, two of whom are very elderly, so for me to get out of New York and to be away from my elderly dogs, who require numerous injections, and my teenage children, for whom I am not a hero, it’s pretty great,” she said. “The hope is that I come back and all the dogs and children are where they’re supposed to be.”

Sunday: On May Day, Uetricht is looking forward to attending a rally and march co-hosted by the Amazon Labor Union at noon in Washington Square Park. Kelly, on the other hand, is looking forward to doing nothing. “I’m so excited to take the day off. I think I have to do a couple of interviews, but it’s been really, really hectic the past couple of weeks, months. I’ve been really packing in as much as I can and I’m really excited to just sit down and turn my phone off and hang out with my sweetheart and not do anything,” she said. “That’s the meaning of May Day, right? Relaxing and celebrating life, not work.”

Tuesday: At 7 p.m., Jewish Currents will host its Soviet Issue release party outdoors at Union Pool. “I’ve been going to Jewish Currents parties longer than I’ve worked for JC,” said newsletter editor David Klion. “From the beginning, they were a way to experience the revived Jewish left as something real and vital, and they’ve been sorely missed since the pandemic started.”

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