I did the unthinkable last week. I socialized.
My friend James invited me over for a fine cigar. I accepted. It’s been about four months since I’ve accepted a social engagement that didn’t happen over Zoom. I masked up. Grabbed my hand sanitizer. Kissed my wife, hugged the boys, and said 10 Our Fathers.
Is saying 10 Our Fathers a Catholic thing? I have no idea. I’m more of a Protestant. A hybrid Jew, too. But it is funny to me to imagine saying 10 Fathers.
Anyway, I arrived at James’ house in the Borough. The Borough is where the rich people in State College live. The 1 percenters. Or 2 percenters. It’s near downtown which is near campus. James is an economist. He doesn’t have children. So he can afford to live in the borough. James is also a small business owner. See? He’s also a minor celebrity. See? Mostly, James is a friend and so I showed up at his house.
“Hey.” I said.
“Hey.” He said.
I’ve forgotten how to socialize. I pulled out my bottle of hand sanitizer and started sprinkling it around his house.
“The power of Covid compels you!”
Is sprinkling hand sanitizer a Catholic thing? No? It’s more of a pandemic thing, I guess. Both, so far as I can tell, have roots in fear.
Zing. That was a funny joke.
Anyway! James and I went out back. He started a fire in his fire pit. I lit an enormous cigar. James poured us Scotch. Blue Label. The good stuff. His wife Kim, another friend of mine, joined us. His roommate Jason, another member of Happy Valley Improv (and another friend of mine), joined us. We smoked, drank, and talked. It was so nice to have an adult moment. No screaming 6 year-olds to interrupt the inhalation of smoke. Actually, much like Bill Clinton, I don’t inhale. I just puff.
Dawn, yet another member of Happy Valley Improv (and another friend of mine), walked by with their partner Brandt. James hollered and they came over. The outing became a regular party. A socially distanced gathering of who’s who in State College.
Dawn is a Physician’s Assistant. But they trained to be a doctor at a fancy medical school in Boston. So I think of Dawn as a doctor and solicit medical advice whenever the opportunity arises. Remember, I’m Jewish and this is what Jewish people do. Dawn has some Jewish blood, and so they get it. At some point, the conversation turned to Covid and Dawn’s treatment of Covid-positive patients.
It was so refreshing to hear an expert talk about viruses. And Covid. Reasonable, knowledgeable, and nothing in the way of political rhetoric. My takeaway from Dawn’s talk? There’s still so much we don’t know about Covid-19. And Covid-19 remains dangerous.
My takeaway from this social outing? Big fat cigars are good. And one glass of Blue Label Scotch is probably my limit. I like James. And I also like Kim, Jason, Dawn, and Brandt. It’s good to take an adult breathe (or inhale or puff). It’s good to laugh with friends. And it’s probably best if folks keep being cautious during these strange times.
The boys had their first social outing in months, too. My friend (and another co-owner of Happy Valley Improv) Andrea has a trampoline in her backyard. For her daughter. For herself too, presumably. I’d certainly make use of a trampoline during these times. Exercise some mania.
About exercising mania: This is what I did with the boys last week. Andrea agreed to let us come over to her backyard. Bounce to our heart’s content. The boys were so excited to leave the house and do something different. I was happy to give Katie a moment to herself.
We grabbed our masks and a bottle of hand sanitizer. The power of Covid compels you. Drove to Andrea’s. It was a million degrees. The boys screamed and bounced and screamed. Andrea’s husband (another friend of mine) Jason came out and sat with us. At a distance. It was so nice to chat with him about this and that and whatever. And their daughter came out to give the boys popsicles. The boys jumped until they were doused with sweat. I thanked my friends for their generosity and we were on our way.
“I want to hug you,” Samson told Jason as we were saying goodbye, “but the virus.”
“I know, buddy,” Jason said. “I feel the same way.”
So sad! But so nice to be with others.
I know some people haven’t thought twice about being with others during this pandemic. And others are locked away in bunkers, drinking hand sanitizer, and saying 10 Our Fathers. Or holding Kaddish. I’m somewhere on that spectrum. And I really don’t have advice about where you should be on that spectrum. There’s so much I don’t know about the situation we’re in. And I’m skeptical about lots of what I’m hearing. From both sides. That’s all.
Still. I’ve missed my friends. Miss my family back home in Minnesota. I miss my boys being with others. Isolation is no good. People are meant to be with people. And I think this situation we’re in has been taking its toll on me. Some days are better than others. I’m eager for things to be like they were. Or like they’ll be. Eager to not be talking or thinking about Covid. Who knows when that will be?
Here’s what I do know. Have a cigar. With a friend. That’ll help. Unless you think cigars are gross. Then you probably shouldn’t smoke a cigar.