Back to Broadway Baby

In April of 2020 my friend Jenny and I had tickets to see Company on Broadway. I was super excited to see it because it was a gender flipped production that originally premiered in the West End, and it’s the first show I ever considered flying to London to see. So I was super happy when they announced a Broadway run. Then COVID happened and the show had to shut down before it officially opened. They refunded our tickets, and it was unclear if the show would ever return.

Jenny, another friend Sarah, and I also had purchased tickets in August of 2019 to see The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in November of 2020. We joked about how long it was going to be before we actually got to see the show. Little did we know. That show they never refunded our money, they just kept rescheduling it. I think we rescheduled it three times with the final date for this past weekend. When it finally seemed like that date was going to stick and Company announced that they were going to reopen and put tickets back on sale we decided to rebuy the tickets for the same weekend, make it a two show day, and stay overnight instead of doing a day trip.

As you know if you know anything about me, I have been super cautious during COVID due to my immunocompromised status and have pretty much done very little in the past few years. This was the biggest thing I have done since the pandemic started. I’m glad these tickets were happily timed in the lull that it seems we’re going to get between Omicron variant surges. Hopefully the semi-low case rate plus keeping my N95 plastered to my face pretty much any time we weren’t in our hotel room or when we were eating outside kept me safe. Our friend Sarah decided she wasn’t ready yet to do something involving that many people which I get, but luckily my friend Jenn who lives in New York City agreed to take those tickets so they didn’t go to waste. Plus it meant that I got to hang out with her for the first time in two and half years which I was very happy about.

Music Man was enjoyable. I thought Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster brought a good, fun energy to their roles and had good chemistry together. The ensemble was really good. I also forgot how fond I am of all the songs in a Music Man. I very much enjoyed the show, but it was nothing groundbreaking for sure. It’s the Music Man as the Music Man ever was. I kind of like that my first show back was a classic though.

While I liked the Music Man, I absolutely adored Company. As I mentioned earlier this is a somewhat gender flipped revival of the 1970 Sondheim musical. Bobby, the central character of the show, who is usually a man was a woman in this production played by Katrina Lenk. Thus the three characters that Bobbie dates in this production were gender flipped to male. They also turned the couple Paul and Amy into a gay couple Paul and Jamie. I think all the changes worked really well. As the show is about a character turning 35 and feeling pressured by their friends and society to be married, I saw some people saying making Bobbie a woman was going to not read very well in this day and age. I didn’t feel that way at all though. I just felt like the show was a commentary on the good and bad of marriage and relationships and figuring out what that means in your own life.

In addition to the gender flipped aspect of it, I was also really keen on seeing this production because Patti Lupone has been starring as Joanne in it both in the West End and now on Broadway. Patti Lupone is Broadway royalty, and I had never seen her in a live production until now. She’s 72, so she’s getting up there in age and it’s unclear how many more chances I would have had to see her. Luckily she survived getting COVID a few weeks ago and was back in the show in time for our show. I would have been so disappointed if she hadn’t been there.

I wish that I had seen another actual production of Company prior to this one, so that I had a reference point for how it’s been staged before. I’ve seen the D.A. Pennebaker documentary Original Cast Album: Company about the recording of the original cast album. There was a staged concert production for the New York Philharmonic in 2011 that they filmed and released in movie theaters for a few showings as part of those Fathom events that Jenny and I went to see, but it wasn’t a fully staged production so it still didn’t give me a full sense of how it’s been staged in the past. I’m just very curious because I thought the staging for this production was fantastic and very clever. The number “Getting Married Today” was particularly amazing. I loved the whole thing and am so very glad that COVID did not ruin my chance to see it but just delayed it for a little while.

It was so great to be back in New York City after so long. I’m used to going several times a year, so this was a long break for me, and I realized how much I missed going up there. Despite some COVID precautions like wearing a mask constantly and not eating inside despite the lousy weather, it felt almost like a normal thing which is something I haven’t felt in a very long time.

Long Weekend in Lewes

I decided a few weeks ago that I needed a real break from life and from work. After pretty much losing my entire in-person social life once the weather got cold and it was too cold to do things outside and having all my holiday plans canceled thanks to Omicron, I was at a point where I needed something to look forward to and some actual human interaction. I knew my husband would have President’s Day off, and I needed to use up some vacation time so I figured it would be a good weekend to go away. I asked one of our other couple friends if they wanted to join us, and they said yes. They laid low the week before we left, and we all tested before the trip to be as safe as possible.

I had never been to Lewes, Delaware before. I was looking for something in easy driving distance for both of us and another couple that we’re friends with loves it there and goes multiple times a year. So I thought if I could find a decent place to stay it seemed like a good winter beach getaway. From what I could tell it has a cute little downtown area, but since unless you’re new here you already know I’m still pretty much living in my own private COVID lockdown due to being immunocompromised. So we didn’t really get to enjoy the full experience the town had to offer, but maybe some future trip.

Even if just spent a lot of time hanging around in the house that we rented, it was still a nice, much needed getaway. I went out for walks on the beach every day, which is one of my favoritest things to do in the whole wide world. It’s nicer when it’s warm, but it was still pleasant in the cold too. I don’t actually think I would want to go to Lewes in the summer because the beach is not very wide, at least where we were staying, and it has to be insanely crowded when the town is full of summer beach vacationers.

We also went to Cape Henlopen State Park one afternoon, which was not too far from where we were staying. We just walked around the paved bike loop trail and walked out to the end of the fishing pier. It’s an interesting park in that it’s an old fort, Fort Miles, that from what I gather was mostly used during WWII but was in some sort of operation until the 90s when more and more parcels of land got ceded over the state for a park. But you also have beachy stuff in there too. So it’s quite a juxtaposition. I kept being annoyed because even though the park does indeed have many, many signs in it, somewhere every time we got to some junction where we were trying to figure out which way to go there was never a sign that was helpful to us. It might be nice to check out some of the non-paved, sandy trails at some point if we ever go back.

Mostly though we just hung around in the house, chatted, and played games. We made breakfast and lunch and then found places to get take out for dinner. I was pleased because there was a barbecue place that had baby back ribs and also had something my vegetarian husband could eat. Although we do have a good barbecue place in our neighborhood that he can eat at, which is rare for barbecue joints, they only have St. Louis Style ribs, which I don’t like as much. That’s pretty much true of all the barbecue places in Baltimore. If they have ribs at all they’re St. Louis style. So I was happy to have a chance to eat baby back ribs for a change.

There is also a ferry that runs from Lewes to Cape May, NJ. We weren’t prepared to sit inside a ferry cabin at this point, and it was obviously too cold to stand outside on the deck, but it might be fun if we go back in the future to take the ferry over for the day and check out Cape May, which I hear is lovely but where I have also never been.

All in all it was a very lovely weekend away, and I’m really glad I decided to put it together.

Thanksgiving 2021

It’s a little hard to be thankful right now when I feel like I’m going to be forever stuck in this pandemic and half of the people in this country are actively trying to prolong it. I feel like I’m never going to be able to do the things I love again. But as much as I feel like life sucks right now, I am very much still thankful for things. I thought about making a list like I often have in previous years, but this year I’m just going to concentrate on the one thing I’m most thankful for this year, which is my friends.

At a point in time where most people have gone back to living their lives like they did pre-pandemic including my friends, I am thankful that I have a lot of people in my life who know that I am immunocompromised and am not experiencing the same freedom that they are and have continued to adjust things in their lives to include me. They are what is keeping me sane. So thank you to friends who do online game night with me most weeks. Thank you to friends who have agreed to shift back to online book clubs after delta ruined our plans to meet in person. Thank you to friends who when someone says why don’t we go to a bar for happy hour have said how about everyone comes over and we hang out on my porch instead. Thank you to friends who have invited me to fun outdoor events. Thank you to friends who have checked in on party plans to make sure I’d be okay with the set-up. Thank you to all my friends who are adjusting their lives to make sure I still feel included even when it would easier not to. You will never know how much it means to me. I love you all dearly and am so blessed and happy to have you all in my lives. So this year friends, I am thankful for you and I am hopeful that finally in 2022 we will get to start living more normal lives.

Newport Presents Folk On

I spent the past three days in Rhode Island (sadly I’m still there as I type this waiting to get a tire replaced instead of on the road home) for this year’s modified version of the Newport Folk Festival, which they were calling Newport Presents Folk On. It’s somehow both a smaller and bigger affair. Smaller in that each day was only 50% of normal capacity, it started later in the day, and they eliminated one of the stages so there were fewer performances than usual. With 5,000 people in the audience it was still the most people I’ve been around since before the pandemic. I found out that back in June when things were looking really good instead of trending in the wrong direction Rhode Island told them they could lift the capacity restriction. I appreciate that they stuck with it and honored that they sold the tickets promising 50% capacity. No other festival would have done that, but that is the Newport way. They did require proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test for entry. None of that is foolproof, but it helps. Space at the main stage didn’t feel much different to me because of the fact that they pushed the stage out presumably for more room “back stage”. I still didn’t feel that close to other people most of the time and if anyone was within a couple feet of me I had my mask on. There was plenty of room at the other stage to be far, far away from people if you wanted, which I did. The changes they made also helped free up some of the bottlenecks in the travel lanes between stages so that there wasn’t a lot of crowding like there is most years. Hopefully between that and the fact the festival is all outside with a nice breeze off the bay it was reasonably safe.

Aside from the set up of the festival itself being different this year was different for me because I actually had friends there with me instead of just my begrudging husband who would never do this if I didn’t force him to. One of my friends has also been coming to Newport for years, but we didn’t really know each other before. She was friends with some of my friends and I knew who she was but we never really talked ourselves. We had just started to hang out a little before the last festival and said we’d look for each other, but not even enough to have each other’s phone numbers at that point, and we never did run into each other. Now it’s funny because we’ve become good friends since then and text pretty much every day. She convinced one of our other friends to come for the first time as well as one of her other friends who I had never met before. So the four of us ran around the festival all day and left my husband with our blankets at the main stage where he always just stays. My friend and I are both of the same mind that you should never be somewhere music isn’t playing and since the others were new to the festival they were happy to just follow our lead.

I was a little bummed going into the festival this year because due to the capacity restrictions they extended the festival to six days instead of three so they could still sell the same number of tickets over all. You could buy tickets for Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or both. We just stuck with our normal weekend tickets, but when they started announcing some of the artists who were playing it seemed like everyone I wanted to see was going to be playing one of the weekdays. I would still love to see Allison Russell, Hiss Golden Messenger, Lake Street Dive, Christopher Paul Stelling, Katie Pruitt, and Julien Baker, but in retrospect I’m also glad to have had the experience I did. My advice to people going to Newport has always been go see the people you don’t know and always go to the themed curated sets where you never know who will pop up. I feel like being there on the days I was forced me to do that a little bit more and of course it meant I got to see some wonderful things I would not have otherwise.

I felt like there were mostly (though this is not 100% true) two major things going on during the weekend sets. You had the theme of really trying to give the stage to Black artists (even more so than usual because I don’t feel like the artists are ever all that white even though the audience for sure is) and then sort of doing the opposite of when Bob Dylan shocked everyone by going electric at Newport and having a lot of artists do acoustic stuff. You had Pattersoon Hood and Mike Cooley of the Drive By Truckers billed as the Dimmer Twins doing acoustic DBT songs, Phosphorescent played acoustic for what they said was the first time ever, and although Jason Isbell switches back and forth he did an all acoustic set with just Amanda Shires and Sadler Vaden instead of his full band. It’s funny because he got way more into the electric rock than he has been on his newest album Reunions and now that he finally got to play some of it live for an audience he took all those songs and made them acoustic.

Although I did love Friday and Saturday, Sunday is what really felt like the festival to me. One of the things I love the most about Newport is all the collaborations and people popping into other people’s sets including people not even on the bill and who are just there for the love. That didn’t happen much during the first couple days. I was honestly shocked that Amanda Shires didn’t join Natalie Hemby during her set to sing a Highwomen song since they were both there. All the themed sets where they were inviting artist after artist to the stage happened Sunday. It makes sense because that way some of the Newport die hards like Brandi Carlile, Jess from Lucius, M.C. Taylor from Hiss Golden Messenger, and Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes could be there and overlap both parts of the festival because I’m guessing they’re all going to pop again today aside from the ones that have actual sets to play.

The most Newport set of the weekend of course was the final set on Sunday called Allison Russell’s Once and Future Sound. Instead of having big named band X close the festival, Newport does these curated collaborative sets. And in this case they handed the reins to Allison Russell. I’m not sure how this all came about, but it seems crazy and so very Newport that someone who has been in the folk scene for awhile, but who literally just released her first solo album and is not someone who has been well known up until this point was not only given an open door herself but invited to bring as many other Black women as she could along with her. I thought there might be a little more torch passing and was 100% expecting Mavis Staples to be part of it. They paid homage to her, but she’s playing the Newport Jazz Festival next weekend and was saving herself for that. The final surprise guest of the night though was Chaka Khan because why not having Chaka Khan come out and sing two songs to close out the festival. It was just pure joy. If you could have seen my face behind my mask you would have seen the biggest grin on it. It was the best way to close out the night watching all these wonderful artists having so much fun on stage and the audience totally living it up to. I’m so glad that I got to be back and experience the joy that is Newport again.

Life After (Sort-of) Vaccination

It’s been one month since I supposedly hit full vaccination status and about 10 days since my husband hit it. After being super locked down through the pandemic thus far, we’re slowly starting to baby step our way back out into the world. The problem is that I take a whole cocktail of immunosuppressant drugs, so we don’t actually know how effective the vaccine was for me or if it even was at all. Basically the advice seems to be that if you’re immunocompromised that even if you’re vaccinated you should act like you’re not. To some degree the world feels even less safe now for me than it did before. With case rates dropping due to people getting vaccinated mask mandates and capacity restrictions are being removed it’s now less safe for me to go into situations where I don’t know if people are vaccinated or not. I’m getting angrier and angrier at the people who refuse to get vaccinated or wear a mask and can’t seem to comprehend that their actions don’t affect just them.

I am also super jealous of people who are vaccinated that thanks to the incredibly effective vaccines that were developed in record time are able to start living their lives again in some semblance of normal. I feel like I am being left behind. I want to feel like I can go back out into the world again without putting my life in danger. I want to be able to go to stores and restaurants. I won’t even outside anywhere because I have no idea how many people there are or are not vaccinated.

I’m enrolled in a study looking at the COVID vaccines in people with Crohn’s disease and as part of that I should have my antibodies tested in about a month, but everything I’ve read about that says that unless it miraculously shows that my body did still mount an effective response to the vaccine we don’t really know what it means. There may be other immune responses that are primed that they can’t measure in the existing antibody tests or if I have some antibodies but not as many as healthy people no one knows what the threshold for effectiveness is. There just isn’t enough data yet. So in some respects I want the test in hopes that it tells me the vaccine was effective and I can start living my life more normally, but most likely it’s going to show data that no one really knows how to interpret and I’m still going to feel like I’m living in limbo.

Even with the fact that the vaccine might not be very effective for me, they are offering me some ability to come out of hiding a little bit. The fact that case rates are dropping means it’s much less likely that I’ll come into contact with virus and now that we know that it’s very unlikely for someone who is vaccinated to pass on the disease to someone else I can feel fairly safe in situations where I know everyone is vaccinated.

I’ve started seeing some friends again maskless and in non-socially distant situations. I’ve hung out with a couple of different groups of friends and one of my book clubs has returned to meeting in person. We’re still doing all of these things outside because it’s safer and while the weather allows for it why not. I’m also going to be able to see my family soon. We’re going to visit my sister-in-law this weekend and a few weeks I’m going to visit my sister and her family where my parents and my cousin will also join us. I’ve also started dipping my toe back into more public situations where I can’t know the vaccine status of everyone. I’ve scheduled a million medical appointments that I put off. Not exactly the most fun thing, but necessary. I also have gone back into some stores for the first time in a year. We’re picking back up on the kitchen renovation we were about to start right before the pandemic hit last year, so we’re needing to go to stores to finish picking out all the stuff we need to decide on for that. I also went back to in-person church for the first time since the pandemic started this past Sunday. We’re meeting outside and still masked at the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s pavilion, so it feels very safe to do. I definitely wouldn’t be back if we were meeting indoors right now. It was really nice to be able to be there in person again. There is definitely something to be said for physical community.

For now I’m trying to concentrate on the things I’m starting to get back and not dwell too much on the things that I feel like I still can’t do or wonder about how I’m going to navigate a life that is going back to normal for people either because they’re vaccinated or because they’re unvaccinated and just don’t care while I do care and may not be protected. Eventually the world is going to move on and at some point I’m probably going to have start accepting a higher level of risk than I feel comfortable with because I won’t be able to avoid it forever. See above about my anger at people who won’t get vaccinated.

But I am thankful for all my friends who are vaccinated and are being accommodating to my comfort level for doing things like shifting a suggested get together from an outdoor gathering at a restaurant to someone’s house. It’s really nice to be able to spend time with people again even if I wish I could do more.

Acquaintances

One of the things I realize that I have really missed due to this pandemic are the people like acquaintances and more peripheral friends. I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping up with most of my really close friends through texts, online game nights, online book clubs, and online Bible study. There are a few good friends who are technologically adverse or just uninterested in spending even more time on technology after a long Zoom filled work week, which I haven’t stayed as much in touch with as I would have liked but overall I feel like I’ve done pretty good in that regard.

It’s all the other people that I realize I miss. You know the people that range from people you just see and say hi to because you know who each other are but you’re not really friends to the people you would consider friends but rarely see out of more sort of group events like parties or such. I miss the people that I talked to at church every week even though we don’t really have a relationship outside of that building. I miss chatting with my co-workers about non-work stuff like you would do in passing or while waiting for meetings to start. While we’re all sitting in Zoom waiting for a meeting to start we just sit there and stare at each other because there’s no way to have the sort of little side chats with the people sitting next to you. You have to start a conversation in front of a whole bunch of people. I miss those friends who I like to hang out with but who are not in my inner circle of friends and who outside of social media haven’t really kept up because there’s only so much time in the day and we’re all mentally drained anyway.

This is all kind of odd for me because I do have some low level of social anxiety and I detest small talk. I literally never know what to say to people I don’t know super well, so unless they are really good about guiding the conversation it’s going to be a whole lot of awkward. I even miss the people who are familiar to me because I see them all the time but that I don’t even know like the people I would see at the gym every day even though we never spoke to each other.

I can guarantee at some point I have probably turned and walked the other way or pretended I didn’t see you so that I didn’t have to stop and talk to you unless we are at a certain threshold of friendship. So to actively miss the people in my life that I would do that to is a little surprising. But I guess the good thing about all this is that it is teaching me that these people do serve an important role in my life and I should try and be more open and overcome that fear I have about engaging with them.

Oyster Crackers

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here about simple little pleasures, but I should really try and do more of that. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place to have something that forced me to find and focus on the good things in life. Obviously that’s been a bit of a struggle the past 12 months, but given the funk I’ve been in lately perhaps something I need to get back into the habit of.

I have some friends that I have been doing an online game night with pretty much every Saturday since the pandemic started. It was very cute of me back in the beginning to think that this was only going to last for a few weeks so I sent out a new calendar invite every week where I tried to name it with a pop culture reference based on what number week it was we had been doing it. For a very long time it’s been a recurring calendar invite named Virtual Game Night: To Infinity and Beyond.

Now you are probably wondering what in the heck virtual game night has to do with oyster crackers. A few weeks ago for Galentine’s Day I bought chocolate tasting kits from River Sea Chocolates for us ladies to do instead of our regularly scheduled game night. We didn’t actually wind up doing it on Galentine’s Day because one of the neverending ice storms we had for awhile delayed my ability to drive around and deliver them.

At any rate the tasting kits included two little packages of oyster crackers to cleanse our palates between the different types of chocolate. While the chocolate was good we all got a little obsessed with oyster crackers and for the next couple weeks kept talking about oyster crackers in our group chat, buying oyster crackers, and musing about whether for our next tasting we should try a variety of flavored oyster crackers. Who knew that oyster crackers would be more popular than chocolate?

I really do love oyster crackers, but they are not something I ever really buy for myself. I pretty much usually only eat them at restaurants when they’re served with soup. They are key with clam chowder, but it’s really hard to find clam chowder in dumb Maryland. We’re all about crab here so everyone has cream of crab soup instead, which is fine but not the same.

I too should probably cave and buy myself some oyster crackers to snack on as a treat.

Things to Be Thankful For

I’ve done a couple posts over the course of the pandemic trying to remind myself that there are still good things in the world because a lot of the time these days it doesn’t feel like it. It’s especially hard to be thankful right now when we’re supposed to be thankful at Thanksgiving because all the usual traditions are being upended. Instead of spending the holiday with family and friends it will just be me and my husband. But I’m trying to put on my thankful hat and do another one of these posts on things that I’ve been thankful for recently. This is obviously not a comprehensive list of all the things I’m thankful for. Just ones that I’ve been thinking about in recent weeks.

  1. Online Game Night – Pretty much every Saturday since the pandemic began I’ve been hosting an online game night with some friends. We play a variety of casual games from board games where no one else needs access to the board, games that have online versions, and stuff inside the Board Game Arena website. There’s a core group of us every week with some other people who have come and gone or occasionally drop in. It’s a nice little social thing I can look forward to every week even if it’s not as good as getting to hang out in person. The benefit is that with these friends having kids and also all living out in Harford county I get to see them every week now instead of just the handful of times during the year we would normally manage to get our schedules to align. Who knows maybe we’ll still do it on occasion even after the pandemic is over.
  2. Thanksgiving food – Even though I will miss out on the other aspects of Thanksgiving, I’m still super excited for Thanksgiving food. I love Thanksgiving dinner and am very excited to dig into a big old plate of stuffing and mashed potatoes and some pumpkin pie which I will eat for breakfast for several days after the holiday. In addition to regular Thanksgiving I’m sad to also be missing all the annual Friendsgivings I’m a part of that allow me to eat even more Thanksgiving food. But don’t get me wrong this food only belongs in November in conjunction with Thanksgiving. That’s what makes it special.
  3. People trying to slow the spread of COVID – There aren’t enough of us, but I’m thankful for the other people that are sacrificing their holiday and many other things in their lives to help keep themselves and others safe. It’s a thankless job, but I see you.
  4. Vaccines – It’s absolutely incredible that we potentially have 3 highly effective vaccines that should hopefully be rolling out in the new year. It’s going to help us get our lives back so much quicker than if we had to wait for people to develop herd immunity naturally. Yay science!
  5. Biden’s Cabinet picks – It’s just so nice to not have to care that much about Biden’s Cabinet picks because he’s actually picking people qualified to do the jobs instead of political cronies who have no experience and/or just want to dismantle the organization they’ve been tapped to lead. Until this year I don’t think I’ve ever been thankful for a Cabinet pick, but now I am.

Good Things Roundup

It seems like it’s pretty hard to come by good things these days, so I want to make sure I’m documenting them when they do happen. There were a number of things that made me happy over the past week or so, so I thought I would write up a quick post about them.

  1. We have now entered one of my favorite times of year when all the noisy bugs of summer are out in full force in the morning and the evening. Cicadas, crickets, katydids are all out there humming away now and I love it.
  2. I got a couple of surprises from friends that made me feel loved and it reminded me that I have some really great friends even if I don’t really get to see them much in person these days. Some friends went out to a farm and cut a bunch of sunflowers and dropped one off to me as a nice little surprise. That happened on a day when I was feeling really down on life and people, so it was perfect timing and very sweet.
  3. The other day I was watching TV and a character eating popcorn for some reason really made me crave the caramel/cheddar popcorn mix from Garrett’s Popcorn in Chicago. I looked into how much it would cost to have some shipped to me and decided I didn’t want popcorn that much. I did find two different brands of cheddar/caramel mix popcorns at the grocery store that I decided to do a taste test of. The Cretors came closer to the Garrett’s, but still wasn’t as good. The Smartfood I didn’t care much for. I posted about all this on Facebook, and then a couple days ago I opened up my door to a tin of popcorn from Garrett’s that one of my friends sent me after seeing my post. I have the best friends y’all.
  4. I got to actually see some friends in person this weekend. Some friends from DC drove up and we got carry out brunch and sat socially distanced in the grass behind my house. It’s a friend I’m used to getting together with fairly regularly, but who I hadn’t seen since we parted ways in the Tampa airport after going on what was in retrospect a very ill-advised trip to St. Pete Beach on the very week that the world decided that COVID-19 was a pandemic. Had our trip been one day later we would have canceled, but literally up until the point we were in the air flying to Florida the media was still downplaying how bad this was going to be. It was really good to be able to see each other again. I’m trying to be a little bit braver while also being completely responsible to see friends in person while the weather is still nice enough for us to sit outside because unless things change I don’t see myself spending time with people inside this winter. It’s going to be a long, lonely winter.
  5. Blacksauce biscuits are also making me very happy. Blacksauce is beloved staple at farmer’s markets and festivals in Baltimore serving up delicious biscuit sandwiches and more. I always got a Blacksauce biscuit for breakfast every Saturday morning pre-pandemic. For 3 months we did not eat any food that we did not cook in our own house. After the research kept reiterating that it was unlikely you would get it from eating carryout, we finally started getting carryout on my birthday. That opened the door for me to also finally start eating Blacksauce again. They are not at the farmer’s market right now. Instead they’re cooking out of a restaurant that closed last year and are doing scheduled pickups in their parking lot. The sandwiches rotate every weekend and some of my favorites only ever come around once or twice a year, so it’s been a nice stretch over the past three weeks with some of my very favorites: fried green tomatoes, roasted figs, and fried chicken with spicy honey. It’s summer so the roasted peaches have been in heavy rotation. I love that one too and will get it as soon as one of the rare ones that I love isn’t on the menu.
  6. Both universities that my library serves announced last week that they are going virtual for the fall semester. There was one day where it seemed like one would be virtual and one in person, which was going to make life very complicated. So I’m happy they got on the same page and that my co-workers who were going to have to go back to campus and interact with a bunch of students get a reprieve from that. I’m also grateful that I was and still am able to work from home through this.
  7. And that leads into my perpetual reminder to myself that as terrible as all of this is I have it really good. I am as I just said able to work from home. I still have a job. I enjoy spending time with my husband and my cat. We’re doing this in a time where it’s possible to still stay connected with people virtually instead of being completely cut off. And I’m not having to make any agonizing decisions about what to do with my kids this school year. I am extremely privileged in this situation, and I don’t want to lose sight of that either despite it still generally sucking.

Virtual Game Night

With our stay at home orders due to COVID-19 obviously social lives have been completely upended. Thank god this is happening in a time when we have plenty of options for staying connected even when we can’t see each other in person. In order to give myself some sort of social interaction with people I have been hosting a virtual game night every Saturday night via Google Hangouts. It’s worked out well. It’s kind of funny to me that I am now spending every Saturday night with a lot of friends who I usually only see a handful of times per year due to our normal busy lives. Now that we’re all stuck at home we have time to get together online every weekend.

So far we’ve played a different game every week. I’m sure we’ll cycle back through some of these eventually if this goes on long enough. But here’s a list of things we’ve played in case you’re trying to come up with ideas for your own game nights.

Trivial Pursuit

We did this with an actual Trivial Pursuit game board. We set it up so that my iPad camera pointed down at the board. Every team had a die they could roll for themselves in their houses. I just moved the game pieces around the board on everyone’s behalf and also read all the questions. I promise I didn’t cheat and read the answers when it was my team’s turn to play. The version I had on hand that we played was made in 1994 so the questions were really old at this point. After starting by playing by the actual rules we soon pivoted to the quick method of you get a pie piece every time you get a question correct if you don’t already have that color otherwise we would have been there all night.

Code Names

One of my friends knows some people who programmed their own online version of Code Names, which is what we used to play. I think you could very easily play this with the actual physical version of the game as well if you again had a camera pointing at the words and then texted photos of the key card to the two clue givers for each round.

Scattergories

This was a fairly easy one to play. I just took photos of all the category cards and sent them out ahead of time. Then during the game I controlled rolling the letter die and setting the timer. I talked to another friend who tried playing with friends who all had copies of the game, but they discovered that having bought them at different times sometimes the category cards were not exactly the same. So fair warning if you go that route. My sister also found some online generator that will provide you a random set of categories along with a letter that we used to play with my nieces.

Family Feud

We used this online version of Family Feud that I found to play. We divided everyone up into two teams and then made my husband the emcee since he doesn’t care that much about playing games. You could also switch the emcee every round if you don’t have someone who wants to do it for the entire time you’re playing.

Drawful 2

Drawful 2 is one of the Jackbox Games. They are a set of games you can buy online and then play with friends over the internet. I actually managed to snag this particular one for free. Only one person needs to own the game in order for up to 8 devices to also be logged into the game. To play via Google Hangouts or Zoom you just share your screen to the game. Everyone does need a second device to actually draw and answer the questions. In this particular game everyone gets their own weird clue that they have to draw. Then everyone is shown the same drawing one by one and they have to provide a title for what they think the drawing is of. Then you get a list of all the titles people came up with plus the real title and people have to choose which one they think is the actual title. You get points for every time someone selects one of the titles you created instead of the actual title and if it’s your drawing you get points for every person that selects the actual title rather than one of the made up ones.

Other Future Options

We haven’t played any of these games yet, but they are possibly on tap for future virtual game night.

Additional Jackbox games

Someone else offered to buy some of the additional Jackbox games, so I think we’re going to do another one of those this coming weekend. There are a number of those we could cycle through if we want to pay for them.

The Game of Things

I think this game should also translate fairly easily to an online interface with answers being texted or emailed to the reader rather than submitted on a piece of paper.

Five Second Rule

This is a game I’ve never played in real life before, but I saw it when I was buying myself The Game of Things and thought it sounded like it would also be able to be easily played online with only one person owning the game. I bought a copy so we can try and attempt it. We’ll see how it goes.

Heads Up

Again I think this should work out okay as long as people can have a camera pointing at the phone on their heads so people can read the clues that they need to be getting the person that is it to guess. Thus I think this will probably be a better game to try when we have a night where it’s only couples and no single players so that one of them can train a camera on the other. The the single person could obviously set up something stationary as well.

Pictionary

I think if we ever do actual Pictionary we will need to do a modified version of it because I don’t think the all draw plays will translate well to an online format. It would be hard to see both people drawing at the same time and the potential internet lag time might disadvantage one team over the other. Otherwise I think it should work to have a phone or tablet camera propped up so that it’s pointing down on the piece of paper someone is drawing on.

Charades

I’ve been a little reluctant to try this one since I’m not sure how clear it will be to see what people are doing, but it might be worth trying at some point. I’ve seen some online charades clue generators that people could use to get their clues.

I will also say that depending on your set up for playing it may or may not be helpful to have a couple of options in your back pocket and to test things out ahead of time if possible. For instance the first night we tried to play Drawful 2 we ran into some technical issues that I hadn’t foreseen because it was difficult to test the game fully on my own. Luckily I anticipated there might be problems and already had Family Feud in my back pocket, which we were quickly able to pivot to. Also at least the way I’m running my game night is that whoever expressed interest in joining has been getting the weekly invite. Not everyone shows up every week so there may be instances where we need to switch things up depending on who comes on a particular night. For instance the Jackbox games can only have 8 logins at a time. Sometimes we’ve had more people than that. The virtual game night has definitely been a great way for me to keep some semblance of a social life though and gives a little bit of structure to what we’re doing online rather than just awkwardly staring at each other through little online boxes.