Today I went to my SoulCycle "Outdoors" spin class here in NYC's Hudson Yards Plaza and the instructor leading the class said to everyone "2020 is over...it's DONE." I get why she said this. We all do, right? But as I was pedaling away I began to think about the last few months and how 'parts of 2020 weren't so bad'. Yes, 2020 (post-February and about a week or so into March) required lots of quarantining and social distancing, but it also required a lot of work to reach out and reconnect with friends and family. After so much isolation (especially in a place like New York City), you almost forget who your friends even are...because honestly New Yorkers are flaky to begin with so we often don't see each other unless we run into each other at events and restaurants/bars. But now if you want to see someone, you have to REALLY try.
Quarantining in many ways felt like an unintentional cleansing. Many people fell to the wayside or disappeared. This put a lot of pressure on me (in a good way) to reach out to the people that matter most in my life, and find ways to be together that were COVID-safe. I was also lucky enough to partner with MichelobULTA throughout this summer of 2020, so there was the added benefit of being fully stocked with low a great tasting, low calorie beer that I could bring along for everyone to enjoy.
Here's how I got creative and planned safe friend gatherings:
#1. SUP (standup paddle board) Yoga!
My girlfriend Debby teaches a phenomenal SUP Yoga class on Creve Coeur Lake in St. Louis, Missouri. You can rent a board and paddle there for $13 at Creve Coeur Lake Rentals. The whole experience is fun, challenging, beautiful during sunset and cooling on a hot day. And very ZEN as well! This was one of my favorite activities during my time spent in Missouri and I even met new friends there too.
I have to say, I probably woud've never made it out to the lake had I not reached out to Debby at the beginning of quarantine to catch up. I would've never met my new girlfriend Karin, or Claire who helped me film this fun video. I might've never known the serenity of this beautiful place...and the thought of that makes me wonder...is 2020 really "done" like my SoulCycle instructor said?
I don't think we should entirely cancel 2020. I don't even feel so resentful towards it. While it's taken loved ones from me, it's also placed new people into my life and social circle. So I think there are some positive things to be said, and what if there's more good stuff to come?
#2. Manhattan Stoop Hangouts!
Before outdoor dining and bars were even allowed to happen in Manhattan, there weren't many options for getting together in a small group aside from the Hudson River Park, local beaches, and green parks like Central Park. And even then, we were restricted to outlined circles on the grass and you could only have so many people in your group. There were even police and volunteers monitering the social activity in these places to make sure people weren't violating social distancing rules. Even thought it was necessary, it felt like an episode from the Handmaid's Tale.
I don't like the feeling of "Big Brother" watching over me and my friends, so I decided to organize some Manhattan Stoop meet-ups where myself and a few friends would catch up without going places that were already on the verge of being overcrowded. It wasn't so bad at all, and kind of fun to say hello to passerby's on the street who found it entertaining that we were having a beer midday. I mean...why the hell not? But let's be real, this is not something I'd normally do or could get away with when it's NOT a pandemic. And that's why it was so much fun and memorable and just really really special. Even little Frida doggy had a blast!
I will always remember these moments, and I truly hope to create more of them as the year wears on. Halloween is just around the corner, and while haunted houses, trick or treating and costume parties might not be happening this year, I've been brainstorming innovative ways to celebrate. Can't wait to share that with you too!