The last time I wrote a blog was on Leap Day, the 29th day of February, which my friend Katie and I celebrated as if it were a holiday because “real life is for March.”
Well…welcome to real life.
As is tradition at the end of every year, I wanted to create my Top 10 List.
(I realize I have not yet covered 2019, but I thought it would be wise to first address the year of March, 2020.)
Also, as a side note, I rescind my comments about January being a bad month.
Top 10 of March, 2020
because, as many of us know, a year seems to have passed in the last 31 days.
Sunday, March 1 – “The Day of Blissful Ignorance”
I posted a blog. For those of you who subscribe via email, I petition you to read my Leap Day blog again because what you received in your inbox was not my actual blog. It was an unfinished, wildly ungrammatical skeleton of a blog for which I pressed the “publish” button at 11:58pm so I would get the February 29th time stamp.
However, I stayed awake until 2:30am finishing and revising it, so now it is, at least, coherent.
My late night blogging endeavors made me sleep past my alarm for a Greek Orthodox service I’d wanted to attend–thanks to the visiting speaker I met the night before–but I made it to my church’s service at 11:15am, where Liel Mook, father of Pastor Andrew, gave an incredible sermon on “Paying Attention.”
Tuesday, March 3rd – “The Day of the Grief Table”
This sounds like a bummer of a day, but it was actually amazing. My former roommate, along with two of her friends from Sanctuary, organized a table event to provide space for people experiencing grief. It didn’t need to be grief over death; it could be loss of any kind.
I went both to support my friends and to encounter God in a place I thought I needed healing, but God blew that lid right off that idea and took me to a place I didn’t even realize I’d been avoiding. It was a powerful night, full of grace (and many Kleenex tissues).
Thursday, March 5th – “The Day of the Magical Ricotta Toast”
It was a gorgeous day–sunny and 58 degrees–and in the morning I met with the owner of a cocktail company, Little Bitte Artisanal Cocktails, for an interview for a magazine article. One of the staples of this company is their aesthetics, how they use edible flowers to adorn their drinks. The bitters are created from scratch with herbs and shrubs foraged from local woods and farms. Each drink is meant to make someone feel special.
While I waited for her to arrive at Bolt Coffee on College Hill, I ordered a Golden Milk Latte and a Fruit and Ricotta Toast. The toast was adorned with edible flowers. It may be the best thing I’ve eaten all year.*
*the year of March, 2020
Saturday, March 7th – “The Day of 49 Years”
This sounds super meta, in light of March being a year and a day holding 49 years, but this was the day of my parents’ 49th wedding anniversary. I basically credit my entire existence to their marriage (“basically”), so it was an important day to commemorate.
Friday, March 13th – “A Day in New Haven”
There are a lot of things that can be said about Friday the 13th, but according to my friend Jen, who was born on a Friday the 13th, and my supervisor who bought her house on a Friday the 13th (and lived many happy years there before selling it for profit), it sometimes proffers good luck, and I’m declaring it a special day.
My original plan was to drive to New Jersey to stay with friends (who are like family), and on the way I stopped in New Haven, CT, to have a lunch date with the speaker at Orthodoxy on Tap (whose sermon I missed two weeks prior). Although he lives in NYC, he agreed to meet me at our half-way point so I wouldn’t have to enter the dregs of NYC traffic.
Two hours later, when we should have been wrapping up, my friend in NJ told me not to come–a confirmed case of coronavirus on his campus–so we decided to postpone my trip. The unexpected change of plans, while disconcerting on the one hand, allowed an extended visit in New Haven on the other.
Since my date had attended Yale as an undergrad, he took me on a grand tour. As students pulled suitcases around the quad, we held hands and ate donuts. Seven-and-a-half hours after we arrived, we finally said goodbye.
And, as a true romantic gesture, he gave me a parting gift: a package of toilet paper from the stash he had in his trunk. As my friend in India said, “it sounds like love in the time of corona.”
Saturday, March 14th – “The Last Day of Everything”
Granted, I didn’t know it would be the last day of everything, but I had my suspicions.
I went to the YMCA for Grit (a class now capped at 9 people; there were 7 of us) and Body Pump, which I’ve never done back-to-back after Grit, but I reasoned, “This might be the last opportunity.”
Two days later the gym closed.
My former roommate (of the Grief Table) and I met on College Hill and walked, whilst three-feet apart, to the recently opened Bolt in downtown PVD. It was the first and last time this year* I got to visit their new location. The mood was somber, particularly since my roommate is well-acquainted with others’ suffering and could predict where we were headed.
Before we walked home, we stopped at Yoleni’s, where Orthodoxy on Tap had been, and prayed for the owner, whose brother had just passed away, whose son had just been hospitalized overseas for an allergic reaction, and whose daughter had just been in a car accident. Not to mention the business. Not to mention the threat of Coronavirus. Despite recommendations to remain three feet apart, my roommate and I placed our hands on her shoulder in prayer and then we hugged.
Little did I know, it would be the last hug I would receive this year*.
*that is, March, 2020
Tuesday, March 17th – “Saint Who?”
Three things to note on this day.
1. A short essay I wrote, First Fruits: Writing as an Act of Worship, was published on the Brevity Blog.
2. The Tipplers had their first ever Zoom Writers Group meeting, and even though I told everyone to wear green, only two of us did. However, one member, who calls himself “Shadow Stalker,” compensated by wearing a neon green wig and a top hat, and changing his zoom background to the Irish Cliffs of Moher. I wish I’d taken a screen shot.
3. This tweet:
Day 1 of Quarantine: “I’m going to meditate and do body-weight training.”
Day 4: *just pours the ice cream into the pasta*
— Troy Johnson (@_troyjohnson) March 17, 2020
Thursday, March 19th – “Hello, Zoom”
Now nearly a full week into working from home, my “office” is in the kitchen, with my work computer standing proudly on top of kitchen table/shelves–the only piece of furniture tall enough to function as a standing desk.
Best of all, my kitchen window offers great facial lighting for all of my Zoom calls.
On this particular day, I had a Zoom call with Dennise of Artclectic New England, who interviewed me for her podcast (my segment begins ~27 minutes), and that was a delight.
Zoom #2 was with a group of Portuguese programmers who create HTML wizardry for one of our online journals, and thanks to my coworker Carlos, who initiated the meeting, we both discovered how to make each other’s lives 1000% easier. WHAT A GODSEND.
In the evening I called 911 (not on Zoom) because a man was screaming curses at his son while I was on a walk. After 20 minutes of listening to this, Stelio (Mr. Orthodoxy-on-Tap) called and encouraged me to reach out to the police. Afterwards, he kept me company on the the phone, and we prayed for our respective cities as we walked “together.” He made sure I got home safely.
Saturday, March 21st – “The Day of the Walk”
Before I moved to Providence in 2013, I visited Rhode Island to make sure it was a place I wanted to replant myself. I arrived the Thursday after the Boston Bombing, and that Saturday (following a manhunt for the bombing suspect) I decided to go for a walk since the state was on high alert. (Nothing says “safety” like walking 15 miles on a road I’ve never been on before.)
Long story short, I walked from Cumberland, in northern Rhode Island, to Providence, where I found myself at a park that would one day become the neighborhood in which I would live. That was the day I decided I liked RI enough to move here, and seven years later, almost to the day, I walked it again for the first time, except in the reverse direction.
I enjoyed the sunshine; I added 31k steps to my daily total; I caught up with friends on the phone; and I came back to find a neighborhood Italian restaurant selling pizza out of their window with $12 bottles of wine.
Let’s just say I earned back my calories that night.
Saturday, March 28th – “It’s Official”
After a relaxed morning, I strolled downtown and talked to my friend, Brad, on the phone. He had happy news to share, which made me happy.
My intention was to go to the post office (to mail a gift) and then to Yoleni’s, for another round of yogurt. I caught up with the owner’s un-hospitalized son. His smile brightened the overcast day.
Back at home, I was able to access a Grit Cardio class online, the same one I did before the YMCA closed, and I modified it for my living-room-bedroom inside my 3rd-floor studio apartment. It’s safe to say I eliminated the tuck jumps.
For the first time in two weeks, I blow-dried my hair and put on make-up. Stelio and I talked on FaceTime, something close to our 15th virtual date, with cocktails and dinner. Our conversation (in both Greek and English) ran so long we had to postpone our movie, and we deemed it official – we are dating in the time of corona.
What a year this month has been. I don’t know what’s in store for Providence, or our country, or the world, and part of me wonders if today we’ll get a cosmic letter in the mail that simply says, “April Fools!”
But if not, let’s please be good to each other. It’s the only way we will get through this. And be sure to take notice of, and offer gratitude for, the silver linings in your life.
If you’d like to help some of my aforementioned friends,
Bolt Coffee, where I ate the magical ricotta toast, is roasting coffee beans. You can have it shipped to you for only $5 nationwide.
And Yoleni’s offers take-out, and will ship Greek products (olive oil, honey, etc.) anywhere in the US and Canada.