Friends in the Time of COVID-19

Sorry to distort your phrasing again, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. COVID-19 still isn’t cholera but if friendship isn’t love — well, I must be in wrong world ‘cuz that’s the truest definition I know.

Yes, we’re back in Cañon City after our abbreviated trip to Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW Edu Conference. As everyone knows by now, SXSW is just one major event that was cancelled due to public health concerns.  We were already in Austin by the time they announced the cancellation, so we decided to go ahead and visit with the friends that we could squeeze into our suddenly shortened schedule.

The term “social distancing” had not yet entered our daily dialogue, so the various alternatives to handshakes — elbow bumps or Spock salutes —had not yet become pervasive. And I’m personally glad we had not yet heard “no hugging” as a guideline. As my friend, Anne Ducharme-Jones, acknowledged that’s a really hard one if hugging is in your nature.

Okay, I guess I can give that up temporarily — but not when I get a rare chance to hug old friends like Paul, Kate & Scott, Casey & Kate, Albert & Rebecca, James & Kara, Jeanette, Wendy, Paula, and Natasha. Most of those folks I have known for 40 years or more. I had not seen some of these friends in close to 20 years. You betcha we hugged. Hope we’re all still safe a week later now — no symptoms yet.

See, as a 65-year-old diabetic, I’m considered part of the high-risk population. Even symptom-free, I’ve been urged to avoid crowded areas such as grocery stores. Sara has made it quite plain with a stern admonition (with the accompanying look of stern enforcement) that I will not be allowed to violate that rule. While not fully self-quarantined, I’m certainly avoiding additional, unnecessary exposure.

While hunkering down at home yesterday, though, I did manage to attend 3 events I had been looking forward to — via virtual meetings online. I kicked off the day with Creative Mornings Austin holding their first ever “virtual meeting.” I’d been looking forward to returning to visit those folks in person since we would’ve had been in town for the meeting. While a little harder to pull off the “hugs and high fives” touted in the Creative Mornings Manifesto, at least this way I could still attend from a thousand miles away.

I also heard Dan Roam‘s planned SXSW Author Talk about his next book, The Pop-Up Pitch — while sitting in my home office. Once again, I had hoped to slip into his talk in Austin, but this way I didn’t have to try and talk my way into the Interactive Festival or deal with the crowds.

Finally, I spent parts of Friday night hanging out at the One-2-One Bar watching old favorites, DeadEye, thanks to a livestream video of the show.

As we move into more of these virtual meetings and gatherings at this time, I must admit I often just get this big shit-eating grin when I glance at the list of friends currently online in my Facebook feed. There’s Shuichi from Japan and Edward from Italy, and David from Mexico, connecting me world wide. Look at all the old friends hanging out there right now, from high school buddies (hi, Tracy! hi, Don!) to former co-workers and colleagues (hi Janet! hi, Mark!) to musicians and fellow fans (hi Mike! hi Ronda!) — it’s a virtual Time Machine allowing us to catch up again.

Looking for some online distractions during these days of social distancing?

  • A “couch tour” series, Live from Out There, featuring multiple live music streams — fee-based to benefit “musicians and music industry workers who have suffered a loss of income due to the recent outbreak and restrictions placed on live events and gatherings.”
  • Virtual tours of 12 famous museums
  • 34 links to free learning resources during this time of widespread school closures

Reliable and relevant information sources:

Center for Disease Control (CDC)

World Health Organization (W.H.O)

CDC Coronavirus advice

Wash your hands, dammit!

It’s a brave, new world. But never forget the things that have not been cancelled or quarantined: getting outdoors, music, reading, singing, laughing — and hope. These are trying times. Many people are dying, many more are sick, and many more are hurting. Now is the time to remember our common strengths and pull through this together — even under “social distance” guidelines — and we will persevere.

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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