No Holds Barred: “Coming Out” of Covid

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"Watch your step; this place can be a little rough."

Happy Holiday season! Unfortunately, our country is sadly split between The Big Lie theory and Wokenoxious Socialism. And never the twain shall meet. It has affected all of us and left us politically exhausted and hateful — on all sides! There are no new leaders rising from any of this steamy brew. No wonder the most popular Xmas gift (not yet available on Oprah’s famous “My Favorite Things” list) is the Logan Roy “Fuck Off” face mask. It IS the mantra of the moment. Whatever happened to “Come All Ye Faithful?”

This version offers a slight gesture of goodwill.

It is an extremely unsettled year-end (different than 2020). Maybe we can forego that frenzied Xmas shopping routine now that the limited supply chains rule the day. Less extravagant gifts — more DIY creativity — less waste, and more heart. And definitely less cardboard box avalanches.

As for socializing, I’m with writer/illustrator Roz Chast’s book title and theory Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant — rather than just our own fears and hates. Basic respect seems to have disappeared. I’ll settle for just a little cool civility. At least we should all be able to fake it till we make it. A subtle form of denial sometimes works best in survival mode.

In the meantime,  people are out and shopping in real stores. I have yet to go to a department store. But is clear THE shopping “experience” of the moment was last week’s $80,000 robbery of Givenchy on 68th and Madison Avenue at 5 AM. Apparently 15 people broke in for this latest “smash and grab.” Forget online purchases, these rampage heists are the new form of shopping. This was not the first break-in. Givenchy was hit before in September and Alexander McQueen got bashed-in up the street in April and March. It seems there are not enough police on the Upper East Side. But store theft has plagued San Francisco’s Union Square Shops (Neiman’s and Macy’s) this year in the middle of the day!

Another day, another hit.

There are those of us who have only just started to dip our toes into getting out and about. I finally broke my 2 ½ year Covid lockdown by driving 45 minutes to one of Phoenix’s most popular restaurant, Tarbell’s. This was my first lengthy car trip and outdoor dining experience (I don’t do curbside or drive-thru’s).

I actually got into an old outfit and my dressy bedroom slippers.  It used to take me 15 minutes to “suit-up” for any outing. This time it took 4 hours. I was out of practice. The dress felt strange — I forgot how to button buttonholes and how to sit in a lot of skirt fabric. I also forgot how to apply lipstick with an accurate swipe. My two-year-old face foundation dried up in my laugh and frown lines and neck folds. The mascara felt bloppy on my lashes. How did I ever do all this before? I ended up looking older but so did everybody else at the restaurant.  And nobody cares anymore.

My post-COVID “coming out” dress and “slippers.”

I also insisted on dining at 5:30 — less people. But Early Bird is now the most popular time slot. It’s called Early Herd, and a party busload had arrived before I got there. It was a pleasant surprise how much I loved dining outside in the AstroTurfed parking lot with my pals. And for 80 minutes I forgot I was maskless and not suffering from Anthropophobia (fear of people).

The food was superb after living on rice cakes, peanut butter, and Stouffer’s spinach soufflé for two years. Tarbell’s is famous for farm-to-table cuisine. I got high off the taste of a real tomato and beets. Not to mention the simplicity of a molasses lime glazed salmon. I am not a foodie, but I felt like I had the meal of my life. And in a way I did, and now understand the popularity of all this outdoor “Covid Cabana” dining.

Dinner at Tarbell’s with all the fixings.

Nowadays, who needs “dinner and a show.” Now dinner IS the show. But then I had to enter the restaurant/bar area to go to the bathroom and harsh reality returned.  I was masked, but it was packed with unmasked shoulder-to-shoulder screaming, laughing customers. It reminded me of the Star Wars bar.  The bathroom had a line, and I fled.  Next time I will wear a diaper (Arizona has no enforced mask or vax card entry policy, which has been challenging for many of us).

I loved the outdoor dining experience (also I could hear and concentrate on my friends’ conversations). The tables were spaced far apart and there were no rats. I guess I will never be able to dine indoors again; the noise level got to me even pre-Covid. I am grateful to Covid for a few things —  like the sound of silence, and that less really is more.  And I don’t miss the raucous, tight-tabled, small spaced, dining experiences.  And I really don’t need “bar body brushing” anymore.

The outdoor dining patio at Tarbell’s before the Early Herd arrived.

As I mentioned, I gave up on department stores. Nordstrom and Nieman’s have made big comebacks by staging “store events” and going heavily online to attract shoppers. I’ll stick to CVS’s main floor. Escalators and elevators are almost gone from my life. As are airports! Our Phoenix Sky Harbor airport was shut down last week for 5 hours over a power outage. Friends of mine were stuck there on their way to Vegas. So, they ended up scoring a rental car (also hard to get) and got to Vegas before the airport re-opened. Cautionary tale!

Good luck traveling in the Holiday Season.  It’s already become a combat zone. “Low and slow” is the new normal speed.  So, practice your deep breathing skills for anti-anxiety and just accept the current wave of flight cancel culture!

As for everyone making their great “year-end debut back to life,” I’m anxious to see Queen Elizabeth’s return after a month-long “health hiatus.” At least the Queen didn’t have to face all the recent re-hashes of Lady Diana. Imagine — a documentary series, a musical, and a film noire. Who knew Diana had so much “material”?

The Queen also missed the daily meaningless reports of Harry and Meghan.  Maybe the Japanese Princess Mako and her new commoner husband Komur0 Kei will set a better royal example.

The Princess …

They got a simple single bedroom apartment in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen while he has an understated lawyering job in New Jersey, and she is purposely flying under all media radar.  They have yet to make a deal with Netflix and she’s not even designing underwear or doing an interview with Oprah. Refreshing!

And the Commoner.

Obviously “branding” and TikTok is where our culture has recently descended to. Even our politics is now all about hourly “drops” on YouTube and “Insta-trending.”  And of course, “streaming” is beating live theatre attendance (that I like, because I now get to see more and in my pajamas!).

Our world is continuing to change fast despite our two-year “outage.” Remember there is no “going back” to whatever we were before 2020. Holidays are always challenging; and so is aging.  Those two worlds have strongly collided for many of us this year.

I used to hate Bing Crosby’s sloppy nostalgic rendition of “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” What “dream” was he singing about? Now it sounds like the relatable anthem for my life.

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