Tuesday, May 26, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 74


Dear Old Blog,

In this space, on Day 65, I wrote that one of the Paulist Fathers had been hospitalized in Washington, D.C., with COVID-19.

I am sad to share today that Paulist Fr. Richard Colgan entered eternal life on Monday night, May 25, 2020, at 11:45 p.m.

Fr. Rich, 68, was the first Paulist Father to die of complications from COVID-19.

In my role with the Paulists, one of my duties is to write the missionary society's death announcements and obituaries. 

Having been an obituary writer in my late teens and early 20s at the Observer-Reporter, it's a part of the job that normally comes easily to me.

But, writing Fr. Rich's obituary did not come easily. He was a friend. And the kindest and most gentle of men.

The writing process was helped by this profile video and audio interview with Fr. Rich that my office produced about a year-and-a-half ago:


The too early passing of this wonderful man leaves a void in our world.

Fr. Rich, from what I hope is a new heavenly vantage point, pray for us!

Love,
Paul

Monday, May 25, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 73


Dear Old Blog,

My book club in NYC (now meeting via Zoom) is reading Anne Lamott's 2018 book "Almost Everything: Notes on Hope."

I'm listening to the audio book version read by the author herself. I love Anne Lamott's voice. My better half here in the house is not a fan.

(In fact, I generally prefer audio books when they are read by their authors. It's usually more authentic)

Here's a tiny bit of inspiration from "Almost Everything" that struck me:

"Ah, prayer. In all of the excitement, I'd sort of forgotten to pray. Make me a channel of Thy peace, that where there is hatred, let me sow love, or at least not fertilize the hate with my dainty bullshit."

Note to self: Don't fertilize hate.

Love,
Paul

Sunday, May 24, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 72

Dear Old Blog,

Well, we bit the bullet.

On Saturday evening, Eric and I gave each other haircuts. It had happen. I was starting to look like a mid-career Kenny Rogers.

Eric went really short with my cut:



Sitting on the steps of our house in Lake Nona, FL, on an overcast day.

Maybe a little shorter than my normal! But, it will grow back quickly!

Regarding the cut I gave Eric, it turned out OK. Short on the sides and his usual length on top, with some blending in between.

Love,
Paul

Saturday, May 23, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 71

A tree next to the bench on which we sat during our little picnic

Dear Old Blog,

Every Saturday for the past several weeks, Eric and I have gone for a short drive in the late morning or early afternoon. This always involves going through a drive-thru for a bite.

It's often the only time we move the car all week.

Today, after picking up some breakfast items via the local Panera Bread drive-thru, we drove into the adjacent neighborhood called Northlake Park. We got out of the car (a first for these Saturday drives during quarantine) and ate our lunch on a park bench next to a pond.

It was our first time in a park in months.

There was only one other human being in sight, a fisherman on the far side of the pond. But, we had masks at the ready were other people to come near.

As it was, the only nearby life forms were an egret, a squirrel and a lady bug.

(I kept a close watch for alligators. None were seen.)

Eric looks up into the trees during our little picnic
Love,
Paul

Friday, May 22, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 70


Dear Old Blog,

I will vote for Joe Biden for POTUS in November.

He was not my first pick in the Democratic primary. But he has my full support now.

On Thursday, I made the largest political contribution of my life to the Biden for President campaign.

That's how much I want to ensure the current occupant of the Oval Office is not reelected in November.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, May 21, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 69

Dear Old Blog,

This afternoon, during a Busted Halo Facebook Live broadcast, Paulist Fr. Dave Dwyer referenced the 1997 song "Tubthumping" by the band Chumbawamba.

It proved to be decent motivation for yet another day in quarantine:



Love,
Paul

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 68

Dear Old Blog,

This is a few weeks old ...

And it's not a Sunday ...

But I kind of needed it today ...



Love,
Paul

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 67

Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV report:

I started watching "The Great" on Hulu today. It's a spin on the story of the rise to power of Russia's Catherine the Great.

It's awful. Simply awful.

I know it's not meant to be historically accurate. But, the creators of "The Great" aren't even trying.

The number of factual mistakes is mind-boggling.

Love,
Paul

Monday, May 18, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 66


Dear Old Blog,

Since the quarantine began, one of things that has been bothering me is the possibility that people may no longer shake hands.

As a one-time politician who shook thousands of hands on the campaign trail, I find this really disturbing. A good handshake is such an important part of political life.

A few days ago, I watched an interview on Bloomberg TV with Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, in which he said:

" ... I must say handshakes are over. ... "

I hope this does not prove to be true. We need human touch.

Love,
Paul

Sunday, May 17, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 65

Dear Old Blog,

One of the Paulist Fathers is now in the hospital in Washington, D.C., with COVID-19.

He has been intubated for his breathing.

Dear God, get him through this.

Love,
Paul

Saturday, May 16, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 64


Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV report:

This weekend, Eric and I have been watching "Hollywood" on Netflix.  We finished episode five tonight. Two more left.

It's cotton candy. Compelling. But still cotton candy.

Love,
Paul

Friday, May 15, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 63


Dear Old Blog,

My maternal grandmother, Dolores Vincenti Hoag, is seen in the great old photo above.

She in the front row, at right, with her right hand in her left hand.

This photo likely shows a First Holy Communion class (or perhaps a joint First Holy Communion class / Confirmation class) in the 1940s at our hometown parish, St. Alphonsus Church in McDonald, PA.

Our family friend, Wendy Greza Lundstrom, sent me this photo in April.

Wendy's mom, Joan Alexander Greza, is in the second row, behind grandma's right shoulder. Grandma Hoag and Joan were lifelong friends until Joan's death in 2003. When they were in their late 60s, they went together on a bus trip through Europe, with notable stops in England, Belgium and Italy.

Grandma hasn't been doing so well lately. A few months ago, she had a fall and broke her hip. And, in the past two weeks, she has been exhibiting signs of strokes. This is in addition to the drug-induced Parkinson's disease that she has lived with for more than a decade.

As of this writing, grandma is out of the hospital and being cared for in Room 306 of Townview Health and Rehabilitation Center in Canonsburg, PA. Townview is located in the "Old Canonsburg Hospital" building, where grandma gave birth to two of her three children.

My mother (grandma's daughter) died at Townview from lung cancer on November 12, 2019, at age 61.

No outside visitors are permitted there now, of course, due to COVID-19. It's not ideal but I'm glad they are taking this precaution.

If you are a praying type, please say one for my grandma, especially for her peace of mind.

This coming Wednesday, May 20, will be her 87th birthday.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, May 14, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 62


Dear Old Blog,

Today in quarantine TV, I watched the documentary "Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story" on Netflix.

I enjoyed this touching and well-told story of the lasting Hollywood marriage between Harold Michelson and Lillian Michelson — behind-the-scenes figures who made contributions to some great 20th century films.

Love,
Paul

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 61


Dear Old Blog,

Since I've been sharing some details about our quarantine TV in this space, I probably also should report on quarantine reading.

Well, not really reading — more like listening — as I consumed this particular volume as an audio book.

"Baseball as a Road to God" was my pick for my old book club in NYC to read and discuss (we rotate book selection for the group). It was written by John Sexton, who served for many years a president of my alma mater, New York University.

This book was more "baseball" than "God" than I would have preferred. But, it was a worthwhile listen nonetheless. At its heart, "Baseball as a Road to God" makes the case for appreciating the transcendent parts of life and their comforting rituals and rhythms.

For instance, many a passionate opera fan likely could write a similar book with the title "Opera as a Road to God."

My only real criticism was that President Sexton didn't read the audio book himself. The voice of the narrator of "Baseball as a Road to God" was too perfect. This offering would have benefitted from Sexton's New York sound.

Love,
Paul

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 60


Dear Old Blog,

I went into a storefront today for the first time since I began the quarantine.

It was the UPS Store near us on Narcoosee Road. I had to go to the store to pick up a delivery that required a signature.

I wore as mask in the store. First time doing that, too.

Love,
Paul

Saturday, May 09, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 57


Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV report:

Over the past two evenings, Eric and I binge-watched the HBO documentary series "McMillion$" on Hulu.

It was intriguing. I had forgotten this news story from 2001 (if it was even on my radar then).

I would say "McMillion$" is required viewing for anyone with a stake in consumer marketing, especially those who entrust major functions to outside vendors.

"Trust but constantly verify" should be our motto.

Love,
Paul

Friday, May 08, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 56

Dear Old Blog,

Andrew Sullivan describes how he feels about the current occupant of the Oval Office — and his supporters:
" ... He is an incoherent, malevolent mess of a human being. I used to be disgusted by him. I am now incandescent with rage at him and the cult that enables his abuse of all of us."
I co-sign that emotion.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, May 07, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 55


Dear Old Blog, 

My two cents:

We need a Constitutional amendment to make the U.S. Attorney General and the Justice Department independent of the POTUS and the White House.

The integrity of both are now under attack by the current POTUS.

Along the same lines, the POTUS should not have the power to fire the Inspector General of any federal department or office.

We cannot trust that good people will be at the helm. Permanent structural change is needed to preserve the rule of law in our nation.

Love,
Paul

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 54

Dear Old Blog,

The death toll is horrifying:


How do we get our minds and hearts around these numbers? How do we process this?

Love,
Paul

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 53

Dear Old Blog,

Personal experience does not equal fact.

As illustrated by Nathan Pyle:

Love,
Paul

Monday, May 04, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 52


Dear Old Blog,

Being the fourth of May, Eric and I turned to Disney+ after dinner.

We watched "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," which we had missed in the movie theater.

It's always wonderful to be in the "Star Wars" universe. And I do like the character of Rey. But "Rise of Skywalker" didn't knock my socks off. It's good but not great.

Love,
Paul

Sunday, May 03, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 51

Dear Old Blog,

For the Church, today was "Good Shepherd Sunday."

Hence my ear worm:


Love,
Paul


Saturday, May 02, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 50


Dear Old Blog,

It's Day 50 of my quarantine. It's still hard to get my brain around it all.

Eric and I went for another Saturday afternoon drive today.

Like last Saturday, we did not get out of the car.

We went through the Panera Bread drive-thru and ate our lunch in the parking lot.

Then, we drove around the adjacent Moss Park neighborhood. It was one of the few neighborhoods in our part of Orlando that we had not yet explored.

We even briefly drove into the actual Moss Park, a county park. We stayed in the Nissan.

When this pandemic is over, I look forward to taking our Saturday lunch there for a picnic.

Love,
Paul

Friday, May 01, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 49

Dear Old Blog,

A few days ago, the father of my friend Helena died.

Helena wrote in a Facebook post:
"The worst thing about losing someone to this virus is it robs you of the ability to mourn properly. There’s no bedside goodbyes or kisses to let your loved one know they’re not alone and somehow, that makes it feel less real. So this is my attempt at closure. It’s been a few days and I experience moments of complete normalcy mixed with waves of intense grief. I’m completely heartbroken and so unbelievably angry. I’d give anything to have you call me to ask what time the Yankees are playing today or to hear “madoneeee” just one more time. RIP Dad. I miss you."
I pray that Helena's dad, and all those who have died, are now in God's warm embrace.

I pray, as well, for Helena, her family and all those around the world who are now mourning the death of a loved one.

"Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted." (Mt 5: 4)

Love,
Paul

Thursday, April 30, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 48

Dear Old Blog,

The arts have been so important to helping us stay sane during these quarantine days.

Here is a beautiful example of that from Toronto:



Love,
Paul

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 47

Dear Old Blog,

Here is the top tune on my quarantine playlist this week:



Love,
Paul

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 46

Dear Old Blog,

Some more balm for these quarantine days from the great Stephanie Blythe ... "Can't Help Falling in Love" is a favorite of mine:



Love,
Paul

Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 45


Dear Old Blog,

In this New York Times op-ed, we learned about Cesar Quirumbay's life and untimely death from COVID-19.

My favorite part:
" ... Then there was the time that Mr. Quirumbay and his fellow tailor Ki Soo Jeong, a Korean immigrant, spent a weekend trying to make a suit and a bomber jacket out of a single sheet of purple plastic for Ben Stiller to wear in 'Zoolander 2.' Mr. Quirumbay didn’t speak Korean, Mr. Ki doesn’t speak Spanish, and neither of them really mastered English. But despite all that — and though the iron kept melting the plastic — they pulled it off. The duo made an impressive team and were constantly cracking each other up with jokes that were unintelligible to any outsider. Mr. Logsdail said it was as if they invented their own language. ... "
Love,
Paul

Sunday, April 26, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 44

Dear Old Blog,

Lord knows I have cabin fever.

Lord knows I need a hair cut.

Lord knows I want to get back to normal life.

I miss going to Church. I miss going to restaurants.

I miss work trips in NYC.

I miss people.

BUT I know that decisions on reopening need to be led by scientists and doctors.

NOT by business.

NOT by stock market insiders.

COVID-19 is too deadly and damaging to make these decisions with rose-colored glasses on.

Yes, reopening the economy is important.

But, it's not as important as lives and health.

Getting "back to business" is less important than ensuring we do not have a second wave of virus transmission across the country.

It's not worth the risk.

Love,
Paul

Saturday, April 25, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 43


Dear Old Blog,

This afternoon, Eric and I went for a mental health drive.

We did not go far. We did not get out of the car.

But, we did go to the Panera Bread drive-thru for lunch. It was the first time we have gone to a drive-thru in weeks.

Love,
Paul

Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 42

Dear Old Blog,

As of tonight, approximately 52,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

Worldwide, that number of reported dead is approximately 196,000:


Getting your brain and heart around these horrible numbers is incredibly hard. This death toll is equal to the size of a small city.

I pray that all of the dead around the world are now in God's warm embrace.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, April 23, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 41


Dear Old Blog,

Tonight, after dinner and our evening walk, Eric and I watched the fine documentary "Ask Dr. Ruth" on Hulu.

It's the story of famed sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

Dr. Ruth lives in NYC's Washington Heights, in a building just a few blocks north of our apartment there.

We were privileged to meet Dr. Ruth a few times over our years in the neighborhood, including at a wonderful Fourth of July dinner at the home of our dear friend Hortense.

What an extraordinary woman! Her drive at age 90 is amazing. I imagine the quarantine must be challenging for someone who so clearly loves being always on the go.

Love,
Paul

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 40


Dear Old Blog,

Here in quarantine land, sometimes it's the little victories.

Eric and I went for a fairly long walk around the neighborhood this evening. We've now gone on walks two evenings in a row.

We need to make it a habit.

Love,
Paul

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 39

Dear Old Blog,

Word came today that one of our neighbors in NYC has died from COVID-19.

Ralph Steinberg lived on the floor below us in our building.

He is survived by his longtime partner, John.

Ralph is the first person I knew personally to die from the virus. May he rest in peace.

Love,
Paul

Monday, April 20, 2020

COVID 19 Diary: Day 38

Dear Old Blog,

On April 8 (Day 26), I wrote about wanting to be more disciplined here in quarantine land.

Today, I came closer to that goal:

Early morning shower? Check.

Bed made in the morning? Check.

Solid breakfast? Check.

Consistent work flow through the day? Check.

Evening Zoom meeting with NYC Book Club? Check.

Totally clean kitchen after dinner? Check.

If only I had gone on a walk, the day would have been perfect. Tomorrow!

Love,
Paul

Sunday, April 19, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 37


Dear Old Blog,

This afternoon, Eric and I went for a ride in the car. It was our first drive since March 25.

It was glorious. It was warm and the sun was shining. We did not go far.

I did not get out of the car.

Eric only left the car briefly to use an ATM and make a quick stop in his office to water the orchids.

Oh, how we take the little things for granted!

Love,
Paul

Saturday, April 18, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 36

Dear Old Blog,

I'm embarrassed to say my knowledge of new pop music is not good.

When I'm at home and need audio to keep me company, I listen to podcasts instead of music. And, when we're in the car, Eric and I listen almost exclusively to On Broadway on SiriusXM.

But, here in quarantine land, I've been exposed to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Isolation Playlist. And that led me a few days ago to "Cellophane" by FKA Twigs.

How have I never heard this before?

In case you've missed "Cellophane" too, check this out:



Love,
Paul

Friday, April 17, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 35


Dear Old Blog,

Here's a problem with the "only 2 to 3 percent might die" argument about re-opening:

That's 2 to 3 percent of the people who HAVE to leave their homes AND their families.

That's 2 to 3 percent of the people whose jobs will DIRECT them to return to work AND their families.

It's pushing the burden of the re-opening onto people who have fewer choices AND their families.

Those of us who don't have to leave our homes? Those of us with the financial power to choose?

We can keep choosing to stay safe inside until any second wave or third wave is over. We can choose to keep getting all of our groceries and supplies delivered.

Hell, we could choose to stay inside until there is a vaccine.

Sure, our hair is going to look long and silly. The cabin fever is going to get really bad.

But, we can choose to not be part of that 2 to 3 percent with a risk of death.

Is this right and just?

Nope.

By the way, I say this as someone who would love for life to get back to normal. How I would love to go to dinner and a movie! But, we need to listen to the scientists and do the right thing.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, April 16, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 34

Dear Old Blog,

I think this tweet is spot-on:


Love,
Paul

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 33


Dear Old Blog,

Eric and I made homemade pizza this evening for dinner, including making our own dough.

This was a first for us. And the pizza was pretty good (said pizza pictured above).

We probably would have not have done this were it not for the quarantine, as well as the example of Jo Andrews of the Hudson Valley:



Love,
Paul

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 32

Dear Old Blog,

These are bad times. The death toll is growing. It's important not to minimize that.

There might not be "a tomorrow" for some people. We might not "make it through this."

But, sometimes it's still helpful to listen to songs that tell us otherwise. Maintaining a level of hope gets us up in the morning.

So, cue the great Stephanie Blythe:


Love,
Paul

Monday, April 13, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 31


Dear Old Blog,

Quarantine TV report:

Eric and I started watching "The Madalorian" tonight. We made it through the fourth episode.

Enjoying it. Always good to be in the "Star Wars" universe.

Love,
Paul

Sunday, April 12, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 30

Dear Old Blog,

Today was Easter Sunday.

Song of the day (from my gig):

Janet Vogt's "Rise Up With Him" as presented by members of the young adult choir and ensemble from the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in NYC:



Love,
Paul

Saturday, April 11, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 29


Dear Old Blog,

Today was Holy Saturday.

The day was mostly consumed by work, including some sharing of the image above: James Tissot's illustration "Two Marys Watch the Tomb."

I'm happy that Eric and I did get out of the house for a mid-afternoon walk. Next week's goal is a daily walk. The foot traffic is low enough here in the neighborhood that this is safe. (We just move into the grass or the street if someone is coming in the other direction.)

Happy Easter!

Love,
Paul

Friday, April 10, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 28


Dear Old Blog,

Today was Good Friday.

In the prayers for the day, the Church added this intercession for the COVID-19 pandemic:
Let us pray, dearly beloved, for a swift end
to the coronavirus pandemic that afflicts our world,
that our God and Father will heal the sick,
strengthen those who care for them,
and help us all to persevere in faith. 
Almighty and merciful God,
source of all life, health and healing,
look with compassion on our world, brought low by disease;
protect us in the midst of the grave challenges that assail us
and in your fatherly providence
grant recovery to the stricken,
strength to those who care for them,
and success to those working to eradicate this scourge.
Through Christ our Lord. 
Amen.
Amen.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, April 09, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 27

Dear Old Blog,

Today was consumed by work related to Holy Thursday. In a good way.

With our churches closed because of the virus, I'm grateful to be able to help bring online Masses into the homes of many.

The theme song of my day was Paulist Fr. Ricky Manalo's setting of "Pange Lingua":



Love,
Paul


Wednesday, April 08, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 26

Dear Old Blog,

I'm glad I'm keeping this (modest) daily diary of these quarantine days. It's one point of discipline for me during a murky time.

I wish I could bring more discipline to this life, including a daily walk and improved sleep. I'm often up for an hour or so in the middle of night. This leads to daytime crankiness.

It's also a battle to keep the kitchen neat and tidy. When you eat every meal at home, dishes pile up. But, during the day, I'm supposed to working at my actual job, right?

I never thought I'd express the thought "I miss going to an office." But, I do miss it. There's something to be said for letting home be home and work be work.

But, Eric and I are alive and healthy and fully employed. No one among our immediate family or friends is battling COVID-19. We are blessed.

It seems wrong to complain about what is actually a quite comfortable existence.

Love,
Paul

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 25

Dear Old Blog,

As of this writing, approximately 82,000 people around the world have died because of COVID-19.

Of that total, approximately 13,000 Americans have died.

Dear God, help us.

Love,
Paul

Monday, April 06, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 24

Dear Old Blog,

The father of an acquaintance of mine from New York City (a friend of a friend) died today due to COVID-19.

She wrote in a Facebook post:
I thought he would live to see 100. It is with the heaviest of hearts that I share my dad passed away today. Everyone said the same thing: 'he’s strong, he’s like a bull, if anyone can pull through, it’s him.' And for a moment there I really thought he would. Sadly, that was not the case. I’m heartbroken that we couldn’t be with him or talk to him but I will try to take comfort knowing that he is with my mom. I know he missed her terribly. Thank you everyone for the calls, messages and texts. But most of all, your prayers. Take care of yourselves. Be extra cautious. COVID19 is real.
COVID-19 is real.

Love,
Paul

Sunday, April 05, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 23

Dear Old Blog,

Today was Palm Sunday.

I spent the day promoting the many online Masses celebrated by the Paulist Fathers via Facebook Live and YouTube.

Some of the Masses integrated videos of parishioners reading or chanting scripture passages at their homes. Others included recordings of cantors or choir members singing from their homes.

Here's a great example of this from the 5:15 p.m. Palm Sunday Mass at our NYC parish, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle:



Love,
Paul

Saturday, April 04, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 22

Dear Old Blog,

Artistic creativity is helping the world get through this hard time. Here's a great example:

Pittsburgh's own Phat Man Dee shares the great old tune "It's Only a Paper Moon":



Love,
Paul

Friday, April 03, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 21


Dear Old Blog,

I have finished watching the "Tiger King" series on Netflix.

Wow. Just wow.

It's a real-life "Game of Thrones" for Trump voters.

The beginning of the fourth episode includes a bit about search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). Talk about an unexpected intersection of my work and quarantine TV!

Love,
Paul

Thursday, April 02, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 20


Dear Old Blog,

As of this writing, nearly 53,000 people around the world have died because of COVID-19.

More than 5,900 of those deaths have taken place in the United States.

Loving God, I pray that these men, women and children are now in your warm embrace.

Love,
Paul

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 19

The retention pond near our home in Florida in an August, 2019, photo.

Dear Old Blog,

There is a large retention pond near our house here in Laureate Park in Lake Nona, FL. In our household short-hand, Eric and I call it "the lake."

We went for a walk this evening around "the lake." It was really good to get out. It's sunny and warm here now.

Eric and I worked hard to move from the sidewalk into the grass when someone walked toward us from the other direction. Lots of smiling and waving from a distance.

I'm blessed to be alive and healthy. But, I do miss regular human interaction. The old politician in me wants to be able to chat and shake hands with the neighbors.

Love,
Paul

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 18


Dear Old Blog,

The novelty of quarantine is starting to wear off.

We're blessed to be safe and healthy, of course. But, I do miss regular life.

I finished the "Modern Love" series on Amazon Prime tonight. It's an anthology series based on the popular New York Times column of the same name.

A few of the episodes made me cry. All of them made miss New York.

Love,
Paul

Monday, March 30, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 17


Dear Old Blog,

On March 16, Paulist Fr. Ricky Manalo was verbally assaulted and subjected to racial slurs while walking in my beloved New York City.

Fr. Ricky writes at America Media:
I was out for an evening walk on Monday, March 16, the very first day President Trump used the term “Chinese virus” to describe the new coronavirus, Covid-19. An enormous, black pick-up truck pulled up beside me. At first, I ignored the pulsing and blaring radio that sought to defy its closed windows. The air was thick and cold. I tried to focus on my walk, but within seconds the side window lowered and, over the deafening music, a man began shouting at me, “Virus!... Asian virus!” More words followed, but they all jumbled together in seeming slow motion as my instinctive fear took over amid the racial slurs being hurled my way. At first, I froze. Then, as the man continued to taunt me, I ran into the closest shelter I could find, a nearby liquor store. 
Somehow, I felt the need to justify my sudden presence to the person behind the counter, so I asked a question, one I still cannot remember. On one level, it didn’t matter what I said, as the loud music and angry voices continued to penetrate into the shop. I stood in silence for what seemed like 10 minutes, but was probably only 30 seconds. At last, the truck drove away. I began to breathe more fully. With the truck finally gone, reality set back in: I was a victim of a verbal assault and the target of racial slurs, words I never imagined would be hurled at me. ... 
What is happening in our country?

Love,
Paul

Sunday, March 29, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 16


Dear Old Blog,

Today, March 29, was the earthly birthday of my mom, Diane.

If she had lived, she would have been 62 today.

She died on November 12, 2019, from lung cancer.

I miss you, mum. You left too early.

Love,
Paul

Saturday, March 28, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 15


Dear Old Blog,

Here in quarantine land, the days run together. I spent the morning thinking it was March 29 when it was only March 28.

Tonight, Eric and I broke down and logged into the free trial of Disney+.

We watched "Rogue One" after dinner. It our first time seeing it.

Loved it. I regret not seeing it in the theater.

Love,
Paul

Friday, March 27, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 14

Dear Old Blog,

Pope Francis brought me to tears today with his words and prayers in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican:



From the pope's remarks:
... In this storm, the fa├žade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!” ... 

Love,
Paul

Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 13

Dear Old Blog,

During most times of national crisis, there are good ways to volunteer.

But, in this time of COVID-19, the current best way to help (for someone with no medical experience) seems to be to just stay home — and help stop the spread of the virus.

From the couch, there is one way to help, of course. And that's opening up the wallet.

Here are the three worthy organizations to which I've donated this week:

Actor's Fund

Washington Health System Foundation (in my native Washington County, Pennsylvania)

NYU Student Emergency Relief (my alma mater)

These donations were not large. But, I hope to do more. As Thornton Wilder said in "The Matchmaker":

"Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow.”

Love,
Paul

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 12



Dear Old Blog,

Tomorrow (Thursday, March 26), a "stay-at-home" order goes into effect here in Orange County in Florida.

With that in mind, even though we haven't been out of the house in days, Eric and I went for a little ride in the car late this afternoon — reasoning it might be our last chance to do so for a while.

We didn't plan to get out of the car.

We thought about going through the local Starbucks drive-through. But we passed on that after seeing the long line of cars already there.

We then went to the bank. (I'm thrilled that Pittsburgh's own PNC opened a branch here in Lake Nona a few months ago.)

Finally, we swung by Eric's office. He ran in and watered his 12 orchids there. (Yeah, he's into orchids.)

Love,
Paul

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 11


Dear Old Blog,

Tonight, I attended a virtual party on Zoom to celebrate our friend Matt's 36th birthday.

More than 50 people took part.

The party had a circus theme. There was singing, including performances of tunes from "The Greatest Showman." Spoken word, video tributes, acrobatics and magic tricks also were part of the night.

The news today was not good. Among the hundreds of deaths was that of legendary playwright Terrence McNally. He died from coronavirus complications at age 81.

I bet Terrence would have loved Matt's party.

Love,
Paul

Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 10

Dear Old Blog,

I used Instacart for the first time today to have groceries delivered. It seemed safer than personally going to the grocery store.

It worked out well. But, our grocery store (Publix) was out of some items, including eggs.

The Instacart shopper erroneously delivered us four green peppers. We'll have to think of a recipe for those.

This evening, my old book club from NYC met via Zoom. It was awesome getting to chat and pray with all of them. I really miss my old crew.

Love,
Paul

Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 9

Dear Old Blog,

In these days of COVID-19, Sundays are work days for me.

I spend Sundays sharing Facebook Live videos and tweeting to promote the Paulist Fathers' many online Masses around the United States. By the end of the day, I am really familiar with the Scripture readings of the day. And I hear lots of homilies. I probably should develop a homily scorecard.

For Catholics, today was the Fourth Sunday of Lent or "Laetare Sunday." It's known for the pink or rose vestments worn by priests celebrating Mass on this Sunday.

"Laetare" is Latin for "rejoice." Laetare Sunday is meant to be a day for joy amidst the somewhat somber nature of Lent.

It's hard to be joyful during a pandemic that is killing thousands of people.

But ... today also is composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday.

So, maybe we need a Sondheim tune to bring a bit of joy, or at least inspiration.

Here is "No One is Alone" from "Into the Woods":

Saturday, March 21, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 8

Dear Old Blog,

Saturdays are less fun when every day looks like a Saturday.

But, with the COVID-19 death toll rising and hospital supplies running low around the country, I'm not going to complain about being bored or being stuck in the house.

Eric and I are happy and healthy in our house in Lake Nona, FL. The weather has been beautiful. We're blessed.

A boring Saturday is just fine.

I made my Great-Grandma Vincenti's risotto for dinner tonight. It's a recipe she learned from her mother-in-law, an immigrant to America from northern Italy.

For the risotto broth, I used organic, no-salt-added chicken broth out of a box instead of the old-school salty canned variety. It was fine. Fine like a boring Saturday.

But salty tastes better.

Love,
Paul

Friday, March 20, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 7


Dear Old Blog,

I wrote an obituary today for work. But, it wasn't related to COVID-19.

I also had pizza on the brain. So, that's what we ordered via Door Dash for dinner. (I'm still hoping food delivery isn't too dangerous right now – for the delivery people and for us).

Eric and I attempted our regular Friday "date night" at home tonight. After dinner, we shared a pint of Ben & Jerry's (cannoli flavored). We watched "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse." Didn't love it. Didn't hate it.

Love,
Paul

Thursday, March 19, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 6


Dear Old Blog,

Eric and I just came in from a little walk around our neighborhood, Laureate Park in Lake Nona, FL. It was a beautiful warm evening.

We went for a walk last night, too. That stroll was after dark around the big retention pond about a block from our house.

Going for walks is pretty much the only acceptable outing these days.

We still get food deliveries to the house (Mexican yesterday for lunch. Japanese tonight for dinner). I wonder about how much exposure to the virus that presents.

This morning, I learned that an acquaintance in New Jersey (a fellow NYU College of Arts & Science alumnus) has tested positive for COVID-19. He's treating the virus from home.

This evening, a friend in New York shared that a friend of his died due to the virus.

Yes, it's close to home.

Love,
Paul

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID-19 Diary: Day 5

Dear Old Blog,

That dry cough seems to be almost gone.

I write that with a great deal of gratitude. I've begun to read about the immense lung pain and breathing trouble for some of those who have contracted COVID-19. It sounds awful.

I now have two acquaintances in New York City who have confirmed cases of the disease. From their social media posts, one seems to be doing fairly well. The other has been hit very hard.

Today was the first day that Eric worked completely from home. That's going well. It's nice to have him home with me.

At the current moment, my magnum opus is the the page on the Paulist Fathers website with the listing of online Mass broadcasts (since public Masses have been cancelled). It's nice to help provide a resource for anyone during this hard time.

Love,
Paul