What Now? Facing Life Without the Entertainment World

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By LEANNE ITALIE
The Associated Press
Posted March 27, 2020

NEW YORK — Overheard in mid-March as the entertainment world stalled in response to the coronavirus outbreak: “What are we gonna do now, read books?”

That’s exactly what Pamela Milam will be doing, and lots of them.

Milam is a selection reader for the Women’s National Book Association, a nonprofit established in 1917 to support, well, reading. She and her colleagues began a marathon in March to make it through as many as 100 books each as they help develop the organization’s annual Great Group Reads list for National Reading Group Month in October. 

She’s also an avid theater goer. She lives in the heart of Times Square and goes to the theater about once a week, but when Broadway and many other forms of entertainment canceled, cut back seating or postponed performances, Milam knew exactly how she’d fill the extra time.

“I’m happy snug on my couch. I’ll do my best to make the most of that,” she said.

Here in Palm Beach County, as in most parts of the country, the entertainment industry has screeched to a halt to help “flatten the curve” as the virus spreads around the globe. Bans on big and medium-size gatherings are proliferating, prompting more people to hunker down at home. 

Spring training abruptly shut down two weeks early. Palm Beach Dramaworks in downtown West Palm Beach canceled its latest production originally scheduled for a three-week run starting April 3.

Royal Palm Beach’s Green Market shut its season down a month early and in Wellington, the Winter Equestrian Festival closed its doors with two weeks to go. Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all of Florida’s bars and nightclubs closed for 30 days starting March 17 at 5 p.m. The list goes on.

What to do to keep us all from going stir crazy?

“We’re catching up on our reading. I just started ‘Love in the Time of Cholera.’ It seemed appropriate,” said Beverly Pfeiffer of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez classic that plays out amid an outbreak of the disease. 

Other people are working more, especially now that they’re doing it from home. 

Some have upped their kitchen game by taking on fussy recipes and baking projects. 

One company that offers online courses has seen a huge jump in business, as has another that sells digital photo scanning services.

Interior designer Genevieve Gorder, co-host of the Netflix series “Stay Here,” asked Instagram followers to share home improvement goals that were lingering at the bottom of to-do lists. Cleaning blinds, a basement sort-out and deck repairs are now on front burners. 

Nicole Schaefer is usually out doing something. Now, she almost feels guilty about all the free time. Almost.

“I feel like now I have time to relax, if that makes sense. With my evenings freed up, I’m learning to make my own macarons. I’m making a present for my boyfriend. I’m knitting. I’m exercising as long as I want to. There’s so many things to do without concerts and plays and shows to go to,” she said.

There’s binge-watching galore, of course, and devotees of opera and art are being treated to special live streams and virtual tours. Museums have joined a social media movement started by the Museum of the City of New York to offer art and other imagery using the hashtag #MuseumMomentofZen. 

Melanie Musson isn’t focused on any of that, and social distancing shouldn’t be a problem. She and her husband, along with their four children, love to spend time in the mountains surrounding their Belgrade, Mont. home. 

“We plan to spend time outdoors camping, hiking and fishing. The sunshine and exercise will help us be as healthy as we can be,” she said.

While Musson and others head outdoors, some folks who are shunning or shut out of their exercise classes are working out new routines at home. 

Linda Johnson Mandell is going another route with her giant white Labradoodle, Frankie Feldman. The 5-year-old fur ball is a therapy dog who routinely visits patients at care centers. With new restrictions, those visits are on hold.

“So instead we’re staying home, brushing up on obedience, and I’m teaching him some new tricks to amuse folks when the quarantines are lifted,” Mandell said.

Elsewhere, the TV binge is definitely on with some new gems on offer.

Disney released “Frozen 2” on Disney Plus several months early to give families cooped up by the coronavirus a welcome distraction, and give its streaming service a boost. 

For documentary lovers, Netflix is rolling out new features and series from acclaimed creators, including “The Innocence Files” by Liz Garbus, Alex Gibney and Roger Ross Williams; “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” by Lisa Bryant and Joe Berlinger; and “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet.”

“We subscribe to nearly every streaming service, or so it seems. I’m hoping to find some gold in there,” said Julie Crislip in Pennington, N.J.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Psychotherapist Jeff Larsen in San Diego has a plan, for himself and his clients.

“It’s all about slowing down,” he said. “So absolutely pick up that book that’s been gathering dust, watch that movie or binge-watch that TV show that you haven’t had time to watch. Most importantly, it’s the mindset that we, as humans, need to have going into this time period. It’s always a good thing when we can slow down and simplify our lives.”

Pictured above: A sign at the intersection of Pierson Road and South Shore Boulevard in Wellington announces the final two weeks of the Winter Equestrian Festival has been cancelled. Theatres, green markets, sporting events, nightclubs, bars and more have come to a halt in response to the threat of the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Robert Harris/Palms West Monthly 

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