365 days

This will be a short post (as opposed to a shitpost), because while I want to mark this day I don’t intend to make a really big deal out of it.

On March 8, 2020, I stopped at The Brass Rail in downtown Port Huron, Michigan, after work. I used to do that once or twice a week, usually having a couple of beers and chatting with the regulars or meeting some friends. Afterwards, I drove home. Just another typical social evening.

I had decided to pass on alcohol for a week or so because the city’s big St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl was coming up the following Saturday. As it happened, that’s about the time concerns about the pandemic started to ramp up in Michigan, so the pub crawl was canceled (though a few people still ventured out since restaurants and bars hadn’t been closed yet).

On the actual St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, everyone was sent home from the college to figure out how to teach, learn, and run a college remotely. Since I was concerned about being out in public at this point, I stopped eating out at restaurants and obviously stopped going to The Brass Rail temporarily. Since I’ve never been one to drink at home – my alcohol consumption more or less requires social interaction – I also “temporarily” started a streak of days without alcohol, which has today reached 365 days.

#drycovidyear

There have definitely been times that a cold beer would have been nice, but once I realized I’d started a streak, I decided that I’d see if I could make it to three months, then six months, and then a full year. Success.

This is not a post about the joys of not drinking, or even a recommendation that anyone else do so. That’s your business, not mine. And I intend to have a beer again, especially now that a year has gone by. Not sure when, though; I sort of have a plan to wait until I can take a trip to Montréal (maybe this summer, maybe this fall?) and have my first one in over a year there. Being able to go to Canada and to travel in general would be a good indication that things are close to normal again, and that beer would be a great reward. But now that a year has passed, I don’t feel like the streak necessarily needs to continue, so we’ll see.

It’s an arbitrary milestone, but a year of doing (or not doing) something seems significant.

Five things I miss

  1. Going to work. While the adjustment to working from home wasn’t as great for me since I’ve done it for years when I was self-employed, it was strange not to be getting ready for work and driving in to the college each morning. For months I had the strong feeling that I was playing hooky and that everyone else was going to judge me for skipping work. Of course, everyone else is at home most of the time, too. When we started going back this summer, I was in the office two or three times a week. Now we’re back to “stay at home unless it’s something that can’t be done from there.” Mostly, I miss my co-workers. We’ve gotten the hang of online meetings, but they’re really not the same.
  2. Friends. For the same reason, I was resistant to replacing real-life social events with Zoom or GoToMeeting. Early on, some of my friends were meeting online just to keep in touch, and I was kind of a jerk and didn’t participate. It was my way of coping, which is my excuse. Now, I’ve relaxed my feelings about that – though I’m still not fond of virtual get-togethers, as I noted above – but I’m not sure if anyone’s still meeting that way. I’m sure they gave up on inviting me considering my earlier response. I’m also not on Facebook much, so I’ve lost touch that way, too. Hopefully, if we can move back toward face-to-face gathering in the late spring or summer, they’ll still be interested in talking to me, though I’d understand if they didn’t.
  3. The Brass Rail in Port Huron. There are several restaurants that I miss, including Lynch’s, Casey’s, and the Vintage Tavern (all in Port Huron) and Gar’s Lounge in Marine City, along with a few others. But the Rail is my bar, a great place to meet friends or just stop in an shoot the bull with whoever’s sitting at the bar. It’s not a fancy place; someone (maybe me) called it the nicest dive bar in America. But it has tradition, and I miss it and all of the people who work and hang out there. This time of year they’d be serving their classic Tom and Jerry holiday drinks, with the blenders going non-stop to make the egg cream that’s the key ingredient. But instead the bar is closed and dark; they’re hoping to re-open after the new year and maybe even have an abbreviated Tom and Jerry season, but who knows at this point?
  4. Beer. It’s been 272 days since I had any alcohol. I’m mostly a social drinker, I rarely drink beer or liquor at home. I mostly have a beer or two a couple nights a week at the Brass Rail or another bar or restaurant. On March 8, right before COVID shut things down in Michigan in March, I had my last beer before pausing for about a week before Port Huron’s big St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl, one of the major social events of the year on my calendar. The pub crawl wasn’t canceled but it might as well have been, with only a few folks participating – and I wasn’t one of them. Since I couldn’t go out for a beer, I just stopped. Two weeks became 50 days, which became 100, then 200. It’s now been 272 days and counting. I’ve decided I’ll have my next beer when the Canadian border re-opens to tourist travel and I can go to Montreal again, where I’ll grab a stool at Chez Baptiste in the Plateau-Mont-Royal and have a St-Ambroise Cream Ale. If all goes well, maybe that happens next summer. Until then, I’ll keep the streak going.
  5. Traveling. See above. Montreal has become one of my favorite places on the planet in the last few years, and I miss not being able to go to Canada in general. But I did a lot of traveling in 2019, both for work and for pleasure. I probably spent over 50 nights in hotels, and I kind of enjoyed it. This year, I’ve spent one night in a hotel when my wife and I went to a wedding in October, and I’ve had more pleasant experiences being admitted to a hospital. Not the management’s fault at all, but when you have no navigate plexiglas panels and a table set up to keep you six feet from the counter just to check in, it kind of takes the fun out of the whole experience. No thanks, I’ll wait until I can do things in a way that’s at least someone like “normal.”

Overall, that’s the way I’m thinking right now. I’m not interested in eating at a restaurant or drinking at a bar if I have to keep putting my mask back on after each bite or sip. I’m not anti-mask at all, let me be very clear: WEAR A DAMN MASK. Frankly, we could get back to “normal” much sooner if we’d just be more disciplined about that one thing, though I do understand pandemic fatigue. But I am anti-doing-things-I-like-doing-while-wearing-a-mask. I’ve made it this long; I can keep waiting. But it doesn’t mean I don’t miss a lot of the things I could do before COVID-19 arrived.