Commentary: For 1 Busy Editor, the Coronavirus Crisis Offers a New Way of Living

If we only we had a night off, at home, with nothing to do. In the hurly-burly of high season in South Florida, this is a common refrain around our house. That’s because in normal times, my relentless schedule as managing editor and A&E critic for Boca magazine keeps my wife and I so busy that it is a challenge, many weeks, to find even one empty square on my wall calendar with which we might be able to spend at our house, decompressing.

I might have an art gala Monday, a press screening for a new movie Tuesday, my unmissable weekly Scrabble club meeting Wednesday (I’m allowed one eccentric hobby!), a media dinner Thursday, and a weekend of two or three plays or musicals, to fulfill my duties as a Carbonell judge. Like the Beach Boys, I get around.

Today, April 6, should have been the date of the Carbonell Awards, where we honor a year’s worth of excellence in South Florida theatre. It was to be our first ceremony in our gleaming new home at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, representing the fruits of labor that brought me and my fellow-judges to 62 shows in 2019. The awards, of course, are postponed indefinitely, and like every night, I have tonight off. At home. With nothing to do.

The author and his wife, Yafi, at a recent Carbonell Awards ceremony

Despite the fear and gloom of local and national news, my first few days on lockdown were a welcome respite from what was looking like another go-go March. Like the protagonist of the post-apocalyptic “Twilight Zone” episode “Time Enough at Last,” the world, at least within my four walls, was my oyster: I could catch up on some reading and podcasts, watch some old, long movies that I’m not required to screen for work, listen to the herculean backlog of vinyl records that have been piling up in my collection—and which continues unabated, because, hey, eBay hasn’t shut down. I’m enjoying my wife’s company more than we have time for in ordinary life, and I’m exercising daily in some of the most beautiful weather I’ve experienced in years.

For someone whose experience of closures, shutdowns and panic-buying have involved Category 5 hurricanes, mass power outages, debris-filled streets and gas shortages, this has been a pleasurable enough crisis, with functional air conditioning, plenty of precious bandwidth and, when I need to venture out, surreally uncongested roads (as I discovered last week during my only highway drive since the COVID lockdown, the iguanas have started to take residence on the Turnpike).

Granted, not everybody has it so easy. My wife and I don’t have kids, so I can’t pretend to understand the stress level involved with school closures. As far as we know, we haven’t been touched personally by the coronavirus, nor have our family members, knock on wood. And I still have a job—double knock on wood.

But as I write this, cabin fever is creeping ever more gradually toward its eventual boil. I’m itching to see a play again, to share in the communal experience of enjoying a great movie on a 4K cinema screen, to thrill at seeing my favorite band live, amid a roomful of strangers, shouting every lyric without fear of contaminating my fellow-revelers (that would be the Mountain Goats, for whom I hold a zombie ticket for their postponed April 27 performance in Atlanta).

But perhaps, when things do return to normal, I can strike a better balance. Maybe I don’t need to attend every media dinner, or every screening of a film that I’m almost certain will be middling at best. Come December, I’ll be quietly debating, as I do every end-of-year, about whether I can handle another term of Carbonell judging on top of a seriously insane work schedule.

If I’m being honest, I’ll probably go back to doing all of it, because it’s (usually) enjoyable. And because we’re social creatures. And because FOMO.

That’s when it’ll be time to re-read this column, and to remember that there are worse things than saying “no” to the occasional invite. There are birds to be watched on long walks, puzzles to be completed, TCM to be watched. If this coronavirus crisis has taught me anything so far, it’s that truly having it all means, occasionally, having less.