Indoor Dining and Covid

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Susie and I were sitting in the living room of our Cousins Jeanne and Walt’s place in Barefoot Bay, Florida. The two of them had left that day for a month in Hawaii, and Susie and I were looking forward to spending the rest of the month in their house acting like we were Florida residents, before heading home to New Jersey and another knee replacement for me. Yes, we knew all about the pandemic, and the cases of Covid that had been reported in the country and even in our home state, but we were still weighing our options and deciding exactly how much it was going to affect our Florida stay.

That was until we got the news that MLB, the NHL, NCAA, and every other sports acronym you can think of were canceling their games. Then in quick succession, Broadway, Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando announced that they were closing, and our discussion turned to whether we wanted to be stuck in Florida, or if we wanted to be in our little beach town in New Jersey! In our minds, the very real possibility existed that states would be closing access, and that if we didn’t get home ASAP, we might not be able to travel north on I-95 to the Garden State. That was the moment we decided that it was time to bring our Florida 2020 Adventure to a close, and get back as fast as possible to Ocean City!

Early in the morning on Friday, March 13th, we closed up Jeanne and Walt’s house, turned off the water, put the garbage out, and hit the road! Within a half hour, we were on Interstate 95 heading north. We decided to not stop two nights on our way home, as we usually did, but to rather get home in just two days, driving more each day, and just spending one night in a hotel. That decision meant we would miss our usual stop for the best fried shrimp at B&J’s in Darien, Georgia, but we really wanted to be back in NJ. At about 4:30 that first afternoon, we were approaching Fayetteville, North Carolina and found a Doubletree Hotel on the Hilton app just off I-95, and made that our night’s destination. As luck would have it, there was a Cracker Barrel restaurant just across the parking lot!

The last time we ate inside a restaurant, was at that Cracker Barrel in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Friday, March 13th, 2020! When we got home on the 14th, looking ahead, we’d wondered if we should go to our usual Tuesday night at Charlie’s Back Bar with our friend Sue, and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but the day before, on March 16th, New Jersey restaurants closed down, and we no longer had a decision to make. When outside dining opened in New Jersey in June, we did partake in meals at the “Lot at Angelo’s” and the Tent at Charlies, but once outside dining stopped, we just didn’t feel that safe eating indoors, and we went back to take-out only. For close to a year, we had not eaten inside a restaurant, that is not until last Thursday, March 11, 2021 when we joined our Mancuso Family friends at Angelo’s in Atlantic City! So what changed?

Well, on Friday, February 19th, I got my second Moderna vaccine shot at Shoprite in Rio Grande, and on Thursday, February 25th, Susie got her second Moderna shot at the Shoprite in Glassboro, New Jersey. According to the CDC, “Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final required shot,” which made Thursday, March 11th our “Coming Out Day!” What better way to celebrate than to dress in “going out to dinner clothes” and to return to a place and people we love, and a place we used to be at every Thursday night! We’d been looking forward to it for a long time (really since March 13th of last year), and I’m happy to say we were not disappointed!

We were sad that our friend Michael didn’t greet us from behind the bar as we walked in, as the pandemic has changed schedules for many, but none the less, it was great to be back inside! It was good to see that there were so many people waiting to eat when we walked in, and it was good to see our long time friends Rhonda, Theresa, and Victor were working, along with our new summer friend Suzanne and our take-out friend Wendy. Every week will be a new experience for us, and we can’t wait till we see Patti, Angelo, Ed, Trinidad, and Michael as time goes on, and more and more dining opens up! It was great to be back inside, feeling safe after a year, but we must be realistic and realize getting back to what was our normal will take a bit of time….if it ever happens. I guess the mind set has got to be, be happy for what we’ve got, and not sad for what used to be!

So now that we are fully vaccinated, what else that we’ve not done in the past 12 months is on our horizon? Well, a visit from our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Michael, who we have not seen since August, as well as a visit from our great friends Pat and Steve, who we last saw at Susie’s Mom’s funeral in February, 2020. Then, something we’ve waited so long for, Easter with our son Billy and daughter-in-law Lori in North Carolina, and getting to see our three Grandkids, who we haven’t seen in the flesh since January 30th, 2020! We’ve missed all these people (especially the three youngest members of the D’Elia Family), and can’t wait to see them, to be with them, and to exchange hugs for the first time in a year! Then down the road, there will be the fun of getting back together with our Ocean City friends, and seeing our life get closer to what it was, and maybe even a visit to Florida. My new knee and Susie’s new hip are still on our radar too!

Yes, we have indeed survived the last 12 months, but we are sad that so many other Americans didn’t! With the advancing rollout of the vaccines, we hope that no one else will lose their life due to Covid, that folks who have been financially affected by the pandemic can get back on their feet, and that America will never forget this past year, but will be able to move beyond it!

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, on Thursday, January 23, 2020, Susie and I ate our last inside meal at one of our favorite restaurants, Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern in Atlantic City. We’d been steady Thursday customers for a long time, and we were saying goodbye as we were preparing for what at that point, was planned to be two months in Florida, and were in our last week in the cold of New Jersey. We were making choices of clothes to take with us, getting the car serviced, I was making a last minute trip to the dentist, Susie was getting her last hair and nails done, and we were looking forward to spending the months of February and March in Florida, and previewing the Summer of 2020.

One year ago, we had no idea that there was something called Covid-19 that was making people sick in Wuhan, China, or that there had been a first US confirmed case in Washington State. We had no idea that we’d be dragged into a Pandemic, or that we’d be wearing masks when we went out, or that our life would be impacted by this disease that would ultimately kill hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans. We had no idea that we wouldn’t see our Kids and Grandkids for a year, or that we’d wave at neighbors and friends, or that friends who are like family would get the disease.

One year ago today we were smug, thinking that something like a Global Pandemic couldn’t affect our lives here in the United States of America. Little did we know that it would end employment for our sons Kenny and Chris (the Entertainers), force our other children (Billy and Lori and Krissi and Mike) to work from home, and change all our lives like nothing had in our lifetimes.

The last time Susie and I ate inside a restaurant, was on March 13, 2020, at a Cracker Barrel someplace in Virginia on our way home from Florida. When Angelo’s opened their great outside dining during the summer, Thursday nights became Angelo’s Thursdays again. We saw all our regular friends, met a couple of new ones, and got to enjoy our weekly dose of the Mancuso Family and the wonderful food they create. It was great to be back at Angelo’s, but it wasn’t the same.

One year ago today, we had our last martini at the bar at Angelo’s with our bartender and friend, Michael, ate our last meal inside at Angelo’s, saw our Angelo’s Thursday friends Theresa, Patti, Rhonda, Christina, Ed, Gina, Christopher, Victor, and Trinidad. We miss the bar, the restaurant, and the people! We survive now with Angelo’s take-out, and we’re waiting for our time to get the vaccine, but we won’t eat inside till we’re protected.

Hope to see you sooner rather than later friends…we miss you!