Every night during quarantine, instead of indulging my predisposition toward consuming all the bad news, I’m picking up my phone. I’m looking through my contact list for someone I haven’t talked to in a long time and calling that person.

A favorite uncle. A cousin. An ex-roommate. A buddy in San Francisco.

If I’ve got a phone number for you — you’re getting a call. Eventually. I hope that’s okay.

I mean, I’m still going to watch a boatload of Netflix. (How is “Ozark” by the way?) I’m only human. But finding that human connection in this era of social distancing feels like a lifeline right now.

So I’m asking around: What are some of the things you’re doing to cope with the new reality? (We’d love to hear from you: email us here.)

The always creative Attack Theatre took to social media asking friends to describe their day in three words. From this word cloud below, made from 80 responses, they created improvisational dance in their living rooms (while some of us were still in our pajamas wondering what to snack on next) and sent out an eblast featuring them all.

Image courtesy of Attack Theatre.

Sparked by an idea from one resident, Carrie Benson, hundreds of neighbors in Aspinwall turned out for a porch toast on Saturday night as we wrote about in NEXTpittsburgh.

In Dormont, resident Amy Kline organized a Facebook group that launched the Dormont CoronaChoir last Sunday at 7 p.m. She estimates that about 500 residents — including the mayor and his family — participated as they stood on steps, porches, lawns and driveway to sing “Do You Hear the People Sing” from “Les Misérables.” They will be at it again this Sunday, same time. No word on the song just yet.

Dormont CoronaChoir along Alabama Avenue. Photo by Daniele Ventresca.

Meanwhile on Washington’s Landing, a Bethel Park resident (confession: we lost his name) pictured in the photo at the top of this article, strung a tightrope across a green space and practiced the art of slacklining.

Nadyli Nunez, who heads Ascender, loves to dance — which is hard to do now — at least in public. Still, she found a way. “Last Saturday we had a virtual dance party with about 15 people. Someone played a Spotify playlist on Twitch (which we all contributed to) and we all danced via Zoom,” says the fun-loving Nunez.

Scot MacTaggart of South Strabane, regional director for EagleDream Technologies, started an online coworking space via Zoom, which has attracted visitors from across the country along with France and the UK. Yes, coworking online.

“There’s five to twenty in the room at any given time,” says MacTaggart. “It’s quiet for long periods but then a conversation will start. Seeing people helps, for sure. We’ve had a couple people who were freaking out, and the group helped to calm them down.” And twice they’ve had live music at the end of the day.

For many people, it’s exercise that helps. Gyms throughout Pittsburgh are using Facebook groups or YouTube to post workouts on a daily basis.

“My fiancee (Karyna Kerin) is a full-time yoga instructor and she decided (overnight) to create an at-home virtual yoga studio and start offering online interactive classes,“ says Gabriel Goldman, who lives with her in Baldwin-Whitehall. “She’s been doing that daily to keep some sense of normalcy in her career. On top of that, we have both been doing daily workouts together.”

For some, it’s art that helps soothe the soul.

A “bowlerite” pendant made by Danielle Schultz’s grandmother, from an old bowling ball.
A “bowlerite” pendant made by Danielle Schultz’s grandmother, from an old bowling ball.

“It’s getting warmer, so I can head back to the garage and hook up my lapidary machine and start cutting, grinding and polishing some stones, says Danielle Schultz, an automotive technician in the West End. “I found an abandoned bowling ball in the woods near my house (who put that there?). I can smash it up and make ‘bowlerite’ pendants with pieces of the outer shell. I have plenty of real rocks to work on, too!”

Helping others is a great way to feel useful and forget your own troubles.

“I’ve been making efforts to help those who are out of work for a sense of purpose,” says Kimberly Simpson. “With proper distancing, of course. Either electronic donations or dropping groceries on a porch.”

Natasha Vandiver, an event planner from Edgewood with no events to plan, transformed her kitchen with a party atmosphere.

“To break up the monotony, I turned my kitchen into a club by streaming live DJs, and setting up club lights that move to the music,” she says. “My husband even accompanied the music with his bass. It definitely made frying chicken more fun than usual.”

Churches are also thinking outside of the box. Father Steve Kresak set up a special altar inside St. Albert the Great Church, for anyone who wants to drive up, view it and pray from their car safely, without worry.

“The parking lot is flat and the altar can be seen easily from your car,” says parishioner Helene Scheider. “The altar also is visible in the dark which is even more impressive.”

Some people, like Ken Krynski, are creating atmosphere within his own home. He moved his small dining table right in front of the fireplace so he and his wife, Linda, felt like they were dining out.

Ken Krynski moved his dining table to the fireplace to make it feel like he and his wife were dining out.

A nonprofit called OneTable is helping people live out their Jewish faith together, online, in a program called “Shabbat Alone, Together.”

“My OneTable teammates and I have been working hard to build out a ton of resources for people to connect virtually with one another and bring Friday night peace in even when alone,” says Lianne Samantha. “OneTable is a nonprofit startup that is intended to help people in their 20s and 30s build community through meaningful Friday night dinners.”

“We’ve completely evolved our policies and processes to help tackle social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m working on virtual cooking classes, workshops, gatherings and more to bring people together during this time.”

How are you spending your unplanned time at home during this health crisis? Let us know in the comments below or email us here.

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife,...