1. Survivor: Winners at War.
I’ve watched Survivor on and off since its debut in 2000, but drifted away from it in recent years unless a returning player was someone I really liked. (Or if Lisa Whelchel was a cast member, because come on. Like I’m not gonna watch Blair Warner getting all dirty and hungry on a remote island.)
But the current season, in which 20 former winners came back to test their wiles against each other? That’s been appointment TV for me during this whole nightmare. When Wednesday rolls around, I feel like celebrating because I’ve survived another week. I’ve enjoyed seeing old favorites like Ethan Zohn again, and I’ve had fun getting to know some of the newer winners I wasn’t familiar with.
I feel sorry for people who don’t like Tony Vlachos. His boundless energy and wild scheming crack me up. I’ve enjoyed watching him slowly take over the season, and at this point I’m pretty sure he’s going to join Sandra Diaz-Twine in the two-time winner’s club. (Whoever wins, though, the Queen stays Queen. Always.) Boston Rob saying “Tony’s a boss” at the end of the most recent episode couldn’t have been a more obvious passing of the torch.
2. Homemade Bread.
I know, boring. Everyone and their cat has taken up bread baking during lockdown. Why not? It’s comforting and it makes the house smell nice.
In my defense, Bill requested a bread machine for Christmas from his parents and they came through. We were baking homemade bread well before everything went to hell, and so we already had a decent supply of flour and yeast on hand before those things became scarce. I figured homemade bread would save us trips to the store; I didn’t realize everyone else would end up having the same idea.
Bill makes an amazing pumpernickel and I’ve improvised a rosemary and olive oil bread I’m pretty happy with. I’m sure all the purists out there would scoff at our lowly machine, but I like this new routine.
3. What We Do in the Shadows, Season Two.
I’ve sung this show’s praises before, but I was nervous when the second season started in mid-April. Would the show be able to maintain its offbeat humor?
So far, so good. Having the hapless familiar Guillermo turn out to be a Van Helsing descendant who’s a natural born—but reluctant—slayer was a stroke of genius. Harvey Guillén’s become the MVP of the show as Guillermo tries really, really hard to reconcile these two sides of his personality. He’s still devoted to his vampire master Nandor (who doesn’t deserve such devotion AT ALL), but he just can’t escape the vampire-slaying side of his family tree. Having him inadvertently stumble into a secret crew of vampire slayers headed by Craig Robinson was an especially inspired twist.
4. Doom 64.
I got a Nintendo Switch for Christmas a couple years ago. After I grew tired of endless rounds of Mario Kart and a couple of other games, my poor Switch gathered dust in a bookshelf.
And then the lockdown hit, and I found out that Nintendo was re-releasing Doom 64 for the Switch. It’s bundled with yet another ultra-modern iteration of Doom, but those confuse the hell out of me and I was relieved to learn that I could buy Doom 64 by itself.
Give me the old-school first person shooters you didn’t need a damn engineering degree to figure out how to play. I spent an unseemly amount of the 90s parked in front of my N64 playing this game. It’s my favorite version of Doom, and I’m enjoying it even more with the brighter Switch screen and the controls, which are much easier on my hands than that weird N64 controller was.
Doom 64 was released on the same day as another Nintendo Switch game that had my entire Twitter feed going berserk. I resisted its siren song for a long time because I had a feeling it was a rabbit hole I didn’t want to go down. But eventually, I played enough of Doom 64 that I wanted a change, and so I bit the bullet. And that brings us to…
5. Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is about as unlike Doom 64 as it’s possible to be. But variety is the spice of a lengthy quarantine period.
I’ve never played any version of this game before, but I’ve become completely engrossed in ACNH. It’s similar to other time sucks like FarmVille (remember that?), Minecraft, and The Simpsons: Tapped Out in that I can spend hours building up my island, hunting for supplies, and pursuing the little mini-games ACNH throws at me. I even got to “meet” Weekly Knob editor Aura Wilming when she paid a visit to my island. She was kind enough to bring me some oranges (a non-native fruit on my island) and an awesome gothic mirror. And my villagers are still talking about her character. That was fun!
This long isolation period hasn’t been all about materialism and pop culture worship, though. There’s one last thing that’s been helping me a lot:
6. Lunchtime Meditation with the Tibet House US and the Nalanda Institute.
During a trip to NYC in June of last year, Bill and I found the Tibet House, and in late March, Bill discovered a link to daily meditation classes Tibet House is cohosting with the Nalanda Institute via Zoom. Although you can give a donation to an instructor, to Tibet House, or to the Nalanda Institute, the classes are free.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to get something out of this; it’s a very relaxing, pleasant time, and I’ve grown attached to the teachers and several of the student faces I see every weekday via Zoom. I’ve also gotten much better at focusing during meditation.
On the one hand, I’ll be relieved when these online classes are discontinued because it will mean that things are getting back to normal in New York City and elsewhere. On the other hand, I’m going to be very sad when they’re gone, because they’ve become an important part of my endless weekdays.