I slipped up last week in my social distancing, as I have been doing more frequently this past month.
Pride has been a seminal weekend in my life for many years now, and as last Sunday approached, I found myself conflicted and sad on several levels. Sad because my annual Pride outfit wasn’t finished, and I’ll be honest: I also felt uneasy about the demonstrations planned in the Tenderloin and Dolores Park. One in particular with an organizer who, in March, urged us to stay inside. Now, they wanted us to gather “safely” in solidarity with other causes I fully support. I politely abstained, but in my apparel business, I found myself correcting a flyer mishap in Castro on Sunday. That wrapped up early, and I wound up at a friend’s apartment a few floors above 18th and Castro. We hugged without hesitation, and while I was helping him fix his hair, his roommate arrived with a bunch of groceries. “You should stay, Saul, we’re having a few people over.”
I don’t know why this didn’t faze me at all, but it didn’t. People talk about fatigue when it comes to sheltering in place, but this wasn’t that. It was more like amnesia, or denial — I seemingly forgot the potential severity of being around strangers in this moment. We spent the next hour cleaning and making food. I worked on a signature cucumber gimlet because I’m a reasonably decent mixologist outside of just sampling cocktails.
My friends welcomed about 10 guests, and the experience was more healing than I expected. I live with one roommate but essentially on my own, and I’m single, so the isolation feels pretty suffocating sometimes. In moments before coronavirus, some social obligations felt a tad burdensome. But now, having almost none at all, it was such a relief to make frivolous jokes, and to ask people how they are without that question being nearly as perfunctory. We watched the streets below us flood with demonstrators, and even though I wanted to skip the event, it was, in a small way, nice to witness it while still feeling safely apart from it.
My life is pretty consumed by social media nowadays, and it feels as though catfighting and cancel culture dominate the internet. People shame others every hour for not wearing masks, or for being risky by seeing friends, or having casual sex. In that vein, I don’t expect my social adventures to win me a lot of support by writing about them. As I said at the outset: It was a mistake to go, and I should not have been there this weekend. But avoiding the conversation does not erase that it happened, and that it has been happening with others.
Many believe sunshine and social distance exponentially decrease our risk factors for seeing friends. But we saw infections spike after Memorial Day, and infection numbers have continued rising since restaurants opened for patio seating. When this story publishes, Independence Day will have just passed, and I suspect many more parties and social gatherings will have happened in people’s homes and outdoors.
I am not one to shame or end a friendship over behavior during this pandemic, or to tell you how to live your life. In mine, however, I’ve struggled to maintain this new normal. A colleague who is much higher risk than me had a similar bout of amnesia this weekend. He said to me this week, “I woke up Monday from my weekend activities and thought, ‘What have I done?’” I think it is expected, even if accidental, for us to revert to routine behaviors in a moment when we were given no warning to cancel huge parts of our lives. For me, I somehow thought a certain normalcy would resume after three months of intense isolation. It is clear now, though, how much longer this altered existence will be with us and the sacrifices ahead — more parties missed, businesses closing, bars we can’t go to, friends we don’t get to see.
This isn’t the most pleasant reality and I don’t love sharing it. There is still so much we don’t know about this virus, and it feels like everyone has deemed themselves experts on the topic. I am not one, but I hope we keep a dialogue open with each other instead of a tribunal about what counts as acceptable behavior. I don’t have any other guidance of my own except make informed decisions, protect yourself, don’t drown in shame if you slip up, and remember to smile. Keep your chin up.
My cucumber gimlet really is great, so I’m including my own recipe this week.
The Spicy Sugarman
• 1/2 cup gin of choice
• 2 cucumbers
• 2 slices of green jalapeño
• 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
• 3 tablespoons simple syrup
• Mint leaves
• Tablespoon of lemon juice (optional)
Dice cucumbers and put them in a blender or food processor, add about a half cup of water, and puree. Take the mixture and strain it through a paper towel, cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
Muddle several mint leaves and put into a pitcher. Mix with one cup of strained cucumber juice, lime juice and simple syrup. Add jalapeño slices. This cocktail should be served really, really cold, so shake it vigorously over ice, and strain up into a glass. I’ve also served it many times from a container with dry ice.
Saul Sugarman is a San Francisco-based writer, event producer and apparel designer. Last Call with Saul appears every other Sunday in the Examiner. His opinions are not necessarily that of the Examiner.