featured photo: Chris Manzo

Like the rest of us, Chris Manzo is no longer on the go, but he’s making the most of staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

What a weird time for all of us. It feels like our world changed in a blink. It’s a shame we have to worry about work on top of staying healthy. But I think we’re already seeing that the coronavirus pandemic is bringing out the best in people. There’s a lot less anger. And random acts of kindness everywhere. I always wished we could channel the care we gave to one another after 9/11 into everyday life. Now’s our chance to continue to be kind, even after this is over.

Something To Remember

I can relate the pandemic to Hurricane Sandy. At the time, I was living in Hoboken, which was one of the hardest hit areas. The town lost power and flooded, so the National Guard was called in – there were tanks going down the street. It was like a war zone. I brought food to the police department and then left Hoboken to go to my mom and dad’s house, which had power. I was fortunate to have somewhere to go. 

There’s a great picture of me with my sister, Lauren, when we were back home for Sandy. Lauren had just finished cosmetology school. To lighten things up, she surprised us and used her makeup to paint her face like a clown. I’ll never forget that moment. In the picture, I definitely look like I was staying in a house that I didn’t actually live in, but to this day, it makes me laugh. Moments like that can only be born in tough times.

Something To Give

We have to step up to look out for each other. Help isn’t only about donating money. There’s a saying, (by author Regina Brett) ‘If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.’ This is the best time to take stock of what really matters. And do whatever we can to help. 

Small things are important, like showing how much we appreciate the people around us, whether it’s a roommate, significant other or family, and reaching out to those that are not nearby. Smiling, saying hello to strangers from a distance and sharing a compliment go a long way.

For those of us not at-risk, picking up groceries for neighbors that need help, or volunteering for organizations like Invisible Hands or a local food bank can make a huge difference.

If we can put the face of a small business owner to a place, then we should support that place. Not every business has a million dollars behind it. The businesses that sponsor teams and events support the community in good times, and make sacrifices even when there isn’t a global pandemic, so we need to be there for them in any way we can. 

Follow local restaurants, gyms, salons, bookstores on social media to keep in touch and find out ways to help their workers. Shop the local deli or small grocer instead of a supermarket corporation. 

If date night is every Thursday, keep date night and pick up dinner to go. I’ve been in the restaurant industry most of my life. Besides my time on TV, I’ve always worked on tips, so I’m obsessed with over-tipping. It makes all the difference in the world, especially now.

Something To Do

We should be grateful if boredom is the biggest price to pay. Without live sports, on the bright side, there’s no yelling at the TV, and more time for books, shows and movies. 

I’m reading Sex Money Murder by Jonathan Green about a gang from the Bronx in the ’80s. It’s really raw and honest, and gives a fresh perspective on how bad things can be in everyday life. When I’m finished, I’ll read Thunderstruck. I love everything by Erik Larson. The Devil in the White City is one of my favorites. 

I’m all about binging TV series, especially with more time at home. Some of my favorites: Hunters on Amazon starring Al Pacino, based on true events from tracking down Nazis in ’70s NYC; The Americans on FX about Russian spies living in Washington DC during the ’80s; and the new season of the superhero drama Watchmen on HBO is some of the best television I’ve ever seen.  

When it comes to movies, I’m looking for an escape. I love the new Jumanji (Jumanji: The Next Level) – it’s a great distraction and totally entertaining. I just watched it with my girlfriend who lives in Nashville. We’ve got the social distancing thing down! When we aren’t together in person, we have movie date nights over the phone. We pick the movie together. We’ll look at Netflix or Hulu, shout out suggestions until we land on the same one. I know there are apps for viewing dates and parties, but because I talk a lot during a movie, we do this old school. We stay on the phone until we get to the same frame, hit play at the same time, then end our call and text during the movie. With TV shows, we always watch the season finale together, so that’s something we’ll have to look forward to for now.

Something To Smile About

Looking back on Hurricane Sandy, little did I know that the nuclear engineer brought in from Texas to fix the power grid in Hoboken would end up being special to me on a personal level. In talking about how we get through tough times, my girlfriend and I realized that the guy who led disaster relief efforts several years ago happens to be her father. That made me smile and realize we’ll get through this, too.

Interested in watching a movie or TV show with friends during social distancing? Try these apps for online viewing parties when you can’t be together.

Kast features screen capture, voice, text and video chat, and supports all streaming services.

TwoSeven offers video chat while watching Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Now, YouTube and Vimeo, along with Hulu and Disney Plus for a subscription fee. 

Netflix Party synchronizes video playback with group chat on Netflix, but all participants must be registered Netflix account holders.