The Weekend Miscellaneous #5 (NJ Toll Booth, The Salt House, Ferriss/Kornfield, How to Get Rich, Catch Phrase, Knives Out)

Good morning.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how my young Monday tradition of The Weekend Miscellaneous had pretty clearly become a series of food and sometimes movie reviews. I also said I believed that would morph over time. Little did I know that two weeks later every restaurant and theater in New York City would be closed for at least a month by the executive order of the mayor. Sufficed to say, today I will not be reviewing New York restaurants nor movies that I saw in the theaters this weekend, but I do have a few miscellaneous items to write about.

Without any further ado or anything extemporaneous, here is the weekend review which I call The Weekend Miscellaneous.

NJ Toll Booth – my brother and I took an Uber home to New Jersey on Thursday evening and Friday I took the Jeep to Lauren’s house in Pennsylvania to spend the weekend there with her and her family. I have always found it curious that while driving along Route 202 I have to pay a toll on the way to Pennsylvania but not on the way back to New Jersey. In my view, my home state’s not great reputation to most outsiders is not helped by this small fact that you literally have to pay to leave but can enter free of charge. Sadly, I suppose this is what happens when I cannot write so much about food and movies. I write about toll booths.

The Salt House – in what I imagined would be our last dinner out for a while (voluntarily if not by governmental decree), Lauren and I ate at The Salt House in New Hope, PA for the second time in the last few months. I cannot speak to too much of the menu because we each have ordered the burger both times and will likely do the same next time, which I hope comes sooner than later. It is a nice and juicy burger with cheese and caramelized onions on top served with crispy french fries and garlic aioli on the side which I skip and ask for ketchup to replace. They make a good mezcal negroni as well. We got lucky to sit at the same table as last time which seems like it could have been built for a world of social distancing. The table is in a room small enough to fit only it, with windowed walls to the outside on three sides and the last side open to the main room of the small restaurant which probably only seats around 16 or 20 people downstairs with another handful of high chairs at the bar. There is pink, black, and white salt on every table, all of which we use on our fries.

Ferriss/Kornfield – by the time I got to going for a run last Friday afternoon, I was fairly spent and frankly pretty frustrated from the week that had passed. Anyone who has felt a high sense of responsibility to take the coronavirus situation seriously and to urge others to do the same will understand what I am talking about. Some people just need to see it before they can believe it. Fortunately, many more Americans are taking it seriously after the unprecedented reactions of governments and organizations this past week, but more still will take it seriously a week from now and then a week from then as the reality of the virus itself begins to show in the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths which we have unfortunately yet to scratch the surface of, and as the stock market continues to tumble. As the situation gets worse before it gets better, it will be important for people to start now (if they have not already) searching for ways that work for them to relieve fear, anxiety, and depression. This podcast called How to Find Peace Amidst COVID-19, How to Cultivate Calm in Chaos acts almost as a therapy session with Tim Ferriss as the patient and Jack Kornfield as the therapist. It was helpful for me to hear on Friday if for no other reason because of the calming tone of the conversation. There are a couple of perspectives shared and practices described that may be helpful for you too. There is a fine balance between doing everything we reasonably can to prevent the foreseeable damage we see happening in all of this and falling back on principles like that there is no such thing as good or bad, and that the worst times get better. This podcast helps shift the weight from the former to the latter frame of mind. In their conversation, Jack tells of a spiritual teacher who once pointed to a massive boulder in a field and asked him and his fellow students if the rock seemed to heavy to them. When they replied “yes”, the teacher responded, “not if you do not pick it up”. This is how I feel about the weight of the world right now and the feeling of responsibility I have to warn others about what I think is coming, but that is a heavy boulder to be holding all of the time. Jack’s story helped me realize I needed to put it down for a bit. Fortunately, I was able to do so for most of the rest of the weekend, relaxed a bit, and had a good time.

How to Get Rich – by Sunday afternoon, I had nearly tricked my mind into feeling life was normal again, despite a stop at a more than usually empty grocery store on my way home by the toll-less road from Pennsylvania. With a clear mind, I embarked upon a run under a blue sky and strong sun. It was the first time I had gone for a run in just shorts and a t-shirt since last fall in Seoul with my buddy Eric and our host and friend Yuncheol. Eric returned to the US after 8 months of unadulterated travel this weekend and I hope we can run together again soon. During my run on Sunday I listened to this How to Get Rich podcast by Naval, who founded AngelList (the leading platform connecting startup founders to investors) and is widely recognized as one of the wisest people in Silicon Valley. This podcast is incredibly dense with logical insights on how to become wealthy in terms of gaining the freedom to do as one wishes. Counter to what the name of the episode might suggest, it is practically the opposite of any sort of scam-like get rich quick type program. I am only a bit over an hour into the episode, but it has resonated thus far as powerful and true, and I look forward to continuing it and maybe even listening again.

Catch Phrase – this is a game where a word or phrase comes up on the Catch Phrase device and the person holding the device has to get the others to guess it without saying any part of the word or phrase itself. A bunch of us played it this weekend at Lauren’s and made a drinking game out of it with a simple rule that you have to drink every time you get stuck with the device when the timer runs out. You can get the device for less than $20 on Amazon and it may serve as a nice in-home game for you and whoever you are locked down with as the social distancing continues. I realize it is somewhat ironic to recommend a game that involves passing a device which requires everyone to hit the same button when it is their turn in a time when everyone is supposed to keep their hands to themselves. That said, if you and a few people are locked down in the same place, the chances are you are all taking the same precautions in terms of interactions with the outside world and there are probably more things than this game that everyone in the house is touching and sharing so I do not feel this is a particularly irresponsible recommendation, especially if everyone washes their hands before and after and tries not to touch their faces. That does not mean one should go and invite friends from far and wide to come play it, but for the purpose of finding some entertainment with your house arrested crew, this game should do. A free version of a similar game that my family and our family friends who showed us have played is called The Name Game. In this game, everyone write up a dozen or more names on small strips of paper to be folded and mixed together in a bowl to be drawn upon by whoever’s turn it is. Combined with a phone timer, you no longer need the Catch Phrase device for words/phrases or time and it can end up being even more fun to see the random names that people come up with.

Knives Out – an 8.0 is a strong rating on IMDb, so even though this move never struck me as looking very good on the commercials, I gave it a shot with my family last night. I would not put it in the same league as the other Oscar’s contenders for Best Picture that I saw this year, but it was a good and entertaining movie with an ending worth watching through. I am not the person who usually guesses what is going to happen in a movie before it happens, but even those who are that type of person I would think would have a hard time with this one. Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas do a great job and I would recommend the movie, just not as highly as IMDb.

In closing, at the risk of repetition, I urge everyone to take social distancing seriously, and practice it as much as you reasonably can. Sure I went to dinner on Friday at a low capacity restaurant in rural Pennsylvania, but I also made the executive decision at the eleventh hour last Wednesday for my group of six not to go use our tickets to the Big East Tournament at MSG which sat thousands in NYC for what ended up being one of the last sporting events in America before the wave of cancellations came in. I saw a funny message going around the other day which said something like this, “Our grandparents were forced to fight in wars for us. All we are being asked to do is stay at home. We can do it.” In other words, we are being asked to do something that previous generations would have begged to do — stay home and be safe. More than that, those generations did not have Netflix, let alone the internet, let alone color TV or any TV at all just a century ago. With that in mind, I hope you stay home, stay healthy, and stay safe, and when the rock gets heavy, put it down for a bit.