Staying Apart, Together: We’ll get through May in quarantine (with help from ‘Parks and Rec’)

Editor’s Note: This is a preview of USA TODAY’s newsletter Staying Apart, Together, a guide to help us all cope with a world changed by coronavirus. If you would like it in your inbox on Tuesdays and Saturdays, subscribe here.

Somehow, someway, the calendar is suddenly turned to May.

It’s been a heck of a first four months of the year, and keeping track of what day, or even month it is feels equal parts impossible and quaint. The passage of time feels wildly different as most of us stay home.

But I’m choosing to be excited about May, which brings so many joys for my family (multiple birthdays!) – And hopefully yours – even in these hard times. This month usually brings the end of the school year, graduations, Mothers Day and Memorial Day, along with the usual birthdays and anniversaries. Even if all of these events have to be quieter, smaller and without the “Pomp and Circumstance” we are used to, they are still worth celebrating.

Mother’s Day may not have a restaurant brunch, but it’s still a day when we can appreciate the moms in our lives. There’ll be few graduation ceremonies with caps and gowns, but completing college still represents a huge achievement for students who have had to learn under truly bizarre circumstances over the past six weeks. Even if birthday parties are merely virtual, they can still have cakes, candles and true gratitude for another trip around the sun.

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As the public health and economic crisis continues to evolve, I’m choosing to focus on the good things to come. I’m trying to believe May is going to be better than April. Let’s start with a great weekend.

Today’s entertainment

It’s been a great week for TV fans, quarantine and all. “Parks and Recreation” aired a reunion special to benefit Feeding America, which is now streaming on YouTube, NBC’s app and Hulu. (As of Friday morning it had already raised $2.8 million). I was a little nervous about the special: “Parks” is one of my all-time favorite series and the difficulties making TV in quarantine are huge.

But I never should have doubted writer Mike Schur and the blessedly talented cast (read my review/recap). The script and the acting felt as natural, sweet and funny as ever, even over Zoom (or rather, Gryzzl, the competitor from the series’ fictional tech giant). I highly recommend you watch (and donate if you can), especially if you were a fan of the show. And if you’ve never seen it, it’s a great quarantine binge, available on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

I also have two new weekend watching recommendations: “Hollywood” on Netflix and “Upload” on Amazon. “Hollywood” is a glitzy, no-holds-barred examination of post-World War II Hollywood moviemakers from Ryan Murphy, creator of “Glee,” “American Horror Story” and “Pose.” “Upload” comes from “Parks” and “The Office” co-creator Greg Daniels and takes place in a future when humans can upload their consciousness to a digital afterlife. Both offer escapism, great performances and smart writing, especially “Upload,” which is one of my favorite new shows of the year.

Today’s dose of goodness

USA TODAY’s inspiration-focused Humankind series was seeking the good in the world long before coronavirus, but its insights on the best of humanity are increasingly helpful as the crisis has dragged on. This week it highlighted a 23-year-old who created a charity aimed at helping frontline healthcare workers. From the story:.

With a background in business, 23-year-old Ben Schecter felt helpless in the fight against COVID-19. And his friends and colleagues wanted to help.

Feed the Front Line (FTFL) began as a simple idea: raise money, purchase food from struggling workers and deliver it as free meals to hospital workers. Now the Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit has chapters in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois.

Each week, volunteers pick up bulk orders from participating restaurants and bring them to hospitals that need them most. On Easter alone, the Texas chapter delivered 2,500 meals to health care workers to lift their spirits.

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If you don’t live in one of these four states, local restaurants are increasingly taking the same steps to feed local healthcare workers. If you want to give back in this way, it’s worth checking in with your favorite eateries on social media. A brewpub my husband and I frequented nearly every weekend in Fairfax, Virginia, is feeding our local hospital.

Today’s travel (without leaving your house)

The longer we practice social distancing, the stronger the itch to leave not just your house but your town or city. It’s happening for me, certainly. I am immensely bored of all the routes you can take around my apartment complex to walk my dog without running into other people. Virtual tours are definitely helpful to soothe my cabin fever, and as a TV critic I’m partial to these “armchair tours” of New York City locations featured in major films and TV shows. The deli from “When Harry Met Sally,” the diner from “Seinfeld” and the bar from “How I Met Your Mother” are all there. See the rest and take the tours here.

Today’s reads

  • In the last newsletter, I wrote about watching shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “American Idol” that are being filmed in quarantine with the help of technology and creativity. I watched all the series attempting this right now and gave my judgments here (spoiler, Wendy Williams is surprisingly amazing).
  • May means we’re coming up on what would have been graduation season. If you have a high school or college kid at home swallowing their disappointment at missing this milestone, we have 15 ideas about how to make a quarantine commencement special.
  • Considering we have very few sports events right now, we are still talking about the NFL draft at USA TODAY. Our Sports team breaks down eight players who are still in flux after the big virtual event.
  • OK, we’re going to talk about doing it: Sex and quarantine. What are the rules? Lifestyle reporter Maria Puente, who I trust in all such matters, talked to experts about what safe sex really means right now.
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    Today’s pet

    Our featured pet for this weekend really puts the fur in comfort.

    This is Miles, a 6-year-old good boy from Fort Myers, Florida, who practices “social distancing, doggie style” according to his parents, Todd and Amy. I can confirm that this is a very comfortable position, even for humans.

    That’s it for this Saturday. Stay safe, stay well, and I will return to your inbox Tuesday.

    All my very best,.

    Kelly Lawler.

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