Covid-19

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    As pandemic life continues to shift and many things are uncertain, there are a few knowns: how people shop and spend their money has changed. Trends are always temporary, but COVID lifestyle seems like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. Which, as we know, can mean many different things. Some people have had to curb shopping habits while others are taking the opportunity to rethink home aesthetics, construct meditation gardens (complete with labyrinths - yes, this is a thing!) and give their closet a makeover. The marketplace for just about anything is either failing or thriving – there’s not a lot of in between. 

    Neha Gandhi, Chief Operating Officer for GirlBoss, agrees. “I think what's gone away for now is everything that happened in the middle: Leisurely browsing. Shopping for the sake of shopping. Appointment shopping with specific events and gatherings in mind.” 

    Though society in general does seem to have gotten past the no pants and sourdough bread making stage of pandemic (whew) there does seem to be one commonality across the board of pandemic life: comfort. With the numbers of people working remotely - or not at all - consistently on the rise, and levels of unease about being in public places even though they may be open, the general vibe is: let’s make this work as best we can. Upgrading home workspaces, elevating self care routines (ranging from skincare to splurging on a Peloton) or investing in better cookware are pretty on trend for current times. And while lounge and leisure wear ranging from chic to utilitarian has moved into the spotlight, sometimes that flowy dress and strappy heels is needed. 

    Pia Baroncini, Creative Director for LPA, falls into both fashion categories. “I see two things happening (and I’m partaking in this); specialty and loungewear. I’ve bought a couple investment pieces and of course, chic loungey stuff. I find that when I do actually go somewhere I’m dressing up more to prove I’m a human, and for some reason that’s translating to shoes because I’ve been in slippers and Birkenstocks for five months.”

    To dig a little deeper we had the pleasure of chatting with a few business leaders to gain some insight into how shopping habits have changed during COVID...

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    Pia Baroncini, Creative Director @ LPA

    “I want to say people aren’t buying speciality items, but I’m not really seeing that to be completely true on my end. We are selling party dresses and novelty items, and Davide’s brand (which is luxury and a high price point) is selling like hot cakes. However, we have transitioned to chic loungewear and sweatshirts, because that's mostly what we see people buying, including myself. This many months in, and with Google announcing their employees aren’t going back until July 2021, it’s clear we are living like this for a long time. So it's really about this sweet spot between being cozy but feeling dignified; three piece PJ sets, “nightgown” dresses, you know, chic house attire that you can wear out with an espadrille in summer or combat boots and a sweater in fall.” 

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    Daniela Corrente, CEO @ Reel

    “There are two major patterns that are fairly evident when it comes to shopping habits during COVID. 

    One, is the type of products people are spending money on. We have seen a big swift in priorities, which is natural given the fact that we are spending so much time at home. This is especially true for people in big cities, because living spaces are way smaller. I, myself, have never spent this much time at home, and didn’t even have a home desk prior to this. So many of our Reelers are saving up to make their homes more accommodating to their new working realities; desks, ergonomic chairs, new computers and even noise canceling headphones have become very popular items. 

    The second thing I have noticed, is that this pandemic has been a wakeup call for many people financially. COVID has impacted every single household in one way or another. The current economic uncertainty is pushing people to be more conscious in the way they pay for things, and that is a result of realizing how hurtful being in debt can be, especially when you might be out of a job when you least expect it. People are just resenting living paycheck-to-paycheck, and are looking at their expenses in a more responsible way.”

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    Neha Gandhi Chief Operating Officer @ GirlBoss

    “People are shopping on two speeds right now: The first is careful budgeting and penny-pinching, knowing that very few jobs feel truly secure right now—even for those who are fortunate enough to be in jobs and able to work remotely. A severe financial strain is a reality for so many people, and great deals and targeted sales are an effective way to convince them to spend. 

    The second speed is limited to people with disposable income who probably have a bit more job security. I see a lot of these people being inspired to shop by strong marketing that targets their mental space at present (likely bored, cooped up, potentially lonely, or potentially overwhelmed by a complete lack of alone time). Those people are convinced to spend in binges and often on a whim—great marketing in key categories is super effective with this group. While retail sales are down 98% in the US, some loungewear companies have seen triple-digit growth during the pandemic. Same with consumer tech companies that make products that facilitate work and learning from home. And of course, oat milk sales are up nearly 270%.”

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    Janet Cruz Padrón, Founder @ Latina Money 

    “During these times of social distancing, shoppers have had to forfeit browsing the aisles of their most beloved stores. What once was an opportunity of retail serendipity where one lucky find could lead to another, shoppers have had to primarily now find ways to experience that magic on the world wide web through online shopping. 

    With shopping restrictions in place such as closed changing rooms, minimal interaction with products, and intense cleaning procedures, people are poised to keep shopping online, even as shops open their doors again. The rise of e-commerce will most likely continue as in-store shopping trips become less of a pleasurable sensory experience and more of a burdensome necessity.   

    Shopping during this time of quarantine means that most of my retail and household needs are now delivered to my door. When it comes time to do a grocery run, one of the greatest changes in my shopping habits has been the amount of time I spend inside the actual store. With my checklist in hand, getting in and out of a store as quickly and efficiently as possible has been my biggest priority during this COVID crisis.”

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    Alixandria Capparelli, Founder @ Hairy little Things

    “After months of living through this pandemic, I think it is safe to say that COVID has changed things. Like other industries, the beauty industry has taken a massive hit from a business and consumer standpoint. It has been a rollercoaster of the unknown; people are torn between wanting to pinch their pennies with the fear of possibly losing their jobs and wanting to spend on self-care in a time of need. We at Hairy Little Things were worried that clients were going to be apprehensive about spending money on having costly services done; however, we have actually seen the opposite. We have found that clients are seeking that feel-good sensation and are continuing to support the business by pre-booking appointments and purchasing gift cards for future use when we are allowed to re-open our doors.”

    It’s clear that no matter what your life was like before COVID, the way you live, work, play, shop, save or spend has been altered. The saying, “the only constant in life is change” definitely hits a bit harder these days. But we are resilient, and so are our shopping habits. So rest assured, no matter if you’re masking up and shopping IRL (even though you can’t try anything on) or late night filling your virtual cart, the world of retail will be here for you.

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    By Eve Martinez

  • FVP Performance2 7a8c5Isolation. Police brutality. Violence. Quarantine. A global pandemic. Wildfires. COVID-19. These are some of the words that have been ringing through our ears since the start of 2020. It feels very much the meme of the dog in a hat, sitting in the kitchen while flames burn all around, saying “I’m fine.” But we are not fine. Very much not fine.

    While the world is on fire both literally and figuratively, we have adapted. Adapted to Zoom University, six feet apart dinner dates, distanced learning, sourdough starter kits, really long baths, more therapy sessions... the list goes on. We know this year is unfortunately unforgettable, but how do we remember our unforgettable good parts of 2020? Our new found joys, inner power, and strength? Our communities that comfort us especially during these unprecedented times?

    Lucky for us, we have artists whose storytelling reminds us that we are never alone. That who we are is enough.

    Art In Odd Places 2021: NORMAL, a public and performance art festival, will be featured along 14th Street in Manhattan, NYC on May 14 - 16, 2021. Founded and directed by artist, curator, Libra, and educator Ed Woodham back in the '90s, the festival has been showcasing art since 2005, challenging the idea of public space and personal liberties through art.

    This year’s theme, NORMAL, revolves around the idea of normalcy, one that has been challenged distantly by 2020. And it’s not the normal of a pre-COVID world. It is a normalcy that has allowed white supremacy, racism, police brutality, transphobia, and systemic violence to continue to be unchecked and unscathed in the United States. Sonya Renee Taylor's quote says it all: “We will not go back to normal. Normal never was…”

    The festival’s curator, NYC artist Furusho von Puttkammer (also a Libra) and her team have taken AiOP to a whole new level.

    “When I was first approached by Ed to curate Art in Odd Places 2021, I honestly felt like there was no other choice but to make the theme of this year’s festival a critique on NORMAL,” said Furusho.

    AIOP Group shot 87c84 Furusho, “a queer, mixed race weirdo art kid from the cookie-cutter suburbs,” says, “I was bullied, harassed, and abused by my peers because I didn’t fit into what “normal” was supposed to mean.”

    She adds, “When putting together the team for AiOP 2021, I wanted to make sure I was working with artists whose work was socially conscious and who could relate to me on an individual level.” When it comes to the idea of normal, Furusho calls bullshit. “NORMAL meant the American Dream. The pandemic has finally given a mainstream spotlight to how the American Dream is more like the American Myth. If you are poor, if you are a person of color, if you are queer, and especially if you are a mix of those things, the American Dream does not apply to you.

    “The American Dream, basically the American Normal, is bullshit, and finally American mainstream audiences are paying attention. It would be very un-American to not capitalize on this opportunity.”

     

    Ed Woodham supports and honors this vision – as one artist would do for the other. For Woodham, it’s about best case scenarios, autonomy, and trust. “I felt an urgency to reinvent Art in Odd Places (AiOP). AiOP is an ongoing experiment of what art in public space can be each annual iteration,” he said. “It’s an ongoing exercise of letting go. Furusho has worked with Art in Odd Places for two years prior so we began with a collection of experiences that gave us a working knowledge of understanding, trust, and a shared language. NORMAL is her vision.”

    And with this vision, the festival expands. A growing legacy and tradition that artists come together on 14th Street to share, celebrate, and hold space for each other.

    Yasmeen Abdallah, AiOP 2021’s Curatorial Assistant, sees art as necessary, especially right now. “I think perhaps now, more than ever, we need to find forms of connecting to one another during these isolating times. The fact that it’s outdoors and along the length of 14th Street makes it more feasible to create and experience art in a socially distanced way.” Abdallah loves that every part of it is free, from the application to the festival to the experience itself. The crux of the matter is about community engagement, public art, and accessibility. “14th Street is an especially significant area, with a dynamic history and importance, while also easily accessible for people geographically and ideologically.”

    With "normal" in mind, Sonya Renee Taylor’s quote is all the more powerful. Known for her writing The Body Is Not an Apology book and founding the movement by the same name, AiOP found it more than fitting to feature her words as part of the festival.

    “I noticed Sonya Renee Taylor’s quote being passed around the internet within the first few days of the NYC lockdown. The quote immediately struck a chord with me. Everything about Sonia Renee Taylor and her work aligns perfectly with the message we are trying to get across with this festival,” says Furusho.

    Furusho saw that the American “normal” is deadly, from student loans to the inability to pay medical bills to the protruding violence of racism, police brutality, and homelessness. Furusho experienced this too, with the effects of marginalization and otherness, as she calls it. Regardless, Furusho knew she had the power and the privilege to support and create a space for marginalized communities. “Though my family isn’t rich, I come from a supportive, loving, and economically stable household," she says. "That support and stability has given me access to opportunities that others don’t have access to. I feel it’s my responsibility to help create spaces where marginalized peoples can come together and share their experiences in an open and accessible platform.”

    For AiOP Curatorial Assistant Lorelle Pais, this quote resonates deeply. “As a fellow queer woman of color, I relate to the misportrayal of normalcy as something that seemingly anyone can achieve, but in reality is not obtainable by someone like me,” Lorelle says. “Normal never has been an option for some people. Normal is so relative that it cancels itself out: ten different people will have ten different answers to what normalcy is. I love the clarity of this sensation, this wake up call, this reminder that the American dream is only just a dream.”

    One thing’s for sure: art plays an important role in our society. And it is something that can’t be done alone.

    “Art is just philosophy and experience made visual, in my opinion. It gives us the invaluable opportunity to see the world through another’s perspective, which allows us to learn something new or find someone to relate to. Art in Odd Places acts as a platform to communicate those different perspectives to an audience who might otherwise not be interested,” says Furusho.

    Woodham calls artists "the canaries in the mine" that warn of the dangers ahead. “Art is at the core of inquiry and understanding as we collectively confront the inequities, isms, and phobias that disregard and colonize peoples, cultures, and ideas,” he explains.

    “Artists are cultural producers. It’s our job to understand the time we live in, and the contexts of words and actions,” says Abdallah. “I think that Art in Odd Places is a really thoughtful way to bring out many different perspectives, voices, ideas, and creative avenues of engagement to communicate in real time and space with people so that we can have these conversations, honestly and openly.”

    Amanda WuAiOP's Social Media Manager and an artist who focuses on the climate crisis and social justice, describes artists and time as coexistent. “I think that artists mark a pinpoint in time. We showcase what is happening currently and challenge the viewers to truly see and notice what is happening.”

    Art in Odd Places 2021: NORMAL festival is a celebration. Maybe not so much in the traditional way, but perhaps in the sense that communities never die. Traditions are constantly being reinvented and the resilience and joy of people, especially marginalized communities, is vital and need to be recognized. Always.

    To fellow artists and those who dabble in the creatives (whatever that looks like) AiOP’s team offers some insight to combating burnout, fatigue, and overall hopelessness when it comes to being creative and surviving this world.

    Furusho von Puttkammer: Let yourself simmer in the chaos for a while, then go on autopilot and get things done. Forget perfection, just do it. Believe in yourself enough to figure it out along the way. Look inwards, start small, forgive yourself, and forgive others. As environmental activist Shelbi Orme says, “You can not do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.”

    Ed Woodham: Do not judge your strange behavior and your berserk newfound daily patterns based on the Pre-Pandemic archaic modalities. Those were put in place by the ‘homogenized cis heteronormative patriarchal white supremacy’ to restrict self-realization in order to block access to personal power(s). So, no wonder we are uncomfortable, at odds with what to do and who we are – as these obsolete systems and imposed mores FINALLY crumble into dust. It’s okay to do nothing, not knowing what to do – as it’s a reasonable response in the initial stages of reinventing ourselves.

    Yasmeen Abdallah: Release that stress however you can. Try not to suppress it, because that’s toxic. Slow down, take it in, feel those awful feelings, then turn that negative energy into something cathartic that will free you of it. I really believe that we have to practice what we preach. Keep protesting, creating political art, reading, learning, growing, and fighting oppression.

    Lorelle Pais: Pushing through burnout is painful, but it gives life to so many powerful ideas, a lot like a phoenix cycle of burning and rising from ashes. The advice I would give is to allow time for the cycle to flow naturally, to let yourself rest and let the ash settle. There is no time, so why worry about time?

    Amanda Wu: I also think it is important to take the time to do nothing, we don’t need to be constantly creating. Though sometimes if I want to make something but I’m not sure what I just sit in front of some paper and materials and create anything. It doesn’t have to be good, it could just be a doodle. Not every piece needs to be a masterpiece, it could just be something pretty that you like so you get some creative expression out. Your voice matters, your art matters, even if it is to just one other person.

    With 2020 coming into a close (three months left!), art and community solidarity is what is keeping us present and positive during this unprecedented times. “Now, more than ever, it’s important for us as artists to continue to share our perspectives on the state of America,” says Furusho.

    AiOP 2021: NORMAL will be live May 14 -16, 2021 on14th Street in Manhattan, NYC. Applications are open July 24 – December 1 at 11:59 PM EST. On December 21, applicants will be notified of their decision.
    To connect more, you can visit AIOP's Instagram @artinoddplaces and/or website www.artinoddplaces.org.
    AiOP is looking for volunteers to help out during the festival! Please contact them via email or Instagram.
    To donate to the artists for their amazing work, find them on Venmo: @Furusho-vonPuttkammer, @EdWoodham, @Yasmeen-Abdallah, and @Amanda-Wu-6.

    Top photo courtesy of Ricardo von Puttkammer
    Second photo courtesy of AIOP Team

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    Crescendos cascading in your ears, shrills of keys playing, ensemble of drum beats and eerie vocals rack up in your brain. No, you’re not on acid and listening to your popcorn ceiling telling you that you need to go vegan: you’re listening to Real Clothes’s Precaution.

    A Black queer musician based in Brooklyn, New York, Nico Fox, also known as Real Clothes (and a Leo) delivers a hauntingly beautiful album in the midst of a world riddled with a global pandemic and surviving extreme police brutality and violence. The album dropped August 7, with seven tracks including “Lazaretto,” “A Brief Moment of Silence for the Dead,” and “Taiping Rebellion,” all featuring beautiful arpeggio releases and sensational tempos. Named under the genres of avant-garde, dark pop, new wave goth and folk electronic, Precaution delivers Fox's present-day makeup: feeling the loss of lives, the effects of being Black in 2020, and understanding where our minds go when we are feeling trapped in our homes.

    Influenced by EBM Industrial, Bulgarian choir, and world music, Fox started Precaution last November during a pre-COVID-19 era. “It lived in the back folder on my hard drive. Once COVID-19 hit and everything got a lot slower... there's so many Netflix shows and video games you can do,” Fox explained over Zoom. “I started to revisit instrumental music. Being depressed and that I can’t sleep, I wanted to put these ideas in audio form.” 

    The album’s themes revolve around the effects of quarantine and what happens both being inside and stepping outside. Fox describes “Lazaretto” as being about someone stuck in their house and unable to get out. Meanwhile, “Parable of the Choir,” the second track off of Precaution, revolves around exes texting in the middle of the night (cues horror music). “I took some of the ideas from my last album and had an idea of a woman empowered by magic. And the focus was that we are all alone at this time and we are reaching out to people we shouldn't be reaching out to” said Fox.

    Another song featured on Precaution holds a very powerful meaning. A melancholic soft tremble of piano with choir harmonies gently swaying in the background is one of the more solemn tracks off Precaution.

    “The song is 'A Brief Moment Of Silence For The Dead.' And it's a brief piano piece that I came up with, the only song I've ever done like that. 170,000 people are dead. We haven't any day of remembrance or any reactions from it,” Fox said. She mentions the inspiration came while walking through Greenwood cemetery. “I was thinking and having silence for that. I feel like once a month we should have an hour of silence for the dead. The album itself is upbeat, but I wanted this to break it up and be more quiet. I didn't want to sing on it, I wanted it to be a place of reflection.”

    Black culture has been one of the most influential forces in this country, whether it be from language, music, food, fashion, politics — you name it. But as we have seen throughout centuries and centuries, the erasure of Black and Brown people’s creativity, accomplishments, and contributions go both unnoticed and is ongoing. And if it is celebrated, it is a palatable version that is only perceived through the white gaze. Fox says there is an idea of Blackness as a monolith within the music industry.

    “Blackness commodified as culture by pop media, U.S. culture and it is a global issue. You can only be marketed and seen as one thing,” Fox explains. “Look at the Grammys, if you don't fall under certain categories, you are not going to be there.”

    Fox gives a shout-out to the Internet, noting that it allows her to put her music online and people can access it. But still, the music industry is continuously promoting an inherently capitalist idea of art and productivity. And, of course, whiteness.

    Being an artist is only recognized through both productivity and/or privilege. And what Nico also calls gatekeeping. “Like, where is the gauge for what is considered good or marketable? And I have a lot of frustration with that,” she said. “I think there is this focus especially with white music executives/labels where there is this commercialization of music. No focus on creativity. What I'm saying is there is this idea that if you can't make money off art then it’s not valid or worth being promoted, it's not worth being seen.”

    In turn, this album is significant for Fox. The title is referring to the fact that our current situation is “something we could have taken precaution for.”

    “I felt like I had to create something that encapsulated how I was feeling. And when COVID-19 hit New York, I felt I had to finish it now. It is very important to me, I want to put that in a piece, here and now,” Fox explained. “And I see a lot of artists both independent and mainstream are making music as a form of escapism, and I'm here for that. You know, I love that but I'm thinking about the people who are here and now and can’t escape it, like myself and need to process it here.”

    Precaution is a powerful testimony, a musically lush trill that combines poetry and sound that evokes resonance, somber and play. Nico Fox’s experimental avant-garde music is a great way to tap into a melodic collective, especially during these unprecedented times.

    You can stream Precaution on Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, Tidal, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, and Pandora. Check out the animation trailer teasers here. To keep up with Nico, follow her on Instagram @realclothes.wav and visit her websiteDonate to mutual aid orgs in NYC here.

    Top photo courtesy of Nico Fox

     

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  • Lit Ferris Wheel, Steel Pier, Atlantic City

    I have to admit, before this year, I always kind of took Atlantic City, NJ, for granted. Las Vegas’ grungier, East Coast counterpart, this seaside vacation town is where my grandparents on both sides all spent their humble honeymoons and was the setting for a seedy 1980 crime drama starring Susan Sarandon. But a recent visit to the shiny, new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino—a miraculous re-build over the remains of Donald Trump’s dismal Taj Mahal—really opened my eyes to what safe travel can look like in the COVID era while reminding me that “Work From Home” can really mean “Work From Anywhere.”

    By the time I made it to the Hard Rock with my guy, I was in pretty rough shape. As someone at higher risk for COVID, I had been living as a virtual prisoner in my tiny East Village N.Y.C. apartment for the past six months. Whenever I tried to venture out for a little sun or a nice walk, I was scared back inside by streets crowded with maskless partiers with To-Go cups of cocktails; sick, displaced folks in hospital gowns doing hard drugs in front of boarded up businesses; and even a parade of maskless strangers from NYU heavily laden with beer making their may to my roof for a clandestine party. It just didn’t seem worth it to even try anymore. My skin turned gray, there were dark circles under my worried eyes, and the health risks of living like veal were beginning to compete with the dangers of the virus.

    So when I was invited to Hard Rock’s Atlantic City location to check out the new Safe + Sound protocols being put into place at all of their destinations worldwide, the idea of spending a few days with plenty of uncrowded outdoor space and indoor areas being maintained in strict accordance with CDC guidelines sounded literally like a breath of fresh air. I couldn’t get there fast enough.

    Ac2 0d456 Atlantic City is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Manhattan, so my guy and I were able to pay a friend with a car to get us there safely. But the real safety party began at the front door to the hotel. Posted at every entrance was a security guard with thermal scanning equipment ensuring that nobody running a fever could get in. We also had to answer a lengthy list of questions about possible COVID exposure. The place is an anti-viral fortress.

    Thermal 2aa8d Once inside, there were more security guards maintaining 100% mask compliance and social distancing while making sure nobody was eating or drinking outside strictly designated areas. Smoking was prohibited everywhere, the front desk was walled off by plexiglass dividers, and so was every seat at every table throughout the entire casino, making the few gamblers and dealers on the floor look like rare exhibits under glass. 
    Plexi 0d433Hand sanitizer dispensers were absolutely everywhere, and a literal army of staff wearing bright yellow Safe + Sound shirts were buzzing around like an army of helpful bees constantly disinfecting every surface in sight. The few times I ventured into public bathrooms they were always in the process of being cleaned and signs outside informed visitors that every restroom was being cleaned hourly.
    Cleaning 85dba

    After a completely contactless check-in, we took our bags up to our ocean-view room and had to break a seal that had been placed on our door signifying that the space we were entering had passed a 272-point inspection process. The room smelled like lavender and fresh linen. Sun was shining in through the curtains and waves were rolling in on the nearly empty beach below. I had just arrived and already I never wanted to leave.
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    What followed was a whirlwind of totally revitalizing days spent walking the historic boardwalk, gazing out to sea watching surfers ride the sparkling September waves, swimming in the blissfully uncrowded pool, basking on the socially distanced sun deck, playing the sanitized slots (my lucky machine was Pac Man), racing go-karts on Central Pier, melting into an amazing fully-masked massage at the Rock Spa, and generally reminding myself how to be a happy, fully-functioning person again. I even managed to get work done—while the desk in our room was perfectly adequate for a day or two, I found that answering emails while propped up on six pillows in the enormous king-sized bed made me feel like the Queen of BUST Magazine.

    Montage 67858 The part of the trip I was most nervous about before I arrived was eating, so I packed a few things for the room’s mini fridge. But I quickly realized that I could safely navigate feeding myself outside of what I brought, too. My favorite meal was a decadent old-school room-service breakfast—the rolling cart with the coffee and the fruit and the toast and all those little pots of jam—heaven!  RoomService ba1de

    Another great meal was had when we found the Hard Rock outpost of the famous Atlantic City sub shop White House (a local institution since 1946!) in the “Flavor Tour” food court area. We grabbed a couple of huge sandwiches and sodas and ate them in a deserted outdoor area that pre-COVID was a bar but now functioned as a perfect place to eat overlooking the ocean. When I saw how truly far apart the tables at the indoor dining options were and how few diners were allowed to eat there at a time, we also decided to try a sit-down place called Sugar Factory. It was there that we had the most memorable drinking experience of our stay—an enormous goblet of blue, boozy, fizzy, blue-raspberry-flavored craziness that smoked and bubbled like a cauldron and had jawbreakers and blue gummy bears floating amongst the ice cubes. The snaps I took of my guy doing battle with that beverage were by far the most popular on social media.
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    We enjoyed our time in Atlantic City so much we decided to stay an extra day. In fact, we’re already planning to return to the Jersey Shore (assuming New Jersey’s COVID transmission rate stays among the lowest in the nation at around 2%) the next time the quarantine blues become too much to bear. That being said, however, it should be noted that during my boardwalk explorations I did peek inside a few other oceanside casino resorts and the safety measures in those places were not comparable to those I experienced at the Hard Rock. I didn’t see thermal scanners at the door anywhere else and if there were extra cleaning crews on-hand, they were not an obvious visible presence like where I was staying. The whole Safe + Sound program definitely put my mind at ease during my first outing away from home since the COVID crisis began and helped me re-capture a little glimmer or normalcy during a very abnormal time. If Americans are ever allowed to travel to other countries again, I’ll be tempted to look for Hard Rock resorts outside the U.S.before deciding where to visit next.

    Sunset a2981