News of the Week: The Isolation Expert, the End of Handshakes, and the Return of the Milkman

In the news for the week ending April 17, 2020, are the disappearance of handshakes, the return of milkmen, the absence of emoji, the abundance of bad habits, and more.

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Social Distancing Tips (from Someone Who Has Been Doing It 50 Years)

One of these days I’m going to stop writing about this pandemic. Today is not that day.

I hope your social distancing/quarantine/whatever you want to call it is going well. Can you imagine doing this for a year? How about two years? Five? How would you like to do it for half a century?

That’s how long Billy Barr has been doing it. He was social distancing before it was hip. He’s the only resident of Gothic, Colorado, an abandoned silver mine town in the Rocky Mountains. He’s both the mayor and the chief of police and has five decades of experience being isolated. He suggests keeping a routine, celebrating the stuff that matters, and watching movies to adjust your mood (as long as they’re not about, well, pandemics).

Sure, he hasn’t been forced into isolation because of a health disaster, and he hasn’t had to wear a mask or wash his hands furiously for 50 years, but he has been alone, and I think you’ll find his tips smart and helpful. More people should embrace their grumpiness.


When this whole thing began, the common wisdom was to knock elbows instead of shaking hands. But now we can’t even do that. That violates the rule that we need to be at least six feet apart from each other (also: it looks ridiculous). It makes one wonder: Will people not want to shake hands when it’s over?

This is actually something people are considering. Since social distancing rules will loosen at some point, and business will get back to “normal,” we might try to find ways to lessen the frequency that we catch something like COVID-19 or various flus and colds, and handshaking will probably be something where many people say, “You know what? I don’t do that anymore.” It might be awkward at first, as someone you meet extends their hand, but hopefully they’ll understand when you decline to grab hold.

Some people have never liked shaking hands because of hygiene issues (and don’t even get them started on hugging). Maybe we can bring back the calling card or come up with another greeting when we meet. A nod of the head? Thumbs up? Pistol fingers? Maybe we can all start wearing hats again and tip them to each other.

Got Milk?

If some old traditions like the handshake go away, maybe we can replace them with some other older customs. We’ve heard about the resurgence of baking and jigsaw puzzles and drive-ins, and now we’re seeing milk being delivered to more homes by milkmen (and milkwomen).

This still happens in some small communities around the country, of course, but it used to happen everywhere, and it’s happening a lot more since we’ve all had to start staying home and not going to the store as much as we used to.

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Breaking News

There won’t be any new emojis released in 2021. PLEASE REMAIN CALM. We’ll get through this together.

Headline of the Week

“Americans Are Excessively Eating, Drinking, Smoking Pot, Playing Video Games, and Watching Porn While Quarantined,” from Forbes.

RIP Brian Dennehy, Mort Drucker, Hal Willner, Saul Turteltaub, Danny Goldman, and Malcolm Dixon

Brian Dennehy had a long career on the big and small screens, from movies like First Blood, F/X, and Cocoon to TV shows like The Fighting Fitzgeralds, The Blacklist, and the Jack Reed series of TV movies. He was also an acclaimed stage actor, winning Tonys for his performances in Death of a Salesman and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. He died Wednesday at the age of 81.

Mort Drucker was a brilliant caricaturist for Mad for over 50 years. His work was also seen on the covers of such publications as Time, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone, and he worked on many comic books, coloring books, children’s books, movies, and in advertising. He died last week at the age of 91.

The Post’s David Apatoff examines the work of two classic American artists, Drucker and Norman Rockwell, in this piece. Drucker’s version of our magazine was called The Saturday Evening Pest.

Since 1980, Hal Willner was the guy who picked the music used in Saturday Night Live sketches. He was also responsible for many tribute albums and concerts and produced albums for various artists. He died last week at the age of 64.

Saul Turteltaub was a producer and writer on several TV shows, including The Carol Burnett Show, Sanford and Son, That Girl, and Love, American Style, among many other shows. He died last week at the age of 87.

Danny Goldman was a veteran character actor best known for playing the medical student with the annoying questions in Young Frankenstein and as the voice of Brainy Smurf on The Smurfs. He also had roles on The New Mike Hammer and Busting Loose. He died Sunday at the age of 80.

Malcolm Dixon was best known for roles in Time Bandits and Return of the Jedi, as well as Willow and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, where he played an Oompa Loompa. He died earlier this month at the age of 66.

This Week in History

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Dies (April 12, 1945)

You can read Val Lauder’s account of how the Chicago Daily News covered Roosevelt’s death while she was a copy girl there. You can also read this remembrance on the 10th anniversary of his death, written for the Post by Lela Stiles, one of Roosevelt’s secretaries.

Noah Webster Publishes Dictionary (April 14, 1828)

The original title was An American Dictionary of the English Language.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Kraft Cheese Ad (April 15, 1950)

Vintage Kraft cheese magazine ad
Kraft Cheese ad from April 15, 1950 (View larger version)

I wonder if some consumers forgot to take off the plastic wrapping when these first hit the stores.

April Is National Grilled Cheese Month

I have this feeling that I’ve written about grilled cheese sandwiches here recently, but I don’t think I have. The days are all running together and I think I’ve lost all sense of time, space, and food. But even if I had written about grilled cheese recently, who’s going to disapprove of writing about them again? Grilled cheese is the ultimate comfort sandwich, and we need comfort right now.

Taste of Home has a recipe for what they call the Ultimate Grilled Cheese, but Food Network has something called the Ultimate Grilled Cheese too. And wouldn’t you know it, Bon Appetit has an Ultimate Grilled Cheese recipe as well. I don’t know how any of those statements hold up legally — maybe some year they’ll do a March Madness-type bracket tournament — but it’s grilled cheese so I’m sure they’re all great.

In related news, today, Friday, is also National Cheese Ball Day. So basically go crazy with the cheese this weekend.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Patriots’ Day (April 20)

This day is celebrated in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, North Dakota, and Wisconsin (and semi-celebrated in Florida) and shouldn’t be confused with Patriot Day, which is September 11, or Patriots Day, which is a Mark Wahlberg movie.

Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day (April 23)

This year you can celebrate by taking your kids to your kitchen table.

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  1. My Mom purchased packages of Kraft Single Slice Cheese all the time. I can still picture the package sitting on the inside shelf of the refrig door. With 3 kids in the house, that cheese went fast. Even though we had a nice little store just one block down with a good deli, Mom would only buy Kraft Cheese.

    A side note to Bob McGowan, Jr: under “normal” situations, The New York Times lets you read up to 5 articles a month for free. Because of the corona virus they’ve put a stop to that. Perhaps they figure with so many people being home their site might crash with unexpected readers. Let’s hope that once the lock-downs are over the paper will revert to some free articles.

  2. The Billy Barr video is fascinating. It may not be a life for everyone, but it works for him, so therefore I sayeth it’s best he continue with it.

    I think hand shakes are going to be gone permanently. They’re already finished NOW Bob. Personally, I like doing a gentle bow with a smile flashing my white teeth. These are for positive situations. In negative ones (like a high school reunion with a couple of people) I’ve extended my hand forward after they have, then withdrawn it. Non-verbal communication often is still the best. Yes, I’ve moved on from your telling my science teacher I had important notes in ink written on my left palm and fingers, but his written letter to my parents that arrived the next day, catching me COMPLETELY off guard, still stings. April 1975, just 2 damn months before graduation!!! &%$#@!!

    I tried to read a little of the New York Times obit on Mort Drucker, but it kicked me out in less than 5 seconds, ’cause I’m not signed up. Meanwhile Brian Dennehy was a great actor that in certain roles has (and still can) terrify me. I sure loved a lot of Saul Turteltaub’s TV shows from network TV’s Golden Age.

    American cheese ain’t my thang at all Bob, but to everyone who gets off on it, do enjoy!


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