Keeping body and soul together

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

Our Silver Lining Department has been working overtime to come up with positives about the current crisis. Here are some of their ideas: 

The crisis is helping us return to simpler times, with less traffic and less hustle and bustle. Work doesn't seem so important anymore. People are actually reading again. Home-cooked meals have made a comeback. The Sunday roast has returned, along with leisurely family meals. The loss of sports will lead to more conversation. 

Personally, I'm not comforted by that last thought. My entire leisure life is built around watching sports. This time of year is normally the sweet spot for sports. I'll miss watching the do-or-die NCAA tournament games and seeing some sophomore launch a game-winner during the high school tournament. 

Returning to the positive ideas, most of them came from our bureau in Waukesha, Wisconsin, so they may not be a good fit for Forest Park. I savor home-cooked meals as much as anyone, but I live in a community that has an economy built on restaurants and bars. My heart breaks for the owners.

I listened to Katherine Valleau's heartfelt interview on WGN Radio. She is the co-founder and co-owner of Exit Strategy. Katherine and Chris are a month away from celebrating their establishment's fifth anniversary. 

"My entire world has crumbled around me," Katherine told the host, "My livelihood is based on socialization and everyone is discouraged from socializing."

Katherine also feels for her staff. Some have been servers for years and don't have any other trade. After hearing her speak, I resolved to patronize our restaurants as much as possible and to tip for take-out. She is not the only restaurateur in town who faces a struggle for survival. 

Bars and restaurants are suffering across the country. My wife and I had planned our first trip to Nashville but cancelled after they shut down the music venues. She came up with "Plan B," exploring nature. Sounds radical. I also think golf would be a healthy pursuit, as long as we don't play the 19th hole.  

Getting outside keeps us from going stir-crazy. However, many of us already work from home, so we're accustomed to being indoors. Spending our days working, while doing domestic chores is nothing new. We call it Tuesday. 

I'm also lucky to be a writer. Working in solitude is our thing. I've gotten so much writing done lately, I'm ready to turn my detective novel into a trilogy. I'm also an investigative reporter, though I'm carefully avoiding any TV coverage of the crisis. I get my alarming bulletins from family members and they've made me more conscious of personal hygiene. 

I also happen to live with the most hygienic human I know. My son, Mark, has long been an advocate for frequent handwashing. This is reassuring because he rides the Blue Line and works at O'Hare Airport. Mark has Tuesdays off and we were planning to celebrate St. Patrick's Day yesterday. After public celebrations were cancelled, we were thankful that Forest Park already held its parade on March 7. We enjoyed a blowout celebration and got our fix of bagpipes and beer.

Anyway, as a lifelong touch-me-not, I'm comfortable keeping a safe distance in public places. I never did like that handshake of peace in church, and I excuse myself from the pew to avoid it. Hugs are even more intrusive.  

It will be a challenge in the weeks ahead to stay physically healthy while keeping our mental health intact. As we do our best to avoid spreading disease, we need to find new ways to feed our souls. I've even considered taking a walk. 


John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

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