Disaster can illuminate how we are connected and how we rely on one another. This is what is happening in my life, my relationships, and in my Uptown neighborhood near Magazine Street and Jefferson Avenue. By day the streets are largely empty but around dusk people emerge to ride their bikes or walk, either alone, in pairs, or in small family groups, often with dogs and/or children in tow. Is now rare for someone to cease to either wave or say hello from a distance. Often people stop, now conditioned to remain at least six feet away, and engage others in conversation. We admire one another’s homes and gardens, most of which are looking better cared for now that we have more time to tend to them. Andrew and I are among the walking as we escort The Girls (our four dogs – Lovebug, Pennylane, Poppy, and Fannie) around the ‘hood.

The weather has been glorious in the way only springtime in New Orleans can be. Now we slow down and appreciate it.

People offer to help others in whatever ways they can. They inquire of one another’s health and families. We talk about Covid 19 and the impact all of this is having on our lives but we indulge in the slaughtering of one another over differences less and less. Red, blue, Muslim, Christian, or Jew: It matters less and less because we are all pretty much living the same weird reality. It took a global pandemic to put us all back in our own neighborhoods and back on the same page.

Right now Amazon and Instacart are lifelines for those who cannot leave their homes to go to the grocery or drug store due to heightened risk of infection. However, I am here to implore of you, all of you, everyone: Please abandon these convenience-driven services when we get to the other side of this. Please skip online purchasing, chain stores, and restaurants in order to keep our local merchants operating and our neighborhoods alive. They desperately need us. We need the community and shopping at a privately owned business is so much more rewarding and engaging an experience than shopping at Walmart or Walgreen’s could ever be.

Locally owned and utterly charming Castellon Pharmacy (8232 Oak St, 504-866-3784, facebook.com/castellonpharmacy) has everything you need from prescriptions to laundry detergent, several lines of locally roasted coffee, a line of playful reading glasses priced at $6.99, and a full line of old fashioned gentlemen’s Pinaud grooming products. They know your name, are competitively priced, and offer remedies and oddities you simply never see any place else. Check out facebook (no website) for information on sales and new arrivals.

Another New Orleans pharmacy worth checking out is Uptown Pharmacy (741 Nashville Ave., 504-897-0141). Like Castellon, this is a friendly, old fashioned independent neighborhood pharmacy offering prescriptions, OTC medications, and sundries. Specialties include extensive lines of Boudreaux’s Butt Paste and Dr. Tichenor’s products. Currently on offer are extensive lines of Girl Scout cookies.

Two weeks ago the Canseco family opened their fifth locally-owned market, this one in the Riverbend area at the corner of Oak St. and Carrolton Ave. (1133 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-766-0972, cansecos.com).The full service grocery store has approximately 6,000 square feet of retail space. There are extensive beer and wine selections as well as fresh produce, meats, in-house baked goods, fresh flowers, dairy, frozen food and in-house prepared meals such as sushi, sandwiches, a salad bar, hot meals and grab-and-go items.

The Canseco family opened the first Canseco’s Market in Old Metairie in February 2005. In addition to the Old Metairie original and the new Riverbend, locations on St. Claude Avenue in Arabi, Elysian Fields Avenue in Gentilly and Esplanade Avenue in Bayou St. John are open and operating. Right now both the Arabi and Riverbend markets are offering Steak Night every Thursday from 3-7 p.m. For $12.99 you get a rib-eye steak grilled to order and served with two sides to go.

If you have some time to spare, are between 18-59 years old, healthy, and want to help others, consider signing up to help United Way and Hands on in their joint effort to help fill the gap to ensure food security for seniors and those with medical/physical disabilities who are not involved in Meals on Wheels and other similar programs. Volunteers will pick up meal boxes from a central distribution point in Lee Circle and deliver them to a senior’s doorstep following safe, distanced distribution protocols. Each driver will deliver to five or six households in the same zip code. Opportunities are available on Mondays and Thursdays with shifts from 11a.m. – 2 p.m. To sign up or check out the guidelines visit volunteer.handsonneworleans.org.

American music icon Paul Simon has recorded a very timely and moving version of “An American Tune” that should get to us all in this most unusual of times. Check it out.

Have a great week, everyone. Use it to celebrate the people and the community you love, even if you are doing it from afar, digitally, or over the telephone. We need each other more than ever so take the time and make the effort to reach out. While you are at it make an effort to forgive past misdeeds and share some love. Please reach out to me if you have something to share or I can help in some way because You’ve Got A Friend in Me.