Take Me to the Other Side

Coming out of Covid, plus a tribute to a friend...

Today I get my shot.

I know, boasting about it is becoming a bit over the top. It reminds me of the line about all the people doing CrossFit. How do you know someone does CrossFit? They’ll tell you.

Frankly, I’m a bit nervous. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I would never get the flu shot for fear of minor reactions and felt I didn’t need it. There’s also a sillier reason - I hate needles. To explain in SAT analogy form, it would look like this..

Indiana Jones : Snakes. Me : Needles

In fact, if you ever want to hear a crazy story just ask those in the know about my reaction to the “shot of adrenaline” scene from Pulp Fiction. I tried to include the picture of that scene in the header to this story. Not sure if it worked, but I digress…

To me, the shot is more about a new found personal freedom to go out, the re-opening and life in a post Covid world. We are starting to see signs of this everywhere and the markets are leading the way. So far, I like what I see.

This week we got some great economic data showing that things are coming back to life. Retail sales crushed it. People are going back to the stores. Jobless claims came in far better than expectations. The housing market is out of control and 10 out of 11 S&P sectors made new highs this week! I even got to talk about some of that here on YahooFinance.

All this is good news, but there are two indicators most people don’t discuss when looking at the re-open. These are my to go-to takes on when New York City is truly coming back to life.

They are MTA subway entries in Manhattan and pizza sales at Big Al’s in the financial district.

Subway Numbers

Check out this chart below…

This is Manhattan subway turnstile entries going back five years. It was a rather boring chart that trended between 1.5 million and 3.5 million daily riders for years. All those dips were weekend numbers and the peaks were your typical commuting weekdays. Then, Covid…

That’s the obvious cause for the epic plunge in the numbers you see in March of 2020. We went from 3 million daily riders to a low of only 79,715 in less than three weeks. Since then, the numbers have slowly come back and have plateaued over the past six months.

However, this week we saw a little uptick. Thursday was the second highest number since the Covid crisis and it appears we may be about to break out from this stagnant level. It’s still not even close to where we used to be. For perspective, we only had FOUR DAYS in the four years pre-Covid with under 1 million daily riders. So maybe it’s a bit over the top to get excited about a possible million rider day, but it sure is a good sign that the city is starting to come back to life.

Pizza Numbers

This sample size of one is clearly not enough to be considered a reputable indicator, but this is my indicator, so I don’t care about your logic.

One of my favorite pizza places in lower Manhattan is Big Al’s pizza. (See BarStool’s review with special guest Henry Winkler here. I’d give them a 7.7) They had a thriving business with their location in the heart of the financial district. Being across the street from a high school and surrounded by a multitude of tourist attractions like the 9/11 Memorial and that damned bull statue only helped. Then, Covid…

They shut down for two weeks in late March of 2020 and went back to work in their new look plexiglass covered environment soon after. Sadly, no one else really did and business practically halted. They’d get the local construction worker or occasional Battery Park resident, but otherwise nothing.

When the NYSE reopened in May, those of us working in person made it a point to give them our business. I would walk over twice a week, grab a slice or two and talk with the owners. They were struggling, but remained resilient and hopeful that things would turn around. This week I got to back and catch up with them for the first time since November.

Instead of walking right up to the counter, I had to wait behind two people in line. Remember lines? I was happy to see them and they were happy to see me in my new colored smock. I asked how business was. Instead of dwelling on how slow things continued to be, I heard some positives.

“Yesterday we had our first group of tourists! 14 people from Oklahoma here to visit the 9/11 memorial”.

If you’ve ever seen the hoard of tourists downtown, 14 people isn’t a lot, but it’s a start. A much needed start! He also told me he’s seeing more and more familiar faces coming back to work, as well as a few high schoolers opting to ditch remote learning and get back to class. He was excited. The thoughts of shutting down were now turning into a renewed optimism that he would make it through the crisis and thrive once again.

*Fingers crossed.

While subway ridership and pizza numbers aren’t technically “leading indicators”, they give me hope and it feels like we are about to return to some sort of normalcy. To quote the great Jet, Bart Scott, - “Can’t Wait!”

Unfortunately, there was another reason I titled this week’s post “Take Me to the Other Side'“.

This past weekend I learned about the loss of a legend. My high school friend Chris Garrity left us far too soon. I can’t believe how much this shook me. Chris and I weren’t best friends who chatted frequently, but we were close.

Like most of my high school friends we shared a true bond that’s hard to describe. We always root for each other in life and take pride in other’s successes. We also try to be there to lend a hand when things get rough. It doesn’t matter how often you speak, when you see one of the guys, it’s like you saw them yesterday.

Well Chris wasn't just one of those guys, he was THE GUY. In high school he was voted most popular, Student Council president, and also a great teammate on the crew team. (Yes, I hear your snarky crew comments) In hindsight, I realized we spent hours hanging out in our student council office or on the Schuylkill River. Such simple and great times.

During our high school years, I don’t think I ever saw Chris study and he definitely never stressed over a test. Yet, he went on to excel at Holy Cross, then Cal-Berkeley. After graduation he worked with the likes of Apple and Netflix! But it never changed him, he was always the same grounded and chill guy.

In fact, when you talked to Chris, he listened. He never name dropped or humble bragged, he focused on others. I never had a conversation with Chris about what he did. You’d think all I would want to discuss is where he worked, but we didn’t. Our conversations were always deeper than that. We talked about life and music. Everything else was secondary.

During the pandemic, he decided to do what he did best - unite his friends, make us smile and play tunes. He would DJ to all of us via Facebook livestream from his home on the beach off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It was a sick setup and defined exactly who Chris. He was a true man for others who lived life to its fullest. He will be missed.

There have been many great tributes about Chris and this one nailed it. Thanks to Drew Lyons for sharing - I’m stealing from you now :)

From Drew - “This is a marvelous tribute to our friend, from the latest Global Inheritance newsletter (thanks for sending along, Kate Roberts). Big props to whoever this author is; nailed”

“Global Inheritance recently lost a long-time advisor and invaluable friend, Chris Garrity.

Staggeringly bright and intensely creative, Chris played an essential role in many of Global Inheritance's earliest programs.

If you are reading this as a former collaborator with the organization at Coachella, you probably met Chris in his role as the Music Director at the Energy FACTory DJ Mixer Stage, or as an artist involved with the Portal Potties series, Polar Eclipse and Paul McCartney Solar Powered golf cart, or as a committed volunteer onsite, lending a hand wherever it was needed.

His multi-faceted talents and passion were the fuel that transformed last-minute production glitches into artistic achievements.

Chris built a career innovating for many of the world's top-tier brands including Netflix and Apple; he lent us his expertise and positive energy without expectation. He was a generous and caring human being, who offered guidance without judgment and welcomed strangers with curiosity and a free exchange of ideas.

The story of his incredible life is missing chapters that should have been written, and so it is left to us to advance his legacy in the spirit of his own.

By offering so much of himself and investing precious time into his vision for a healthier planet, his legacy will continue to lead and inspire.

Chris, you’ll be dearly missed by everyone you reached, and will never be forgotten.”

For my friends asking, the Funeral Mass will be live streamed on the St. Matthias Catholic Church website on Friday April 30 at 11am. The link can be found here.