Instead of bitching about missed afternoons at the springs or the parks or your canceled trips to three-day music festivals, it's time to make plans for what you can do to squeeze a little enjoyment out of this hellscape of a year. To help, we've put together a bunch of tips, including how to build your own backyard paradise, fix up that rusty bike and make a two-ingredient cocktail appropriate for 2020.
The goal is to reclaim a little space for yourself. We're all dealing with a lot: Your job, if you are lucky enough to still have it, is most likely a nightmare version of what it was before, a pandemic continues to rip through the country and the United States seems like it's finally headed for a reckoning on inequality that is fiery and messy and long overdue.
There is work to be done, but don't underestimate the weight of it all. Find a way to do something fun, even if it's just a pass or two through a sprinkler on a hot afternoon. Summer isn't canceled – it's just not what we expected.
Protest! Most of this list is about relaxing and relieving stress, but this country is in a rare moment when the masses can actually force the powers that be to revamp or dump and replace some terrible systems. Not everyone can march in the streets, but thousands in Orlando and hundreds of thousands across the nation are taking a calculated risk to show up en masse and demand change. They see staying silent as even more dangerous in the long term than the coronavirus. If you join them, wear a mask, do what you can to protect yourself and others, and keep your eyes on making the United States a better, more just country for everyone.
Build up your garden. If you're lucky enough to have a little bit of land to call your own, this is the summer to start a garden or get one set up for next year. Now that we're all slowing down a bit and taking the time to appreciate where and how we get food, there's no greater feeling than planting a seed, tending to it and then later pulling your own homegrown food out of the ground. Lettuce, herbs and root vegetables are all pretty easy to grow, making them the perfect items to start in your brand-new garden.
Learn how to build a fire. This is a great skill to have not just for a low-key backyard bonfire but also in case civilization collapses – and let's face it, that feels more and more like a possibility every day. OK, first things first is to pick a site that's far away from trees or your house, because you don't want to burn your neighborhood down. Lay down some twisted-up newspaper, perhaps old issues of Orlando Weekly – see, we're good for something – and some tinder, like dry leaves and little twigs. Next, you'll need kindling – look for skinny dry branches about the length of your forearm – and actual firewood. Make a tepee of kindling around and over the tinder, and then encase that in a tepee made from the bigger logs. Then light the tinder on fire with a lighter or match and – voilà! Be sure to keep water on hand to extinguish it when you're done.
Build a damn pool. The creeping heat of summer has sneaked up on you, and you'd like to find a little relief in the form of a cool dip in a pool. But you don't want to swim in the plaguey waters of a communal pool, and tragically, you don't have your own. If you're not too concerned about what the neighbors think, good news: You can be floating by Friday. The solution is a backyard hay-bale pool. Affordable and well within a beginner's skillset, the hay-bale pool can be assembled and filled in an afternoon. Here's how you do it: Arrange the hay bales (you can buy them at Palmer Feed Store, palmerfeedstore.com) in a rectangle as big as you want: maybe four hay bales long and three wide. (Double-stack them if you want it deeper.) Drape the bales with heavy-duty plastic sheeting, making sure to leave enough slack to press it against the interior walls and tuck under the exterior edges. Cinch it all together with a rope around the perimeter and fill it with water. Enjoy with an ice-cold PBR and jorts.
Go to the beach after dark. We all want to go dip in the ocean and feel the sun, but it's simply not safe when there's a crowd. But the Space Coast waterways have a treat for you if you wait until nightfall.
Tune up your bike. No more excuses – you literally have nothing better going on. It's time for a tune-up. First, give it a good cleaning, using degreaser on the chain and jockey wheels, and checking to make sure your chain is in good shape. Next, pull the brake levers to make sure the brake pads are working, and give the wheels a spin to make sure they aren't hitting the pads; if it takes a lot of force to make the brakes work, use an Allen key and pull the cable to tighten things up. Flip your bike upside-down and give the wheels a spin, checking for any wobbliness; you can fix this by using a spoke wrench to increase or decrease the tension of the spokes. If you're really feeling handy, you can even take off your pedals and ball bearings to lube everything up. Make sure all your gears are working, pump up your tires and hit the road.
Now ride that bike to some wide-open spaces. Or drive there with your bike in the back. Either wheeled or on foot, you can bask in nature and fill up your bird book without seeing other humans at the places listed on page 19.
Make a quarantine cocktail. A unique twist on a mojito or a mai tai would make for a delicious summer beverage, but just to get your creative juices flowing (and your mouth watering), we thought we'd share our favorite homemade cocktail, the "2020-tini." Step 1: Get a rocks glass and some of your favorite whiskey (anything brown should get the job done). Step 2: Fill that rocks glass up to about 1/8 of an inch from the top. Step 3: Add ice — in order to do this without overflowing, you'll want to drink enough of the beverage for said ice to fit. It should be noted that ice is optional, though. And you're done! Pairs best with a second 2020-tini held in your other hand.
Clean out your garage. Heck, clean out everything. The summer is the perfect time to hide away from the heat and get some serious work done indoors. While you're stuck at home you might as well make it a space that you don't mind being stuck in (as much) during this weird time. Cleaning out the stuff you don't need makes more room for canned goods or flashlights or whatever survival things you've been thinking about hoarding in advance of the second wave of coronavirus. If you're looking to find a good home for all the stuff you don't need anymore (without sending it to a landfill), Goodwill and the Mustard Seed (mustardseedfla.org) are both accepting donations – Goodwill even has drive-through "Donation Xpress" lanes.
Go see a drive-in movie. Movie theaters are closed due to you-know-who, but you can catch a movie from the safety of your car at the drive-in.
Exercise! When quarantine started back in March, you thought you were going to come out of it a better person. You had big plans: You were going to read all those books you never even opened, bake sourdough bread and get ripped. But to the surprise of absolutely no one, you accomplished jack shit. All you read is Twitter, all you eat is frozen pizza and all you do is sit on your ass. Look, don't beat yourself up over it – just staying sane with the modern-day equivalents of the 1918 Spanish Flu, 1929 stock market crash, and the 1968 summer of civil unrest all happening at the same damn time is kind of a tall order. But you should reconsider the not-exercising thing. As we all know but willfully choose to forget, exercise can relieve stress and reduce anxiety. Hell, some people even get high from the release of endorphins after a good workout. Start small, going for a 20-minute jog or doing some crunches, and if summoning the energy is hard for you, consider getting it over with earlier in the day while your energy levels are highest. Trust us, you'll feel a lot better. Exercise and de-stress your brain, too: Read a book.
Befriend a murder of crows. As anyone who has seen the 1994 cult classic The Crow can attest, crows are, like, really cool, and good to have around as friends, given that they have the ability to raise you from the dead and also peck out the eyes of your enemies. On top of that, they are intelligent creatures who are able to recognize and remember human faces, and if you feed them, they are even likely to bring you gifts. Shiny rocks, coins and pieces of metal are often the form these gifts take, though if you could somehow convince them that paper money is your jam, you'd have yourself one hell of a racket going. What we're saying here is: Spread some bird seed on the ground near your home, then start shouting "caw" sounds while rubbing cash all over your body. If the birds find you before the mental-health professionals do, you're in business. A great place to find those crows? On a graveyard picnic.
Embrace sprinkler life. Buy or borrow one. Hook it to a hose. Run back and forth through it like a little kid. Congrats – you made it through another Lockdown Summer day.