Editor's note: Times Free Press columnist Mark Kennedy is writing a semi-regular column, Homebound, about his family's experience with social distancing. It runs today in place of his regular Family Life column.
I've been binge-watching a series on Netflix called "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."
It's hosted by Jerry Seinfeld, who, according to the internet, is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars — much of it from his '90s sitcom "Seinfeld," which was famously billed as "a show about nothing."
(Incidentally, Seinfeld was scheduled to do his stand-up act at the Tivoli Theatre here later this month, but now that's on hold due to the pandemic.)
Anyway, I can't turn this Netflix show off. Altogether, there are 11 seasons, and I'm about halfway through them. My kids think I'm crazy for watching hours on end.
"Why couldn't they think of a better name for that show than 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee'?" my 13-year-old son asked.
"What do you mean? That's a perfect name," I said.
"OK, whatever, Dad," he said.
The show is exactly what the title implies. Seinfeld picks up another comedian in a car — often one from his vast personal collection of vintage autos — and he drives them to a diner or coffee shop for a cup of joe.
So far, I've seen shows with Eddie Murphy, Michael Richards (Kramer from "Seinfeld") and Alec Baldwin, among others. There are even old-timers mixed in, such as Don Rickles and Mel Brooks.
Along the way, Jerry and his guests talk about the comedy business, marriage, kids. The whole thing is unscripted. Episodes last about 20 minutes, and there are no commercial breaks. It's perfect TV.
I love the show because it reminds me of everything I miss about our currently empty newsroom at the Times Free Press. In normal times, I drive interesting cars, drink coffee and work among comedians. When everything is humming in the newsroom, life is good.
My desk is in a cluster of cubicles staffed by some of our older reporters. The walls of the cubicle are so high that you have to stand up to talk to your neighbor.
All day, business editor Dave Flessner and I pop up and down to trade information or, more often, to bust each other's chops. From a distance it probably looks like some kind of old-man version of whack-a-mole.
As I write, I'm not at the TFP. I'm at home, sitting at our dining room table beneath a signed photo of Jack Lambert, hall of fame linebacker for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. Sometimes I try to talk to Jack, but he doesn't talk back like Dave.
(Yes, I am aware that having a picture of an NFL player in your dining room is not normal, formal decor. But I have never aspired to be normal or formal.)
Maybe you are like me. I feel like I'm going through emotional stages working at home. At first there was disorientation. Then, there was a period of quiet, bliss. And now I'm getting antsy.
Really, there is only so much reporting you can do with just a a phone and a laptop computer, which leads to frustration.
I wrote a column last week about a parrot without ever laying eyes on the bird. I saw photos, and even a video, but it still didn't feel right. The essential pleasure of working in the news business is meeting new people face-to-face and working in a joyous work space. Otherwise, there's not a lot to recommend it, honestly.
I stopped by the near-empty Times Free Press newsroom last week to clear messages off my desk phone.
I only stayed for maybe 10 minutes, total, but it was good just touching base. All my sticky notes were still in place. My bookshelf was still in the correct state of disarray.
Then, for the first time in years, I noticed a little yellow bag on my desk. It looks like a tiny gift bag, but on one side is written God Bag.
I don't remember where it came from, but at times through the years I have jotted little prayers on scraps of paper and placed them in the bag. After 9/11. When we had to fire someone. When my younger son was born.
Last Monday morning, I tore off a piece of paper out of my reporter's notebook and wrote, "God, please, let us be back here soon. This is the best place I know."
Then, I tucked it in the God Bag, pointed up and walked out of the newsroom before the lump in my throat became unmanageable.
Email Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.