A week and a half into the stay-at-home order that's hopefully flattening the curve of the coronavirus contagion, and the roaring engine of Silicon Valley has grown eerily quiet.
Inside our houses and apartments, we wonder: Is anyone else here? What are other people doing?
Even those using the technology of video conferencing for work and schooling are feeling an odd sense of disconnection and dislocation. The world has shrunk to fit into the screen of a laptop. Our full-throated lives have turned into mere pantomime.
But fortunately, despite the loss of routine, social contact and freedom to get around, there are still options for things to do in Palo Alto other than binge-watching Netflix and taking the dog for another walk.
All around us, local arts organizations, community groups, businesses and neighborhoods have been busy trying to keep life and community going, albeit in unique ways.
For those who are healthy and able to get outside, here are some ideas for staying connected to the broader Palo Alto community. And if you are in quarantine or otherwise housebound, don't worry: There are also activities you can engage in from the great indoors that will expand your world.
Read on for the Weekly's top 10 things you can still do in Palo Alto.
1. Walk or bike to parks and landmarks.
In its March 16 stay-at-home order, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department stated: "Spending time outside improves mood and well-being. ... You can go for walks, go to the park and engage in other similar activities" — with the proper social distance of 6 feet between you and others, of course. That's good news because with the rain this past week, gardens and neighborhood parks are looking more vibrant than ever. At Palo Alto's Gamble Garden on Embarcadero Road, tulips are blooming, and the Barron Park donkeys, Perry and Jenny, in Bol Park, 3590 Laguna Ave., are currently welcoming in-person visitors during the day. (Go to barronparkdonkeys.org for more information.)
Other options: the Stanford Dish and Stanford University campus, which have wide paths. Be wise, though, and don't enter an area if many people are there already. (Update: On April 2, Stanford issued an alert stating the Stanford Dish will be closed beginning 5 p.m. on April 3 due to a "persistent minority" of people not complying with public health and safety measures.)
And if you choose to visit an open space preserve, you'll want to bike or walk there; Palo Alto has closed parking lots at the preserves to prevent crowds.
2. Enjoy the performing arts.
The curtains are up — online — for a few Palo Alto area performing arts groups. TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's northern California premiere of Laurel Ollstein's "They Promised Her the Moon" is the story of world record-holding aviator Jerrie Cobb, who was selected as the first female astronaut candidate and fought to fly among the stars. The well-received production was forced to shutter a week after beginning performances on March 4, but a recording of the show can now be viewed via digital streaming. Tickets start at $15. Go to theatreworks.org/201920-season/moon-livestream.
If children's music is what your family is looking for, the Magical Bridge Foundation is hosting concerts and singalongs by a variety of local artists every day at noon on its Facebook page. On Saturday, singer/songwriter and educator Andy Zamenes will be live in virtual concert. His show, plus recorded past performances of other performers, are viewable at facebook.com/MagicalBridge.
3. Explore the city's eLibrary.
Sure, Mitchell Park, Rinconada and the smaller branch libraries are closed, but the city of Palo Alto's vast eLibrary is open. With your library card, you can check out ebooks, audiobooks, music and films. How about taking advantage of this down time to learn a foreign language? Or use the e-resources to bone up on Renaissance history or trace your family's genealogy. There are also resources accessible to those without a library card, so what are you waiting for? Go to library.cityofpaloalto.org/online-resources and find something that interests you.
4. Start something good in your 'hood.
From Barron Park to Community Center to Midtown, residents of Palo Alto are proving that joy can be contagious. Ideas for spreading cheer range from the simple, like a daily 6 p.m. "wave" in which neighbors come to their front yards and share smiles and greetings from a safe distance, to the more creative, such as drawing chalk art on streets and sidewalks for others to enjoy. One trending idea: "bear hunts" or "neighborhood safaris," in which stuffed animals are placed in homes' front windows for neighborhood children to spot when they're out walking. All you need is a willingness to put your idea out there via email, NextDoor.com or Facebook. Or even by calling your neighbors on the phone. Imagine that.
5. Support the local economy: Order takeout or delivery.
Remember the restaurant you've always wanted to try? Now might be a good time to get some of its grub. Restaurants are struggling financially because of the mandated closure of their dining rooms, but they're trying to keep afloat by offering dishes for takeout and delivery. For a map of dining establishments that are awaiting your orders, go to paloaltoonline.com/restaurants.
6. Get your hands dirty by gardening.
Really, there's no excuse this spring for ignoring your garden, whether it be a full backyard or a patio full of potted flowers. Gardening has been shown to provide therapeutic benefits. If getting fresh plants or gardening supplies would help you get motivated, SummerWinds Nursery in south Palo Alto is providing curbside pickup and home delivery of its goods. Because the store is closed to in-person shoppers, you need to call in your order (650-493-5136).
7. Volunteer to help others.
In this time of crisis, those who are not healthy, financially well off or surrounded by loved ones may need assistance because of sudden unemployment or social isolation. Happily, Palo Alto's enterprising residents are jumping in to help, and you can join them. Howard Kushlan of Professorville started a Google list for people who are willing to do things for others like run errands, walk dogs and get much-needed medication. Go to tinyurl.com/helpPA to sign up.
The city of Palo Alto is also seeking to organize volunteers and those who need assistance. See cityofpaloalto.org/coronavirus for more information. And if you are able to give blood, there's currently a shortage at the Stanford Blood Center — and there's no risk to your health from donating blood. Go to stanfordbloodcenter.org.
8. Take in some visual art — or make your own.
Now you could press your nose against the windows of the Palo Alto Art Center and peer in, but you'll see much more by taking a virtual tour of its recent tree-themed exhibit, "Rooted: Trees in Contemporary Art." In this unique show, created in partnership with the nonprofit Canopy, "artists from around the world use trees as subject, symbol and medium to illuminate the world around us," the Art Center states. The virtual tour, at canopy.org/rooted-exhibit-2020, offers photos, videos and bonus features. For those wanting to get more hands-on, artist Sam Price is holding free virtual collage classes on Fridays at 11 a.m. It's for kids and family members of all ages and can be found at paacf.org/collage-with-sam-price.html.
9. Listen to an uplifting message.
Faith leaders in the area scrambled to move their weekly services online after the county's March 16 order banned all gatherings. As a result, the inspirational messages often heard only by those inside the walls of churches and synagogues are now online for all to hear. This past week, the topic was "The Pursuit of Happiness" at Menlo Church (Menlo.Church/messages), while at First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, Pastor Bruce Reyes-Chow discussed the temptations of power and control during his church's livestreaming service (facebook.com/fpcpaloalto). Congregation Beth Am of Los Altos Hills held an online discussion of "Judaism in times of crisis" (betham.org/virtual), and Rev. Kaloma Smith of the University AME Zion Church in Palo Alto spoke on "The Antidote to Anxiety," which can be viewed at facebook.com/universityamez (special bonus: gospel music with singers and a band).
10. Spend some screen time with someone isolated.
Finally, technology has made it so that isolation doesn't have to equate to loneliness. Through free apps easily downloadable onto tablets and laptop computers, including FaceTime, Skype and Zoom, people can reach out for conversation. Co-workers are organizing virtual happy hours online to stay connected to each other, and other people are reaching out to relatives or friends who live alone to talk or play games. If you need help with technology, go to YouTube.com and search for "How to use FaceTime" (or Skype or Zoom) for instructional videos. Or contact Avenidas senior center, which offers resources at avenidas.org/programs/avenidas-without-walls or by calling 650-289-5400.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.