Creativity Flourishes, Even Amid a Pandemic

Marveling at people's endless ability to love, connect, and create.


It was going to be the party of the year: my 50th birthday. I rented a fantastic place, picked a great menu, and sent funny invitations designed by my hilarious friend Brooke. I was counting down the weeks. Then COVID-19 hit. Lockdowns were ordered. No party for me. Yet what replaced it was the purest expression of the best that humanity has to offer, springing from creative forces that neither this virus—nor other negative forces—can kill.

My party being canceled is, of course, a minuscule tragedy compared with the deaths and economic destruction we've witnessed in the last few months. Still, I was sad that what was supposed to be a great weekend spent with family coming from France and friends coming from all over the country has been postponed indefinitely. I knew my teenagers would, no matter what, make the day special—it was Mother's Day, too—and that I would still hear from my friends.

And what replaced the party was so much more meaningful and amazing because it was fueled by my friends' love and creativity, and by the amazing innovators who make coping with the isolation more tolerable.

When I woke up, I was greeted by a video from my oldest friend in France: a fun musical performance of the "Happy Birthday" song performed with a piano and homemade instruments, recorded on an iPhone and sent over the Atlantic Ocean in mere seconds, free of charge. None of that would have been possible had I turned 50 in 2007.

Then came the Zoom family reunion with cousins in three countries, three continents, and two hemispheres. While Zoom was created in 2011, the company has quickly become a household name and a business essential during the pandemic. This company succeeds not only because it makes its product free to individuals but also because it quickly responded to the privacy issues that emerged during the pandemic.

After that international celebration came a wonderful video montage of my friends and colleagues from around the country, all orchestrated by my Mercatus Center boss, Dan Rothschild. The simple link that I received on Sunday morning does not boast of the thousands of technical innovations that make this wonder a now-commonplace reality in everyone's homes. Remarkably, I drank in this love and well-wishing all from the comfort of my bed.

I soon discovered another gift at 11 a.m., but it was delivered to my house around 8 a.m. and would be picked up 12 hours later. This one is 100 percent a pandemic innovation, triggered by the thousands of life events that couldn't be celebrated during these times of social distancing. As I opened my front door, I discovered a beautiful sign wishing me a happy birthday. It was festooned with balloons and cupcakes right there in my front yard, all orchestrated by my loving friends Ashley and Kevin.

The company, Sign Sisters, didn't exist before this crisis. It's an Arlington, Virginia, startup, and, just like its signs do, it displays the creativity and thoughtfulness of so many local entrepreneurs throughout the country—creative people who come up with ideas to satisfy needs, such as enabling celebrations when most of us remain in isolation.

That said, in the end, nothing surprised me more than the way my friends managed to reinvent my birthday celebration in this time of pandemic with a giant drive-by caravan of honking, decorated cars filled with cheering from people I cherish. As the neighbors came out of their houses to share in the celebration, I could feel my heart explode with gratitude, and I certainly didn't feel alone.

After spending a few minutes Googling drive-by celebrations, I found out that friends, neighbors, and families around the country are organizing these drive-bys both to celebrate birthdays and graduations and to honor health care professionals, celebrate recovery from COVID-19, or simply offer moral support. New companies have been created to offer all sorts of festive designs for cars and trucks.

There was Andrew's video montage with priceless testimonials from my kids, family, and friends. There were flowers and other thoughtful gifts delivered throughout the weekend—many ordered online, another innovation we now take for granted. So, in the end, while I'll always have slight regret about not having my party as planned, my birthday weekend was way better than it would have been without this pandemic. I will never forget it, and I will always marvel at people's endless ability to love, connect, and create.


NEXT: Greta Thunberg Isn't a Coronavirus Expert

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  1. Barf.

    1. Yep.

    2. Veronique has deadlines for work assignments. Unlike the unemployed, NEET incels who post on libertarian forums. Cut her some slack!

  2. Cool story bruh.

  3. Odd that on a site that “produce[s] hard-hitting independent journalism on civil liberties” we can’t get a reference to a DC Circuit Court Judge deciding that he wants to move forward with a prosecution that the feds have abandoned.

    It would seem, everything is shades of orange these days. Even libertarianism.

  4. “I hardly miss the free world.”

    1. Don’t know which Kent Brockman quote is more appropriate, the one where he welcomes our new insect overlords or the one that starts out trashing the Movementarians and ends with praising their Perfect Leader.

      1. +1 Leader Beans

  5. Nice article thx

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  8. Yes VDR, you have friends. Thanks a lot for rubbing that in. Sigh.

  9. Way to make those of us who are totally alone feel like shit. I’m about to have a birthday (next Tuesday) and I can expect a call from my parents, one from my brother, and maybe a cupcake from Walmart. I live alone in an apartment in a small town. I just moved here on the 14th of March. I have spent the whole time in lockdown. I have no friends here, and have lost many others over the vitriolic politics of our current culture. I woke up feeling the pain more than usual and went to Reason looking for some confirmation that people agree the lockdown is madness. I haven’t touched another human being in months (save a few elbow bumps in the early days – remember those?). So good for you. I’m glad you’re rich and your friends are able to pay other people to make a birthday sign for you. I’m glad your friends and family made you videos. But maybe shut up about it. When I worked in theatre, we had a saying: “Don’t celebrate at the call board.” When the cast list goes up, don’t jump up and down when you see your name. You’re standing next to people who were not cast. I come to this site for rational discussions of current events, not to get my nose rubbed in the fact that I’m struggling and locked in my own apartment totally alone about to honor another trip around the sun under the loneliest conditions.

    To the editors of Reason: many of your readers are really, truly hurting as a result of our government’s draconian response to this virus that has, at a MINIMUM, a 95% survival rate. I’m tired of the cutesy podcasts, the little “look how great my life is!” pieces like this, and your complete (apparent) indifference to the fact that many of your subscribers are not wealthy and can’t walk across the street for a fun little cocktail to-go with popcorn. This is more than economic pain. Maybe a little more acknowledgement that this is not a life. I wish I had a great place in DC or NYC, but I don’t. I wish I had a posh job I could do from home, but I work for a state university and don’t have the tools I need to work from home effectively (and yet must still work). Quality of life matters. If you would like to order me a fancy sign for my birthday, let me know and I will be happy to provide you with my home address. I’ve been a subscriber since 1999. It’s the least you could do.

    1. feliz cumpleanos.

      1. Muchisimas gracias!

    2. Damn, Dada. I’m not sure how many people will read your post—everyone usually moves on by the time the spambots arrive en masse—but thank you for writing it.

      I’m sorry that you’re alone and stuck at home, instead of working and living your life to the best of your ability. Thank you, for showing how out of touch a lot of our chattering class really is. I agree: this isn’t fun, or cutesy, or same brave little adventure we’re all on. Those of you in restricted states are being held as virtual prisoners in your homes, for the most venal and cynical of political reasons.

      The problem is, they’re getting away with it, and they’ll do it again.

      1. I think the most out-of-touch, tone-deaf sentence I have read since this mess began is: “my birthday weekend was way better than it would have been without this pandemic.” The next sentence could go either way – “So thanks to the 80,000 who have died and many more who have gotten sick for making my birthday so special!” or “Thanks to all of you suffering and unable to be fully alive for complying with the lockdown and making my birthday so special!”

        I’d expect this garbage in Vanity Fair maybe, but at Reason? I realize the editors are very well paid and live in big cities and have large social circles to support them. They have families and the resources to manage those families under lockdown. But to brag about a personal birthday parade? With 36 million unemployed? With the vast majority of the country under house arrest but without those resources? And 36 million who live alone? I’m sure the single mother in Detroit would be so touched by this story.

        We gave up our civil liberties so quickly. We laid down for this, so you are right – they will do it again. And we will again be told of the wonders experienced by the rich and connected. Reason has big money donors, and I am not one of them. But I do subscribe – not because I bother with the print version or even the iPad version, but because I support the mission. I’m not some hillbilly, either. I’m an immigration attorney and Georgetown law grad. If this is what I am getting for that paid subscription, perhaps I should ask for a refund.

        I expect the vast majority of people who come to this site are not wealthy and don’t get international videos and parades and custom-made (probably expensive) signs and tons of flowers on their birthdays. To brag about that in the middle of such extensive human misery is beyond disgusting. You don’t go on a mission to Africa and tell the people who are starving that your friends around the world made use of technology to throw you a party and send you filet mignon and “isn’t that wonderful, children? And other people are also getting steak! How magnificent! Tres bien!”

        I think I’ll make a cocktail (no popcorn) and go back to bed. Thanks for your reply. It gives me hope.

    3. Happy early birthday, Dada

      1. Thank you. Sincerely.

    4. Thanks for the post Dada. Come back Tuesday we’ll all wish you a happy birthday. My wife’s birthday was this past Tuesday and it was less than festive. But at least she’s home with my charming ass and our dogs so we made the most of it.

      I couldn’t agree more about the disgust I’m feeling towards a certain class of people that seem to lack even a basic level of empathy for people that are truly struggling right now, for various reasons. I’m definitely keeping names of “friends” who think it’s cute to say shit about people crying about needing a haircut. The haircut is a symbol for many things. I’m personally in a pretty good spot to ride this out for a bit longer, but it’s not hard to understand that others aren’t.

      Have you done a zoom meeting with anyone from where you’re from or with family? My family has been doing one every Sunday, and my wife has done a Friday “happy hour” meeting with some friends and family a couple times and it helps, even though it’s not as good as getting together in person.

      1. You know, maybe I should ask my family for a Zoom birthday chat. Not a bad idea. Thank you.

        For the first time ever, I gave myself a haircut. Not great, but not tragic. So.

    5. “Lady Dada wants granny to die.”

      This is precisely why I can’t stand people these days. They’re at home on a paid vacation cowering from a virus that’s not lethal but have somehow painted themselves as ‘heroes’ and people like us are ‘traitors.’ #BAKINGBREAD; #DOYOGA; #cavabieballer; #CanadaTogether.

      It’s a disgrace really.

      You’re not alone. There are plenty of us who think this hysteria has been pushed far enough.

      In a better time and age, Fauci (and Tam here in Canada) are put in a Dunk Tank.

      1. Thanks – it’s genuinely good to hear. Our stories don’t get much press.

        1. Happy early birthday Dada!!

    6. I feel your pain.
      I was just divorced by my wife of 15 years for what seem to me to be the most trivial of reasons.
      I’m living alone and it sucks.
      Thank God I have my dog, at
      Least someone cares if I come home.
      I advise you, if at all possible, get a pet!

  10. sounds like you have a nice family. my dad’s surprise 70th was canceled by the covids so none of us went to SF to see him.

    1. What, you didn’t buy him a sign? Sign Sisters lists a price of around $75. I’ll make a sign for $15 plus postage.

      1. lol he got a phone call. old school.

  11. Sheep being creative is kinda depressing actually.

  12. Last comment, I promise:

    This is not how you win normal people over to the libertarian cause. This is the opposite of the argument you should be making. Focusing on your own wealth and lack of true difficulty as a result of this pandemic and the government’s response to it puts people off no matter where they fall on the political spectrum (unless, of course, they are in the same bubble that you live in – but that is a very small minority).

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