An Update from The Founders

Well Hello There!

It is now April, and it’s been since February that we’ve been a presence in any of your lives. Tomorrow would have been the day Andria and I would have begun teaching again. My, what a quaint, innocence that was. We thought it would be nice to give a full update on the last month for us and our plans for the coming insulation period.

First, all of you know that we had planned this Europe trip for four years. As the crisis was escalating, I was not exactly hell-bound to go, but we weren’t going to let 800 people in Milan stop us from going to Rome. My thought to myself was that “When there are 800 people in Rome (a city of 4.3 million people), we’ll leave”. At that point, it could have gone either way. There was no precedent, so we risked going.

Rome was amazing! A week with the city to ourselves, we walked the nearly empty streets with virtually zero tourists. Normally when you walk around, get your caffe, eat at a ristorante, everyone around you is speaking English. Not this time. Everyone was Italian. We were there with my daughter Dagny, my sons Bodhi and Caravaggio, and my son Egon was set to join us on the 13th. The five of us ate gelato every day, with generous helpings of our favorites, Pasta a la Checca at Ciao Checca, Pizza Margarita con Bufala at San Marcos in Prati, and Pizza by the pound at Pizza Zaza. It really was heavenly. Rome feels like a second home for us. We love the city, the history, the vibe, the orderly chaos, beauty everywhere you gaze, walking 20 miles a day with our kids; it has always felt right, somehow.

But, with each passing day, you could see the concern in the shop owners’ faces. Where normally everything would be packed, every single store stood empty. Every time you’d peer into a window, the owner would look fervently to you, hoping, beckoning you to enter. Very un-Italian. Since we were last there in 2016 there we many more shops open. The economy was looking like it has been doing great. And the fear in the air was getting more palpable.

We were happy, but the city was getting stressed out.

We arrived in Rome on Tues, March 3rd. By that Saturday, the North was in Lockdown with 4,000 cases, and even though there were still no cases in Rome, every night, Andria and I would sit and chat at the kitchen table till 2am looking at our options. We went through more than a hundred different plans to keep us enjoying the trip, to savor what we had before we had to admit defeat. Every day a new bit of information would slowly hem us in a bit more. “Ok, now no trains are going through the north, so we can’t leave Italy by train.”

I only realized it once we got back home, but at this point, we would look at 14 different flights, with their corresponding hotels or apartments, how they fit with our current (paid-for) plans, and I would inevitably say, “Let’s decide tomorrow.” I didn’t know it at the time, but the stress of the situation was getting to me. My brain was functioning a bit less well every day. I devoted myself to the fun and maximization of beauty of my time with my family. Most of you know that I normally work 100 hours a week which is at the cost of time with my beautiful children and inspiring wife. For four years I had planned on and was intent on being present to this rare, privileged opportunity to just be with them, walking around, talking about history, sharing my love for a city that has named one of them, and letting them get to know me better. Most people never get this chance and we leveraged a huge chunk of our life to get there. I focused on enjoying it and that left less and less space to make command decisions. That was beginning to show.

My daughter was set to play the titular character in the ‘Scottish Play’ by Mr. Shakespeare, and we got some rumblings that the drama-queens of her small town were going to make here quarantine for 2 weeks upon her return. We had set up the entire trip, including juggling a bunch of stressful weeks of planning to get her to Rome with us and back early enough for her to do her play, so the idea that she would be denied because she went on this trip was terrible. We found a way to get her flight moved up a day early and she was happy for that. Sunday night I didn’t sleep, got her to the airport and off early. Monday, March 9th ended up being our last day in Rome. We bought tickets to Prague and were able to add a few days to our apartment there so we had committed to go. By Sunday night, restaurants were close and Monday, you couldn’t order coffee at ‘il bar’ anymore. We had eaten at a restaurant and had coffee in the normal Italian way on the last days those were an option.

We got packed and ready to go Tuesday morning. I woke up at 10:30pm, did my normal journaling thing, rolled back into bed at 12:30, ready for a 4am Uber to the Airport. My return roused Andria who immediately picked her phone up and informed me that everyone of her friends is yelling at her that all of Italy is in lockdown. It had been announced at 9pm the previous night and meant (in theory) we were stuck in Italy, 8 hours before we were supposed to get on a plane to Prague. Welp, “Time to get up everyone!” We ate, uber-ed to Fiumincino at 2am, Andria was able to get us checked in, thereby able to go straight through security and we waited at our gate for 4 hours with zero guarantee that our flight would happen.

By this point, we are, out of a stress-habit, checking our phones for the most recent bad news. It is clear to me that, if we go back home, we will be have to be self-isolated for 14 days, and everything that is happening here is going to be true for the US after that time is up, so we’re screwed if we stay and if we go. That allowed me to continue having the rationale to stay in a beautiful place as long as we could.

I love Prague and our first day there was beautiful. I judge a city harshly on the quality of its coffee and Prague is a great coffee city. After a week of Italy’s ‘Punch you in the face’ harshness, a great cappuccino was so wonderfully welcome. Our Prague apartment was worth the whole trip. The owner was so sweet and getting to relax in a spacious, comfortable home calmed everything down.

As someone who spent 22 hours on I-10 during Rita, I have some experience with overestimating a crisis. If I had waited a day, there would be no traffic because there was no storm in Houston. I also left two full days early to stay in Austin for Harvey. The logic behind that second decision was simple: If we stay and it floods our home, that also means both of our cars are flooded, and we will need to get rescued. So, if we leave now, stay in Austin, we will, at the very least, save $50,000 worth of automobiles.

In Prague, it was becoming clear that the US was going to be like Italy. For me, that simply meant that we were, as a business, doomed. We had spend much of every day in Europe on hold, waiting to talk to Delta, the US Consolate, United, our apartments, Homeaway, Expedia. Sounds fun, yes?! We were sitting on the steps of a great coffee shop in Prague, Super Tramp, when I read that Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, said that 60-70% of all Germans will be infected by the virus. At that time all  of Germany had like 600 cases. The moment I read that I knew,

every small business in Houston is going to go out of business, including us.

It also meant, it’s time to leave. We were able to change our flight to leave 6am Wednesday morning, and with a third night of zero sleep in four days, we were through security at the Prague airport by 3am. We were sitting watching a rhythmic gymnastic competition on the airport TVs (that’s Eastern Europe for you!) when we hear that Trump had announced his travel restriction for Europe starting at 12am that day.

That means, we had fled Italy on the last day it was possible, and now we’re fleeing our second country.

Our primary experience in Europe was laughter. Despite the stress and lack of sleep, our connection has never been deeper and I was committed to keep that once we got back.

It was clear to me that all of the US was going to be in Lockdown before this was over. For me, as a Dugas, worst-case is always on my mind. We were going to be in ‘quarantine’ for 14 days as a courtesy, but, it was becoming more and more likely that if we were going to get it, we would get the virus here in Houston. As predicted, by the time our self-isolation was up, all of Houston is doing what we were when we got home. Andria and I haven’t taught a class since February, yet I was also committed to not let our collective and personal doomedness stop us from having our last few days of time together.

That’s what we’ve done. Our house is (at times) much cleaner, and we’ve all taken up drawing and watercolor painting. I’ll be sharing our work soon. I also gave myself and our family plenty of time to recover from what was fundamentally a disaster. I sucked every morsel of vactaiony-ness from the last two weeks and finally feel better.

We’ve also been engaged in the question of how to proceed. Everyone is Zoom-ing, trying to piece together a schedule and a business. Everyone in our business is doomed. Everything we at Story Street create hinges on creating courses that people go to. Well, if there’s no studio space, it would have to be online, but if every other business is gone, then the number of people with both the money and the motivation to teach yoga or learn it at a higher level is obliterated.

Here, our finances are in ruins. We set up everything that the next year would help us make this trip worth it, and not only did we not get our trip, we stopped working a month before everyone else was forced to, with all of the things set up to support us now dust.

We do, however have a few bright spots.

The brightest of which are all of you. It is always easier to re-build something than it was to build it in the first place, and whatever happens, the community that has sprung up around these ideas is so beautiful and inspiring. Whatever we create, we will have each other’s backs.

The second is, obviously, My Yoga Better. We have a website that doesn’t need a lot of rent money and can, in theory, be successful financially.

The third glimmer of light are all of the potential SBA protections and loans Andria has applied for. If we get even a fraction of what is possible, we will continue paying rent at Silver Street to maintain that part of our business. That feels right.

So, what are we doing?

I have been hard at work to get live streaming set up on My Yoga Better. This will be separate from any blocks you purchase through the Studio, but, with your My Yoga Better subscription, the plan is to have classes every day streaming on a page for members only. Yay! Those classes will be recorded and be added to the ever-growing library of classes for members.

For clients, Andria and I will begin face-time or Zoom calling as soon as next week. Expect a call from us in the coming days.

For those of you that aren’t My Yoga Better subscribers yet, you can still get your first month free with the promo code ‘Co-video20’. Obviously, if you need the financial help, please use that code and let this work support you. If you don’t need financial help, the $10 will help support us doing our work.

For now, all payments for Studio Yoga Better through Mindbody are going to sit there till there’s a studio again or we think of a great way to allow all of you to use them. Thanks for your understanding.

Everyone says they wish they had just a little more time. Well, BLAM! Here you go. We are still committed to all of you and to having fun with the precious time we do have.

Thank you all for sharing a bit of your lives with us and let’s stay connected and joyful together (separately).

All of our love,
Andrew and Andria Dugas

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