How we live

Life Before Quarantine

By now it’s clear the world will be very different tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. What we don’t know is how. I’m writing this to help future me have a record what the past was like. I want to remember this turning point or later know if I was foolish to think this was the moment when everything changed.

The proverbial watercooler

I started optionally working from home on March 2, 2020. I immediately went stir crazy and visited the office and gym a few times. The few half days I went to the office, work felt business as usual with extra Purell. There was more signage in the bathrooms about washing your hands for two happy birthdays. Coworking spaces are so high traffic, it was hard to feel like it mattered.

At yoga, I got a few funny looks when I insisted on using lysol wipes instead of whatever is in those spray bottles. I never really liked the used rag method, but I guess no one wants to lug their own yoga mat around dirty NYC.

Zero feet apart weekends

That Friday, March 6, 2020, I had a date with someone I had been seeing for a bit. It was hard not to talk about anything but Coronavirus. Even when the topic shifted to something positive, there was a heavy weight in the air. Even his pup was stressed out. Eventually, I suggested I go home. In your 30s, Friday date nights are hard even when a pandemic isn’t looming. I stayed up feeling low until 3am watching Jessica become Messica.

Hangin out zero feet apart

Saturday morning, friends who live on my street hosted a bagel brunch. Like any New York home hang, we were shoulder to shoulder. “Six feet apart” wasn’t in the daily dialogue yet. Someone I met at brunch invited me to join a dinner with more friends in the neighborhood. I enthusiastically said yes. Needless to say, that dinner never happened.

That night, I rode the subway to LIC. No gloves, no mask, no fear. My eyes were shamelessly glued to my phone, watching the finale of Love is Blind. I almost wished the ride was longer, just to finish the episode.

I met friends for dinner at Adda Cantine. We squished six to a table and shared a single travel size Purell bottle. “Covid Nineteen” was in the air. Some friends at dinner practice medicine, so of course I asked how worried we should be. All logic pointed to staying home– but still, we went out. From one squeeze to another, we piled into a Lyft, back to Brooklyn.

Before the dancefloor was full at Public Records

Daniel Bell was playing at Public Records. A remarkable artist at a tasteful club. If you’ve been there before, you know they graciously cater to a slightly more mature demographic, which includes placing a high value on keeping hydrated. Friends pulled clean tin cups from the community stack and dispensed water from the tap. I wonder if we’ll bring our own cups in the future.

We’re very lucky no one got sick. I say the following because we were so fortunate. I’m glad I went out dancing. We shouldn’t have. But it seems like I might not get to move my body in a large gathering for a long time. It’s something I need, it gives me energy.

I bumped into a few friends there. One being a promising young designer I met at a Carbon 5 mentor night. She had just gotten her first job and finally had health insurance. I hope she’s still employed, I should look her up. I left early, though. The BPM wasn’t picking up and I liked the idea of a good night’s sleep — ok fine, the finale of Love is Blind, was calling me.

On the other side of Brooklyn, my brother was DJing a party in Bushwick. At the time, opportunities to hear him play in a night club felt like great abundance. Bushwick was far, and I wanted to lay down. Read the quote. It was the best gig he’s had in NYC.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9mRDlRJN6Z/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

I wish I was there. I regret going home. Netflix and early bedtimes are painfully abundant now.

That Wednesday, March 12, I went for dinner with some coworkers to celebrate a new teammate joining. We considered canceling and thought to keep one last hurrah. Upon entering the restaurant, I forgot all the rules and side hugged my new teammate and sat zero feet apart from another. That’s was the last time I made contact with people.

I’m not sure when I’ll dance with friends again, or meet for dinner, go on a date, or stroll to my neighbor’s house. Heck, I can’t even predict when I’ll hug someone again.

All of these things will happen. But New York will be different. I’ll be different.

Isolation is not for New Yorkers

I won’t sugar coat it. It’s scary in New York right now. What I know is my friends and family are staying home, washing their hands, and keeping a distance if they have to go out. If the numbers get worse, there’s not a whole lot more we can do. The only way out is through.

Friends and family are asking how I’m doing. I don’t know how to answer this question. Bad? Fine? Hangin’ in there? We’re all living through this pandemic, with our own unique challenges. What’s less visible to the rest of the world, is what transplant New Yorkers signed up for when they moved here.

In a few hundred square feet, I sleep, where I eat, where I work and design, where I exercise, and where I write. Most of us don’t have spare bedrooms, porches, back yards, garages, cars, and now barely the subway. The promise of moving to New York is the gift of walking out your door with the entire world at your finger tips.

My situation is not worse than yours. But every morning I wake up and I am exactly where I’ll be, with nowhere to go but inside.

I hope you’re doing ok. Please stay the fk home.

How we live

Slack Group Template for Apartment Buildings

I created a Slack group for my building to help feel more connected locally while in quarantine at home. Here’s the template for the steps I took:

  1. Create a new group on slack.com
  2. Upload a group app icon
  3. Create a few channels
  4. Set up welcome messages
  5. Post flyers so neighbors know the group exists

I made a template of the flyer and messaging. Take whatever is useful for you! Here’s to more connectivity in these isolating times.

Download flyers and templates

Travel

Holé Mole Mexico City

After years of reading rave reviews, I finally made it to the capital city of Mexico.

Street art in the Metro Station

There are endless lists, guides, and maps, especially from New Yorkers and Californians on CDMX. Read them! This is my particular view on the city and intentionally leaves out more common recommendations like the National Museum of Anthropology and the Teotihuacán ruins.

Learn Some Spanish

CDMX is a Spanish speaking city. Unlike Amsterdam, Montreal, or Hong Kong where you can get by on English, you will need some Spanish in Mexico city. Brush up on the language basics or keep Google Translate handy.

Book the Taco Bar at Pujol

Pujol’s soft and warm living room

Ok, fine. I’m starting with an obvious recommendation, but only because I really mean it. Absolutely have lunch at Pujol, one of the top rated restaurants in the world. Book yourself for the 1:30 Taco Bar, which is a 10 (?) course lunch for about $200. The lunch includes many riffs on classical Mexican dishes, excellent wine or beer pairing, a 5+ year old mole, never-ending desserts, and world class service, sight, smell, touch, and of course taste experiences. Get ready to eat some bugs! I absolutely recommend the Taco Bar over pre-fixe menu at the tables. It’s more relaxed and has a wider variety of tastes.

With so many drink pairings, you’re bound to pee a few times. I sure did. Enjoy the toilets: the lighting, scent, and sounds are a tropical delight. Our table spent a couple hours after the meal on the lush green patio digesting and trading stories. Take your time and soak it in, they’ll wait for you to request the bill.

Brush up on chef Enrique Olvera’s Chef’s Table Netflix episode before you go. Yes, make a reservation and ignore the haters who say it’s overrated.

After lunch, saturate your senses with a stroll around the corner to Xinu, a local, boutique fragrance shop. While yes it is pretentious, the curators source from local plants, and offer a full tasting menu of scents and ecological boutique packaging.

Take a Yoga class in Spanish

Mexico City, like most cities, has what seems like infinite yoga studios. On this trip, I took my classes in Spanish. Over time I’m realizing Vinyasa classes are the easiest to take in a foreign language since the sequences are somewhat predictable and often rely on Sanskrit for the brass tacks information.

Beautiful terrace view at Green Yoga

Green Yoga – I attended the Juárez studio for a Yin class the day I landed. Their first course is free so you have little to lose here. The studio was bright, clean, and friendly. My particular instructor was somewhat transactional from pose-to-pose, but I still left feeling refreshed, stretched, and reconnected. Immediately next door is Cicatriz Cafe, perfect for a coffee, snack, dinner, or drink.

Cafe Cicatriz
Blanco Yoga

Blanco Yoga – While Green Yoga wins on physical space, Blanco offered more skilled instruction, deeper poses, and more cohesion flow-to-flow. The Condessa studio itself was less inviting but none of that mattered once I began the practice. Highly recommend! Around the corner is Pasteleria Suiza with some stunning desserts, especially the puff pastry cream pies.

Pasteleria Suiza

City Art

Most of the big museums are situated by the park. I’ll skip my review on the big ones and recommend:

James Turrell at Museo Jumex – He has several new installations on view including previews from Roden Crater. Be sure to book in advance. I recommend taking the first showing at 9am before the crowds.

Skalar, Fronton Mexico

Skalar – Kangding Ray and Christopher Bauder, Berlin artists, brought an immersive light, sound, techno installation to CDMX. If you’re into electronic music or immersive art, it’s worth the trip to Fronton Mexico.

Galería OMR, Roma

Galería OMR – Lovely multi-floor gallery in Roma presenting local artists and contemporary work in a brutalists space and lush garden in the back. It’s near Rosetta Panaderia and the Museum of Objects, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Wide views of Mexico City from the Tower

Mexico City Tower – Ride up to the 37th floor for a drink and stunning view of CDMX. While I don’t usually spend time at these kinds of tourist traps, it was a nice place to rest after an afternoon in the Zocolo and shows how truly expansive Mexico City is! Check it out.

National Palace – Home to a huge Diego Rivera mural and several smaller pieces, this spot is unmissable. The wikipedia page on the History of Mexico mural was enough to help me orient the vast range of imagery. Murals aside, there’s a gorgeous desert garden, interesting sculptures, and lazy cats enjoying the sunshine.

Shopping Local

Roma Norte and Condessa didn’t have as many boutiques as I hoped for. However here’s some cuties for ya:

Carla Fernandez, Juárez

Carla Fernandez – fabulous haute couture designer. Though she’s outside price my range, the brutalist architecture of her flagship Juarez location is worth the trip alone. I enjoyed seeing a Mexican expression of avant-garde style.

Mercado Sabado – This Saturday Market was a day of commercial indulgence for me. Though it’s clearly marketed for tourists, the food, art, and wears are indeed local and well crafted. They range from street to boutique prices and is not far from here is Frida Kahlo’s home museum and neighborhood.

Xinu Perfumes

Xinu Perfumes – see review in the Pujol section

Utilitario Mexico – Simple home goods (around the corner from Green Yoga and Cicatriz)

The Shops at Downtown – Nice spot for window shopping, especially if you spend a historic afternoon at Zocolo. Azul Historico here!

180 Shop – has your hipster basics covered and is across the street from Rosetta and the Museum of Object.

Dining Quick Hits

You could come to Mexico City and only eat. I won’t even try to compete with the dining and taco guides. So here’s my quick hits on what to try and what to skip:

Azul – I much preferred the environment at Azul Historico to Azul Condessa. We ate at Condessa. The service was transactional but the mole was some of the best we’ve had. I regret ordering the enchiladas after I tasted the yellow mole and perfect steak.

Kura Izakaya – I highly recommend visiting Kura for a few Japanese bites. We had the delectable Chutoro Tuna and tea after a quick taco dinner. The interiors are beautiful and include a lush green garden en route to the bathroom.

El Moro – great spot for churros on the go, though a bit too crunchy for my taste. However, Pujol will ruin your churro palate for life in the best ways. If you go get the dark, not light, hot chocolate. Cute tote bags!

Rosetta Panadería – This bakery has serious Tartine vibes. If you’re in CDMX for a few weeks, this is a good dip into European breads and croissants. But if you only have a short time in Mexico, keep your eyes on the tortilla prize.

El Califa – no idea why people keep recommending this chain. Skip it.

Tacos – I don’t think we/I aced it on the taco front. There’s a lot of great guides here and my favorite bites were from unnamed street vendors.

Travel by car, bike, and train

Most guides recommend ubering everywhere since the cost is so low for travelers from the US and Europe. Do this instead of taxis.

I quite enjoyed taking the metro (about $0.25 USD a ride) during rush hour. My friend noted that each of the stops also includes a visual icon which I appreciated from a design, accessibility, and literacy perspective. This can be the better option when traffic is awful.

Uber Jump bikes are fairly pervasive around Roma Norte. On such a short trip, this nice pedal-assist ride let me see a lot of the neighborhood while preserving my energy. If you don’t have experience with acute driver awareness and city-biking, I do not recommend this option for you.

CDMX is Credit Card Friendly

Most shops and markets took credit cards. I only used cash on hands for street taquerias. If you plan to shop from local artisans, they pay an extra tax for credit cards, so the cash is appreciated.

Double check your Airport Terminal

Double check your departure terminal upon departing home. Some flights fly to the US from Terminal 1 (International) and some from Terminal 2. You’ll need to take a train to change terminals!