In the latest story in our series, Debra Weiner gives insight into life back in the States, where she and her husband are working from home, missing Berlin, and getting creative with their Vitamix.
Stay at Home: The Montclair, New Jersey, Installment
by Debra Weiner
This is the first time since 2011 that my husband, Darryl, and I have not been in Berlin during the spring. We were scheduled to arrive on March 29, but our plans were curtailed in late February when we realized the impending consequences of COVID-19.
While it’s been stifling at times, we cannot complain. Our external office is three blocks away from our house and accessible anytime we need to use it. However, since mid-March, we have been working exclusively in our third-floor office/studio space. My husband is a graphic designer, and each of us has our own work area, so we really can go several hours without having any contact if desirable.
It has been more difficult for me than for my husband, since he prefers working at home. I’m used to sitting across from my business partner, Jeffrey, as I have been doing since 2002. Our office has been a creative lab where I have had the luxury of being able to show up any day of the week, have an idea, cultivate it, and conduct informal testing with colleagues and clients to see if it has any merit.
There is also an energy that you have in an office that you share with others that simply cannot be replicated at home. While twice-daily Zoom calls are nice, they do not in any way replace real face-to-face engagement, listening to everyone answer their phones and chat with the UPS and FedEx drivers stopping by for their daily deliveries. I miss having my morning Nespresso iced coffee, walking to the bakery for a midday scone, and a million other things too numerous to mention that have nurtured me for eighteen years.
Since our company produces national and regional conferences, the impact of the coronavirus has been huge. While stressful, the advent of this has created a situation that forces us to do what we do best: reinventing ourselves on demand. Restrictions impose creative thinking, and presently we are exploring how to take more than one hundred hours of our live content and adapt it to a virtual environment that produces a revenue stream.
Over morning coffee, we rhapsodize about Berlin and how we wish we were in our Prenzlauer Berg apartment. We miss the life that we have created there, and all of our neighborhood touchstones. We also know that we would be spending a lot more time taking walks if we were there and feeling invigorated by the energy of the city itself, despite the protocols that have been put in place. I am so grateful for the AWC and that I am able to participate in events remotely. This has made a world of difference and has greatly enhanced my quality of life.
Our evenings have taken on a repetition that is marked explicitly by food and adult beverages. It’s been warm off and on here, which has inspired me to reacquaint myself with tequila. Blood oranges are in season, so I’ve been making batches of the Vitamix Whole Fruit Margarita recipe. Essentially you peel an orange, lime, and lemon and throw them in whole with 8–10 ounces of tequila, 3–5 ounces of Cointreau, and 6–8 cups of ice. We ran out of the orange liqueur, so now I just add some agave nectar for sweetness. A few glasses of this make cooking less tedious and set the mood for the wine that is to accompany dinner—which is typically a Nebbiolo (my husband’s favorite). About 9:00 p.m. we turn on the TV and earnestly try not to watch CNN for more than thirty minutes (not always successfully). Then we’ll watch a movie or, most recently, we’ve power watched Ozark on Netflix. Our nightcap is typically a viewing of a classic black-and-white episode of The Avengers.
We have no idea when we will be able to return to Berlin, so I try not to dwell on it. But it does tug at my heartstrings to see photos of the Berlin-based friends I follow on Instagram. The same is true for Rome. I swoon every time I see a photo of a Roman pine tree and a neighborhood I know well. It’s safe to say that we would rather be in Europe now and have some distance from the political and social chaos that has enveloped the US.
If nothing else, all of this has made us really be in the moment. We appreciate everything more now—our health, reading in bed together, and simply not being alone in all of this.
While we can’t be sure of what tomorrow will bring, I know that I will be totally fine as long as our pantry has twelve cans of crushed tomatoes, several boxes of pasta, and enough capers, anchovies, pecorino cheese, and dark chocolate to get us through a month’s worth of dinners and snacks!