[email protected]: Coffee, Coronaxiety & Jeff Stryker

Daryl & Travis sheltering in place

It was a “carpe diem” start to my workday – the sun was blazing, and the air felt warmer than the 52 degrees that the thermometer read.

Enthused by the weather, I capped off my “masked” morning run along the East River with 300 air squats, cause, you know, summer. I have not given up hope on beating the August heat at Rockaway Beach yet, even if Mayor Bill de Blasio has.

Afterward, the staff at Black Fox Coffee (the only nearby coffee shop still open) presented me with my “regular” order – one large hot coffee, black, for me; one large iced coffee, black, for Travis.

It was such a perfect start to the day that I temporarily forgot that we were still living through one of America’s darkest moments.

Seize the day?!? Who am I kidding? The pandemic continues and Robin Williams has been dead nearly 6 years. The future is still so uncertain the only thing left to seize is “the day.”

In the kitchen at home, after washing my hands and soaping off the exterior of the plastic cup, I poured the iced coffee into a glass cup to ensure that Travis only received a jolt of caffeine, not a handful of coronavirus.

He was still in bed of course; the new norm. He has always been more night owl than I. However, pre-pandemic he would insist on going to bed with me even when he was not tired, which was equal parts cute and annoying.

Now the opposite is true. He is awake until 2 or 3 am every weeknight, binging missed episodes of The Real Housewives… from Beverly Hills to Topeka. He insists that there are no underlying problems, it is just how he manages his nightly coronaxiety.

My boyfriend, still relatively new to New York and very new to our apartment, is a whirling dervish of highs and lows. When he is focused on work, home improvement projects, and communicating with friends and family he soars; otherwise…

“You can allow yourself to sleep in…,” he says groggily.

“This isn’t a prolonged Spring Break, you now,” I jokingly reply.

In truth we are both sleeping in. Now that our daily commute consists of a walk from one side of the apartment to the other and our sartorial considerations only account for what is visible from the neck up, getting from bed to work can take as little as 5 minutes.

This morning, I am an hour into work before Travis shows up at his desk, ready to start his day.

While we are both lucky to still be employed, the impact of COVID on our roles has been vastly different.

As a project manager at a book publishing company, my workload has only increased as our supply chain adapts. My job is to ensure that my team delivers a product, usually something technical like a website, on time, and with minimal tears. Obviously, in a stay at home situation, people are taking comfort in reading which is good for us. But ensuring that fulfillment can continue has required problem solving on the fly.

I love my job. As an avid reader, I have a passion for what we produce. I also get to interact with many colleagues across our business. Historically, I have been deliberately impersonal at work, delineating between the professional and personal. Now that our interactions occur solely online, I have instinctively initiated most meetings with a mental health check. People, including myself, share personal anecdotes that would have seemed awkward eight weeks ago but now remind me “we are all in this together.”

Travis is responsible for fundraising through individual relationship-building at a well-known global nonprofit based in the city, a daunting task at the best of times. Now that we are locked in our homes, he has had to creatively adapt his tactics to the changing environment which includes virtual coffee check-ins with his older donors and a series of themed Zoom happy hours with his millennial supporters. A cruise director in another life, it is the favorite aspect of his job. It provides a good excuse to spend an hour grooming his mugshot and staging the visible portion of our living room. Since evening obligations have become a formal part of his workday, it makes sense that despite being around each other more, our days are now out of synch.

I know that as he settles in and begins to feel at home in New York and with me, and once we become more certain about what the new “normal” is, he will better learn how to manage his anxiety. But until such time, I purchased a copy of The Big Activity Book for Anxious People for him in hopes that we stop receiving unexpected packages purchased during his late-night pursuit to find the “end” of his Instagram feed.

Cultural Highlight of the Day!

Dirty Martini’s & Documentaries: Watching Circus of Book

We watched Circus of Books on Netflix, an entertaining and moving documentary about an aging heterosexual, Jewish couple who ran a major gay pornography store in West Hollywood for over 30 years. One symptom of the pandemic is that Travis and I are both easily moved to tears, and this movie triggered this reaction.

While I never personally set foot in this famous institution, as a 45-year-old I am certainly more familiar with the significance of these spaces within the gay community than Travis.

And while there were plenty of titillating moments, including an interview with porn legend Jeff Stryker, the heartwarming story about the family’s personal journey during those years is the perfect remedy to times such as these. Add it to your queue of movies to watch in the coming months.


This is Daryl Sela’s second post in his series, [email protected], about sheltering at home in downtown New York City.

 Photos by Travis & Daryl