(Editor’s note: We asked some of our sports department colleagues to share this week what their lives have been like without the usual routines of news, practice and games to guide them. This is a six-part series.)
I moved to Minneapolis on Jan. 1, 2020. The choice of date was as symbolic as it was logistical.
New year, new life, and all that.
2020 was already going to be a year of change for me — a new job and new home after nearly 15 years in New York City.
But when I arrived in the Twin Cities on Jan. 1, I hadn’t heard of this new novel coronavirus, and I had no way of knowing just how strange a transition this would be.
The next day, I walked into the Star Tribune building for my first day as senior assistant sports editor. Ten weeks later, I walked out after being told we would be working from home indefinitely.
For 10 weeks, I tried to put faces to names, figure out where people’s desks were and find the right conference room. I spent 10 weeks learning to navigate the skyways and find good places for lunch.
I spent 10 weeks learning “how we do things,” only to have to start doing things a different way. And, oh, by the way, sports all over the world shut down.
This week is the 10th week I have been working from home, matching how long I worked in the Star Tribune building on Third Avenue.
These days my iPad is my conference room. And it’s a lot easier to put faces to names on video calls, where everyone essentially has a name tag. The “alone together” nature of these times has bonded me with my new co-workers in a way being “together” might not have. I’ve been “in” most of their homes and “met” their children and pets. Participating in Virtual Happy Hours has not only taught me about Minnesota sports history but also helped me fit in with the gang.
Adjusting to a new job from home was easy compared to moving to a new town and then have it suddenly close. I’d been in my apartment in the Mill District for only six weeks when, all of a sudden, I couldn’t leave it.
On March 14, two days before I had to start working from home, the spare room that I was to become my home office still had moving boxes stacked across the floor, where my desk also laid — in pieces.
By that Monday my home office was ready.
But friends and family worried about me being isolated in a new city with a nascent social network. They repeatedly told me how grateful they were that I no longer lived in New York City, where several friends were among the nearly 200,000 known coronavirus cases. I moved away “just in time,” they’d say.
The devastation the virus has brought to my longtime home, a city I love, breaks my heart. The forced isolation did make it much easier — and more imperative — to stay connected with my old life. I talk to more of my New York friends more often than I probably would have in ordinary times. I still “attend” services at my Manhattan church, and can even still sing in choir.
Connecting to my new life has been hard, though. I meet people only through work video calls, or passing a neighbor in the elevator or hallway. Coffees and lunches with old friends here that I had put off “until I got settled” have been put off indefinitely.
Instead of getting to know people, I am getting to know my surroundings.
I grew up 3½ hours down I-35 in Iowa and had visited the Twin Cities often, but I had never lived here. A recent Macalester graduate, the daughter of a former co-worker, made me a 12-page guide to local restaurants, bars, shops, museums and attractions. I made it to a Minnesota Orchestra concert and the Walker before they closed. Other than that, I haven’t made a dent in her suggestions.
I didn’t get around to buying a car before the stay-at-home order came down, so I walk. A lot.
I walk to U.S. Bank Stadium, where, hopefully, I will work this fall. I walk to Target Field, where Twins editor Chris Miller had promised to take me when the baseball season began. I walk down Washington Avenue in the North Loop and make notes of restaurants to visit when (if?) they reopen. I walk along the Mississippi River, or across it to explore Northeast neighborhoods. I wander around the deserted U campus. I try to take a different route to the Nicollet Mall Target each time I go, sometimes walking past the Star Tribune building to say hi (or just to remind myself where it is). I go to Gold Medal Park to read on sunny Sunday afternoons.
I take a lot of pictures on my walks. After I posted some on Facebook last month, a high school friend — one of those people here with whom I’d yet to reconnect in person — commented, “I wish that we could walk together. I’m enjoying seeing the cities through your POV and fresh eyes.”
To which I could only reply, “Someday. Someday.”