The alarm rang on Monday morning, and for the first time in a quarter century, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. My gym—a place I visit on occasion, but never enough—was still open, but I didn’t feel comfortable going there. My next step would normally be rushing to make a train into Manhattan, but this was going to be my first day working from home, so that routine was out as well. I pulled on some clothes, a cap and a jacket to ward off the cold spring air, and leashed up the dogs for a morning walk.
By 9 a.m. I was sitting in my smoking room, my laptop glowing in front of me, steam rising from the large mug of strong, black coffee to my right. I lit up a test cigar, went back to checking my email, and made my final preparations for a video conference with the Cigar Aficionado team. The subject of the day: making sure we had everything we needed to do our jobs properly from home. That means publishing a magazine and newsletters, updating websites and social media accounts, hosting events and test smoking cigars.
Looking back now, on Friday morning, the week has been a good one. I’m enjoying my regular video meetings with my fellow editors and the art team—it’s a great way to stay in touch and see how they’re doing, and it’s proven quite effective for working through stories. (There’s also the occasional bit of humor. Greg Mottola joked that he practices social distancing on a regular basis anyway, so this was no big deal. Jack Bettridge put on an ascot for yesterday’s morning meeting; for the afternoon chat, he was wearing a different ascot.)
We’ve dealt with the occasional hiccup in operating remotely—including my brush with a mercilessly brief Internet outage in my neighborhood—and so far it’s been close to business as usual. I’m at my laptop again, with that big cup of coffee to my right. It’s almost time for that first cigar of the day.
Yesterday we were busy updating our piece on how cigar factories are dealing with Coronavirus—Honduras led the way with a nationwide shutdown, and yesterday some of the big producers in the Dominican Republic followed suit. The story we are working on today will show you what cigar shops across the U.S are doing to deal with this pandemic, a topic we’re going to cover quite a bit.
Social distancing has become the buzzword, and we as a family are taking it seriously, not only for our own safety, but also to do our duty as good citizens. My son’s school has gone remote, so he begins his day by logging on to his computer and checking in with teachers in a virtual classroom. My wife, who runs her own business, is operating the same way as she has before, from home. We limit our trips out of the house.
We’ve created a little ritual to keep in touch with the neighbors, and to have a moment of relaxation outside the house—while still maintaining that important distance. The other night we pulled up chairs at the edge of our property and sipped drinks. The neighbors across the street—people we’ve known for 20 years, but people we just don’t see that often due to the demands of job, family and other matters—did the same.
My wife and I fired up a Bolivar Coronas Junior, and I sipped a little Bowmore 15 single malt Scotch. We chatted, talked about what was going on, and made a few jokes about the sudden value of toilet paper and chicken. Before long, another neighbor was sitting on a chair, joining the conversation, from a safe distance. People walked by with dogs, sharing a greeting or quick story. All of them seemed impressed with how we were handling the situation.
Life goes on. The magazine goes on. Our shows will go on. Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest, originally slated for April, will now take place October 31. Our Big Smoke Las Vegas is still scheduled for November 20–22.
As my wife likes to say, with a shrug of her shoulders and a twinkle in her amazing brown eyes, “this is just a moment in time.” It will pass.
Stay in touch. Be safe. We’ll be here.