Q(uar) & A is a series of interviews with some of our favorite storytellers and creators about how they’re living while in lockdown.
Nicole Clark is an LA-based freelance culture writer covering identity, entertainment, and mental health, as well as a contributing editor at Catapult. Her work can be found in The New York Times, Vox Media, and San Francisco Chronicle, among other places.
Where are you currently sheltering in place?
I’ve been sheltering in place in my apartment in Los Angeles, with my roommate and my boyfriend.
What does your face mask look like?
I have a washable fabric face mask, and an N-95 mask that I’d used before, that’s normally stashed in my fire and earthquake emergency kit. I also have a few bandanas that work in a pinch — I’m a pretty forgetful person, so I’ve stuck them into the bags I grocery shop with, to make sure I always have a face covering.
Do you follow any kind of routine at this moment?
I tend to wake up around 8AM, make breakfast, and then work until I get too hungry to focus anymore. I know this isn’t healthy but I have yet to do better. The rest of the day is up in the air, depending on whether I’m on deadline. I’m a morning person so I do my best work in those early hours. I usually end the day with a 7PM skate.
What are some pieces of entertainment that you have consumed and loved during this time?
I’ve become pretty reliant on consuming media to cheer myself up! A lot of my casual television consumption has centered around regressing to the comforts of animated shows from childhood, and newer animated shows with a similar ethos. I’ve watched tons of Avatar: The Last Airbender since it was available to stream, as well as Kim Possible and Sailor Moon. I’ve also watched a lot of She-Ra: Princess of Power (the Netflix remake, from Noelle Stevenson) and Steven Universe.
Films wise, we’ve consumed a lot of Miyazaki’s films, along with a number of really excellent films that my roommate’s movie club — like a book club! — selected. We’ve watched through a lot of Spike Lee’s work, and more recently Dee Rees’s excellent Mudbound. I rewatched Bong Joon-ho’s masterful Parasite, along with other films of his. I also watched Tigertail and The Half of It in order to review the films, and loved both of those as well.
On sad days, we pretty consistently watch absurdist, escapist action films, like the Fast and Furious franchise, Edge of Tomorrow, and a fair number of films off of The Ringer’s Bad Good movie list (Bad Good films are a personal favorite of mine). It’s a real shame that Mortal Engines and Jupiter Ascending aren’t on that list, but we watched those too. Luckily, Dante’s Peak *is* on that list, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for something truly and spectacularly bad.
I also listen to audiobooks anytime I do chores, and have relied on them lately. I’ve consumed a ton of memoir and essay collections, including Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings, Carmen Maria Machado’s In The Dream House, and Matt Ortile’s The Groom With Keep His Name. A lot of my Libby holds from last year also came through, so I’m currently midway through Julia Phillips’s The Disappearing Earth and Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise.
I have been craving more escapism, so I have been rereading science fiction and fantasy. I reread N.K. Jemisin’s Stone Earth Trilogy after finishing her newest The City We Became. I’m also working my way through lots of romances, particularly from Jasmine Guillory, Alyssa Cole, Helen Hoang, Sonali Dev. (I’m doing The Ripped Bodice bookstore’s summer romance bingo.) I also particularly love YA for escapism, and have a few books on hold through Libby — I’m excited for Yes No Maybe So and You Should See Me In a Crown.
Are you working on anything during this time? And if you’re having trouble “creating” things at the moment, how are you getting around it?
I was midway through job interviews when shelter-in-place was announced, and all of those opportunities froze. While I feel very lucky to be in an industry where I can work from home, it has been difficult finding consistent paid opportunities. I recently picked up a few gigs that should cover rent, which is the biggest relief. With that secured, I hope to have the headspace to pick up my creative nonfiction writing and culture criticism again, along with more editing work.
Have you taken up any new hobbies?
A lot of my existing hobbies have taken off during shelter-in-place, which has had the pleasant upside of helping me meet new people through Instagram during a time when we can’t socialize in person. I’ve always been an avid jigsaw puzzler, gardener, and letter writer — having pen pals has been very fulfilling, and it’s exciting getting to eat what I’ve grown. I would highly recommend Garden Marcus on TikTok, for anyone looking for plant advice and encouragement. I also really like Epic Gardening and Fans in the Garden (the latter on Instagram only).
My current newest obsession is definitely roller skating — I picked up a pair of steeply discounted skates on Craigslist a few years ago, but gave up after a few tries because it was so difficult. This time I found a skating community. They’ve been so uplifting, and have helped me find confidence in street skating, along with a community to protest alongside.
What’s the best meal you’ve eaten so far during quar? What’s the worst?
My roommate and my boyfriend are both exceptional at cooking, and I’m lucky that we regularly do family nights where we share our meals. They lead the charge, and I help with prep and keeping the kitchen reasonably clean as we cook. We’ve made lots of stuff — fried fish, chili, fajitas, dumplings, roasted chicken, lamb kebabs, and lots of baked goods like banana bread, focaccia, strawberry shortcake, biscuits.
The saddest meals are all invariably when I’m feeding myself, and are like: the last two pieces of salami, unheated leftovers from last night, and a raw Persian cucumber I found at the bottom of the produce drawer.
What’s your current iPhone wallpaper and what’s the story behind it?
I can’t believe this is happening, but my background is currently a shitpost of Babu Frick onto the Baby Driver poster.
What’s the best quar purchase you’ve made so far?
The best purchase has probably been the grocery trip where I bought 20 zongzi from 99 Ranch Market, which became my default lunch for weeks. Just stick one in the rice steamer and 30 minutes later, a full meal!!
I’m also a big fan of getting birthday gifts for people. All of us love good olive oil, so for my boyfriend’s birthday we got Brightland olive oil, which we have shared as a house: We’ve dipped my roommate’s homemade focaccia in it. It also tastes amazing on peanut butter cups and dark chocolate.
Any unexpectedly memorable moments so far?
I am so grateful for the people I have been sheltering in place with. We’ve snuck up and hung “happy birthday” banners in the background of Zoom calls, baked cakes and bread for each other, written notes and stuck them under each other’s doors, roller skated together. It’s not like we don’t fight or butt heads, but it does sometimes feel a bit like a sitcom. Our most recent escapade involved cleaning out our closets, and finding things we’d forgotten about, among them a roll of film. When we developed the film we found that it was a roll from when my boyfriend and I went to the San Diego Zoo for Valentine’s Day, and it felt odd but nice to see those photos that felt like a lifetime ago despite happening fairly recently.