What It’s Like Self-Isolating in a Studio Apartment

What It’s Like Self-Isolating in a Studio Apartment

At 8:45 a.m., she turns on her laptop; at 6 p.m. sharp, she shuts it down, puts it in its case, puts the case in her hallway, and then takes a walk through Central Park, enacting a reverse “commute.” Once home, she takes a bath to separate the evening from the day, puts on a podcast, lights a candle. Even closing the bathroom door, she said, makes her feel refreshed when she re-enters the living space.

Then she calls her parents, another cue that distances “home” life from work life. The strict routine sustains and buoys her. “Our lives in the offices have clear edges,” she said. “When you work from home, everything begins to blend together and that takes a toll. Clear boundaries are key.”’

It was just before the blackout of 1977 that John Holmstrom, the indie cartoonist, co-founder of Punk Magazine and former High Times editor and publisher, moved into his railroad flat on East 10th Street — three “rooms,” 350 square feet, no doors.

He had been couch surfing, and living in Punk’s early offices on Tenth Avenue, among other berths, before inheriting the lease on this apartment from two friends: Robin Rothman, who was a girlfriend of Joey Ramone’s, and a singer who worked the door at CBGBs who went by the name deerfrance.

The rent at the time was $120, and Mr. Holmstrom could barely scratch it together. (It is currently $622.30.) Someone had painted the walls with what Mr. Holmstrom described as “hippie graffiti, those dopey fluorescent swirls,” and it took him years to get it off. Otherwise the place was just right for a 24-year-old cartoonist, just a mattress on the floor and not much else.

The place is standard tenement issue: 12 feet wide, bathtub in the kitchen, a water closet and no room for a proper stove or fridge. Mr. Holmstrom, now 66, cooks with a hot plate and toaster oven, and he has graduated to a bunk bed, sleeping on the bottom and using the top for storage.


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