Interesting Read: Online Exhibition Selector Miles Rodriguez Talks About His Pandemic Experiences//

Miles Rodriguez, a barista-in-training in Portland Oregon, has selected the next in our weekly series of online exhibition. His show, “EVIL ROBOTS!,” will post in a few days (if you cannot wait, you can see it here, now). Miles is also the son of Amelia Opie, an artist who has had several exhibitions at NIAD. Miles talks about his recent experience with sheltering-in-place:

On March 6th I showed up to the coffee cart where I had been working, learning how to make and serve specialty coffee drinks to people. When I got there it was closed, and nobody was there. My boss wasn’t there, and neither was my coworker, Malik. The cart wasn’t running and it wasn’t set up.

I had been told that Friday March 6th would be my last day at the cart, and that the cart would close down on the next Monday indefinitely. I was confused and disappointed to find it already closed when I got there on Friday. My mom gave me a ride home and we figured a mistake had been made. We stopped into a Starbucks to console ourselves with coffee drinks.

Later that day we learned that all of Portland’s public schools had also closed on Friday, March 6th. The coffee cart is in the lobby of the school district building, so I guess that’s why my job ended earlier than I expected.

When I first heard about the coronavirus, I was a little bit scared and worried. I learned that a couple hundred people died in Wuhan, China, and then it was more people and more people who died. There were tons of deaths. I saw a lot of people in China wearing masks, and nobody was out on the streets, and there was no smog.

Here in Oregon, one of the first things that happened was that a janitor down at a school in Lake Oswego got sick. The school closed down for a deep cleaning, but then reopened. It wasn’t long before entire school districts started closing down. Eventually the governor decided to call for a shelter in place, and all the schools closed down.

The order to shelter in place was frustrating. The gyms closed down, and hair salons, and nail salons, and coffee shops, and malls, and restaurants, and even parks and pools! Many of the trips I had planned with my Community Transition Program were cancelled because the number of deaths kept increasing. I had a trip to pet llamas that was cancelled. My trip to the Tillamook creamery, where they make cheese and ice cream, was cancelled. I had multiple plans to eat out with my mentor that were cancelled. My family and I had plans to have dim sum with a friend and even that was cancelled. IN SUMMATION, EVERYTHING WAS CANCELLED!

Now there is a void in my life. The only thing I was doing for a while was playing video games and watching TV. My mom tried to get me to take a walk but I don’t want to. I don’t think it is safe to walk right now, and I hate walking in the middle of the street to practice social distancing. I just like to be on the sidewalk where I am safe.

Things have gotten a little bit better of late. For a while I was really upset because my mom said it wasn’t safe to go to my personal trainer’s house. Now we meet on Facetime three times a week and he trains me by phone. He calls me on Facetime and I work out in our basement, lift weights, running up the stairs, going on the rowing machine, and doing planks. I call those torture, but working out is something I need to maintain my mental health.

Another reason I’m happier now is that my program started doing online stuff such as Google Meets. This was a little hard for me at first because our family computer doesn’t have a camera or a microphone, but then my dad starting lending me his work laptop, so now I get to meet with my whole class at once. I look forward to these conversations a lot. We talk about world events and what is going on with our lives. These classmates were the ones I would usually see almost daily. Now, I get to see them, my teacher, and sometimes even her four-year-old daughter playing in the background.

We also get homework every week, which includes watching videos, particularly CNN, doing online reflection forms, and doing money skills worksheets. The worksheets are easy for me but I was pretty shocked to learn that some shoes cost $150! My teacher also shares recipes that we can make at home. So far I’ve made goulash by following my teacher’s video tutorial, and green bean fries by printing out a recipe. The fries were easy to make, healthy, and delicious. I haven’t tried making the chicken, bacon, and ranch pizza though because my mom thinks it’s not healthy enough.

To keep myself busy, I’ve also been making art. My art is patterned like a rug and I fill it all the way in with markers. I’ve also done some painting. Another thing I have been doing is helping neighbors who are busy with outside projects. I helped my neighbor Noah with taking out a fence and a bunch of vines, and staining his woodwork outdoors. I also helped another neighbor by shoveling his mulch into wheelbarrows and moving it. And I mowed our own lawn using a push mower (Mom cheered for that one). These jobs keep me busy and make me happy.

The first thing I will do when I am free again is hang out with my friends and get a coffee or a sandwich, and maybe even a treat. This is what I have learned from the coronavirus so far: it sucks to be at your house all day. In the future I need to go out in the world. I need to be successful. Staying home is no good!!

Miles’ general bio, written by mom, and ok’d by Miles:

Miles Rodriguez is 20 years old and lives with his parents in Portland, OR. He is in his second year at the Community Transition Program (CTP) at Portland Public Schools. Miles aspires to be a baker or cook someday, and will likely attend a special education culinary class after CTP. Miles has autism, and early on in his infancy had a lack of head growth that became microcephaly. Many of Miles’ disabilities, however, could easily be associated with his autism.

Miles loves all things related to food. He would call himself a foodie. He has a passion for Oreo cookies, and even has a cat named Oreo. Recently during coronavirus sheltering he outdid himself by making a chocolate cookie crusted pie with Oreo pudding and a whipped cream / mascarpone Oreo topping. After a recent load of groceries was put away, Miles was disappointed to find there were no Oreo cookies in the bags (sometimes, he would agree, his mom sucks). Miles talks frequently about the great things he will invent with Oreo cookies.