Why the West Side (Pandemic Edition): Eve Yohalem

By Eileen Katz

Eve Yohalem, pictured here with her faithful companion Magnolia, is a children’s book author (Cast Off and Escape Under the Forever Sky) and Podcast creator who lives on the Upper West Side with her husband and two children. Eve’s latest book for kids 8-12 is The Truth According to Blue, a terrific summer read about two thirteen-year-olds and a diabetic alert dog on the hunt for sunken treasure. She’s also the co-host of Book Dreams, a podcast for everyone who loves books and wonders about them.

West Side Rag: Eve, how have you been holding up?

Eve Yohalem: “I feel very lucky. No one in my immediate family has gotten sick and we’re all together, and knock on wood, we’re all getting along so that’s been a tremendous blessing. And I started a podcast about six months ago with another children’s book author and we managed to launch it in April! That’s been a godsend because it gives me something to focus on and work on everyday that isn’t this pandemic. And then I had a book come out a couple of weeks ago and so there was a lot of planning for that. So I’ve had things that have been able to keep me busy that I’m lucky enough to be able to do from home.”

WSR: You’re having the busiest quarantine of anyone I’ve interviewed so far!

EY: “I have had things to do and that’s been really really helpful.”

WSR: Give me a snapshot of what your average day looks like now.

EY: “My average day, I usually get up pretty early and Julie and I have work to do for the podcast so we usually work together every morning at 8 a.m.”

WSR: Wow! That’s early! No sleeping in for you this pandemic.

EY: “Not for me! But for both of us, our households are quiet at that time so we’re not really bothering anyone and we both get up early anyway so it works out pretty well. So I usually do that from 8-10 a.m. and then breakfast, a lot more housekeeping than usual, so laundry, cleaning, meals, you know the drill. Then in the afternoon I try to do some writing related work and if the weather is ok I really try and go out for a walk for mental health and physical health reasons.”

WSR: Have you been watching any good TV?

EY: “You know, the weird thing is I haven’t been watching that much TV and I want to be able to watch more TV but I’ve been having a hard time. That’s something I need to work on because I really want to be doing more of that. I guess we all have our ways that our anxiety manifests and for me it seems I’m having a hard time concentrating. Reading has been harder than usual too. I haven’t been able to sit for great lengths of time and read books.”

WSR: Have you been able to get through any that have resonated with you? Or that have been a good distraction?

EY: “I have. The four us watched Unorthodox which I loved and then we all also watched Cheer which I am fascinated by. Have you watched that?”

WSR: No I’m not even sure what it is!

EY: “Oh you’re in for a treat! Put it on your list. It’s a multi part documentary about high school cheering competitions.”

WSR: Oh Jesus Christ.

EY: “There’s so much more to it than you can guess. If you don’t know anything about it, and I knew nothing about it, there’s sooo much more to it than you could imagine. I also watched a movie that I loved. We were just kind of looking around and stumbled on to it: Blow The Man Down. Oh my God! It was fantastic I think it was written and directed by a pair of young female writer/directors and I think it’s their first feature and it’s great. I think you would like it.”

WSR: Is it a love story, a mystery?

EY: “I don’t want to give too much away, but it focuses on two young sisters. One is graduating high school, the other is in college and it opens with the death of their mother and without giving too much away, one of them becomes involved in a really horrific crime and then the two of them decide to cover it up.”

WSR: Sounds spicy!

EY: “Yeah, but what its really about is the women in this community and the lengths they’ll go to preserve themselves and survive in a very tough place. Really good”

(Writers note: Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 99%)

WSR: So tell me about your eating through this? Are you cooking? Ordering in? I want to hear about failures, successes ….share!

EY: “We are mostly cooking. We’re all getting better at it, so there’s that. We maybe order in once or twice a week and I have to say my appreciation for ordering in, our old style of ordering in is something I REALLY miss. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how much we would order in. We would sometimes as a family have two or three Lenwich orders in a day…but now we can’t so we’re cooking. So now when we do order in, its like Birthdays and Christmas combined!”

WSR: I know what you mean! If I can quote the late, great Jerry Stiller: “It’s like a Festivus!”

EY: “Yes! It is a Festivus! Thank you! And such a wonderful time to remember the late great Jerry Stiller! God rest his soul. So yes, mostly cooking….and you know its not like in the old days where we would be picky about this dish or that “Oh, can I have something different”. There’s none of that now. We are much less picky out of necessity. And sometimes it’s a bummer for someone, like my daughter is not a huge fan of asparagus, but if one of us ends up making it, she’s eating it with no complaints. Everyone’s become a good sport when they can.”

WSR: So with spending all this time in your home, have you discovered anything about it you didn’t realize before

EY: “Ok, this is probably another thing I shouldn’t admit publicly, but before the pandemic, really for most of my life, my couch is my favorite place to be in the world. And that hasn’t changed. Now this may sound corny, but I just appreciate more than ever what a comfort home can be.”

WSR: When this began, can you believe it hasn’t even been four full months, though it feels like a million years and just yesterday at the same time, but when this began, some people found themselves stockpiling cleaning products or paper products…what’s the oddest thing you’ve found yourself getting?

EY: “Hmmm…one of them is Tofu because my son is a vegetarian and we never want to make more than one thing so I’ve never had so much Tofu stocked in my fridge. Also that PB2? The powdered peanut butter? Tons of that!”

WSR: What do you do with that?!

EY: “Oh, well they take all the oil out but you’ve got all the protein and flavor and I use it to flavor yogurt and so many other things and you never have to worry about running out of peanut butter cause you’ve got cans of this powder.”

WSR: What about the strangest thing you’ve ordered online, as most people seem to have an up tick in their web shopping?

EY: “I don’t know if I’ve ordered anything super strange, but my husband has ordered so many different kinds of UV disinfecting lights! We just got another one today! And if you get to close to them, I’m pretty sure they give you some kind of cancer or something, So we’ll survive the pandemic but a side effect of these lights will do us in. I swear, we’ve got this handheld one and I walked in to the kitchen this morning and he was running the light over all the berries I had bought the day before and he’s like: “Stand back!”

WSR: Wait, does the light hurt the berries??

EY: “No! Not at all! And then in our bathroom, which we use as a staging area for big grocery deliveries, he’s got a much bigger one that he’ll turn on for a while with a towel under the door so the deadly rays don’t escape and he disinfects the groceries that way. We must have at least three or four of those lights by now. Does that count?”

WSR: I had not heard that before. That absolutely counts! So I think we’ve all experienced this as a dressing down period…can you share with me what look you’ve been sporting? And what’s the fanciest thing you’ve put on through this?

EY: “Ok. I am wearing leggings now. I’m in exercise clothes. I worked out this morning and its been quite a few hours but that’s kind of how things have been rolling here. My clothes reflect my mood so if it’s a good day, I’m wearing leggings…I even have a pair of these drawstring legging/pant things that I’ll put on. If it’s a bad day, I have this pair of gray, stretched out sweatpants that I’ve had longer than I can remember. And if it’s a great day, I’ll put on a pair of jeans…with a button and a zipper!”

WSR: Do you remember how to button and zipper??

EY: “I have found it truly is like riding a bike. It does come back to you.”

WSR: Have you discovered any new talents or abilities through this?

EY: “Well, yes! I never knew I could cut hair! And just so you know, my Kindergarten teacher told my mother she wanted me to repeat Kindergarten because I couldn’t cut. And my mother said: “But she can read!” and my Kindergarten teacher replied: “She doesn’t have to know how to read in Kindergarten, but she does have to know how to use scissors.” So I really came at this with a tremendous deficit, but I have cut my sons hair and even used three different settings so its super fancy and I cut my husbands hair…but honestly, both were razors which are pretty idiot proof, so I do still need to conquer the scissors after all I guess.”

WSR: Now I know you love your husband and family, but who would your celeb quarantine crush be?

EY: “John Oliver, of course! I want to spend two weeks with John Oliver!”

WSR: Perfect choice! And he’s a fellow UWSer to boot! Ok, last question, what’s the first thing you’re going to do when this is all over?

EY: “Honestly, I just want to hug! Like, not random strangers, though at this point I’d hug anyone I could, but definitely the people I love.”

Read other columns in this series here.

COLUMNS | 3 comments | permalink
    1. That was a very enjoyable read; thanks for putting it up.

    2. Allison says:

      John Oliver lives on the UWS?!

    3. Gretchen says:

      Cute cat! I guess Magnolia had nothing much to say?