How this Renaissance Man continues to report local news, teach his Chapman University classes remotely and still have time to make an amazing grilled cheese sandwich.
Chris Trela is one of those people who always has a good story to tell, no matter how many times he’s regaled you with tales before. He’s been a fixture on the OC media scene for more than three decades, both behind the desk and behind the lens for some of our favorite publications — including, most recently, the Newport Beach Independent (lifestyle editor and columnist, former editor in chief) and the Orange County Business Journal (executive dining columnist). In addition to being an award-winning journalist and photographer, Chris also owns and runs ArtsPR, a boutique PR agency for arts organizations and is Artistic Assistant Professor of PR at Chapman University. I have to stop there for the sake of space, but you get the picture. His skillful juggling act continues in the time of COVID-19. He stopped just long enough for a quick Quarantine Q+A. Q: What about the current quarantine situation have you liked best - if you had to pick something to like? CT: Spending more time with my dog, Spencer. We live across the street from a nice park and greenbelt in Newport Coast, which we both enjoy. Q: What about quarantine has been the most challenging for you and why? CT: Oddly enough, I have not experienced any challenges. I keep busy between teaching online, grading assignments and giving feedback, and writing for the Newport Beach Independent. I suppose the most challenging thing is to remember to wear a face covering when I go to the store! Q: Have you learned anything about yourself during this time? What? Anything surprising that you didn't know about yourself before? CT: Nothing surprising, but it has reinforced the fact that I can work independently and hit deadlines. Q: Where have you been turning for inspiration during this time? CT: My Chapman University students, they are terrific, doing well remotely, completing assignments better than I expected. They are still motivated to learn. Also the fact that my work for the Newport Beach Independent can be viewed as a community service. It’s important to keep the community informed of what is going on in the city, both news and lighter things like charities and arts — and dining! Q: How has being in quarantine affected your work? CT: Surprising little. I have adapted to remote teaching/learning via Zoom rather well, and I’ve always written articles from home. Q: Quarantine cuisine - any new or old favorites you've been enjoying more during quarantine? What and why? CT: I try to order take out as often as possible to support my local restaurants, but I’ve also had more time to cook. April is National Grilled Cheese Month so I have been having fun with grilled cheese sandwiches, experimenting with different breads and cheeses (Havarti and smoked cheddar is a great combo!). Also having fun cooking dishes such as artichoke stuffed salmon, bacon wrapped asparagus, etc. Q: What is your quarantine cocktail of choice? CT: A Covid Old Fashioned with smoked maple bourbon! Q: Are there more holistic lessons that you hope society/our culture/the world will take away from quarantine (after it's over) -- things we've learned as a society during this time? CT: To help each other more and appreciate the little things, and to donate more to charities. Q: Favorite music during this time? CT: At home it’s smooth jazz (for writing), in my car it’s either 80s, Beatles, or Broadway show tunes. And of course, Lady Gaga (I am a BIG fan). Q: Any tip/s you can share with others that have made this time more bearable for you? CT: Author Ray Bradbury once told me to not watch news on TV—"it’s all about people you don’t know and murders you didn’t commit.” And now, COVID coverage is never ending, too much of it can infect your soul. I peek at news online to see where we are with everything, and then return to music and work. Keeps me calmer than being inundated with news I can’t control (other than doing my part and practicing social distancing). Q: If this COVID quarantine "thing" was a character in a movie, what would he/she/it look like and what would be his/her/its traits? Hero or villain? CT: I think for some people, being in quarantine is like Bruce Banner/The Hulk. One minute you are calm, the next you want to smash something! For me, a friend once told me I am like Voltaire’s Candide—"all for the best” and perhaps overly optimistic. I am fine with that. I do occasionally take off my rose colored glasses, but I find that optimism and a positive attitude is far better in the long run than pessimism and hopelessness. Q: What will you appreciate more after quarantine is over? CT: Going to the theater (SCR, Segerstrom Center), dining in restaurants again, and being in a classroom with my students. Q: Any book, podcast, movie, YouTube, Instagram accounts, albums or any other recommendations you have during this time CT: I wish I could share something inspirational, but — I bought a Roku device, and subscribed to Disney Plus (I already have Netflix). I have been catching up on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” As an Avengers fan, it’s a great show! Those are fun things to do after being at my desk all day! Oh—and I just subscribed to Master Class. Looking forward to continue my learning from some great minds.