The Center of The Universe for One Shining Evening

So on Saturday Rosie and I reaffirmed our marriage to the world (check here for the elopement story), and I have to say, it was the party of the year. Here we are, together, a few minutes before the celebration began:

Photo: Rosie and Jason.

It's interesting, because when you plan a party of this size (over 200 people), there are so many things that can go wrong. And many things, during the planning process, did go wrong. From almost not having our space constructed on time, to our first band standing us up one month before the big day, we had our fair share of difficulties. But the important thing is, now, today, thinking back... we pulled it off! Rosie deserves the credit for making it happen; I was her (mostly) eager assistant these past several months.

The evening was amazing- the party went from 6:00 PM 'till after midnight, and it seemed like a beautiful blink of the eye. I wish it could have gone on for days. It's really hard to believe, but everything was flawless (except for my crying on stage- I really didn't want the folks at my office to see that). We couldn't have asked for a smoother, more perfect, more passionate, more exciting, more fun, more memorable, more touching, more emotional evening.

Highlights? Where do I begin... Rosie's dad (now 72 years old) jamming on the accordion while she led the ladies in dancing the Miserlu... the cake fight that got out of hand... the naughty messages on the big board of magnetic poetry... Rose's fairy-tale descent down the grand staircase... the Native American invocation... the amazing food... the dancing... the dancing... (and did I mention) the dancing... the band (consummate professionals; they swung the house down)... the unfinished bathrooms with curtains (!) between the stalls... the most beautiful 1930s ballroom you've ever seen... the 50 foot long bar... seeing people we haven't seen in 8 years... seeing our family from California... seeing our family from Maryland... seeing our friends from New York, from Pennsylvania, from Virginia... seeing all of our friends... bonding with 200 people simultaneously...

It was the most wonderful thing I've ever experienced. This tops everything.

Well, today's the big day. I'll talk to ya when I come up for air.
This is quite an interesting firm.
The Man-Shower (Don't be afraid)

Okay, so I’m already married, but we’re having a kick-ass wedding reception this coming Saturday (T minus 3 days and counting). The story so far: eloped in February, reception in July; makes perfect sense as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, along with the wedding (reception) itself, there are certain little events that happen along the way to further increase the joy and/or mania of the whole bacchanalia. One of these events is the “shower.” Now, traditionally, this is geared toward the bride, and the man has a “bachelor party.” But, as I am not that kind of guy, you know the rowdy, beer-drinkin’, sports-watchin’, recliner sittin’ type, the brethren of my newly expanded family decided that I should have a man-shower. Now, I know, it sounds a little weird, but bear with me.

Part of that man-shower will take place this Friday, when several of us will engage in a day of golf festivities (I have absolutely no golf ability), followed by eating festivities and possibly later some drinking festivities. Now that will be fun.

However, another part of the man-shower schedule of events has already taken place, and that is the bestowing of the man-shower gift. Now, Rosie received about 3,000 gifts at her shower, so the men thought I should have some semi-equivalent gift-compensation. So Monday I ventured to the far west side of Cleveland to receive my man-shower gift. Here’s what they got me, lucky sap that I am:

Masterpiece of Ergonomics: THE AERON

Thanks, guys, you sure know how to pick ‘em. To date, it’s my nicest material possession.

The way I see it is, I'm XXVII years of age, and I can't seem to strap myself into doing one kind of thing. No matter what my station in life, I always think that there is something else out there that's at least as (if not more) interesting as what I'm doing at any given time. So I try to do everything. This, by my way of thinking, presents a problem in that I cannot be happy unless I am exploring something new at all times. I get restless.

The other problem is, my favorite thing to do, more than work, more than produce, more than succeed, more than figure-out, is to daydream. I prefer daydreaming over almost every other human activity. That doesn't fit into the scheme of things. Nobody wants to pay you to daydream.

Here's a sketch of a favorite Piazza of mine in Florence. It wasn't the most beautiful or popular place in the city (and it was used as a parking lot during the day), but it had a scale and intimacy that I liked. It very much felt like an urban room.

Sketch: Piazza S. Firenze.

The Presence of The Dead in Chloride

Back in 1996, my best friend and I drove cross-country, from Cleveland to San Francisco and back. We took the southern route going (which covered a good portion of old Route 66), and the northern route coming back. One of the pleasant surprises about the trip going was the fact that we (for one reason or another) spent several days in New Mexico. Two of those days were spent in and around Albuquerque, and the rest of our time there was spent in places which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. One of those places was a town called Chloride.

Photo: Downtown Chloride. That's my traveling companion there.

Chloride, we later learned, is a former boom town that prospered during the Gold Rush. It is located at the end of the line (literally) of one of New Mexico's state routes. We drove fifty miles in, and there's the town, and that's it… no through roads, no other towns. Just Chloride and one way out- the way we came in.

The town, by our best estimate, had a living population of about twenty-five people, with no industry to speak of (unless the small general store in the center of town counts as industry). We found the store owner to be quite talkative and friendly. In fact, during the course of our conversation, we learned that he and his wife grew up in our home town, Cleveland.

"Yep, we moved out of Cleveland about thirty years ago," he said, "When the niggers started moving in."

'Nuff said. Suddenly concerned with our personal well-being (considering that these were the only living people we had encountered in town so far), we walked on.

We continued down to the end of the town's only street and up a hill, where we discovered an ancient (by American standards) graveyard. This was the first town I'd ever been where the living population was far outnumbered by the dead.

There was something truly present about this graveyard… something that brought it to the forefront of my consciousness in a way that I had not yet experienced, even in other places where I had been surrounded by the dead. I could tell that my traveling companion felt the same way. The people that lived here had a strange ritual of marking territory around the gravesites, in addition to placing headstones on the graves. They built small metal and wood structures around them, placed rocks on them, and most interestingly, placed what looked like ornamental bed frames on top of the graves. I suddenly understood, at age twenty-three, what it meant to stand in a sacred place.

Photo: One of the graves. Photo: Another one of the graves.

My traveling companion was no less moved, and he refused to refrain from telling me so approximately every five seconds. In fact, after spending about fifteen minutes standing there in awe, his constant talking began to distract me. "Awwww… this is amaaaaazing!" was the nature of things he kept uttering.

I suppose this place had a power and influence that was to remain unaffected by any sort of bothersome distractions that occurred during our visit. But at the time I kept thinking, "Can't you just be quiet and simply be for a moment? Just stand there and take it in. We don't need a running commentary!"

I was a little angry.

Today, four years later, the sting of that distraction has faded to the point that I only think about it in passing. However, my place-memory of that graveyard remains as vivid as ever.

Observation #46

The human is the ultimate shock absorber. Think about it: no invention created by mankind (to date) can hold a steaming cup of coffee in a car that is going 40-45 MPH over multiple road bumps on a curve. But the human can. With its arm outstretched, bent just slightly at the elbow, gently gripping said cup of coffee, the human is able to absorb just about any shock that comes its way. True beauty.

Observation #731

The bag (sometimes referred to as the "sack") is an absolutely wonderful invention, I was thinking to myself this morning. It has the obvious advantage of allowing one to carry multiple items at once, using only one hand. But the advantages of the bag do not end there. Upon further reflection, I realize that utilizing the bag is beneficial even when carrying only one item within it. With a proper handle installed, it allows you to tote the item, sometimes using only one finger (!), while carrying multiple other objects, many of which can be quite bulky and awkward. These objects present no threat to the bag.

Here's to the bag.

So today after a rather long meeting with one of my favorite clients, the crew at the office took me out for a nice "goodbye" lunch. I suppose this event officially puts me in that strange state of limbo between "[sniff] Man, I'll miss you guys soooo much," and "God, I can't wait to get otta here."

I love it here- my job, Cleveland, our funky little apartment, all of it. And I'll miss it. Still, the closer Rosie and I get to leaving, the more I just can't wait for this move to happen. You see, Cleveland, at times, seems like a city that is full of people who are afraid to do things, afraid of the progressive. And it's time to move to a place where people aren't as afraid. At least for a while. (But perhaps I'm foolish for thinking that such a place even exists.) Hmmm...

On July 29, Rosie and I are throwing a big bash to show the world how much we love each other, and to affirm our marriage publicly for our family and friends (since they missed the original big event back in February when we eloped). This stands to be one of the most fabulous events in my life so far... one of those moments of extreme consciousness I think. I'll need all of the consciousness and clarity I can get in order to make it through the next few weeks.

Is It Evil?

We have a new Rant at Opensewer discussing the evils of mini-storage warehouses. Why are we picking on mini-storage? Read the article and find out.

Rosie has shown me the value of spending a large amount of my time barefoot. This includes: barefoot at home, barefoot at the office (well, sometimes with socks), barefoot driving, and of course the popular barefoot at the park. Wow, it's really quite wonderful. Feet are amazing little structures to look at, too.
Sometimes, just walking around, observing things, it hits me: the earth is so beautiful. Do we even appreciate how beautiful the earth really is?
I just learned that the sprawling communities which are thriving miles south of Cleveland are referred to as “The Southern Corridor.” Wow. That sounds much better than what I’m used to calling them. I've always thought of them as “the lily-white suburbs with the big malls.” I'm not bitter.
When driving in the city (which constitutes the bulk of my driving), I like do it “Asteroids-style.” As in, Asteroids the classic 1979 video game. What this means is that I only use the accelerator intermittently, kind of like the “thrust” button worked in the arcade. This technique works especially well on Woodland Avenue on my drive to work in the morning, because much of it is downhill. Here we go: top of the hill… go through the gears… round about East 76th I disengage the clutch… pop it in neutral… coast… never once have I gone above 1800 RPM. It’s truly an art. I love Newton’s first law.
Opensewer was amazing last night. Absolutely the best meeting yet… quite emotional, too. The discussion was intense and at times confrontational, but there was a whole lotta' love there. People were really connecting. Once everyone had arrived and the discussion had been going for a while (let's say, around 8:30 PM), I looked around and thought to myself, "This is it. This is what it's all about. This is exactly what we've been trying to accomplish with Opensewer."

People were so engaged with one another, and everyone's mind was so sharp. I was happy.

The meeting could have ended right there and I'd have considered it a success. But, as it was, it went right on until midnight. Rosie's brother, Frank showed up with his son (also Frank) who is about twenty. He was the youngest person at the meeting, and had a few of the most insightful comments. The spread of ages last night was wonderful: the different ways that older and younger people think about the same issues add an extraordinary amount of texture to the discussion.

More good news: it looks like Devin and Amanda (two OS regulars) are going to take over the Cleveland group. That means the OS will not die here when Rosie and I move to Ithaca. I'm so relieved.

Message to Scott and Megan: we missed you last night.

DANGER: An over-ripe sense of competition will trap you into living a life based on other people.
So Rosie and I spent the weekend in Ithaca, New York, looking for a place to live during my tenure in graduate school at Cornell University. The first thing that needs to be said is that it's mind-numbingly beautiful here. The surrounding landscape is truly amazing-with its rivers, mountains in the distance, and the gorges (one minute you're walking on what seems to be flat land, the next minute you're on a bridge standing over a 200-foot deep slice in the earth). Cornell is the only university campus I've ever seen that doesn't seem to have any ugly parts. And the architecture is wonderful: immaculately detailed traditional buildings, and some of the finest examples of modernist academic buildings I've ever seen.

We think to ourselves, "Well, since this is the Ivy League, we'll be around some of the most intelligent, well-behaved students in the country."

Wrong! The undergraduates here are the same beer-swillin', house trashin' degenerates I came to know and love so well at my former alma mater, Kent State University. It's no wonder we had such a hard time finding a place to live that wasn't owned by a slum-lord. I suppose to some degree you can't blame these property owners: would you spend thousands of dollars per month maintaining a building only to see it destroyed the very next semester by hyperactive undergrads? However, even considering that, the condition of some of these places made me want to stab my eyes out.

But is was a fantastic weekend, especially our brief hike over the Buttermilk Falls. Spending most of the trip off-line (except for my interview with Vicky Love on Friday) provided for a most peaceful experience.

In The Margins (Warning: stream of consciousness ahead.)

Sometimes it seems that the only time to pursue the things that one truly loves is in the margins. The marginal time- the time before or after you spend your day paying your dues to the world… making your contribution to the economic machine.

Think about it. When someone is working at something they truly love, they are usually doing their best possible work. They are most likely doing that one thing that is the most valuable thing they can offer the world. But all good soldiers must go to work and play their part. And that's the way it should be, right? There's no room in society for people who want to sit around and think all day… even if what they're doing is for the betterment of society.

Why is there no place in society for those who want to spend their days thinking about (and then acting on) how to make the world a better place? Oh, sure… supposedly that's what we're all doing every day at work, right? Not quite: we're there to make money. We're there to better ourselves only.

Why can't we humans, we Americans, support an effort that allows those who wish to simply dedicate themselves to bettering the world do so without being encumbered by the burden of economics? Why does it seem to be a requirement that every single thing that is produced by someone have some sort of monetary value attached to it? When are we going to start measuring value in more than simply dollars?

If we measured value in ways that transcended money, our society would begin encouraging people to pursue much deeper, more intellectual, more creative, more caring, more selfless, more human activities. And we would improve. We would see true progress, not just the fa├žade of progress that improvements in technology give us.

A better standard of living does not equal a better people. Better minds and better souls do. Let's bring our truly human endeavors out of the margins.

Killer party at Suzi's last night. Right on the lake... quite beautiful. Special bonus at last night's gathering: insane firecracker pyromania. Here's a picture: Rose on the left, and Suzi (the perpetrator) on the right:

Photo: Rose on the left, Suzi on the right.

So I feel the need to say a little something about these architectural exams I’ve been taking. Why? Perhaps a need to vent. Who knows…

These exams are crazy. So far it seems that I’ve been taking tests nearly every weekend this summer. And studying every day. It’s getting a bit tiring. It’s like this constant, looming, never-ending task always hanging above my head. And all on top of everything else I have to do.

Most of the tests are 3-4 hours each, but a few, the ones I’ve been taking recently, are 5-7 hours long. I’m exhausted when they’re done. I come home and fall right asleep.

On top of the effort it takes to pass all of these tests, there’s the cost: $1,200 to sit for all nine exams. Plus the cost of any study materials. Professional certification is critical, I know. If we’re going to be designing buildings, we must have a high level of competence when it comes to life safety. However, these fees seem a bit ridiculous for a profession that typically pays about the same as accounting.

Architecture has it own rewards. You get to see the lines from your pencil transform into a real, built structure. You get to mark the earth. That’s a wonderful feeling. It’s a feeling of responsibility and stewardship toward the planet— a recognition that you must do what you do very carefully because the well being of other people depends on it. But, as an architect, unless you become a “star,” you’ll experience a world that doesn’t see that value of design and critical thinking skills. Most clients will be happy with a pre-fabricated metal building, a few drywall offices, and an ocean of grid ceiling.

I suppose that’s part of the reason I’m expanding my horizons.

On the highway this morning, on the way to do some in-line skating at the park, we found ourselves trailing a red Ford Probe. It had a personalized license plate that read, "SUCCES."

Now, I imagine that the intent here was that the plate read "success," but as it's written it would most likely read "suck-es." How sad.

Here is how my head feels this weekend:

Sketch: Inside my head.

A Pleasant Exchange

So last night Rosie and I are waiting for a red light at the intersection of West 6th & St. Clair in the Warehouse District, and this real "cool" lookin' dude rolls up behind us on a motorcycle. Too impatient to wait for the light, he rolls around us into the intersection, does a complete U-turn, and pulls up to the restaurant on the other side of the street. I honk my horn.

"You got a problem, buddy?" he says, in this lame, Andrew-Dice-Clay-like voice.

I say, "What, you have special traffic laws that apply only to you?"

"You're a moron," he replies.

I think to myself, "You want to be cool just like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, don't you?"