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January 2003

Unsettled

Things to say, apologies to make to many friends who have been neglected, many difficult things to admit about me treating myself like a precious little glass ornament that can't withstand any pressure. I can take it I just haven't wanted to, and I’ve used a vast array of excuses to justify my own laziness, my own unwillingness to juggle even a normal amount of work, social interaction, life in general. The details don't necessarily matter: as it was pointed out to me (and as I’m forced to admit), I’ve developed an alarming tendency to use writing on the site as a substitute for interaction. That makes me feel shitty, and I hope I can correct my mistakes. I’ve done a poor job of showing a number of extraordinary people how big a piece of me thay really are.

If you've noticed, then I’m sorry. Bear with me it seems I still have more self-repair work to do than I’d noticed.

What Was It Like Before?

Trash Addict was reminiscing about his earliest online experiences, when the idea of communicating with strangers outside your usual sphere seemed so new and fascinating. Of course, it's still quite fascinating, but I bet you take it for granted as much as I do, right? It all seems so matter-of-fact that there are so many ways to draw in words and pictures from the worl outside you, and forge relationships of one kind or another through a medium that offers both the gratification and the threat of immediacy, breadth, and a more malleable identity.

A friend and I were talking just the other day about what office jobs were like before the internet. We could hardly recall how we got through the day without switching to e-mail or news for a few minutes to break up the monotony and reach out past the workplace. I’ve had some kind of access since about 1994 (when I would use a telnet session from my desktop at the B.U. Office of Publications Production to read and write stuff with cryptic, elegant command-line tools like pine and lynx), so my memories are fuzzy, but I recall spans of time where I would just stare blanky ahead when there were no tasks at the moment, since there was nothing better to do with my concentration. Even then, I would wonder back to what it was like to work without a computer in front of me, which could at least provide some kind of distraction for a curious, developing nerdling. (When all else failed, I would fiddle around with the software and try to discover obscure little features to pass the time. Thankfully I was able to do even that, or I’d never have become the employable whiz-kid I’m considered to be today.)

On the flip side, though, I think about how grateful I am to have grown up and gone to school without much computer access, if just because I picked up the skills to make things with my hands, a process that gives me greater joy than any kind of electronic activity. Especially in the world of design, hand-skills and craftsmanship are like luxurious relics. If I hadn't straddled the ages of physical and electronic production the way I did (My first job was laying out a 180-page book by pasting down type galleys onto mechanical boards and drawing FPO boxes with a ruler and a pen, but now I earn a living writing code that automatically typesets and assembles electronic data into complex books), I’m sure I would be a very different kind of designer today. I also think I’d be far less adept at understanding the relationship between tactile and virtual experiences.

Of course, my fondness for the tactile experience and the process of making things with my hands is part of the reason I loathe doing web design so much (not to mention why I design this site to look like it was made out of paper). I may keep up with it out of curiosity and an appreciation for good communication, but I don't get the same kind of sensory gratification out of the end product with electronic stuff. My fingertips and my nose and even the more discerning powers of my eyes feel left out of the experience. Booooring. Pretty, maybe, but boring.

That’s why I made the wedding invitations out of cardboard, silkscreened inks, rubber stamps, paper bags, and twine. (They look awesome, by the way, which some of you will discover in a few days.) There's something very magical to me about the way I draw on other parts of my mind when I make stuff, and something very magical about the way people hold and view and explore something physical. Even with the parts I prepare electronically, I do so with the end result of the tactile experience in mind. It's a way of adding other layers to the whole process. In a way, there's something very luxurious to that extra bit of care, even when the materials are modest. (Or, as my friend Jennifer caught me saying the other day, "It's all about bein' cheap and lookin' fancy.")

Hmmm, I seem to have wandered off my original point. Oh well more topics are just more bang for your buck.

Subway Cutbacks

Here's a bit of disturbing news about riding NYC subways that’s being passed on by Stay Free magazine. Apparently, the MTA is planning to close a number of token booths through out the city to cut back on costs, with a long-term goal of eliminating even more and relying Metrocard access in most stations. Frankly, for a number of reasons summed up nicely in that link, that idea is completely crackers. The shadiest things I have ever seen or experienced in my 20 or so years riding the subways have almost alwats taken place around unmanned exits and entrances, especially with those floor-to-ceiling turnstiles that are so troublesome. I shudder at the thought of those kinds of weird, dangerous spaces increasing in number around the city.

There are going to be a number of public hearings addressing the propsed fare hikes, closures, and other cost-saving measures, but it also wouldn't be such a bad idea to lodge a complaint or two while there's still time.

Frigid Digits

The Swanktuary, while very swank, has never been known for its luxurious, comforting heat during the winter. Like many lofts, we have a big industrial heater in the corner — basically a gas range with a big turbine fan in front of it to push some hot air into the space. Its jet-engine din sounds like it's doing the trick, but the sad truth is that it's not very efficient, especially when it's so cold out that the heat bleeds through our walls and windows only slightly slower than we can replace it. Last night, my toes were so numb all night that I could barely remember what warmth felt like.

I’ve suffered through worse, but each time always seems like the very worst when its happening. There was the apartment I lived in my junior year of college, where my bedroom was the uninsulated, windowed-off back porch right above the parking lot. I couldn't sit in the room at all during the winter because I’d get so cold, and when I slept on my futon separated from the outside by about a half inch of pine slats with cracks between them I would lay perfectly still, wrapped in an electric blanket like a burrito. (Much like Glenn does now, as a matter of fact, although he also burns candles for a little extra warmth.) There was also the Bushwick loft where I lived with Mark when I first moved back to New York: we also had a noisy hot-air blower for heat, but the giant factory windows next to my bad had enormous crakcs in them, loosely patched with plywood and silicone gel. With the cold air blowing at me from one side, and the hot air from the other, I usually expected to wake up in the middle of a mini hurricane system.

Still, the Northeast's climatic problems aren't enough to make California seem tempting. Is it just me, or does that place rival Florida as the Act-of-God capitol of the country?

Overdue

With all the errands and the enormous to-do list, I haven't actually been getting out to socialize too much. Here are a few overdue shots from one of those wintry nights when I did drag myself out and have a lovely, if brief, time gabbing with the bloggerati and their companions.

Florent photo Florent photo Florent photo
Florent photo Florent photo

Florent trivia recently learned: All those beautiful maps inside the restaurant were done by Mr. Florent himself.

Bloggies Come Home

My studied nonchalance about the whole subject falls to pieces when I catch myself obsessively refreshing the Bloggies site to see if the nominations have been posted yet. I can only assume I’m setting myself up for terrible disappointment.

Buy a Piece of Sparky!

Yo, if you're in the area this weekend and you've ever wanted to get your hands on any of the many treasures you've seen in the Swanktuary, then come on over and see what you can get:

loft sale flyer

The Internet Scares Me

Can I mention how scared I am by all the comments that keep on rolling in for this post? I suppose it's my own fault for uttering the three words of the post's title together all at once, but that doesn't mean I can't be wigged out by the random people Google sends my way.

Solid Gold

So you doubt my commitment to Sparkle Motion?

Tech Jargon

Nerdy rants for the day:

And hey, check out this very cool joint in scenic East Williamsburg called OfficeOps. A group of guys living in one of the local buildings got their hands on a whole floor of their building and they've been renovating for two years. Now they're renting out space for local artists and free-lancers and such to use for meetings, events, darkroom access, practice spaces, photo studios, etc. The best part is, they're not trying to make a fast buck so much as they're trying to knit the local community together a bit. Aside from being cheap and swanky, it's exactly the kind of idea I can get behind as an appropriate place for us to tie the proverbial knot.

Farewell to the Swanktuary

The biggest change in my life right now is my imminent departure from the Swanktuary (formerly known as the Rumpus Room). Ah, my dear home: the only place I ever lived in longer was the house in Staten Island where I was raised. You can see here how much care went into setting it up just right:

Panoramic view of the Swanktuary

There have been a few major phases of my time here: my Wallpaper*-esque bachelorhood (as somewhat inaccurately chronicled in a New York Times online feature a while back), my first disastrous attempt to share the space, and then the final transformation of the last year of happy homesteading.

One of the things that I loved most about the space and the greatest danger of it has been the sheer the amount of...well...space. I’ve always been a bit of a pack rat, and having so much area to work with certainly encouraged me to keep everything that crossed my path during the last three-and-a-half years. I’ve been able to avoid ever making any hard decisions about how much I really needed to hang on to any of the things in my possession. Now, however, as I prepare to vacate my little warehouse and disperse my treasures to other deserving individuals, I’m finding that trimming down the excess isn't as hard as I thought it would be.

I’m getting used to the idea that it's time to assess what's important and what's not. I don't really need kitchy artifacts or old toys that I have just because they're fun to show off now and then. I don't need a jacket to suit my every outerwear whimsy. I don't need that lava lamp or the bicycle-seat stool no one uses. I can pare down to some old furniture with sentimental value, my computer stuff, some particularly useful art supplies, and an assortment of favorite books and CDs. It's very liberating, in many ways, to shake of the burden of ownership of all that stuff. I'll get more, surely, but hopefully this will be the lesson in simplicity I’ve been trying to learn for so long.

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