Boat Thoughts (Stream of Consciousness Style!)

I watched the sun set over the marina a few minutes ago.  It started to get chilly so I moved inside, flipped on a lamp and curled up on the couch/bed.  I spend a lot of my time doing work in my bed anyway so this setup seems ideal.

There’s a barely perceptible rocking motion that I’m still not used to.  My brain is like, WHAT IS THIS.  WHY ARE WE FAILING TO CONTROL OUR MOTION, BODY.  GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER.

The live aboard lifestyle would definitely be a change for me.  I’m already a minimalist but this would be extreme survivor style minimalism.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little.  But my life is pretty comfortable right now the way it is and hey, remember how I know absolutely nothing about sailing?  Right.

I like the way the air smells here.  It’s not salt water but the bay has a certain aroma that I can pick up after I cross fourth street headed towards the pedestrian bridge over I-80.

And the birds.  Ducks, egrets (?), seagulls smashing oysters (?) on the dock.  Maybe someday I’ll find the birds irritating.  But for now, it’s a nice soundtrack to a peaceful night.


Life isn’t fair / Towards a millennial manifesto

If you were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, congratulations!  You’re a millennial.

Being a part of this generation has many implications, almost none of which are very positive.  Recently I’ve been inundated with articles like these, plus many more about how to motivate your millennial child to get out of your basement or make a plan for their lives.  We millennials are portrayed as passionate loose cannons who feel deserving of accolades but are unwilling to work our way up, as dreamers that cannot apply themselves, as technology obsessed, unfocused and pampered.  We’ve been ruined by the adults who told us that everyone is special and wonderful in their own perfect way.

There’s a grain of truth in all of this.  Every kid on my 5-6 year old soccer team got a medal at the end of the season.  I’ve been told at various points in my life that I am a gifted writer, creative, mature beyond my years, a fast learner, an empathetic friend and daughter.  This mantra of specialness has allegedly made us into entitled brats, or so the media says.

But by being taught that everyone is special,  we were also taught to see everyone the same.  I don’t want to veer off into some middle-class white girl tirade about diversity or how I never saw color or religion because frankly that’s not true and never will be.  What I did see was that if I had something special to offer the world, so did everyone else, no matter how externally different they might seem.

My mom was born with a birth defect that left her physically and mentally different.  She couldn’t look after us without help from my family, couldn’t play too rough on the playground, couldn’t finish college.  I watched her be discriminated against in the job market and stared at by strangers.  I watched people see her struggle to get a shopping cart or reach something on the top shelf and then awkwardly look away.

Growing up my parents were frequently telling my brother and I that life isn’t fair.  I didn’t understand it at the time.  Why CAN’T life be fair?  If I do my homework and follow instructions and behave myself, why shouldn’t good things like stickers and candy come my way?

What isn’t fair is that I was given a perfectly functional body that I spent years abusing, despising, because I wasn’t thin enough or blond enough or good enough, while my mom, with her sweet, kind personality was given a body that has been attempting to hold her back since the day she was born.

This is what millennials need to grasp even more so than the fact that we aren’t special.  Life. is. not. fair.  And everything that we’ve been given in our lives, from the shoes in our closet to the safety of our neighborhood, is a gift that most days we don’t even recognize.  Our minds are occupied with who posted what on Facebook, hungry for the latest technology or concerned about progressing through the milestones of college-marriage-children.

So this is what it comes down to, my fellow wandering millennials–

Be grateful for the things you have.

Work towards what you want, even if you aren’t sure you’ll want it forever and ever.  Just pick a direction and go.

Ignore the haters, the nay-sayers, the dream-crushers.

Carry yourself in a way that exudes confidence, not arrogance.

Refrain from judgment.

Engage those who are different from you.

Measure your worth in the good you do, the people you help and the care you take to truly see the world through another person’s eyes.

Introvert guilt

Introvert guilt: a feeling felt by introverts who leave or avoid social activities to spend time alone.

This weekend I went on a trip for the LA studio class I’m taking next semester.  Every time I sign up for a class trip like this I’m excited until sometime midway through day two of highly structured group activities that run from 9 am to well past 9 pm.

Some people thrive off of this kind of environment and I can see why.  It’s dynamic and somewhat invigorating to constantly have people to share your opinions with.  It’s not meant for people who mentally recharge best in a quiet, empty room, maybe with a book or television for company.

The world is not designed for introverts.  It’s designed for people who enjoy, even need, packed days and constant company to fend off loneliness.  Our culture has an obsession with the idea that sociable = happy and “anti-social” = unhappy.

When I opted to go back to the rented condo at nine pm on Saturday night instead of going to a gallery opening, there was this awkward series of questions about how I was feeling (“Fine!”) and what I was going to do (“Run, read, catch up on email…?”)  But I ran the gauntlet and ended up curled up on my twin bed, noshing on hummus and veggies and reading American Gods.   

And gosh, I was so content.  I woke up the next morning at seven am, stretched, and worked out for almost 90 minutes.  I was a ball of happy energy all day.

Still, I felt a little guilty.  As it turns out, Danny DeVito was at the club that my friends went to after the gallery opening.  And after that, everyone went to get authentic LA Mexican food.  Maybe, maybe you missed out on something, my brain said.  Maybe you should have gone.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Everyone functions in a different way.  On a different night, going out would have been a great choice.  After eight hours of discussion and conversation and group meals I was ready to quietly spend some time alone.

I fought back these guilty feelings and just.. let go.  This is who I am, and it’s not hurting anyone if I want to spend an evening alone.  If anything, it enabled me to better contribute to the next day’s discussion as I felt reenergized.

Introvert guilt– not worth my time.


On Bullshit, Architecture and Locale

I think information should be layered in our environment.  Cultural information.  Not didactically.  It should be an integral part.  When I say layered, if you are interested, you extract it.

– M. Paul Friedberg

I generally don’t like listening to architects talk about their design philosophy.  As a historian, it rarely tells me anything illuminating and tends to wind up coming out sounding eloquent but vapid and meaningless.  Even the great Louis Kahn is guilty of this– I doubt many people really ‘get’ what he meant when he said that a brick wants to be an arch.

The fascinating thing is that it’s part of some unspoken code of architecture that nobody can call them on it.  Architects (and academics!) consider a good conversation or a skillfully written paper one that involves a slew of ten cent words, with bonus points issued for words like orthagonality or interstitial.

Some might call this jargon and argue that every field has it.  I call it bullshit and argue that for a profession so concerned with urbanism and the human condition, why are we so incapable of speaking in a manner that the common man can understand?

A large part of what I believe is wrong with design is the simple fact that there is a massive disconnect between the architect and the people inhabiting the spaces he/she designs.  Almost all of the interventions, particularly in public urban places, that make a space into something unique and reflective of the community are initiated not by architects but by either local artists or residents.  This disconnect can be traced back to architectural education, but that’s an entirely different post.

Whenever I visit a new place, the elements that stand out to me aren’t monumental or part of the canon of architectural history.  It’s the love locks on the fences of Cinque Terre, the subversive graffiti in Berlin and the metal plaques with quotes from Joyce’s Ulysses placed throughout Dublin.  Those little changes in the environment initiated by nobody noteworthy enough to give a lecture at a major university that seem, to me, so much more significant than the most lauded monuments of contemporary design.

I heard the above quote from M. Paul Friedberg in a podcast (99% Invisible) where he argues that we should be imprinting our poetry, our history, our culture upon the built environment.  What if every designer could rise to the challenge of putting a little bit of local culture into their work?  Would that lead to an architecture that is truly for the people?