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Saturday, May. 03, 2003
Itís almost become a clichť, the way this internet thing tends to maim without remorse.

Iíve been reading Trancejen for a while now, not groupie Ėlike enough to tag her with some meaningless buddy attachment or anything. Maybe it was more of an admiration for someone who could pour her heart and soul into the online word world. Sometimes with startling and obvious honesty about life and the needling pain of same.

Now sheís gone, and itís just another reminder to me that life laid bare can be a hurtful thing. Being online in a forum such as this is a constant state of choice. Do we write about the darkness looming at the gate or the breezy days? It might not be the classic good vs. evil, but itís covered and tempered in a certain voyeuristic Glad Wrap that is, in spite of what we might want to call it, transparent in the end.

I think Iíll miss Trance. In fact, I know I will.

On a related / non-related note, I donít have any e-mail at the moment and it causes me no stress at all. But I thought Iíd throw that out there in case anyone had tried it and not heard back from me.

And the archives for this page are down too, for reasons not completely clear to me. I need a little Webchick empowerment I suppose, she of the designing and coding prowess. Or maybe just a healthy dose of free time in order to worry it out by myself and hopefully not blow the page to bits in the process.

I barely have time to update as it is, and Iím considering web page fixes? Whither thy priorities, oh stalactite of the bat cave, where entryís drip slowly to the dusty floor below?

The advent of spring might turn a young mans thoughts lightly to love, but it turns a grizzled carpenter into a wreck. For with spring, and the resultant fair weather associated with it, the carpenter of winter hibernation is expected to bound forth with a hammer that most curiously resemble a scepter or wand and zap vacant lots into houses with a crackling POOF! and some satisfying pyrotechnic effects.

There is, alas, no such speed factor present in the houses that Stu and I work on in the City. These are not suburban ranchers, with vinyl siding and a sense of sameness about each individual box. Nay, these are supposed to be creations, unique in every way. I gave a pictorial hint of one of them in the previous entry, and when weíre finished with it Iíll show you the result. But right now weíre dealing with a canvas in the air that shrieks of that not-ready-for-occupancy-just-yet construction madness.

Iíve droned inanely about the whole process before, but maybe Iíll just do it again out of a sense of purpose. These houses are drawn up by architects. They are drafted with flair and not a little smugness on the part of a degreed professional, who is given a rubber stamp that says as much and a bit of authority and a lot of license to create something out of nothing.

Occasionally the process of having an architect design a building works. Occasionally. The builder is handed a set of drawings and he goes through them before starting and thereís a spark, a little confidence in the design as a whole. A sort of ďYeah, this one could work, this could go here and that could be done over there and hey, we might just make a house out of this thing!Ē Occasionally, this is the sort of thing that makes a builder glad (and it doesnít hurt his profit margin, either).

Then thereís the rest of the time. Remember, this is high end construction. This is the world of the buyer who treads unafraid in pools of cash. Who does not desire a vinyl sided ranch. And is not afraid to say so.

They certainly didnít appear to be concerned when they fired the architect six weeks into the project.

They fired him not because they didnít like his design. Oh no. They rather emphatically loved it. They just didnít want to deal with his ego, or his fee, or maybe a little of both.

I hate the design. Hated it from the word go. It had way too many things that didnít work, a cut-up floorplan which gave new meaning to the word cumbersome (how one can manage to screw up 4,000 square feet of living space in such a short time has always fascinated me). I made recommendations (toss the second staircase! Put the bathroom over here!) beforehand which were largely ignored in the scramble to get something, anything out of the ground.

So then we entered the phase of ďOhhh! Now that itís built we can see what you mean! Uh . . how about tossing that second staircase? And moving the bathroom over here?Ē


It is the Curse of the Outfoxed that I didnít choose to specialize at the beginning of my erstwhile career in this business. It seems to be the norm nowadays, everybody has something they are particularly talented at doing. You have your carpenters who frame, those who install windows or doors, those who do nothing but trim work. You have your plumbers, your electricians, your movers of dirt.

I was the one foolish enough to want to learn it all. And then some.

On those rare occasions when Iíve shown up at a job in something resembling clean clothes and boat shoes, when Iíve been out there directing traffic and details and ideas to a swarm of grown men who are eager to just be doing something, the inevitable happens. Itís happened so many times now, after all these years.

Someone asks me if Iím the architect. Itís an inference thing, they judge that since I know how the building is supposed to look, or rather, how it will look, that surely I must be the mastermind behind it all.

Nope. Iím not the architect. I have to be one step beyond all that.

I hope Iím not betraying some sort of deep seated braggadocio here, but Iíve got to know more that any architect does. Iíve got to, since reality calls for it. Thereís a homebuyer awaiting treasure from my hands, a crew of talented hammers with mouths to feed, a developer who needs a model house to show and my partner Stu, who needs the vision broken down into so many discernable parts.

Itís not a very definable job description. Carpenter-architect? There used to be plenty of them, but that was back in the day when houses were built primarily of logs, when glass windows were likely to be made of hand blown glass, when lumber was something you cut yourself, with a whipsaw and aching back. When you cleared your home site with a mule and plow.

In this day and age, the paradigm of building calls for an office bound youth half my age to sit in front of a computer and dream up things that will make me sweat. It might occasion said youth to sully forth at odd times, show up on the jobsite and try not to appear terribly inept when asked pointed questions by a builder. Itís an illusion that I witness frequently, the illusion of knowledge that he does not have. The illusion he surely must have the knowledge, or they wouldnít have handed him that License which hangs so nicely in his office. The illusion that I try to be kind about, and not embarrass the holy ground that is the relationship betwixt architect and client.

But as I said, they fired the architect.

And they got me instead.

I suppose it would be more pleasant all around if I was collecting his princely fee instead of just his responsibility.

I guess I just canít bring myself to point that out to the owners. It would be like admitting that Iím not as much of a scofflaw as they think I am. Or would it?

Only time, and the little City by the Sea will tell. To work we go.

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