where everybody knows your name

So I might have mentioned before that I get name recognition at my paint/hardware store down the street near eastern market. Its kinda cool. It makes me feel like I'm part of the family... part of the enclave of folks that home improve on a regular basis, the kinship of characters who live by the code of a tape measure and an uncommitted Saturday morning.

I was there last night to pick up some paint moments before they closed. I was there again tonight.

Why, you ask?

... cause I was in a rush last night and I bought the wrong gallon of paint. Not that it was a slip of hand or that I misspoke at the counter.

I was in a rush. I didn't stop to make sure I had chosen the right color. I just went in with my preset decision and I got what I asked for.

An unrefined decision is as useful as a guess.

Last time I went into the paint store with a less than positive state of mind, I exited with 2 more gallons of blue daisy paint than I needed.

Moral: Respect the place and people who take the time to learn your name. Don't rush, go in angry... or dishonor the space with poor decision making.

rocky mountain

I'm back at the greenBUILD. conference. This time its in Denver, Colorado.

In a concise effort to understand the guiding motivation of not just sustainability or architecture, but of our life's passion presented through our work... Architect/Visionary Bill McDonough elequently raised this question moments ago:

"How do we love all of the children of all species for all time?"

My annual sojourn to this collection of likeminded personas consistently puts me into an agitated state of mind. In part, because I want to take the knowledge baton and start running, and conversly because I feel like I've been wasting time not being agressive enough. I would venture to say that it always puts my current self in direct conflict/comparison with my optimal self. This conflict ultimately drains my attention and leads to inaction. It is a weird self-limiting cycle.

The lesson, as I am unearthing, is that my dual selves are not truly in conflict with one another. They are actually two necessary sides of an essential coin... of my coin.... of my present and future... constantly reminding each other that there is work to be done. Work that will require me to be less inwardly focused.

So how do I love all of the children of all species for all time?

the return of the siesta

I was treated to a wonderful homemade soul food lunch by a coworker today. "Delicious” would be an understatement.

Nevertheless, as I continue to accept, appreciate, and advocate my internal peace and bio-cognitive balance, I decided that I would indulge the post-lunch urge to take a nap. I returned to my preferred napping park locale and found it to be as friendly and clean as last time.

Lights out.

So as the gentle breeze and whisper of rustling trees above nudged me back to consciousness twenty minutes later... I saw a man feeding ballpark peanuts to a squirrel. The squirrel snatched the peanut and then ran aggressively towards me and started to eat his/her lunch.

An act of kindness from a co-worker begot an exceptional meal... which then led to a bodily need for rest... a peaceful mid-day nap enabled by my mind giving me permission to listen to my body... and I awoke cheerful, not fearful.

Somewhere in there is a lesson about a healthy balance of my body's needs and how responding thoughtfully makes me more apt to be open to the world I inhabit.

I used to live in a city in which siestas were deeply ingrained into the society... that was a good time.

It felt right.

spin cycle

I just got the call that the delivery truck for my washer/dryer is en route... ETA... 20 min, so I'm about to head home and wait for it. I'm very excited.

Having learned a lesson from my last appliance delivery... its good to have a little cash on hand for heavy package arrivals. Sometimes a few wheel greasing Hamiltons can make the difference between a 200 lb box in your front yard and a 200 lb box on the second floor of your house.

I'm out.

garbage can ham

I slipped my garbage men a couple of Hamiltons to clean up the rest of the tree debris left rotting in my front lawn. It was very cool of them. They backed the truck up and cleaned all the branches, leaves, and spider webs in-between. I was so appreciative because chopping up the branches and putting them in my recyclable paper lawn bags like I've been doing... was not a good time. It was back-breaking to say the least. These guys picked it up and swept up the driveway afterwards. Even though I hooked them up with some "lunch money," I got to thinking... what are they going to have for lunch? I imagined something greasy... maybe with a side of fries... and that bothered me. Was I solving my lawn problem while simultaneously funding the obesity epidemic that my older brother spends his days and nights fighting against?

Was I blindly complicit?

Granted, these three garbage guys could be triathlete vegans and my greasy assumptions are ill-placed... but on the off chance that that is not the case... I figured I could work towards simultaneous objectives.

So I made them all honey baked ham sandwiches on German Dark whole grain wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes, pepper, thyme, and honey mustard.

I have no idea if they are going to eat them... if they will even like them or if they will still get the side order of fries... but I know this...

Just for today, I gave them a choice.

Choosing how we live our lives... how we build our homes... what we put in our bodies... is one part conviction, one part opportunity. When I am at the supermarket and there is a $1.37 difference in the store brand raspberry jelly vs. the organic raspberry... and I only have store brand dollars in my pocket... my healthy convictions are trumped by my financial in-opportunities.

Lesson: In a sustainable community, the decisions we make for ourselves are equally as important as the opportunities we provide for others.

transit tales: part deux

I am a bus rider. It is who I have become and I embrace it. Make no mistakes... I love biking and I can bike to my office in about 22 minutes. But the summertime heat is making itself known and I have little to no interest in arriving to work feeling... swampy.

So... I say again... I am a bus rider. It allows me to actively promote mass transit, leisure read, and people watch. The ladder of which will fuel the remainder of this post.

So I'm riding the bus and I am analyzing the passengers, moving about, sitting standing, old young, loud and insular, and representing every shade of brown. I'm standing near the rear exit and there is a women standing in front of me. Someone passes betwixt us to exit and as the doors are creeping to a close the standing woman leans down and tosses her crumpled bus transfer out of the bus.

I was appalled.

I did not see it coming and there it was... right in front of me. My first question to myself was why would she do that? But I then started to think that the psychological parameters of such a question were way too vast.

I needed a better question.

Did she think that littering was okay? Did she understand the consequence of her actions? Did she think that because the bus was bound for Southeast Washington, that her trash would just be one piece of many that accumulate exponentially as you journey out from the city center? Was she protesting against an archaic system of paper currency?

All fair questions, yet all are inherently subjective?

I needed a question that I can research, analyze, and get some concrete data.

Lesson: People respond to data more than they respond to personal attacks.

Then the right question hit me...

Where did the bus transfer go?

I figure that if I can follow the lifespan of a bus transfer from being ripped off the pad, to being tossed off the bus, to the sidewalk, to the storm sewer, to the watershed, to the river, etc... Then maybe I can stop the simply selfish mindless mayhem that is unleashed every time the Bus driver reaches for that pad.

This may take a while.

extra cheese, hold the cardboard

So I found myself trying to be master chef in the kitchen last night. The inaugural use of the oven commenced with my putting my gourmet frozen pizza in a crisp 425 degrees whilst watching House... overzealous and excessively hungry me forgot to take the cardboard off the bottom of the pizza.

So when I started to smell a smell that was more smoky fire, less delicious sizzling thai chicken toppings... I was alerted to the oversight.

I managed to salvage a decent pie, but was definitely a bit disheveled and diminished that the groundbreaking ceremonial meal was chemically fused to this thin circular cardboard disk.

So the lesson learned is not to let the flashy stainless steel exterior blind one to the fact that the potential for rookie moves lies around every corner.

day two

I spent the first day after my birthday in a fashion relatively similar to day 365... waiting and worrying. Is the plumber going to show up? did he find out that Dummy ran off with his money? Should I have sent the dishwasher back and gotten the smaller one? It’s not easy to be in a heightened state of being for 7 months and then trying to calm yourself down to celebrate milestones, be they significant or otherwise. Scratch that... its damn near impossible.

I hearken back to the age old wisdom of Albert Einstein:

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

So with a new day, there is a new opportunity to have a new approach. I get anxious at the current state of affairs with the not-quite-so-livable-but-almost-there situation at the house. That anxiety feeds rash decision making and irritability. I could definitely see there being support for an argument that stated that I am not so fun to be around these days.

But every relationship is at any point open to be redefined... even the relationship I have with myself.

So without forsaking my hously responsibilities, I will endeavor to grab a hold of Thursday, May 4th, with a bit more passion, a bit more enthusiasm, a bit more clarity, a bit more fight, a bit more thirst, a bit more awe, and a bit more laughter.

What kind of day can I create?

creature comforts

Conventional wisdom (as well as Red from Shawshank Redemption) states that you need to "get busy living, or get busy dying." Through my final willingness to hear what has been whispered to me time and time again or perhaps it was simple divine intervention... I moved my television over to the house. I have no incredible attachment to my television. Though...it has served me well throughout the ages... several years of college... graduate school... countless moving from apartment to apartment to houses (shout out to Yardley Way) and now to growahouse where it will probably find a peaceful, intentional, and welcoming final resting place.

So I have slept at my house. I have watched Television at my house. I have ordered pizza... I have ordered buffalo wings... I have met the mailman at the edge of the driveway, and I have talked to neighbors over and through fences. I have watched the rain from the second floor window... and on Sunday evening... as I was packing up to head out, a local and old friend drove by to see if I was "home." We talked by the makeshift mailbox and had I a bag of brown sugar to lend him; it would have been a quintessential I am your friendly neighbor moment.

I reached a point where the readiness of moving into the house was not one based on a fictitious timeline or a self imposed mad rush to the finish.

It was a radiant skylight on Easter Sunday... it was an early morning mango.... it was leaning over a yet to be installed kitchen sink and imagining the fruits and vegetables that will find there home here atop a 2 inch concrete slab of a countertop (to be poured this weekend).

It is the recollection of the life and lives that have been on hold whilst the walls were growing.

friday is good

"Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white."

Good Friday Greetings to one and all.

I feel a bit hazy today as I try to melt my translucent thoughts with my transparent feelings in my opaque surroundings.

It is an exercise in patience.

Growing a house is now... and has been for quite some time... the growing of a man... the growing of a partner... the growing of a son... the growing of a brother... the growing of a friend.

I leave my office desk now to pick up some wall tiles for the first floor bath... but laying the tiles will undoubtedly represent the measuring, scoring, breaking, cementing, cleaning, and polishing of new surfaces within me. I see the parallels between this project and my being more clearly each day and that makes me feel that there is an intentional and necessary method to the madness.

As with all, I am in a perpetual state of becoming.

And that is okay.


Walking to my car yesterday morning, I should have read the signs. As I'm opening my car door, I look up and I see a cardinal and a blue jay next to one another. I have to imagine that this moment was significant. They were too vibrant to be a coincidence. It was a moment like ..."Look at me!!! Look at me!!"

But I proceeded to drive on, not appreciating the sign.... not sidestepping the gloomy 2-foot diameter rain cloud following my every step.

I was in a funk.

I did not want to not be in a funk. I was content in my funkiness. You see... in addition to my ongoing teeth pulling endeavors with my plumber to get my bathtubs set, my dummy contractor is back on the scene after 5 weeks of absence. He called on Wednesday to have a "talk." I met him by the house and asked my father to come as well to avoid any unfortunate situations.(I would describe my thought more explicitly, but my legal counsel has advised against harsh or violent characterizations of my intent.) Nevertheless, we meet.... he's babbling about his woulda coulda shouldas.... and I am keeping my cool. Like I said before... just get him to do the work.

A sidebar... while Dingbat is talking, I notice that he has a bright red lipstick kiss on the side of his dome. It made me want to laugh. I just kept thinking to myself that in addition to being a mediocre craftsman, a bad businessman, a loathsome individual, and a liar.... you are also a snuggle bunny.

Anyway, back to my rain cloud. So I hate the fact that this guy is at my house while I'm at work yesterday and I'm walking outside my office to my car when one of our resident local homeless guys stops me and said...

"You feeling alright, man. You have looked sad for the last two days. Don' let them steal you joy, man. They can take everything else... but don't let them steal your joy."

Sign number two

Sometimes you gotta take a deep breath and exhale all the negative vibes. Be easy. Sometimes you have to not let the madness of the world become the conflict within. Sometimes you have to stop worrying and appreciate the fact that there are conversations being had right now... between blue jays and cardinals...

...And those conversations have nothing to do with drywall.

what's up with your girl?

I want to take a second give a shout out to a good friend of mine. She was the very first friend I made when I went to undergrad and has been integral to my well-rounded demeanor ever since. She was in town visiting from the west coast when I had my accident with the nail. In fact, she, along with two other tireless friends, worked all day at the house with the drywall team while I endured the rigors of the emergency room. She stayed behind at the house and worked all day.

People say the measure of a man are his deeds, some say his dreams, and yet still other wiser, more learn-ed, orators say that the measure of a man(or woman...) are their friends.

I am fortunate to consider this particular four foot eleven inch individual an integral part of that small pantheon of folks who have stayed the course and I take this time now to say thank you.

rookie move

I have been relatively excited over the last 72hrs. Team Drywall started hanging boards at 7:00AM on Saturday and in a day and a half (18hrs exactly), they were finished. It was like watching a finely tuned automobile purring away at 75 mph. The house is completely different.

I cannot describe how impressed I was with the work these guys did and with the impact it has had on the space. The house is like a real house now. No longer a weekend-warrior-kinda-sorta almost a house, there are real walls and real dynamics of space and potential experiences.


I made a rookie move over the weekend that had me waiting 5 hrs in the emergency room at Providence Hospital(I will never again seek treatment there by the way... but that is another blog).

Long story, medium length... we ordered more sheets of drywall because the 190 original sheets were not enough. So I'm moving some of the green board up stairs and as I'm about to step into the house...

I step right on a nail.

A nice, long, bent, rusty, "I've been waiting in the rain for four weeks to get back at you for not using me in the house and now I have my vengeance", 3 inch nail...which if you subtract the 1-1/2 wood it was in and the 3/4 inch sole of my sneakers, some breathing room, and my sock...leaves you with somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/2 to 3/4 inches of nail that found a new home in my left heel.

That was not a good time.

And the worst part is that my construction boots were sitting next to my tool box at the top of the stairs. I was just too excited about the drywall to remember to change shoes.

Rookie move.

temper temper...(continued)

In retro-retrospect. If I didn't need the plumber for more things, I would have told him exactly where he could take his attitude and his misaligned bicuspid. So maybe the lesson is not as clear as I thought.

Needing him to give me my permit copy and connect my fixtures realigned my perspective and adjusted my tolerance level. All of that is self serving, not to be confused with an altruistic conversational journey. My subsequent calming down resolution phone call to him was more selfish then compassionate. The question I need to wrestle with tonight is not the importance of being right... but this...

Why have I never seen my plumber as anything more than a plumber?

I know that it is not that simple. I know that there is a difference between working with me and working for me (for example accountability). I also know that I was soured because I once tried the late evening kitchen table "I want you to be part of this project" conversation with my contractor and that clearly didn't amount to much personal investment. I also know that if you did a bang up job like my electrician, I would be singing your praises across the information super highway.

I am just not sure how I am suppose to treat you and it’s bothering me, in part, because you seem very clear on how you're supposed to treat me.

temper temper

I understand how people are driven to sheer madness or extreme violence... both share a similar release and could have found a home with me in my mid-afternoon on-site shouting match with my plumber.

It’s a very interesting feeling to be emotionally removed from a person and... listening... really listening... to them curse you out.

Everyone has their boiling point, but when they reach it... everyone uses that heightened state of being in a different way. For my plumber, he decided he wanted to up and tell me that I can stick my project where the sun doesn't shine and begin to throw in subtle classicist comments that made me, not specifically, but still acutely, aware that not everyone in the conversation wears a tie on a regular basis, passes diplomas in home hallways, or frequents banana republic outlet stores.

Maybe it was important for me to hear him in his weasel-like aggressive stance lambaste me for my frequent changes to the project. After all, he doesn't know about the growahouse movement. He just sees me telling him to do things differently than it is stated on the drawings. How could he see the forest for the trees? He doesn't know that he is connecting the pipes of change... wrenching the infrastructure of revolution... sealing the conduits that will touch the lives of the masses.(I might have stretched it a bit on that last one)

Anyway... I haven't let him in on the heart of this project, but I am holding him accountable for committing his passion.

That is not to say that he is without blame... or without compensation. He has been, and obviously continues, to act out of order and he righteously deserved a smack in the mouth today. But outside of conversation and contractual implications, I cannot hold him accountable to his own demons. Only he can do that. I have my own demons. I do, however, know I was right in the argument...

And now as I sit at my desk... after having called the plumber back to ease the strife, make sure he finishes out his contract, and secretly ensure that he doesn't set my house on fire tonight... I have to ask myself...

What is the price of being right?

What is it worth to me? Would really laying back into him more than I did have solved anything for me? Would it have connected the pipes any faster?... maybe? I'm not sure. Would I feel better having poked him tauntingly in the forehead and told him to "bounce... before I do something I'll regret.”?

probably...but what is the true price of feeling right?

... not righteous.... but right.

on moving forward

As I download my digital photos and unpack a travel bag filled with receipts and brochures recalling eco-friendly promises from unnamed product reps, I am reminded of days past in which my soul moved ever so closer to understanding my continued response to a lifelong choice...

...what to do with the time we are given.

Last Thursday night, I found myself at a conference social. I had arrived late do to my conscious, yet regrettable, decision to relax in my hotel room earlier in the evening whilst watching Catwoman. Nevertheless, the social was housed in an old theatre in downtown Atlanta known as The Tabernacle. After an hour or so of people-watching from various vantage points, I concluded that it was time to depart. Upon moving toward the entrance, I happened upon a young black woman behind a table signing and selling cd's for $20. Intrigued, first because I was no longer the primary source of diversity in the room, and second, because I realized that she must have been the headliner at the function.

Her name was Leela James and she was a small, pleasant, smiling young woman with a blow-out afro. I told her that I had not seen her perform, but that I was interested in her cd.

She turned to her assistant and said, "He didn't even get a chance to hear me sing and he wants to buy the album. Give it to him for $10. "

An unprompted, simple, and kind gesture.

I gave her assistant $20 anyway. She signed the CD and handed it to me. In that brief moment, I started to get it.

What was the true lesson of this green building conference? What is this true meaning of this buzz term "biophillia?"(loosely defined as a passion for all living things) Why did I stumble unto this encounter with Leela?

I leaned close to her and said: "You have very kind eyes... and I am sure your voice is equally as kind. I wish you well in everything you do." And then I turned and walked out of the building.

You don't get it yet, do you?

We are all in this boat together. Our fate, sink or swim, is a collective fate.

I go to GREENBUILD because I get a chance to connect with likeminded folks that... get it. I sit through mind blowing lectures about the impact of the built environment on the real environment because I understand its importance and I need to connect with people that can energize me to choose wisely when I ask myself what to do with the time I am given.

I leaned in to speak thoughtfully to Leela, because...

We cannot be ashamed to be profound.

Galvanizing people to move towards being more comfortable with each other, with the need to think collectively, and with the challenge to be stewards of the environment in which we all exist will happen one kind conversation at a time... one unprompted kind gesture at a time...one blog entry at a time... one blog entry comment at a time.

get it?

dos cafes? y leche?... bueno

Time seemed to stand still this morning as I waited for my turn to order at the Subway sandwich place near the site. It wasn't simply the amazing one man bangaladeshi operation simoltaneously mastering various pre-packaged meat patties, vegetables, and a new-age hi-fi toasting machine that somehow embodies the ability to cohesively toast sandwiches in seconds ... undoubtedly to the envy of NASA. Nor was it the internal pride I felt having moments earlier eloquently conversed in spanish with two of the workers at my house. That eloquent conversation being the genesis of my sojourn to the Subway establishment. (Todos los personas necesitan desayunar, verdad?) Nevertheless, it was neither of those things. It was , instead, this man.

There are few things in this life that put the world in perspective in as unique and profound a way as a grey haired middle aged man rocking a chocolate brown polyester leisure suit in a Subway sandwich restaurant at 9:00AM.

bearing the weight

Lets start this sequence of information dispersal by stating the fact that I have been operating in sleep defeciency for the past few days. The occupational requirements that led up to that are inconsequential. Just know that I'm beat. I dropped the ball.

I added a door to the house during demolition. The noble intent was to create a more secure entry into the house, but I have, in turn, created another headache for myself. The door is in direct conflict with a structural column. So I had to call my structural engineer, Bob, and have him make a quick stop by the site to help me solve the problem. I should have seen that problem coming. Now I have to find a piece of steel to beef up the lintel of the door.


So that bring me to the point that I am currently existing in. I'm tired, folks. I think that my marathon at my work desk on Monday has dramatically increased my carpul-tunnel-itis? I had to buy socks midday, cus all I could find this morning were ankle socks and jack frost was bitchin all morning... thus my feet were freezing.

    I want to be asleep

BUT... I can't. I have to work on this webpage, cus there are people who support me and want to watch the progress... so I too must find new ways to bear the structural loads of my wednesday.

Oh yes... I almost forgot...NO MORE FREEKIN RAIN!!! Finally, we were able to get a solid day of work in at the house. The second floor deck is almost entirely framed and three of the four stud walls are up. Next stop is the third floor and roof. I might have mentioned that the roof trusses arrived Monday morning. The ground floor is shaping up. It was definitely the right decision to add the two courses of concrete block on the existing walls and raise the ceiling height... it makes a tremendous difference to have such a large volume of space despite its small square footage. Note to self: The Toilet people are coming Thursday to empty the Jiffy John.

of mortar and men

Day Fifteen I stopped by the house to see the progress and much to my delight, the masons had shown up and were breezing through the laying of the concrete block. In a less than a day, they had added two courses of block to the existing building and cut in the new doorway off of the driveway. (Safety addition to enable entry to the house that was not through the courtyard)

The site was teaming with excitement and energy.

I felt like I needed to be there all day ... you know, be one of the guys... eating food off the hood of a truck.... drinking gaterade and... oh... that reminds me... I need to order a Sani-John first thing in the morning.

That is an important lesson.

The guys that are doing work for me have to go to the bathroom behind the house... like passerby vagrants... that's not cool. That is not the type of show that growahouse is all about. Sorry I let you guys down today. I will do better tomorrow.

Lesson learned.

When you're a cheetah out on the serengeti, you can't let the excitement of the kill distract you from eating your wildebeast.

In other words... protect your investment.

breaking new ground

I am learning how to manage a blog site in an attempt to reach a larger audience with my message. Growth requires learning... and learning... seemingly... requires patience.