Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why Architects Really End Up Talking Like That

It's November, and it's gotten hot. Yesterday I went down to our bodega (storeroom) to put away my winter sweaters and pirate hats and I came across a box of drawings from back in my first year of grad school.
            The one on the top was a sort of vector diagram done in footprints. Memories came rolling back. It was an "see you tomorrow!" all-nighter sort of project - a mapping exercise, in which we neophyte architects were asked to go someplace where a lot of people came through and map the traffic patterns - put that four-dimensional traffic down on two-dimensional paper in an exciting and neoteric fashion. (Neoteric: architecture-speak for 'an artistic vanguard that you thought up right now all by yourself."
            And then we had to write about it. The drawing would speak for itself, obviously, but a short museum-style blurb wouldn't go amiss.  A good professor is way ahead student neoterisms as a matter of course.
            The problem with being asked to describe a drawing project in a paragraph or two on short sleep and shorter notice is that you end up turning out some purely awful drivel.
            Because you weren’t thinking clearly. You were snoring between your words. And you were listening to people who'd gotten even less sleep that you had, and in your personal sleep-deprived state, your ideas seemed pretty darned great, but theirs approached towers of literary genius.
            There’s no color of jealously like sleepless green.

One fellow held a degree in ancient literature.  He had mapped the smokers on their nicotine breaks in Dundas Square.

            “Since the Dawn of Time” he said solemnly, “Ancestral Man has been Drawn to Flame.”
            “That’s probably true” I agreed, grinding my teeth, and went off to ask editorial opinions on “The pulse, the tide, the ebb and flow of harried, feverish commuters at the Bloor-Yonge Subway station” from two students lying on the floor behind me and looking, respectively, vacuous and pained.
            I read. One of them winced.
            "Isn't it a little…damp?"
            On cue, Mr. Ancient Literature walked past declaiming “And Now, a Tattered Subculture of Social Pariahs Clusters Around the Vestigial Memory of the Ancient Hearth Fire!”
            I, who belong to the extremely tattered Subculture that feels stoned rather than euphoric when we don’t sleep, turned back to my laptop, typed out ‘In my map I marked out a sour by fix goot frid” and ran spell-check twice.

Down in the bodega, I shut the box and sealed it up with tape, but I won't forget. It's still down there.

            I think I need a little ceremony.
            I'll unfurl the map.  I'll enter the pulsing commuter tide that hustle down my street at rush hour every evening. When the ebb and flow of shoulders and elbows have crumpled it beyond the reach of even the most accommodating professor, I will go home and make it an offering on the fires of my BBQ on my balcony.  Neoterically.

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