Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why Architects Really End Up Talking Like That

It's November, and it's getting 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 drawing on top was a sort of vector diagram - done in footprints. Memories came rolling back. It had been a "assignment now - final product tomorrow!" all-nighter sort of project - in which we neophyte architects had been asked to go someplace where a lot of people came through and map the traffic patterns - putting all the four-dimensional traffic down on two-dimensional paper in an exciting and really neoteric fashion. (Neoteric: architecture-speak for 'an artistic vanguard that you imagined up right now all by yourself."
            And then we had to write about it. Obviously, the drawing would speak for itself, but in practical terms, a short museum-style blurb wouldn't go amiss.  (A good professor is way ahead of student neoterism 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 weren't thinking at all - you were snoring between your words. And you were surrounded by people who'd gotten even less sleep that you had, and while you were confident that your own ideas were pretty darned great, to your sleep-deprived ears theirs approached towers of literary genius.
            There’s no color of jealously like sleepless green.

And I remembered that I'd written about it, afterwards, when I'd woken up. And pasted it to the back of my neoteric masterpiece so I wouldn't forget:

            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.
            One of them winced.
            "Isn't that 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. 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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