Sacked by the "downturn", an unemployed architect touring the country in a bus...

I used to live in New York City. I designed homes for the tycoons of Wall Street; Park Avenue, Scarsdale, Greenwich. It was great fun. And, after years of saving up for a down payment, I was just about to buy my own little place in Fleetwood, half an hour north of the city, when the economy fell apart. Architects are like canaries in a coal mine when the economy slows, and true to form, there were massive layoffs in firms all over the country. Devastation of the profession. So, I decided to try to find something else to do for a while. I bought a 23' school bus and I'm on the road to see if I can figure out what that might be.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A new thing

I woke comfortably at about 6:30 and started right away preparing to go to Kamp Katrina, Ms. Pearl and her husband Dave's home in New Orleans, and haven for street performers, artists, and musicians.  "We host people like you for the fun of it", she wrote me yesterday.  I don't know what I will find there, but it sounds fantastic, two miles from the French Quarter, a place for my bus, and people inventing their lives.  I will have to mount larger, softer wheels on my vibraphone so I can get to good performance spots easily.  I've found what I need on line and will have Caster City mail four 6" diameter pneumatic wheeled swiveling casters, two with breaks, to Ms. Pearl's address.  I've also ordered business cards for the TriChromatic Vibraphone, my invention, the instrument I am playing, and these will be delivered to that address too.  (I placed the order on line at FedEx/Kinko's, using artwork I created on and uploaded from this computer... wonderful age.)  So I guess I'm pretty confident that it's a real address and a place I can stay for at least a week.

Leaving my home base here at Kathleen Johnson's Katrina Relief program in Poplarville, Ms. brings sadness.  There are so many wonderfully hearted people here I will miss daily contact with.  I must get on the road to Ms. Pearl's, but before I go and become overwhelmed by what ever lies ahead, I want to take time to mention just two.

I adore Kathleen and have told her many times.  She's brash, opinionated, hard to keep on one subject, and brilliant on many.  She has been truly generous to me, offering unlimited access to everything here.  "Do what ever you want" she has said to any request I had for photos, computer use, use of an office, the refrigerator...  While here, I prepared a series of plans and elevations for the construction of clusters of prefabricated MEMA cottages to be built on tall piles, above the flood plane.  The clusters will share a common stair and common lift, and will have a common deck so that neighbors in a cluster, many of whom are elderly or disabled, can socialize and share burdens and resources.  I told Kathleen that I will remain available and eager to help Bill and Julie rebuild their trailer park according to these plans.

Kathleen is a gifted leader (addressing her staff, at right) thinks about the picture large and small, and works at her relief effort 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week.  She draws no salary because she will accept no strings attached.  She lives in the old pastor's house adjacent to the converted church facility that houses the program, drives a van "in need of a little repair", and eats principally food left in the refrigerators by departed volunteers.  Last week, the program hosted a group of high school students from an affluent Jewish community in California.  Their background was quite sheltered (spoiled brats.)  On the first morning after their arrival, Kathleen swept in early and bellowed in my direction where I was writing in the the community room/kitchen, "I'm closing the kitchen and I'm closing the bathrooms."  The kids had left a few dirty dishes in the sink and some mud on the floor in the bathroom, not really an egregious first offense, but Kathleen was seizing the teaching moment.  She locked the various doors, put up printed notice, and let the kids suffer for an hour or so.  Then she convened a meeting in the kitchen and in soft tones, explained their cleaning duties for the second time.  You could here a pin drop.  And when the group was dismissed, they were transformed, quietly taking up mops and sponges and addressing their chores with intense focus.  I stuck my head into Katheen's office, beamed, and said "I adore you."

Mike, a long term "transitional resident", had survived Katrina in his trailer home, but was flipped over 4 times by the wind.  He escaped an survived by climbing out his front door which was then directly above him.  Not wanting to be blown away by the wind, he dove into a nearby pond and crouched down to leave just his head exposed above the water.  It worked.  Mike, a native of Kentucky, lost everything, except his half ownership of a some property.  Mike had previously, 1992, lost his wife in a freak accidental explosion of his paining business warehouse.  Soon, Mike's health declined, and he spiraled down, survived Katrina, and was eventually taken in here by Kathleen.  Mike has a heavy southern accent, a booming baritone voice, and is a terrific story teller with great detail, pace, and absolute frankness and sincerity about everything.  Though I can't imagine a person from a background more different than mine, I love Mike, and so I was delighted to fulfill as best I could his request for a sketch of a water wagon for his church group.

OK, I'm off to.... well, I don't really know :-)


  1. I'm catching up on your blog, which is wonderful. This entry, especially, is so full of the love expanding inside of you. Your newly invented life is VERY appealing.

  2. jack,


  3. Roy sorry,
    i call your jack,
    what wrong with me.....