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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A new footrest, take III (or IV?)

I'm using a big Jet milling machine at Techshop to fabricate a new foot rest for the tall chair.  I started with a brass bar 5/8" x 7/8", and milled a 2" portion to 5/16", then I heated that patch with a blow torch, to brick red, let it cool, and bent it.  Then I milled coves into the two "wings."  Sometimes, I'm surprised at how my experience with classical architecture influences my designs.  After polishing, I'm pleased with this test sample.  I'll start to work on the full foot rest tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Oakland!

How could I pass this up?  :-)  Very moving.  The arc of my life from NYC to the Obama campaign in Florida, to here... a lot to get comfrtable with.

I'm going to Santa Cruz later, to see the open art studio tour, and to see a 40 acre intentional community with a barn that needs renovation.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Networking, and...

I played at the Stanford jazz jam.  It was fun, and pretty good.  Some faculty play as rhythm section, so it holds together quite well.  Think I'll do this some more, but I'd really prefer some one on one with some of them.  Got a call from PJ, a tasty conga/tambourine percussionist/singer whom I heard in a street trio back in Oakland, and to whom I had given my card.  Now, a few months later, she is contacting me to play.  Our schedules conflict 'till after I get back from Lexington, but I'm looking forward to it.
A few days ago, Pearl, computer wiz recently turned architect for a 2nd career, asked me to comment on a house project she is designing.  I did so, over lunch, and sent a follow up e-mail sketch, which she liked sufficiently to draw up and present to her client.  Last night I received an e-mail from Allen, a mechanical engineer proposing a system for the Magic residence, asking me if I'd be interested in consulting on a project that's gone a bit off the rails, ie. been through a few architects, and is partially built with some bad decisions.  I said yes, of course.  Sounds like a fun opportunity to be a know it all, and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (I hope :-)  Today, David and Hillary introduced me to Tony Carrasco, a local architect and friend who consulted on an earlier iteration of the Magic project.  He's a very nice, gentle, smart guy, and we hit it off.  He liked what I was proposing for the project, and I had a chance to show my nice chair, etc. 
Little Hill, one of the two daughters here, and I planted 4 tomato plants and 18 garlic cloves in the garden beds I have been preparing the last few weeks.  Tomorrow Harper and I will take a bike ride around "the loop."  This weekend, Andrew's girl friend Zoe will come and visit and we'll probably all do something.  Tomorrow morning Esperanza and I will work on her reading.

I've grown a lot this year.

* * *

Sunday, June 26, 2011

More stuff

Josh and I will update the CAD drawings for the house project, to incorporate my designs, and we planned to give the files back to the architect of record, a big mucky muck here in Palo Alto.  But he reacted badly and e-mailed David that he wouldn't work with us and David must choose.  David choose us.  So now I have an architectural filing set to produce.  It's paid work!  Josh is an architect with California registration, so he'll seal the drawings.  I've also looked into what I need to do to get my NCARB certification recognized here; there is a California supplemental exam, for which I will need to do a bit of studying, and I need to pay some fees to NCARB, and catch up on continuing ed credits (listening to 36 hours of Marvin Windows lectures and the like, ugh..)  The process will take 6 months or so.  I'll get this in motion for the next project :-)
I met a friend of David's, Jim, who is well connected to the Stanford music department and who was very impressed with my keyboard.  He mentioned me to the head of the department, but he's to busy to take on another project now, as the Stanford summer jazz festival and workshops are just starting.  So Jim also mentioned me to the fella who runs the Stanford Monday night jams at the COHO, and who will watch out for me if I want to attend.  I'll do that tomorrow night.
I'm going to Massachusetts 7/8 to 7/31 to visit my sisters and attend M&B's music party.  I'll try to finish the vibraphone I built with B, and try to dipose of some of what I have in storage, and get a physical.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I've been doing some household repairs, like getting doors to work, and kitchen cabinet doors and drawers, too.  Biking and reading, and practicing vibes.  Played vibes w/fellow resident Jeff and two of his friends at the neighborhood block party.  Meeting folks in architecture/construction biz related through Josh, who will be building the project here.  I pitched in to help Josh meet his deadline for an open house marking the completion of his present project; I installed door hardware ($20/hr, woo,hoo!  Josh really appreciated the help.)  Went to the open house, too, and met a dozen folks in the local "green building movement" as they refer to themselves.  I produced two dimensioned floor plans for Dave and Hillary, which Josh will input to CAD.  We've met with a few HVAC folks to evaluate their approaches to the project.  I've been on a few bike and hike day trips with Harper, my 7 year old friend from here.  We pack a lunch of a couple of apples, some cheese slices, a couple of chicken sausages, and we bike about 5 miles or so to a little creek, with Harper showing me the way.  Then we explore the creek, perhaps 200 or 300 feet in one direction or the other, and have lunch.  Harper pokes stuff with sticks, we toss rocks, and slice apples with pocket knives.  It turns out we have similar wilderness skills.  Then we bike back.  I am nostalgic for the time I spent with my younger brother Jeff when he was Harper's age and I was a teen.  (Jeff is a remarkably kind and great guy, always was, with two daughters of his own, now.  I visited them at the beginning of my trip.  His wife Kate leaves comments here from time to time.  Hi Jeff, Hi Kate, Hi Meg, Hi Jenny!  :-)  I started helping Esperanza learn to read in the mornings here, now.  She's 24, from a small village in Guatemala, married to Clark, 39, from Florida, who went to South America to find a wife.  Esperanza wanted to see more of the world, has some courage, and jumped at the opportunity.  She speaks some English.  She's reading at about 2nd grade level, I'd say.  It's very moving to help her.  A fellow resident here said I was a mensch, but I think I get a lot out of it; so much of my angst this year comes from feeling devalued. 
I've really relaxed these last several weeks.  I don't know if I'll stay here, or in California, or return to Massachusetts, where M & B have recently again offered me welcome.  All I know is that I have made some peace and simply want to continue to be creative.  Sorry to be so brief.  There are many, many stories here, but I just can't focus here to get them down.  Maybe eventually, but not now...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Noam Chomsky

A departing resident, Jess, just recently married and wonderfully matched to also departing Chris, made available some used books.  I requested a copy of The Chomsky Reader.  In it, I found one essay, the first of his writings I've ever read, so relevant to my personal reaction to recent circumstances, that I searched for a copy on line to post here.  It's thick reading, but great.  The fact that philosophers have been thinking for hundreds of years about the debilitating effects of capitalism, with it's attendant loss of freedom, and the exultation of the artist/craftsman's relation to his work, made me tear up.  It's writing that made me feel both profoundly validated and lonely.  Here is the link:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Living in Palo Alto...

I'm staying in a collective of some old time commune dwellers/ philosopher teachers at Stanford University, consisting of a family of three parents with three children, plus a couple of friends, and about a dozen Stanford students.  It's quite a pleasant, intelligent community, with a scientific bent, a penchant for doing good in the world, and no new ageyness.  There are 3 dwellings here, two quite old, one recently renovated.  The family unit is about to embark on a tear-down and rebuild of the next.  I am recommending improvements to their plans, mostly tweaking and finessing the spaces without changing topology.  I am being provided with food, shelter, good cheer.  I hope to network a bit as the project progresses.  Click the pics for blow ups.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pleasant meeting...

Nice meeting.  No job available now, just a pleasant meeting.

Now, I have another response to a resume I sent to another firm that does very good work, and they do have a job coming up and indicated my portfolio and resume look like what they do.


Monday, January 31, 2011


Going to meet with a high end residential architect in Santa Rosa tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Balls in the air...

I've registered for three one-night classes Feb 2, 7, and 11, about CNC router fabrication.

After a performance of Avant-guard  music by the head of the music department at University of California at Berkeley, I introduced myself and showed him a picture of my keyboard.  He said it was interesting and I should try to reach him this week.

I was given the names of a few architectural firms in Sonoma, that do "traditional" work, to whom my portfolio from the east coast might be relevant.

Friday, January 21, 2011

3rd Chair Flyer

Click the pic for a larger view, and then click what comes up for a much larger view.

Tall Chair trial footrest

I'm trying to rework the footrest on the tall chair.  The original broad sweeping arc cantilevers out a good ways and the slightest touch of the foot when getting off the chair, levers the whole thing forward and would inevitably lead to it's flipping forward and crashing to the floor (agghh!)

The modified footrest in this photo substantially alleviates the problem, but a) I'm not as happy with it visually, compared to the semicircular original, and 2) it's still a little tippy.  I still have other ideas...

(Click the pic for a larger view, and then click what comes up for a much larger view.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The 3rd Chair

The mahogany of the frame finished very nicely.  I used a blend of two Minwax stains, then 2 coats of gloss polyurethane, each sanded to 400 grit, a final satin coat sanded to 1200 grit, and a top coat of paste wax rubbed in with 0000 steel wool and buffed.

I've given notice at the shop, the month of January will be my last.  I'm trying to find a way to stay down in Menlo Park, where I can get access to a CNC router table and wood shop, where I can experiment with modern fabrication.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Tall Chair

(Click the pic for a larger view.  Click what comes up for an even larger view.)