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« July 2005 | Main | September 2005 »

August 26, 2005
the front door

Yesterday I remembered, after musing on mail delivery for a little while, that at the house where I lived until I was twelve, there was no mailbox. Instead, there was a mail slot in the front door, with a small metal flap on it that made a satisfying clicking sound when it dropped against the door. The mailman didn't always stick the mail through the slot; much of the time, I think, he just opened the front screen door and left it all in the little space between that and the heavy door.

It must have been annoying for the mailman (or mail deliverer, I guess is better) to have to walk down our driveway every day. I don't understand why we didn't have a mailbox, but I don't think the other houses on that street did, either.

This is that house. Looking at the map makes me want to say so much more about it, about the elementary school and Indian Creek Park, but I don't want to divert from the real, important subject here, the door.

When we were very young, my brother and I used to take turns holding the doorknobs, our knees up against each side of the door, our butts off the ground, letting the door swing us back and forth. My mother disapproved of this behavior, probably more because she didn't want us to break the door than because she thought we'd get hurt.

We also took turns licking the knobs to taste the exotic metal tang of the brass. I don't think Mom found out about this until years later, and now, whenever it comes up, she tells us it's why we both got strep throat so often as kids. She might be right, but it's not like licking the doorknob was a daily habit.

A few years later (I think I was eight or nine), as my father pulled into the driveway after taking Chris and me somewhere, we told him we could get the (locked) front door open before he could by knocking against it with our butts. He told us he would give us each $100 if we did. $100 was an enormous amount of money, and we determinedly set about the task.

So of course, after a dozen or two forceful butt hits, the door inched open. My dad was very surprised and very amused. Later, he tried to pay us by writing $100 on deposit slips from his checkbook, but we couldn't be fooled. These were the days, I think, when, according to one story my dad tells, he used his last money—the change in his car—to rent a video from Blockbuster. Many years later, in better financial times, he gave real checks to my brother and me for opening the door.

File under DAILY. Posted at 10:39 AM | Comments (6)

August 16, 2005

Maybe it's just because I've had a couple of drinks, but when I called Discover to activate my new card just now, I had trouble not blurting out, after the customer service guy asked me how I was doing tonight, "Isn't it weird that we'll never talk to each other again, ever?"

File under DAILY. Posted at 09:54 PM | Comments (4)

August 08, 2005
true brew

One of many good things about being at the beach with my family is that my dad brought two cases of Yards beer. He'll tell you that he bought it for me, because as of the 2004 Thanksgiving Holiday Season, I got him to start buying it so that it would be available for all to enjoy at our family parties. He'll also complain that it's too expensive. But I think he's hooked, and he sure should be: Yards is a Philadelphia brewing company who makes beers with consistently interesting and refreshing flavors. In June, their Philadelphia Pale Ale was ranked as among the top five pale ales in the country by the New York Times. Go Yards.

So yesterday, I wrote to Yards asking them if their beer was available anywhere in New York. Here was the reply:

We don't "officially" distribute into New York yet but we have heard that the Spuyten Duyvil in Brooklyn frequently has our beers on draft!

I'd never heard of this bar (as far as I can remember, anyway), but apparently it's much-loved and is also in my neighbhorhood. So Chris, Steve, Andy, and whoever else wants to come — we're going.

Tangentially, I dreamt the other night that I was looking at paint samples, and the one I liked most was called "Beer." It was a very pleasant nutty color.

File under DAILY. Posted at 05:31 PM | Comments (6)

August 04, 2005
burning up

I am currently at the beach with my parents, working during the day, watching people ride bikes and walk to the beach from my spot at the kitchen table. At least, unlike my apartment, it is air conditioned.

I feel a little like I've played a trick on myself, that I am actually punishing myself instead of treating myself to something nice and relaxing. But, like everything else in life, this is all about my attitude about the thing. It's been hard this week for me to have a good attitude, because I was sort of fired from a project yesterday—at least from the creative piece of it—after having poured a significant amount of energy and thought into trying to grasp what the client wanted for the past couple of weeks. I feel beaten and disrespected, and I'm struggling to recover.

Here are some of my grievances with my profession:

  1. If I am working closely with someone who is not yet a client, answering their questions promptly and thoroughly, and I then send them an estimate, and they for some reason decide not to work with me (almost always because of budget, I'm sure), about ninety-five percent of the time they do not contact me to let me know they have decided not to proceed. If I send them an e-mail or leave a follow-up voicemail message, they do not respond, I'd say, about eighty percent of the time. I find this rude. I suppose the most effective method would be to call them until they finally answer, but this seems a little too aggressive, and I've usually realized they don't want to work with me by this point, anyway, so there's no need to put so much effort into it. Still. Perhaps it's embarrassing for them to tell me that they can't afford our rates or have chosen another vendor, but I suspect they don't view me as a person, just as an embodiment of a service that may eventually yield them a thing they want.
  2. This is not as common and is particularly applicable to the situation described above. When I submit designs to someone, they are to be viewed as works in progress. Everything is modifiable, but I need to know what needs to be modified. Tactless comments like "overall look is boring" are not particularly helpful. Additionally, terms like "cool" and "cutting edge" are not as objective as they might seem.

    Here, too, I deserve to be seen as a person who has invested time and thought into what I have delivered. The client also should be giving his project a significant amount of thought so that he can communicate desired revisions. The designer should be flexible and able, and the client should be patient and clear. Of course, after a point, it may be clear to everyone that the client-designer relationship will not work out. In my case, I was let go just before delivering a round of revisions that I'd promised to have ready by the end of the day—and it wasn't the end of the day yet. It seemed as though the client was losing his patience throughout the day, and, figuring I wasn't going to give him something he liked, decided that what I was working on wasn't worth waiting for, even though, just two hours prior, he'd had one of his staff members e-mail me to give me more instructions for the revisions. Now I'm just venting. Sorry.

There was another one. I forget. My job isn't bad, really, but things that call my ability into question upset me more than I'd like. And since I'm the only full-time designer in the company, I have no sympathetic co-designers to share my frustrations with. I used to, and it made a huge difference.

It sounds cheesy, but when people believe in me, I feel certain that I can do whatever they want, and when they don't, there's no way I'm going to satisfy them, because I'll start questioning myself, and it only goes downhill from there. Even in the best of moods, I sometimes feel like I'm limited in my design abilities, so if I start to suspect that someone is going to expose those limitations and in the process will be disappointed in me, I grow anxious.

And that's it for another embarrassing round of self indulgence! I'm here all next week, folks.

File under DAILY. Posted at 10:59 PM