Tuesday, August 23, 2016

[home]land

it had been five months since my parents dropped me off at the wichita airport to start a new life in maine.  in any normal circumstance, five months isn't that long of a time, but for someone who moved into a new apartment in a new city, started a new job and had to make new friends, it felt like a lifetime ago.  they were a sight for sore eyes.

similar to when they visited me in college, i couldn't wait to show them every new thing i had discovered, luckily for them, unlike college, maine doesn't smell like a dorm room.  the eleven days they were here were a mix of showing them the city i had come to know and wanting them to discover for themselves what a wonderful city portland is.  for totally selfish reasons, i wanted them to "like" the city i was living in to help ease my guilt for moving so far away.  then, somewhere between showing them my favorite neighborhood bar and the "land and sea" tour they took themselves, something i didn't plan happened.  we discovered new parts of the city together, tiny little gems neither of us had seen, several of which have become some of my favorite spots in the city.  

the crazy thing is, heading back to these spots a month after they left, i now have memories of them there.  this new place i moved to doesn't seem as foreign anymore now that i memories of my parents here.  i can envision my mom looking for sea glass on willard beach and i can picture my dad enjoying the patio of the portland lobster company.

memories help make a new and strange place feel like home, and memories with family are some of the best to accumulate.  my parents trip up to visit me, in a weird way, made this city feel more like home.  

they call maine "vacationland" but my parents trip made it feel a little more like [home]land.

















 











































Wednesday, July 13, 2016

a tale of two [boats]

it was the best of times, it was a test of times
it was a boat of wisdom, it was a boat of foolishness,
it was a journey talking about wine, it was a journey of tangled up line
it was an evening of sails, it was an entire day of scales
it was a touch of class, it was being sick off my ass
we had a sommelier before us, we had captain pete before us
we felt like heavan, i felt like the other way...

in short, both trips were a blast, and i wouldn't change a thing.









Wednesday, June 29, 2016

there's no place like [gin]

as a kid, with lots of relatives in western kansas, i attended my share of weddings, all of which  incorporated volga german traditions; the wedding march, the singing of the brautlied (bride's song), the flying dutchman and many other polka's.  i enjoyed them because my grandfather loved them and i knew they were part of my heritage.

it took moving 1,800 miles away from my home to realize just why these traditions are so important.


with a touch of homesickness last month, my fiancee suggested that we throw a "june" bucket party. this was a party held by my friends back in kansas every june which included a large cocktail drink known as a gin bucket; a party i was going to miss this year.  however with her suggestion, i was immediately excited!  we invited all our new friends and started planning.  i was meticulous down to every detail, annoying my fiancee with discussions of correct bucket sizes and number of basters.  

the night of the party, all of our new found friends and neighbors came over. they were a little apprehensive about this gin concoction involving drinking communally from a large bucket with turkey basters, however after a few "bastes," everyone was on board.  the night ended up being a wonderful time and all our new friends became better friends that night.

i couldn't have been happier that night. i was like tevye dancing around the streets of anatevk shouting out "tradition!"  somewhere between joking about getting "basted" and eating "walking tacos" out of doritos bags, portland maine started to feel a little bit more like home.

a few days later my fiance and i did a little wedding planning.  still reeling in the happiness of the tradition of june bucket and thinking about our upcoming wedding i began to think about all the volga german traditions i'd like to include.  that's when it hit me.  these weren't just simple songs and dances you did at weddings just for the fun of it; theses were traditions brought over from my ancestors who had left their home.  songs and dances that reminded them of good times with friends and family they were now apart from.  traditions bought over that helped this new world they found themselves in seem a little less scary. familiar tunes and lyrics they could get lost in and feel like they were home again. a little piece of their old life that helped make their new life feel more like home.  these traditions were tiny seeds of a world they once knew that they could plant in a new place.  with time and love those seeds took root and became a whole new tradition, the wedding songs and dances i knew as a kid a hundred years after they were planted.

who knows if my great great grandchildren will be throwing june bucket parties in a hundred years, but there have been requests for a repeat in 2017.  









































Tuesday, June 14, 2016

the image of [portland maine]

during my architecture studies, i read the book "the image of the city" by kevin lynch.  its an easy read and if you have any interest in urban planning i suggest it.  to give a very short and generic overview of the book, mr. lynch studied the way people viewed their cities by understanding the [mental maps] everyone has in their mind.  through interviews and sketches he started to see five elements in a city which helped form these mental maps.

paths - streets and sidewalks
edges - boundaries of a city such as walls, mountains or shorelines
districts - large areas of a city with unique character
nodes - focal points or intersections
landmarks - objects or point references easy to identify


couple the fact this is one of my favorite books and i had just moved to a new city i tested myself on my own mental image of portland, maine after living here for a month.  i knew it would change drastically the longer i lived here and i wanted to document my first impression of the city; to make note of what stood out.  since my fiancee was new to the city as well and knew nothing of lynch i had her sketch a map as well to see the similarities and differences.

keeping track of the order in which the elements were drawn, here is what i discovered after we sketched out our maps.






1. portland maine has a very distinct and well defined edge. the very first thing we both drew was the peninsula, showing casco bay and back bay.

2.  the next step was the paths. we both drew commercial, danforth, congress and high streets. arguably all important streets although neither of us new exactly where they terminated. she even had running paths drawn, something i never would have included.

3. after the paths were drawn establishing a referencing grid we both started filling in districts.  we both drew the eastern and western promenade.  my fiancee drew buildings to show old port, while i  drew large squares to show old port, downtown, the west end and east end.

4. now it could be that i knew what mr. lynch was looking for or it could be that as a mid-westerner i love seeing actual squares in the city, but i did draw the nodes of longfellow square and monument square.

5. finally we started filling in our own landmarks. she identified becky's diner, the holy donut, portland headlight, casco bay bridge and the east bayside bowling alley.  all locations visited in the first couple of weeks here. not surprisingly mine were a bit more architectural. the hospital campus, victoria mansion, the arena, the state theatre and the ferry terminal.

now having two more months of mental mapping in my head it's easy to see a major problem portland maine already knows it has.  for being a city on a small peninsula, with very distinct districts, it's water front lacks any sort of major identity or character. although it's cool to know it's an actual working waterfront, in both our minds it was just a series of random docks on a simple line.  however the cities districts with congress and commercial streets tying them all together is an enjoyable and strong theme easily picked up on by two newbies.

as walkable as this city i know our [mental maps] of portland will only become richer, fuller and more intricate as time goes by.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

take me out to the ball[park]

i am not a huge sports "guy,"

i'm an architect.

if anyone starts talking about anything relating to any type of sport, i quickly find myself lost and without a clue to what is being said.  except when it comes to baseball stadiums.  i'm infatuated by them and love knowing all i can about them.

like a humble servant seeing the coliseum in ancient rome for the first time, i'm always in awe entering a baseball stadium. it has so much for an architect to appreciate. they're large scale projects which become icons for the city.  not only are they great examples of architecture themselves, but i love how the outfields frame the city or landscape they're in. stadiums also perfectly represent their time.  fenway and wrigley with their industrial feel; angels stadium, dodger stadium and kauffman stadium with their mid-century vibe; the throw back retro-ness of stadiums built in the 90's like camden yards and coors field, to more contemporary parks like petco park in san diego.

interesting and sad fact, there are no major league stadiums representing styles from the 20's, 30's, 40's or 50's as they've all been replaced and kauffman stadium, which opened in 1973, is the sixth oldest stadium!

as large of projects as they are, it's interesting to think they still follow some of the most simple rules of architecture design; site location and orientation, the approach a visitor takes to and into it, compression and expansion, scaling and massing.  although they have similar traits, i also enjoy the fact each park has its own little drama or flair, some feature unique to it.  fenways green monster, the old brick building in the middle of the left field stands at petco park, kauffman's fountains, and many more.  there are a thousand of things i pay attention to at a a ballgame, the least of which is the actual game.

i'm not sure i'll ever get to design a baseball stadium and i'm not sure i'd want to, but i still love knowing about them.  the other week i had a chance to geek out by seeing fenway for the first time, the oldest ballpark still in use. i was ecstatic the entire game looking at all the details and reading plaques! don't worry, i did pay attention enough to watch ortiz bat and i was rooting for them to beat the blue jays.  even though they lost that day the architect in me came away with a win knowing i had finally seen fenway.






































Wednesday, April 27, 2016

how to [make] friends and [meet] people

in life, there are times you're thrown into social situations where you know absolutely no one.  these situations can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few months.  i recently moved to a completely new part of the country; and besides my fiancee, didn't know a single person.

situations like this can be good for ones soul. it helps you get back to the root of your personality. it's almost like being on a deserted island. no longer do you have the ease of going to your local market to pick up food or open your fridge for a drink, you've got to rely on your instincts to catch your meal. in moving to a new town, the food you have to fight for are new friends. you have to rely on your instincts to meet new people.  skills that may be rusty if you've lived in the same place for a while.  alone in this friendless world you really have to answer the question, "do i have friends because i'm interesting, or am i interesting because of my friends?'

i've spent the last two months asking that question as i've tried to meet people here in portland, and i wanted to share a few tips i've discovered, in case any of you find yourself in the same situation.




my guide to making friends and meeting people

first and foremost

1. don't be creepy

the only people who want to be friends with a creepy guy are other creepy guys.  lots of people fail at this. as a short, stocky, balding and bearded man, i have to work extra hard to not be creepy.  thankfully my wonderful and beautiful fiancee balances me out. however when i'm alone i've learned if you dress nice and iron your shirt it helps a little.  also smile, but not too much....that's creepy. also smell nice. creepy guys smell bad, so spend some money and get a good cologne, not axe body spray.

2. get off your phone

being on your phone usually means your texting or chatting with friends, and you have none, so stay off your phone.  don't play games on your phone either.  no one's going to want to talk to a middle aged man they see playing candy crush...that's creepy. see rule number one.

3. wear one piece of interesting clothing

it gives a stranger something to comment on, such as "nice shoes" or "where did you get that hat?"  I prefer wearing interesting socks, showing just a hint of interesting-ness.  don't overdo it though.  too much interesting clothing can make you look creepy.  rule number one.

4. hang by the trash can

if you're hanging out at a large event and it happens to be catered, everyone has to eventually throw something away.  hanging near, but not too near the trash can, allows people to come to you, creating the possibility of interaction.  the same could be said about hanging near the restroom but....rule number one.

5. carry a moleskin or other type of sketch book

i'm an architect and i've learned that carrying a moleskine makes you look "artsy." it can also show you have a softer, more sentimental side.  however make sure you actually have something drawn or written in it because there's a fine line between "artsy" and rule number one.

6. hit up dive bars

find out where the locals go and drink there.  don't go to tourist traps. the only people that hang out at touristy places are tourists.  it might be easy pickings for interaction but you re not going to meet anyone to have a beer with in three weeks when your down and need to chat.  also, depending on how much of a dive it is, there's a good chance you'll be the least creepy guy in the bar.

7. talk to the bartender

in the digital world we live in bartenders are the cities own personified wikipedia page. they know about everyone and everything going on in town which is basically everything you don't know. don't worry about asking for suggestions on what to do, hey've already summed you up and will steer you in the right direction.  little tip, ask them where they drink. bartenders always drink at cooler places than where they work.  chances are they'll tell you about a cooler bar than the applebees you're currently drinking at.

8. new in town

if you do actually meet someone and strike up a conversation, as as quickly as possible, tell them you're new in town.  people love telling you where they think is cool, what stores to go to, where to eat and other places to hang out.  also if they're picking up any scent of creepy, telling them you are new in town gives you a bit of a bye,  they'll just assume the place you came from was creepy.

9.  buy a round

if you happen to meet someone or a group of someones, don't be afraid to buy a round. buying a round is a quick way for someone to like you...or at the very least, keep talking to you. however i would suggest only buying one round.  you don't want to look too much like the guy trying to get everyone drunk.  rule number one.
 
10. don't connect socially...just yet
 
as hard as it is, after you've talked with someone and hit it off, don't ask if they're on instagram or twitter.  it reeks of desperation and could potentially scare off a new friend.  what until you hang out with them for a second or third time.   besides, do you really want to know what some stranger you met one night thought of his street tacos next week when it pops up on you feed? the answer is no.  also, don't take a "selfie" with anyone you've known for less than 6 hours.  that's just creepy, and by now we should all know rule number one.
 
i'll let you know how it goes....

Thursday, March 24, 2016

switching a syrup [sap]

here in maine, they love their maple syrup; and when i say love... i mean they LOVE it.  it's on the same level as bbq in kansas city, deep dish pizza in chicago or bacon...well...wherever men are found. it's serious business here in the northeast. being a mid-westerner raised on "log cabin" maple syrup all my life, i couldn't comprehend the obsession over this coveted condiment.

side note: i've heard if they catch you buying "log cabin" at the grocery store in maine, they take you out back and beat you with a stick.

the other day i read an article in the local paper on maple syrup etiquette, discussing the fact you should always be sure your guests receive the "good stuff" and how restaurants will actually charge you if you'd like more than the given amount.  naturally this piqued my interest and i had to check this syrup situation out.  as luck would have it, a few farms were going to have an early "maple weekend" on saturday; which is a whole day of celebrating this sugary sap! the next day, my fiancee and i drove an hour outside of portland to hilltop boilers to see what all the fuss was about.

i'll be honest i was overwhelmed. it was a syrup sensory overload.  within seconds we had been given samples of maple fudge as well as ice cream with hot maple syrup on it!  inhaling the treats we took a tour of the "sugar house," where i discovered it took 40 gallons of liquid sap to get one gallon of pure maine maple syrup. at the end of the tour they had maple whoopee pie samples; two glorious new england traditions in one amazing treat.

i ended up leaving the farm with three different bottles of maple syrup and a maple whoopie pie the size of my face.  i had been seduced by the smooth sweetness of this sappy siren known as pure maine maple syrup.  if that whole experience hadn't been enough to do me in, the next day we made pancakes.  i'd like to say i used the syrup sparingly, but the truth is, i was basically doing maple syrup shots with a pancake glass.

well done maine, i get it now.


































Tuesday, March 22, 2016

i [hate] goodbyes

i wrote my last blog post a week before i left wichita for maine...and things got a little crazy.....




the post was shared, retweeted and forwarded on to so many people i lost track.  i say "lost track" because it was well above the 35 people who normally read my blog; mostly friends and family.  thank you to everyone who shared my post or commented.  as a person leaving his hometown for a city he's never set foot in before, it meant a lot.  after 10 years of writing about my adventures in wichita, i had written the most personal post ever...and it must of hit a nerve.  i can't thank you enough if you were one of those who took time to read it.

the post was shared so much i heard from old high school teachers, college professors, business owners, city officials....my dentist...and several strangers whose only connection was wichita. the post eventually came across the paths of two people, who let me say goodbye to wichita in ways i could have never imagined and i'd like to thank them.

first of all, carrie rangers, a reporter for the wichita eagle.  not only did she chat with me and write a wonderful article, she also made short video of me talking about how great wichita is.  if it looks as though i'm getting misty eyed in the video, it's only because i had just finished chopping onions. thank you carrie for the wonderful article and video. you can see her work here.



next, i'd like to thank tony and alt 107.3 who let me guest dj the sunday night before i left.  not only did he let me play some of my favorite songs on my favorite wichita station, we also reminisced about wichita in 30-45 second segments.  tony might also go down as the last friend i made in wichita before i left.  a great guy doing his best to promote this wonderful town. 

below was my playlist for the night:

alabama shakes - don't wanna fight
cake - love you madly
the white stripes - seven nation army
the black keys - your touch
the la's - there she goes
beck - loser
leon bridges - better man
pixies - here comes your man
nirvana - smells like teen spirit
counting crows - mr. jones



both of them gave me an incredibly large platform to say goodbye to my hometown, which is a gift i won't ever forget.



lastly i'd like to thank my friends and family.  you all are the crazy cast of characters that made wichita so hard to leave and who i'm missing as i write this post.  i was lucky enough to surround myself with wonderfully talented people who all want to make wichita a great place, and that's what i'm missing most....

well....that and the chicken fried steak-n-eggs at the beacon.  holy cow! i had no idea a good chicken fried steak would be so hard to find here on the east coast!











Wednesday, February 17, 2016

dear wichita [i hate you]

during the past few weeks i've had a chance to look at wichita from a different perspective; the view seen from someone leaving.  from this vantage point, strong feelings toward wichita start to fade into the distance and it's easier to notice things to dislike.  with wichita being the 49th largest city in the nation, i thought i'd share 49 things i hate about this city.


i hate the "keeper of the plains" and the wichita symbolism it's iconic form holds.

i hate all the new additions to the river walk and how pleasantly it connects the urban environment to a natural path that flows through the heart of the city.

i hate that damn troll along the river walk and seeing the look on peoples faces when you show them its secret location.

i hate the wichita flickr photo group for introducing me to some of wichita's best portrait takers.

i hate the coasters bicycle club and how they decorate the streets and sidewalks of wichita's with the faded color of their vintage bikes. i also hate how they were one of the first groups in town to take me in and show me how great this city is.








i hate sunday mornings at the beacon.

i hate that in the past few years wichita's culinary scene has taken off with amazing new restaurants featuring local fare.

i hate all the north broadway restaurants.

i hate 'public at the brickyard' and the amazing people that own it and how it's a gathering place for my friends which was eventually the reason why i met my fiancee.

i hate wednesday night trivia at barlycorns.









i hate that because of hard work, effort and determination,  riverfest is morphing, changing and growing into an even more fantastic party for the city.

i hate that the arena is two blocks from my apartment.

i hate the tallgrass film festival and the huge cultural event it's become and all the wonderful people who organize it.

i really hate the chili cook-off and how it keeps gaining in popularity.

i hate that for the past 10 years i've had an apartment in old town allowing me to walk to work everyday, rain or shine, making our town feel just that more urban.









i hate the hard working people at the chamber of commerce and downtown development corporation who are helping wichita's city core be what it should be.

i hate the wichita flag because and how well its designed and how its becoming a symbol of city pride.

i hate the the donut whole and tanya's soup kitchen and how they completely changed that little area of town.

i hate that we have a river flowing through our city that only wichitans pronounce correctly.

i hate that time wichita state went to the final four and our whole town was bursting with pride.  i hate how for a few weeks everyone in town was happy and in a small way felt connected to each other.










i hate final fridays and all the art and artists its introduced me to.

i hate commerce street.

i hate our zoo.

i hate the wichita art museum and it's color parties and it's art chatters.

i hate the kansas aviation museum and how it's so uniquely wichita.









i really hate morts, especially on mondays during the summer, on the patio, with all the wonderful memories made there and how one of my proudest wichita moments was getting my picture on the wall.

i hate that we have, arguably some of the best, movie theaters in the country.

i hate the whole east wichita vs west wichita issue and how it's goofy things like that, that give a city "flavor."

i hate botanica, in all seasons but especially during december when it transforms into  "illuminations."

i hate the downtown library building in all it's raw brutalist glory.










i hate douglas avenue and how our town couldn't ask for a more perfect "main street."

i hate the season ticket package for music theatre of wichita allowing me to see fantastic performances each and every summer.

i hate the downtown ymca and working out in a beautiful piece of architecture.

i hate seeing people in this town work so hard to make their own "scenes" better, such as comedy, music, art, architecture and beer.

i hate that neighborhoods in this city are starting to really develop their own local feel.

i hate delano and every wonderful store, bar or restaurant there.

i hate st. paddys day in delano.









i hate the food trucks and how you can't go to any event now without them being there serving up amazing food.

i hate disc golf at oak park.

i hate sunsets in riverside park.

i hate our beautiful new airport and how wichita finally got an entry to the city it deserved.

i hate seeing any concert at the cotillion.

i hate every single thing that goes on, or is shown, at the orpheum as well as the building itself.








i hate all the local coffee shops and how they create gathering spots within the city.

i hate the rise in craft breweries around town creating their own nighttime nodes for people to meet and interact all the while enjoying something local in their glass.

i hate any person i've met who's gives a damn about this city and volunteers their time to make this community a better place.

i hate that my family lives here.

i hate friday evenings at lucky's.

i hate that the group of people i'm lucky enough to call my friends love this city and how much they all care about making wichita a better place by actually getting off the couch and doing shit, as well as supporting any shit any other people might have going on.




why do i hate all these things?


because each and every single one of them make it incredibly difficult to leave this city.


i love you wichita and i'm going to miss you terribly.