twas the night before christmas, and all through downeast,
not a lobstah was stirring, all boiled for the feast;
the wool socks were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that l. l. bean gift cards soon would be there;
mainers were nestled at the snug and not their beds,
while visions of whoppie pies danced in their heads;
and mamma in her bean boots, and i in my flannel,
were drinking pints at the bar, watching the sports channel.
when outside door, i heard spreading sand,
and checked my phone for the parking ban.
cars were all covered by the new-fallen snow,
making it easy to spot the ones to needing to tow.
when, what to my frozen eyes should appear,
but a delivery truck and eight kegs of beer,
a grizzled old driver, only 'bout four feet high,
i knew in a moment it was the craft beer guy.
quicker than the patriots, the barrels they came,
and he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"now, ALE! now, PALE! now, PILSNER and PORTER!
on, BELGIAN! on AMBER! on, LAMBIC and LAGER!
to the top of the draft, from the windows to the walls!
now drink away! drink away! drank away all!"
he was dressed like a brewer, from his hat to his socks,
and his clothes, how they smelled of barley and hops;
a bundle of growlers he had in the back,
along with hard to find beers and holiday six -packs.
the lagers -- how they twinkled! the porters so merry!
the lambics tasted like roses, just a hint of cherry!
all the bottles were wrapped with a bright pretty bow,
and the froth from the head was as white as the snow;
there was a pipe in his mouth, he started to toke,
taking advantage of maine's latest vote;
he had a broad little face with an extra long beard,
combined with a trucker hat, his face disappeared.
of course he was chubby, on account of the carbs,
and nights spent at rosie's and ruski's and other maine bars;
a wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
made me love this wicked good giver of liquid bread;
he spoke not a word, but went straight to his tasks,
he checked all the lines; and connected the casks,
then giving a chuckle with a hint of a snort,
he walked outta the bar and into old port;
he sprang to his truck, and gave the ladies a nod,
and away he drove like a shoal full of cod.
but I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS YOU MAINERS, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!
being away from your home for a long time is a strange feeling. going back home is a strange feeling as well.
for the first time in nine months, i traveled back to kansas to celebrate thanksgiving with my family. the minute i was in town, it felt like nothing had changed and this whole [portland] thing had been a dream. making the rounds to my favorite spots, i was recognized and greeted by friends and people who knew me. a feeling i hadn't had in a while. from bars and restaurants to shops, i constantly ran into wonderful people who had been a part of my life for a long time. after being in a desert of anonymity for the past nine month, i was flooded with the feeling of being recognized.
i can't lie, it was a wonderful and warm feeling i missed.
i cherished every minute spent with family and friends. a perspective you only get after months out of eyesight from them.
days later i returned [home] to maine and slowly got back into my routine here. i found myself looking back through my snapchat memories and the whole wichita trip now felt like its own dream.
and that's a thought i'll hold on to. i'm lucky enough to be between two dream worlds.
here are a few of my snapchat memories, in their wonderfully raw quality.
before the days got shorter and summer officially ended i took a long trip to visit the second to last howards johnson's restaurant in its final days of operation.
my love for anything and everything dealing with roadside america is what led me to the decision to wake up early one saturday and drive two hours to pay homage to this diner deity. being from the mid-west, and born in the 80's, i missed the golden era of howards johnson's when there were thousands of restaurants across america and hence had never had the privilege to eat at one.
i didn't go for the food, i went for the memory. living in a state were everything is new to me, i wanted to part of its history. over the course of my life i had visited nearly every place in wichita. i could partake in conversations where people would ask if you remembered "that old place" or "this old restaurant" and i loved knowing those forgotten places. secretly i went and ate at the howard john sons because i wanted to be able to say, "yeah, i remember that place...such a shame it closed." now, some of you may say it was cheating to eat at a place five days before it closed after being opened since 1966, but the brief memories i made while there could have been made in any of those 50 previous years.
i ordered a burger and fries from kathe, a lady who had been working there since the day it opened. she was sweet to me and made sure everything tasted alright. she easily could have served me my food and not cared how it tasted since the whole place would be closed soon, but i appreciate the fact she probably treated me the same as any customer who had sat at that counter in the last 50 years. as i ate my burger and gazed at the mid-century time capsule i was in, the guy next to me started chatting. as it would turn out, he had installed the equipment in the restaurant when it opened and had been a regular ever since.
as friendly as everyone was, there was a solemn feeling in the air. it felt a lot like a funeral and in a way it was. we were all there to pay our respects to a way of life quickly disappearing. a way of life where your car was your freedom and the road was an adventure. a way of life nestled in between the days where all meals were home cooked and picking up your dinner through a window. the era of family drives and vacations, and memories made under an iconic, roadside attracting, orange roof. walking around the restaurant you could feel the memories of thousands of families who had stopped here for a nice meal before heading on their way to the woods of northern maine.
as in any memorial service you remember the good times and to that i'd like to raise a cup of coffee and thank the bangor howard jouhnsons to a very memorable lunch, and helping me feel apart of maine history.
i love shorts...i enjoy wearing them...i enjoy being comfortable in them when it's hot.
i don't however enjoy being seen in them. (i have weird legs)
that all changes in the fall however. put me in some jeans, boots, a nice button up, and a light jacket, and you give me a chance to hide my "fat" a little better. also, there's a good chance the temperature is cool enough that i wont be sweating like i just thought about jogging a quarter mile.
if i have to meet someone, for the first time, i'd prefer it be in the autumn months. the way i look and dress in the fall is a way better first impression then i could make in shorts and flip flops. you never want to have someones first impression of you to be,
"whoa, those are some weird legs"
This is why, no matter what the temperature is, as well as general professionalism, i've always worn jeans or slacks to a job interview. i'd much rather the interviewer see me sweat and curious if i had just run a marathon before our meeting, then burn into their brain a vision of my weird legs.
i feel like inland maine and i are very similar. since moving here, the majority of my exploring has been on the coast. i haven't traveled "into" maine much. last sunday is decided to change that with a quick trip around sebago lake. the trees were at peak foliage and the reflections off the lake were amazing. i drove completely around the lake and spent two hours in awe. i'm not sure i would have had the same feeling if i would have seen sebago lake for the first time this summer.
being new to the area, there are many three hour road trips i could take and not have a clue what i would find. last weekend my fiancee and i took one of those three hour trips to visit cape code. we were attending a wedding of a friend but took time on either side of that event to explore the cape. i could go on and on about how i'm still blown away with the amount of history there is here on the east coast and how looking out at the sea is still an incredible experience for me, but by now you all get it. so for this post i'll just hope the pictures speak for themselves.
side note, this was a trip were i purposely brought my dslr camera which has been absent in my life the past few years. i absolutely love the instant social gratification the iphone gives you, but in a world filled with camera pics, the warmth and feeling of a better camera is priceless.
i'm curious if anyone else can tell the difference.
there have been places in this world i've traveled to for the first time and for some unknown reason they felt like home.
san diego, california
it's a hard feeling to describe, how someplace can just *feel* like home, but as i look over the cities on my list, i know it has something to do with expectations, first impressions and instant memories.
as a kid growing up in kansas, colorado is a magical place. drive just eight hours and you're in a whole new world. i couldn't wait to visit ouray, colorado as a kid. i was told we would be staying in an old hotel in a secluded mountain town and that's exactly what we did. becoming friends with the family who owned the hotel may have helped add to the experience. i was able to explore a place which had been in operation since the 1800's, an amazing adventure to have as a kid and exceeded any expectations my little adolescent brain had. memories from that trip have stayed with me to this day, including the best peanut butter pie i've ever had. it felt like home.
manhaattan kansas was a different feeling. i was trying to decide where to go to college and kansas state was not on my list, i didn't want to visit it and i didn't want to like it. my expectations were low. however after spending a day on campus i loved it. i loved how the limestone buildings bordered the grass filled quad. the tress filled in their fall foliage put the vision over the top. in my mind, it felt the way college was suppose to feel, it felt like home.
my whole life i had wanted to visit california. a place where things happened, a place with culture, a place with an ocean. my expectations were high when i finally visited the state at age 18. i saw celebrities, i surfed, i saw a shark and i watched the sun set over the pacific ocean. there was just something about california and especially san diego. it felt alive and youthful. maybe it didn't feel like home as much as i just wanted it to be home; which i eventually did for a little bit years later.
portland and austin were hipster fantasy lands in the mid oughts. everything in my life i was interested in during that time was pointing me towards these two cities. music, coffee, beer, food trucks, flannel shirts, trucker hats.....these two cities at that time were peaks in the hipster timeline and i was glad i had a chance to visit them when i did. a home of culture.
boothbay was different. i had no real expectations, it was just a regular weekend trip. however upon entering this little village tucked around a small bay, if felt quintessentially maine. lobster boats by the dock and seafood restaurants on the shore. to add to the experience it was a weekend of their "harbor fest" so everyone was in goods spirits. in the short time we were there the locals made us feel incredibly welcome. somehow in the middle of all this friendliness i was entered into an oyster chucking contest. a contest that brought more humor to those watching me than anything else. expectations were exceeded, the first impression was picturesque and the whole weekend was filled with memories and even a few souvenirs. i was gifted an oyster chucking knife and glove for my effort.
for a few days, i felt a part of a small community. for a guy who grew up in a town of 2,000 it really did feel like a home...away from home...away from home.
the other weekend i saw creativity combined in two places foreign to me; fishing and fashion. i attended the aptly named "fishing' for fashion" event during the boothbay harbor festival. an event requiring designers to use items and materials usually found on boats to create dresses. among the materials used to create gowns were netting, woven nautical maps and even sea glass! as an architect who enjoys using local context and materials for inspiration, i found this event incredibly fascinating. i enjoyed seeing the imagination of the designers to find materials normally used for one specific purpose and envision them in a completely different way. a quality i not only enjoy in architecture but any creative field.
perfectly placed, this months #architalks found bob borson of "life of an architect" giving us the theme of "back to school" to write about.
as a kid, every year about this time, i only had one thing on my mind.
"what was i going to learn in school this year?"
would it be cursive? multiplication? algebra? every new year had it's own new challenges, you knew you'd have to encounter. these thoughts continued all the way into architecture school as well. you were very aware of what years you'd be taking structures, architectural history and professional practice.
then you graduate, and suddenly the subjects you learn about are no longer broken down neatly by subject or years, but rather learned on a need to know basis as you work in a firm. given enough time, you can become fairly knowledgeable if you stay in the same spot and location. however sometimes things change. some people go back to school to further their education, some people go back to school to study something else completely, some people start their own firm, some people change firms and some people decide to move to a different part of the country. i did the later. i moved from kansas to maine last spring and at times it has felt like i was going [back to school].
the course list for this new [england] education includes:
-literature -government -history -geometry -shop -home economics -foreign language
a book i've become very familiar with this year is the "nfpa 101 - life safety code." portland maine requires code reviews on projects using both the ibc and nfpa. over the past few years i had become familiar with the ibc, but this nfpa book was totally new to me. looking through it the first time it might as well been written in greek. it was organized differently, the verbiage was strange, it defined building uses differently and a few of the allowances were slightly different than what i was use to in the ibc.
also i find myself using the ibc more in depth than before. in the mid-west the majority of my projects were on large parcels of land with substancial distances of separation. currently the majority of the projects i'm working on are in more urban settings. very rarely did i have to look at the separation distance of my building to determine the percentage of openings i'm allowed or if any of them need to be protected. now i do.
another book i've become more familiar with is "the international existing building code." being in a much older city here on the east coast, this book has seen a lot more use than earlier in my architecture "education."
working in wichita for the past decade, i knew how the city permitting process worked, i've met most of the people in the permitting process and knew what to expect. that's all out the window now. i'm still learning how everything works here in portland. who to call and when, what zones are where, what forms need to be filled out, how to submit and how to label what you're submitting. this by far is my most frustrating class this year.
as an architect, i believe you should know the history of the city you live in and when you move to a new city there is a lot of catching up to do. being on the east coast, naturally portland maine has a longer chronological timeline than wichita did and i've enjoyed hearing about the city from as far back as the 1600's. knowing the history of the city starts to help you understand the current make up of the city. why certain areas are historic and why people are building where they do. that's especially true when it comes to all the different neighborhoods found in portland. this class is by far my favorite.
my history "class" and geometry "class" are very closely related. geometry in this case refers to the architectural styles, materials and details, found in the area. learning new styles like "federal" and "colonial revival" not commonly found in the mid-west. studying the proportions of a "triple decker" to better fit into the neighborhood, or what geometries looks better with a shingle-style house.
one class i'm slightly embarrassed to admit i'm learning a lot in is "shop" class, or what you call "wood framed construction." working mostly on commercial and retail projects i was very familiar with details of metal stud connections, however moving to a state that actually has trees finds me working almost completely with wood. it's not a huge difference but it has been an education. as wood framed structures in this city seem to be getting larger i can see me continuing in this class for several years learning how to better detail and fire rate wood structures.
just like in high school this class is teaching me about the home, or to put it architecturally, residential construction. the majority of my projects are residential, something i've never touched before and something that's taking a bit to get use to. mostly it's a scaling issue in my head. after drawing commercial projects for ten years i knew hallway widths, stairway widths, door heights and other variables for commercial projects. i discovered quickly i was wasting too much valuable residential space on hallways and stairs. i also enjoy residential being more personal. drawing break rooms for offices the past decade, it didn't matter a whole lot where the refrigerator was in relation to the sink, but in someones own home kitchen, it does.
i'll just come out and say it... people talk differently here. little phrases and terms that have caused a few chuckles and occasionally a little confusion. just a week here i heard a contractor comment on a project as "wicked cool." a phrase i knew existed but had never heard naturally in the wild. i've also discovered in maine a "camp" is not an entire area with several cabins, pools, mess hall and recreation facilities but rather a just a single cabin. this dramatically changed the scope of work i thought my boss had given me.
and don't even get me started on what it means to go [downeast].
there was always a bit of nervous excitement when you went back to school. that feeling of not exactly knowing what the year would hold, the anxious feeling in your gut that made it difficult to sleep the night before your first day. as an architect i think it's important to keep the feeling coming back throughout your career. staying in a comfort zone won't move you forward [if that was the case i'd still be in mrs. matsons third grade class] just like in school, always learning something new is what propels you forward.
please take a look at the links below from the other #architalks members to see how they approached the topic of "back to school"