Old Kids on the Block

The latest artificial(ly) hip boy band?

My husband was kind enough (or mean enough, depending on your perspective) to point out something the other day that I had not considered when we moved into our house 16 years ago.

We have in that time watched our street slowly turn over from original owners to a much younger generation. In 2001, we bought our home from the original owner. Next door to us was the state judge who was the original owner of his home. And up and down the street were older couples and individuals who had moved into the neighborhood in the sixties and simply never left.

However, we’ve noticed lately that the demographic is changing. And the street is really turning. The judge is no longer next door. (We are assuming he’s at the bar he purchased in Cancun.) He was replaced by a young police officer and his wife, a nurse. This year they were replaced with a couple of young attorneys.

And just up the street from us, the original Gladys Kravitz of the neighborhood was moved out after suffering for the last few years from Alzheimer’s. We endured through the traffic last weekend as the estate sale brought in people from all over to sift through her belongings.

Which leaves only a few elderly couples.

At which point, James was nice enough to point out that perhaps we were becoming the old people on the street.

Not that I feel old. (Although James will be the first to point out to you and everyone else that he’s four years younger than I am.) But still, he had a point. We are becoming the older generation on our block.

Not that we’re alone. Trey and Wanetta up the street have one son in college and another ready to graduate high school – kids I can remember being incredibly tiny when we moved in. And the couple three doors down from us with a son and daughter who are high school aged.

I suppose at some point we will become that nice old gay couple in the neighborhood. Which beats me standing on the porch and screaming at kids to get off my lawn.

Still – maybe it’s time to start thinking of moving to a slightly older community. Somewhere we can be in our fifties and still be the new “kids” on the block.

Twenty Years On

For some reason, time and milestones have been on my mind a lot lately. Some would say this is some sort of “mid-life crisis” thing given that I turned 49 a few months ago. But I swear I had my mid-life crisis back when I was 17. Or perhaps that was just a teen angst type of event.

No matter. I have been really cognizant of time, starting with my one-year work anniversary in July. And coming around on January 1st, the ten-year anniversary of the firm I helped start in 2008.

But what I’ve been most aware of lately is today’s date. August 18th. Because today marks 20 years working in architecture. Twenty years.

When I decided a thousand years ago to quit my job and finish my architecture degree, I wasn’t thinking about architecture becoming my career. I just wanted to finish my degree so I could do something I enjoyed; something I was interested in.

Yet here we are. And I have a career.

How did that happen?

I think of my father, who spent 37 years working for Bell Helicopter, and in my time growing up I never thought of him as having a career. He had a job.  Because that’s what his generation did. You found a job, and you stayed with that job until you retired.

And I can count on one hand the number of firms I’ve worked for, including my own.

By contrast, the intern I’ve been mentoring has had two jobs in the last four years. I know that’s becoming the norm, for the younger generation to move jobs every two to three years.

But when their twentieth year rolls around, will they look back and see that time as a career? Or will they simply think of architecture as just another job that they’ll leave again in a few years to go on to the next?

Either way, I hope they enjoy their time as much as I’ve enjoyed mine. And look back and not regret the path they’ve taken.

Of course, by then, they’ll be on their way to 50. And wondering where all that time went.

Wow! That Was Gay!

I would call last week the gayest week I’ve had in a while. Which is saying something given that we spend a week in New Orleans every year at Southern Decadence (look it up!).

However, last week found me (and by extension James) in Las Vegas for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) International Business and Leadership Conference. I was one – one – of 1,200 LGBT business owners attending seminars, plenary luncheons, and receptions as well as meeting with supplier diversity reps from NGLCC sponsors like American Airlines.

But because that wasn’t gay enough, on the last day of the conference, we went to see Cher.

Yes. That Cher.

And the show was fabulous. Not “he-looks-fabulous” fabulous. But FABULOUS! With all the glitter and sprinkles you could possibly imagine.

We weren’t sure what to expect, since this was our first time to see Cher in concert. (For our friends, the 4th time.) As it turned out, the show was everything we could imagine. Costume changes. Dance numbers. Acrobats. You name it.

Cher herself was amazing. And not the “Wow! She gets around really well for someone who is 70” kind of amazing. I would have been happy to have that energy and stamina in my 30s!

One of the more interesting parts of the evening, though, came pre-show, when we looked around the arena and realized the median age was somewhere between fifty and fifty-five. In addition, the crowd was as much hetero as it was homo.

So while we were having a pretty gay time, turns out the straight fans were too.

Now we’ll see if we can’t top that when we land in New Orleans in a few weeks!

LEED Platinum My Hiney!

And no, this has nothing to do with my rear end

I currently office (when did that become a verb?) in a building that is LEED Platinum certified.

Well somebody spank me! Not only is the building LEED certified. But it’s Platinum. You want to touch me, right?

While I’m sure that would be just lovely, I will be the first to tell you that in spite of the giant plaque on the wall, this building couldn’t possibly be LEED certified. Or if it was, the certification lasted for about 10 minutes.

Then someone turned the air on.

Swing by here any time of the bIMG_2770usiness day, and you can watch two doors in the main lobby open and almost close on a continual basis. And when I say almost close, I mean just that. The outer door will almost shut, then the inner door pops open and the cycle starts again.

The air conditioning system is so out of balance that the doors only really close on the weekend when the magnetic locks kick in. And even then it’s only the outer door. The inner door still swings open, seemingly sad that his friend on the outside won’t join in the fun.

And I will refrain from discussing the loud whistling sound on the weekend as the air forces itself out between the gaps in the doors.

I wish I could remember when sustainability and certification became a thing. I do remember the firm that shared space with my old firm (I almost said “officed” – again, a verb?) had become one of the top – if not the top – firms in LEED consulting. And that was a big thing.

And I do remember having conversations with clients about sustainability and how we could make their projects “green.” At least until they saw the cost.

Writer Thomas Friedman commented in his keynote at the AIA conference in 2011 that architects need to get away from the idea of green building as a novelty. We’ve become so focused on sustainability and LEED buildings as a promotable concept instead of simply including green design in the normal course of our work.

Instead we encourage the idea of sustainable design as a badge of honor. “Our office? Oh, it’s LEED certified.”

Sort of.

That Was Fast!

Now what?

I remember being told as a kid that the older you get the faster time goes. Like every kid I thought “What a crock!” Especially as we got closer and closer to summer vacation.

But today marks a year since I left my partners at HPD Architecture.

And it’s gone by like that!

For some reason, I’ve been expecting to have some epiphany or reaction to the fact that a year has passed. Yet as I sit here and write, I’m realizing that isn’t coming.

It’s been a year. There have been good moments and bad moments. And everything in between.

Do I feel better? Yes. I’ve stopped stress eating, and I go to the gym. Which means I’ve lost weight. I find that I sleep better as well.

Do I regret leaving? No. Leaving was probably the best thing I could have done from both a mental and physical health perspective. Should I have left sooner? Probably. But woulda shoulda coulda.

Do I regret the 8-1/2 years with HPD? Not at all. The experience was invaluable, not just for what I learned about the business of architecture but what I learned about myself. I can safely say I’m not the person or the architect I was in 2008.

My perspective on architecture has changed. How I deal with clients has changed. I’m involved in my community – both personal and professional. I’m speaking at conferences. I’m involved with AIA National.

Am I doing what I had planned on or expected? No. I hadn’t expected to start another practice as I was planning my departure. However, fate intervened, and I decided the best option was to just go with it. When fate gives you the finger…

People talk about how great it is to be your own boss. And that does have its moments. I think what’s been best (and perhaps here is the epiphany) is feeling I only need to answer to myself. I’m not busy juggling everyone else’s business and/or drama. If something doesn’t get done or doesn’t happen, the buck stops with me. And I have control of that.

So a year has passed.

Now where the hell did the time go?

Time to Go!

Preservation for preservation’s sake

Not every building is worth saving.

There. I’ve said it. Let the bile flow!

Someone recently posted an article on Facebook about the demolition of a house in Dallas’ Bishop Arts area. And without fail, comments started coming in about how terrible this would be for the neighborhood. How the fabric of the area was being ruined. Etc. Etc.

However, some helpful wag was good enough to point out that not every building can be saved or is worth saving. (And no, it wasn’t me.) And they had a point.

We watch all the time in Dallas buildings being torn down that shouldn’t. Either for their place in Dallas’ history, or as happens with homes here, for their connection to a Dallas architect. A lot of times, these buildings are still in good condition and with a little TLC could be restored.

One home recently razed by the buyer was done so he could turn around and put the site up for sale. He never wanted the house. He just wanted the land.

However, sometimes the best option is to just pull the plug.

At some point, renovation of a house just does not make sense. Either the overall condition is too poor. Or there is a fundamental issue that cannot be overcome without great expense. More than what the house is worth.

The house in Bishop Arts could have had a bad foundation, asbestos throughout, lead paint everywhere (given its age, most likely), bad electrical, and no air conditioning. Start putting numbers to those and you realize you’ll never see your investment come out of the house.

But the neighborhood fabric!! Oh baloney. That fabric started disappearing when the neighborhood became a popular spot for funky shops and cool restaurants.

My neighborhood abuts an area of Dallas where residents were posting signs about keeping the neighborhood funky. Asbestos shingle siding, dilapidated garages, and small footprints do not make something funky. That makes it out of date and ripe for development. And we’re seeing that happen.

I recently had to tell a friend the house he was looking at purchasing was going to eat his lunch. Just walking around you knew that all of the basic systems – electrical, plumbing, and HVAC – would have to be redone, along with most of the subfloor beneath the existing carpet. The result – the investor owner was most likely going to flatten the house and sell the land.

But that’s okay. Not every building is worth saving.

And we need to get used to that.

Morning on the Serengeti

Just Part of the Herd

For the last 5 months, I’ve been dragging myself out of bed at 5:00 so I can be at the gym by 5:30. (Okay. Not every day. But most days. And certainly not during our cruise.) Never in a million years did I think I’d be doing that. My last trainer would be astounded since I refused to do cardio when we worked together!

However, after two years of stress eating, something had to be done. I looked like I’d been stung by the world’s largest bee.

Now every (most) morning(s) I hop on the treadmill and walk for 30 minutes. That’s right. I walk. I don’t run. I don’t ever see myself running unless being chased by a clown with an ax. And even then I’d have to think about it.

But I do walk. Yet inevitably, I find myself surrounded by people who run. Most of whom don’t even warm up. They just hop on the treadmill at that god-awful hour and crank it up.

And I start getting that feeling.

You know the feeling. Like you’re the wounded zebra in one of those nature specials that everyone knows is going to be picked clean, and all around you are gazelles. The only thing missing is the lion chasing you and that annoying British announcer.

My favorite gazelles are the ones who hop on the treadmill and don’t really make noise. Like they’re kind of floating above the treadmill somehow just lightly tapping the surface with their feet.

Unlike me, who when I run do in fact sound like that wounded zebra. Clopping along. Desperate to keep up. Like I’m about to pound my way through the treadmill.  Wheezing like an asthmatic freight train.

Nevertheless, there I am. Almost every morning. Joining the rest of the herd. Looking out across the Serengeti.

And keeping my ears open for a British accent.