Sacred Space

At least for me.

Everyone has a sacred space. Or at least I like to think they do. Whether that’s the home they grew up in. Or their church. Or perhaps the place they met their spouse.

I had never thought about what that might be for me until this past Labor Day. And I never imagined in a million years that place would be a bar.

At the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Ann in New Orleans is a bar appropriately titled Bourbon Pub and Parade. Since 2001, any time we visited NOLA this was our home. No matter the event, if you wanted to find us, you need only look to the outside corner facing Bourbon, and we’d be there. Holding court with our favorite bartender. Occasionally tipping a go-go boy. And generally having a great time catching up on the past year’s events.

Never would I have thought of that corner of Bourbon Pub as our sacred place. Until now.

When we arrived for Southern Decadence this year, we were met with the news that our bartender had retired. The woman who we only saw once a year – yet could put our drinks in front of us without asking – was no more. And somewhere in that moment, the light went out.

Don’t get me wrong. We still had a wonderful time at Decadence. We saw old friends and made new ones. Tried out some new places – both food and drinks. And helped the group we attend with, the Decadent Ducks, and the fabulous Candy Samples raise almost $16,000 for Food for Friends.

However, as we walked through the Pub, you could feel the magic was gone. No one looked familiar. Our corner of the bar seemed dim. The space is some ways almost felt haunted.

New Orleans will always be our second home. Over the years we have developed a fondness for the city and the people, and the friends who visit every year.

Except returning next year will be a little bittersweet.

At least until we find out next sacred space.

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.

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!

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.

Farewell to the Land of Hot Engineers

I’m not kidding.

When I left my practice nearly a year ago – and holy crap! where did the time go? – another architect offered me a home in the office he was sharing with friends.

Now here I am getting ready to head to a new office with a new group of people. And I’m realizing that the people who were his friends have now become my friends, and that I’m going to miss many things.

Miss watching the two accountants running around during tax season, trying to get everything filed and telling some pretty catty stories in the process. Miss being able to pop my head into the therapist’s office for the occasional mental health check.

And miss having the accountants’ assistant make me laugh by asking me to feel her leg. I guarantee you I’m not getting that at the new office. And if I do, the leg is bound to be a lot hairier.

However, there’s something I think I’ll miss even more:

Working in the land of hot engineers.

You heard that correctly.

Hot. Engineers. Two words I’d never in my life think of putting together.

When I think of engineers, I don’t picture hot. I picture ill-fitting pants. Glasses. Pocket protectors. I picture the structural engineer I met one year with enough hair in his ears to make me wonder if he was part werewolf.

Yet within the large engineering firm that shares our floor, I keep bumping into unexpected treats that no one ever told me about.

Did I miss something in college? The engineering building was right next door to the architecture school. Were these guys wandering around and I just never noticed? Is this what I missed by spending late nights hunched over a drafting table? And why have I never been asked to feel one of their legs?

So as I get settled into the new digs, perhaps I’ll find an excuse to pop over once in a while. Say hi to everyone. Get caught up on the latest gossip. Feel a leg.

And if luck is with me, catch a fleeting glimpse of a hot engineer.

Just Me?

Not really but…

I’m the only gay architect in Dallas.

For years, I’ve made that comment even though I know it’s not true. Just based on the law of averages. But also because I do know one or two others.

However, after 20 years in the industry, it still feels that way, primarily because we are not recognized within the architecture community. You have groups like Women in Architecture and Latinos in Architecture. Emerging professionals and young professionals.

And nationally the AIA is really focused on diversity and inclusion. But often that conversation ends before anyone gets to the LGBT community, unless you count the annual LGBT reception at our national convention.

As if that doesn’t make me feel a little isolated…

I received a call in 2014 from a gay couple who needed someone to look at their house. They were having foundation issues and the latest recommendation was to add 22 piers to the existing pier and beam foundation. However, in just looking at the house you could tell that wasn’t going to do anything except flush money down the drain. Ultimately, we designed a new house on the existing lot.

As we were talking in that initial meeting, they expressed how important working with a gay architect was for them, for no other reason than their own personal comfort level. And like a good business owner I asked them how they had located me.

After looking in several guides, one of them had finally turned to Google and typed in: gay dallas architect.

The first name to pop up on the list was Philip Johnson. Pritzker-prize winner. Designed the Beck House in Dallas. Certainly not likely to take on something as simple as this couple’s home.

Plus Philip was also dead.

The second item on Google referenced a blog post my firm had done in 2010 as a follow-up to The Architecture Happy Hour podcast about gays in architecture. And there was my name.

And lucky for me, I was still alive.

So perhaps being the only gay architect in Dallas, or at least the only visibly gay architect in Dallas, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But really…just me?

Finally Gay Enough

Although it wasn’t that big of a stretch

Never in my life did I ever think – “I’m just not gay enough.” – until my former partners and I became a member business of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. In the 6-1/2 years we were members, we were approached multiple times about becoming a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. After all, we were woman-owned. Why not LGBT-owned?

Because as fate would have it, we weren’t gay enough. Which is the response I would give every time I was asked – feeling a little like Dr. Evil telling Scotty he was the Diet Coke of Evil. Just one calorie. Not gay enough!

And before you say: “But Larry, you’re more gay before 9 am than most people are all day” (and a special thanks to Will & Grace for getting that little nugget stuck in my head) – I would like to go on record as saying I had nothing to do with not being certified. I was plenty gay. It was getting my other two partners to switch teams that was the problem – especially the married one with two kids.

But now it’s official.

I’m certifiably gay.

Last month, Spotted Dog Architecture was recognized by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce as a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. Which makes me one of only ten certified architecture firms. 1 of 10.

Where did everyone else go?

Of the estimated 90,000 members in the American Institute of Architecture, there are how many hundreds of firms represented? Yet there are only ten of us certified.

Not that I’m going to make too much noise about that. I’m fine being one of ten firms available to the NGLCC’s 140+ corporate partners looking to fulfill supplier diversity needs. And I’m fine being recognized this year in front of 1000+ attendees at the NGLCC business and leadership conference.

But I know I’m not the only one this gay. So feel free to join me.

Assuming you’re gay enough.