Friday, October 19, 2012

Dream Come True

Photo courtesy Flickr

Frame magazine features a full-size prototype room from the skateable house designed for professional Pierre Andre Senizergues. The design makes me proud to have invested in so many completes and pairs of shoes when my kid lived at home. Skating has informed my domestic systems with its sense of flow, impatience with clumsy detail, and sheer love of fun. I have no doubt that the PAS project will lead domestic innovation.

In I Seem to be a Verb, futurist  Buckminster Fuller recorded his cultural metamorphosis, and the book founded my habit of assessing elements of domestic life as nouns or verbs. The nouns are nearly all gone, now. I have no time to serve static display. What’s left carries its own weight.

Interestingly, skating’s structural term “ramshackle” is also featured in issue 88. Godspeed’s Joy van Erven and Finn Ahlgren are using street salvage from Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood to improvise witty, lyrical furniture. Van Erven stole my heart when he said, “our studio consists of a screwdriver and a handsaw, so we can take it anywhere”

-30- More after the jump.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Public Transportation 101

Photo courtesy Flickr

If you’re new to riding the bus, or simply rusty, here’s a short orientation.  Digital culture has eliminated much of the risk and uncertainty of being on the street without an option. A cell phone, internet connection, coffee shop, and sanitary underwear liners for the prudent passenger of a certain age give you alternatives to standing like a nervous sheep. I understand the liners are standard issue for TV interviews.

I stash every dollar bill that comes my way. Fares call for increments of quarters, but I don’t worry about exact change if I don’t have it. The economies of public transportation are spectacular. 

There’s a learning curve on the bus. Part is resetting one’s sense of time to factor in a wait. I assess bus schedules by the intervals rather than exact arrival times, so I know the worst case waiting period. If I have to meet a deadline, I catch one bus earlier than the one that will probably do, to reduce anxiety. I use extra time to work in a coffee shop. I rarely run for a bus.

The bus challenges balance and coordination in particular ways. It takes a few trips to get one’s bus legs. Don’t worry, just hang on. If you wear gloves, choose ones with non-skid palms, like leather.

Schedules are all on line. A few weeks’ experience will teach short cuts. Sometimes walking a few blocks eliminates a transfer.

I like to carry a water bottle and an energy bar to cushion impatient moments, and usually I tow a rolling backpack to hold shopping and gym wear. Sunglasses and a hat with a brim reduce eye strain. Time in transit is part of my leisure allotment, and I often use it to plan menus. I prefer to listen to the passengers rather than block my ears with little headphones.

A driver taught me to scan the back of the bus for doubtful characters. Doing so seems to communicate being bus-wise to whomever is sitting there, and I’ve never felt ill at ease. Once in San Francisco, I left a bus when the police got on. The venture gained me a short educational walk through the Tenderloin with no harm done.

Only once in the sixteen years since I threw away my car in disgust with Seattle traffic have I felt the need to call a cab from a bus stop. One Sunday morning by a car rental outfit, I told the dispatcher I was alone on the street and suddenly didn’t feel safe. The cab was at my stop in less than two minutes.

The best part of riding the bus is the occasional bit of impromptu theater. One stop on my regular route seems to hang up the electric trolley’s power feed. The driver often has to make several attempts to get under way. The vehicle always bucks and sounds discouraging. Last week the bus was loaded, the power unreliable, and the wait to get going extra long. An impatient master of the universe disembarked mumbling disparaging comments about the driver. A minute later, a couple of slightly less impatient go-getters left, and I sat there stupidly weighing a short extra walk against sitting tight as usual. The back of the bus was full of young neighborhood guys, and once the driver decided finally to go for it, they cheered and whistled like a sports crowd.

I love the Hill.

-30-  More after the jump.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cruising the Market

Photo courtesy Flickr

A recent outing to Eastern Washington saw the back seat loaded with the Treasures of Thorp: a crate of Asian pears, local salad dressings, killer hot sauce, and every variety of old school Washington apple and apricot confection. I stocked up to have Christmas gifts on hand, but of course we’ve been nibbling. The confections make a perfectly reasonable dessert or tea time treat. They’re as satisfying as a slice of cake and do far less metabolic damage.

In the spirit of moar!, we caught an early breakfast and spectacular view at the Pike Place cafeteria that’s been frying eggs and pouring coffee since around 1914. The anchor-deli at the corner of the Market is reincarnated newer and slicker, and a careful cruise of the aisles took only a few minutes. I brought home classic Italian confections to supplement the home grown, and we learned again the sweet lesson of deli: those pricey little tubes and bottles are the magic that turns a low-carbon diet for a small planet into an urban feast.

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Tub

Photo courtesy Flickr

The October issue of World of Interiors is as rich and varied as any I have read since discovering the title around 1986. I buy any glossy shelter publication that has an idea that pays for its price. Sometimes the value is simply in encouraging me in my convictions.

From time to time, I like to consider what I would do if I were setting up house again. An English outfit has reissued a double-ended Victorian bathtub in lighter material, and such a tub would make a wonderful furnishing anchor. There’s no way to fake a good tub.

My grandparents’ small retirement house was one of local developer Albert Balch’s first ranch-style designs. Built on a cement slab, it was comfortable, unpretentious, and located in Seattle’s first Fifties suburb. Cookie-cutter to the core, the sensible design offered many possibilities for applying later insights about how to live in a conventional space.

The tub wall of the bathroom backed onto the long entry wall to the right of the front door. The fireplace was across the room. Simply installing an interior window by the tub would permit lounging with a view of the fire, domestic traffic permitting. It won’t be long before soaking in a tub is a rare luxury, but finessing bathwater into greywater will add value to the indulgence.

The double-ended tub has the free-standing elegance of a claw-foot model, but with added social value. Back in the day, respectable women bathed in their bedrooms, and the old-style tub is a natural to set in a sleeping room, particularly on cement slab. I began to reconsider bathtubs after a wise older friend commented that she hoped to beach a clawfoot tub on her blazing tideland, fill it with a hose, let the sun heat the water, and bathe in the glorious privacy of many acres. 

-30-  More after the jump.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Photo courtesy Flickr

An acquaintance grumbled about her domestic inventory getting in the way of putting her house on the market. Her greatest concern seemed to be a collection of European porcelains she accumulated on an overseas posting. Don Aslett’s “Clutters Last Stand” is the handbook for ordinary pack rats, but a life history in ceramic is a special case for, ultimately, a specialist advisor.

In the meantime, the good news is that ceramics don’t mildew, the number one problem for Western Washington inventory. They do fade in direct sunlight. Sticky wax protects them from earthquake. The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping, England’s operating manual for stately homes, has good technical information about handling and displaying ornaments.

I’m guessing that a collection of porcelains accumulated on one mission are a valuable  record for a given place and time, even if only as a photo archive. The history of European porcelain is interesting. A medieval table was set with small ornaments molded from almond paste and honey. These survive as the marzipan fruit and New Year’s pigs one finds in delis. When porcelain made its way to Europe from the Far East, numerous small kingdoms competed with each other to produce non-biodegradable versions of the edible table decorations. (I hope this casual scholarship is accurate.) That tiny fact helped me understand the outstandingly sweet quality of much of the ornamental porcelain I have seen.  

-30- More after the jump.