Monday, June 15, 2009

Memoir: I think I'm in love
and it makes me kinda nervous
to say so

I love utility. And I especially love the rusty and decrepit kind of utility in these old industrial objects at Urban Remains Chicago. My God, let me build a house with this stuff and I'll ascend to heaven the day after it's complete.

I think it has something to do with my Dad being a pipefitter, and later an electrician, as I was growing up. Periodically, we'd all go see him in his workshop and there was something so wonderful and mysterious about all the tools I couldn't figure out a use for, shiny metal screwnutbolt things, coloured wires, and well worn, if dusty, workbenches, stools and chairs.

He has an old oak office chair, very much like this one but with four legs, languishing in his garage, covered in paint spots and dirt, that he rescued from one of the places he worked for before it shut down. I lust for it. Years and years ago, when we had a garage sale, the first person to walk up the driveway poked around the garage for a few minutes and offered Dad $200 for the chair. And he said no (!), and that it wasn't for sale. Dad wasn't the happiest person, growing up, but he seemed to take a special joy in his work and in personal achievement. Perhaps that chair has meaning for him.

More than anyone I've ever known, Dad taught me to see beauty in the usefulness of something, which I suppose is why I'm so attracted to barns, workshops, warehouses, tools, metals, wood and glass. While Mom gave me an appreciation for style and flash, Dad made sure it was grounded in function and craftsmanship.

Aaron's respect for the balance between utility and aesthetics is one thing that really really really attracted me to him. And like me, he learned those concepts from his parents. Though, unlike me, he learned them on their land in the forest in Peace River.

I'm reminded of this quote from William Morris,
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
The more I think about these things the more I understand: all these objects I lust after...all these projects I do...they're always about creating my happy-er place.

What's your happy place?

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