Archive for the ‘the Self-pity goes to 11’ Category

 

 

Weirdness abounds.

I designed buildings for a suburban development several years, ago, 8 family condominiums in a squiggly road suburban silliness, but still I did what I could to make them better than the average.

And then 2008 happened, so the developer let the sites lay fallow.  And since then, he (and I ) have moved on to larger, different  projects that do not depend so much on the largesse of bankers, and the remaining sites have been allowed to be sold off to people on a piecemeal basis.  And since I am the Architect of Record and the official holder of Copyright, some of them contact me….

This is not a difficult thing, but neither is it straightforward.  The original permits, which included all the buildings in the development, were obtained in 2004.  And admittedly, we used previous plans as a starting point, but we altered them to include basements and changed the elevation to make them look  a fuck of a lot better.

These were developed as condominiums, intended for young singles and couples and being relatively inexpensive and fitting into the suburban sprawl.  And the Bush Debacle killed them all off.

So I have been contacted by a developer who wants to take a couple of these on, and I wish him the best.  He is going to develop them as rentals, until he can sell them, WTF.  So I am engaged to update the plans and obtain new State approvals.

Here’s the thing. in the intervening 14 years (!) we have adopted a couple of iterations of new building codes.   As I am going through those old, old plans, we had designed a couple of different elevations and a couple of color schemes.

And today I was trying to update the plans for sections and plans, particularly roof plans.

And I discovered the roof plans as recorded were not accurate.  And the drawing essentials, like elevation references, were not properly referenced, as well as all kinds of goofy computer drawing weirdness.

This is the thing that CAD is supposed to allow us to avoid.

I recognize that the setup of these drawings was done before the modern drafting systems.  But they were still confused and not simple.

So I spent a few hours making the roof plans make sense, and correspond to the elevations we have.

I have no anger toward the architects who helped me draw these up in the first place.  The probably did not understand the the way CAD could be referenced and layered, and not the way drafting actually made input to drawings. And the Software we use, has changed-a lot!- over the intervening time. And it is hardly not inconceivable  that I was spending my time on some other issues and did not review it in the amount of detail it should have been….

Which is always the aspect i have struggled with.  I am way more concerned with the specifics and details of the construction and specifics of the buildings I design.  And frankly, I spend WAY more time on design issues than I should on a day to day basis, especially on these smaller scale projects.  I have always been very hands on, until I am not, and then I trust people who are maybe not ready for it.  I never claimed to be the best project manager, all  I am is the best project manager I can be.

So I have been spending a fair number of hours, straightening these drawings and making them conform to the standards that I now use.  I will not, of course, bill the clients for these;  hardly their responsibility.  But it makes me way aware of the importance of seeing the abilities of the CAD software we use, and how to be aware of how to use it on a daily basis as well as use it on our older documents.

It is simultaneously annoying in the extreme and amusing to work through these issues.  And it informs me in a visceral way with how I will interact as a supervisor in the future.

If I ever do again.

 

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Sunday, nightfall.  It’s been a strange week, and the festival the week before took all the weirdos and freaks out of circulation for a fair amount of time, which made my life easier.  because, of course, I was one of those weirdos and freaks.

It’s not as if I can expect that sultry woman with available cash and a questionable task.  I am, after all, an Architect.

But I do have a large bottle of brown goods to keep me company, and a bit of work to keep me occupied.

And I have a large outstanding bill, enough to buy me a new Lexus, from a formerly good client.  So, I will be debating the need to send large, unreasonable people to his place for resolution.  Or opting for more civilized solutions.  Because, the large uncivilized person will be me, when I decide to no longer be polite (to be honest, the client is like 14 inches shorter than me).

Complicating this, as it always will, is that Client is also my Landlord.  We have done bartering of my fees for rent for quite some time, and I am still WAY ahead.  But as I have reported, he is upset with my performance on a prior project; and rather than going the proper route to tap my E&O insurance, he seems to be withholding my fees on other projects.  Notably, the fees are for an unrelated project.

SINCE GODDAM FEBRUARY.

That, of course, is not how this works.

So, I either need to find a smoky hot Noir Babe to deliver my demands to him, a direct phone call, or filing liens on his office, home, Range Rover and perhaps one of his children.

This has required me to terminate my associate, so I am back to solo.  Which is fine;  I am better at this fucking crap that most people I know.   What I am NOT good at is doing it in a larger more corporate environment.

So, it’s time to hit the Office Rum, re-watch a little Breaking Bad, and try to understand how to salvage a damaged professional relationship, or failing that, turn it into a giant flaming devastating holocaust.

 

Recently, doing some discussion late night with folks on FaceHell about houses and designing houses and how architects actually design houses.  It was late at night on both sides, but I expressed a bitter side of it…

 

I have often said that I am conflicted, sometimes.  I bill a bit less than most attorneys, but I still kind of figure that when I spend time on your behalf, that I should be recompensed.

But what is weird, is here.  Many many people figure that if I work on their behalf and they never go forward with the project, they really don’t owe me anything.  Which is never part of whatever agreement we have (admittedly, I am perfectly willing to spend some amount of time for clients that I have an ongoing relationship with, but that is based on already cashing some checks,even if they are on other projects.  Good credit, you see….)

I have done work for impoverished areas to improve the housing stock, and I have also done multi-million dollar penthouses in the factory district.  I have one client for whom I have done his residence three times….and he is a third generation person who used his parents to help him become a big time developer; he is mostly Republican, although his parents are die-hard Democrats.  But here’s the difference; He has learned, through working for his parents, the value of being a decent developer and he is one of the most respectable people I have ever met in this debased business.

In fact, here was a recent conversation I had with him:

“blah blah blah “

(Side conversation) ” have a good weekend pam”

You’re letting Pam have the afternoon off? (this was like 2 PM on a Friday)\

Shit, on a Friday I am pretty much the only person here.  I am the best boss ever

You don’t have to tell me.  I have had some pretty crappy clients….

His parents are also lovely people, who I have done work for.  They are first-person contacts with the Obamas (so I am 2 degrees, right).  I started working for his father’s company when I was in college, and managed a 24 unit building (a block from where I live now) and later, designing a new office down the hall from my office in a rehab building (they resided in their previous office for like 27 years!) and then designing their offices later when they moved to a a rehab building in the Third Ward.  I have to say that there is no better feeling than when someone keeps coming back to you as a professional….

But I digress.  I came here to talk about the draft.  Wait.  Let me back up.  I was here to talk about Shithead fuckhead people who stiff people who gave them credit.

Like Turdwaffle. Yes, he will eventually find a way for his captive Legislature to turn that back to us in Wisconsin; in fact, they might find a way to make Milwaukee bear the brunt, if not taking it out of the hide of the UW or, in the end, public schools.  So many victims!

Like I said, I am conflicted.  As an architect, my clientele tends toward the wealthy, because who the fuck else can spend and extra 5-8 percent on their construction cost for a turtleneck-wearing motherfucker?  Or more, if that motherfucker has already designed houses for all your parent’s friends? (I don’t wear turtlenecks)

Myself, I have designed several extra-million dollar house projects.  So how am I to feel about those?  When they happened, I sucked up to rich fuckers as as necessary, and cashed those goddam checks, you know I did.

I don’t want to blow my own horn, but I am  fucking good architect, who has had many design awards. But that’s not even the point; the idea is that I do some great works, both outside and inside.

And should I not be paid for that?

I understand, that when it comes to the work I have done for the NFP corporations in the distressed areas of the city.  But When I have done the same work for other cities?  Damn.

After many years, I am fucking great at several aspects:  Code work.  Existing buildings.  design.  GREAT design.  coordination with all the other assholes.

What I suck at?  getting money from dickwads.

 

12:30 Sunday Morning, and I was laying down to read and then go to sleep.  But when I lay down, my breathing got shallow.

1 AM, I was sitting up to get my breath back, but then some chest tightness started.

After trying a couple of different ways to get things under control, it became obvious something was wrong.

I woke up Wife Sublime, and said “I think I need to go to the hospital.  I can’t catch my breath, and have chest pain”…

I hate to say I was lucky that two friends had had heart attacks in recent weeks, because having that weighing on my mind made me pull the trigger quicker than I might have otherwise. For DAMN sure, I am fucking lucky that we live five minutes from a world-class hospital…

I walked into the ER.  I was still having trouble, but it wasn’t strenuous.  And when they did an EKG, they thought it didn’t show classic heart attack; what the ER doctor thought was that I had a blood pressure spike (my BP was something 2,000,000/500,000). that was straining the heart, which was causing my lungs to operate like a Soda Stream machine and fill up with liquid.  But at this point I didn’t care, because even with an oxygen mask or a biPAP machine on, I couldn’t even breathe anymore.  Later, the cardiologist said the ER doc wrote an unusual paragraph in his report, saying he could see me losing my ability to breathe.

Eventually, they got it under control, the biPAP was helping me to breath and get oxygen, and the BP was down.  So they moved me up to the ICU, where they kept working on the vitals, and I just luxuriated in breathing.

Until they did an echocardiogram, to see how the heart looked.  When the cardiologist looked at it, he hit the big red button calling available team members to get the hell in and scrub up; remember this is about 9AM on Father’s Day…. They didn’t even worry if I had anything in my stomach.  The RN on the team told me brusquely “you’re having a heart attack.  If you weren’t, I wouldn’t be here”.  twenty minutes later, I was receiving a stent for my LAD, which was blocked 100%

The procedure was remarkable.  I was fully conscious, and they kept TALKING to me.  They went in through my right wrist, and plumbed a wire up to my heart.  They actually installed two stent pieces, because the blockage was long enough that one wouldn’t cover.  After it was over, they even had me stand up to transfer to the mobile bed.

Later, I found out that my heart had been either ‘stunned’ or damaged so function was at about 25% (normal is about 50%).  There was no way of telling whether that would improve or not, because no one knew how the heart was in shutdown.  This is a problem, because that level makes arrhythmia a distinct possibility; The discussion was that I would be using a defibrillator vest until they could see if  the heart recovered in 90 days or so, and if it didn’t, a permanent defibrillator would need to be installed.

Meanwhile, lab work indicated that I now have a diagnosis of diabetes.

The cardiologist then came in and read me the riot act, saying if I didn’t change my lifestyle and immediately, it was likely I would wind up back here, or maybe not; maybe just going directly to the coffin, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

The thing I still have trouble wrapping my mind around is that all of this happened in about 20 hours.

They spent the next day getting my vitals under control.  Insulin, blood thinners, BP meds, oxygen, constant monitoring.  Nurses and doctors constantly asked, over and over, if I knew my name, what day it was, and where I was (amusingly, all of this was printed on the status board in front of my bed). Then they would ask me to squeeze their hands, and then would grab my feet and ankles.  It was like the world’s weirdest specialty fetish movie.

I had stabilized, and they started talking about moving me to a general room, or even discharging me.  But the cardiologist decided that he wanted to go back in and deal with a second occlusion which was at 90%, but in a much less hazardous location.  So on Tuesday afternoon, I was rolled back down for an encore.  It went almost exactly the same.  It is remarkable how low-impact this procedure is; they told me it is often done as an outpatient procedure.  One more night in the ICU!

On Tuesday, I was first told that I would be going home as soon as the doctors signed the discharge.  However the cardiologist decided that he wanted to have another echocardiogram done, to see if the heart had recovered at all. I think he wanted to know if he needed to worry about me.  Riot act aside, he was concerned.  AND…heart operation back up to 35-40%!!!! Not only does that make it more likely that I might get most or all of my normal operation back, but that I wouldn’t need the defibrillator.  I can’t tell you how excited I was about that; the doctors were too.  I think they raced each other back to the room to tell me

Came home tonight with an armful of meds, a whole bunch of diet outlines, appointments for cardiac rehab, and no activity restrictions.  Which means I will be going into the office tomorrow, then to Summerfest tomorrow afternoon!  I intend to become famous as the guy who survived a heart attack nicknamed “the widowmaker” because he needed to attend Summerfest.

Modern medicine is goddam amazing.

Hey there.  How y’all doing?  I know mikey has recently ‘been released to find new opportunities’  but it sounds like his profile is much higher and more desirable than in the past, especially when he is wearing pants.

Been so damn busy, me.  Hey, you know what?  remember that crazy shit where I added four stories to a building?

iu

Got a Mayor’s Design Award for that shit, and the Dean of the Architectural School likened to to European design and also said that this view makes it look like the project is a triumphal phoenix-like eruption from the original building.  Well, gosh.  I was just trying to make it look cool…

And you guys remember back to when I talked about cutting heads off of drawings to create new hedgehogs?  Come on, that was magical wordplay combined with a callback to a very obscure mikey comment.  Here’s the hedgehog in question:

hedgehog 1

And after much trial and tribulation, we are now at this point.

DD 4.1 [East elevation] copy

Yeah, design involves a lot of compromise (which is apparently lost on the Mentors Remaining).  We moved in many different directions to make it acceptable to all the parties, and now we are ….more or less OK.  I got a check from them.

of course, no one ever comes to the Empire looking for Happy Time Happy Talk.

SPOILER ALERT: things get dark from here on out.

Did I ever talk about this project, directly across the street from that crazy award winning project?  We had worked on the site and managed a building code variance to allow a curious combination of construction types and a pretty aggressive  code version to allow a very tall wood construction.  It kind of looked like this:

2214 7 story design

Yeah, well, it ain’t gonna happen that way.  you see, while I am really really great at design and overall work and urban design, I have a chicken vs. egg problem.  While making the PRIOR hedgehog work out, I had to get design aspects ironed out including many many many MANY unit layout changes, I had to forward them to the associate architect who was agitating so he could get his work done and get some checks as well, and the clients are just basically pushing like hell to get it all done WHILE they are demanding more changes and revisions, so that taller building kind of went on a back burner.  Well, the client (same one as the head-swapped hedgehog) was only willing to be back-burnered so long, and I was notified that he would be finding a different architect to deliver that baby.

The dilemma whose horns are rammed up my ass has to do with the Great Bush Economic Unpleasantness.  Before that I had a few folks on staff, and was able to work around the demands of bigger projects.  But the Shit came down, and for a while I was barely able to maintain myself, let along take responsibility for others.  so I let everyone move on… And now, while I am re-building cash flow and a bit of cushion, I am strangely gun-shy about bringing on staff willy-nilly.  and so; how to build capacity before I have the staff, while bringing on staff prior to having projects seems kind of stupid.   Been burned and well burned at that; scared to grab the damn stove again…

On top of that, at the Mayor’s Design Awards reception, a friend and client notified me that one of my long time clients and someone I consider a friend had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks.  This is the guy for whom I have designed many of the MLK Drive renaissance buildings, which you may recall from this:

Untitled

And not long after that, I saw the sad news that Welford had succumbed.  Here he is in front of our first project together:

b99507232z.1_20150526200429_000_g7bb8hmt.1-1

Gonna miss him a lot.  He was a good man, a good friend and a great client and he had a huge impact on the city that both of us loved.  Zombie props, Welford, and you live on in the work we did.  Kind of zombie-like, now that I put it that way…

Well, on a less depressing side of things, I had a GREAT time at the Murder By Death show last week, and may have been a bit over-served.  And a lovely girl kept playing with my hair while I was having such obvious enjoyment of the show.  How weird…

And tonight, I saw World Party in a stripped down three piece show, and it was a splendid show, yes it was.  It was supplied with tables and chairs, because the WP fans are older, yes we are.  And I managed to avoid that dastardly over-serving issue.  Also talked for a while about music and shows and common acquaintances with Brian Wooldridge, one of my favorite local musicians.

Mr. Wallinger, (if you did not know, had an accident several years ago and dain bramage made him lose his goddam voice and it is so good that he managed to work back.  Dammit, we don’t have enough artists, universe, that we can let you just remove one like that) does not look like that anymore (but which of us do?).  Now he looks like this (but fortunately he still sings and plays and writes like he did).

However, his son was working the merch table and he does pretty much look like Karl in those younger days.  And I think between Brian Wooldridge and I, we managed to buy Karl a new guitar strap.  Someone else will have to buy him a proper left-handed guitar rather than just an upside-down righty.

I am always curious about lefties who play right handed guitars, and whether they re-string so chording is just reversed rather than upside down; and looking at it, I see he keeps the right hand stringing.  What a weird thing to do, but then I shoot pool left handed, so who am I to judge?

Such is life.  There’s Bad, and Good, and Bad, and a little more Bad just to spice things up….

Wow, I am in a lousy mood today.  Woe be to the poor bastard who tries to reach me on the phone….

I am, however, seeing a darkish Goth-alt-country band tonight, across the street from my office at the wonderful Turner Hall; Murder by Death.  Here are some samples:

It will either cure my mood or deepen it.

…it is, however, dependent on whether I can get the goddam ticket sitch straightened out, they haven’t been delivered yet.  Gotta see if I can switch them to Will Call…

Hooo, boy.  

THAT was a long day.  Hell, it was a pretty trying week, all told.  As I’ve said, my car had a massive computer-related infarction.  It took the shop four days to track it down….

1.  “It’s the ECM.  We’ll get you a used one, won’t be too bad.  Should be here today.”

2.  “Won’t be here today in time to get installed.  First thing tomorrow.”

3.  “Seems that the instrument cluster is the culprit; it shorted and the resultant signal fried the ECM.  We’ll get a used one of those too.”

4.  “…has anything else gone wrong lately, related to electronics? Just asking…”

5. “Here’s what happens when I plug it in here.  The ECM is freaking out and making everything hell.  But when I plug it in HERE, the ECM is OK and the dash cluster is screaming digital gibberish.  Short story:  still don’t know.  But we have many thousands of dollars in diagnostic equipment telling us MANY things we don’t know….”

759696293

At this point, since I had a mission critical meeting I needed to get to, they let me borrow their little shop truck.  I had rescheduled the meeting from Wednesday 10 AM to 7 AM today, and then needed to catch up in the office until about 1:30 AM, updating drawings and printing plans.  2 Hour stressful meeting, as we are behind schedule, then back to the office to work on the new marching orders….

3:30.  Mechanic on the phone “Good News or Bad News?”  Shut up.  Is my car fixed?  “Yes.  and ultimately it was NEITHER the car computer NOR the dash cluster.”  Turns out it was a wire connector located near the bottom of the fire wall that had some errant salt water work its way in.  So although I didn’t have to pay for the electronics, the technician took several hours to track down the short.  They billed me for 5; I know they spent way more time than that (over four fucking days), so I’m OK with it; I effed at them a bit over how I kind of needed my car, and that I had spent much Ameros at their shop over the years.  Other than, you know, the whole damn week without my car; if it wasn’t for that damn meeting  I would have been OK cuz I could have bussed in to the office.

However, I had to pay them with a check, because yesterday my bank card was “compromised” and the bank canceled it to send me a new one. I will be seeing some paperwork to file the fraud claim and get my money back. I may see a replacement card tomorrow.  Or not.

c69

AND I have a client that has three months of arrears, to the tune of $30,000.  So I got THAT going for me….

child-flipping-off-the-camera-300x254

So, halfway through the day I got a text from Zorgy reminding me that we were meeting to see some music tonight.  At the Riverside Theater, this humble little palace:

iu

to see this band:

[I think they’re from New Zealand]

The opening band, Mini Mansions, features a Lead Bass player from Queens of the Stone Age, but they played a lovely set of 80’s inflected synth pop that channeled a healthy bit of Sniff ‘n The Tears.  How 80’s were they?  They not only did a dirge-cover of “Heart Of Glass” but they opened with a cover of “Sherlock Holmes” by Sparks.

After the long day and stressful week, I was more than happy to be sitting in the audience watching a couple of great bands, and drinking beers with my friends.  I was tired and my feet hurt.  But after a bit, Tame Impala and the light show started something, flickered a bit of internal warmth…

That clip up there does not do the band justice.  The other live clips are closer, but the sound is mostly borked; and with the exception of the reedy thin vocals (which I still have not decided on) the music was muscular and rich.  It was deceptively simple and unassumingly complex the band started and stopped and went into digressions that made you think it was a different song, then brought it back hime before you figured out what they were doing.  It was contemporary, with some trip-hop and some EDM flourishes, but there was something naggingly familiar about the whole thing….

The light show encompassed the entire back of the stage, but there were several pole-mounted LED Varis behind the band, and more standard ones mounted on the sides of the stage and above; they kept spinning, arcing beams of light and spinning stars out into the crown and on the sides of the theater.  The band was shrouded in mist and shadows, the focus was on the music and the light show.  It felt so familiar….

genesis3

It wasn’t until they added the bass pedals to the mix that it struck me;  we were watching spiritual heirs to the mid-period Genesis when they still had Steve Hackett and before they started pursuing pop stardom! All the elements were there; they often used Tony Banks keyboard sounds, the bass pedals made the bottom end shake your rib cage, the light show was splendid and dovetailed the music, and even the drummer, on a small kit, did some Collins-style drum drops.  The only thing missing was the occasional twelve string guitar.  At one point, I could have sworn they were ready to launch into the organ intro to “Watcher Of The Skies”!

Good Friend Rory, later admitted that he felt let down.  He had seen the band a couple of years earlier at one of the other stellar venues in town, and remembered being completely amazed.  He allowed that alcohol may have affected the memory.  I argued that they were actually pretty awesome, the music was great, the mix near-perfect, and the light show stellar.  I had no complaints (other than my sore back and aching feet goddammit doesn’t getting old suck).

But GFR was having a troubled, emotional day; remembering his recently departed parents and also more current troubles.  I drove him home, and spent some time in the car listening; I liked his Dad quite a bit, and never actually met his Mom.  So I cut him some slack, because his memory of the band was most likely colored, and his memories of his parents were uppermost in his mind.  My parting wisdom (such as it was) was to go to bed, get some real sleep, and cuddle with his dogs.  I am reminded that for all my angst and distress, I still have much to be thankful for…..

CIMG1504

This is normally the point in my music post where I reference the Soul Asylum line (when they were still angry and not polished and before mikey had ever heard of them and this is still one of my favorite lines) but tonight that is not quite right.  It’s not so much a ringing in my ears as a vibration in my bones, a rumbling in my soul.  No less heaven sent for that….

There is something so vital about seeing live music.  It’s less artificial; no overdubs, fewer electronic trickses and no studio carry.  3 or 4 or 5 (or, in the case of the upcoming Mekons shows 7 or 8 or 75) people actually playing instruments and feeding off the audience response to boomerang it back out.  It’s a wonderful feedback loop and the best way to experience it is in a small club.  Because that is where the amplification factor is most evident.

GFR talked about spending hundreds of dollars to see Jeff Beck, which is perfectly valid.  But I compare that to the $25 we spent to see this show tonight;  or the $15 I punched out to see Murder By Death, or a similar amount to see World Party.  The first concert tickets I ever bought were to see BOC/ UFO at Alpine Valley and they were fifteen bucks and I was a mile away.  Decades later, I paid fifteen bucks to see them at a 300 person club and you know what?  THEY WERE AWESOME and I was right up in front of them (they are kind of short).

With very few exceptions, I will almost always not spend my money on the “big shows” and spend it on smaller clubs, smaller venues, and younger bands.  I was encouraged to see several folks of my age cohort in the venue tonight…But then, I am admittedly atypical.  It doesn’t make me wrong….