lost and safe

In Place of Real Insight

It’s Christmas Eve and it’s raining outside the cafe.  I look around and see six or seven faces I’ve never seen before.  Their conversations on mute, lips still moving.  All of my attention drawn toward what Geoff Farina is saying to me, his sweet sweet, lazy guitar speaking a language I never knew existed.  Winter is here.  I can tell – not by the naked tree limbs, the cooler air, or the hardness of the sky – but because the shift in musical tastes is in full swing.  As the pulse of life in the northern hemisphere slows, so too does the tempo of the music.  The beat slows, and the eyes look inward, toward the soul.  Winter is usually a time of introspection for most, and I am no exception.  Especially after the past two years.  Especially after this year.  Especially after this summer.

Even though I’m in the midst of a housing shuffle (a kind and gracious friend has lent me the use of his couch for a short while),  I feel as though this is one of the few chances I’ll have to hit the “pause button”, do a personal inventory, and re-align myself.  I’ve come to view this place, my little node in an endlessly growing stream of consciousness, as a bit of a sacred haven.  I only come here when I either have something to say that I feel can be of use to someone other than myself, or when I need to do some thinking.

And so, here I am, two months after my last post.

So where do I start?  Do I even try to find the beginning to a tale that seems to have spun itself; an intricate web of stories composed by the intersections and interactions of so many different (and yet) similar lives?  I started this year wanting to do something good with the strength that I had been blessed with, the new life I had been given.  A new lease on life, if you will.  Two events, both with similar themes, seem to have dominated my thoughts, time, and life.  And with each, I’m happy to say that I came away having learned a great deal.

A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click.

– Unknown

Through a series of not-so-small incidents and a metric-ton of luck, I ended up putting together (with more than a little help from a spectacular human being) my first installation of artwork, “The Exploding Internet v1.0” (later shortened to “The Internet v1.0”).  I’ll stop myself from delving completely into the story, but my oh my, what an exciting adventure that was.  Originally, I was invited to be a part of a show put on by graduating Savannah College of Art and Design students (also known as SCAD).  My friend was one of the graduating students who also happened to be putting the show together.  An unfortunate miscalculation of wall space precluded my participation with that particular group, but just as that door shut, another opened.  It turned out that the entire ground floor space of the disused retail building was not being used, and I was granted access to do with it whatever I pleased.  It was as if someone dropped a golden egg studded with diamonds right in my hands and said “Here, have fun”.  So I did.

The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control.  By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation.

Vinton Cerf

If I weren’t studying graphic design right now (and absolutely loving it), I’d be nose deep in architecture textbooks, locked in the library at school.  I still plan to go back for a graduate degree in architecture, but for now this would do.  The chance to create something spatial – that which existed off the walls, playing with light, space and sound, to evoke emotions and stimulate senses in a very visceral way – could not be passed over untouched like some collection plate at the community church.  For quite some time, I’d been toying with the idea of somehow representing the internet a in real, three-dimensional environment, and here I had the perfect spot.  Nearly 800 square feet of uninterrupted space, a prominent position on the one of the busiest corners in the Old Fourth Ward (a historic district in Atlanta which is the home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and much of the Civil Rights movement), more than $100 worth of glow-sticks, and plenty of windows so that passersby could see everything – including the set-up.  William and I worked down to the wire.  Or, past the wire, really.  Only three quarters of the way done, the event started, and the curious began wandering in, asking questions, staring wide-eyed.  Still incomplete, we abandoned our work of filling in gaps to answer the flood of questions directed at us.

It was fantastic.  I had finally achieved something I had only dreamt of, and with the help of not just one good friend, but many.  As Will and I walked around – greeting, smiling – more than a few happy souls took it upon themselves to add their own personal touch to the installation.  Rainbows of light cut through the dark space, illuminating faces painted with smiles and laughter.  People were walking out of the space with glow-sticks around their arms and necks, clear indicators of where they had been that night, at least to the other gallery-walking individuals.  And who knows, perhaps some held onto their mementos of the evening, maybe to later reflect on the event and its import and meaning in their own individual lives.  Maybe not.  In any case, I have a few of my own mementos.

I’m sorry.  I should have warned you earlier that this would be a long one.  It’s been so long since I’ve written, and so much has happened, an out pour was inevitable.

Anyway, after working with William so closely on The Internet v1.0, it seemed obvious that we would be working together again.  After all, we were brothers, working together to achieve the same goal: the artistic expression of our ideals.  Ideals that would benefit more than just ourselves.  Ideals that would benefit anyone who chose to be a part of our crazy schemes, be they bystander or active participant.  And so, one night over food, drink, conversation and herb, Eleven Things was born.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

George Bernard Shaw

The idea was to create a “movable feast”.  A restaurant that could go nearly anywhere.  But this was only the start.  In the end, we aimed to create  a dialogue.  Through his attempts to initiate a positive change in his community, William realized that there was a severe disconnect between those who have serious concerns regarding making their home a more positive place, and those who have the power to affect a broader, further reaching change.  Of course, any person keeping pace with the national circus of the United States government is already aware of this glaring rift.  However, when there is such a void of communication affecting the communities which we call home, the consequences are much more pronounced.

Our solution?  Bridge the gap.

We asked ourselves one question:  Where do people congregate, with mutual understanding and respect, and where is there the greatest exchange of information and ideas?  Over food, of course.  With our hopes on our sleeves, and our ideals in our front pockets, we set out to bring together mayoral candidates (at that time the mayoral seat was up for grabs via the November elections), fire and police chiefs, community leaders and activists, and everyone in between.  Our hope was that with the right lubrication (some great food and drink prepared by maestro Will), we could get the gears of bureaucracy turning in the right direction.

Sadly, we watched our  best efforts reduced to nothing more than a high-class catering affair, without so much as a mention as to why the food was on the table (or why there was a table in the first place).  We watched, while try as we might, the only response we were able to elicit from those we sought to help was, “You mean, you don’t have a kitchen?  And you two did all this? Wow! That’s cool!”  And though for many this would have been enough, for us, it didn’t even come close.  As perverted and trivialized as our dream may have become in the end, at the very least, we still have a record.  One that is simultaneously visual, written, and living.

To say my life was one fantastic and incredibly enriching blur would be a massive understatement.  But now it is winter, and I am glad for it.  Time seems to have slowed down, and I am grateful for it.  I’ve been driving a lot, which is nice.  Finding new neighborhoods, going different places, seeing different things, meeting different people.  It allows me time to think, to exist.  To be both passive and active at the same time.  With just the right music, it is infinitely preferable to any activity that I could be doing at that time.

What I’ve noticed about Atlanta, is that it’s a fairly small city, relatively speaking.  With a population of only slightly more than 500,000 (speaking only of the city proper, and not the metropolitan area which spans more than 15 counties and a population well over 5 million), it is very easy to fall into a repetitious lifestyle.  I crave for something different.  Something unusual, which I have not seen, smelled, or heard before.  It seems that my tendency has been to establish one or two over-arching themes throughout various periods in my life, and to explore those themes, by way of whatever paths may open or close along the way.

Change is my agent, but constant vision is my guide.

The year 2009 has set the way for much change in my life.  Two-thousand and ten will be all about embarking in earnest down several of the many paths set before me.  Designer, artist, community activist (or simply activist in general), agent of change, lover, human – I am ready for what 2010 has to teach me.

It is Christmas Eve.  I am alone, it is night, and I’ve had a few glasses of wine and dinner.  It is still raining outside.  The Berg Sans Nipple is playing now.  Bells and drums and pianos and synthesizers greet my ears in cascading waves of tenderness and inspiration.

I feel like going for a drive again, but I also feel like creating something.

More than anything, I am grateful to be here, now.  Life has been tough and forgiving.  That’s okay, I’ll take it as such, as long as I can continue in the grace of light.  It makes me sad to be done writing this.  I’ll try to do it more often.

Mom, dad, Sydney, Brandon, Erika, Adam, Shereen, Paul, Terri, Bill, Ian, Tim, Will, and everyone – thank you, and have a wonderful new year my friends.



Filed under: Missives

One Response

  1. ian says:

    Hey, Sam, good to hear from you. Glad everything’s going so well, all things considered. Best of luck in 2010.

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