I walked to see the cars

Yesterday I immersed myself in deep pools of minutia on historic Seattle houses, and then I went dancing. It’s a nice balance thing, and I’m glad I have the two-step to pull me away from my books. I can get mesmerized by knowledge, forgetting to come up for air. I can also be mesmerized by my writing. Occasional bouts of this are okay, but take a writer away from the world for a while and she is no longer writing about reality. This may be okay for the authors of some genres, but I like to keep a tether to the universe around me.

I kept reading because my questions were being answered. I go dancing up on Capitol Hill, and I’ve often wondered why there are so many auto dealerships in a neighborhood that is so urban. I’m used to seeing car lots out on the frontage roads at the edges of town. As I studied the details on the properties listed on the website, I found out that the area was once a center for the car industry. Many of the brew pubs and coffee shops where I take my leisure used to be dealerships, and this is why the buildings have such enormous windows. It also explains the oddly placed driveways that jut into large structures. The falafel vendors use these to strategic advantage on busy evenings. The place where I buy art supplies used to sell Packards, and the funky bar across the street sold other luxury vehicles.

It was fun to be able to step out of my research and see the results last night. I looked at Capitol Hill with a new eye, knowing the history of some of its structures. I was a bit early for the line dancing, so I wandered around and peered in some windows. I admired the Ferraris in all their glossy red glory, and noticed the special rack of Ferrari garments within the store. It seems fitting somehow that most of the car showrooms that remain in the neighborhood are selling luxury vehicles. Ferrari fits in well next to the trendy new noodle shop selling cucumber and ginger gimlets. As the saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

129. Have you been really busy with a certain project lately? Come up for air. Perhaps your labors will shed new light on the world around you, or perhaps the world around you may shed new light on your project. Besides, as the advertising slogan would have it, “different is good.”


Look around you

Today I’ve just got to gush—look out for the puddles! I love design, especially design produced in the Forties, Fifties and the Sixties. I love the toasters, their rounded chrome edges gleaming from the countertop. I’ve worshipped many an enamel-topped table in my time, and I adore buildings from that era. Add wheels to that brilliant aesthetic, and my joy goes to whole new levels. I love old planes, trains, motorcycles and even scooters. Cars are my ultimate design fixation, but mine is a somewhat shallow worship. I don’t care what’s under the hood. It doesn’t matter to me if the Keebler elves are making an automobile go. I just love how they look.

I could bore you to death talking about port holes, hood birds and tailfins. I admire a nice running board, and the right grille on a car is like a smile from a sweetheart. I love the much-maligned Edsel, because it has one of those grilles, and I admire the classic pink Cadillac, circa 1959, with all of its overstated decadence. My very favorite car is the 1955 Chevy Bel-Air. It has perfect tiny tailfins, a two-toned swoop of color and abundant chrome. I think I’d even have one in my apartment if I could. Those babies are stunning, from the radios to the upholstery. Small details make a big difference.

I’m glad that some automakers are putting the pizzazz back into transportation. I love the curvy new Volkswagen—it has a flower vase in the dashboard. The Mini-Cooper makes my heart sing. I’m also glad that retailers like Target have started to bring back art to everyday objects like kitchen utensils. I like to surround myself with useful loveliness, and I need to do it on a budget.

As I get ready to move, I plan to keep an eye on those details so that my new apartment will more quickly become a home. I know that there are a lot of places out there. I’m holding out for my kind of pretty. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

103. Look at the designed environment around you. What elements do you particularly enjoy—what colors, shapes, and textures? How can you bring a little bit more of that into your home right now?

It was candy apple red

Three pairs of orange eyes stared me down at work today, tree frogs intent on my every movement. My cat’s eyes were there, too, expectant. The spotted gecko hung lazily while several ladies in wide-brimmed sun hats enjoyed the beach, courtesy of painter Jonathan Green. Exotic flowers bloomed alongside Roman statuary. I could almost smell them.

I’m currently working that famous day job that many creative types hold down, and I do it through a variety of temp assignments in clerical positions. Almost invariably this lands me smack in the middle of a gray fabric cube, its walls surrounding me with a palate of drab functionality. These walls mean business. I use their very practical surfaces to post the reference material I need when I amend files or answer phones. I also use them to hang color, to change my mood. Sitting here amongst the two-dimensional flora and fauna, I am reminded of the beach. Bright colors surround me. I am more productive when I don’t feel the industrial walls clawing at my forehead.

I’m always conscious of this, aware that distressing visuals might sap my strength. Ugly is my kryptonite. I combat its subtle power through the use of modifications. On a short job I might just leave a book with a colorful cover on my desk, while on a longer assignment I hang pictures. Sometimes I’ll buy myself some flowers or bring in a few tiny toys. Every little bit helps, and it’s amazing how much a few postcards or a pink carnation adds to my energy. Something lovely is always better than something merely functional. This is one reason Japanese food is such a luxury—it is yummy as well as artful. 

The other night a friend gave me a much-appreciated ride home. It was also a real treat, because he took me in his shiny new Volkswagen Beetle. I’m sure I’ll enthuse at length on this blog about the glories of gorgeous automobiles, but here’s a preview. I’ve wanted to ride in one of these new bugs ever since I saw my first one glide down the highway, and it made my friend’s favor into an experience. How can you not love a car with a flower vase built right in? Why wouldn’t I want to climb into a piece of sculpture? Long live beauty!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

43. Is there some little thing you can do—right now—to make your surroundings prettier? Do it!