Who is that Masked Man?

Why ISN’T Ronin a “card carrying” architect?

To design houses, don’t ya have to be an architect?

No, You just have to possess common sense, and an eye for detail. I mean, after all, I did attend a few good schools.

In fact, I even got sent away, with the right “credentials.”

(It’s easy to get credentials… Just refuse to tell them where you hid the explosives, in “their architecturally historic hallowed halls”, and they’ll literally throw sheepskins at you! I mean, a piece of paper is far cheaper than rebuilding an entire building wing! ) :)

Not much has changed since they shoved me out the door to make my way in the world…

When an architect leaves school, he or she usually gets an entry level job, that roughly translates into “draftsman/scapegoat/underpaid slave/chief cook and bottle washer.” The pay stinks, you get “all the crap jobs”, and the “continued education” you get is based on the “generosity” of the partners. And they don’t want you learning skills that you can use against them, let me assure you.

Gawd help you if you’re actually good at what you do. You’ll be mentored by a partner that will steal your ideas, rip off your designs, and then let you fetch his dry-cleaning for the privilege…

When I was considering a career as an architect, the land was filled with “big houses”.  They were firms that had several floors of lackeys, firms where you could get lost and just disappear, only to appear each night, in the parking lot, stumbling out to your car, after a long day of slavery.

BTW: YOU drove a Pinto, and the partners all drove Mercedes Benz SL’s…

Gawd help you if you realize that building more McMansions, isn’t going to solve any problems, deal with any social issues, or even impress anyone that important to your “track.”

As a teen, I grew up in a part of California that was all glass and chrome. I grew up in the land of earthquakes and firestorms, where buildings were tested, repeatedly. Most failed… over and over again.

I grew up knowing that there was a better way. I didn’t breathe “Monuments and Robert STERN,” I sweated out “Earth Berms and Malcolm WELLS…” Malcolm knew… Build “WITH” the Earth, instead of AGAINST it. Use the Earth as a blanket, to keep you warm and safe. Use materials that are renewable, sustainable, or recyclable. Build with what you have, and make it count. The mortgage you save, may be your own.

Unfortunately, these goals didn’t make me many friends in the world of “Monuments to self-indulgence”. So, I headed down a different track, but I kept my eye on the actual function of my education.”

And, I started experimenting. Remember, it was the 70’s… “Free Love”, Peace Signs, and recycling were the rage. And, I was a dork! So, heading for anywhere advertising “Free Love” looked promising.

After all, how else was I ever gonna develop a social life? :)

We headed for the hills, literally. Up in Northern California, where “bears make bad neighbors”, we found a home. Up there where “bears will eat the neighbors”, we learned that steel houses were a good idea. Up there where shipping container boats plied the seas, we realized that the steel boxes we needed were mostly stacked up, and then abandoned.

Up there, you could barter for a box. I won’t get into that now, as many years have passed, and the stuff we bartered is now highly regulated… :)

We started building Corten Cabins, up on cinder blocks, to live safe and secure. It certainly wasn’t glamorous, but we were incredibly grateful for the experience it brought. We didn’t have a “pages deep” client list. We had “friends and relatives” who needed homes, and they needed them cheap. Those jobs sculpted our sense of “community.”

And, all that steel kept the bears out. Sure, they’d get all riled up, and push the containers around until we thought they were gonna fall off the foundation blocks. But, they never did. It scared the crap out of us the first few times, but after a while, it got funny… Nah nah na-nah-na!

Speaking of funny, it was almost like the bears were field-testing our “Corten Creations” for us…

It wasn’t a “Rodeo Drive” existence, it was more like a dysfunctional “Mayberry”. But, we fished every morning, and on the days we didn’t drive into town to work, we hunted for deer, and anything else that we could turn into stew, or jerky…

You see… we weren’t very good cooks. Everything we cooked, turned into jerky. But, we ended up with good teeth out of it! :)

We lived a life that we can only remember now, with fondness. We never thought that someday, the life we carved out as a test, might come back around, as survival.

We learned that there was no such thing as “easy.” We were kids, doing things that “the grown up’s” didn’t put stock in. So, we had to fight a lot, just to keep moving forward. Let me tell you, there is no substitution for hard work. And don’t think that just because you understand how “tab A will fit into slot B”, you have it licked.

It’s funny… back then, we were “drop-outs, hippies, and delusional idiots.”

Now, we’re “visionaries, crusaders, keepers of the earth…” Oh brother!

We’re not ANY of those things.  We were never hippies (but we hung out with some…) we’re not “tree-huggers” (we just have a  conscience), we’re not crusaders (crusaders become targets and they get martyred!) …

But… we may be “idiots.” At least, if you ask our Moms… :)

We’re NOT rich, we have families and we need a place to live that’s safe and affordable. Period. The rest of that stuff is just mankind’s way of “validating” what we’re trying to do.

Designing and building home requires several skill sets that most rational people don’t even want… Skills like book-keeping, finances, organizing, data tracking, and “politicking”.

With the economy hemorrhaging all around us, with unemployment claiming thousands of new victims weekly, with all those banks we propped up refusing to let go of mortgage money, with large corporations fleeing “State and Country” in droves, I have to wonder where we’re headed.

The only thing that  I know for sure is that we’re looking at troubled times, and only the prepared are going to fare well.

So, where does that leave me?

You know that I’m trying to get my family into a home that will protect them from whatever wolves show up on the porch. You know that I’m blazing new trails in the State I live in, and the only thing I’m seeing right now that resembles “potential”… is a paved road to another state, where I can build in peace.

So, beyond regaining “home ownership”, what are my goals?

I’m trying to “teach” people how to build homes.

People skills are more important than architecture skills. I know plenty of architects and designers who will never be successful at their own practice because they don’t know how to communicate.

It’s a skill not often taught in grad school. It’s all about design. That architect that you’re sitting across the table from got an education in design, and little else. Those professors didn’t teach him/her much about “relationships.”

So, the lot of you are going to have to figure out how to relate to each other, so that your best needs can be served!

I’m not saying that you should join some “speaking” ‘ToastMasters’ kinda club. I’m saying that you should actually talk to people about what you’re trying to do, about what you’re dreaming about doing. Their insight, and even their disagreements with you, will help you refine your goals. If that architect can’t relate to you without shoving a data set into your face, or using four syllable words… you need a new architect.

How’s he gonna build your house, if he doesn’t even know who you ARE?

When it comes to architecture… it’s all about “relationships. Here’s one I didn’t expect, for example… I’m really seeing a connection between design of the “structure”, and the design/craftsmanship of the furniture in the cocoon. Call it “full circle integration”. You don’t need an interior designer to figure out where your couch will go, if the architect understands your lifestyle. It’ll give the interior designer more time to focus on textures, and  other things that will blow your budget! ;)

Some bigshots in the architecture game will tell you that it’s all about “hob-knobbing with the rich and famous”. Or, they’ll promote the idea that you should go out for drinks as often as you can.

(I used to work for guys like this.) Seriously.

They thought that blowing off steam from time to time, would help stave off “restraint” and the “pariah syndrome” that many CAD Commandos find themselves facing, after years in the trenches.

Why? It’s because they lived in front of a CAD station, trying to either find work to pay bills… or camped out in a conference room trying to make sure that bills actually got paid.

Instead, I suggested that they just go home and spend some time with their families, or find some extracurricular way to have fun that wouldn’t lead to a felony, or a divorce. They just looked at me like I was insane.

They prefered alcoholism.

I love OLD single-malt scotch. But, I’d rather drink it at home, while talking to the wife and relaxing with the kid. I don’t want a job that will take me away from them…

(And, since my son was born, quite frankly I can’t even remember the last time I sat down with a glass of ‘liquid life’!) :(

So, I hung up my aspirations of becoming “a bigshot architect.” I’ll leave it to people who crave attention. I’d rather pay attention to detail, and not what somebody who hardly knows me, thinks of me. Or, for that matter… how they “interpret” my designs, without even asking about the family they’re intended for.

I build “boxes” and I put them in places you wouldn’t normally go to look for them. They end up in the woods, or by a remote lake, and sometimes (gasp!) they even end right next door to “steel allergic” neighbors.

Right now, while my family fights it’s battles (seemingly on every side) I’m helping other people build boxes so that they can place them exactly where THEY think their lives SHOULD be. And, after we’re done building theirs, I hope they’ll help someone else, even if it’s only by serving as inspiration.

If that happens, we’ll start building “communities”.

And, those communities will have more in common with each other than just existing in the same county lines, they’ll each hold a piece of their neighbor’s hearts. And that will make them stronger, one and all.

And, if those communities can be based on environmental concerns, like making your own power, growing your own food, and dealing with each other with care and love, united in the same cause, that’s just gravy!

You don’t have to hug trees. You don’t have to drive an electric car. Hell, you don’t even have to participate with the community on an Olympian scale. Just set a good example!

My family is sick, and I have to heal it. The government isn’t going to save me, or mine. They’re too busy doing too many other things, to care about one family. They’ve proven that to me time and again.  I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next, or even who they’ll do it to. My wife is dying. I have to do something now.  If I don’t… we all know what will happen.

My goal is to help heal families, so that they can help each other heal communities, so that we can get though whatever comes, and guarantee that our children have a chance at a happy, fulfilled life.

So, now you know a little more about what drives me. I’m driven by passion.

I hope that you are, too…

Welcome. If you can get past my obvious lack of writing skills, I hope that you’ll enjoy your stay!


6 Responses to “Who is that Masked Man?”

  1. clarkscottroger October 24, 2009 at 5:03 am #

    Damn… good blogation.

    (New to the bsphere) will follow your blog for: a) education in blog writing from those of us lacking a BFA in writology, b) am a real estate Broker in New England which means cutting edge, pushing the envelope, leading innovation (I’m sorry I meant to say ‘the place where if it is less than 200 yo then wait a while see if it is a fad’, c) I do work in the ‘distressed property’ segment of the business.

    As a ‘garage band blogger’ your ‘Life and Times…’ is something of an example of the fun of blogs (as I imagine it) (when I am not screaming at the keyboard, ‘words! give me new words!)

    Thanks for a good read.


    • renaissanceronin October 24, 2009 at 1:15 pm #

      Hi Clark,

        Thanks for the praise.

      Honestly, I’m just saying out loud, what some readers are already thinking. Some readers like it… and some readers should probably change the channel.

      Now, I don’t usually talk to “Realtors…” but if you play nice, I’ll let you stay… :)

      Good luck with your blog!


  2. clarkscottroger October 24, 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    Thank you.

    The art of the creative (blog) process is the main drive for me, although the subject matter is of more than a little interest to me in my (professional) life.

    My experiences in throwing surprise change of address parties adds a certain poignancy to the reading your blog.

    Keep up the good work!


    • renaissanceronin October 24, 2009 at 9:15 pm #

      Hmmmmm… Ronin said , while reading between the lines…

      I make it a point not to try and understand “art” in any form. It just gives me a headache.

      And do you have a part time job as a “foreclosure agent?”

      “Surprise! You’re changing your address! Marshall, do your duty and padlock the doors!” ??

      Sheessh… some Realtors will do anything to get a listing… ;)

      Remind me to sic the dawg on you, should you show up at my house…

      I named her Sarah, after that “Palin” character… cuz’ she’s dangerous, and she’s a threat to any environment you put her in… :)


  3. ecotahoe July 9, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    “At the risk of sounding ridiculous, a true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”
    Ernesto “Che” Guevarra.
    Nice blog-o boy-o. It’s good to know that i’m not alone out here. Big Walls-check, shipping container house underway- check, young son- check, wife’s cancer cured-check, Kick your dog for me, i hate that bitch!-

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