Category Archives: Culture

1.5, 6.5, 4… 12 hours

Do we define friendship in minutes, hours, days, years?

I define it in respect.

Respect for how you live your life. The goals you set… the people you choose to share milestones and misery with…the effortless way you greet me… the confidence I feel when I say I know you.

I set a goal with this house project, I reached out for something that I was not certain I would be able to hold onto… almost like chasing a butterfly…almost too delicate to truely grab and hold… so it is constantly IN and OUT of your grasp. It can be frustrating, and overwhelming.

But I have friends.

Some of whom I knew not what incredible level of commitment they would showcase over the last year and a half …. on my behalf… most of which, I still struggle to feel deserving of.

But yet still… I have friends.

And in a quiet hotel room in Tempe, Arizona… one such friend calms his spirit to a whisper as he prepares himself for his own butterfly. On Sunday, a friend and growahouse patriot, Eric, will endure a twelve hour mystical and physical journey into the limits of his abilities as he begins and completes his first Ironman Race.

  • 2.4 Mile Swim
  • 112 Mile Bike Ride
  • 26.2 Mile Run
  • This Herculean effort is daunting to most, maybe even to Eric…. but like a true growahouse veteran, he will meet it on the battlefield nonetheless.

    If I could make the water more buoyant, the wheels faster, or the tailwind stronger…

    I would.

    Unlike the 450 lb countertop or the impromptu flight of stairs, and despite my strongest desires to help…this is not a burden that I can share with you.

    But I CAN wish you well… I CAN think good thoughts for jersey #277…

    ….and I WILL summon the full breadth of the growahouse spirit and community energy in welcoming you back to its hallowed halls next weekend.

    Good luck tomorrow, old friend. Breathe easy.

    river currents

    I think I started this entry last November on the streets of Denver, Colorado. I had come to the conclusion that my life was way too hectic for me to manage in my current mind state and that trying to manage the madness in “mountain time” was equally as ridiculous. So I’m walking the streets of mile high city and I see a ne’re-do-well couple having an intense argument. It was the kind of argument that made me stop and worry because it looked like it could get violent….. but in my distant and silent anticipation…they were dysfunctionally picture perfect…on mute…they were in the heart of the city quietly and verbally pushing and pulling amidst columns and amphitheatres, and monoliths.

    It made me think.….How do we design public spaces?

    Do we design for breakups? Do we design for mid-day lunches?… for siestas?….for lunches when she said yes to eat with you outside, and the other person you only invited as a buffer unexpectedly cancelled?… Do we design for chance encounters? Do we design for the “good and the bad”… ?

    I walked 4.2 miles last night in my meandering trek home… it was just too nice outside to not keep walking…to not keep moving. I walked across the Sousa Bridge, the Anacostia River breathing heavily below. I stopped midway to look into the black. I noticed, as always, that there are granite benches carved into the bridge, but they face inward… why would I want to look at traffic? I want to look at the river… to feel its pulse and know that it is the life blood of the city that I just traversed….

    Can I design for that?

    For that late night Anacostia River walk on a unexpectedly warm day in Washington…. for my 21-year old Italian past that slept along the Tiber?…. for an honest early morning reflection of an amazing yesterday while on the shores of the Charles?

    Can I design my life to flow with my rivers?

    wipe all four feet at the door, friend

    In strong defiance to the designer dog condominium culture permeating the sleek new corridors, coffee shoppes, and neighborhood parks across the river, growahouse welcomed its first four legged visitor this weekend…

    … in all his well-behaved-not-a-poodle-so-I-can-shed-if-I-want-plus-I-don’t-do-sweaters-but-I-do-speak-hindi-100%-mongrel glory.

    I hope you enjoyed the chicken apple sausage, homie.

    dungyness melody

    A football aficionado I am not. Moreover, I hasten to reveal that I am at best… a person with a fair weather appreciation for the gridiron, (unacceptably offensive Washington DC mascots not withstanding)

    Last night, the Colts, their coach Tony Dungy, and their rainy south Florida victory in the super bowl… highlighted a necessary character trait for which my appreciation is infinite.

    Less is More.

    It is said that at the beginning of the season, Dungy, with a calm and stirringly gentle voice, said to his team… “I want you to pay attention to what I’m saying, because this is as loud as you will hear me speak all season.”

    In essence, it’s the proverbial catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar.

    I spent the latter half of the superbowl nailing 1/4 inch rubber weatherproofing strips to the interior seam of the giant front doors to keep Jack Frost at bay… and as the bitter northeastern cold front chattered the back of my teeth… I thought about less being more… about governance through quiet respect, as opposed to aggressive fear or better yet… thunderous intimidation.

    I feel that in a world where we grow our homes and lives understanding that we have individual responsibility for shared fate… it is the quiet voice that will resonate and sustain long after the loud eco-bandwagon has run its course. Mind you, the aggressive proponents of green living should not be chastised or undervalued… but if we have learned nothing else from inability of the solar panel industry to thrive in America or even from the demise quality hip-hop music… we should know… that eventually momentum fades and mediocrity takes its place.

    Unless… you change the character of people, as well as, their habits.

    Well done, Tony.

    national geographic

    This is a tale of felines, warm winters, and destiny.

    “Its not global warming, its el nino.”

    They lied to you about global warming… so don’t believe the El Nino hype that wearing board shorts mid January is perfectly normal. It was 70 degrees in DC this past weekend… huh?… I watched folks playing ultimate frisbee on The Mall like they were catching a breather during summer session Calc II at GW.

    Its Not Normal… Its Not Good.

    What do five of the last six years have in common?

    The hottest years on record, since they started recording temperature.

    So with my windows open mid January… I’m painting on the first floor and I look out to see one of my friendly backyard cats(white with grey patch) stalking a squirrel in my oak tree. It was nothing short of fascinating. For ten minutes, the cat sat patiently at the bottom of the tree… eager, but stoic in preparation and then as though the veil of silence had been lifted abruptly …potential energy burst into kenetic and the cat was 10 feet in the tree at the squirrel nest in three bounds.

    No Luck.

    The squirrels were quick and as the cat sat in their nest, not triumphant, but somehow accomplished… I couldn’t help but think of another cat… (black, white patch). Struck by a car at the bottom of the block roughly 6 months ago. I have watched, unabated by timely removal and unaided by winter’s snowy promise lost…I have watched this creature slowly and effortlessly unexist.

    During my daily jaunt down to the bus stop, I stop habitually to notice milestones of this gradual procession into the earth. In stark contrast to the vibrant prey-seeking feline that stirred my soul and stopped the progression my painting, this daily reminder exists for several reasons.

  • So that I remember that life is fleeting.
  • So that I understand that all things are connected… all things are… in life and death… connected. One feeds another. One eats, ones becomes food.
  • I mean imagine if the white cat had caught the squirrel, then got hit by the car… the cat and the squirrel would then feed the ground they laid on… together.

  • So that I repeat my most essential question… what do I do, with the time I am given?
  • a new beginning

    Some have undoubtedly been waiting for some new year’s message of encouragement and optimism… a verbal testament to the audacity of hope.


    I have spent the first fortnight of 2007 agressively recording my thoughts. I will start to share some of them with you in a thinly veiled attempt open myself up to you… to be overtly candid…. to be free thinking… and to explore my potential by not hiding my more private emotions. The intent is that by sharing my prose I will get to the core of something within… that will hopefully make me:

    a more dynamic designer…
    a more accountable person…

    and if nothing else…

    a more honest soul…

    I’m not sure what I will unearth… but I think its important for all of us.


    zapatos de navidad

    I awoke this morning in the still of the night. The sun had not yet burst free of its nocturnal bondage and I, alert and engaged, stood on a balcony… in a distant city… wondering if the lights on the houses in the distant view below were symbols of the souls that laid asleep within their walls. Soft yellow hue glowing symbols… subdued energy… peaceful brilliance.

    As the depth of the sky’s darkness crept further into my pajama’d silhouette, I had a phone conversation with a great friend, who like me, was searching for meaning in the morning stillness. The conversation, like the friend, brought some amiable answers to questions… some simple solace to the morning… some purposeful prologue to Christmas.

    As many are aware, I am transitioning my thoughts from growing a house to growing a village. There is a shift in focus that is far more altruistic. It’s less about me, nyahmean? The burgeoning complexity of the transition is, at times, difficult to wrap my brain around. I have not yet completed the house… have not yet matched the reality with the intent and here I am… trying to think about the next step.

    But that is my path… my star in the night.

    In seamless timing with my soul searching, I received as a gift a pair of Starbury sneakers. They came to me at a time when I was looking for simple answers to complicated questions. Typically, sneakers tied to professional athletes cost over $100. This high cost can contribute to additional problems/ persistent inequalities for consumers that face financial hardship, a condition that encompasses a large percentage of the sneakers’ buyers. At $9.98 for mine, an athlete saw an opportunity to break a chain of negative decision making in various communities by simply charging a price for his sneakers that was congruent with the cost of producing them.

    Complex problem…simple answer… exponentially positive results… village growing.

    They’re brilliantly inspiring people out there to help us embrace the answers to the questions that drive us…

    …if only we awake searching.

    Merry Christmas

    3rd bowl of porridge

    So I ventured out last night to find a watering hole that would welcome me into the election night political scene.

    First stop, Capitol Hill.

    So I dip into a politiki hot spot called Hawk & Dove.
    1 minute, 37 seconds later I emerged shaken, but not deterred. It was just WAY too crowded and WAY too monochromatic. I was definitely the sole representative of Team Brown.
    Make no mistakes, I’m all too familiar with “being the diversity” of any given room of two hundred people, but this crowd was just WAY too rowdy and aggressive. It was not a pleasant vibe. Granted, this is capital hill, so they had Election results blaring, charts and diagrams, big screens with talking heads talking their heads off.

    It was DC on Election Night!! You can’t get that anywhere else.

    Second Stop.

    Still in Capitol Hill, I dip into this spot called Pour House.

    Take that first experience and multiply it by 2.
    Needless to say… I spent all of 42 seconds in there and I was homeward bound.

    Third Stop.

    Not to be defeated, after a quick bus ride, I went with an old favorite… Trusty’s.
    Not too far from home, this spot is always tame and relaxed. There were three non-profit type women at the bar and me. It’s the kind of bar that you could imagine being a regular in… Assuming that you are looking to be a regular in a bar.

    They weren’t even playing the election on the TVs. These cats were watching Seinfeld and some basketball game.


    “Hey barkeep, you mind switching the channel on one of these screens to the election…. oh and uh… Can a brother get a half smoke w/ onions sautéed in Bourbon while I check these stats online?


    get your vote on

    I, as I’m sure many of you did, exercised my voting ability this morning for the midterm congressional elections.

    I slept at my parents’ house last night and voted in Maryland. I haven’t “officially” transferred my permanent residency to DC and I decided that today would be a good day to end my civic responsibilities to the Crab State on a positive note.

    What is unfortunate is that moving to Washington, “the cradle of democracy,” means that I no longer have a say in National politics.

    That is not cool.

    DC is all about taxation without representation. I can vote for local politics… mayor… school board… but other than that… and the presidential election…

    I got nuthin.

    Anyway, it is my hope…. nay…. my intent… to find some political hot spot watering hole to hang out in tonight and watch the election results come in. It’s an important night for the city… there are a lot of vested interests at stake with the power structure in congress and I’m gonna watch it go down.

    not for you, darling

    From the desk of growahouse…

    A letter to the “angry” woman on the bus last Tuesday.

    At first I thought that your anger filled words about the city’s changing demographics were the mere rants of a mad woman… the unabridged, volatile cursing of an irritable, misaligned, urban heretic…

    In retrospect, it was a protective instinct in my subconscious that kicked in and inspired that opinion. I wanted to protect the over packed bus riders from your verbal assault… to protect the school age Halloween costumed youths from a bad example of how to engage society… but ultimately to protect myself from having to acknowledge that your poor delivery, does not negate the importance of your message.

    In this city’s the path of change, there are casualties. Those casualties are not numbers, percentages, nor forwarding mail addresses.

    They are people.

    They are you.

    The influx of wealth to your Washington neighborhood, will probably mean, as you stated, that you will be pushed out of your home. I don’t know what form that push will take. It may be economic through property taxes, rent hikes, or physically through new construction. It might just mean that the 1.2M condos on your corner with the Harris Teeter on the first floor will attract more people that aren’t like you and you will be culturally alienated. I don’t know.

    What I do know is that people have more potential to grow and learn in diverse environments. I believe that your neighborhood will benefit from having the full gamut of incomes and cultures represented. Granted, that may not be what happens. Your neighborhood might flip from impoverished to wealthy over night, become a high end monoculture, and miss the boat on diversity all together….. but let’s just say it doesn’t. Let’s say it becomes a diverse social/economic Mecca for various Washingtonians, old and new.

    It still might not be for you, darling.

    And I think that amidst a bus ride of stingingly inappropriate epithets, that was your message. Not that any type of change was inherently bad, but that any type of change… would be your undoing.

    Your pain is not necessarily about the train that’s coming… it’s about the fact that you don’t have a ticket. That is a lot to manage and I can barely imagine how I would respond in your place…. how I would respond if I felt overlooked by everybody around me… even everybody on this bus…
    ….perhaps I would shout so people would pay attention.

    You might have difficultly expressing yourself, but you’re not crazy.

    I understand that now.