January 2013


I recently went on a colorfully fun trip to Mexico City (D.F. as those in the know call it) which was meant to be the subject of my blog, but ironically, I’m writing to you of the flat and “bland” states of Kansas and Nebraska. States which usually get the reaction “oh, I’ve driven through there” when I am asked where I’m from. I go home every year for the holidays to be with my family and to confirm to them in the flesh that I do, in fact, still exist somewhere. Plus, I suspect they are a bit offended when I go elsewhere to travel.

Rather than gifts, I took my family members out to do fun stuff (time with me is better than new toys right?). I was surprised to beat my 17 year old bowling team brother at his own game, in a fluke of consecutive spares and strikes that is surely never to be repeated in my lifetime. My mom and sis got a fancy dinner of Omaha’s signature steaks. And Dad showed me his new work shop with all its impressive Dad-designed tools.

I decided on a whim to meet up with some friends three hours away in the town I went to college in: Manhattan, Kansas (aka “Manhappenin’” and “The Little Apple”). The whole trip, the radio was playing what I suppose are now “oldies” from the 90s/00s, so it was like I was back in high school and college again, only this time I was in my grandmother’s Oldsmobile. When I arrived, my eight friends and I were a rowdy group getting into some college-age shenanigans, which don’t need mentioning on a work website… needless to say, it was like old times again.

I had lunch with my two favorite professors/mentors, who also happen to be married. Wendy Ornelas, who is at the same time a friendly, tiny-framed lady and a headstrong powerhouse who is not to be messed with. A person so similar to Bonnie that I often call one by the other’s name. And Bob Condia, my studio and theory professor, who regardless of whether he is in a classroom or a bar, is constantly posing enigmatic questions which generate either puzzled faces or inspired conversation, both of which I suspect he appreciates in equal measure, but for opposite reasons. We had a lovely lunch that I wish could have lasted longer… let’s have 3 more beers and talk some more architecture and neuroscience!

I felt most nostalgic as I wandered by myself around Seaton Hall, home of the College of Architecture Planning and Design, and my late night home for 5 years. It was incredible to come around a corner and have my brain light up with some crazy memory I hadn’t accessed in years. Favorite classes. Projects I hated. Projects I loved. Models built while half asleep powered on Pepsi, gummy bears, and waning willpower. Shooing away goofball friends trying to interrupt a structures study session. Late night games created around the destruction of some crappy abandoned model. So often, being exhausted but inspired and excited in studio was more like being drunk than anything else. I visited my very first studio, where I met my first two college friends, who I am still close with and amazingly enough, were among those with me on this trip. Ah, the younger years.

Having my Mexico and Kansas/Nebraska trips so close together left me feeling that exploration of new places grows one’s mind and future, but at the same time one can’t (and shouldn’t!) escape the self that represents where they come from. So call me a bland base with colorful topping. But I’ll kick your butt in a cardboard sword fight. In a tornado. Take that.