I find it hard to concentrate on writing when I'm traveling. Trains, airports, airplanes...hard to focus surrounded by hundreds of people. I spend my time at these places sketching from art books or magazines. Sometimes, these sketches will even inspire me with ideas for short stories. Here is my sketch log from my last trip to NY and DC. I hope you enjoy it!
Monday, February 25, 2013
"Crawl Space, Architectural Definition: a shallow, unfinished space with a dirt floor beneath the lowest level of a building. Created especially for access to plumbing and wiring. This space is accessible by crawling, its clearance being less than human height."
It was just a job like many others; an old, abandoned public school near downtown Buffalo. Even only a couple of blocks away from City Hall, Buffalo could be a pretty desolate place in winter, almost a ghost town. The City was going to turn this old school into an office building and they needed updated floor plans.
'Everything,' said Laura on the e-mail. 'Plans of every floor, roofs, basements, attics, and crawl spaces.'
Frankie had been freelancing for Laura as a building surveyor for years now. After 9/11 many Architecture firms went down and Frankie had been laid off like thousands of young architects. He was fast and accurate with CAD though; so he scored this opportunity to do free lance building surveys for Laura. She charged handsome fees for these jobs, and paid her surveyors good money, and on time. Frankie enjoyed the freedom, the traveling, and the pay check. Flight to a city for three or four days, sketch and measure, flight back home to draw the whole thing on CAD, e-mail it, get paid.
As he got off the car, the frozen wind cut through his face. 'Nice fucking weather for a roof survey today,' he thought. He was getting older now and would often think that surveying was not the glamorous Architecture career he dreamed about during his senior year in college; but, the money was too good to reject in times like these. A job which could be done in two or three weeks provided comfortable income for a month and a half.
It was the fourth and, hopefully, last day on site. Frankie had to finish the roofs and then one last area at the basement. As he walked the long main corridor, to get to the back staircase, he had the feeling that there was someone else in this building, that he wasn't alone. But, this 250,000 sq. ft. abandoned public school had broken windows; the wind howled through the openings and, old hanging maps and charts fluttered with the draft. Not to mention cats, rats and birds. He eventually got used to all these noises and stopped paying attention to them. Besides, if there was someone else there, it wouldn't be the first time he found a homeless person living in a place like this. They would always stay away from him, hiding, out of fear of being "evicted".
To access the section of roof he needed to survey that morning, he had to walk out a window on the top floor. He then took two steps on the ledge and climbed an old exterior ladder. Once on top, he had to climb over a section of sloped copper roofing which was covered with ice. When he was about to grab the ridge, one of his pens fell off his jacket pocket and he slid down back to the ladder as he tried to catch it. His body was stopped by the old ladder, but he could see the pen falling into the abyss and finally hitting the ground four floors below in the inner courtyard. The whole thing lasted a few seconds, but he felt the sweat pour out throughout his body even in the cold.
He finally made it to the flat section up on top. The wind was strong, and ice was all over the roofing membrane, very tricky. After a few minutes, sketching became painful and difficult. He couldn't work well with the gloves on, so he took them off and the cold penetrated his fingers. Long dimensions were difficult to measure. It was becoming hard for him to see the laser mark across the distance with all the glare on the ice. 'You better get me a big fucking job down in Florida next month, Laura, or I'll kick that irresistible cute little ass of yours,' thought Frankie.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
"Subsótano, Definición arquitectónica: un espacio poco profundo y sin terminar, con piso de tierra, por debajo del nivel habitable más bajo de un edificio. Construido especialmente para acceso a instalaciones eléctricas y sanitarias. Este espacio es accesible arrastrándose, ó de rodillas, siendo su altura menor que la humana."
Era sólo un trabajo como tantos otros; una vieja escuela pública abandonada cerca del centro de Buffalo. Incluso solo a un par de cuadras de la municipalidad, Buffalo suele ser un lugar bastante desolado en invierno, casi un pueblo fantasma. La Municipalidad iba a convertir esta vieja escuela en un edificio de oficinas, y necesitaban planos al día.
'Todo,' había dicho Laura en el e-mail. 'Planos de todos los niveles, techos, sótanos, áticos, y subsótanos.'
Frankie había estado trabajando como contratista independiente para Laura, haciendo relevamientos de edificios por años. Después del 9/11, muchas firmas de arquitectura quebraron y Frankie perdió su trabajo, como miles de arquitectos. El era rápido y prolijo con CAD (Diseño asistido por Computadora); así que consiguió la oportunidad para hacer mediciones de manera independiente para Laura. Ella cobraba honorarios muy altos por estos trabajos, y les pagaba a sus sub-contratados buen dinero y en fecha. A Frankie le caían bien la libertad, los viajes, y los cheques que recibía. Volar a una ciudad por tres o cuatro días, bosquejar y medir, volver a casa a dibujar todo en CAD, enviarlo por e-mail, cobrar.
Al bajar del auto, el viento helado le cortaba la cara. 'Que clima de mierda para andar midiendo techos hoy.' pensó. Ya no era tan joven, y más de una vez pensaba que hacer relevamientos no era la carrera prestigiosa de arquitecto con la que había soñado durante su último año de universidad; pero, el dinero era demasiado como para rechazarlo en tiempos de crisis. Un trabajo que podía realizarse en dos o tres semanas, representaba ingresos para vivir cómodamente un mes y medio.
Era el cuarto, y con suerte, último día en el edificio. Frankie debía terminar de medir los techos y luego una sección que le faltaba en los sótanos. Mientras transitaba el largo corredor principal para llegar a la escalera de atrás, tuvo la sensación que había alguien más en el edificio, que no estaba solo. Pero, esta escuela pública abandonada, de 25.000m², tenía muchas ventanas rotas; el viento soplaba por las aberturas y, viejos mapas e ilustraciones vibraban con la corriente de aire. Sin mencionar a los gatos, ratas, y pájaros que allí anidaban. Eventualmente se acostumbró a estos sonidos y ya no les prestaba más atención. Además, si hubiese alguien más por ahí, no sería la primera vez que se encontraba a un vagabundo viviendo en un lugar así. Siempre se apartaban de él, escondiéndose, por miedo a ser desalojados.
Friday, February 8, 2013
This morning I woke up and I noticed I was dead. I mean, I've had some tough mornings before, but this was fucking ridiculous. Even before I opened my eyes I noticed I wasn't breathing, but that didn't bother me that much, what was really getting on my nerves were those flies coming in and out of my ears. Through the buzzing I could hear a commotion outside my door, something about a foul stench. My mother was already blaming my grandmother for clogging up the toilet again and my father kept yelling at her that the toilet was just fine, and that the smell was coming from somewhere else.
She started banging at my door and yelling at me: 'Misha, get up, you need to go get the plumber!'
'In a minute Mom, I'll be right out.'
I was sluggish, my energy was really low and it took me a while to move my dead limbs. I could finally sit at the edge of my bed when my mother opened the door.
'Misha, what wrong? The smell come from your room!'
'Mom, I don't feel very well this morning.'
'What Misha? You look so pale, I make you some tea. OK?'
'Mom, I don't want any tea, I think I'm dead.'
'Dead tired you mean? You came so late last night, I hear you come in. You drink too much?'
'No Mom, I'm dead, really dead. I'm not breathing.'
'What dead?! What is this? Since when?'
'Just now, I woke up and I was dead.'
'Today?! On your sister's wedding day? Stop joking around Mikhail, get up, I make you tea and you go get Pyotr the plumber.'
'I'm not fooling around mom. I am stiff as a 2x4.'
'You not serious. You don't want to be doctor, you don't want to marry Sophia, and now you wake up dead on your sister's wedding day' my Mom said. 'You embarrass me even today! I will have a talk with your father, we will fix this.'
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