Friday, January 20, 2012

A Sense of Style

You wouldn't know it to look at me, but I have a keen sense of style and design. So keen in fact that you might call it acute, acute to the point of allergic.

Yes, I am allergic to style. It's something I work hard to keep under control.

I have to be careful not to look too long at a piece of furniture, a clothing outfit, or a room. Otherwise I start noticing things: design elements that simply are not working; low cost improvements that would dramatically improve operation or effect; leaner and more efficient architectures; colors that would expand, accent, hide or contract.

That's only the beginning. Once I start to pay attention to the design of something, once I see how it could be made better, I begin to obsess. As my mind plays through the improvements, I see opportunities for further enhancement. I mentally break things apart and rebuild them over and over. It gets ridiculous.

So, as someone with drug or alcohol addition does well to avoid drugs or alcohol, I do well to avoid anything that has a specific style or design goal. For example, you might describe our home decor as early eclectic. Everything is orderly and functional, but there's no specific style. If we were to go for a specific style, (modern, Colonial, French Provincial, mach Tutor, Scandinavian or Frank Lloyd Wright), I might never rest. I would become increasingly aware of all the things that were not true to the style. They would keep me awake at night. I start finding inefficiencies in the Frank Lloyd Wright.

I don't own any high-end stereo equipment. I don't contemplate owning any high-end stereo equipment. I avoid stereo stores. I avoid the home entertainment section a Best Buy.

This is unusual for a musician many of whom would rather have a great stereo than food. However, I know what would happen. It's happened before.

I purchase high end components. I get everything set up. I EQ the room. I make sure there are no sound wells and no directly-facing reflective-surfaces. I put on a CD or drop the needle on an LP. It sounds awesome, better than anything I've ever heard.

I listen. I notice something. There's a slight flaw in the reproduction of a bass line I know should have better definition. The presence of the lead vocal is not as strong as it should be. There's a dropout around five kilohertz. I need to get a graphic equalizer.

I tweak. I replace components. I obsess.

I don't listen to music.

So what do I do? I give away my high end system (I've actually given away a few). I head over to Radio Shack. I find a pair of speakers for sixty-nine dollars and a stereo receiver for a hundred. I take them home, plug them in and I'm happy. They sound really good for $169 and are way more enjoyable than the $2500 system.

Generally speaking I avoid high-end anything. I got rid of my Armani and Canali suits. If I need to get "dressed up", I head over to Marshals and see what's in stock. Day-to-day it's black t-shirts and jeans ( though I have a pair of heavy corduroys and some flanel shirts that I don in winter). I had a really nice high-performance Audi that I traded in for a really old pickup truck.

The net is: no allergic reactions. I never think about clothes or furniture or automobiles or home entertainment systems or houses. Nice.

There are three exceptions: my mac, my keyboard and my sax. I'm so intimate with them that I'm unaware of style and variances in quality.

Oh yeah, there's one more. When Iris wants to buy new clothes, I become her personal clothing assistant. We'll wonder around clothing section at Macy's and she'll be disappointed with the selection. She'll pick out a few things and go to try them on. While she's in the dressing room, I run back and forth finding items I think will work for her. Iris dresses and models; I find clothes.

My allergies haven't gone away. I can bring them back in an instant. It's just that, knowing I'm allergic and just how allergic I am, I avoid the allergins.

Happy Friday!

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