I Wanna Rock, pt. 1

Crazy week, crazy weekend. I won’t bore you with the details, but after successive days of an NBA playoff game in Atlanta and the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, I got an eyeful of Americana. Based on those experiences, unfortunately, I do not have high hopes for the future of humanity. Rather than dwell on that, I have decided to spin a yarn for you. While this true story focuses on design and is set in Chattanooga, it is a departure from the typical C.Rushing post. 

UPDATE: Some of you might have caught the pop culture reference in the title- 1988's monster hip-hip track "It Takes Two" by Rob Base & D.J. EZ Rock. Minutes after my post went live, I read that EZ Rock had passed away, aged only 46. That's very sad, but hat's off to him for leaving us this.

Hello, my name is C.Rushing, and I have a problem. For the rest of life I will be battling this obsession, but I get stronger with every passing day. I offer a sordid account of my battle with dependence and my struggle for redemption. One plays with fire when reminiscing about their demons, but I feel compelled to tell the story. At the worst of times I was in to the heavy stuff- the LC3 lounge chair, the Eileen Grey table, the Corbusier dining table, Moeller chairs, and indeed, the granddaddy of them all- the 50th Anniversary edition of the Eames lounge chair with Santos Palisander veneer. I was a furniture junkie.

To fully understand my struggle, one must go back to the beginning. I was born into La-Z-Boy addiction. I suppose it can be traced back to infancy when my PaPa would spend hours rocking me in his avocado-colored, pleather, rocking recliner. For as long I can remember I needed to rock- I had to rock. I rocked so hard that after PaPa passed, I wore out his chair, and the two replacement rocker recliners that BaBa (the classic enabler) provided me as I grew into an adult. I was raised in a good and decent family. My family appreciated the value of the odd antique, the timelessness of classic style, and took a prudent approach to budgeting for home furnishings. Aside from my seemingly innocent dabbling in rocking, the furniture scene at home was benign.

How it all began

Like many others, I experimented a bit in college. Architecture school gave me the first taste of forbidden fruit- modern furnishings. Look at this Mies van der Rohe chair. How about a little Bertoia, everyone’s doing it. Try the Noguchi, a little bit won’t hurt. My time out west gave me an opportunity to kick the rocking habit for a few years, but my irrepressible desire merely lie dormant. Upon returning to the south for graduate school and settling in on the plains, I moved in with a roommate who had a smart condo in quiet neighborhood. He also had a La-Z-Boy. I used his chair, sparingly at first, but with increasing frequency over time to the point that I used it more than he did. After some months my steady rocking destroyed both the chair and our friendship. I made amends as best I could on both counts, yet I was again a slave to the chair.

Upon my graduation and subsequent move to Chattanooga, my stepfather (another classic enabler) bought me a La-Z-Boy of my own. The grey-mauve fabric upholstered beauty sucked me in and didn’t let go. I rocked day and night. I would wake early for the sole purpose of rocking before work. Instead of meeting my friends for drinks after work, I lied to them and to myself in order to get back to my hovel of a studio apartment at the Pink Building where I would commence to rock myself to sleep.

It was during this time that I met my future bride. She was a good and decent woman who lived in a respectable and inconspicuously appointed duplex in an emerging nook of North Chattanooga. My desire to spend time with her was so intense that it loosened the grip of the chair. As we grew to spend more time together, it was done so at hers. I was frightened that she would discover my secret- would she still be interested in me if she knew that I rocked? Over time, the inevitability of her discovery became apparent. She would visit the Pink Building from time to time, and sit with me as I rocked. The rocking clearly made her uncomfortable. She often commented that she couldn’t even look at me while I rocked, as the motion induced dizziness and nausea. Yet she returned time and again. Love makes powerful excuses.

Our relationship blossomed, and eventually we moved in together and were married. There was no serious discussion about the furniture. She accepted me for who I was and with the obvious furniture baggage that I carried. This tacit approval of my vice was another form of enabling, one that would have a profound impact on our relationship and my continued journey down the path of furniture dependence.

Oh, the shame.

The obsession grew to impact life outside of my four humble walls. Such was my state that I repeatedly swapped chairs at my office with co-workers in a vain effort to find one with any semblance of a rocking motion. This continued until the City became another unwitting accomplice with their creation of the Development Resource Center. The DRC, appointed as new buildings are with new contract furniture, became the new home of the Design Studio. My new seat was a Herman Miller Aeron C, not a rocker mind you, but a pleasure to sit in. Of more interest to me, however, was the seating in the waiting area. Our guests would be treated to none other than the Eames molded plywood lounge chair. This was a piece that I had only seen on the pages of architecture history books. This piece also sparked an intense jealousy. If I could have this type of seating at work, why can’t I have it…at home.

To Be Continued...


Sweet and Sour

The past two weeks have been full of highs and lows. The ill wind of failure swept down from up north, but a breath of fresh air from England and the warm glow of Augusta’s sun helped soften the blow. Despite more than forty years of practice, I still have issues with accepting defeat. On the bright side, nothing other than my pride got broken and my fit of cussing was no worse than it is during a college football game. The upshot of that little affair is that my groove has been interrupted and I’m still trying to get my head back in the game.

Writing is typically the first casualty of disruptions in my routine. Rather than waiting for the fickle muse of inspiration to return, however, I’ve decided to keep churning out posts until I chase the bastard down. While the blog concerns itself with urban design and our fair city, I suspect that I will venture afield for the next few weeks- or at least until I’m back in my happy place. This week, I’m getting back on the horse to offer thoughts sour and sweet.

On Failure – The Sour

 Anyone who has been on the internet lately knows that failure is in vogue. The world is awash in articles by “innovators” extolling the virtues of failing. The gurus extol the virtue of failure as an opportunity to learn and get better, which theoretically leads to success in the future. Failure can also be a motivator – a la Michael Jordan’s pitiable approach. There is no glory in the act of failing, however, only the potential for redemption in the aftermath. The unfortunate reality is that while there are often opportunities for learning and growth, there are also times when failure is a dead-end. I hate losing. I am unfortunately inclined to wallow in my failures for extended periods. I have come to conclusion that I embrace failure, not necessarily as an opportunity to get better, or as a motivational tool, but because I enjoy feeling the failure.

On The Masters – The Sweet
In the broad variety of human endeavor there exists a “world-class” level of excellence. Some achieve standards that are unequaled anywhere around the globe. The world is a big place, and most common people don’t get the opportunity to experience the world class very often. As a very common person, this is especially true for me. Last year, however, I hit the lottery. Not the one that awards millions of dollars, but the one that grants admittance to a world-class event. I was drawn for tickets to The Masters. If you enjoy sports, this is arguably the greatest fan experience in the world. The venue is breathtaking, comfortable and generous, the crowd is well-behaved and knowledgeable, everyone working there is focused on serving the patrons, food and drink are good and reasonably priced, and even the restroom experience is a lesson in efficiency.

The grounds are amazing. The areas devoted to the galleries have grass that would put the greens of any golf course to shame. I would not be surprised to learn that each square foot of the course has it’s own groundskeeper who cuts each blade individually with tiny little shears. There are no gaps, no brown spots, and no weeds, just a tightly cropped, uniformly saturated emerald blanket. I could go on at length about the place- about how each of the tall pine trees has its own lightning rod, about how no blade of grass would dare grow out of place, and about how the pine needles even seem to know their place. Perfection may be not obtainable, but Augusta National is pretty damned close.
Who the hell allowed that stray leaf on the fairway? Shocking.
While the stage that is the golf course slowly evolves in rhythm with the timeless cycles of nature, the cast of players rotates from day to day and year to year.  In addition to dozens of the best golfers in the world, we got to see the great Alabamian Condoleezza Rice working the green on one of the par threes, we got to see a pink-haired Caroline Wozniacki caddying for her boyfriend, and (speaking of timeless) we got to see the threesome of Nicklaus, Player and Palmer play through.

This was my second visit to what are arguably the most hallowed grounds in the South. As Michelangelo freed Moses from his marble cocoon, Jones and McKenzie coaxed a masterpiece from the east Georgia forest. Southerners recognize the pine forest, it occupies a place in our collective memory. The monument of the course testifies to the undeniable quality of the place, but also tantalizes us with the idea that there exist innumerable other special places slumbering in their own cocoons in Mississippi, in Georgia, in South Carolina, in Alabama. Augusta National belongs to Georgia, but the promise of the place belongs to us all.

Yes, selfies at The Masters are bush league, but I couldn't resist.

I am conflicted about whether or not the return to “real life” from a world-class experience is good or bad. Would one not want to constantly experience excellence in all of life’s endeavors? Yet if one experienced nothing but life’s finest, would the joy of exceptionalism lose its spark?  Must we endure the mundane to appreciate the sublime? Is despair necessary for joy? What is the thrill of victory without the agony of defeat?

What is the sweet without the sour? Is feeling failure necessary to appreciate success?


Nothing to See Here

For my thoughts this week, please Advance to the Benwood Blog... (unfortunately, you cannot collect $200)