Saturday, March 19, 2005

Office Space

NTodd had the guts to put up a picture of his home office space, and I commented that it looked "like a goat went through the buffet line at CompUSA and then exploded." Snarky, yes, but some people work well in a space like that. Considering the output NTodd gets from that Hell's Mouth of clutter, I'm doubly impressed.

I can't work in a mess. It's not that I'm a neat-freak, but I like things organized and presentable at work and at home. In most of the places I've lived I've had a designated space that's been considered the "office." In the last few places it's been the second or third bedroom, and in the last ten years I've acquired furnishings that are actually designed to be used for the home office. I'm not sure if it adds to the productivity, but at least I can (usually) find things when I need them, and if people come over I don't have to shut the door. (The closet is another matter -- Fibber McGee would be proud.) I've not always been that way -- there was a point when I was in grad school where my office looked like NTodd's, and I incorporated it in the set description of my play Can't Live Without You:
It is a quiet May morning in the home of DONNY HOLLENBECK. This is a nice house on a quiet stretch of beach in the Florida Keys. It is not a fancy home and the furnishings are not too modern, but they’re well appointed and the walls are clean and brightly painted. We are in the living room. The furniture is tropical – rattan or bamboo – and there are the usual decorative touches of a house in the tropics: floral prints on the walls and bamboo blinds on the windows and doors. In the center of the room is a couch, chairs, and coffee table combination with a standing lamp and magazines – “Caribbean Travel & Life,” “The New Yorker,” “Architectural Digest” – on the table. There is a TV set on a stand in one corner of the room, and a bar set-up on a rolling cart. Upstage center is an open French door that leads out to a patio. Patio furniture, including a small outdoor café-style dining table and chairs, can be seen outside, and the background is the sky, which is bright blue and clear. There’s also a door Stage Right that leads off to the patio. Stage Left leads to the rest of the house. Upstage right is an office area in the corner of the room consisting of a desk, bookshelves, desk lamp, and a desktop computer with a printer. This area is in contrast to the rest of the room: the desk is old, beat-up, and cluttered with papers, books, files, newspapers, coffee mugs, pencils, pens, office supplies, and a telephone. The bookshelves are cheap, packed with old books of every type, in disarray, and somewhere in the middle of it is a stereo system. In short, this area is a messy corner of an otherwise neat space.
My current office does not look like that, but it is a reflection of me just as any other living space, and as I look around as I write this, it says what's important to me.

I have a large Georgian-style desk that was acquired from Office Depot; it's part of the Sauder Executive series, and I have the matching computer credenza with bookshelves and storage spaces. I also have three matching bookshelves out in the main room of the house that serves as the main library and three short bookcases in here for additional books, the stereo, and a printer stand. There are pictures on the wall; two of Northport Point, Michigan: one is an aerial photo taken in the late 1950's of this beautiful little peninsula, and the other is a watercolor of the Stony Point bridge. There are also my diplomas -- all four of them, ranging from high school through grad school. Interestingly, the size of the diplomas is in inverse proportion to the amount of time I spent at each school. The smallest is from the private school where I spent eleven years and the largest is from the University of Minnesota, where I did my masters in a little less than two. I spent a lot of money getting the first three framed, but when it came to my last one, my Ph.D. from CU, I found a simple frame at K-Mart, I think. There are posters from plays I've written or directed, and one from the William Inge Theatre Festival of 2001, which I bought at the silent auction last year because it was the year we honored Lanford Wilson, my friend and subject of my doctoral studies. There's also a framed rendering of the set for the 1971 University of Miami production of The Beaux' Stratagem, designed and directed by my friend whom I refer to fondly here as The Old Professor. It was the first play I was in at UM -- I was a freshman -- and it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

There's a beautifully hand-carved cedar rocking chair from Nicaragua in the corner that's on permanent loan from a friend. It lends a touch of tropical charm, lightness and grace to an otherwise dark tone of the furniture. The bookshelf next to it has my collection of car books, and on top is a wooden hand-carved fiddler crab I picked up in Jamaica, a painted mallard decoy duck, and a whimsical piece of cut glass that looks like the hot rod from Grease.

The bookshelves that surround the computer have knick-knicks and mementos: pictures of the mountains in Colorado including Longs Peak, a picture of Sam, a picture of me standing on the deck of a house in Colorado taken in May 1983 when I weighed all of 150 pounds, which was sixty pounds ago. There's a foot of snow on the deck and on the trees behind me -- it snows late up in the mountains. There's another shelf with mugs from the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (1987 and 1988) and the Inge Festival. There are miniature flags from almost all the countries I've visited and my old collection of pipes from when I smoked tobacco. A row of model cars is parked on one shelf -- a 2002 Thunderbird, a 1965 Mustang, a classic woody wagon, and a 1950's tow truck (probably there to get the woody).

Behind glass doors there's a special collection: trophies from my sailing-racing days with my dad when I was a kid; my medal from the 1972 American College Theatre Festival in Washington, DC; my high school letter for basketball -- I was a manager; the door knocker off our old house; my NOLS pocket notebook that was my diary of the trip that became the basis for my first play; gifts from foreign countries from my late grandmother and my parents; a hand-blown Christmas ornament made by my late cousin, and other little trinkets that mean nothing to anyone else but me -- an eagle feather given to me by an Indian that I carried in my cars for good luck, a rock from the summit of Longs Peak, and a little wooden box with two rings in it that used to signify something very dear and now are gentle reminders of a time now past.

I keep the desktop pretty neat. There's a deskpad calendar, an in-box that collects miscellany, and a brass letter opener that I got as a graduation present.

I've also found room for a small TV, a VCR, and a phone and the answering machine. Considering the amount of time I spend in here, it's a surprising I don't have a microwave oven and a bed. Maybe if I had more room...

I'd be interested in hearing what your space is like. What does it look like, and what do you think it says about you?


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