Sunday, November 16, 2008


I’ve taken a full-time job and shut down my business. Apparently, the economy’s gotten so bad that a former high-end graphic design firm has taken in a bunch of former freelance designers in order to pool resources. It’s a sort of design cooperative, known unofficially as The Firm. We all contribute our computers, art supplies, office equipment and so on. We share our skills and client contacts, splitting the cost of rent for the office space from our combined commissions. We receive room and board in return, a little spending money, and have access to other member equipment and expertise.

The building is a rambling 1920s storefront with exposed brick interior walls, in a downtown neighborhood. It was once upscale and fancy, but it’s a bit run down these days. There’s a room in front which used to be a reception area. It’s been converted to a conference room for client meetings. Behind it are individual offices for co-op members. Bedrooms, a kitchen and living spaces are at the rear of the building... we call that “the dorm.” I have a small, cluttered bedroom back there.

It’s lunch time. Something special has happened. I don’t remember exactly what, but it seems to have something to do with a lucrative new contract. Instead of eating in the co-op kitchen, everyone has gathered at a nearby diner. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a nice break from our routine.

I’m in a booth with some friends, ready to order, when an old man comes in with a couple and their infant. They’re carrying the baby in a beat up yellow car seat. They’re poor and disheveled and the old man -- a sort of carnival hawker -- grandly announces a “spellbinding big show for your dinning pleasure!” The couple move through the diner collecting donations. This bothers me. It feels invasive and I tell my friends that we should leave. “There’s a mediterranean deli across the street,” I say. “The food’s great. Let’s go eat there.”

No one else wants to leave. A co-op member tells me to ‘chill.’ He’s a tall, good-looking guy in a pale blue denim shirt. “It’s just like going to the movies!” he says.

“No,” I reply. “No, it isn’t. If I go to the movies, I’m making a choice. I choose to go to the movies, decide which movie I want to see, and buy a ticket. They’re trying to guilt me into paying for something I didn’t request. It’s completely different.”

I get up alone to leave. As I pass the old man, I turn to him and say, “This is bull shit.” He doesn’t skip a beat... he continues to pitch his captive audience.

Outside, I see a man and a woman on their bicycles. They’re wearing colorful bike togs and there’s a dog with them, following along on a leash. The dog’s really cute... a tan and white mutt with a cheerful disposition.

“What a great dog!” I say to them. “What’s his name?”

“We just found him,” the woman replies. “We haven’t named him yet.”
I’m wearing a black T-shirt with the word “Bleaker” printed in white garamond book condensed type.

The woman looks at it and says, “That’s great! We’ll call him Bleaker! Hi, Bleaker! What a good dog!” Bleaker wags his tail and smiles.

I laugh and say, “How’s your ride going? Where are you riding today?”

“Oh, my legs are so tired,” the woman replies. “I better get used to it. We’re riding all the way around the world. We signed up all these sponsors and we’re donating all the money to charity.”

“That’s fantastic!” I say. “Do you have a website were you’re posting photos and stories? I’d love to follow your progress.”

“Well, we do have a site,” the man tentatively says, “but we don’t really know how to build it... so it’s not very good.”

“What’s the domain?” I ask.

He pulls a manilla envelope out of his backpack, writes something on it, and hands it to me. It reads “”.

“Listen,” I say, “I’m a designer. I’m broke, so I can’t make a donation... but maybe I can help fix up your site. That could be my donation.”


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