25 November 2008

Johnny Cash and the Digital Underground Butter My Bread

“I’m thankful that God has inspired me to want to write, and that He might possibly use me to influence somebody for the good, if I can see the opportunities through the smokescreen of my own ego.”
- Johnny Cash, quoted from Cash: The Autobiography

“Well, yeah, I guess it's obvious, I also like to write.
All ya had to do was give Humpty a chance
and now I'm gonna do my dance.”
-Shock G, aka Humpty Hump, The Humpty Dance

I am an architect by profession (or rather, that is my job; big difference there!) and have been one for 19 years, not counting 5 years of larnin’ to be an architect. I wanted to be an architect ever since the seventh grade, when I decided one sunny day that is what I wanted to be when I grew up. No question about it. I decided that in part because I was convinced that architects built houses for a living, which is something I was fascinated with. With that in mind, I kept my nose to the academic grindstone as it were, and did well enough to get accepted to the only school that I wanted to attend. No names, but it was in state, in the mountains and is big. I left the Big School with my B.Arch in hand and was ready to get out there and start designing houses; I had a plan!

As a famous general once said “No plan survives contact with the enemy” (or something very much like it), and in my case Reality was the enemy. The problem was I did not realize that for a long, long time. Roughly 15 years, actually. 15 years is a long time to keep butting heads with the stubborn facts in front of you; 15 years is a LONG time to do anything. I learned in that time that architecture, as wonderful as it can be, is not an easy profession. Most architects do not design houses as their main source of income, most architects are not and never will be the next I.M. Pei or Frank Gehry (I certainly won’t), and there is generally a low compensation-to-effort ratio. In a lot of ways, you really have to love it to want to stick with it. I thought I did. I told myself I did, for many, many years. I did a pretty good job of distracting myself: by God, I was going to be an architect! It took a serious, serious tragedy to snap its fingers in my face and shout “HEY!” to get my attention.

The premature birth and subsequent early death of my twin daughter and son in 2003 was a cosmic frying pan to the face. Those events truly knocked me off my pins. I started a journal in the NICU (one of the nurses strongly suggested I do it; she blessed me!) and have kept it ever since. It was one of a very few things that offered me a rope of sanity out of a hellhole of despair. I truly believe it helped save my life. Writing gave me a grip on the world, made me feel a lot better about everything. It made me feel at home.

Thick-headed I am (why am I channeling Yoda?), and I failed to see the painfully obvious. Writing was something I really enjoyed, seemed to have some skill in it, and it fit perfectly with my temperament. People were asking me if I was a writer. How many clues did I really need to convince me that, while architecture did me some good and paid my bills, maybe what I should be doing is WRITING? The kicker came just recently when I was reading Johnny Cash’s autobiography and had been listening to “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground. Not at the same time, mind you. Just around the same general time frame. Hey, I sense a good mash-up in there somewhere.

Johnny Cash and Humpty Hump spoke the TRUTH to me. They opened my eyes to the possibility that was right in front of me for years and years. Architecture has been my bread for a long time now, but I want butter to go with it. The words on this page and all the others I have laid down, my friends, are the BUTTER. Mmm, Mmm, Mmm! Anyone want to dance?


  1. Dude, butter it like you were a teenager and not 40ish and know what cholestoral is.

  2. Ummmm....butter, on biscuits with Karo syrup...yummm...what were you saying?

    On a serious note, I'm so sorry for your loss. I did not know that about you. (and how would I since I just started reading you).

    Go with your heart.

    And, yes, I did receive your apology. None was needed. I was just confused!

  3. Humpty Hump a.k.a. Shock G a.k.a. Gregory E. Jacobs speaks it like it is.

    Great post. Happy Thanksgiving.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...