I eat like a peasant for breakfast (in honor of my Irish/Swedish farming ancestry) with oatmeal in one bowl and coffee in another (I need quite the dose). My sole joy is when I begin sifting through my wardrobe for the day’s attire. Unlike everyone else, I am not required to dress business casual. So on go the 5-inch running shorts and a colorful T-Shirt. My theory is simple — unrestrictive clothing creates an unrestricted mind. And with so much of my work in the last few weeks revolving around creative design, this has put me in tip-top shape. Hemorrhoids also just makes jeans an uncomfortable choice.
If there were ever any evidence for God, my morning commute would be it. Five minutes friends. Five! So while Angela and I have tried to honor 8:45 as our normal exit time from the lobby of the University Tower, we can push 8:55 easy. Or I’ll be honest and say I push it to 8:55. Angela has just come to respect my struggle for what it is. Depending on how quickly the morning coffee is moving through the system, that 8:55 is a lifesaver.
The Green Garage is our green sanctuary and workplace. Walking in through its doors we are greeted by Matt, the GG’s friendly face and go-to staffer for all things. His chit-chat brightens any bleak day. He also is the last stop before coffee cup number two, so you know good things are on the way. So while I might commend the Green Garage in its unprecedented workplace sustainability initiatives and innovation, the real gold is found in its pots of free-flowing Colombian brew. My stipend would have been long gone if it weren’t for this nectar from heaven flowing like manna from the hands of God. Half and Half? Check. Sugar or alternative Agave Nectar? Check. Extra large mugs? Check. Happy Bryce? Give it 20 minutes to metabolize, then Check.
Rump placement is the most telling feature when it comes to our daily productivity. Style of chair, availability of open space, and ample light are all questions of personal placement. Angela and I found out the hard way early on that the fun-looking cubbies spaces are really just torture chambers with benches harder than diamonds and no way to lean back. So we moved on to the large, open tables in the middle of the green garage. This “communal space” brings us a new slew of friends every day, though we also have a couple regulars that we can rely on for the usual smile. These include Yiting, an intern at LivingLabs, and Matt, who is not the same Matt as the one at the front desk but definitely does some cool jazz.
Angela and I are telepathic. Err, we’re not nearly there yet but I think we’ve gotten down to saying as little as 2 and a half words and still fully understanding what we meant/needed/are suggesting. It’s quite the skill to have, especially in the morning when neither of our coffees are at their full caffeinating capacity.
Being an office-rat isn’t bad as long as you’re fed a steady supply of cheese (metaphorically speaking). And that we are. While most of the day is spent inside working on graphic designs, cinematography projects, or reaching out to local food entrepreneurs, this work never gets old due to surprises. Normally “surprise” is just a code-word for free food. And there’s been a lot of that. Chocolate covered strawberries, blueberry muffins, rice pilaf, kale salad, sea salt caramel chocolate chip cookies, Mitten Bites (one of DFA’s own products), leftovers — the list goes on and on. As soon as Angela gives me the nudge, I know there’s a new treat in the glass jar. And the treat usually comes in time for my coffee refill.
Aside from being telepathic, Angela and I are like an old married couple. We take turns serving each other tea, sharing food, even taking back the dishes. While some might call it cutsie, we both just think of it as pragmatic. It also just gives you a couple extra flutters in your heart to do something nice on a consistent basis.
By now you can probably tell that most of my workday really just revolves around thinking about and eating food. That’s why lunch time is so great. It combines my two favorite things — people and food! Out from the caves of their office cubbies, the “businesses in residence” emerge, moved to action by their human impulse for a meal. Jovial and free, Angela and I join tables full of folk ready to talk. With 53 businesses in residence, the conversations are never dull.
Our last and most recent work project gave us the opportunity to explore Detroit’s eclectic foodscape. Motor City has become home to numerous food entrepreneurs, some immigrating from Brooklyn or elsewhere, and but most actually being homegrown. The DFA partners with 12 of these innumerable food entrepreneurs/restaurants. These “Mentor Organizations” give the DFA’s students a real world scene in which to apply their learned skills, as well as to learn the particulars of running a business and whatever other specialties their Mentor organization has in mind. That being said, we’ve stepped foot in two homey diners, one sausage factory, a thick-cut potato chip fryer, an all natural jam kitchen, an aquaponics facility where the tilapia were happy to see us, a sprawling urban farm, a pop-up sushi event, and a bakery where buttery goodness crumbled under the savory chomp of our molars. The power, though, of these businesses isn’t just in their flavorful food but in their stories. Stories sell. Stories also offer perspective and a sense of common purpose. Each of these food businesses consciously chose to begin their stories in the city of Detroit. Their narratives include a common desire to rebuild the city, to employ themselves and others, to operate under a more “social business” model that benefits a community larger than themselves, and to follow through on their own culinary passions.
The day ends at 5 sharp. Off go the already casual clothes for the even more casual gym attire. I sweat. I get swole. I go home and eat my tilapia. Maybe turn a few pages of Gatsby. But most importantly, I prepare for Catan.
Catan isn’t just a board game. Catan is a way of life. It teaches you skills of strategy, diplomacy, patience, economics, and investment. Catan is where the gloves come off and the brass knuckles are put in place. The niceties end and world (errr technically island) domination begins. We play frugally and scrappy. We strive for the 1:1 trade ratio, only offering up two wood for one wheat when times are desperate. There was once a time where I had the longest win streak. But David stripped me of that title long ago, with him now brandishing the almost almost unbeatable streak of 4. That’s both a UAV and a Care Package in Call of Duty speak.
If the night is young, I binge on Vimeo documentaries and pictures of my homeland — aka California. Last one to rise, and last one to sleep, the light is always left on my bedroom. Chris officially wins the title of best roommate ever because of that. He never wants me walking into an unlit room thudding my foot on a stray sneaker. He even wears an eye mask to keep out the bright, energy-efficient blare of the LED. Goodnight.