The Student in the Architecture Building

Last spring, my homework was to people-watch and write about it. This is who I saw:

It takes him 45 seconds to comb his hair in the morning, to achieve that perfect, windswept arch. Quick but calculated, a little bit of gel but not too much. To him, it's an art---just like the sculpture he is observing, just like the next building he is constructing in his head.

Art, like the carefully tailored seam on his jeans but not jeans---a little fancier, a little more 1950s convertible-driving young writer; to match his antique watch of course, probably a grandfathers.

He moves with the fluidity of a carefully trained internal metronome. Some today might call it swagger, to him, it's how a gentleman walks. He leans casually against a chalkboard in thought, percolating, his body built like one of those slim pilots from the tin-type war pictures, posing with their planes before takeoff.

The chalkboard thought has left him, he has a coffee meeting over blueprints to get to. He straightens and walks from the room, head tilted slightly to the side as if perpetually interested in the air in front of him.

11 Days as an Honorary Mississippian

 Sam Kendricks, pole vault, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Sam Kendricks, pole vault, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

My friends always roll their eyes at the stock of gratuitous track knowledge I carry around and occasionally spew, but it was put to good use (4 college credits, 12 bylines, unlimited media access) while I reported at the 2016 Olympic Trials at Hayward Field.

For a week and a half in July I was one of eight University of Oregon journalism students who represented the SOJC Track Bureau at the trials. We freelanced for publications across the US who were not able to send their own reporters to Eugene to cover athletes from their state. I wrote mostly for The Clarion-Ledger out of Jackson, MS, with some additional stories published in The Arizona Republic, DyeStat, the Hattiesburg-American, and on the SOJC Track Bureau's website.

 Brittney Reese, long jump, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Brittney Reese, long jump, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

 
 
 Tori Bowie, 100 and 200 meters, Mississippi State alum and Olympic qualifier.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Tori Bowie, 100 and 200 meters, Mississippi State alum and Olympic qualifier. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

 Erica Bougard, heptathlon, Mississippi State senior.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Erica Bougard, heptathlon, Mississippi State senior. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

 

I've been to track meets as an athlete, as a spectator and as a volunteer, but this was my first time working in the media tent. While sports reporting is not my preferred corner of the journalism world, being able to write, discuss, and observe track and field from a more critical perspective enhanced my concern and interest in important issues that aren't always apparent from the stadium. There's the touchy discussion about whether Nike keeps the sport afloat or smothers its growth and diversity through an exclusive, 23-year deal with USATF; campaigns against the International Olympic Committee's policies on an athlete's right to promote themselves during the Olympics; numerous disputes about logos; and of course doping.

But the most important takeaway: 10-hour days in the media tent require QUALITY snacks. If any apple-chip or fruit snack companies want to sponsor the SOJC Track Bureau during the next trials, let me know. Thankfully, Rule 40 doesn't apply to reporters, so we can give you shoutouts on social media.

Links to some of my stories below, plus my favorite intro I wrote from the week:

 

Hayward Field held its breath during each of her jumps. Mississippi's Brittney Reese stood at the top of the long jump runway, her mirrored glasses reflecting the sun back to the crowd. As her torso leaned back in preparation, she wiggled her fingers in an air guitar-like fashion—as if beckoning to the pit, willing some of what the athletes call that Hayward magic to rise to the surface of the sand.

She said she can feel it when there’s a big jump coming. Her blood gets running. She’s done it in practice. She wants to break the American and world records before she retires.

Before the third jump Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, a tribute to long jump record-holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee flashed up on the video board. And with Joyner-Kersee watching, Reese soared. The crowd rose with her hands.

It was the longest jump in the world this year. It meant a Hayward field record, a meet record and a place on the Olympic team.

Read the rest of the story here.

Other good ones:
Immigrants represent USA at trials
Former long jumper going to Rio in 100 and 200m
All photos taken by fellow UO student Dillon Vibes, more here. 

Word Art 002

 

"All the grays and yellows. The concrete cubes of Queens. The broken neon signs. The leaning water towers with their rotting wood. The spindlework of the elevated trains. It's a primitive city, aware of its shortcomings, its shirt stained, its teeth plaqued, its fly open."

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Photo adapted from Vincent Desjardines, used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Ghost Employment

If I wasn't a writer, I'd be an architect. 

This, I have always been sure of. 

While I may have dressed up as a reporter for Halloween as a child, I was likewise obsessed with architecture modeling kits, and my favorite book in middle school was The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett--a mystery novel about coded messages left within the intricate windows of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In high school, my senior thesis centered around theories from Alain de Botton's The Architecture of Happiness.  

So this has become one of my go-to questions to ask people: What would you be if you weren't a [insert job here]? If that career wasn't available to you, what would you have studied instead?

Some answers are revealing. These unopened doors hold hidden interests, dreams that lost out on a roll of the dice, parallel ghost lives that hover untouched in the peripherals of their respective humans.

Although my childhood architectural interests lost out to a stronger fascination with words, I see still see it governing from afar. It surfaces in my desire to create tangible things with my stories. Physical spaces to house my works.

My words are my building materials, in the same way that four walls are also a story.

Featured below: creations from my original favorite, Frank Lloyd Wright. 

All photos used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. From top to bottom, photos by: Kyle MagnusonSandra Cohen-RoseMike Linksvayer, (Hollyhock House, LA). Ronald BellezaRob HursonRob Pongsajapan, (Robie House, Chicago).

Word Art 001

 

"Let's begin with his pickup truck. It's green, it runs, its windshield wipers don't squeak. Those are the nicest things you could say about it.

Otherwise, it's noteworthy only for what it contains in the cab, namely, a world. Peter Bacho's world. A quick look-around will give you clues to everything you need to know about the man. Immediately, you might notice his world needs vacuuming."

Alex Tizon for The Seattle Times, "Peter Bacho Writes for the Same Reason He Fights--To Keep a Connection to His Past" 

That Hayward Magic

Never have I gotten so many "excuse me, what are you doing?" comments then when carrying my audio equipment around a track meet. That might partially be because a "shotgun microphone" is aptly named, but also maybe because it's not everyday someone tries to capture the magic of Hayward Field in pure audio form. 

In preparation for a longer journalistic audio piece I'm doing on the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer, I played around with some track sounds for my sound design class:  

Program: Kyma
Tools: Tascam DR-100mkII
Mistake: too much wind

My Superpower would be Teleportation

 County Galway, Ireland. Summer 1996.

County Galway, Ireland. Summer 1996.

You see girl and mother

I see summer and wishing wells and fields that grew smaller as I grew older.  

I hear the morning doves in our apple trees and the crunch of pebbles under tractor wheels and the scrape of grandfather's spoon on porridge bowl.

My superpower would be teleportation but when we burn the fragrant turf we smuggled to this home from that home I am not here but there--among the bogs and the mud and line of wellingtons at the door.

Stationary by physics

Transatlantic by the senses.

Word Art 000

I like it when people put words together nicely. The order, the combinations, the beat--it's art. 

I have a Moleskine I carry with me everywhere that I call my quote book. It's filled with cut-outs from books and newspapers and magazines of word art that I like; pieces of writing I want to remember and analyze and reverse engineer to figure out how the hell they did it.  

The closing paragraph to A River Runs Through It is the first piece of literature I ever memorized to heart not because a teacher told me to, but because I wanted to keep it with me. It's what inspired the quote book. Future "Word Art" posts will highlight some of the best I keep in those pages. Here's the first: 

 

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are words, and some of the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters."

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. 

 

Words Plus...

Welcome to my intersection.

The place where words & ______ come together to give you a glimpse into what goes on in the mind of Emma Decker.