A Look Back: The Environment Effect

This week, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic as I start my new position at the American Underground. The space is one I’m quite familiar with, having worked here since 2014.

When I started, I was writing more frequently for Clarion Content. My employment at Runaway was in its infancy stage so my status in the downtown scene was unknown. The piece below was written about a month after the previous one. I was on a roll! I had a burgeoning reputation to uphold! I wasn’t going to let the 10 people who read my column down!


The Environment Effect

February 23, 2014

We meet again, Friday Lunch…

Today’s brief rain pour brought back strong childhood memories of Robin Williams and crocodiles.

Fortunately, the downpour only lasted roughly an hour. The strong winds are persistent, and the temperature drop this evening will be a rude interruption to the otherwise magnificent weather this week from Mother Nature.

Climate complaints aside, American Underground was bustling as people sprint to finish the week’s major projects. The possibility of Google Fiber implementation here in the Triangle has many of the tenants, and the city, buzzing in anticipation. The work environment lately has been particularly high energy. Our ShiftZen team is pushing a version update, and I am certain we are not the only group looking to make a leap forward this month.

Everywhere in the city, people were using the entrapment from the rain to be productive.

After brainstorming for hours, the rain ceased and my scrambled thoughts needed sustenance. Luke Demarest and Joseph Dickey, frequent Durham brunchmates of mine, suggested we relocate to Monut’s Donuts on Joseph’s recommendation.

The bagel sandwiches there are crazy delicious! Dos Perros, you have competition.

On the walk over, the Durham Effect revealed itself. Luke and I saw someone we recognized immediately. Traci Hoover, who is a fabulous mother to not just her children, but to any child with the good fortune to grace her home. Of course, she was also heading to Monut’s because, well, that’s where all the cool kids were en route. The best part was the group of strangers behind us were on a wild goose chase to find Monut’s, and luckily our timing steered them in the right direction.

A writer, a musician, and a visual artist walk into a donut shop. Stop me if you have heard this one before.

Reflection ignited our conversation as we listened to Luke reminisce about old projects and his recognition of those who influenced him at the time of each work.

“I was struck by the influence a particular artist had on my work (more than artists I was deliberately emulating) at the time. I didn’t see it as coincidence, but surprised that she remained in my subconscious…that I was emulating her without knowing it.”

As time passed, new influences created new styles of artistic experience. Joseph stated that he would deliberately emulate those who influenced him, building his skills and understanding his own style of play.

For once, I did not have anything to contribute to the current conversation. Although reading and writing is not unknown to me, there are no particular writers that have directly impacted my work. Wanting to give something to the moment, I proposed that not all influences come from directly related genres. Music, photography, television, personal experience, even current atmosphere directly dictate how I approach every word, sentence, and paragraph. My own reflection stemmed from considering how I write at my desk versus in a room of people. Alone at my desk, in an isolated, meditative state, thoughts are elaborate and well enunciated. On the contrary, the chaos of our heavily trafficked living room creates erratic, short bursts of creative energy. One no more effective than the other, but they certainly produce vastly different results.

Thankfully, I was not alone. I could see that Luke was deep in thought considering the implications of this idea while Joseph further explained that for him, atmosphere was like music. It engulfed him while in the experience, imprinting thoughts and connecting synapses.

Unanimously, we concluded that environment played an enormous role in the choices made by any creator.

My time spent in the American Underground certainly reinforces that idea. Incubator is a word frequently used to describe the hub curated by Adam, Molly, and Ellie. The environment created has as much to do with the success of each business as their own contributions.

Durham is a beacon. Cities strive to empower individuals to influence their own environment in a positive way. Each citizen directly impacts the next. Each business, each creator, all symbiotically setting the foundation for the collective success of all.

Durham, continue to brainstorm… because when it rains, it pours.