23 March 2009

filing for reorganization (a meandering walking tour of the downturn, amongst other things)

they say "nobody walks in LA".

well, that's not true, and i have the sore calves to prove it. i returned to hiking in runyon canyon this week after a 2 year hiatus. runyon is LA's largest off-leash dog park, and mona and i used to be regulars there until she developed arthritis and would limp so bad after a hike, we just couldn't go together any longer. i didn't have the heart to go alone, so i stopped going too.
in the back of my mind, i guess i hoped she'd get better, and put things on hold, hoping we'd resume our hikes in the future, but as our walks in the flat neighborhood surrounding the atelier have grown shorter and slower of late, i've realized that there is no turning back the hands of time, and i have to accept our new reality. we've still got plenty of good years together, but those years will have to be spent cuddling for naps and lots of treats, because our days of chasing the tennis ball and hiking are over. things change, but change- even a sad turn of events like this- doesn't mean that life is over. it's just different.
still, as i returned to runyon, i was sad at first- don't let the smiling picture i took of myself fool you (i tried and failed to capture the hollywood sign- it's directly behind my forehead). not long after these photos, i had a moment when i reached the point in the trail where mona and i used to stop for a treat and some water, but it's hard to be sad when the other doggies are tirelessly chasing each other over the steep hills, and babies are laughing and people are talking. of course, there is the sweeping view of the LA basin too, which can cheer anyone thing i noticed about my return to runyon, is how much more crowded the trail was on a weekday. in los angeles, because so many people work in entertainment and aren't tied to a 9 to 5, it often feels like nobody works, but these days that feeling is more fact than fiction. in LA county the official unemployment rate is 10.9 percent, but that's just people receiving benefits- the number of people who can't get benefits like freelancers, and people who own their own business and now have little or no income, aren't reflected in those figures. i'd say it's closer to 15%, maybe even as high as 20% based on anecdotal evidence of the number of friends and neighbors who aren't working. it's pretty scary stuff.estimates of the range of reduction in total global wealth since the downturn range from 15% - 40%- staggeringly large numbers, even if the lesser figures are correct. in my opinion, the loss amounts to the fact that things are never going to return to the way they were- at least not in most of our lifetimes. the jobs that were lost might stay lost for the foreseeable future. as i was forced to do with mona, i think many people are now accepting our new reality, but like with my little girl, just because things have changed- and not necessarily in a good way- doesn't mean that life needs to be put on hold until things get better. we just have to recognize our new reality, and do a little adapting and adjusting- a little reorganization.i am continually amazed by how resiliently the people i know are coping with their new circumstances- one out of work friend has been filling his free time shooting a documentary, another has gone back to school, still another has set up a home office to do his own thing. reorganizing and reinventing, but not stopping and waiting until things improve.we all know the business many of us are in- design- has been strongly affected by the economy, but again, it's time to accept the way things are, and if things aren't as busy as we'd like, we need to accept and reinvent. i consider myself exceptionally fortunate to still have some business- i know of others who don't have any work at all. still, i find myself with more downtime, but instead of sitting around watching oprah while waiting for things to pick up, i've been doing a little reorganization of my own to carve out a space in my garage/showroom to paint- another one of my true loves, and something i didn't have much time for over the last few years- until recently that is... of course less work coming in, also means more time to enjoy the truly simple (and free) pleasures of life- like taking a hike (even alone) or cuddling with the one you love for a nap. i think the silver lining of this global reorganization is the realization that those are the things that matter in life, not the constant acquiring of more stuff. we had too much of that for too long, and now it's time to get back to basics. no more mad rush for bigger and better- that's our old reality. time to accept the new age we are in, and make the best of it. for better or worse, it's where we are now.

so how are you going to reorganize for our new reality? has your life changed? or is it the same as it was a year ago? do you see things getting better, or worse? let's talk...


long on style said...

My personal opinion is that this is the time for a shift, a shift in our thinking. Your'e right its not about acquiring more stuff, its about reinventing what you have, sharing, reusing,repurposing and those that resist or can't adapt will be left behind. I think its a time of great opportunity though. The most innovative and creative things are borne out of times like this. We have to embrace this new consciousness and get back to what's important. I still believe in buying what you absolutely love, not what media or trends dictate to you. This is a time of Waste not and I think before you buy that sofa, remodel that kitchen or bath, even if its a little remodel,consulting with an interior designer (the right interior designer for you) will ultimately save you time and money. We are all getting back to basics, yes, spending time with family, focusing on quality not quantity, and experiences versus stuff. I think it is a wonderful time!!!

long on style said...

Oh and just one more thing that really helped me put all this in perspective was the book "48 Days to the Work You Love", by Dan Miller. One great quote from the book is "A man of character finds a special attractiveness in difficulty, since it is only by coming to grips with difficulty that he can realize his potentials", Charles De Gaulle, from the Chapter titled "The Challenge of Change, React, Respond, or Get Trampled. And lastly, to quote Napoleon Hill, "With each change,there are equal seeds of new opportunities" Hopefully, this won't be perceived as preachy babble, I just really want to put some positivity out there, I am over the doom and gloom. I used to watch the news every morning, it was a ritual, I felt like it was my duty to begin the day informed. Well I stopped watching the news in the morning. I do catch up in the mid-afternoon or so, but only after I have done some positive things. I start my day off with getting up 1/2 hour early so I devote it just to relaxation.meditating or reading. I swear it has made the biggest difference, to just begin my day with all positive. I am not rushing anymore, having road rage, etc.

maison21 said...

hey long on style-

thanks for your comments- i couldn't agree more. i originally had several more paragraphs about reusing, reinventing, etc. but bowing the the reality of blog format (people like short posts with lots of pictures) i saved them for another day.

your hill quote should be words to live by right now:

"With each change,there are equal seeds of new opportunities"

could not be more true, dat.

thanks for the positivity, too. it's all about accentuating the positive right now since we have negative blasting at us from so many media outlets!

mary said...

This is a wonderful post for my morning read -- yeah, I slept in. As a designer - in this economy - in the rural Midwest!! you can imagine my prospects. But it has made me revisit other things that I have a passion for and I am feeling very positive and actually excited! I am going to get the book mentioned - ..... and I am wishing we might hear some more about your painting ?? this could be a wonderful thing for you. And kisses to your sweet Mona.

Things That Inspire said...

Last week I was talking with a neighbor, who wants to rent out her mother in law's house "until the market improves". I think there are still people out there who think that this is a temporary blip - that life will return to normal with the real estate market increasing at 10-20% a year, and the stock market poised for a big recovery. I am in the camp that this is not going to happen for a long time...I think things will gradually improve, but I think we are in for a new reality, where we all need to live more within our means, where a house is not an investment but a place to shelter. That is not to say that the shelter can't be fabulously decorated, though...there are lots of ways to do that by using what you have and making purchases that are meaningful and well thought out. For me personally, it is even more important to have a home that comforts me and is a sanctuary as I am spending a lot more time at home for one reason or another.

Aside from the fact that my portfolio has been decimated, I am stable financially. I have never been one to live above my means (quite the opposite), which used to be seen as odd in my circle (Atlanta is a very materialistic place). I am trying not to change too much as a knee-jerk reaction, because I know there are others there who count on my support (whether it be the stores where I shop, the people that I employ, or the worthy non-profits that I support with donations).

Sorry to hear about Mona - but it sounds like you are appreciating the cycles of life. Is that the dog park where the Dog Whisperer runs with his pack of dogs?

My Notting Hill said...

Love how you chose to write about this - very creative. Your comment about the self-employed not showing up in the unemployment figures is so true too.

Lucinda said...

Great post Maison21. I look forward to seeing your artwork!

Tracy said...

Love and appreciate your attitude, M21!
I remind myself all the time how lucky I am to still have my "day job" while I'm working to get a design business off the ground. Yes, I've complained (for years) that my (tedious, boring, frustrating, stressful, opposite of creative) job is sucking the very life out of me BUT, at the same time, I've acknowledged how fortunate I was to be able to work at home while raising my daughter... how fortunate I am that I make a pretty good living doing it... how fortunate I am to be able to wander out into my own garden when I need a break. And now, when so many people don't have any job at all, I'm so over my complaining (and even a little ashamed of it).
This economic downturn has truly been a devastating, life-changing event for many people. For those of us though who have not been so dramatically affected, I tend to agree with what 'long on style' had to say about change bringing new opportunities... to reorganize your life and space, to revisit old skills and passions, to reimagine a whole new career and make it happen... that's all pretty exciting. And I absolutely LOVE what this economy has done to our collective conciousness with regard to ridiculous consumerism (thousand-dollar handbags!) and keeping up with the Joneses (5000 sq ft tract homes!).
Ok, I've babbled on long enough. Let me just say "thanks!" for keeping it positive. The beautiful Spring weather we're having certainly helps with that, doesn't it?!

maison21 said...


i i'm glad you are excited and energized. as every single designer i know here in los angeles is struggling with cutbacks in one way or another, i can only imagine what it's like in the midwest, but it's the people with a positive spirit who will adapt and thrive in our new world, so i know that will be true in your case!


i'm glad you agree with me about the new reality we face- i didn't want to seem like a doom and gloom conspiracy theorist but i jsut don't see how what we just went through could ever be considered "normal", so how could we return to it?

i also agree that knee-jerk change isn't the answer either- the businesses and charities you support and the people you employ needn't suffer out of fear- if can can continue to give them your patronage, by all means you should.

last thanks for the kind words about mona. i'm not sure of the dog whisperer films at runyon, or at mulholland dog park- it's been so long since i've seen an episode, i honestly can't remember (lots of animal planet stuff gets filmed at both, mona and i were filmed or a cut to commercial blurb for some AP pet show when we were at muholland once!).

my notting hill-

thanks i never know if i'm sharing too much when i write this kind of post or not, so i appreciate your words.

and yes, that's the crime of the unemployment stats- they are kept artificially low. most people don't realize it, and would be amazed to know that the true figures are much higher and that the government has never been entirely honest about it (not just now, during the downturn).

lucinda- i look forward to sharing my art as well! studio should be up and running the beginning of april- still trying to clear out the junk for now!


i wish i had your day job right now too! as i said though, like you i'm more fortunate than many, so we have to count our blessings, right?

and i love what you said about consumerism- i don't think most people have got that part of it yet, it will take a year or two to filter into mass consciousness, but i think it's great too. historians will look back in disbelief on "it bags" and "mcmansions", just as we do the excesses at the court of versailles, i guarantee it...

Ron said...

Hi Maison 21,

What a deep post you have produced today! I can completely relate. Eventho things are not bad here in this part of the world (The Netherlands) I feel excactly what you and the commentee's have said. I also feel there will be different kind of reality after it ends. I keep thinking of the phenomenon of "21 dec 2012". ( if you have not heard of this, just google it) We are getting closer to this date and maybe there is a serious lesson to be learned and new truth to be found. But lets keep decorating our 'lives and homes' as this also a way to happiness.
Sorry to hear about Mona. I am hoping to get my first dog this year.
And ....thanks for comment you left at post of CTD about my renovation. I loved how you came up with the word 'Wolfsonian' It took me a little while to figure out what you meant, but I got it and I think that was a great compliment! A client visiting the showroom used the word 'Draperesque' Also very insightfull!!
Ron (

maison21 said...

hi ron-
thanks for visiting! your renovation project was spectacular to say the least- i keep seeing more and more fabulous parts every time i revisit joni's post The bathroom! the showroom!), but the entrance is what truly stuck with me.

whether it's wolfsonian or drapersque, either adjective is high praise indeed! (and i guess the proper term would have been woolf-esue- i don't know where i got wolfsonian from!)

Tracy said...

Hey M21... here's one more thing re your post today. ("one more thing", that's funny - I've probably got a thousand more things I could say on this particular topic!) Anyway... my friend Rosemary, on her blog "Content in a Cottage", posted this quote today credited to Albert Einstein:

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."

Simple and perfect. As much as I love chattering on about a relevant topic, I also love when it can be boiled down so succinctly. (thanks, Rosemary!)

Leah said...

Lovely post, and lots of food for thought.

I'm in the middle of my own reinvention right now ...


This is a really thoughtful and relevant post.
Lisa & Alfie

maison21 said...

thank you leah, i'm honored you liked it. looking forward to hearing about your reinvention tour when you ready to reveal all (apologies for the madonna reference).

lisa and alfie, thank you, and thanks for visiting. mona says "ruff"!

Leah said...

Hi M21,

What I meant was, I'm trying to proactively cope with the transition from being someone who made a living as a writer for my entire adult life to someone who has to operate in this new "content is free, and print is dying" universe we live in.

*Trying* to see it as an opportunity to "follow my bliss" ... ;-)

maison21 said...

ooooh, i get it now! reinvention like we're all doing, "trying" to find that half full glass in this half empty mess!

Suzy said...

Great post Christian - poor lil' Mona!

I completely agree, even though things aren't as tough in this part of the world (yet), the kind of world we all lived in is gone I'm afraid...and I think we all need to realise that it couldn't keep going on. The sooner we all come to grips with our new reality the better, and figure out how we make it work for us.

I for one can't wait to see what artwork you're going to create!

Bonnie said...

Hi Christian,
I wrote you an email as there were so many posts here... Also I forgot to mention... off the subject, I saw a movie that had wallpaper in it that looked similar to the beautiful yellow wallpaper you created. I think it was in the David Copperfield movie on Masterpiece Classic that was on the other day. Your wallpaper is really nice.

maison21 said...

thanks for the email bonnie! it's definitely a time of change- for the better- for everyone!

thanks for the compliment on the wallpaper, i'll have to look for it in david copperfeild!

Topsy Turvy said...

Well said, Christian! Is that your painting?? If so, please show more - it's great. I'm trying to get back into painting too.