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Frappez la masse, et tout le reste vient par surcro�t

Wet flakes loft overhead before giving up, transformed into just another wet facsimile of winter-soaked Manhattan. Rain sick streets leave an elastic scratch across the pavement and traffic coughs through puddles of oil and ice. A sound not unlike a match that strikes but never lights; trapped in a cab that never moves. Ponding, parading, and what is left of jubilee.

There are few battles more acute and less controllable than trying to be prompt on St. Patrick’s Day in Manhattan — unless compounded by means of traversing a 5th Avenue revelry in order to do so. I am anxious to keep an appointment with �the girl’.

Downtime and I review all the left-over that crawls around under a too busy week: Color proofs back to the printer; selections made for next month’s exhibition; calls placed to Maastricht; difficult meeting at Sony about negotiations with a recording artist; branding for a juice company and treatments for a textile group.

Then there’s also pained thoughts of a party I missed a week or so ago, and now hurt friendships. An email from Canada plays sweetly across my memory. I sit lamenting about not being able to see Alexander Isley speak that evening. And all the phone calls unreturned. A few minutes in a cab and an overview into what sums up the complexities of life. Our company is getting ready to launch and I’m so far behind schedule.

Stalled in my navigation of Central Park, a wan creature stumbles through the gridlock. Her eyes hollow with cold; no coat; scarf stained polar-bear white; mascara racooning down her face and glitter shamrocks glued to her cheeks. She reaches the door handle and gets in across from me. Leaning forward, she drunkenly tells the driver that she needs to go downtown.

I politely interject that I’d been in the cab a while and I have a doctor’s appointment that I need to get to. Her eyes well with tears and her body shivers: leather boots soaked through. Hysterically she tells me that all she wants to do is get back to her hotel. She just wants to get back to her hotel: 44th street. And that she’s sorry. She’s sorry.

We begin to talk. I ask her why she’s out in the cold without a coat and why she’s so upset. Through tears and on our way across, and downtown, she tells me a story of her crippled child and the difficult life that was ahead of him. How she felt owned by her job. How she wished she was better to her husband and that she always made the wrong decisions. She sobbed, “Does it ever get better? Are you really happy?”

How to answer such existential quandaries in the back of a cab when you’re not sure of the answers yourself? We talked about her children and how they made her truly happy. We talked about �tomorrow’ and all the things she could still do right. Finally I convinced her to go back to her hotel, take a bath and call her family.

Recently, I rediscovered a clipping by Mark Helprin while unpacking after my move. The title quote above recites Napoleon’s maxim: Frappez la masse, et tout le reste vient par surcro�t, roughly translated as “Strike the center, and the rest will follow.”

“This is not your therapy blog.” “This is not your science blog.” “This is not your art blog.” Where do you go in your design profession if not out into the real world? Out into the humanity and wonder. We spend our days in other people’s problems. Often creating as many as we solve — far beyond the push and pull of picas and pixels.

The cab arrived quietly on 72nd street where I paid the driver too much money and told him to take her wherever she wanted to go downtown. She thanked me and offered that maybe we could do this again in ten years. I smiled and got out.

Around the corner and further down the block, the remnants of the wilds continued to drip from the awnings and a gentle patter on the sidewalk. Off in the distance �the girl’ was smiling and rocking on her heels, all blonde and benevolent. I was even on time.

Take good care of your clients but take great care of yourself. Strike the center, and the rest will follow.

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ARCHIVE ID 1879 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Mar.19.2004 BY E. Tage Larsen
Josh Scruggs’s comment is:

Wow, what a wonderful entry. As a recent Graphic Design graduate, I'm experiencing a time of confusion and I often feel completely lost not knowing where I will eventually land. This really puts things in perspective. “Frappez la masse, et tout le reste vient par surcro�t.” I'm going to hang on to that.

On Mar.20.2004 at 12:04 AM
amanda’s comment is:


On Mar.22.2004 at 09:22 AM
marian’s comment is:

There is a skylight above my bed. At night, when I can't sleep for thoughts of bezier curves, ideas, utopian fantasies of engaging wit and ... yes, money, I look up at the stars (no city lights here) and lose myself in a blue that surely, surely has no PMS number.

In the morning, sometimes, clouds drift overhead, entwine and separate, shot with birds. An ancient game leads to loose association. This morning two holes in a cloud join to form overlapping hearts--aortas and all, like chicken hearts or something more visceral than romantic. They drift and separate, take on the shape of a Klingon war bird, and fly away.

The rest will follow,

On Mar.22.2004 at 10:22 AM