A story about building independent community space — and becoming independent and part of a community — in New York City

“It’s a mixed-use project space and design studio.” “We’re a shared studio, and a place for designers to pursue non-commercial work and projects.” “We’re a storefront for the graphic design community.” “A collective of independent designers supporting self-initiated projects in the design community.”

We’ve never gotten it down. It changes every time we say it.

During the workday at XXXI, as might happen in any workplace, I often find myself staring too long at a layout, writing an overly-worded email, infinite-scrolling through Are.na. When this happens, I suck myself out of the screen and go outside. If the weather’s nice…


In the Amtrak waiting room on 34th street, I listen to the recorded announcer reciting the names of other places.

The Silver Meteor: Alexandria, Kingstree, Jesup, Yemasee, Sebring.

I’m thinking about Philip Roth, about an essay he wrote called I Have Fallen In Love With American Names while I watch a pigeon with static feathers teeter on the linoleum.

“Radical impermanence as an enduring tradition.”

Lakeland, Richmond, Denmark, Kissimmee, DeLand.

A labyrinth of subterranean tunnels collects beneath my feet and the feet of a thousand strangers who sit with me, waiting.

It’s cut through the bedrock that was once a…


A poem for Susan Alexandra on her birthday, days after the US election, November 2016.

Welcome to the new year.
This is the year that everything becomes something;
When the gossamer strands of experience become cloth and we use it to warm ourselves, to warm each other,
light, silver, cloth.

This is the year we create a vocabulary to pronounce the abstract, a caress to touch the ineffable, a depth of field to glimpse what cannot be seen.

The year that faith becomes reflexive, the year that we devolve from cynicism and the year we’re never jaded enough to be…


A list of reactions ascending, painting by painting, through the Guggenheim’s Agnes Martin retrospective, December 2016.

  1. The spines of experience are identical.
  2. From far away, humanity looks like grey matter, but within each life exists a universe which thrives.
  3. The mere concept of weaving might keep you warm.
  4. Everything can become more than it appears, except gold, which is finally itself: nirvana.
  5. A quote:
    “Once is enough for tragedy, I think. Not to repeat it.”
  6. Symmetry is an illusion.
  7. The spines of experience are identical.
  8. A day can feel long or short, just like a life. It’s still 24 hours…

We’re from blueberry brown betty and eighty-eighth street brownstone baked beans; from Tanqueray martinis at Hunan Taste and from tomato sauce-making marathons on August afternoons.

We’re from Woody Allen records late on Christmas Eve under low-hung paper lanterns made by Isamu Noguchi; from the youngest cousin throwing a framed Miró across the living room; from the old wooden drawer where you found a cellophane-covered lithograph from the studio of Pablo Picasso.

We’re from an ice skate breaking through the pond when you stood still too long watching newts dart above the silt and leaves.

We’re from where the Carolina wren…


An excerpt from my diary on the road, driving from NY to LA, January 2016.

I receded to my woods, the homestead I always returned to in times of glory and apathy. The woods don’t change much if you’re not paying attention, or if they’re surrounding you all the time. But coming and going as I did, and being of those woods, I noticed the evolution, the devolution, the slow cycles of place and time. The wooden fort we’d built when I was seven with kindling and logs that wouldn’t burn had turned mossy and soft. The holes in the…


I’m trying to learn more Spanish from my Ecuadorian partner. They’re patient, and though it’s difficult to pronounce a short “r,” they encourage me to repeat the words and phrases I learn until the sound comes naturally.

(hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, hombre, )

We were walking across a bridge (cruzando el puente) on a Sunday and they said, of course it’s el puente, the bridge is obviously a man, and I started thinking about the two legs between which water flowed and…


Sestina for Andres

I am remembering what it’s like to share
I am remembering what it’s like to share
The insides of dreams and the wrinkles of bedsheets
The insides of dreams and the wrinkles of bedsheets
Remembering wrinkles of dreams
I am like bedsheets of the insides, of what to share?

Bright snow and blue skies while I swim for gold
Bright snow and blue skies while I swim for gold
Made by incas under the aluminum gusts of the Manhattan bridge.
Made by incas under the aluminum gusts of the Manhattan bridge.
Blue made gold, the bridge gusts aluminum incas and for while,
I swim by Manhattan in bright snow.

I am remembering blue aluminum gusts
And Manhattan for the while, what it’s like.
Like wrinkles of snow remembering
What bright insides share while incas
Swim the bedsheets
Of skies and dreams.

Elie Andersen

small girl / big world

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