Because Nobody Asked

Canadian artist Dayna Barley-Cohrs drew me this crazy-go-awesome web log header last month and I stuck it on top of this website and was so darn excited about it and then nobody asked me the one thing I wanted them to ask which was "BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!?" so I'm gonna explain what it all means right now because I just can't wait any longer.

Oh wait, before I explain what it all means, let's talk a little bit about the design process, shall we? After a quick e-introduction and an informal brainstorming sesh, Dayna went to the drawing board (literally, I think) and sent me a first draft based on some of the things I told her. That first draft looked like this.

I kind of liked the window idea initially but after going back and forth we decided to scrap it and focus on the desktop.

And then we decided to scrap the desktop (and add a picture frame).

And then Dayna added an adorable donut on a plate with cute little crumbs.

And then I told her that I don't eat donuts, not even adorable ones with cute little crumbs, so she replaced it with a partially peeled mandarin orange which is much more my speed (god I'm fun). She also scribbled in the book titles, drew my beautiful mother into the picture frame and added a tennis ball.

Then, at my urging, she replaced the notepad with a moleskin notebook.

And then I decided that the notepad looked better than the moleskin notebook after all and had her put it back in (god I'm fun).

And then she went ahead and painted the whole thing.

And added shadowing.

And finally, she included the "a web log" text.

We also tried a bunch of different fonts along the way. These are those.

All of the things included in the header are items that I love or that have shaped me, for better or for worse, so to answer the "BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!?" question that nobody actually asked, I've numbered all of the aforementioned items and written explanations about them below.

What It All Means

1. Stack of Books

I think I've always read a lot but books didn't really become an important part of my life until my Aunt Jackie and Uncle Mick gave me a copy of Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic for my First Communion. After memorizing  Picture Puzzle Piece for an assignment in the third grade I decided that words were pretty much the best and that books were an easy way to get words quickly and easily so I read and continue to read a lot of them (books and words).

Following A Light in the Attic, the books listed in the header are The Giver, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneWhere the Red Fern Grows and Slouching Towards Bethlehem. All of those books have impacted different stages of my reading life. Mrs. Michaels read Where the Red Fern Grows to my class in the third grade and I cried. Until then I didn't know that books could make me cry and as it turns out they're one of the few things that have since (I'm looking at you, Jodi Picoult).

I read The Giver in fifth grade and remember thinking that Lois Lowry broke all the rules (A future civilization where everything is black and white and nobody feels feelings? What?!?) and that she was wonderful for doing so (Lowry's Number the Stars was also a big deal read for me.).

I began the Harry Potter series in high school after Jenna Jones lent me Book 1 and I fell so in love with it that I proceeded to attend all of the midnight book release parties, even when Book 7 came out and I was a twenty-something.

Finally, Professor David Dent introduced me to Joan Didion's essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem in an amazing junior-year journalism class at NYU called Literature of Journalism (the now-esteemed film critic Eric Kohn was in my class). Didion's way with words, first introduced to me in her essay Goodbye to All That, is something I'll always marvel at and enjoy and aspire to.

2. iPhone

I, like most everyone else, use my phone for everything, and so it definitely has a place at my workstation, but the real reason it's on the site header is because I wanted to work in an image of Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). I spent four years (from December 2006 to February 2011) in the Windy City after I graduated from college and it's where I had my first job and where I forged many of my closest friendships and it's where I came out, among other things. I love Chicago and, in a way, I still consider it home.

3. MacBook Air

It's been pretty well documented on this web log that I share a close connection with my electronics, mainly my laptop computers. The laptop pictured in the header is my current one and its name is George Clooney. It's the focal point of the header because I use it for everything (writing, FaceTime, music, etc.). The desktop background pictured in the header is a drawing of an Instagram photo I took of a lighthouse in my parents' neighborhood in my hometown, because I wanted to work Lake Michigan in there somewhere because it's a big, beautiful, perfect force of nature and I've lived most of my life within a mile or two of it.

4. NYU Pencil Cup

This blog started when I was living in New York City as a student at New York University. I loved it there and I feel lucky to have gone to school there and I hope to live there again someday when I have enough money to eat things other than ramen noodles, which was the whole of my diet in college. It's the only place I've ever lived where possibility always feels right around the corner.

5. Post-it Note

The Post-it Note that's leaning against the pencil cup says "No day but today" which is a lyric from Jonathan Larsen's rock opera Rent which I've seen fifteen times on Broadway and a handful of times elsewhere. I know it's cliché (Marnie from HBO's Girls actually says about Rent, "Please, I've seen it like twelve times. It's practically why I moved to New York."), but I saw it when four friends and I road-tripped to Manhattan as teenagers during a particularly magical summer and after that I knew I wanted to live there. Here's a picture of my friends and I beginning that road trip, car-packed and Big Apple-bound.

6. Golden Gate Bridge Coffee Mug

I don't drink coffee, but the mug was an easy way to work in San Francisco, the city I moved to almost four years ago and the place I live now. It's the first place where I have really felt comfortable, proud even, to be gay.

7. Mandarin Orange

Because I don't like donuts.

8. Notepad

When I enrolled at NYU I wanted to be a sports writer like Rick Reilly and then a news anchor like Anderson Cooper or Katie Couric. I did some pretty cool journalistic things (like interview Ms. Couric and her then-co-host Matt Lauer) in college but when I discovered that I could graduate a full year early if I switched my major to English because of some credits I'd snagged during high school and in the summers during college, I dumped my journalistic dreams (well, sort of), but saved $50,000.

9. Bose QuietComfort 15 Noise Cancelling Headphones

What can I say, I live with an eight-year-old. Basically, I need them.

10. Photo of My Mom

My mom is the best (actually, my whole family is). Read her blog.

11. Tennis Ball

I really struggled in high school. I don't think people necessarily knew what a hard time I was having (I mean I was like the homecoming king, or whatever), but part of me knew that I'd have to deal with being gay at some point and it weighed heavily on me. During the spring of my sophomore year I ended up going out for tennis for a reason that I can't even remember now and it saved me. It became my obsession and the group of guys on the team, a hilarious and smart and fun bunch, became my favorite people. Our team ended up going undefeated and winning the state championship during my junior season and I ended up winning quite a few matches with my partner Brian at Number One doubles throughout our career. Actually, between our junior and senior seasons we won 55 out of 58 matches, including two city titles, two regional titles and we were state runners up (we lost the championship match in a third set tiebreaker). This is our picture in my high school's sports Hall of Fame.

So that's my life in header form. Aren't you glad you didn't ask?