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New Classic Cars

I’m always trying to figure out what cars today will be worth a lot in the future. I mean, at one time, you could buy a Hemi ‘Cuda for $4000 off of a used car lot. Now you could sell it for up to a million dollars. So the numbers game fascinates me, but more than that, I want to believe there will be classic cars from this decade that young guys thirty years from now can enjoy. I’d hate for a whole hobby to die because of lackluster American designers.

I don’t have enough time to talk about all my theories about what makes a car a classic. It would take hundreds of pages. But one thing is for sure, if people don’t like the car when it comes out, it has little chance of being a classic in the future. Just because it’s old doesn’t make it a classic. There are acres of cars from 1957 rusting away in junkyards across the country. But it’s hard to find a 1957 Chevy in a junkyard because they’ve been pulled out, dusted off, and restored. Why? Because people loved them then, and because of that, they love them today.

This theory fails when you consider the Ford Taurus of the 1990s. People did like them then, but I would bet my life savings that nobody will be scrambling to buy a Taurus off the auction block in thirty years. So a new classic has to be more than popular, it almost needs to have mythic proportions. Celebrity status. When you say the name, an emotion needs to flicker in people.

escalade

So I’m betting that it will be the 2002-2006 Cadillac Escalade. I know skeptics would argue several points, like the fact that an SUV has never been a classic. (To them I could point to the Toyota FJ’s, early Land Cruisers, but I admit those are niche collector cars.) They could also point out that they aren’t rare. (I’d remind them that neither were muscle cars.) They might even argue that they don’t like the crowd who drives an Escalade. (I’d point out that the muscle car owners were an unruly bunch, and kids in chopped ’50 Mercs raised hell too.) And didn’t it have a lack-luster beginning? (Yes, but have you seen the early Barracudas?)

What makes this pick for a classic most difficult is that it’s popularity comes from hip hop culture. And most car collectors now don’t get the hip hop culture. But all of the toy cars in the stores are from hip hop culture. They sit on huge rims. They are status symbols of wealth and power and cool. I don’t like that it’s all about looks and not about performance, but that doesn’t seem to bother people. Another thing that I don’t like is that the Escalade is just an upgraded Chevy Tahoe. I would like a classic to be a stand-alone success. But not many people seem to mind, so I guess I shouldn’t either.

Most car people would agree that the Dodge Viper will be a classic. It has all the standards you look for: it made a big splash, it’s rare, it’s very fast, and they just look terrific. I don’t know enough about Vipers to tell you which edition will be the most collectible, but I predict all Vipers will be worth a good chunk of cash in 20 years.

Dodge Viper

My other two picks aren’t as much of an underdog as the Escalade, because they are still relatively new. If things continue to go well with the Chrysler 300, they could become classics too. It helps that they can have a huge engine, but more than that, high school boys are lusting after a four-door sedan. It takes a lot to make that happen. My buddy in minor league baseball says that most new players are buying 300s and pimping them out. That’s a big deal.

2003 Chrysler 300

My other pick is the Dodge Magnum. It has mixed reviews today, but it’s still a special car with a big engine. Yes, they are wagons, but they are badass. If you roll up in a Magnum with dark tint and 22 inch rims, everybody knows you are cool. I see it as a new classic station wagon, the Chevy Nomad of today. I think I just talked myself into getting one.

Dub Edition Dodge Magnum

Ready to Tile

I was planning on doing all of my remodeling at once: the kitchen, dining room, den, and living room. But the project plan has changed. I’m not going to get started on the big remodel until mid-April, and my house has been without carpet for a couple months. It’s a little embarrassing when people come over for a party and it looks so ghetto. So I decided to tile the living room with travertine before the big remodel. This will give us a couple months of comfort.

So today Candyce and I scraped, swept, and scrubbed the concrete floor in my living room. Cleaning your floor is such a humbling chore. It’s hard to feel like a rock star when you are hunkered down on the floor scraping off carpet glue. And it’s an unending project–there is always more to scrape up. You back hurts. Your knees hurt. But Candyce and I just kept going, and four hours later, the concrete actually looked clean enough to walk on with bare feet.

I can already see how much nicer my house will become after all of the work today. Once the remodeling is done, I’ll probably sell my house. I already feel a little bit of regret for not doing all of this four years ago when I moved into the house. At least then I could’ve enjoyed the fruits of my labor. But the regret isn’t too strong because I’ve been insanely busy since the day I bought this house, and I know there was no possible way to get it remodeled. I’m okay with that.

Being a Local

My life has changed in many ways now that I’ve stopped traveling as much. Of course I have more time to get things done. I don’t rip through my days at such a frantic pace anymore. I have time to go to my friends parties. All of that.

One new part of my life is being a local. I get a chance to know what’s going on in Phoenix. I can go to more art shows, get to know local radio stations, local news, and local newspapers. There are a lot of exciting things going on in the city of Phoenix, and I get to tap into that energy.

Matt Maher got suckered into subscribing to a local newspaper by a little girl trying to raise money at church. At first I was annoyed because that meant I had one more responsibility each day: pick the paper off the driveway. But I’ve started to read it, and I’m really having fun with it. I’ve gotten most of my news from magazines and the Internet, and it’s fun to try something new.

Through the paper, I am following a lot of exciting real estate projects. There are about 20 loft projects going up around the town. There are three HUGE work/live/shop projects going up as well. Several parts of downtown are cleaning up and getting a scene of their own. There’s just a lot of enthusiasm in the paper.

This is good for me because I am having a tough time at my job. I do like what I do, but I never feel like the website has the momentum it deserves. Yes, we’re moving forward, but the pace is embarrassing.

Managing 3 Web Builds

I realized this afternoon that I am simultaneously managing or building three new web projects: lifeteen.com Version 2.1, camps.lifeteen.com, and ym.lifeteen.com. Beyond that, I have to maintain lifeteen.com, which is too much to do even if I commit every hour of the day to updating the site. It’s a challenge, but I feel like the only way for lifeteen.com to succeed is to build out two more sites within it. It’s unconventional, I know.

The Big Meeting
This morning we had a meeting with netFusion about changes in the 2.1 project. This was the first meeting where I took leadership from the first moment to the last. I sat at the head of the table, which is new for me. Normally I’d do it Christian-style and take an humble position on a table, like somewhere on the side near the end. But today I sat at the head and then I steered the whole meeting. I decided to do this because I realize I’m the only one who knows what we’re meeting for.

I explained our ideas about breaking off content for adults into its own minisite: ym.lifeteen.com. Much of the functionality for ym.lifeteen.com is already built into the 2.1 project, so hopefully it won’t cost us much more money. Everyone on their team seemed excited about the project because it seems like a logical expansion. Plus it will be easier for me as the designer and them as the coders to not contend with the fitting these upgrades into the already cramped structure of lifeteen.com.

A Flash Miracle
Adam Robo is good at Flash, and I’m trying to give him projects on the camp site. Since the camps site grows and evolves every day, I wanted to bring on his Flash expertise once I had the structure finished and most of the content placed. We decided he would design a photo gallery so that people could click through shots of each part of the camp. This solved the problem of having too many photos that made individual pages vertical bulk.

Well a couple days ago he decided to look around online to see what other designers have done to spruce up the click-through photo albums. He found a stunning design for managing a lot of pictures. We bought it, downloaded it, and started working. Within an hour, we knew that this was a perfect solution to our problem. It was hard for us to leave work on Wednesday because it was so rewarding to make this happen.

No Surprises
Another exciting thing to do with the camps site is to make the camps not only look cooler, but at the same time give realistic expectations of what each camp is like. There’s nothing worse than a deceptive glossy brochure.

The first step is to help the camp directors with their descriptions of the facilities. I’m constantly tweaking paragraphs so that they are more accurate and exciting. The next thing I’m doing is I’m drawing the floor plans to each of the facilities in Adobe Illustrator. Once they are done, I’ll export them to PDF then post them to the site. I’ve already done this with one of the cabins, and it looks awesome to have a pretty snapshot of the cabin, a descriptive paragraph, and then a floor plan. And then there is a link to print out the floor plan as a PDF.

Just looking at it, you really get an idea of what you’re getting into. So when people roll up to the camp, I hope to save the camp director from the hassle of explaining that they aren’t renting a resort for the weekend. I want the campers to drop their sleeping bags in their cabins and then go exploring the woods. Because it’s the adventures outside of the walls that makes camp so much fun.

A New Approach to Design
It’s remarkable how a creative project evolves as time passes. Normally I would first look at the content and on paper decide what needs to go where so that everything is logical and easy-to-find. Then I would design the entire look of the website in Photoshop around that structure. Finally I would make that come to life in the code. This pragmatic approach is necessary when you build a big site. It feels great to have the most complex problems solved first, and then everything falls into place.

With the camps site, I can just I can let the content tell me how to design the page, rather than I design the page to tell the content where to go. This may be uninteresting to most other people, but I’m loving the fact that the content I am dealing with has such personality. And my job is to let the personality break out and delight the user.

To let the personality break out requires constant negotiation. Each camp is unique. My job is to make a sections for the camps look similar to one-another in the patterns of navigation and how I place content, but at the same time give room for each camp to shine. This is especially difficult because Covecrest is three times as big as Tepeyac. I have to find a way for Tepeyac to not to look like less of a camp because it doesn’t have as many buttons and brilliant photos of pretty buildings. I mean, the drive through the Arizona deserts to get to Tepeyac is much more exciting and interesting than the drive into Covecrest. But how do you say that in a website?

I just love these kind of problems because I’ve been at this web design thing long enough to know that I eventually solve all problems in creative ways. And the bigger the problem, the bigger my creative solution. These problems really are opportunities in disguise.

Take for instance the top navigation bar on the site. For the first 3/4 of the project, I had it look like clouds. It’s fun, campy, and calming. But the shape is so dominant that you can hardly notice the letters inside of the clouds. Yesterday at 5:30, I decided to scrap the whole bar and do a Flash-driven navigation centered around the logos of the camp. Even though I haven’t touched it, I already know it’s going to be an exhilarating solution to an irritation problem.

Updating this Site

So this is going to be an awkward journal for me to read in the future. As of the time that I write this, supafly.com is down so I can upload the new website. The code is all there, and it’s just a matter of adding journals to the database. As of late last night, I’ve added all journal entries from 1999 when I began to September 11, 2001.

It’s quite an experience to read through the journals as I add them to the site. It’s like taking a road trip back in time. It’s like Back to the Future or something. I re-live situations I thought had already passed. Then there are things that I read that I forgot even happened. Like I totally forgot that a youth minister from Philadelphia drove to my apartment in New York City and interviewed me in the living room of my apartment. Had I not read that, I never would have believed that it even happened.

Another fact I totally forgot: I’ve stood in the same room as Mel Gibson twice–once in the MTV studio in New York, and once at the People’s Choice Awards in Los Angeles. So many people have asked me if I ever met Mel Gibson, and I always told them no. Which is true, but it would have been cool to tell them that I saw him twice. But what bothers me most is that he’s a hardcore Catholic and so am I, and it would’ve been cool to have a conversation with him. But the day he was on TRL, I was talking to Fred Durst and his bodyguard in the green room.