Undivine Comedy

By Matt Katz

Photo by Gaszton Gal

At a certain point, failure becomes comedy. That’s what I was telling myself in mid- to late fall, anyway, as stories for this New Year issue fizzled in succession, teetering like drunken dominoes before crumbling flat, each dragging the next in line down to the alley gravel. You may see some of these Bukowskis in 2014. But not in this issue.

Of course I should’ve known better. It’s always this way around the holiday season. Heading my short list of editorial resolutions in 2014? Coordinate January 2015 stories well in advance; hibernate in December.

The original idea was an assemblage of forward-looking articles: profiles of local visionaries, a showcase of an ultra-contemporary home—that sort of thing.

But one by one potential stories flopped. Some hissed and exploded. Others died a lingering death, tempting optimism before slipping into the ether.

In the case of our Nesting feature (p. 28), we ultimately succumbed to the lure of poetic irony. Jamie Kohler’s rearview mirror approach to interior design—everything in her Ventura home is pre-owned, most of it vintage—was so radically divergent from our original idea, it gained traction as something of a winsome dark horse and took us in a new direction.

At the end of the day, we flipped a U-turn and pulled the trigger. And I’m glad we did.

You see, as much as I love contemporary design, I always lean toward stories with a powerful human element. This one’s not merely a photo-loaded showcase of Kohler’s home, it’s a glimpse into her soul. It takes us into her personal history and illustrates how she came to be the wonderfully offbeat marcher she is today.

Our Conversation article (p. 33) has a similar past-leads-to-present twist, which I hadn’t considered until just now. Darren Alff grew up a shy, socially awkward kid in Camarillo. The challenge of long-distance cycling—“bicycle touring” for days, months, even years—was nothing compared to the daunting prospect of “having to interact with other people on a daily basis,” as he put it.

But Alff not only rose to the challenge, taking his first bike tour at age 17, he fed off the sense of accomplishment and went on to create his own company and the world’s most popular bicycle touring website.

Now he pedals around the planet, living his dream. And it all began with resolve—a firm commitment to get from A to Z in spite of those anxiety-provoking letters in between.

I can’t imagine doing what he does. I simply hope my rusty old mountain bike sees a little more sunshine this year. That I manage to drag my carcass off the alley gravel and tumble in a good direction.

I’ve had enough comic failure. Time to roll on, into the wild blue yonder of 2014.


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