EULOGY FOR CLARK NEURINGER, ARCHITECT (1945-2018)
begin with a point from which three intersecting lines will radiate and because not everyone can see such things in their minds with clarity sharpen a pencil with the old electric sharpener at the side of the desk, mark the point, and with carefully selected rulers draw the lines, one like this, one like that, and the third like this so that there is the suggestion of a space,
in that space imagine with clarity a table, semi oblong, white, formica, in the center of a large and brightly lit room, at which a parent and his child are speaking about the existence of god and the nature of the universe, as deep philosophical conversation is the commandment or convention of the parent’s religion following the ceremonial meal that recalls ancient oppression and liberation from it, he does not instruct what to believe but asks what the child thinks, I am nine years old, do I think that the complexity of galaxies and solar systems, human anatomy, eyes and brains, the diversity of life on Earth and in its oceans, is not conceived and constructed by some force on some level, and I try to answer and he asks more questions, into the evening.
This is the first and last time we speak of such things.
mark another point, draw another three dimensional space, but this one will be far larger than the one that described the spacious eat-in kitchen he designed for his family, this space will extend, a few years later, from New York to Toronto and into that space imagine with clarity a customized Chevy van, if you are him and only if you are him you will know the particulars of the engine and fuel economy and top speed and how it compared to other vans and other cars and now it is so cold that something has gone wrong with the van and we are stuck in North Tonawanda, New York having the van repaired and eating pizza in a motel room, the leftover pizza freezes in the van the next day when we get it back and take it to Niagara Falls and everything is frozen there and covered in sheets of ice a foot deep and we take black and white photos of everything and the photos remind me of all the black and white photos he has from his college days the way all the music we listen to in the car reminds him of his college days.
this is not our first or our last road trip together, so I remember with clarity his way to read a map and plot a route, the red line drawn with a thin marker and the correct ruler connecting your location with your destination and the route in yellow highlighter, here an interstate, here a state or county road, weaving its way above and below the red line, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, we go from Albequerque through Taos and Santa Fe and the Four Corners to Cortez, Colorado, and in the photo I have I am wearing a t-shirt from The Who at Giants Stadium, where earlier that summer he took me to my first rock concert, The Who was 25 and I was 13 and he was 44, we drive to college towns in the Northeast, we drive from New York to Texas and from Texas to New York, we go from Berlin to Wolfsburg and back on the autobahn, legend in his mind, and on each trip there is a car, and he could tell you which car and if you are him and only him you would know the particulars of each car
and the particulars of cars are laid out with clarity and organization in his mind like every building he ever worked on, stacks of site plans, front elevations and electrical schedules, kitchen remodels and historic renovations and senior housing, stacks of plans heaped among architecture and automotive magazines, Time and Newsweek and the New York Times, but I get ahead of myself and that is not something you do in architecture, there are project phases and each aspect of each project is carefully planned, considered, and executed, and that is also how you say something about project phases: planned, considered, and executed, or conceived and constructed, there are long strings of big words, this is how you write a letter and this is how you sign your name and this is how you press the buttons on the citibank atm touchscreen the next town over, years before any other banks have touchscreens, notice the floor in the vestibule, notice the color and the texture and the material and there is something very interesting to say about it, with clarity you can recall, if you are him and only if you are him, you can recall various materials and why they are interesting, and this is how you ride a bicycle and this is how you operate a lawnmower and this is how you solve math problems and this is how you keep spare change on the desk or by the bed, neat and orderly,
the neatness and orderliness of pens and coins and photographs and important documents tumbling over each other in competition for prime real estate on the desk or the office shelves, the cobbler’s children have no shoes he said once, and only once, a few weeks before he died, a less painful way to say what he would say in previous years about the chaos of his office, “I’m trapped” or “I’m buried”
imagine with a point and three intersecting lines another space before the chaos took over this is my office this is the computer this is the copier this is how to use the copier this is how we will make the flyers for your concert, and these are the particulars of the car he drives to take me to jazz band rehearsal early in the morning, these are my concerts he comes to see, always with a camera to document, these are the concerts, I will name them: every one that is possible for him to see, and when he jokes “I will be the band’s roadie and I will drive the tour van” he is not joking, he is planning and conceiving a reality, organizing it in his mind, how it looks and feels, an adventure he doesn’t take but imagines taking with clarity
imagine with a point and three intersecting lines another space in fact all space every space anywhere any space that resonates with the sound of my saxophone, a selmer mark VI, a particular he knows to mean the finest one and it is my most cherished thing, his highschool graduation gift to me and what I have used to go off into the world and be a man, and don’t scoop the notes when you play them still with clarity I recall his advice and sometimes I take it, imagine a space, a small black case from the 1950s with the clarinet his father gave him, still carrying the reeds and cork grease from when he was a kid, keep it safe he says, and I do, all around him there are many talismans, little strange collections, physical manifestations of memory and history, how his father, his father I never knew, meant so much to him it was too painful to say, little things everywhere, things left just so not to be touched just to perfect the space, to balance things, so much balance and order and the mingling of hard angles, round edges, and complimentary lines everywhere in his work, this is what bounce light means and this is how you tie a tie and this is how you check the oil and this is the hutch and the henry hudson parkway and the cross bronx and the taconic, this is paisano’s at christmas and this is junior’s in brooklyn, and this is brooklyn, this is how you behave in a syanagogue, how you stand in quiet and solemn reverence amidst the sad-faced men of the generation that survived auschwitz, but this is how you celebrate the holidays and this is how you goof around in the backyard, this is how a Sunday morning must be spent, the exact components of a brunch spread, these are my old projects and these are my new projects, so let me tell you what I’d like to do with the back porch, so let me tell you what I’d like to do with the tv room, so much clarity in his mind, so many realities planned and conceived and all that is needed to execute them is time and how do you get time you move forward you go forward you keep moving forward and time offers itself up to you within which you construct space
My father did not want to die. I will say it again, for dramatic effect, to recall my father, because he was a practitioner of dramatic effect: my father did not want to die. He wanted to live and to live and to live. He wanted to taste and to see and to enjoy and enjoy and enjoy in the company of those he loved. He loved this life and he had the fear of death in him. He wanted to design and build, to conceive and construct, and perhaps in this he had the image of god in him, I mean the god he intimated to me, once and only once, one Passover night, thirty something years ago, that he believed had conceived of and constructed – was constructing, was supervising the construction of – the universe. He wanted to imagine spaces and he wanted to inhabit them, and no part of him ever wanted to stop doing that. My father was smart, everyone knows that, but he didn’t know how to die, and he was not a reckless man, he was gentle. “What am I supposed to do?” he asked me, six days before he passed. “Rest, Dad,” I said. “Rest.” So I will tell you the bravest thing he did was the thing he didn’t know how to do, didn’t have a plan for, hadn’t constructed a reality for, but the reason we’re here, the bravest thing he ever did was to look up through the negative space he had conceived of and constructed over his bed, a skylight that on the afternoon he died faced a clear blue sky, he looked up through it, with focus and clarity, he gathered all of his intellect and all of his history and all of his memory, all of his love of the material plane and the people in it, and he went through