Wednesday, August 16, 2006


There is a moment prior to revelation when everything goes blank. I enter a mental void. My mind grasps for answers but can provide none. Just before I discover some unknown, I mentally fall into the infinity of the possible outcomes. It happens to me more and more now that I work in real estate and especially with distressed property.

I mount the steps and ring the buzzer, “Hi this is Chris. I’m here to see the building” – “OK, I’ll be right down.” Then it happens. My mind starts to race over the possibilities. Who is going to meet me? What will he/she look like? What kind of space am I going to see inside this building? Will my clients like the space? My brain hits critical mass. It computes the impossibility of knowing that which is unknown; but, because this is such a compressed experience (maybe 30 seconds) it is more visceral feeling than cerebral understanding. I experience the contingency of that delayed moment like a point from which anything might pivot.

Maybe you’ve had the same experience. Perhaps waiting for someone to answer the phone or for your email to load. Maybe not. You won’t experience it if you’re preoccupied with other things. Before you know it you’ll be engaged, in a split second the unknown will be the present situation in which you are responding, give and take, parry and thrust, - that is being in the moment, an entirely different experience.

Experiencing and anticipating the unknown is one of the pleasures of working with distressed property. Each new property I visit is a micro-universe complete with a unique geography, history, politics and government. One day I’m looking at a modern prefab coffee roasting warehouse, the next day an old prewar down-feather processing building. Sure, it can be dizzying at times, but the diversity of these properties is a wonderful testament to the contingencies that make up human experience within our society.


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