On call in perpetuity
Dr. Karl V. Hohman (C.V.), 1928-1985, the Old Man’s father.
Dad did not go out to play golf on his own or join a country club, but he did take us boys occasionally to miniature golf, practice ranges and a Par-3. During a summer in my teens I worked as a ball collector at Cool Springs Driving Range in Castle Shannon (PA). We ball collectors wore cages for protection against unintended (and intended) consequences. As far as I can recall, Dad and my three brothers were not firing away while I picked the sloped field of white spheres, though I would not put it past them.
Dad and Eric at Oglebay Park WV in 1963
Just a little note to first of all say thank you for taking good care of my mother as your patient and second if you would be kind enough to fill out my mother’s insurance form and return it to me at your earliest convenience. George and I both would like to have you and your family over sometime in the near future so I will be calling your home the first Sunday we have off. Thanks again. P.S. Please send me a bill for your services.
Thank you very much for the excellent care that you gave to my father-in-law.
Hi Doctor, I am very sorry that I didn’t send you this money that I owe you. Please forgive me.
Dear Sir, we would like to express our thanks and appreciation of the wonderful job you performed on our little girl’s eye on Dec 18, 1966. It healed beautiful and can hardly be noticed. We will always be grateful to you. May God forever bless you in your work. Thank you very kindly.
From the Couch – Monumental Mythopoeia
Patient, male, presents as composed and groomed; wishes to be addressed as “The Old Man,” his pen-name; claims Pittsburgh architect Frederick C. Sauer (1860-1942) as an ancestor:
For as long as I can remember I have been interested in houses and the landscapes around them. As a boy I would draw blueprints of houses, which always had to have a spiral staircase. Another childhood compulsion was to count the rooms of our house (see Home of Golf) – over and over again, hoping the final tally would be greater. Responsibility for my preoccupation with built environments I place squarely on my German ancestry: Vetter Sauer and my paternal grandfather Valentine Hohman (1891-1971), a carpenter who specialized in floors.
Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle”
Mr. Patton’s architectural drawing class, my high school lesson in the practicalities, wrenched me from spiral staircases to office buildings. My building dreams crumbled like the lead at the tip of my mechanical pencil. As Schiller wrote:
Leicht beieinander wohnen die Gedanken,
doch hart im Raume stoßen sich die Sachen.
Translating rhyme is to me like having to handle a mechanical pencil again, so here’s a translation in prose:
Ideas can coexist like good neighbors,
but things collide in the real world.
A year (1979-80) in Metropolitan Studies at New York University and 18 months (1989-90) at the Sewickley Herald (PA), where editor Mike May was a passionate spokesman for preservation of significant architecture, reinforced my instincts. By then, I had entered the worlds of books and writing as well, so my Heimat was firmly in architectural und literary narratives.
Influential built environments, in chronological order: Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle,” Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Buhl Planetarium’s Model Train Exhibit (PA), Milne’s Hundred-Acre Wood, the NY Times Real Estate Section, Hardenbergh’s Dakota (NY), Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Dickens’s England, Chekhov’s Tchumbaroklov Waste, alias Himalaiskoe, Tati’s Saint-Marc-sur-Mer, Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor’s Castle Howard (UK), Joyce’s “dear dirty Dublin,” Charbonnier’s Herrenhäuser Gärten (DE), Schrebergärten (DE), Grass’s Langfuhr, Orth’s Wilpen Hall (PA), May’s Sewickley and Old Allegheny (PA), Calvino’s The Distance to the Moon, von Spreckelsen, Reitzel and Andreu’s La Grande Arche de la Défense (FR), Kahn’s Salk Institute (CA), Mann’s Zauberberg, Fontane’s Stechlin, Brill’s set designs for Sledgehammer Theatre (CA) and Neumann’s for die Volksbühne (DE), Smithson’s non-sites, Neglia’s Roots to Crown, Keiser’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (OR), Kahn & Selesnick, Space Biospheres Ventures’ Biosphere II (AZ), Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin East and West (WI/AZ), Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum (CA), Cardiff and Miller’s Lost in the Memory Palace, Soleri’s Arcosanti (AZ), Roussel’s Locus Solus and the Eameses’ Case Study House No. 8 (CA).