What happened here

It’s been a month for milestones.

On May 31, my site turned 13 years old.

On June 7, making the previous milestone and all others possible, I had 15 years without a drink or drug.

On Saturday June 28, Carrie and I celebrated five years of marriage by hiring a babysitter, eating a meal, and bumming around the east village.

Between these landmarks came a flight to Pittsburgh and back-to-back train trips from New York to Washington DC, and Boston.

In the last-named burg we put on a two-day design conference for people who make websites.

At home during this same period, our daughter outgrew last month’s clothes, began swimming, got a big-girl bed, attended and graduated summer camp, stopped being even slightly afraid of school, hung out with her grandma, and advanced so much intellectually and emotionally that it would qualify as science fiction if it weren’t the lived experience of ’most everyone who has kids.

Between all that came the usual tumult of client meetings, client projects, and potential new business, giddily intermingled with the publication of two A List Apart issues. Make that three issues as of tomorrow.

Been busy.

If I had to pick an image to symbolize the month, it would be me on a rerouted slow Amtrak train from Boston to New York, using an iPhone and one finger to peck out a strategic response to an 80 page RFP.

That would have been the image, but now there’s a new one. For now there’s today.

On the calendar it is Happy Cog New York’s moving day. Today I pack up what for 18 years was either my apartment or Happy Cog’s New York City headquarters (and was most often both).

I hit bottom in this place. Ended a short-lived, tragically wrong first marriage. Rebuilt my life one cell at a time. Found self. Found love. Became a web designer. Found the love of my life. Married well, had a magical child. Wrote two books. Made money and lost it a couple of times over. Founded a magazine. Co-founded a movement. Worked for others. Freelanced. Founded an agency. Grew it.

It all happened here.

This gently declining space that has been nothing but an office since December and will soon be nothing at all to me, this place I will empty and vacate in the next few hours, has seen everything from drug withdrawal to the first stirrings of childbirth. Happiness, anguish, farting and honeymoons. Everything. Everything but death.

Even after our family moved, the place was never empty. The heiress to an American fine art legacy came here, to this dump, to talk about a potential project. Two gentlemen who make an extraordinary food product came here many times to discuss how their website redesign was going.

When I wasn’t meeting someone for lunch, I went downstairs to this wonderful little place to take away a small soup and a sandwich, which I ate at my desk while reading nytimes.com. Helming the take-away lunch place are three Indian women who are just the sweetest, nicest people ever. The new studio is just far enough away that I will rarely see these ladies any more. I will miss them.

I will miss Josef, the super here, with his big black brush mustache and gruff, gently-East-European-accented voice. He will miss me, too. He just told me so, while we were arranging for the freight elevator. We were kind to him after his heart attack and he has been kind to us since he arrived—the last in a long series of supers caught between an aging building and a rental agent that prefers not to invest in keeping the place up. The doormen and porters, here, too, some of whom I’ve known for nearly twenty years, my God. Can’t think about that.

I will miss being able to hit the gym whenever I feel like it and shower right in my workplace.

And that is all.

This is the death of something but it is the birth of something more. We take everything with us, all our experiences (until age robs us of them one by one, and even then, they are somewhere—during the worst of my mother’s Alzheimer’s, she reacted, however subtly, to Sinatra). We take everything with us. The stink and glory of this place will stay on me even when we are set up in our slick new space. It will be with me long after the landlord’s collection letters have stopped. This place, what happened here, will live until my head cracks like a coconut, and then some.

And now I pre-pack. Adieu, adieu.

[tags]happycog, moves, moving, newyork, NYC, design, webdesign, alistapart, wedding, anniversary, zeldman, zeldman.com, 5years, 13years, 15years[/tags]

57 thoughts on “What happened here

  1. Jeffrey, thanks very much as always for sharing yourself with the world as you do. Congratulations on the milestones and best wishes for the move.

  2. Jeffrey… Thanks, to you and the powers that be for the bottom and the 15 years, making all else dream-able and possible. Amazingly, only a few years behind you in some respects and many years behind you in others, we travel similar paths and chase similar dreams lived by same principles. Thanks for lighting that path.
    Best wishes for a smooth move in all areas of life,
    Steve

  3. Dear Mr. Zeldman,

    Having bought your originall DWWS Orange book, way back in 2003 and subsequently the 2nd edition as soon as it came out, I can honestly say you’ve had a tangilble impact on my career and I’ve followed yours ever since.

    I recently made a career change after 5 years and can completely relate to the emotion you describe of leaving the past behind, and embracing the future – it’s scary, daunting and yet, entirely necessary!

    So I hope that happiness and prosperity precede your move and look forward to hearing more about your experiences in the next chapter …

    Best wishes,
    Lee Stuttaford – Cape Town, South Africa

  4. Jeffrey,

    Your site, way back in 1997, is what convinced me that web development was/is the job for me, so thank you for 11 years of wisdom and inspiration.

    All the success you are having is earned.

  5. Congrats on everything, best wishes with the move and everything going forward. I can’t say enough what an honor and privilege, for me, that it was to meet you in Boston.

    I was told once that “Only good things can come from hard work.” So only good things can come your way. There may be memories being left behind, but think of the ones that will be ahead of you in the new place.

    Good luck, Jeffrey! :)

  6. Good for you!

    I wanted to you let you know what a good time I had in Boston, and how lucky I felt to be there. I’m grateful for all your work. Thanks!

  7. : massive applause! :

    Bon voyage! May your move go smooth and your new offices bring you nothing but joy.

  8. I think you’ll be incredibly happy you wrote this 5, 10, 15+ years down the road. You’ve summed up your thoughts, memories and feelings about this change into one great post, and captured this moment in time. I can think of points in my life where I’ve felt similar – extremely excited about what the future holds, but very nostalgic and somewhat sad about the road that is now behind you.

    Best of luck Jeffery – though with great family, friends and coworkers, I seriously doubt you’ll need it. :)

  9. Jeff has lived in our apartment for 30+ years. His journey is different, but exactly the same.

  10. Niki and I remember when that apartment went from having one bedroom to two. How you gave up your living room’s big window to make a well-lit bedroom for a little person you hadn’t met yet. You couldn’t have imagined how cool she’d turn out to be.

  11. Your words is what got us in touch 10 years ago. And words are what’s kept us connected over this time, over these distances.

    Again, thank you for all the inspiration.

    We’re also in the eye of the storm which is, in our case, moving between continents. From Istanbul to Delhi, via Stockholm. In one fell swoop.

    Wish you the best of luck with the move, and hope to see you all soon!

  12. Thanks once again for the inspiration, Jeffrey. Posts like this help to keep me going when things don’t look so great. I, as I’m sure others do, see aspects of my own journey in yours.

  13. Congratulations on your last month achievements, Jeffrey! Seems like life works for you :) Best wishes for the move.

  14. Love this post Jeffrey. While I can’t claim to have experienced quite the range of emotions and trials that you had in that place, I can definitely identify with the thoughts as you leave. I owned a place of my own for just over 10 years before selling up and moving in with my wife to a newew, much nicer, bigger and much better located house. Despite the fact that the neighbourhood I was in had some less-than-savoury characters, I couldn’t help but miss it. On the day I left, I walked through every room with a camcorder, saying farewell to every room, nook and cranny, literally walking out of each room and filming me closing each door – physically and metaphorically. Finally I walked out of the front door and closed it for the last time. I’ve not looked back … although I cannot help but wonder what ‘adventures’ have ocurred in those walls since I left there.

  15. How wonderful to hear your story–it reminds me both of many hours spent in various church basements, and of things I miss most about the years I spent in New York.

    And also of this quote from Neitzsche: “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is…that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

    Blessings on you and your family. And thanks for all the help in building web sites. I couldn’t have done it without you.

  16. Unlike you, I’ve moved around frequently. I’ve lost track of how many different apartments and houses I’ve lived in. Some places held our family for just a few weeks or months, and we stayed for several years in a couple of others. Our boy is grown now, and when he comes “home” it’s to another new house where he has little history. I worry about him not having the anchor of place. Best wishes to you my friend on this new phase for Happy Cog!

  17. Well said, Sir. Your book inspired me to web design. I’m still not so good at it, but it inspired the hell out of me. I hope the new office treats you well.

  18. Jeffrey,

    About five years ago I picked up “the orange book,” and as I wrote back then, I almost changed careers to become a web developer right there on the spot. You ignited a passion in me for the web and for standards, and I wanted to make things to honor the beauty of those ideas.

    Well, I’ve worked on web development since then, springing from your book to others, and springing finally from Apple in Cupertino to a small startup in Minneapolis. And now I’ve done it. I’m a full-time web developer and I love it.

    Thank you for igniting that within me. I doubt I would’ve found that tiny spark otherwise, and I’m sure it would’ve gone out.

  19. Normally a lurker, but this was really lovely. Best of luck getting moved and I hope you get as much history and mileage out of your new place…

  20. Wow, what a roller coaster ride. All for the best, though, it seems, eh?
    Fascinating and emotionally intense, your stories are the best entertainment.
    It’s wonderful living your life vicariously.
    Congratulations!!!

  21. I’m moving myself (and thus, my business) in less than a month (almost to the opposite coast). So maybe that’s what got me in the chest reading this. Or maybe it’s just ’cause I’ve talked to Jeffrey in person…. and I follow Jeffrey on twitter… and he inspires me… and he makes me laugh.

    Jeffrey, you’re larger than life and I hope that some day, when I grow up, I can be a little bit like you. :) Good luck on the acclimation. Ciao.

  22. thank you for such a lovely post…as always, when I check in on zeldman.com – I’m left with a serene sense of chaos at peace…if this makes sense.

    I’ve watched (read: READ) some of your milestones…it is great that you’ve marked these occasions with us (i.e. quitting smoking, 9/11, meeting your new sweetie who then becomes your wife and then the welcoming of your little one and NOW the BIG MOVE UP)…you always inspire me to truck on…

    thank you so much for being who you are…continue the journey…the universe is magical.

    regards
    jody

  23. This is very touching. Congrats on your milestone and may I be able to be like you; standing over and over amidst all trials.Kudos!

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