“Let’s start your tour of Blank Canvas Living with one of our restrooms…”
I’m getting used to expecting the unexpected from my new friend, who met me at the door wearing a maxi shirtwaist dress of an almost clinical mint green. With her white braid wrapped loosely around her head, she could pass for a late 1800s factory worker, except for the flash of neon pink lipstick.
I push through the restroom’s double swing-hinge doors and nearly fall flat on my face! My foot stalls in mid-air over a deep glacier fissure full of strange looking machinery.
I hear her laughing behind me. “There’s a glass floor! It only ‘looks’ like you’re stepping onto – or I guess into – an Antarctic glacier. Our filtration fissure gets ’em every time.”
The trompe l’oeil effect is astonishing. Below the glass is a pitted porcelain replica of slowly melting glacier ice. Running down the middle is a molded crevasse containing a series of filters that appear to be treating the water flowing down from the equally astonishing glacial fountain/sink in the far corner of the mirror walled room. The reflections extend the space infinitely on either side, while the floor to ceiling windows behind the fountain look out over the river and into the lower cityscape beyond.
“You gave your bathroom a corner office?” I ask, once my footing is secure.
“Why slot ourselves into stables like livestock in a barn? We celebrate our humanity at Blank Canvas Living. Our clients love peeing in their own private Antarctic tents! And we’re on the edge of downtown so line of sight isn’t an issue.”
“Tents? Where are the toilets?”
She slides back a section of mirrored wall. Each stall is open glass on its longest side and hung with orange tenting to effect a cocoon-like privacy around the back. The toilet itself is bizarre, a smooth bowl mounted within a seemingly haphazard stack of red and yellow scientific equipment crates. Bizarre, but incredibly inviting, and quite practical – the paper having its own little crate off to one side.
“Is the rest of the office as crazy as this?” I ask, immediately regretting my choice of words.
“This is only the beginning, my dear.” She winks at me, then closes the mirror and begins demonstrating the temperature settings of the automatic faucet function of the fountain’s organically asymmetric fissure sinks. A voice over the PA interrupts the demo: “Would Doctor C please come to reception”.
“Looks like we’ll have to reschedule,” says my friend, evidently Doctor C. She reads my questioning expression. “Doctor of Philosophy,” she explains, prompting my next question.
“What exactly do you do here?”
“Do? To put it quite simply…we bring people into their stories. We create touchstone artifacts, practice Blank Canvas exercises in engagement, sense scrolling, and other techniques designed to loosen the brain associations that can trap us in our current cultural thought paradigms. People come to us when the conflict between what they’ve been taught they should do and how they were born coded to live becomes unmanageable. But the only way to know Blank Canvas Living beyond the abstraction of words is to start living it. Are you ready for your first assignment?”
I think back to last week’s personal waveform and the seismic skirt that started it all. “It all sounds cool, sure, maybe a teensy bit namby pamby, sorry. But it must be expensive to get involved in something like this.” The public toilet alone must have cost more than my annual salary rolling paper down on the 6th floor.
“Namby pamby my ass! Anyways, I don’t want you as a client… I want you as a counselor. Like I said, I’ve been keeping an eye out for someone like you. I have a client who wants to start keeping a sketchbook, but doesn’t think she can integrate it into her life, too busy… forgotten how to draw… yada yada, excuses galore. I want you to come up with a way to remind her that this is her secret freedom, a sensory path to her deepest passions. All you need to know is that she wears very strappy high heels, very strappy.” She cuts off any questions with a wave of her mint green cuff. “Now, let’s set up a time for you to come back…”