The blinding morning sun shot through the windshield while a radio announcer’s voice filled the car’s interior chattering a morning program with her on–air guest on the latest lifestyle trend on mind and spirit. It was a typical morning program rundown of traffic report and weather forecast for the day. I drove the car for the last twenty minutes in the light morning rush hour. Something about morning radio programs made people tuned in the minute they got into their cars. It was as if people were afraid to miss what went on in the rest of the world since they went to sleep the night before. Actually all you heard about is the usual heavy traffic everywhere and the same weather report as the day before due to the limited option of a two season country which was either hot and humid or rain with occasional reports on sporadic flood.

It was late November and it has been raining almost daily. Surprisingly the sun was out that morning creating a shiny face on the still wet road from last night’s rain. It was funny how traffic seemed slower on wet road as if illustrating people walking on a slippery surface. My fingers kept pushing on the memory buttons switching stations without really looking for anything particular on the radio. As I entered the narrow streets of a trendy neighborhood light drizzle started to hit the windshield. The sun has taken shelter behind the now grey cloud. I stared ahead navigating the car through alley like streets with chic galleries and cafes lined up on both sides. I noticed other drivers started to have their wipers working as I stared ahead and watched droplets of water on the windshield.

My thought raced forward to what were waiting for me at work. The millions things that needed to be done on the newly acquired account and several other brand communication campaigns that needed to be strategize. Not to mention to looked after one or two still pending creative and technical executions on some new web development that needed to be presented to clients. Peculiar as it was certain trades tended to group together forming an illusion of images and envious observations to those outside the trade. Superficial as it may seem but it never failed to attract certain stereotypes. The neighborhood I was driving through was a good example. I was almost sure that whoever it was that developed the area didn’t really plan it to turn out the way it was. In the last few years it has developed into a pleasant area surrounded with a bohemian flavor where art galleries and cafes mixed together with modest small proprietor shops and residential for the upper-classes. To further commercialize the area, high – end retail shops soon followed accompanied by corporate of the creative trade such as ad agencies, creative boutiques, photography studios and production houses. “People watching” which was used to be the favorite past time belonging only to the residents has now became a commodity for sale especially on the week – ends. Not long after that a new campus for one of the top university relocated its schools of Architecture and Art & Design only a stone throw away putting one final touch to what every trendy neighborhood should have, a laid back but intellectual academic atmosphere.

Another two blocks and a few more turns will took me to my office. I felt lucky that driving to work no longer include enduring the stressful busy freeways and major roads some commuters had to take to get to the central business district down town. My thoughts were re-winded to the times when I was one of those commuters several years back being just another one in a million suit and tie corporate man in the race to climb the corporate ladder. In my case it was to be in the fast pace investment banking world with cuff links and suspender dress code. I supposed I should feel grateful then that I was miles away from the busy freeways and the suit and tie and for being in the trade that had a free spirited atmosphere. It was almost three years since I have made partner in a small marketing communication agency. Being one of the first to go into digital marketing has given the agency the edge it needed when corporations finally considering shifting into new media for their communication. Baiting for the big fish clients in the last few years has finally paid off and has given the agency a nice chunk of retainer fees.

My searched for the unknown finally stopped when Carly Simon’s "Itsy Bitsy Spider" came over the car speakers. In another ten minutes or so I would arrived in my destination. It could have been the desire to prolong the journey that made me all of a sudden decided to walk the rest of the distance. I started eyeing for empty parking spaces on the street. Being in the retail block with business’ that mostly opened at ten o’clock I easily found a few empty spaces to park my car. I parked the car in front of a florist that sells imported flowers. While getting out of the car I caught a glimpse of the shop girl carrying imported tulips from Holland and putting them on a display bucket. That reminded me that I should send some flowers to one of my staff who has just given birth the day before. I quickly went inside and ordered some sunflowers to be delivered to the hospital. Pushing the glass door on my way out of the florist I realized that the rain has stopped. Carrying my worn out leather back pack over my shoulder I started walking.

As I walked my mind started to wander again to those years of soul searching or should I said searching for something that was right for my soul. The struggled between choosing a conventional path and the attraction for unconventionalities were like the pain of my existence that I had to go through while growing up. I was still not sure whether it was just naïve ignorance or simply the lack of confidence to go against conventionality that had led me later on to conformed to the larger sense of belonging. Surely I thought it was not because of insecurity as I have always found certain comfort with my own insecurities. Somehow recognizing my own fears has helped me to stay focus to my true being. It was like a secret intimacy that existed deep within me and was my creation of the art of happiness and my covert sanctuary whenever I was in doubt with my surrounding.

A large Ukiyo-e portraying Kiyonaga's art print of "Girl Under a Willow" on the wall of a fusion Sushi place distracted my thought. This briefly took me away from what the Buddhist called the sorrowful world to its ironic wordplay, the floating world of a 17th centuries JapanEdo period with its complicated philosophies and sense of Samurai chivalry1. I smiled and thought of my own complexity as comparison. Still staring at the glass covered poster I saw the reflection of myself, a man in faded grey corduroy Levi’s wearing a wind breaker over a t – shirt and a Timberland shoes. A far cry indeed from the drawing of a man in dark colored chalked Armani suit and cuff linked white shirt with silk tie. I never did find the passion for suspenders but I did eventually get tiresome of cufflinks and everything else that came with it. It was never me and neither were the teakwood paneled of a cigar smoke board room nor the fluctuations of the market index had ever given me any significant gratification. The agony of waking up one day and finding myself doing something for the sake of doing it and for self security turned out to be more frightening than the thought of losing that security. Suddenly, the art of happiness is merely now just a fiction of my imagination. Light drizzle has started again and pulling the hood of the wind breaker over my head I continued my steps on the wet cobble stone pavement in the direction toward my building.

While abstraction had no real cost, reality did bite. Stepping out of a comfort zone turned out to be more than just carrying the burden of economic consequences but also the need to established a new self – identity which closely resembled the nightmare of an introvert teenager at lost in the jungle of a new high – school. That same lost feeling was a real challenge especially in the planet of creative communication filled with over blown egos that were not only could create legendary campaigns but frequently also disastrous creative landmines. The supposedly combination of art and science between business strategy and creative solution could and often easily mistaken to be the processed to create an award winning fine art project instead. It was a lethal occupational hazard as well as a chaotic war zone. Egos were easily bruised or took a nose dive imitating a kamikaze pilot plunging his plane over the Pacific Ocean into an allied aircraft carrier during World War II. I sometimes marveled how all these could create envious observations to those outside the circle.

I stopped at a zebra cross waiting for the green light and looked at the corner store to watched a visual merchandiser worked on a shoe display for Manolo Blahnik new arrivals. He artistically placed a pair of red patent leather sandal against a black steel stand highlighting the gold metal trim and heel of the sandal. The positioning was in such a way that the passionate red vintage style sandal with its beautiful curve reminded me of a sensual Flamenco dancer. The light switched to green and as I crossed the street I thought about how an insightful positioning combined with memorable visuals could really did the job. Those shoes displays certainly have attracted countless loyal long legged beauties to walked into the store and spent money on shoes that at least equal to two months salary of a blue collar worker. Nevertheless, I could have imagined that there were criticisms from those who effortlessly dismissed this to be just another trivial vanity or worse, a shallow urban chic nonsense.

Approaching my office I realized that the pyramidal needs which set priorities and petty importance sometime worked against each other which made people see things from different frame of mind. A product of a free spirited surroundings often combined with playful childlike thought might seemed mediocre to the eye of a practical rigid mind who puts value on properness. Prestigious achievements between the two poles then could only be understood by how the stars worked the different horoscopes belonging to these souls.

Pushing the door to my building I winked at my receptionist with the pale faced Gothic make up as she mumbled a soft husky good morning to me. I stopped by the pantry to make my second cup of coffee for the day. On the walked up to the duplex section of the office I was greeted with sounds of Jimmy Durante’s “As Time Goes By” competing with Radio Head’s “Hail to the Thief” coming from MP3’s blasted from G5 Mac computers. I smiled at this assemble of the old and new working together creating strange but harmonious unity. Sipping my coffee at my desk I looked through my glass walled room and watched others did their morning routine. As I turned to the window I watched the rain and saw how the window glass stopped the rain from crashing in and created tiny rivers flowing from gravity.

I liked what I did there and I loved the playful and free spirited environment represented that morning by Durante and Radio Head. Strange as it may be to another observer but for me it was a representation of "properness" and "free spirit" working together to formed a character that fitted me perfectly. Whether or not it portrayed the same thing on the rest of society's mainstream was entirely a different story as I often considered myself to be a rather strange character. I did realize that having lived and digested the past days of my life, taking and learning what they had to offer has taken me to the duplex office on that rainy November morning. It might or might not have been the right place for my soul. The prestigious trade award hanged on the wall may satisfy the soul for the moment but can easily became petty importance the next day. But I knew then that whatever the searched was, the art of happiness was about acceptance and understanding. They were no longer about fictions running around wild but were about learning to understand what I could not accept and to accept what I could not understand. To lived the day with what I knew from yesterday and prayed tomorrow will come as only faith has the control to bring me tomorrow.

There is no rain today as it is now in the middle of July and the sun has set for the day bringing a cooler breeze to what has been a hot and humid day. I am looking out through my window at the street where it is already well lit from the colonial style light poles. From my window I see an owner of a brand new green Volkswagen is getting out of her car parked in that exact space where I parked my car that rainy November morning. Passing my window she goes straight to the newly opened yoghurt and bakery store next door. I turn around and walk back to my desk to get ready to close the shop for the day. I ask one of my staff to call me a cab that will take me to the airport straight from the shop. I am leaving for Italy tonight before continuing to Malta for some new carnations and chrysanthemums adding new inventories to my florist.

  1. Ukiyo-e (pronounced oo-kee-oh-ay) was a style of popular art in Japan during the Edo period, inexpensive and usually depicting scenes from everyday life.

    Ukiyo translates as "floating world" - an ironic wordplay on the Buddhist name for the earthly plane, "the sorrowful world". Ukiyo was the name given to the lifestyle in Japan's urban centers - the fashions, the high life, and the pleasures of the flesh. Ukiyo-e is the art documenting this era. - Source


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