The Environment Effect

Jack Tar rooftop

We meet again, Friday Lunch…

Today’s brief rain pour brought back strong childhood memories of

Robin Williams and crocodiles.

“…but a lot can kill you.”

Fortunately, the downpour only lasted roughly an hour. The strong winds are persistent, and the temperature drop this evening will be a rude interruption to the otherwise magnificent weather this week from Mother Nature.

Climate complaints aside, American Underground was bustling as people sprint to finish the week’s major projects. The possibility of Google Fiber implementation here in the Triangle has many of the tenants, and the city, buzzing in anticipation. The work environment lately has been particularly high energy. Our ShiftZen team is pushing a version update, and I am certain we are not the only group looking to make a leap forward this month.

A rainy day in the studio. #durhamNC #downtownDurham #TGIF

A rainy day in the studio. #durhamNC #downtownDurham #TGIF

Everywhere in the city, people were using the entrapment from the rain to be productive.


After brainstorming for hours, the rain ceased and my scrambled thoughts needed sustenance. Luke Demarest and Joseph Dickey, frequent Durham brunchmates of mine, suggested we relocate to Monut’s Donuts on Joseph’s recommendation.

The bagel sandwiches there are crazy delicious! Dos Perros, you have competition.

On the walk over, the Durham Effect revealed itself. Luke and I saw someone we recognized immediately. Traci Hoover, who is a fabulous mother to not just her children, but to any child with the good fortune to grace her home. Of course, she was also heading to Monut’s because, well, that’s where all the cool kids were en route. The best part was the group of strangers behind us were on a wild goose chase to find Monut’s, and luckily our timing steered them in the right direction.

A writer, a musician, and a visual artist walk into a donut shop. Stop me if you have heard this one before.

Reflection ignited our conversation as we listened to Luke reminisce about old projects and his recognition of those who influenced him at the time of each work.

“I was struck by the influence a particular artist had on my work (more than artists I was deliberately emulating) at the time. I didn’t see it as coincidence, but surprised that she remained in my subconscious…that I was emulating her without knowing it.”*

As time passed, new influences created new styles of artistic experience. Joseph stated that he would deliberately emulate those who influenced him, building his skills and understanding his own style of play.

For once, I did not have anything to contribute to the current conversation. Although reading and writing is not unknown to me, there are no particular writers that have directly impacted my work. Wanting to give something to the moment, I proposed that not all influences come from directly related genres. Music, photography, television, personal experience, even current atmosphere directly dictate how I approach every word, sentence, and paragraph. My own reflection stemmed from considering how I write at my desk versus in a room of people. Alone at my desk, in an isolated, meditative state, thoughts are elaborate and well enunciated. On the contrary, the chaos of our heavily trafficked living room creates erratic, short bursts of creative energy. One no more effective than the other, but they certainly produce vastly different results.

The co-working space in AU @ Main is a hotbed for creativity.

The co-working space in AU @ Main is a hotbed for creativity.

Thankfully, I was not alone. I could see that Luke was deep in thought considering the implications of this idea while Joseph further explained that for him, atmosphere was like music. It engulfed him while in the experience, imprinting thoughts and connecting synapses.

Unanimously, we concluded that environment played an enormous role in the choices made by any creator.

My time spent in the American Underground certainly reinforces that idea. Incubator is a word frequently used to describe the hub curated by Adam, Molly, and Ellie. The environment created has as much to do with the success of each business as their own contributions.

Durham is a beacon. Cities strive to empower individuals to influence their own environment in a positive way. Each citizen directly impacts the next. Each business, each creator, all symbiotically setting the foundation for the collective success of all.

Durham, continue to brainstorm… because when it rains, it pours.

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Columnist, Justin Laidlaw, aka Buddy Ruski, is a renaissance man. His interests range from the music business to politics, from Durham’s history and culture to the world beyond. The co-host of the Clarion Content’s podcast, he is fast becoming a veteran columnist. He is a thinker, a fashion model, a networker, a business manager and more.

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Columnist Justin Laidlaw is a renaissance man. His interests range from the music business to politics, from Durham’s history and culture, to the world beyond. The co-host of Clarion Content’s podcast, he is fast becoming a veteran columnist. He is a fashion model, a tech sceptic, a business manager and more.

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