Louisville Magazine

JUL 2016

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: http://loumag.epubxp.com/i/696273

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52 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 7.16 columns repeating through the halls like tall, thick bones. A team of workers moves like ants through the building, marching through their tasks — unwrapping dining room tables and fxing exposed wires on the overhead lights after Wilson comments on them. In the fnished suites Wilson, Greenberg and Swyers inspect the furniture designed by Deborah Berke Partners, a NYC-based interior design frm that has transformed each 21c since the beginning. Tey look for anything to add to the punch list of things that must be fxed, down to a loose thread on a new chair. In design meetings at the 21c corporate ofce, Wilson and Swyers thumb through fabric swatches. Tey choose colors with names like "tickle sterling," "picaro zinc" and "lion leather." A light fxture looks like a moon with craters, too spacey. If you're "pedestrian" or "uninspiring," meet the trashcan, shaped like a crumpled-up piece of trash. He'll pin good designs onto the long strip of Styrofoam scaling the wall behind his desk. At one meeting they discuss the front desk, and Wilson says, "What ever happened with the idea of not having a front desk at all? And the personnel comes to greet you." In Oklahoma City, the sink knobs shaped like wheel spokes thrill Wilson. But a chair is too tall for the suite's desk and Wilson says they need to get new ones. Art chosen by Brown — silhouettes of an African family — are measured against the wall. Are they best over the chair, or couch? Te penthouse has long couches with bronze braided pillows. Wilson looks at the ottoman, says,"Tat's big. Does it take up too much space?" Te penthouse shower, visible from the bedroom hallway, inspires a conversation about modesty, voyeurism. Everything must be perfect. Wilson doesn't think he's ever actually reached perfection. He knows he has high standards and can be quite critical. He says he thinks perfectionism is a faw, but then says, "I don't think 21c would be what it is if I didn't have the desire to make things perfect. I have no desire to build Holiday Inns." As for his personal life, Wilson says he wishes he could've been a better father. His adult son, a contemporary artist who has a couple installations in 21c, didn't return phone calls for this story. Brown remembers when she frst saw the two together: "It was like talking to twins." At Wilson's granddaughter Bradley's graduation from St. Francis Middle School, Wilson fnds his 15-year-old grandson, Avery, frst. Holds him sweetly by the neck, gets a good look at him, the nature boy. Tey worked together on a treehouse Wilson designed that was featured on Animal Planet's Treehouse Master. Soon, they will be going to Canada, just the two of them, to visit a cabin Wilson bought but hasn't yet seen. Little Mae — a look-alike of Wilson's mom, he thinks — has just fnished fourth grade, knows the weight of baby bison, talks assuredly while she balances the graduation program in her hand. Bradley wears white with the rest of the eighth-grade girls. She wins an athletics and an arts award, and gives a speech, says, "Sometimes I'll think about a situation I'm in and think of it as a memory. How I'll miss the person I am in that moment." Wilson and his son sit side-by-side, sit the same way — right hand on crossed right leg. Teir glasses sit on their same nose the same way. Wishes he could've been better for his father. "Even though he's dead now, I'm still trying to prove to him that I'm good enough. I don't think that will ever change," Wilson says. He would've liked to have been better educated. He's traveled the world — in two months he was in England, Canada, all over the U.S. and was planning trips to Switzerland, Italy and Cuba — but: "I know I bring my successes to the table, but it becomes fairly evident that when I'm with people that've read a hell of a lot more books than I have," he says. "You can't have that conversation and not wish you'd read that book." He doesn't see well enough to read much now anyway. He has something called Fuchs' dystrophy — which he needs an employee to remind him the name of because, he says, "those details slip" — that lights halos around things and warps facial features of people a table away. Tose famous glasses don't really help. It's partly why he has a driver. "I get frustrated. I can never be alone, go somewhere by myself," he says. He can't read the newspaper or a menu. At today's lunch in Oklahoma City, Greenberg reads the list of sandwiches to Wilson with patience before he sits with the crew. At other restaurants, Wilson will take a picture of the menu on his iPhone and enlarge it. Before his horse races, Wilson memorizes the course, walking the sharp turns along fence lines, tight circles and jaunts through water. "I have a lot of anxiety about losing my way," he says. "I'm sure art would be diferent if I saw perfectly. I'm not bumping into things. I don't need a stick to get around, OK?" Suppose the Death Clock was reversed, its red digits moving backward in time, revealing the past. Speeding through deserts and love and heartbreak and Tailand to Wicklife, and a time when all the clocks were analog. Dancing through the house. French doors open from room to room to room to move. Wilson, just a boy, with his younger sister Melanie, polka-ing to mother's piano playing, or embellishing Chubby Checker's latest hit, "Te Twist." Wilson would choreograph the dances, design the costumes: black velvet, emerald stones sparkling, organza billowing out of the calypso headdress. Te siblings would cha-cha, cross step, revel in the freedom from the farm and long days spent vaccinating and cutting cattle and "chunking" — clearing the felds of debris after the river bottom fooded. Wilson's dad — who eventually had enough farming success to move the family of the stilt-bolstered house and into a big brick house that was once owned by the "I don't think 21c would be what it is if I didn't have the desire to make things perfect. I have no desire to build Holiday Inns."

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