Inhabit is a new series by local photographer David Lawrence (Website), that shares stories about the people who call Orlando home. It’s an exploration of where people live and spend their days, whether that be at home, in an office, the streets of downtown, or anywhere in between. Lawrence explores who people are and how they ended there.
Every other week we will be sharing Lawrence’s interviews, featuring a different Orlandoan and telling the story of the places they inhabit. Lawrence is available for private photography projects and can be reached through his website, above.
*This interview was transcribed and edited from an audio interview. Some colorful language was used.
Who are you?
Todd Barczak. 40 years old. I just turned 40 a few months ago … that was entertaining. I’ve been in Orlando since the seventh grade, but around here [Audubon Park] for a decade or so.
Where are we currently and what’s important to you about this space?
We are at Stardust Video and Coffee. Pretty much anyone who comes here probably recognizes me as a staple [chuckles]. This is an interesting place. It’s really one of the hubs for Orlando culturally and musically. When I first started coming around before I found this whole area, I was really trying to find an alternative scene. I lived by the airport and there was just nothing there. You wanted to go out and there was a Froggers and every chain restaurant in the world. Coffee shops are Starbucks. I remember walking into Stardust for the first time and meeting Emily, who was a staple of the experience at the time. She’s gone now.
[Todd went on to tell me how he lived with Doug Rhodehamel. Doug is an awesome local artist, and the resident trash guy at Stardust — literally, his job is to take out the trash. Back in 2011 Stardust hosted a party to celebrate Doug filling up 150 dumpsters.]
Through that [living with Doug], I started meeting all these artists and getting invited to all these art shows. The music scene was a little different then, but it was still very cool. So all of the sudden it was like every freaking night there was a show at Will’s or Uncle Lou’s or someone’s house. I was cycling and the single speed scene was massive back then. So we’d be on our bikes everywhere all the time. We would do these rides from here and go up to Red Fox, back when the Red Fox was around, ride down Mills, stop and get drunk there, then ride Downtown to BBQ Bar and it became this whole thing and the more time you spent, the more you just met and realized that everyone comes through here.
And you can’t say that about Wills or Indies or even Wally’s.
Are there other places that you hang out in the city? Or is this pretty much it?
I guess for me, a litmus test is the people around. So it’s not necessarily, is “it nice or not” or whatever. It’s like what kind of crowd am I surrounded by? The energy of the crowd and everything. And I don’t even need to interact with people. It’s just being around people. So from that context, I’ve definitely been hanging out at Guesthouse a lot. The funny thing about that is that I love everyone that works there. The bartenders and everything are awesome. Everybody is fantastic. Corey has done a great job. They all have.
This was a few months ago. I was up against it for awhile. It’s too bougie, too whatever. And the crowd on certain nights is weird, but I was sitting there and it was kind of quiet and I looked around and I swear to God, almost everyone at that bar, I recognized from the Peacock days. They were sitting there and I was like “Shit, all those people were at Peacock”. So once I realized, the community had kind of embraced it that way, that’s when I was like, okay, this spot is solid.
I tried to find a little info about you online before we met up because I really don’t know anything about you, and literally all that came up was a LinkedIn page. You’ve worked as a programmer at the same company for close to 20 years now.
My 20th anniversary was in February, yes. That company has changed ownership a few times. They’ve been bought out, merged, whatever. So the job itself has changed. But yeah, they hired me when I was 19. At first it was just answering phones. Then they were like, “oh, you can program.” They let me do that and the only reason I’m still there is because I show up at that office once a week, maybe. Our office is in Lake Mary and I’m like, “I could not do a job where I show up and have to sit at a desk in a cubicle for eight hours every day. It would drive me insane.” Because I can work from here, I’ll go in once in awhile. Say “hi” for a few hours, and then get the fuck out.
That’s kept me, and granted, having a salary the whole time is nice.
I wanted to ask you something else about our job. I feel like in this present day of movers and shakers and thinking it’s cool to bounce around all the time; was staying at your current company for as long as you have something that you did intentionally or was it something that just happened and suddenly over 20 years you’re still here?
No, it totally just happened. They tried to fire us so many times and couldn’t justify it. It was just one of those things where every year you laugh and are like “Huh, I’m still here. This is hilarious.” I don’t even want to work in corporate America, fuck that. I would rather work independently, but I can’t say no to the job, you know? And I work with cool people. They are really cool people who I’ve known for 20 years. It’s ridiculous. The only shitty thing is that industry, the tech industry doesn’t have pension. Like if I had started in a traditional business, I’d be 40 years old and about to get retirement.
Two things I notice right off the bat with you is; First, your smile, you always have a huge smile. And second is your tattoos. What would you say makes you the happiest?
I have to make that choice [happiness], otherwise I could let myself go pretty dark. I try very hard to appreciate the positive things that I see because I can choose to look at either side and I can go down either path very easily. So as much as it’s hard sometimes, I do try very hard to focus on the shit that will make me smile rather than the suffering.
Do you feel like it’s gotten harder to just get up and exist as you’ve gotten older?
Yes and no. Absolutely it has because you wake up and there’s a lot more shit in your head and as much as there’s a lot more disappointment, there’s a lot more awesome shit. But it’s also one of those things where you realize, “Fuck, I have to control my own destiny.” So if I want to be happy or wake up good, I have to actually work to be good and do good shit. Like if you just sit there, like right now, I need to plan another trip somewhere. Because I’m just working (and I love doing the shit I do, but I need to have stuff going on). But that takes effort. And when I was in relationships, maybe the other person was kind of pushing for something. It will always be like “Hey, let’s plan this trip or let’s go to this show or whatever”. Operating, primarily single, it’s like, you have to do all that yourself and that takes effort. And if you don’t, its a downward spiral.
What’s your favorite tattoo or your worst one?
I can say honestly, I don’t have a worst one. I was very lucky. I’ve seen 3 artists who are all my friends. They are fantastic. Noah Howell did my arm. This was all stuff from my childhood. I love it. And Noah is a great friend and did a great job. Brett Barr is doing my chest and I love his work. He’s an awesome dude. But probably my favorite, no offense to Brett or Noah, is my leg that Scott Lukacs did. I wanted a very Florida tattoo. I wanted a tattoo that said I was living a large chunk of my life in Florida. And at first, because I went to high school in South Orlando, I wanted the head from Gatorland. You know at old school Gatorland, you walk into the head? And Scott’s like, “I love the idea, but I cannot do it. It will look shitty.” So I’m like, “What do you got for me?” We basically ended up doing the mural that’s on the side of Rise Above, facing Wally’s. Which invariably I spent many nights at Wally’s and walking out you see this mural and it’s fucking on my leg and it’s fantastic!
About the photographer:
David Lawrence is an Orlando-based photographer with a passion for people and storytelling. Lawrence lives in Colonialtown with his wife, Dawn, and when he’s not taking photos he occasionally attends church, drinks a lot of coffee, and overall just tries to be a kind human.