The LuvDoc's Celebrity Corner
The LuvDoc chats with Marcus G. Ollington, rock star cartographer
By LuvDoc, 12:00PM, Wed. Aug. 8, 2012
I first met Marcus G. Ollington at an elementary school track meet in central Austin – one of those deals where helicopter parents reward the shocking athletic ineptitude of their children with snacks and ribbons.
Yes, everybody gets one. He was sporting a crew cut and a reckless bravado uncharacteristic of most of the other parents – or maybe that’s just a characteristic I am imparting on him because he was wearing camo cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, which is sort of like saying, “I like to kill and I like to party.” I have since become great friends with Marcus and while he definitely knows how to party, he does so responsibly and is a bit of a pacifist.
He’s also one of the best goalies in the Austin ACSA (I think that that either stands for Association of Crutch Seeking Adults or Austin Co-ed Soccer Association). Why? Because Marcus, or “MOFO” as he is known to his teammates, gets more shots fired at him during a game than most goalies have to fend off in their entire career. That may have something to do with the fact that he’s on the worst team in the worst division. They sure like to party though. Marcus is a MENSAN, which as far as I can tell is like a genius club, and yes, his friends give him a tremendous amount of shit about it. However, they also benefit from his seemingly photographic memory and his mathematics and geometry skills. He can quote huge swaths of movies like Pulp Fiction, Full Metal Jacket, and just about any Monty Python film. He is a drummer, a swimmer, a camper and the owner of one of the most embarrassing stories I have ever heard in my life – one that I will not recount here. You’ll have to ask him yourself. It’s worse than yours. Way, way worse. Most importantly perhaps, Marcus is the father of three great kids and a kick ass cartographer. Yeah, that’s some serious rock star shit. Read on:
LuvDoc: You're from Kansas. I totally get the need for maps in a featureless landscape, but were you inspired by some other necessity?
Marcus: Pirate treasure. There's always a map involved.
LuvDoc: So you have a pirate fetish?
Marcus: And you're obviously unaware of the Flint Hills. Who doesn't have a pirate fetish? Sorry, you're asking the questions.
LuvDoc: Good point...I mean about the Flint Hills. Those babies are like the Swiss Alps … after several billion years of erosion.
Marcus: They make the Texas Hill Country look like a mall parking lot ... with a Westboro encampment.
LuvDoc: Their majesty is unquestionable, but let’s get back to Marcus G. Ollington, mapmaker.
Marcus: Yes, enough about the formless void that is Kansas - both intellectually and geographically…
LuvDoc: So you exploded out of Manhattan, Kansas like a meteor and landed in the scenic splendor of College Station, Texas. Is that correct?
Marcus: That is correct, I rolled into CS in my green 1974 Datsun pickup, a liberal lamb to the slaughter that was the A&M culture. I was unprepared for the baptism knowing absolutely nothing about the school apart from its location on a map. There was no pirate treasure.
LuvDoc: I can see how College Station would have a certain allure for a strapping young lad from Kansas. What did you study there? P.S. - You're not allowed to say stuff like “bong water” or “coed booty.”
Marcus: Human sexuality.
LuvDoc: For reals?
Marcus: …and a degree in Sociology, which I really should name the Degree with the Most Electives.
LuvDoc: You know that's an actual degree at A&M…
Marcus: Bong water and Coed Booty are actual degrees? We go through a lot of pirate booty at my house, delicious cheesy popped corn kernels…
LuvDoc: OK, I feel like for the person (and I am intentionally employing the singular) that reads this, we should draw some sort of arc from a sociology degree to cartography. I'm sure it won't take more than a few sentences. Begin...
Marcus: I made my first map in 2nd grade, a pirate treasure map for my birthday. When I was 18, I took a test at the career-counseling center a K-State. The results indicated one of the 3 following careers to be my best bets:
1. Police officer
2. Naval Officer
LuvDoc: You are fucking me. That can't be real.
Marcus: Viet Nam had just ended so I wasn't about to join the military
and I liked marijuana too much to consider being a cop.
LuvDoc: I am just going to say this: ROFLMAO
Marcus: So, is it cool to sling chat room acronyms?
Marcus: And Cartographer?? Who the hell does that? This test is fucked … at least that was my conclusion at the time.
LuvDoc: Mine at this time.
Marcus: My advice to the youth of our nation is not to sweat your chosen course of undergraduate study. Mine, like many before me, has nothing to do with my field of work.
LuvDoc: So...what kept you from drawing a warm bath, downing some barbiturates and carving your arms up with a razor blade?
Marcus: My parents would have killed me if I'd committed suicide. Besides, I was tired of "disappointing" them, so, I got a collitch degree, then a job as a yuppie in Houston in 1984 selling copiers for Xerox - one of the most miserable years of my life.
LuvDoc: What better town to work the yuppie angle. Miserable?
Marcus: Yeah …Hated my job, hated where I lived, Hated driving around all day … pretty much miserable … not concentration camp miserable.
LuvDoc: But weren't you the Paintball Champion of Harris county? How is that miserable? Wait a minute... I take that back.
Marcus: Oh, yeah, I lived for that. My life revolved around Saturday Survival Game outings where I would hunt my fellow man with air compressed paint ball weapons. Those were the early days when we were using muzzleloaders.
LuvDoc: If that don't give meaning to human existence I don't know what does.
Marcus: I can't play it any more; the rate of fire has increased exponentially.
LuvDoc: Yeah...very colorful too.
Marcus: I got more dates from selling copiers than I did shooting paintballs though
So there's that…
LuvDoc: Let’s get back to the career arc...how did you escape the hell of Houston and the unbridled joy of muzzle-loaded paintball?
Marcus: Eventually, I couldn't continue the subterfuge of pretending to go out and sell Xerox Corporation products. I quit and I moved my liberal ass to Austin where it belonged. Showed up in 1985 with enough money to get an apartment.
LuvDoc: That must have been a bold decision.
Marcus: My girlfriend's mother at the time said it meant I couldn't marry her daughter.
LuvDoc: What a B.
Marcus: There was an audible gasp from the gathered throng when she made that announcement. She has dementia now, so maybe Karma is the B. I'm glad I didn't marry her daughter though.
LuvDoc: Yes, Karma is a bit of a B its own self. So you dropped your girlfriend and got right to the cartography thing.
Marcus: As fine a woman as she was, she liked living in Houston and being a yuppie
Marcus: I went to half a semester of UT MBA School and bought a Mac. The Mac is what started it all … double floppy drive … 512 KB of memory … smoking hot.
LuvDoc: Yeah, they used to have really sweet deals on those old Mac Plusses at UT.
Marcus: I knew how to type, but I'd never touched a computer
LuvDoc: You were ahead of me.
Marcus: I was the last A&M graduating class to go computer-less. Figured that would not bode well in the coming techno revolution, so I learned how to use the machine and bluffed my way into a job.
LuvDoc: Goddamn, you were thinking on the edge for sure. I was doing keg stands back then.
Marcus: They do help with upper body strength and socialization.
LuvDoc: So...the job?
Marcus: Several of them actually … where I became a graphic artist for a series of corporate marketing departments.
LuvDoc: You really did bluff your way into that shit. Props, yo.
Marcus: Well, every time someone needed a brochure . . . it was easy in the early days because no one knew how to work the computer. That was my in … “Yes, I can start your Mac for you …”
LuvDoc: So you made an even bigger lie? Awesome.
Marcus: Who said anything about uttering a non-truth? I merely said I had certain skills
Which I did have.
LuvDoc: OK, but you were totes fronting about the cartographer thing...it's not like you went to cartography college.
Marcus: You're jumping the cartography gun there, Roy Rogers.
LuvDoc: OK, stay on the timeline.
Marcus: Any time there was a map involved, I'd get
lost in its creation
LuvDoc: Nice double entendre…
Marcus: Then one day when I was due for a 6 month increase at the new job - where I was making a bunch of money at a job I hated - and everyone got the 6-month increase. It was no big deal … work 6 months, get a bump … so to speak.
LuvDoc: Bunch of money? What was the job...and is it still available?
Marcus: Head of Corporate Graphics at Texas Workers Compensation Insurance Fund.
LuvDoc: Those bitches are crazy with cheese.
Marcus: Bitches is apropos. So, I made myself a promise, "If I don't get the 6 month increase, I'm fucking quitting" I made that promise knowing full well I would not have to keep it because everyone got the 6 month increase.
LuvDoc: I feel a sad/happy ending coming on.
Marcus: Imagine my shock when we got to the part of the review where the bitch said, "We haff deezyded NOT to geev you the 6 month eencreees" (foreign bird). I had a moment where…
LuvDoc: Dude, you didn't have to go there.
Marcus: Seemed like an ... yeah, better leave the accent out. I'm not racist, I swear.
LuvDoc: No, it's GOLD. Leaving it in.
Marcus: My dog is racist, but what can I do about that?
LuvDoc: Lead by example? Anyway, you had a moment where…
Marcus: I had a moment where I had to decide if I was going to keep my promise to myself or not. A moment frozen in time where I had to choose … and I chose to keep the promise to myself, so I stood up and said "Fuck you, I quit. Consider this my 2 week notice" My wife at the time was pregnant with our 3rd child.
LuvDoc: You were a bit of a hot head.
Marcus: It was a point of honor
LuvDoc: You were a really hot headed hot head.
Marcus: Do you keep promises to yourself or not?
LuvDoc: Ouch. Let’s not get personal.
Marcus: Well, a few weeks later I found myself at the ACC career counseling office. I went to a file drawer marked "C," pulled it open, and found a "Cartography" folder
wherein there was a brochure for the SWT Geography department.
LuvDoc: The hand of fate again.
Marcus: I contacted them and enrolled in their graduate degree program and wallowed in map art and science for the next 3 years.
LuvDoc: While your children starved?
Marcus: We managed to feed them. I sold my Dell stock early. Way too early. Wife went back to work after tax deduction #3 was born.
LuvDoc: Goddamn it. You had early Dell stock? That's like catching a Leprechaun!
Marcus: Made $15,000 on it.
LuvDoc: That would only be worth 20 million or so now.
Marcus: You sure know how to hurt a guy
LuvDoc: So you got your Cartography Degree...
Marcus: Masters in Geography.
Marcus: Specialization in Cartography and GIS
LuvDoc: GIS? I think I left that on a sofa once…
Marcus: Some call it Geographic Information Systems … or Good Income Source.
LuvDoc: Interesting. What are those?
Marcus: Sorta like Adobe Illustrator connected to a database.
LuvDoc: Handy I'll bet.
Marcus: The Earth, capitalization mine, is an oblate spheroid. Oblate spheroid is the best pickup line I managed to learn in graduate school.
LuvDoc: G-School is tough on your dating life - especially when you're married.
Marcus: Marriage is tough on your dating life, let's face it
Marcus: Well, maps are flat so you gotta take the spheroid and flatten it, and when you do you distort shape, size, distance and direction.
LuvDoc: Things get stretched out like a plasma TV I bet.
Marcus: Distortion, deal with it. Ask Louis XIV.
LuvDoc: Sounds like a guy who could use some GIS.
Marcus: Hs cartographers shrunk the size of France when they corrected his maps.
LuvDoc: So France was a grower not a shower. Who did he behead for that f-up?
Marcus: No one, he grasped the science behind the map.
LuvDoc: In between Gerbiling sessions. OK, back to the career track.
Marcus: You are a twisted soul … I left grad school with the mappy job I have now … only because I stopped to help Robin Adorno in a map lab
LuvDoc: Nice. So what, specifically do you do with your cartography skillz?
LuvDoc: Wait, who is Robin Adorno?
Marcus: Grad school colleague
Marcus: She was frustrated by our map design lab. I'd crank out the assignment in minutes.
LuvDoc: And she thought she would tap the mensan in the lab. Smart chick this Robin.
Marcus: And as I walked out, I'd see her bent over the keyboard with a look of utter frustration. So, I'd put my bag down and ask if she needed help. Had I not done so, she never would have told Fred about me. Just like the C drawer at ACC.
LuvDoc: Oh Jesus...who is Fred?
Marcus: Fred offered me the job … the job that changed my life … because I helped Robin.
LuvDoc: And the job that changed your life is?
Marcus: Map Man. Do I have to say where I work?
LuvDoc: No, but maybe a layman's version of what you do.
Marcus: ... yeah but ... the sexual innuendo
Marcus: Okay, I have a meeting in 12 minutes and I've got to find my old safety handbook. I think it might be blood borne pathogens again this month.
LuvDoc: Good God! So, what do you do as a cartographer?
Marcus: Dude. I go to work. I make maps. My favorite maps are of our parks. The entity I work for owns 43 parks and preserves and people want to know where they are, how to get there, and what to do when they do get there. We also have about 3,000 miles of transmission lines that run through central Texas. We need to know who owns the land underneath them because we mow the lawn … so to speak.
LuvDoc: I get it. It’s all about lawn maintenance.
Marcus: Meeting in 9
LuvDoc: OK, you
may now go to your safety seminar about blood born pathogens.