Milo Axelrod is a multi-talented UX designer, artist, podcast host, and self-described “passionate fool” living and working in Ulster County.
In addition to their work as a designer at Moonfarmer, the well-known Kingston-based digital studio, Milo also hosts Describing a Rock, a podcast that’s been featured in iTunes New & Noteworthy, Google Play Music, and Chronogram.
Hello! Who are you? Tell us about yourself. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing?
Hi, I’m Milo! I’m a user experience designer, a regular face of Main Street New Paltz, and a passionate fool. I love a lot of things, notably: rocks, pigeons, questions about the nature of being, coffee shops, and my job.
All of my favorite things stem from my two great loves: 1) making things and 2) fiction. I’m always creating something, whether it’s art, furniture, music, or systems to streamline aspects of my life. It’s what I spend about 40% of my brainpower on. Another 45% goes towards my work as a designer, and the last 15% is spent being totally immersed in fiction, usually sci-fi and fantasy books and the occasional TV show or movie. (My brain sometimes does A Lot, so it’s good to escape for awhile and be someone else. When I come back to myself, I have some new perspective and clarity, and usually some more good ideas for the things I’m making.)
I work at Moonfarmer, a super cool web and app development studio located in Uptown Kingston. It’s a midsize team of very cool, very talented people that I love working with. Before I worked there, I ran a successful freelancing business doing a whole assortment of design work, from web design to presentation design to branding. I really, really like what I do.
How did you discover the Hudson Valley?
I’m not from the area. I came from Rochester and first discovered the quirky town of New Paltz on a college visit. I enjoyed the campus, explored some of the town’s finest grungy coffee shops, and watched an old guy in pink bike shorts hit on my mom — overall a good time, indicative of average life here.
I didn’t actually enroll in SUNY New Paltz, though. I took off to the U of RI (because I felt a supreme need to escape the state of New York and an equally strong desire to learn to build prosthetics for amputees). Unfortunately, I couldn’t pass Calc 2 and took the hint. I ended up at New Paltz after all, and graduated with a graphic design BFA and a lot of passion and focus. That was several years ago, and… here I am!
Walk us through a typical day.
Wake up, devour a 32oz mason jar of room-temp water. Cuddle my dog and do some stretches, maybe punch some imaginary bad guys and do just enough squats to feel strong. (Spoiler: I’m not strong.) Take a shower, do skin care, acquire clothing, and drag dog to my favorite coffee shop and very cleverly take her for a poo while I wait for my fancy beverage to be made. Bring dog home, grab backpack, and walk a couple blocks to my car with my fancy drink (in a mason jar with a cool string handle that I devised) dangling from one arm, and pop off down Route 32 to the office.
Work, meetings, banter with coworkers. Go to Sissy’s or Outdated Cafe for lunch, and maybe hang out for a couple hours doing work, for a change of scenery. Meet my darling friend Ben Weinstein for Tuesday night buffet at the New Paltz Indian Restaurant (if it happens to be Tuesday) and eat a whole lot of saag paneer and chana masala. Drag Ben to my apartment to cuddle my dog and get him to make us both a nice cup of coffee with the french press he keeps in his briefcase. (He’s a professional.) Engage in a hobby for 2 hours, water all my plants, do some more skin care, take my dog for a very long 11pm walk. Then I go the heck to sleep and dream.
Where are your favorite places to spend time in the Hudson Valley?
Honestly, my top favorite place is my apartment. It’s a constant project with it’s weirdly shaped rooms and ten-foot ceilings in an old building that’s right on Main Street. It’s small, so it’s a puzzle, and DIY’ing furniture and vertical storage makes me feel like a million bucks.
My next top place is Lake Minnewaska. I do like to hike, but this place is more of a walk, and it has this one gazebo on a beautiful lookout high above the lake that I love. The wind rising off the water makes my hair dance, and breathing in the clean air mingling with the scent of pine needles brings me to a peaceful place. The powerful, jutting cliffs of mountain bedrock make me feel grounded, even the outcrops that look like they might fall into the lake if I step too firmly. (They won’t.) I like to sit in that gazebo and alternately read a book and the snapshots of love that people have carved into the wood over the years. It’s good.
Do you have a go-to coffee or beer order, and from where?
No, the idea of being that predictable makes me cringe, despite the fact that it would be very useful and make ordering a lot easier. However, I do have predictable establishments that I frequent.
My favorite New Paltz coffee shop is Commissary. I religiously follow the owner, Lagusta, on Instagram and I love her. My favorite Kingston coffee shop is Outdated Cafe. Things that both of these places have in common are: extremely high quality ingredients in their food and bougie lattes. I’m in my element, there.
My favorite restaurant is Mexican Kitchen, hands down. That place is magic, especially when it’s pouring out and you duck under the awning and it’s mostly empty and you get to chat with the staff. Try the street-style hot dog, it’s also magic.
Where do you do your best creative work?
Any place where no one can see me. That sounds weird, but it’s just the truth.
How has the Hudson Valley influenced or impacted your creative work?
My work here has taken on a sense of melding. In this region, there’s a potent combination of humanity and technology and nature and decay, and I see that reflected in the work I do.
In these small towns, it’s easy to become a recognizable face and recognize others. There is tactile sense of community here and things worth fighting for. We also have fast internet and lots of people building new and exciting things with computers and 3D printers and wood and ceramic and anything else you can imagine; it’s being done here. At the same time, we are close enough to the middle of nowhere that we can’t forget that poverty is around the corner and that ice will inevitably fill the roads with pits. But we are also close enough to the middle of nowhere that a short walk outside of town will bring you unaffected views and meadows and mountains and clean air.
The mingling of these things is in everything I do.
What’s surprised you most about living and working in the Hudson Valley?
This place has remarkable clouds. Some of my favorites to spot are:
- Those mountainous cumulus clouds that you can see practically in profile down by the horizon.
- A darkened sky where the underside of the clouds looks like the surface of the ocean from below.
- The occasional day with a hazy upper stratosphere and interesting layers of altostratus and cumulus clouds beneath.
I swear, one day I’m going to crash my car because I’m looking at the sky when I should be looking at the road. In any case, between that and the amazing food all over the place (because the Culinary Institute is so close by), it is truly a region to enliven the senses.
From the start, I didn’t want to like this place. It seemed cliche and boring, staying in the town I went to college in. Yet, here I am. I love my weird apartment, I love my few blocks of Main Street where I can walk out my door and see people I like. And my god, have I found some absolutely fantastic friends; just a whole bunch of beautiful weirdos that I feel normal with. I love them with my whole heart.
Anything you want to plug or promote?
Sure! I make a podcast called Describing A Rock, in which I describe rocks. I love rocks and I love describing things with words. Rocks are patient, and words paint pictures that pictures sometimes can’t rival. I’d also like to promote talking to strangers. It’s safe once you’re an adult, and they have very interesting things to tell you, things you’ve never heard before! If they think you’re an idiot, that’s ok, and probably true. It’s good for you ego to feel like an idiot sometimes. I’d also like to promote feeling like an idiot without beating yourself over it. It’s cool to be wrong.