“The Couch”

Submitted by Greg Lord.

A happy memory, and one of the many things Richard brought to life, was our little safe haven and workspace: the Hamilton office for the Digital Humanities Initiative. Our DHi HQ; the “collaboratory.” It was such an incredibly cool space, and all of it was complete magic to me as it went from words to drawings to a thing that I would actually finally sit in and do real work. (I think I even slept there a time or three while traveling, not that I’ll ever admit to that.)

I know that design was both of your genius, and that was part of the special magic of it for me. The two of you putting your minds together, making something really special and perfect, and — like so many other things — pulled together by sheer will even when you had to fight a lot of pointless opposition to get there.

I don’t think I understand the process well enough to know which part of all of that came from which of you, but I loved that it didn’t really matter. You both walked me through an empty shell of a space, pointing at bare concrete floors and boards and drywall, but you both just already saw the thing in your heads. That was the first version of it that was “real” to me, that day, and that tour. Richard pointing out not just where everything was, but how it was going to work, how it was designed, how it would be built, what it was going to do, and why it was that way and not another.

We sat together over drawings. I’d seen versions that were bigger, smaller, adjusted many times as you both fought for the space and the layout. I remember even modeling that space in 3D, long before I knew what I was doing, but essentially doing the same things we would later do for models of our many projects together, the same kinds of architectural/creative models I make today for virtual venues for the events that I love. And I know that a lot of that love started there, with Richard explaining to me how things worked and why it was special.

And, maybe I’ve twisted this into mythology at this point, but the way I remember it was that during that same first tour, I made a sort of off-the-cuff remark that “desks were great and all,” but that my favorite way to work was on a couch, with a laptop, feeling free to lounge and get lost in a project without feeling stuck at a desk.

And there, a year or so later, I sat. My little couch, my own little glass doors to close it off and feel both part of things and also happily isolated to focus, working away sometimes over an entire weekend. I can remember a lot of projects that I made there, a lot of talks I had there, with you and everyone else, a lot of after-hours laughing and joking as we worked on something well past normal-people hours. And even a lot of late nights on the phone during a hard time in my life, laying on that couch, my little safe/happy corner of a place that was very far from home but that still felt like one. Because Richard had listened to me, taken a very strange request very seriously, and just magically made it happen.

I think about that couch all the time, and what a huge symbol it has always been of having a great amount of faith from a very great person — people — that wanted to support someone they had taken under their wings.

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