Desks, a viewport into the mind

As a writer, I spend a lot of time at desks.  And I have some strange obsession with the workspaces of writers, which is why I always seem to be snapping pictures of my desks.  And every time I go back and look at it, I can tell the era and the project and the general zeitgeist by seeing what things I needed to keep within arm’s reach during the marathon stretches at the typer.

Here’s a bunch of pictures of my desks over the years.  Why?  I don’t know.  A good way to waste a Friday afternoon, I guess.

Here’s where I spent a lot of 1999: in Washington Heights at Marie’s, my first stop in New York, and where I hacked out the ending of Summer Rain. This must have been soon after my arrival.  There’s my Polaroid, which I bought during the cross-country trip, and some Hi-8 tapes, probably also from the journey.  That silver thing between the speakers is a MiniDisc recorder.

That winter, I moved to Astoria, and got my own place.  Still working off the office table, but I have a real chair now.  This must be in mid-2000, because I’ve got my surround sound speakers installed.  I probably got the bulk of my work from 2000-2005 done at this desk, where I used to type from nine to midnight over the sound of Jersey Shore wannabe douchebags screaming at each other outside my first floor window (hence the speakers.)

My desk at Juno, from 1999-2001.  I didn’t do as much fiction writing here, but I pumped out a lot of tech writing.  It was my first cube, after years of Seattle offices with closing doors.  There’s some xmas lights up; they told us we could decorate our cubes, so I went to K-Mart and bought $100 of lights, including one of those blinking strands that played 24 different holiday songs from an annoying watch-type speaker.

By 2001, I added this stupid aquarium to my desk, in some effort to be less stressed out or something.  I was too lazy to buy fish though, which is probably for the best, since they would have died after 9/11 when my power went out for a week.  You can also see the corner of my beige mini-tower computer on the floor, the case I bought back in 1992.  I must have replaced it a few months later.

In 2002, I started writing on the road a lot more, taking last-second fare deals every time we had a long weekend, so my “desktop” looked like this a lot.  That’s my Latitude LS, the first “real” computer I bought new.  A screaming Pentium III with 256 MB of memory and Windows 98, for a only $2500.  I dual-booted into Linux so I could fire up emacs at 40,000 feet and type away.  No, no wifi.

Here’s what it looked like in action: a hotel room in they Hyatt connected to the Pittsburgh airport, on Good Friday of 2002.  There’s also a Handspring Palm-clone PDA in action, something I bought to jot down ideas and read e-books, but ended up using primarily to play Dope Wars.  I was probably finishing edits of Rumored to Exist around then, although I was also mostly getting drunk and thinking of stupid movie ideas.

When you’re a bachelor for too long, this is what happens.  This is probably early 2005, and the mail collection has gotten out of control.  I think the browser window is opened to my old /photos directory, running its hacked-together PHP gallery software, before I finally gave up and just started using flickr for everything.  If you look carefully, you’ll see a PlayStation 2 on the floor, which is responsible for my lack of writing output for most of the 2000s.

Hey look, I got a Mac!  This is from spring of 2005, and I also got an ergo keyboard.  And I must have started dating Sarah, given that I felt the need to clean the apartment so it didn’t look like a serial killer was there, or maybe they were filming a special two-part episode of Hoarders.  Don’t worry, the stacks of unopened mail are still there; I found a spot on a bookcase to hide them, which is a miracle, given the number of books I had at this point.

New house, new desk.  This was late 2005, when I moved in with Sarah on the Lower East Side.  That desk was brutal to put together.  That red phone followed me around since maybe 1988 or so; I’ve still got it in storage somewhere.  There’s also the receiver for a Microsoft wireless mouse, a wretched little pointing device that ate batteries faster than a walkman with a 20-inch subwoofer.

That desk followed me to Denver, and in 2007, this is where I spent most of my time writing an unpublished book about time machines, and hacking at Ruby on Rails code.  The thing in the center is a full-spectrum light; I hadn’t sold the Mac Mini yet; this was well into September and going into Rocktober, given the order form for postseason tickets sitting in the corner of the picture.

In 2008, we moved to LA, and I worked from home again, this time with a place back in Denver.  I spent my days in VMWare, slogging away in a Windows virtual machine, which is shown.  This was during my massive weight loss campaign, as evident by the 100-calorie pack and the diet Sobe Lean pink grapefruit soda.  I had an okay view from the window, with lots of California sun and the occasional crow on the tree outside.

Here’s my officemate for much of my writing.  Loca loved to crawl on the desk and crash, especially when I had documents spread out.  It’s always nice to have cats around when you’re writing, though.  You can also see how I hid my laptop on a keyboard tray, and a close look at the whiteboard shows some Ruby on Rails for hackers cheatsheet, which I probably looked at once and then ignored.

A bad stitch of some pictures of my office at Samsung.  Note the early 80s decor, like the old-school cubicles.  I didn’t have much on my desk, because any time a senior exec from Korea came to visit, they would go apeshit if anything was out of order, so everyone would panic and hide every single thing on their desk in an effort to make it look as sterile as an operating room.  Well, an operating room with early 80s wood paneling.

I wish I had pictures of my desk from 1992, when I lived at the Mitchell Street house and worked off of an old card table, the same one I used to use to build model airplanes in my early teens.  I also had a pretty kick-ass Sauder L-shaped desk in 1993, where I really started my writing career.  I either sold it or gave it away when I left Bloomington, but it was a nerd command center, with plenty of CD storage and a keyboard tray and plenty of room for 3.5″ floppy disks, since you needed roughly 87 of them to install Linux back then.

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