Last night, in 2014, Tim and I sat in his living room in Eugene reminiscing how we first connected. We both are fuzzy on the timing, but are pretty sure it was 1994.
And it was via the internet. No apps. mobile devices, social networks. It was via a listserv.
Around this time I was active doing multimedia in Macromedia Director, and where I hung out, learned, and shared was the Direct-L listserv. Tim was a counselor at Lane Community College, interested in creating some multimedia tutorials and also curious about this new “web” thing. I guess I might have answered some of his questions in Direct-L, but the part was I had a connection with a colleague at another community college (I was in my first years at the Maricopa Community Colleges).
It would have been around 1994, my second year on the job, that I was already bored of academic conferences. I proposed to my boss an idea to use my travel money instead to do some site visits with other community colleges, and so rigged a trip to the Northwest. I had lined up visits at Seattle Community College, Green River Community College, and Lane.
Note: The only records I might have would be an archive of my old Maricopa email or maybe the Direct-L Archives– the ones online only go back to July 1997, but at home on an old hard drive I think I have copies from when I ran Director Web
So here was the thing. Tim and I had set up my visit and made plans to meet in Eugene. It was not until I was shaking his hand that it struck me that we had never even talked on the phone; all of our communication had been online.
Of course in 2014, this is not remarkable. In 1994, where I relied on payphones and paper maps to travel… it was outlandish.
Tim and I became friends, when he attended the League for Innovation Conference in Phoenix in 1996, I planned a road trip and we visited Lees Ferry and Zion National Park together. My family at the time did a road trip in maybe 1995? to Washington and Oregon and visited Tim in Eugene. He came through Phoenix in 2005 and got to spend a night in Strawberry (when we had the place maybe just 3 years)- here he is standing on my favorite spot of the Mogollon Rim.
In November 2009 I had an NMC meeting in Portland, and flew in early to drive down to Eugene and visit Tim. Not too many photos, some of a hike on Ridgeline Trail, but always liked this autumn shot framed from his guest room window (where I just stayed 2 nights ago)
It was that first meeting experience that set in motion was is sort of my hobby, of getting a chance through my own or work related travel, to get to visit my colleagues in their homes. This was the premise of my 2011 Odyssey, I’ve stayed with folks all around the US, Canada, and in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.
I maybe have stayed at 100 different homes.
The specialness of this experience leads me back to a visual from 2011, at the home of Cindy Jennings in South Carolina
Our connection was through blogs and twitter and being mutual fans of Gardner Campbell, yet it was still a thing when someone with whom you’ve had only “met” online says yes when he says, “Can I visit and stay in your home?” (Hey Sandy, look at that, punctuation INSIDE the quotes!)
It was that moment sitting at Cindy’s dining room table, having met her husband, son, dog, eaten her food, that it struck me how much it elevated the connective experience, but also blurred that boundary of “online/f2f”. It was powerful to be someone’s home space, to see the things they surrounded themselves with, their gardens, their bookshelves, their bathrooms (!). They have extended their personal space to me. It amplifies the next connective encounters online.
Without really listing it, having these opportunities is one of my favorite things to do.
And it makes those dismissive attitude about online relationships that much weaker.
And so it was with great appreciation last night to return to the place and person it started with. Thanks Tim!
It’s not all old stuff. I got to see the house Tim and his wife are having renovated. We figure that I might be the last guest in their house in the woods and if I return in March, might be the first in their new place.
Full circle and then some.