The summer of 1994 was indeed a time of change. Judy's epilogue reminds me of just how much our project swerved off course from the route we had charted in 1993. But there was something eerie in the way the piece had become intertwined in — and an organic part of — our lives as the future unfolded. Although we couldn't work together at Xerox PARC as we had intended at the outset, we continued to write together as that awful summer waned and autumn began.
As Judy returned to Berkeley and learned to walk with crutches, I accepted a research faculty job at Texas A&M University and packed up my household to move to East Texas. Although ostensibly I had sound professional reasons for making this move, I'd also seen David Byrne's True Stories one too many times, and had romanticized the idea of moving to a place like College Station, somewhere so utterly different than Silicon Valley and the Los Angeles of my childhood.
More importantly, I thought I wanted to leave the Web behind for a while. The Web had become like a favorite band who everyone had suddenly discovered, forcing it to trade those intimate boozy nights in small clubs for Madison Square Garden and The Cow Palace. My backstage pass had expired.
If I thought I was leaving hypertext and the Web behind, I was sorely mistaken. My first day in Texas, on an unfamiliarly hot and humid early November day punctuated by cicadas and chirping frogs, I stood in the driveway of mynew house, waiting for the moving van to arrive. A youngish man with his cap turned around backward to shade his neck from the Cairo-intensity sun came driving up on his John Deere Riding Lawn Tractor.
He stopped his vehicle a few feet short of me, precariously close to a drainage ditch, lifted his cap from his head in a somewhat deft one-handed manuever, and said, "Howdy ma'am. My name is Jim-Bob."
Jim-Bob. Just like that.
Judy was back in Berkeley, sending me lexias from the Bay Area, from California, a place so familiar that it was part of my DNA, and I was responding to her from a setting that was nothing but strange. I was all at once thrilled and alienated. In a lexia I called "Fugue", I wrote:
When I am in motion, the fugue state is its strongest.
It's so flat here that you can see into the future.
Everyone — and this includes me —
All this forward motion creates a strong vacuum.
It wasn't until we bridged the second distance, the span between Berkeley and Texas, creating the second half of the work that would ultimately become Eastgate's Forward Anywhere, that we began to see how the lexias had braided our lives together in a unified email narrative.
In the early days, when we described our project, Judy and I sometimes said, "Closure was never a goal of this piece." Now, fifteen years later, more than a decade after Xerox PARC's PAIR Program (the work's original sponsor) ended, at a time when the Web has become thoroughly ordinary and computer-mediated communication is a given (not a parlor trick), the tagline still rings true. A certain sense of mystery persists when I click forward to a lexia called full circle:
Len and I sit shoulder-to-shoulder in front of his Macintosh,
Signs of chaos from the adjoining bathroom —
The link to Forward Anywhere is on the screen,
I too am worried about the repercussions of my words.
Finally I click and together we stare at the six links,