Douglas and me

by Peter Rojas

After almost eleven years I finally got coffee with Douglas Rushkoff. Back in the summer of 2001 I was a broke, unemployed technology writer. I'd been recently laid-off from my job as an editor at Red Herring, a business of technology magazine, and with my life pretty much falling apart I'd decided to move to New York City from San Francisco, where I was living at the time. My best friend had moved there a few months earlier and a room had opened up in his apartment. I could barely afford the rent, but I figured I was better of being a broke writer in New York than in San Francisco.

Douglas was (and still is) one of my favorite writers about technology since I'd discovered one of his books when I was in college. I knew he lived in NYC,  and so after tracking down his email address I somehow guilted him into agreeing to meet with me the day after I got into town. He certainly didn't have any reason to agree to sit down with me, I was just a struggling kid who had basically zero prospects, and as I started to get ready for my move I was really excited about getting some time with him. I wasn't sure what we'd talk about, but I guess I just thought he'd think I was smart and maybe hire me as a research assistant or even help me get some freelance work. I honestly hadn't thought much beyond just getting to meet him.

I was all packed up and ready to go, but I never made it to our appointment, and that's because the day I was supposed to fly to New York and start my new life was September 11th, 2001. Obviously my flight was cancelled, and while I did finally get to New York a few weeks later, I never followed up with Douglas to try and reschedule our meeting. I guess I felt sort of sheepish at that point imposing on him after everything that had happened, and to be honest whatever it was I was going to talk with him about seemed trite in the aftermath of 9/11.

I remained a big fan of Douglas's work, but never reached out again until Rhizome (which I'm on the board of) invited him to keynote its recent Seven on Seven conference. Douglas expressed some interest in getting involved with the organization, and so we grabbed coffee so I could tell him more about it. Of course I was supergeeked to get to sit down with him, and he laughed after I told him this story about how we were originally supposed to meet almost eleven years ago.