Lanier’s mother [before her death in an automobile accident] had recently bought the family a new house, in El Paso. But it burned down before Lanier and his father could move in. Lanier suspects, without any specific evidence, that the fire was set by vandals. Broke and unemployed, Lanier’s father moved the family to an empty parcel of desert in Mesilla, New Mexico.
In Mesilla, Lanier’s father allowed him to design their new home. Lanier, who was eleven, chose a geodesic dome, and with his father’s assistance he drew up blueprints calculating the angles of the frame, plus plans for a squat, cantilevered spire that he envisaged as the entrance. (“Clearly a subconscious phallic expression of some kind,” he told me.) But the project proceeded slowly. “We’d get enough money to pour the foundation for one part of the house, and then, after a few weeks, we’d get enough to do another part,” he recalls.
During the first two years that the dome was under construction, Lanier and his father lived in an unheated canvas Army tent that was stiflingly hot in summer and frigid in winter. Lanier remembers shivering uncontrollably at times, “like I was having a seizure.” The family belongings, which included his mother’s grand piano and her antique furniture, were wrapped in plastic and heaped together on the ground outside the tent. “We sealed the piano in a bag, kind of,” Lanier said. “It must have sat out there for a year.”
Lanier’s bio reads like a series of outtakes from The Most Interesting Man in the World ads. I also thought this was noteworthy: “At the South by Southwest Interactive conference, in Austin, in March of 2010, Lanier gave a talk, before which he asked his audience not to blog, text, or tweet while he was speaking. He later wrote that his message to the crowd had been: ‘If you listen first, and write later, then whatever you write will have had time to filter through your brain, and you’ll be in what you say. This is what makes you exist. If you are only a reflector of information, are you really there?’”