Last month, Adrienne and I were lucky enough to escape our swampy environs for the crisper air of Northern California for a week. One of the most magical moments of that excursion was the day we stopped by Francis Ford Coppola’s winery in Geyserville. As soon as we turned off the highway and saw the Coppola name emblazoned on the front gate, we were awestruck. It isn’t often you get to celebrate someone who’s mastered two different crafts, wine and filmmaking, equally. It was the kind of experience that can release one’s inner fan—that youthful, exuberant devotee that must usually hide in the presence of company—into the wild. In addition to the surfboards from Apocalypse Now, various Oscars and other awards, screenplay copies, original props, and even the Tucker car (rotating ever-so-slowly on a platform), the most prized artifact for me sat on a landing overlooking the vineyard: the desk from Vito Corleone’s office in The Godfather. In person, it’s surprisingly small—a nod to a time when opulence was still tempered with modesty, perhaps—but it still casts a foreboding shadow. For me, it was a trifecta of religious experiences: first as a Godfather fan (alas, the estate does not allow one to sit behind it, grant favors, and make offers no one can refuse); second, as someone who works in film production, it was mesmerizing to stand before the mother of all set dressing; and last, as a true-blue deskophile, I marveled not only at the rarefied air this piece of furniture must’ve breathed, but also the delicate, precious relief of flowers and livestock carved into its side–a detail I’ll be sure to look for the next time The Godfather comes on.
There is nothing like a great desk and a healthy work environment to make magic happen. In previous travels, I can name a few spots where the desks and office spaces made the biggest impressions on me. At Graceland, the eccentricities of Elvis’ decorating style were fascinating for sure, but my favorite room remains Vernon Presley’s office, where Steelcase desks and chunky, all-wood cabinets indicate a well-oiled operation. Likewise, when I visited the Motown compound in Detroit, I thought the studio was cool for sure, but I found the setup in the Gordy kitchen, where artists were often made to assemble their own record packages, most impressive. It also goes to show that a good workspace is where you make it. Growing up (and to this day), it seems like every room in the house is just a workspace in waiting.
We will all have our work cut out for us in 2017. These arbitrary trips around the sun—our collective birthday as a civilization—are, if nothing else, a good opportunity to start afresh, at least mentally. No doubt, setbacks and stress wait for us in the wings, but with a clean, healthy workspace, one that invites and inspires, anything seems possible. Happy New Year, let’s get to work! —Dan Fox