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Between a noodle and your favorite dress

So a little over a week ago Jeff Jarvis tweeted about the German pilot who may have committed suicide by crashing a commercial plane:

I tweeted back. He tweeted. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Etc. And then:

Quickly followed by:

I was less upset than puzzled and bemused; even if I was completely wrong, all I did, as someone pointed out, was mildly disagree with Jeff over something I do happen to know something about.

With the day job and the doctoral work and other things going on, I decided to wait to respond until I could respond with a fey blog post tweaking Jeff for what other Twitter user called his Saran-wrap-thin skin. Then I thought, I’ve had bad days. Maybe, just maybe, he had one too, and everything I had been saying had been passing through a filter of something much more serious going on in his life. Perhaps this is a situation that can be repaired. So I tweeted, “so a few days have passed. Is it possible to revisit my comments through MRI (Most Respectful Interpretation)?”

Followed by three more tweets from me, explaining how I know him (through a conference in Boston in 2004), offering an olive branch, creating the possibility for pushing past that incident.

Crickets chirped.

I get it.

It’s not that I miss Jeff Jarvis. I haven’t had any sort of collegial relationship with him. I didn’t have a heroic image of some Jeff Jarvis for this Twitter thread to debunk. He was just someone I had once encountered whose public opinions I sometimes read and sometimes did not read. In my personal firmament, Jeff Jarvis has hovered between Japanese noodle soup and extra-nice shoelaces… something I wouldn’t go out of my way for, but would be happy enough to encounter. Unless the options were better, like an oyster po’boy or socks with a kitten pattern.

It’s something larger and more ineffable. Maybe it’s the person I was in 2004, before the wind-down of Librarians’ Internet Index, the huge mistake of the move to Florida, the amazing return to California, and a few triumphs and heartbreaks and losses along the way. Maybe it’s the times in my life I have taken umbrage (that evil nostrum that sits on a far-too-convenient shelf), flamed into an angry response, and not opened myself to reconsidering my reaction.

But more likely it was hearing on Tuesday that Gail Schlachter had suddenly died, and feeling drenched in grief and wishing I could just spend a few minutes with her again, even in one of those charmless windowless conference rooms where Gail spent so much time patiently, cheerfully sharing her gifts with others. Just to watch her walk up to me on the floor of ALA Council and tell me how happy she was to see me. Just to see her smile, as bright as the sun, and listen to her wise and funny comments on all things LibraryLand. Gail had the gift of making every person she encountered feel special and welcome and the smartest kid in kindergarten. She was witty and kind and beautiful and patient, and entirely her own person. She had a heart the size of our galaxy, and so many of us will miss her.

Gail was way above soba noodles and special shoelaces. Gail was that sort of person that if you knew her even slightly, she was more than equal to the best oysters on the half-shell you ever had, or that special dress you will remember forever. She had the knack for saying things so kind, things I so needed to hear at just that moment, that I would fold her comments into a small square and tuck them forever in my heart. Gail was powerful and astute, but I don’t know if she fully realized how much she meant to so many people.

So in the end, I have a twinge of sadness that I have become to Jeff Jarvis what my dad, may he rest in peace, referred to as P.N.G., for persona non grata. But it’s not about who I have been to Jeff, since in all honesty to him I’ve just been some peon out there in the vast online galaxy, and now I am in minus-peon zone, in that strange parallel galaxy you go when you have dutifully followed orders and fucked off. It’s about that person I was in 2004, and the places I’ve lived and the cats Sandy and I have outlived and the people I’ve served and the others who have left us. It’s about all those times when I wish I could have just a few minutes more with the people I care about, and how I curse myself for the times I have been “too busy” to have that moment with someone who I can no longer have moments with again, or too proud or too angry to mend a fence. It’s about the way life breaks our heart simply by moving forward.

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