A decade of no dents, just friends
There was a sense of irony in last week’s news, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go. “Irony” is a loaded term, policed as it is by word-usage authorities (i.e., anyone who likes to comment online), and as much fun as it is to annoy those people I want to be accurate.
So there was just a sense of irony, a feeling, a mood. And while there was plenty of news, a sure sign that summer is over, a fair amount of it focused on “Occupy Wall Street” and its franchises around the country.
The ideas behind this movement, as fuzzy and unformed as they appear at this point, seem to center around a feeling of institutionalized unfairness, that a tiny percentage of Americans have amassed a big chunk of wealth and power and the rest of us have not.
Hence the irony, or maybe not, of what felt like national mourning at the passing of one of the country’s wealthiest people.
And I’ll be cautious again. It’s possible that a huge chunk of Americans are unaware of the death of Steve Jobs last week, or at least uninterested. And surely millions are unclear about exactly who he was: Did he invent the computer? The cellphone?
So I’ll just note that in my small circle, people I know, people I read or follow, people I hear from and people who have similar interests to mine, there was a jolt at the news, an odd shock that a man who had obviously been battling serious illness for years had somehow not managed to stay alive.
Mostly, for me, it was a mixed bag of quick feelings. Sadness that an energetic and passionate man was no longer around, and sympathy for his family and friends. Awareness that Jobs was only slightly older than I am, and so once again the reminder (and I’ve had a lot lately) that mortality will never give you a break.
And the acknowledgement that this world is different than it was, and understanding finally why this has been on my mind lately.
I’ve been thinking about this for weeks now. Nostalgia, changes, time passing. Good, bad, sentimental, sad: I’ve thought about the past a lot recently, and I finally figured out why.
This week marks 10 years since I began this column.
I wrote back then on a computer running Windows 98, with a dial-up Internet connection and an AOL account. When I touched a screen, it was only to wipe off dust.
Cellphones were for emergencies, not movies. There was no Facebook. Google was making inroads, but many of us still searched the Web, as it existed, with Alta Vista.
I had no idea what an MP3 was, and iTunes had only been around about nine months. Virtually no one had a blog, and most of us hadn’t heard the term (it had been coined only a couple of years before).
There was no YouTube.
Seriously. There was no YouTube.
But I had you, which explains my nostalgia. I will never make a “dent in the universe,” as Steve Jobs aspired to and accomplished, but I made friends.
I hear from you every week, I see you in the grocery store. Occasionally I get old-fashioned mail from you, too.
It seems a peculiar thing to do, writing about not much, in a medium that is getting progressively creakier and irrelevant. I’ve lurched through midlife and into something else. I’ve written about family and friends, dogs and death, lawn care and weddings.
I’ve irritated more people than I can count, and I’ve heard from them, but mostly you share your own stories. I just wanted to say thanks.
I met several of you this past week, and once again appreciated the value of connections. A lot has changed in 10 years, but people still laugh and read, for which I’m particularly grateful.
You know my family, and tell me about yours. You give me advice and feedback, let me know what you don’t like and what you enjoyed, wish me well and occasionally wish I would go away.
Mostly, though, this peculiar relationship has reminded me that defining “community” can get tricky, and being neighbors is sometimes about who you are and not where you live. As I say, I’m grateful.
And I’m reminded of the time, years ago, when I wrote about my daughter deciding to put highlights in her dad’s hair. I learned my lesson, and I wore a hat for weeks.
I was in a store around then, checking out, when the lady behind the counter started to laugh.
“You’re the blond guy!” she said, and as I nodded and started to slink away, she called after me.“It looks good!” she said, which is the kind of thing a neighbor would say, and the kind of thing a guy like me, making no dent at all, will tend to remember, even after all these years.