Storytelling with space art and artifacts
by Jeff Foust
|“I love you people, but you’ve got to understand: you love your machines much more than most people do,” advised O’Brien.|
Storytelling, though, can be more than just promoting interesting people involved with companies and missions. There’s long been an interplay between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy, each feeding off the other to offer visions of humanity future in space. A couple of museum exhibits within walking distance of the conference hotel in downtown Seattle offered some glimpses of how that can work.
“Imagined Futures” is an exhibit at the Pivot Art + Culture gallery located within the Allen Institute building near Lake Union. The “Allen” of the Allen Institute is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and the exhibit is comprised of items from Allen’s own collection of art and artifacts.
The exhibit includes several models of Von Braun concepts for launch vehicles and lunar landers. (credit: J. Foust)
The exhibition, according to the gallery, “explores the visualization of new space frontiers through works of art by modern masters of the speculative and fantastic.” It’s primarily a collection of artwork that depicts space exploration in one manner or another, from classics by Chesley Bonestell to more recent works by Don Dixon and Ron Miller. There are also models of both von Braun’s V-2 and his proposals for orbital launch vehicles and lunar landers.
That art is accompanies by a little bit of actual artifacts of spaceflight and space exploration. There is an XLR-99 engine used on the X-15 on display, as well as an IBM 360 computer like those used during the Apollo era. They are the exceptions, though, to an exhibit dominated by artwork and conceptual models.
Outside of the main gallery room, there is a separate art installation called “voyager one.” It is concept art created for this exhibition: you go inside a darkened room where the only light is from a single LED suspended from the ceiling. That light changes color to represent the distance of the Voyager 1 spacecraft from the Earth—but so slowly as it’s impossible to perceive any changes while you’re in the room, or even for the duration of the exhibition. “The pin-point of colored light emitted by the LED device parallels our experience of gazing skyward and looking for a sign from this distant muse,” an explanation accompanying the art installation explains. Okay, then.
While the exhibit is designed, according to the gallery, to address “the challenges of imagining the multiple realities of the unknown,” it’s hard to see a clear, coherent story being told by what’s on display. It’s interesting to look at the individual items on display, but put together they seem less than the sum of their parts. For $5, though, it’s worth a look if you’re in Seattle in the next couple of weeks (it closes July 10), and you may not have a lot of company: during a visit late on a Friday morning, there was no one else in the gallery.
|The pin-point of colored light emitted by the LED device parallels our experience of gazing skyward and looking for a sign from this distant muse,” an explanation accompanying the art installation explains. Okay, then.|
There are plenty of people, though, at the nearby EMP Museum, in the shadow of the Space Needle. Originally known as the Experience Music Project, the EMP Museum is now a mix of exhibits about music, video games, and science fiction. The museum is hosting a special exhibition this summer about Star Trek to mark the 50th anniversary of the science fiction franchise.
A view of some of the items, like models of Deep Space Nine and iterations of the USS Enterprise, at the EMP Museum exhibit. (credit: J. Foust)
The exhibit features what you might expect: a collection of costumes, props, and starship models from the various series and movies. It’s really intended for people who are already fans of the show; visitors were gawking at, and taking photos of themselves with, the various items on display, like part of the bridge from the original series.
Star Trek, of course, excelled at storytelling, and provided a vision for the future that inspired generations of people to pursue careers in space. There’s not much of that link between science fiction and fact on display, beyond a video in an upper level of the exhibit that discusses the broader cultural impact of Star Trek. Elsewhere, there’s a brief discussion of the role in the 1960s played on the original series, including the inspiration the series took from the early space program. A silvery NASA garment from the Gemini program is on display with the nametag “E. H. WHITE II” on it, indicating it was worn, or at least assigned to, the late Ed White, although the description of the item doesn’t offer more details about it.
A Gemini-era NASA garment, with Ed White’s name, is the one real space item on display at the Star Trek exhibit. (credit: J. Foust)
The crowds in the exhibit (which requires an additional charge to the museum’s regular fee, for a total of $30 for adults) do demonstrate the interest and staying power of Star Trek that transcended the storylines and special effects. That doesn’t mean NewSpace companies should abandon technologies and business plans for good stories, but that storytelling, like the personalities O’Brien described, can help stoke interest beyond those companies’ customers and advocates.
I was both sad and shocked to see the UK vote to leave the European Union. Once I recovered I had a Eureka Moment.
Throughout this presidential campaign I have issued the warning that there is literally a giant army of men and women in this country who have been left behind in this new economy. These people see all of the money going to the richest 1%. This is not the fault of one political party. Both parties share the responsibility for what has happened.
Any politician who does not offer recognition to these people and some solutions for them will find themselves out of work after the election.
The surprise vote in England shows that the army of angry and left-behind people are a worldwide phenomenon and not just a U.S. problem.
My friends a big upheval and major changes are coming!!!!
David Cameron, the prime minister, took a huge gamble and lost. The fearmongering of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage, The Sun and the Daily Mailhas won. The UK, Europe, the west and the world are, this morning, damaged. The UK is diminished and will, quite possibly, end up divided. Europe has lost its second-biggest and most outward-looking power.
The hinge between the EU and the English-speaking powers has been snapped. This is quite probably the most significant event in British history since the second world war. It could mark an important moment in the west’s retreat from globalisation. It is, above all, a victory of the disappointed and fearful over those confident in the UK’s ability to adapt to change and lead in Europe.
The geography of the outcome reveals that this has also been a revolt of the provinces against a prosperous and globalised London. It is also a revolt against the establishment — political, economic and commercial. Meanwhile, those who consider themselves losers and those who resent the changes in their country, notably the mass immigration, have won. They have torn down the structures built up by the establishment over half a century. The Labour party, to mention one notable casualty, must have lost a huge part of its support.
Yet the UK might not be the last country to suffer such an earthquake. Similar movements of the enraged exist elsewhere, notably in the US, with the rise of Donald Trump, France, with the rise of Marine Le Pen, and even Germany, with the rise of Alternative for Germany. Others might follow. But, in an act of terrible self-mutilation, the UK has led.
It is one of the great ironies that Tony Blair’s Labour government, with its decision to open the UK at once to migration from the new members of the EU, paved the way to an outcome that will horrify him and his erstwhile colleagues. It is now clear that the failure to introduce safeguards on migration when opening the EU to newer and far poorer members was a mistake. But that is ancient history. Its impact cannot be reversed.
It is another of the ironies that people like Mr Johnson and Mr Gove, the rising powers in this land, must now rely on the experts whose advice they scorned.
The UK is now at the beginning of an extended period of uncertainty that, in overwhelming probability, foreshadows a diminished future. The Conservatives will now end up with new leadership. Whether they will manage to produce anything that can operate as a government is another matter. They then will have to do what the Brexiters failed so egregiously to do during their mendacious campaign, namely, map out a strategy and tactics for unravelling the UK’s connections with the EU. This will probably consume the energies of that government and its successors over many years. It will also involve making some huge decisions. But one point seems evident: the UK will bring in controls over immigration from the EU. That rules out membership of the single market. At best, the UK might participate in a free trade area in goods.
Meanwhile, the rest of the EU, already burdened with so many difficulties, will have to work out its own negotiating positions. I expect them to be tough ones. Why should they treat a country that has given them such a kick in the teeth generously? Yes, Germany has a trade surplus with the UK. But it will continue to sell high-quality products that the UK does not make with ease. It is vital for the interests of the UK that it tries to make the process as easy as possible for its soon-to-be ex-partners. They will always be its neighbours.
The pound has already plunged. If sustained, which is likely, that might cushion the effect on output. If the pound’s fall generates a short-term jump in inflation, so be it. But George Osborne’s fiscal warnings were not entirely foolish. The provinces will have to learn, possibly quite soon, what the likely loss of economic dynamism will mean for the tax revenues on which they depend. An emergency Budget is unnecessary. But it is probable that the underlying fiscal position has now deteriorated because the economy will be smaller. That will demand a fiscal response, at some point, if not at once. Of course, this assumes that the loss of confidence in the UK is not so severe as to devastate belief in its capacity to manage itself. That cannot be ruled out.
The UK economy is going to be reconfigured. Those businesses that have set up in the UK to serve the entire EU market from within must reconsider their position. The City’s role in trading in euro-denominated assets will surely be reduced. But manufacturers, too, will have to consider how to readjust their structure of production. Many will ultimately wish to relocate. Businesses who depend on their ability to employ European nationals must also reshape their operations. Many, surely, will want to move within the EU single market. Such decisions will not have to be made at once. But they will adversely affect investment right now. In economic life, the future is always, to an extent, today.
In the short term, however, it will be difficult for businesses to make such decisions sensibly. They just cannot know how the complex decisions to be taken will finish up. This uncertainty has always been the most obvious result of a vote to leave. It is now with us. Only time will clear this fog. But the view that, beyond this period, the UK will end up poorer than it would otherwise have been remains overwhelmingly probable. The UK did very well during its period inside the EU. It is unlikely to do anything like as well outside it.
Yet economics are only a part of what matters. The UK’s decision to join the EU was taken for sound reasons. Its decision to leave was not. It is likely to be welcomed by Ms Le Pen, Mr Trump and Vladimir Putin. It is a decision by the UK to turn its back on the great European effort to heal its divisions. It is, for me, among the saddest of hours.
By Mike Parks
For law enforcement officials and the public at large, the investigation of Omar Mateen, the gunman behind the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, has raised as many questions as it has answered. What were his motivations? What was the state of his mental health? How did it happen that the FBI, which twice investigated Mateen, did not have him under active surveillance at the time of the attack? And why was he still employed in good standing as an armed security officer with GS4, the world’s largest security services provider?
The answer to this last question, at least, has already surfaced. By GS4’s own account, Mateen underwent a pre-employment screening in 2007, including criminal background checks, credit checks and, according to one report, a psychometric test. The company reinvestigated Mateen for cause in 2013, around the same time that the FBI was looking into pro-jihadist statements he had made to a co-worker. Neither investigation revealed anything of concern for the company. If Mateen could pass through a relatively rigorous screening process, how can other companies ensure that they have adequately vetted their employees?
A Brief History of Modern Security Vetting
Security vetting in its modern form is a fairly recent development. Before World War II, no formal, structured process governed vettings, which relied instead on personal recommendations and, often, blind faith. But the war, and the associated risk of espionage, spurred a series of laws and presidential orders formalizing an information classification system and establishing standards of loyalty and character for prospective government employees. As the Cold War set in, vetting became increasingly robust. Even so, the process was focused primarily on weeding out candidates who might be amenable to approach by hostile intelligence services. Character, mental stability and sound judgment were secondary concerns, considered only insofar as they might make a person vulnerable to blackmail. That determination depended on the social values and mores of the day. Sexual orientation, adultery and membership in certain organizations were all potential disqualifiers at one time.
As societal norms changed, so did vetting standards. The U.S. government now repeats screenings of its employees at least every five years — more often if they work in intelligence agencies or raise suspicions. In May, the government widened the scope of its investigations to include current or prospective employees’ social media activity.
Outside the federal government, however, employers have lagged in their screening procedures. In fact, even for high-level or security positions, most employee vetting in the private sector consists of a single, pre-employment records check. Meanwhile, globalization and advances in technology have made trade secrets more vulnerable than ever to espionage, and the threat of workplace violence — such as the San Bernardino attack — has grown. That danger will become only more substantial as terrorist groups at home and abroad continue to encourage attacks on soft targets.
An Imperfect System
Regardless of their differences, security-screening procedures in the public and private sectors alike fall far short of foolproof. Both processes suffer from an overreliance on three principles that, though not entirely misguided, are also not universally true.
First fallacy: The official record is complete and reliable.
Although examining criminal and other records is essential to assessing a person’s trustworthiness, it is only one part of effective security vetting. In the absence of documented evidence that a candidate has broken laws or exhibited other unacceptable behaviors, employers too often assume that he or she can be trusted. But many people flout laws and ethical standards throughout their lives without detection. For instance, skilled criminals using computers can pursue a life of crime without leaving an easily followed trail. Moreover, in many countries, official records may be incomplete, inaccurate or missing entirely, posing a special challenge to multinational companies vetting local employees. When considering candidates for initial appointment to sensitive positions, vetting must go much further and deeper than the official written record.
Second fallacy: Past history is an accurate predictor of future behavior.
Security vetting has always relied on the idea that a person who has exhibited good character traits and has never run afoul of the law will stick to the straight and narrow going forward. But people change, and so do their circumstances. Mental illness, traumatic life events, deep debt, addiction and even career disappointments can change a person’s character and behavior in unpredictable ways. Besides, there’s a first time for every criminal. Even if an employee passes a rigorous security screening prior to hire, he or she could become dangerous.
Third fallacy: Experienced investigators are reliable judges of character and know when someone is lying.
Too often, even experienced investigators can fall short when it comes to judging a person’s character. A psychopath subject to even the most robust security protocols can fly under the radar for decades. When speaking from sincere belief or pathological delusion, people can fool interviewers and, indeed, themselves. Years ago, I sat in on a polygraph in the Middle East conducted by a widely respected U.S. government professional who was attempting to verify threat information volunteered by a walk-in informant. Although we had good reason to doubt the informant’s story, the detail and specificity of the supposed threats and the importance of the alleged targets prompted the government to take the extra precaution of performing a voluntary polygraph. For more than an hour, the polygrapher took the informant through every detail of his complicated story, and at no point did the machine indicate deception. Finally, the polygrapher turned it off and explained to the informant how important it was that he reveal his source, something he had refused to do throughout the process. The informant lowered his head and paused for a long moment, then looked the polygrapher in the eye and said, “The Prophet Mohammed told me these things.” When the polygrapher turned the machine back on to verify this response, it once again registered no deception.
Tools of the Trade
With few exceptions, private employers are prohibited from subjecting candidates or employees to polygraph tests. But most polygraphers agree that the most valuable part of the test happens during the initial interview, before the polygraph machine is even turned on. A face-to-face interview by a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in employee vetting is likely just as effective as a polygraph, if not more so. Much like polygraphs, which indicate only whether a subject is uncomfortable with a question, psychometric tests require human interpretation to be of any value. Many believe that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a test widely used in candidate vetting, is sensitive to attempts at deception. But a brief online search turns up various tutorials on how to “beat” the test. Furthermore, people with the very personality types that such tests are designed to screen against are also those most likely to try, and succeed, to game the system. Without expert interpretation and follow-up interviews, psychometric tests are insufficient for evaluating a potential employee. In Mateen’s case, this was apparently overlooked: The psychologist whose name appeared on the form as Mateen’s MMPI administrator has denied any involvement in his vetting process.
Security vetting for employees in sensitive positions is more than a means to provide bureaucratic cover for employment decisions; it is an important part of protective intelligence for any institution. An effective screening investigation should be comprehensive, including human sources beyond a candidate’s provided references, social media activity, face-to-face interviews by a trained psychologist and routine — ideally, randomly spaced — security updates. Ultimately, however, employers must remember that the best intelligence in the world is useless unless it is acted upon.
Before the Golden State Warriors/Cleveland Cavaliers game started last night, Elena and I both had a grim foreboding about the outcome. We knew that it was not going to turn out well and it was inevitable that Cleveland would win. As Elena said, “after 52 years this is their moment.”
In April of 1981 I was driving on a freeway near the Johannesburg airport. My compact rental car was forced off the road and suddenly I saw a flat-bed tractor/trailer truck broken down on the the highway soft shoulder. I knew that I was going to ram into it at a relatively high speed. No braking or evasive manuevers were going to help. All of this happened in a split second but seemed to take forever. Just before my car rammed into the flatbed trailer, I threw myself down on the car seat. The roof of my car was torn off. Had I been sitting upright, I would have been decapitated.
I felt the same way 35 years ago and last night.
CBS is not truthful. The program “48 Hours” has an agenda to misinform.
The program “48 Hours” has intentionally excluded important, FACTUAL testimony from several people, most notably defense attorney Carrie Thompson. In addition, the producers of “48 Hours” were provided with contact information for many other people who also could have provided testimony toward Kurt’s innocence. Nonetheless, those witnesses absence is obvious, because the producers ignored them.
Instead, they opted to parade in front of their camaras people with strong incentives to lie. No evidence provided, no fact-checking by CBS, just uncontested lie after lie after lie. Hmm. It appears CBS has an agenda to cement the “official narrative” and to skew public perception.
For example: “48 Hours” implied that the police and investigators did not see a suicide note. That’s very strange, because back in June of 2002, they told the Rocky Mountain News that they HAD SEEN THE NOTE (see photo below). Lt. Jon Priest even provided a quote specifically referring to the note. Erin Moriarity and her producers purposefully supressed that information.
“48 Hours” also implied that Kurt had time to “clean up”. However, there is no evidence to back up that claim. The first police report says that the smell of gunpowder was still in the air (because they arrived within 6 minutes) and that there was NO indication whatsoever of a struggle nor of anything having been “cleaned up”. But “48 Hours” did not bother to press for any corroborating evidence. Wet rags? Wet bar of soap? Wet towels? Water in or around the sink? Nothing in the trashcans? Paper towels? No? Nothing? But “48 Hours” didn’t find the need to ask any of these simple questions and instead allowed the implication to masquerade as fact.
These are only a few of the many examples of 48 Hours’ intentionally dishonest mishandling of this story.
Erin Moriarty presented herself as having been “shocked” that Kurt and Paula’s daughters, Scarlett and Natasha, were allowed to be on the program. And yet, at the same time, Erin is there on her set, dishonestly campaigning to have their father unjustly ripped away from them, traumatizing them for life, destroying their family. The girls – bravely and on their own initiative – asked to be present to help to defend against this threat. In any other dire situation, such as a medical emergency, their actions would be applauded. This is the same.
Mainstream media has fallen into the hands of a small group of self-interested multinationals, who control and spin information to the public in ways that benefit only themselves and the servile government which supports and protects them. Most of the time, revealing the truth is definitely NOT in their best interests.
We must no longer believe what they tell us.
Closing ad: %1$d
My dear husband Jim died during the night.
Since his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer in November of 2014, Jim fought the bravest and most gallant battle. I lost count of the hospitalizations, surgeries to insert stents, drains, tubes, the fecal transplant, the hyperbaric chamber, the MRI’s and scans—not to mention the fourteen hour surgery to remove the tumor , last June—the Whipple Procedure, performed in Boston. In the twelve months since we returned from Boston, after two months of treatment and recovery , there was seldom a day in which we didn’t have some appointment or procedure or test or scan, and he approached them all stoically and without complaint. As recently as a month ago, he was still talking about clinical trials, more chemotherapy. If he had discovered methadone sooner, he said, he could have gone back to practicing law. (The pain was vast. But on methadone—given to him only when he signed on for Hospice care–his head stayed clearer than it had on the Dilautid. For Jim that meant one thing: He could work on cases again.)
I do not think Jim spent one day without pain over these past nineteen months. But at this hard moment, I prefer to focus on the joyful parts of his life, and on our life together. Since we met in the fall of 2011, we travelled to Paris four times and fell in love with that city, also to Budapest, and Chile (where we visited all three of Pablo Neruda’s homes, and whereJim climbed a 12,000 foot peak , after five rounds of chemotherapy). And to Mexico, and —seven times—to Guatemala, where he climbed a volcano two times, and made friends with so many people in the village we both grew to love.
We went many times to New York, and to Maine, and to my home state of New Hampshire, where Jim also made many friends. Over our much too short time together, we hiked miles in California and New England—including a four day trek over the Presidential Range in the White Mountains, back east, and Point Reyes, and Mount Tam, and in the end, down the road closer to home, where getting to the trail we loved required us to climb over a tall gate. As recently as two weeks ago, Jim climbed it.
We went to hear a lot of music, and never missed the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park. All three days of it. And until last fall’s festival, when this was no longer possible for him, Jim went along with my desire to lay out a blanket at each stage, and to run —wildly!—from one stage to the other, to catch as much music as we could . That was always our approach, come to think of it. To catch as much as we could.
Over the course of our time together, Jim got his motorcycle license– and how we loved to ride that bike. We also kayaked in a spot near where we were married called Silver Lake, and rode our bicycles in the Oakland hills, and rode horses in the foothills of the Andes, and fished for salmon in South America. We ate a lot of oysters, and drank some wine. OK, a lot of wine.
Jim was a car lover—a man who could sometimes be found, early mornings, bent over his laptop studying some new story about the Tesla–and he was a a wonderful driver, which was a good thing, because I was not. And Jim was always up for a road trip: Just a month ago—with a cooler of antibiotics in the back seat, and an IV infusion pole in the trunk–he brought me to the Eastern Sierra and his beloved Owens Valley. Ten days ago, we headed out again, to Monterrey and Big Sur, though this time I was the one at the wheel as we made our way down Route 1. The fact that this was so told me how sick he must be.
Though he loved the law, Jim had so many other passions. He studied photography in Maine—photography, a lifelong love–and Spanish on the shores of Lake Atitlan. We made a plan to memorize poems we loved; he got to work on The Wasteland. We took Zydeco dance lessons. Just last fall, he said he wanted to learn how to fly a plane.
And of course, he loved music. One of his joys, never more so than over the nineteen months of his illness—and the nearly fifty years that preceded it—came from playing his bass with friends. Jim loved all kinds of music, but in his heart, he was a rock and roll man. Most recently—and by this I mean, over the last couple of months—he seemed to need to reconnect with the Beatles. Every time we got in the car he played those old songs from their earliest albums. I think it had something to do with knowing his life might be coming to an end that made him want to go back to the beginning.
He was a fierce and unabashed liberal, who was determined to walk into a polling place to cast his vote just ten days ago—and he was never reluctant to engage in political debate, and when he did so he revealed a depth of knowledge and history that went a long way and even succeeded in changing a few minds. He never assumed it was a hopeless cause to convince a person, regardless of ideology, to see things in a new light. He particularly believed in the importance of the judicial branch of government, meaning of course Supreme Court, and of the many things that made him so sad about dying , one was not getting to be sure that Donald Trump never became president.
I am not done talking about my husband yet. There is so much to say.
Until he blew out an ACL ligament skiing—and then blew out the other— Jim was a runner, who set a record in distance running back at his high school in Venice, California. His greatest skill as an athlete, I think: tenacity. He ran the mile in (I think I got this right) 4 minutes and 34 seconds. He was also an Eagle Scout. When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I reminded him that as long as the odds were, of a person surviving this disease, the odds of a young boy becoming an Eagle Scout were longer. And look…he’d done that. So what else might be possible?
Jim cared deeply about justice, equity, the environment. And he loved …no, he revered…science. Just a few days ago, he was still reading out loud to me about the discovery of a new planet, with as much excitement as some people might, announcing the birth of a grandchild.
Like every parent I know—and divorced parents most of all, as I know well myself–he carried regrets about what he could have done better . What I saw in him was steadfast devotion to his three children, Matt, Phil and Laura. As a single parent trying to keep up with a demanding law practice in the competitive climate of San Francisco, he still made it home to cook dinner and took them camping into the wilderness, even when they were very small. He celebrated their independence, their education, and their freedom to make their own choices in life. Most recently, on Earth Day, he celebrated the marriage of his daughter Laura in Brooklyn. Up until two days before the wedding, he was still hoping to get out of his hospital bed and get there, but it wasn’t possible, and that was a heartbreaker for Jim.
Six weeks ago, when we learned that the cancer had returned, and we ran out of options, Jim took the news with the greatest courage and grace. He said he wanted to take me dancing, and out to dinner, even though he could not eat much any more. He wanted to attend an Episcopal service and receive communion, and he visited that other altar of worship, AT and T Ballpark, to watch the Giants with his son Phil and me. (The month before, he got to see the Warriors, just feet from the court. How he loved that.)
He was determined to visit the newly reopened San Francisco Museum of Modern art , and did—not just once, but three times, each time taking in a different floor and then returning to his favorite painting, by Brice Marden. He wanted to get to a jewelry store to replace the wedding ring that had slipped off his finger and gotten lost (because his finger was so thin now) . Having a ring on his finger mattered a lot to him.
Just a week ago, he took on our friend Jason at ping pong, his killer serve still intact, even if his pancreas and liver were not. Just five days ago—this seems like a dream to me now– he took me to a Bob Dylan concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. He walked in on his own steam—slowly, and no doubt in pain, but dashing as always, in his black hat and boots. That night proved to be the last of our adventures out in the world together. After we got home, he climbed the stairs to our bed, and he did not leave the bed again. His last words to me were spoken in the parking garage, heading back to our car that night. “Did you have a good time?”
At the point we met, I lived in Marin County, California. Jim had a house on the other side of the bridge, in Oakland. Over the first two years of our time together, we moved back and forth between our two places, unsure of where to make our home. Then one day, just over two years ago—this was a total fluke—I happened on a picture of a house that had just come on the market that day, in a place called Hunsaker Canyon, in Lafayette. There was land and space for all our big projects—a writing studio for me, an office for him, and a place to set up his guitars—and space,too, for children to visit, and grandchildren one day, we said. There was a hillside where we planned to plant olive trees. And a house that looked as if it had been designed with the two of us in mind.
I told Jim about it, and in his typical fashion—always game for following up on my wild ideas—he took out his motorcycle and we rode right over to take a look. The wisteria was blooming that day, but even if it hadn’t been we would have fallen in love with that place.
We scrambled like crazy to get Jim’s house on the market, so we’d have a shot at buying this one. Three weeks later, we’d done that. We moved in that summer. This house in the canyon was , for us both, the most perfect home for us, our dream come true. Less than two years later, with the wisteria once again in bloom, he would turn to me (this was April of this year) and say , “This would be a good place to die.” And it was. Deer and wild turkeys wandering just outside the window. Owls at night, and the stars clearly visible as they aren’t in the city. Quiet. Three weeks ago, I finally got around to planting olive trees. Twelve of them.
We were never happier than the day we moved in to this house. And never sadder than the day, three months later, when we got the diagnosis. After, we drove home, dazed, lay down beside each other on the very bed where he lies upstairs right now, and read out loud to each other the wedding vows we’d recited just over a year before, on a New Hampshire hillside, with fireworks exploding around us because it was 4th of July weekend.
Jim was so many things: Smart and kind and open-minded and passionately interested in the world, and the outdoors, his friends, his children. He was not simply extremely handsome, but classy and debonair. The sharpest dresser, when he wanted to be—but at home in a flannel shirt. and I loved that about him.
And how can i not mention here what anyone who knew Jim already knows so well? Jim was just so playful. So downright funny. He invariably had interesting things to say. Seldom the obvious.
Oh, could he ever make me laugh. (Most recently, watching a Warriors game in the living room of friends, and more than a little stoned on painkillers and exhaustion, he woke up very briefly during the third quarter of a game our guys were losing badly to the Cleveland Cavaliers and observed, drily—even in his Dilautid-addled state—“Steph Curry appears to have gone septic.” Sepsis being—during this last round of infection— the very thing we feared so much, for Jim. )
He was a marvelous companion, a fierce protector, and the most deeply romantic partner.
The first time I ever cooked him dinner, back in my old house in Mill Valley, a few days after we met, I made a mess, as i generally do. Evidently there was a drip of pesto (or , knowing me, more than a drip) still on my arm as we sat down to eat, or perhaps I’d dripped some more on myself when I raised my fork. Jim reached across the table, past the lit candles, and brought my hand closer. Then very tenderly, he brought his lips to my elbow and licked off the sauce, as elegantly as a sommelier, considering a particularly fine vintage. I probably knew then that I would marry him, though he revealed so many other good reasons later.
There was not a moment in the four and a half years we spent together when I doubted the depth or constancy of Jim’s love for me. Or mine for him. I used to call him my guard dog, because he was always looking out for me in a way I had never known. Just hours since he took his last, labored breath in our bed—with my son Willy’s dog Tuck still curled up beside him, as he has been for the past five days– the world already feels desolate without him. But though he is gone now, and I will miss him forever, i feel his fierce love still.
The song linked here was sung at our wedding . It says just how I feel about marrying Jim.
PS There will be no funeral . But in September, we’ll plan a memorial celebration of Jim here at our home in Lafayette.
I may not answer emails for a while. But please know that I will read them.
Thank you all for being in Jim’s life, and mine.