Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lucky to be Alive

An acquaintance of mine was driving on the freeway. His lady friend sat in the passenger seat. She was doing something with her phone. It wasn't working. He glanced over to see if he could help.

Then he looked back at the road.

To avoid rear-ending the car in front of him, he braked and swerved. His car flipped onto its back. On the freeway.

The car was totaled, but he and his passenger -- lucky as heck, I'm sure you'll agree -- walked away, with only minor bruises.

"It changed the way I drive," he told me. "I will never, ever do that again." Astonishment came over his face. "I only looked away for a split second."

A split second.

He got lucky. But you might not. If you haven't already, please: make up your mind, right now, not to look at a phone while you're driving a car. Not ever.

Not even a little.

Not even once.

It's not worth dying over.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Not Long Enough to Forget How You Swung from the Crystals Above

I took a number of runs at this post. I fell back again and again. A steep incline, this is. Slippery underfoot.

Damn it, what do I want to say?

Jay Lake was my friend. I miss him. A lot.

Recently I was telling someone who had never met Jay a bit about him. He responded that he hoped that when he died someone idolized him so much.

Oh, hardly that. I loved Jay, yes, blind spots, foibles, and all. But he would never have claimed to be a flawless creature. Like most of us, he was a mix of keen self-awareness and fuzzy-sighted clumsiness.

Send 1st class
How human he was. How grand.

Art. Jay Lake was art.

Art? Do I mean I can't describe him but I know him when I see him?

Yes, I think I might indeed mean that. But I also mean this: few of those who knew him didn't have a reaction - positive, negative, or both at once. Like art, he inspired people to feel things, to do things. To write, to engage. To talk.

Across the years the two of us discussed all sorts of things. Consciousness and transformation. Science and language. Sex and lust. Cancer and death. Courage and fear.


That last year, many of my emails to him were titled: "Things I will have wished I'd said..." I didn't want to leave anything unsaid. Mostly it was, simply: "I love you."
Riding Genre as far as it will go

He inspired me, Jay did. He was unapologetic for who and what he was. He was happy to talk about it, sure, even listen if you had something to say, but he had worked hard to get where he was, and I don't mean his writing - which yes he also worked hard at - but the person-hood he inhabited. He wasn't at all sorry for his opinions, his volume, his language, his brightly colored shirts and socks.

Even before cancer, Jay was busy living his life as if he didn't have a moment to waste, grabbing at every ring he could see, swinging from any chandeliers that would have him.

I remember being an early reader on LAST PLANE TO HEAVEN and SUNSPIN, sitting on his couch one afternoon while nearby Jay's fingers danced across the keyboard of his laptop. Now and then I'd make an amused sound and he'd stop and look at me questioningly. I'd point out something I found interesting in his narrative. A word I didn't know. Structural choices he'd made.

Aha! I have you now!
Somewhere it hit me, just how good a writer he had become. I said as much, adding that I couldn't imagine ever writing as well as he did.

His response was abrupt and adamant: "Don't try to write like me. Write like you."

It was a point he made again and again, to me, to others. While he loved being in the spotlight and giving voice to his views, always, always, when it came to specifics, to me and my dreams, he pushed me to reach for whatever it was that called to me, rather than to follow someone else.

To lurch for the rings. To swing from the chandeliers. To wear bright shirts and socks.

Remember, the best way to learn is through failure. Success is a much less effective teacher. But if you’re going to fail, fail big. Petty failures teach petty lessons. Write the Big Idea stories, the grand, sweeping novels. Open your mouth and shout. Be great. Pretty damned good is the failure condition of greatness. -- Jay Lake, on Motivation

Jay moved me.

Jay was art.

I miss him.

Remember the caption contests?

Speaking of the Art of Jay Lake, here's another view onto the man I want you to know about:

"The Jay Wake Book: A Celebration of Jay Lake", absolutely free and in full color:

PDF Low Resolution (small file size 7MB)

PDF High Resolution (72MB)

HARDCOPY: This POD book is splendid, with quality full-color prints. (The cost of $28.22 covers only the production costs of the book, courtesy of editors and contributors, myself included.)

I love you
(My gratitude to editor Sandra Tayler​ and all contributors to the book.)