Leslie Harpold and and ... fuck.Shit. Leslie Harpold has died. Like others, I met her only a few times, but was influenced by her wit, passion, thoughtfulness, and work and strived (succeeding much less often than her) to match in effort the inspiration she gave to many as naturally.
She wrote posts that sounded like they could be fiction (the line could be unclear), with a narrative structure and an occasional third-person point of view and I found great inspiration in that. Every person has a story and often they don't tell it like a story, and I'd think what an interesting world it would be if they did and I went to working on systems that helped enable everyone's stories. It's a pretty direct line and I'm grateful to Leslie for that.
In my view, Leslie was a world-class author (don't call her a memoirist nor diarist you pricks) and she was especially adept at delivering a killing punch at the end of her stories: the inverse punchline. I was always a little breathless after them. Some posts I liked and loved include:
- Solid Reasoning
The last line kills me: He runs his fingers absentmindedly over the edge of her cubicle as she nods yes to questions he doesn't even think to ask.
- Dancer on the Roof
I'm eating grilled corn and sliced tomatoes on my roof with Pablo Neruda.
I hope she remembers how confident and nimble she is today. That should she ever find herself saturnine, paralyzed by pressures she doesn't understand or may even be imagining, she will go to the place in her head she inhabits today and feel what I see as I head back inside. Her silhouette brazenly leaping from the shadows against a hazy pink sky, twirling with arms spread wide until she collapses like a rag doll, and immediately pops up to do it again.
- Selective Memory
Take something smaller, zoom in a bit and I remember all kinds of things no one else could in infinitesimal detail; songs I heard on the radio as I crouched under the kitchen counter during a tornado warning as I drank Faygo Frosh eating pumpkin seeds at age six, waiting for mom to return from work. Or the way an old boyfriend's hand felt unnaturally warm around my wrist while breaking up with him in a restaurant, him grabbing it to replace the fork punctuating my reasoning with a spoon. "I'm listening," he whispered, "it's just the spoon would look less evil."
- Picking the Right Backyard
My husband Jake was kind of an impulse buy.
- Not Drunk
I know the words to this song, and I'm glad because instead of listening, I have to tell myself something very important, put different words in his mouth.
- The Carpet Bagger
In the three decades spanning the 1960s through the 1980s, interior designers played a cruel joke on hotel patrons, namely, installing hideously busy patterned carpets throughout the hallways on each floor of rooms. Wild swirls, intricate florals, garish greens and pinks yawning before unsuspecting guests as they stepped off the elevators. At check in time, most found it slightly comic, but stumbling back down the confusing corridors at three am blood diluted with alcohol, the true horror revealed itself.
She declined in a distinctly southern way, her words hanging in the air like honey on the end of a spoon.
- If I Tell the Story
If I tell the story, you won't soon forget it, and you won't be able to repeat it, instead dragging people up to me by the elbows and pleading with me to reprise my rendition of the events.
- And this from On Carrying On: I admit occasionally some acts feel like trying to hold oddly shaped pieces of rough metal inside my mouth
Also: I think Leslie deserves her own Ludwig Alois Ferdinand Ritter von Köchel and the recognition that can come from the efforts of a catalogue-mad information-compulsive, especially as Leslie hasn't yet received a fame commensurate with her field of influence and inspiration.
Her writing beat personal ploughshares into community ploughshares that cut through my personal and professional development like a sword and this increases my dismay at her death - this won't happen again? - and I'm reminded again that I think that, for all its benefits, our physical system is fundamentally stupid: a nearly-unreplaceable pump, a datastore you can't backup or replicate, and a bag of easily-punctured skin. I like to think that our best swords deserve better scabbards.
Hmm. See how clumsy that last turn-of-phrase sounds? Leslie would have fucking nailed that.