It’s been a week since the passing of my friend and colleague Michael Hawk. I wrote most of this two days later, realized there was so much more to say, and decided it was time to say at least this.
It’s profound, really, the effect a person has on your life when you see and talk to him almost daily for almost ten years. It’s easy, and human, though, to not really think about that effect as deeply as you could.
At some level, death is an act of violence no matter when or how it happens, but no more than when someone’s life ends suddenly and almost entirely unexpectedly. It feels like a big part of me that I knew was there, but didn’t truly understand or appreciate how integral it was to me, or to so many of the people around me, was mercilessly ripped out.
I’m talking about the life of Michael A. Hawk, resident of San Francisco, native of Kansas City, Mo., curmudgeon, philanthropist, musician, businessman, techie, sports fan, renaissance man. We lost him without warning while we were on our way to work last Wednesday morning, May 7th. Those of us who knew him and loved him had come to rely on him in so many ways, whether or not we fully realized it. What I knew, but didn’t give its proper due until he was gone, was just how intentionally and systematically he gave of himself to make others’ lives better. He knew the power of a helping hand, an early investment, a kindness.
Michael also did not hesitate to give you a piece of his mind, whether you agreed with him or not, and the fact that he was something like 6′ 4″, 280, along with his frequently forceful delivery, tended to give uncanny weight to his words, in a very real sense. He was intelligent, crude, spiritual, funny, sometimes dark, a self-made man.
And the man loved words. Among the many things and people he loved, including his wife Jeanine and his best friend Anthony, and so many of our co-workers past and present, words (especially obscure but usefully concise ones with subtle meanings) were among his favorites. He liked to intentionally work in a few of his recent vocabulary favorites.
There are so many more things I’m going to miss that were unique and interesting about Michael. I could go on and on, but this is what’s important: Michael was my friend. I will miss him. (I already do.) The lesson he would want to impart, which I’ve been able to start learning on my own the last few years, is to really live life, do the things I want to do, follow my passions and interests and dreams, and do what I can to make the world a better place.
Note on the photo at the top of this post: Michael had it on his wall for years (this is a picture of the print behind a sheet of plastic; the wicker frame is cropped out). That’s me hovering behind him and Al Gore at the 2006 CLCV Southern California Environmental Leadership Awards. I always thought he should have framed it in a square frame and cut me out of it, but he insisted on keeping it that way. In retrospect, I’m glad he did.
Hello, dear Reader. Let’s get acquainted, you and I.
The reality is more likely that you already know me. (Maybe you’re married to me.) Or maybe you have no idea who I am. Maybe you’re reading this in the year 2465 (which would mean someone survived the present and the near future, which is awesome).
The original rationale for creating this site was to keep in touch with folks I knew (friends, family) who were far away. I think it may have served that purpose to some extent during the pre-Facebook years.
But, again, the reality was that I wrote very sporadically over a long period of time. While I enjoyed writing in the blog when I got around to it, I’m not sure that it ended up keeping people up to date in any meaningful way.
It did keep me writing, slowly and sporadically, for years. At the end of 2010, I had written an average of three to four blog entries every month. In the ensuing 39 months, I published 13 entries — three a year. (That is not to mention the five or so posts I started and never finished, some of which included many, many words and sentences.)
Ultimately, however infrequent my updates were, they still happened. Therefore this site is a more or less continuous history of me in the 21st century, having launched in February 2001 (with a number of mysterious pre-site-launch-dated posts).
The happiest outcome of that fact is that my wife, Dawn, before she was my wife, got to read stories about me that made her want to get to know me better. I will always be glad I started this site for no less than that reason alone.
I am happily married, which is a wonderful and amazing thing. I am still, however, a (self-)frustrated artist who still has an undisciplined and wild urge to create. So, I might be coming back here in the days to come. Watch this space.
David Brooks’s column [“Moderate Mitt Returns,” October 4, 2012] taking Mitt Romney’s debate comments at face value is either dangerously naïve or disgustingly disingenuous. When Romney didn’t think anyone but his rich friends were listening, he showed his true colors. He does not plan to work for the interests of the American people as a whole; therefore, he is unworthy of being elected President. Anyone who lies as obviously, audaciously, and frequently as he does should never be entrusted with that much power and access.
Jason L. Gohlke
For the Times’s sake, I’m really hoping I just didn’t get the joke and the whole thing was one big winking joke soaked with sarcasm, like a nice moist piece of tiramisu. I don’t think that’s the case here, unfortunately.
As I’ve said here a zillion times, I hate politics. Right now, though, it seemed like a good idea to dash off a note, if only to get it on the record. Mitt Romney is too dangerous, and President Obama is just good enough, that I am horrified at the prospect of Mitt Romney actually winning.
That said, I had absolutely no fear that Romney could actually win this thing — after all, John Kerry lost because he got tagged as a flip-flopper, and Romney is 100 times worse, and a bunch of other reasons — until reading David Brooks’s steaming pile of electrons.
Established news organizations are so desperate for eyeballs that they (a) will do anything to keep the horserace close, since that keeps them relevant and (b) sensationalize as much as possible to get as much attention as possible. There’s also the big problem of liars being given the benefit of the doubt. In the gradual shift of news departments’ focus from investigation to entertainment, truthiness is as good as truth. And I don’t think the majority of the public — and worse, the journalists — can really tell the difference (or care to do so). The irony is that the entertainers (Colbert, Stewart, The Onion) are the ones telling the truth now, through satire and parody.
I don’t really think Romney has much of a chance. I think, or hope, Obama was using a bit of a rope-a-dope strategy (though it’s not exactly clear which candidate was doing so).
To be clear, my fondest political hope (which seems incredibly unrealistic) is for the Republican party to dissolve in internecine conflict after losing this election, for the majority of the “mainstream” Republicans to flood the Democratic party (moving it really not that much farther right than it already is), and then for the progressives to bolt the Democrats and create a viable third party with a kind of progressive/libertarian flavor that captures everyone’s imagination and ultimately gives real power to people fighting the corporations. That might not happen in my lifetime, but it’s a happier prospect than some massive catastrophe that requires us all to learn survival skills and start over*… or a continuation of the slow decline of the middle class that results in something very close to feudalism.
You can see why I kept my letter to the Times short.
________________ * (in my initial draft, I wrote “take over,” which couldn’t possibly be a Freudian slip or anything)
I guess the common thread is to figure out what people want and then figure out a way to give it to them, easier and cheaper than someone else can…. or find some way to make some intermediate step easier.
I’m at a point where I want to start using my brains to innovate something new, rather than solve some variation of the same five trivial problems over and over again, which is basically what I’ve been doing for the last nine years.
* * *
Oh, also, happy new year — this is my first blog entry in 2012, as January already nears an end! 2011 was my best year in a long, long time, filled with positive changes, and 2012 is going to be even better. A little over a week ago I celebrated six months with Dawn and I’m looking forward to many, many more. Sometime this year, maybe sooner rather than later, I’ll be living in San Francisco. Woo hoo!
Here is one thing I almost forgot (oh, how quickly we forget!): To improve your life, you have to take risks.
The most important change in my life to date — meeting and falling in love with Dawn — didn’t just happen. The timing was fortuitous, sure, but it happened through an intricate series of intentional acts on my part and hers.
Generally speaking, when we did those things, it involved taking risks. For me, those risks started probably when I moved to Minnesota in 1999, setting off a crazy chain reaction that resulted in three rough years out in the cold, followed by seven very difficult years in the Bay Area and two increasingly wonderful ones. (Happily, the wonderful ones were 2010 and 2011.) Another risk was going into therapy and working hard to discover what I really feared and hated about life and about myself. Another was to put up a profile on OKCupid.com that was truly honest and revealing. I was finally able to do that in a way that was actually attractive, because I finally liked myself and felt worthy of receiving love. There was still an inherent risk of rejection: if someone didn’t like my honest, detailed, silly profile, they wouldn’t like me either. (Of course, the reverse is also true: If someone liked my profile, they’d also probably like me. I was pretty sure of that, anyway.)
Similarly, in contacting me, Dawn risked rejection, or the possibility of disappointment at meeting yet another inauthentic dude on OKCupid. In return for each of us taking those risks (and many others), we have begun to build an epic love that is made to last. (I am thankful every day for it because I am well aware that not everyone gets to have this.)
Taking risks requires you to accept the possibility of losing something you already have. Ideally, that thing you lose is something you don’t want anyway (the parasite crashing on your couch, the soul-sucking job, the girl who doesn’t really love you but you keep answering her calls anyway because you’re lonely, the feeling of worthlessness, etc.). But even that is hard, because the fear of the unknown frequently trumps the potential gain of making a change.
One thing that makes it hard to take risks is giving a fuck. Stopping giving a fuck — about the things that don’t matter — probably has its disadvantages, but it’s the only real path to making meaningful change in your life.
It’s been a struggle for me for years to not give a fuck. During and after high school, I allowed my teen-aged perception of what society thinks is important to shape my choices, instead of just doing what I wanted to do. That put me in a very different place than where I might have been.
That’s not to say that I would trade any of it. Two short years ago, I was at my worst. At this time of year in 2009 I couldn’t see anything but what was right in front of me and a whole hell of a lot of pain and fear. But now, going into 2012, I have a wonderful woman at my side (I’m pretty sure she’s the person I’ve always wanted to be with but was too afraid to look for), and a world that has opened up again with limitless potential.