Monday, April 08, 2013

Twinkle, Twinkle...

About 30 years ago I met my friend Joey who is one of the sisters I got to choose.  Over the years we have shared homes and celebrations and holidays and heartbreaks and along the way her family became part of my family.

Every year on my birthday, Jo's older sister Pam, and her mom and dad would call and leave an enthusiastic rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" in three part harmony on my voicemail.

Joey is the youngest of four and Pam was 16 by the time Joey came along.  She had been diagnosed with a congenital heart issue which was treated with surgery before her little sister was born, and because the doctors told her parents that although Pam's heart was fixed she could still drop dead at any time - they were very protective of her.  During the years when most teenagers are rebelling and getting ready to leave home, Pam was held very close.  In many ways, while she was like another parent to her youngest siblings, at the same time there were childlike aspects in Pam that were there her whole life.  Indeed she never moved from her parents home. Although she was very intelligent, she often missed social cues, and definitely marched to the beat of her own drum.

I met Pam in the early 80s when she was working at McDonnell Douglas.  She was very much into Republican politics, enthusiastically so, and she loved the candidates she worked for George Deukmejian and Ronald Reagan.

I did not.

Something that she didn't seem to notice although I was pretty clear that I wasn't interested in going to events or donating money to individuals that, according to my father, were responsible for the devastation of mental health services in the state of California and in the country.

Pam was also really involved with the Crystal Cathedral - if you've read anything I've written in the last couple of weeks it's pretty clear that I'm not a fan of organized religion.  If you ever watched the Hour of Power it really doesn't get more organized than that.  Pam began as an usher and every single year she invited me to come to the huge Christmas story production or the Easter morning production (where she would have gotten me into the best seat in the house), but it wasn't my thing. It was Pam's home for 25 years and I believe she eventually became an elder.  I really should have taken her up on her offer because it is an amazing piece of architecture and I'm certain that those services were beautiful.  I also could have practiced some Grace and appreciated and participated in something that was so special to her - but that would be one more thing that Pam taught me.

None of my rejection of her offers phased her and she did not love me any less.  Had I asked her for anything she would have gone out of her way to help me.

What I recognized is that although we were ideologically polar opposites, her intention was always about sharing love, never about proselytizing, or forcing me to believe what she believed - she would believe it enough for both of us.  

The last time I saw Pam was during the long weeks that her father was struggling to slip off this mortal coil at the end of his battle with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.  She had discovered a love of "clowning" and she was also learning to play the ukelele.  Nothing made her happier than spreading joy as Twinkles D' Klown and if she could play her ukelele and sing at the same time - even better.

My last memory is of her in the backyard of the house in Malibu, on the edge of a hill looking over the ocean, sitting in a chair, playing her ukelele and smiling. At the time it was a bit surreal, but in a larger context it was the exact right thing for her to do.

To say that Pam was eccentric would be an entirely accurate statement, but she was also authentically loving and resilient in the face of rejection, and sometimes loneliness.  She showed up in a way that is so rare anymore.  She had a profound faith in God and heaven and she walked the walk more than most people who call themselves Christians. 

Pam passed away a couple of weeks ago - that day her doctors warned her parents about finally came.  It was shocking because I had always imagined her clowning her way into her 90s when it seems you can get away with anything.  My hope is that she went to sleep, that she left quickly and that she wasn't afraid.  In fact, I just know that she went to sleep and at some point she saw both her parents holding out their arms so she grabbed her ukelele and went with them and now they are singing once again in three part harmony.

Her memorial service was this past Saturday at the Crystal Cathedral (which has been sold to the Catholic Church and is only going to be Pam's beloved church for a little bit longer).  There were so many people there - all of whom were reflecting back the love that Pam had given them over the time she'd known them - and there were clowns and ukeleles.  It was as if she right there with us.

It was the best funeral a lot of us have ever been too, which is as it should be, because for all of her eccentricities and struggles, Pam was one of the best people we ever knew. She spread a lot of joy and even now she is twinkling.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Dear Google - you used to be awesome

But now you suck.

You are like that great boyfriend who at the beginning of a relationship is so easy and fun.  Everything just flows and it's like you could read my mind and all my needs were met - you even had stuff I didn't know I needed or wanted like the ability to track my conversations.

But now that we've been together for these past 7+ years you seem to continually be going through an identity crisis.  All of the things that I appreciated about you have been tweaked and changed so that you could keep up with the competition.

It's like coming home to your man to find he's shaved his head and is sporting skinny jeans because it's what's "in" even though he may not be carrying it off so well.

Where you used to be my preferred e-mail platform because things were so clear and organized, you have now become cryptic and almost impossible to decipher.  It's like I'm having a relationship with a Tween who only speaks in memes and wears his pants down below his buttcheeks. 

I am not a complete idiot when it comes to technology so this is not about my inability to figure out the various "new concepts" you keep foisting upon me - no - the issue is that you have become too much work and the "new look" isn't really working that well.

So, while I'm not breaking up with you right this minute I am defnitely open to a new relationship with someone who will give me function and form and ease of use - maybe even rock it a little old school.  Because here's the thing about technology.... it's cool and all but at the end of the day it's a tool to connect people, and if I get so frustrated with your bullshit that I'm using Outlook (seriously, it's got to be bad if I'm reconsidering Microsoft) as my primary means of e-mail communication you need to take a hard look at the choices you are making.

You need to check yourself before you wreck yourself, because I'm predicting that the new trend is going to be humans putting their devices down and spending time together in the same room.  We are going to start missing each other.

If you can make it easier for that to happen you might be on to something.

Your new gmail "compose" is not easier, or better, or faster - it's bullshit (although I do like the colorful, fancy font in the corner of each e-mail) - and I am not the only one who thinks so.  In case you haven't done so, take a look at this article, which is just one of many that I've found from all over the world.

Did you just need some press?

Compose is like "new coke" - I know you all are probably too young to remember that marketing disaster, but it's the perfect illustration of that whole, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy. How about you try some cross demographic focus groups before you force your "new compose" on users?  Right now it feels like those in the Google bubble were just sitting around thinking up something new to do to rationalize their paychecks.

You do so many things right - it's okay to admit that you occasionally miss the mark. Why don't you all try to figure out a way for people to connect meaningfully in 3D and real time because, as a society and a culture, we are going in the wrong direction.  Thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers don't actually make people happy - it just tends to make them neurotic and kind of mean and insecure because everything is a presentation for your followers.  It's getting really weird.

In the meantime I will be switching back to the original format by doing the following:
Pressing the "Compose" button on the left side of the screen.
Then when the new compose box pops up, I will click on the down-arrow icon at the bottom right of the window.
Then I will select "Temporarily switch back to old compose."

Next I will be shopping for a new e-mail address.  Anyone know of something good? - please pass that along.

So vaya con Dios Gmail Compose - seriously it's not me - it's you.