A Death in the Family

Ewalda, a frequent commenter, posted this message on May 11, 2009. It would be his last. Four days later, he died “unexpectedly” in a hospital, at age 57.

We didn’t learn about it until Monday.

It’s not something we would have learned about, had not some of us known his real name, and somebody thought to Google it. It’s not something you think about. We’re all friends here, but we’re masked by aliases and separated by geography. Our own friends and family may not know we participate, and so may not know — or even know how — to tell us when tragedy strikes. On the Internet, nobody knows you’re gone.

Blogs form their own communities. Ours was a community formed by outrage over a firing at Wonkette. But even then, it was months before we came to see ourselves as a crew of fellow travelers — an amazing development, given that, with rare exceptions, nobody knew each other.

But it was — and is — a community of choice: A choice to participate, to lurk, to lay low, even to leave. We don’t release the hounds when somebody disappears. We may express occasional curiosity — absences are missed — but we respect decisions not to play.

Ours is also, substantially, a community of the middle-aged. We have people rounding 40, rounding 60, and pushing 80. Our demographics suggest that this is a situation we’ll be facing more frequently than a blog whose audience skews younger.

There’s a scene in Fight Club — yes, this is how our mind works — when Meat Loaf dies violently, and Edward Norton is outraged that the gang members don’t see the humanity of what lies before them. “In Project Mayhem, we have no names,” he is told. “No, listen to me,” Norton objects. “This is a man, and he has a name, and it’s Robert Paulson.”

We don’t know that we have the license for a full reveal, so we’ll go halfway: Farewell, Jim. Peace on your travels.


Now that you posted up his last comment and I can remember that the tone of it bothered me.

Now I feel bad that I never followed up.

As much as I hate Facebook, at least it provides a forum for an immediate relative to let one’s e-friends know that their pal has passed away.

It always jars me to learn that someone died, leaving behind a years long blog with daily thoughts, commentary, ruminations, etc. You go back and perouse the blog and the person seems so alive, still. You can almost feel his/her presence in the writing.

You’re right, though, Nojo. This is going to happen more and more, though at 41 I’m hoping I’ve got some time yet before I’m pushing up daisies.

So sad. Absences are noted but we never really know where someone goes once they stop commenting. I had always wondered but I never stopped to think about it, and I feel like a heel. RIP.

If I go, please go for the full reveal. I’m 30 now, but you never know — I have had friends drop dead suddenly at 25, murdered at 22, killed in one of our needless wars at 21, and died an excruciating death from suddenly discovered cancer — dying at 18 but a mere 2 months after our high school graduation.

We all know so little about each other, really. And when I go, scatter my virtual ashes here, at Jalopnik, and at TPM. Mahalo.

When I met him I didn’t realize I was older than Jim. I’d have demanded more respect.

In my earliest days on the internet (1995-96), I was on a listserv(TM!) for “solo” librarians–mostly business or law librarians who were the only library staff in their firms. One of the regular contributors, a woman named Suzy, was the librarian at the observatory (Haleakala?) on Maui. Another listserv member who knew her IRL let the rest of us know when Suzy and her husband were killed in a helicopter crash. I still vividly remember how strange it felt to experience such a sharp feeling of loss for someone I’d never met. This sadness was, disgracefully, followed by the thought, “So there’s a job opening in Maui? Hmmmm.”
R.I.P., Jim.

Well, you get the time you get, I guess. I wish we had known earlier.

God Bless, Ewalda, and I’ll see ya when I get there.

He made excellent jokes, spectacularly funny quips, mordant comments that made me laugh and laugh. I missed him when I was just afraid that he was seriously annoyed and was boycotting us. I’m sad. He’s probably providing some much-needed comic relief to the overly serious angels.

OK, bitchez – and Lynn – I’ve been doing teh research and was reminding myself of where the phrase World enough and Time comes from and I found this – an astonishment of beauty which seems most apt for our friend. And for us all. As Ms Cyn will remind us, it is Andrew Marvell: 1621-1678. And let us all remember that he was a man of his time and that I would give Catt’s left nut to write something so speechlessing. And all about getting into some boy’s/girl’s pants.

Here’s to Jim. And to us all as we caroom down time’s water-slide.

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough, and time,

This coyness, Lady, were no crime

We would sit down and think which way

To walk and pass our long love’s day.

Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side

Shoulds’t rubies find: I by the tide

Of Humber would complain. I would

Love you ten years before the Flood,

And you should, if you please, refuse

Till the conversion of the Jews.

My vegetable love should grow

Vaster than empires, and more slow;

An hundred years should go to praise

Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;

Two hundred to adore each breast,

But thirty thousand to the rest;

An age at least to every part,

And the last age should show your heart.

For, Lady, you deserve this state,

Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear

Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie

Deserts of vast eternity.

Thy beauty shall no more be found,

Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound

My echoing song: then worms shall try

That long preserved virginity,

And your quaint honour turn to dust,

And into ashes all my lust:

The grave’s a fine and private place,

But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue

Sits on thy skin like morning dew,

And while thy willing soul transpires

At every pore with instant fires,

Now let us sport us while we may,

And now, like amorous birds of prey,

Rather at once our time devour

Than languish in his slow-chapt power.

Let us roll all our strength and all

Our sweetness up into one ball,

And tear our pleasures with rough strife

Through the iron gates of life:

Thus, though we cannot make our sun

Stand still, yet we will make him run.

@Right Reverend Benedick: Dude, why didn’t you just ask me about the phrase? I could have told you immediately.

@Tommmcatt is with Karin Marie on This One: I could not have, but if the author is going to wait until this Jew converts before he gets laid, it’s gonna take a while.

Note to Benedick: The War Of The World and A Woman In Berlin just showed up courtesy of the Benedick Book Club. Report to follow.

WTF is his “vegetable love”? Tomm’s dick? Soon Tomm will be left with one ball. We should sell the rest of his organs when he’s high.

@JNOV: Oh, nice. I’ll have you know my organs are permanently pickled and therefore unsellable on the black market. The only thing my liver could be used for is a doorstop.

And THIS is the only vegetable my dick resembles. Not that any of you will get the privilege of first hand knowledge.


@Right Reverend Benedick: Unlike the peanut gallery, I will thank you for finding the whole poem and sharing it with us.

@Tommmcatt is with Karin Marie on This One: I remember you have very pretty eyes….

@SanFranLefty: He’s gorgeous. Maybe we should sell him to China.

@JNOV: Wouldn’t he enjoy that too much? Or would that be being sold to Thailand?

Jim would be proud of this thread’s devolution.

… the iron gates of life. Wow.

Marvell died at 57. Beam me up, Scotty.

@JNOV: Thailand is too –young for me.

@flippin eck: Right? When I go my thread better start weepy and end filthy. I expect no less.

@JNOV: I have proof from last summer. Just needsta find it.

I remember he left because people had elaborated fantasies involving prison rape which he found disdainful, even when involving bankers. None of us can be that good.

I post also on a message board for wooden boat builders. There are about the same number of “regulars” there, and many are older. Over 10 years, about a half dozen have died. Noone ever disappeared. But the most amazing thing involved a long time regular poster there who was ill for some time. Everyone knew, but the time finally came for him to enter a hospice. He had no family, no children, nooone, and no money. The community on that message board came to his aid. Someone donated a laptop so he could keep in touch. But the most amazing thing, the two people who lived closest, started visiting him, constantly, for hours (many of these people are retired). They did not let him die alone, they made sure someone was there till the end.

@Prommie: What a touching story. Encouraging, somehow.

@Right Reverend Benedick: @Tommmcatt is with Karin Marie on This One:

There is a dude there on that boatbuilders message board who is in a bad way, right now, congestive heart failure, needs a heart, too old and ill to even be put on the list, kidneys failing, on dialysis. It hurts to go there and see his updates.

I have to tell you about the man. Most of us here would disapprove of his life, just listen.

He was a pilot all his life. Vietnam, then, covert, Air America. This is all so very sketchy, picked up from mere hints, he does not, ever, ever, brag. Apparently flew as contract covert pilot for intelligence services, all his career. Lived in Thailand with his Thai wife, I have seen a picture of the two of them on the beach with their pet tiger, yes, pet tiger. Insanely bigger-than-life character, and I am no rube, this was no internet Walter Mitty, this was real, he only ever hinted. Except that anytime the conversation shifted to world events, anything happening, anywhere in the world, he knew all the background information. He knew the players, what was going on. A pro.

he did the things we all think were the horrible reprehensible things our intelligence services did, around the world, the last 40 years, he was there.

But he is a good man. He’s not what would be considered a “conservative” by any means, he’s a very well-informed realist, not a realpolitiker, either, just a realist. He may have accepted judgments we reject, on what was necessary or justified in different situations, but his judgment was not ideological, never.

But, I believe, a good man, and what an incredible life, I have begged him to write a memoir.

That community is rallying around him, now.

Here is this guy’s last post, he believes he is being killed by agent orange exposure:

Agent Orange in Thailand…..
The VA is now accepting claims for Agent Orange that members may have come in contact with in Thailand.
It’s too late for me but if some other folks have the symptoms/scars then maybe there’s some hope.
They have admitted to using it around air bases in Northrun’ Thailand.

Someone asked where he was exposed, he said:

Re: Agent Orange in Thailand…..
They used it around places like Udorn (B-57 base) and other similar areas.

Thats the kind of thing that makes me believe him. You have to know shit, to even understand that he is hinting at knowing shit.

Here is what he has to say about the Dow Chemical people:

Re: Agent Orange in Thailand…..
We’ve lost a bunch of our associates since coming back….exceptionally hi rates of various cancers and organ failures. They should take the folks that developed it and feed them a bit of it each day that they are still alive.

@Promnight: we subject our soldiers to chemicals and bombs, then expect that they will find a job and become John Boehner. Delusional.

Nojo, and everyone, I am horrified that his last post was this, to me.

I liked him. We talked, I liked him. At some point my big insensitive mouth said something, took a side in something, that got him really angry, even hostile toward me. I was unhappy, regretful, I liked him, I actually cared that I offended him, pissed him off, I was sorry I was just not happy that happened, and several times, I tried to talk to him, find out why, tried to make amends, because I liked him. I told him I respected him and cared about his opinion, tried several times to make peace. Thats why he says there, “stop obsessing.” And when he disappeared, I thought I drove him away, that somehow I disgusted him so much he wouldn’t come back.

Everything is about me, you see.

This makes me feel bad, though. why, his last post, to me? fuck, you know?

@Promnight: His last FB post was on a stinquer’s item.

And speaking of A Remark You Made . . .

@blogenfreude: Disposable Heroes.
Another one from “Master of Puppets,” which turned 25 today.

@Promnight: My uncle has been told to go in to the VA hospital every three months for testing because of his Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam more than 40 years ago. Apparently the guys who *didn’t* die back in the late ’70s/early ’80s are now getting some really bizarre gnarly cancers. And we’re not event talking about the generations of people in Vietnam who have suffered from Agent Orange. I agree with whoever said that the developers of it should eat it every day.

P.S. Don’t beat yourself up on Ewalda.

@SanFranLefty: Mrs RML’s cousin is all fucked up on that shit.

About now is when he’s supposed to show up from a dial-up in Bolivia.

@redmanlaw: @SanFranLefty: We were told that exposure to depleted uranium (used by NATO) in Kosovo in 1999 was “a myth” and “not proven to have any long- or short-term effect”, but privately counseled to document where we worked. My part of the province suffered 80% infrastructure damage, not all of it by NATO but there were some really really impressive craters and bombed out military installations I got up close and personal with. I’ve kept a file.

@nojo: That would be awesome.

Re exposure to awful things that “experts” say are not harmful: My brother-in-law, age 63, who served in Vietnam, has just learned that he has primary liver cancer. Our fingers are crossed and we’re hoping that the tests he’s had so far are correct in failing to detect any signs of its having metastasized, in which case it looks as if the tumor can be removed in its entirety with a good chance of no return and enough of the still healthy part of his liver remaining to go it on its own.

@Promnight: Yes, don’t beat yourself up about Ewalda. I think he had a lot of trouble getting along with people, that he was hypersensitive himself and at the same time could be really wounding without intending it or realizing it. He wrote a comment to me once on Wonkette that really got to me. I was shocked at how upset I was, and yet I knew he had not intended it to be anything but funny.

A guy I grew to respect and know a little (internet friend) died from cancer due to exposure to that shit in large part because of his tours in Vietnam. I suspect that some of my actual cousins are dying of Agent Orange as we speak. The Vietnamese are in a worse position as they’re living in it.

I echo the sentiments here that you shouldn’t beat yourself up over his comment. It could have been anyone of us, really.

I did some deep memory searching and remember at time I thought we had pissed him off so much that he just gave up on us.

jim would have loved this thread. from the sobering realities of death to asslass chaps. i cried/ i laughed.
no one dies on the intertubes.
just put “Ewalda” into the stinque search and there he is, there we all are. and you will see prommie, all the delightful conversations the 2 of you had……

@lynnlightfoot: Oy, sending well wishes to your brother-in-law. That sounds horrible.

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