Link Stew?

Nov. 20th, 2014 09:25 pm
Once upon a time there was a fellow named [personal profile] jaylake, and along with being an uber-prolific writer, even when the universe did all it could muster to stop him, he was also a prolific blogger. And among his prolific blogs were his Link Salad entries, in which he posted links for things he found either interesting or utterly atrocious. For Jay was a polymath who was interested in pretty much everything, and so his links were unfailingly broad, varied, and engaging. And so his Link Salad page because one of my all-time favorite things on Live Journal, if not the whole realm of the Internet.

I got to thinking about Jay, his blog, and Link Salad while I was speaking at the edu-blogging faculty discussion today. In fact I used Jay's blog as an example of everything an excellent blog could be. Link Salad came up during the part of the discussion about linking to other pages as part of your blog format. And I remembered - when I wasn't feeling a wee bit hypocritical for talking about blogging when I've done so little of my own lately - that I'd thought from time to time about doing my own version of Link Salad. But that I've always only done it now and again at best, and next to never at worst.

Which is strange, because I read a lot of articles online. I mean a lot. I'm not suffering for a lack of content I could provide, and much of it is interesting, at least to me. I don't know how well it would suit anyone else, but then that seems to be a pretty universal rule for blogging in general. At any rate, I'm thinking about doing it again.

But I'm hesitating. Jay did it so well and so regularly that I couldn't hope at all to follow in his footsteps even in this one small thing. But even doing it as my own thing, I'll admit that I am concerned that if I do it poorly, or let it fall by the wayside as I have in past years will, in a strange sort of way, be dishonoring his memory. At the very least I wouldn't call it "Link Salad" - that was his name. Maybe something similar enough, like Link Stew.

I can use this entry as a trial run, though. I have a handful of links sitting on my browser right now, and they look like the makings of a good small sampler. So starting with one I've already posted on Facebook and elsewhere, try these out and see what you think . . .

The Ten Thousand Chestnut Challenge. A little over a century after the Chestnut Blight came to America and almost completely drove the American Chestnut tree into extinction - a tree that numbered in the billions and was as widespread as oaks - SUNY-ESF has finally come up with a Blight-resistant Chestnut tree. Now they're asking for help with funding to plant 10,000 of these trees in the wild across the country. If you're able and would like to see the American Chestnut rise again, would you consider sending a bit of money their way?

67,000 Victorian Criminals. The Dorset History Centre has made these 67,000 19th century criminal records available for free and fun browsing - complete with photographs. Fun for writers, or general fans of the wicked, the wanton, and the wild.

Where to See the Oldest Artifacts in the World. Smithsonian Magazine's guide to ten sublimely ancient antiquities that you can see for yourself - including, as I was hoping, the Western world's oldest book.

The Fall of Facebook. Yeah, we'll see. I wouldn't count Facebook out just yet.

Childen helped make one of the world's oldest geoglyphs. I'm not sure how the archaeologists came to some of their conclusions here, but I'm buzzed just by the existence of a 6,000 year old geoglyph, and that children did seem to help make it.

This is not the entry I would like to have returned to blogging with after a month-long hiatus. But then again, this is an entry I hoped I wouldn't have to write for a long time, because (for reasons I'll make plain shortly) I wasn't going to write it while Jay was still with us. And I'd hoped that despite everything, he would still have years yet. But his passing yesterday after the six-year bout with cancer(s) that he documented so thoroughly over the years has gotten me reflecting about many things, of which this one item I'll share publicly because it's one example of his generosity.

To sum up: Jay Lake in all likelihood saved my life. I mean that literally.

I never met Jay in person, but we became Live Journal friends about nine years ago or so. I'd started hearing his name from other writer friends who blogged on LJ, and was instantly fascinated by his posts about the writing process as well as his fearless political posts. (Some people said he had a reputation for being arrogant or condescending; I never saw that. He was frank and unashamed of his beliefs and his writing, and didn't suffer fools, and I think this rubbed a few people the wrong way. But those tend to be the sort of people who need to be rubbed the wrong way. Anyway.)

In the summer of 2009, I was bitten by a spider on my left arm. The bite got swollen; I was advised to ice it. The swelling went down and I thought nothing more of it for a few weeks as I went about my normal routines, which included a 45-60 minute workout three to four days a week. Then both arms started swelling up again. I resumed icing them. This time I knew I'd need to see a doctor about it, but while I had insurance, I wouldn't be able to get to a doctor for a few days. At the time money was super-tight and I was, as the saying goes, living from paycheck to four days before paycheck. I was a few days away from a paycheck, thus I was a few days away from seeing a doctor.

Now one of Jay's political leanings was being an unabashed supporter of Obamacare, and he had numerous lively discussions about it on his blog. I commented on one of these at the time, citing my frustration about not having money for a doctor visit. It was a passing remark, bolstering some comment about medical expenses that he'd made, and I thought no more about it.

At least I didn't think about it again till the next day, when money showed up in my Paypal account with the note that it was from Jay Lake, telling me to go to the doctor. I won't say how much but it covered the next two visits...out of what became five appointments over the course of two weeks.

Because that's the kind of person he was. And he refused to let me pay it back, instead insisting that I pay it forward.

So to the doctor I went. She checked out my arms and was horrified. The swelling I thought had gone "down" was in fact the fluid in my arm hardening - hastened by the ice I'd been using. Between that and my workouts, the doctor told me that it was an almost complete certainty that within the next few days a piece of that hardened fluid would have broken off, caused a block somewhere, and likely become fatal. In other words, that few days' wait for my paycheck that Jay eliminated very well could have been lethal.

I got a round of antibiotics - also paid for with the money Jay gave me - with instructions not to exercise beyond a gentle walk for a month.

I told Jay all of this. He still wouldn't accept any repayment. His first cancer had been going for a year by this point and I told him I knew about his own health issues; he told me he'd been helped this way in the past and was now passing that help along. Eventually he did consent to me sending him a signed copy of The City Beyond Play, but that was all.

I did also vow to him that I wouldn't tell anyone about this publicly. That was my idea - he never asked it of me. I was just afraid people might start begging him for money if I did.

Two months ago, at last, I was in a position to pay it forward, and with Jay in mind I did so. A friend who was unemployed and uninsured had to be rushed into an emergency surgery, and wasn't sure how she could pay for it. I sent her the amount Jay had sent me. I knew it wouldn't have as profound an effect as his donation did for me, but I could do it, so I did.

And I let Jay know that I had. Despite being what I know now was so close to death, he sent me back an e-mail thanking me for letting him know and - because he was still generous even then - wishing both my friend and me good health.

So while many people are remembering Jay's personality, his Hawaiian shirts, his stories and his writing work ethic, I'm remembering him for my existence.

Thank you, Jay. I won't forget, and I'll keep paying it forward whenever I can.



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