HEWN, No. 207

Never answer the phone. It's always bad news.

I’m just going to put the links to reading recommendations up top here because, if you do read on, this newsletter goes in a direction I didn’t anticipate it going when I sat down this afternoon to write it — before the phone rang:

Momo Is Not Trying to Kill Children,” Taylor Lorenz reassures us. Joy Lisi Rankin writes on “How Minnesota Teachers Invented a Proto-Internet More Centered on Community Than Commerce.” It’s worth thinking about how we ended up with the Momo version and not the Minnesota version of ed-tech, too.

Initially, I was going to pen a response in this HEWN to the great question posed by Michael Feldstein: “Is Ed Tech Hype in Remission?” “The ed tech hype cycle seems to have at least partially and temporarily burnt itself out,” he contends. I’m not sure I agree — or, at least, I’d like to complicate questions about who hypes and how, what we see as hype and why. I think it’s important, if nothing else, to distinguish the financial realities faced by many schools these days — at both the K-12 and college level — and what may be their more measured (even hesitant) approach to procuring expensive techno-solutions these days, from the ongoing hoopla that the industry and its marketers and its financiers still tries to stir up. (Exhibit A.)

Maybe I’ll actually blog about this... Or maybe, now that my apartment is mostly unpacked, and I can sit at my desk and write again, I will finish the draft of the book...

This week’s pigeon is a Budapest highflyer pigeon, which I chose earlier today, when I was in a sunnier mood:

(Image credits)

This week (while procrastinating that book-writing), I sat down and knocked out a few handwritten letters to a handful of friends, giving them some of the latest updates from my end of things. (The move to Seattle was just one big, recent life event.) I know I’ve missed a lot of stuff by not being on social media for the past few months. Job announcements, baby updates, school reports, media appearances, illnesses and recoveries, stupid memes, and so on. I figured that if there was really important news from my really close friends, I’d hear about it one way or another. Someone would email. Someone would text. Or the most ominous of all, someone would call. The phone rang this afternoon, and my stomach sank when I saw the number — my oldest friend, the son of my aging godmother, and someone who I made sure had my phone number when I left Facebook “just in case.” His parents are fine. But he was still calling with really, really bad news.

“Jack is gone.”

I doubt that any of the subscribers to HEWN are from my hometown of Casper, Wyoming. I doubt that anyone who reads this newsletter knows who Jack Canfield was, but I’m going to write about Jack anyway. If you’re from Casper, you knew him. He and his sister run the Ink Spot, a piercing and tattoo shop out on Yellowstone Highway. Jack was the most righteous and kindest and coolest speed metal freak I ever knew and always, always a dear, dear friend.

I still remember the first time I ever heard of him. We were in seventh grade, and there were rumors flying around our science class one day that he’d sacrificed someone’s ferret to Satan. (This was the 80s. These sorts of rumors about heavy metal and Satan-worshipping, while ludicrous, were not all that uncommon.) Jack looked a little like a long-haired Dallas Winston, that is, if one rewrote The Outsiders movie to be the metalheads versus the jocks instead of the greasers versus the soc. Jack loved Slayer, and he was friends with the band — if you knew Jack, you’d say “of course he was.” (He and Gary Holt actually made a line of t-shirts together urging, “Kill the Kardashians.”) Jack would regularly travel great lengths to see metal shows; he collected vinyl and concert t-shirts. He loved all live music, and as a teen, he'd go to every single concert at the local Events Center, no matter the genre. (Those were the days when a concert ticket cost less than $20, so many of us would go see music much more often than we can afford to now.) And no matter the genre, Jack would try to start a mosh pit — he started a mosh pit when Anthrax opened for KISS, sure, but he got folks stomping in a circle at the Amy Grant concert too, I kid you not. I saw him the last time I was in Casper, a couple of years back when my dad died, and my brother and I went to his shop to get memorial tattoos; Jack reminisced with us about his first Grateful Dead show — one he’d attended in Denver with my first husband — how the hippies put him in a bad mood for the longest time, until the music finally got to him and made him start to move and dance. It was probably the drugs, to be honest.

Jack struggled with addiction for a long while, but he’d been clean for more than 25 years. More recently, he’d been diagnosed with cancer, and I thought he’d beat that too. The last time I talked to him was in June — I was looking for a recommendation for a tattoo artist in New York — and we talked, as we usually did, about good food and loud music and fast cars. We could agree on the joys of two of the three, at least. We talked about how our kids coped (or didn’t cope) with their parents’ cancer. He wanted to know how much money I got for my book advance. He told me how cool it was that I was living my life as a writer. Jack believed in living life fully. Maniacally. Jack lived. Until, I guess, he no longer could.

Jack is gone. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.

Remember, all of you: you are loved. I am not on social media, but I am still here. Don’t make me answer the phone. I will write letters. And I think of you often.

Yours in struggle,