I just bid goodbye to my fantastic friend Maureen. The last two days have been great together, spending time being silly, eating, shopping a little, and hanging out in my apartment. Mostly hanging out for the past day or so, because winter hit early and strong yesterday with a freezing rain/snow mix that was really unpleasant to be out in. We stayed inside, watched a lot of TV and movies, and talked about life. Now that she has gone, I need to refocus on work and life (and what is in my diet, we ate like pigs :)), so off to it!
My awesome friend Maureen is coming to visit me for the weekend, arriving here any minute (from a red eye flight, poor thing). Mo was with me WAY back at the very beginning of this blog when we took a cross country trip before I left on my world trip. She is one of the most truly wonderful people I know and I am excited to spend a little quality time with her this weekend. Now if only I could convince her to move to New York…
I haven’t been very motivated to write recently (as periodically happens), but I have no intention of letting all this founder, so let’s get back to it. The last few weeks have been filled mostly with visitors and family, especially family, as I went back to Indianapolis (where I was born) for my Mother’s 70th (surprise) birthday party. I stayed for about a week and re-connected with everyone, and watched my niece and nephew for a couple of days as a favor to my brother while he and my sister-in-law were out of town. It was really nice to spend some time alone with them, and I rarely get to, living as far away as I do. Since it is the halloween season, I thought it would be great to go to the largest cemetery in Indianapolis and explore the place. My sister Kelly joined in and we had a great time travelling the grounds and imagining the lives and stories of the people buried there. Among the notables was Indiana’s best known poet, one James Whitcomb Riley, whose grave occupies the very highest point in the cemetery. As we sat atop that point looking out over the city (such as it is), Kelly read one of his poems, “Little Orphant Annie“, perfectly chosen for the place and the season. Other than that, what can I say, Indiana isn’t know for it’s great poets.
I felt that familiar buzz in my pocket coming from my iPhone. I had just received a text message telling me that Steve Jobs was dead. Everyone dies, and let’s face it we all knew this one was coming sooner rather than later. But surprisingly, it kind of hit me. It kind of represented something bigger than one person dying. I went home and read through some of the coverage, and felt a pang of sadness for what the world had lost.
There were all kinds of reasons I didn’t like Steve Jobs. I used to work at Apple in the late 90s and there were so many examples of what an asshole he could be. The stories of how terribly he treated people. How he would park in the handicapped space at Apple. His imperious manner. His relentless tracking down and firing of someone that wrote a joke email about him.
Years later, as Apple came to dominate industries, I really rued his controlling, anti-competitive nature. The lawsuits against competitors, the ridiculousness of pricing in the iPhone ecosystem, the censorship of content. For so many years, Apple was the underdog and it was obvious to me how much better everything they made was than the crap that Microsoft and Dell gave to the world. And I would be lying if I didn’t also acknowledge how it mattered to me not to let the world be owned by any one company like Microsoft. That we needed (and still need) competition and variety. That we need to encourage creativity with openness. Now that they are on top, Apple sometimes forgets this, and becomes a part of what is terrible. They often behave as a monopolist, and this is very distressing.
But there is no ignoring the truth that our world would be a much uglier place without Steve Jobs. The beauty that has gone into so many things I use on a daily basis is largely because of him. That it is possible to take delight in a certain kind of creativity, and to have tools that help that creative vision come to life was not in any way an inevitability. Over and over again through the years, I have asked myself a simple question that no one can answer: Why can no other company make technology this beautiful and fun to use? There are amazing designers all over the world, in almost every industry, but in the computer field there is nothing that approaches Apple. Even the very best that others have produced reeks of cheap imitation of Apple. Steve never invented anything directly, and yet so many of the things we use today would not exist but for his vision and dedication to making them.