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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Leslie Harpold, RIP

It's weird to find out about a really interesting-sounding person only after they die.

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dayan: I only ever really got to hang out with:
I only ever really got to hang out with Leslie Harpold in person once. I was in San Francisco a couple of years ago, seeing a Pedro the Lion/Vanderslice show at the Great American Music Hall with Merlin and co., and Leslie showed up, leaning on a cane but well over six feet tall in whatever boots she had on that night. I remember thinking that it was impossible to tell where her online persona ended and where her real-life one began, which in retrospect is about the highest compliment you can subconsciously give someone who's involved in as many projects as she was. (You'd find her imprimatur on all sorts of things you wouldn't expect: Desert Storm trading cards!) Just as her unmistakable touch informed everything she did, she turned out to really be larger than life: as energetic and vigorous and foul-mouthed and caring as I hoped she'd be.

So as we're amiably chatting and she's asking me all these really in-depth questions about San Francisco, recommending burrito places and museums and record stores, some drunk guy gets kind of belligerent for some reason, and does a less-than-considerate job of respecting her personal space. At one point during the show she whirls around and swings her cane at him. Look, buddy.

The look on his face.

As Merlin put it, "Among the many things that Leslie found intolerable in this world, spending a whole lot of time suffering your crap was high on the shit list," so it wasn't like Leslie was a born jerk or anything. She was just possessed of more moral rectitude than practically anyone I know, and she did not suffer fools lightly. But she'd simultaneously bestow her generosity on almost everyone who entered her orbit, and she knew a lot of people. She gave us a considerable sum of money toward working on the film. She bought Mike Monteiro a trash can off Amazon.

We could all use more friends like her.

I just stumbled upon this (friends-only) entry she wrote about Silkworm drummer Michael Dahlquist's death in 2005, and although it's now eerie to read her thoughts about suddenly dying, there's a lot about it that's comforting:

[Any] sense of sinecure you have is largely a construct, a coping mechanism your brain gives you as a little present so you can get things done and not obsess constantly about all the random things that could go wrong. When you're playing the "What if?" game - "What if I'm hit by a bus? What if lightning strikes?" it all sounds so ludicrous. Then something like this happens, and the next thing you know, you're sitting behind the wheel of my car at a red light trying to figure out if the guy in the Taurus pulling up behind me is slowing down fast enough.

Saying it could happen any time sounds so morbid and pessimistic, but I think I'm going to take a different reading of it. Thanks be it could happen at any time, because that will remind me to love with full force, speak my mind, trust my heart, do my best, make a difference, give more selflessly.

(more at waxy.org, December 12, 2006)

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