The middle week in January was a real roller coaster for me. On Wednesday, January 13, I found out the cable network where I’d been working for the past two years, Al Jazeera America, was shutting down in late-April.
That news was barely digested when, on Friday, my wife, Kiera, went into labor.
Siddhartha Reyes Swaminathan was born in the wee hours of Saturday, January 16, overshadowing any other event that took place early that week and more or less all of them before it (at least in my life).
His first few days have been intensely documented via several iPhone cameras and even a couple traditional ones. If you want to watch him as he grows, we took inspiration from friends and made him his own Instagram account, @sidsw4mi, you can follow him there.
Work stuff will sort its out, but I’m feeling totally consumed by this little guy right now—and have to imagine I will be for the foreseeable future.
I’ve been neglecting this space. But I have a fantastic reason. I moved to the Bay Area in late-March! I’ve been getting settled, rehabbing a busted finger, and trying to figure out my new environs. But it’s time I returned to posting occasional life updates.
A few weeks before I made the move, I got an email from a friend. It read: “I can’t wait for you to leave the Beast Coast and join all us cool kids on the Best Coast!”
The jury’s still out on which coast is better, but it’s now been more than six months since I moved to Oakland from my beloved Brooklyn. It’s very different here, and I’m still adjusting to the lifestyle and pace. This is an early-to-bed, early-to-rise-type place. I’ve never been told by so many people that they had to leave a weekend night hangout because of some sort of hike or other outdoor activity the next morning.
I think the long term outlook is that the move will be better for my health. Except for two things: One, public transportation here is a joke, so I now drive pretty much daily. I don’t have an actuarial table handy but that can’t increase life expectancy. And, two, I broke my right, index finger playing softball in mid-May. (That’s an X-ray of the dislocation and fracture above.) The bone and tendon have healed, but I’m still having trouble restoring the full range of motion to my finger. In my nine years of living in New York, I don’t think I ever saw the inside of an emergency room. I was in one within two months of moving here.
There are parts of the culture here I really like though. People don’t seem to be as obsessed about their jobs, though I sort of still am. (Old habits die hard, but it’s nice that other people are more lax about it than me.) And people are earnest. Very earnest. And nice. Oh, and my fiancee lives here, so obviously that’s its trump card. In that respect, this is the best coast. But, I’m still mulling over whether that’s objectively the case.
Exactly a year ago, I lost a close friend. JR was among the most brilliant, most engaging, and most enigmatic people I’ve met in my life. Though we were friends for only four years and change, he had a profound effect on my worldview—as he did on most people who spent any time exchanging ideas with him.
I wasn’t really able to write about JR initially after he passed. In fact, it was an email from me that informed several of his friends that he’d taken his own life last winter. Obviously, losing a friend is traumatic, but being the bearer of such awful news was among one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I spent a lot of time, especially early last year thinking and talking about JR, but I couldn’t really focus my thoughts long enough to write anything about my friend.
In late-November, a colleague of mine forwarded me an email from an editor at NPR’s This American Life. The producers of the radio show were going to curate The New York Times Magazine‘s “The Lives They Lived” issue and wanted it to focus not on the most famous people who passed, but on “people who haven’t gotten a lot of press attention but have extraordinary stories nonetheless.” My colleague thought JR qualified and suggested I submit something. So, I thought about it throughout Thanksgiving and cobbled something together, largely in JR’s words (which are far superior to my own).
As it turns out, they were actually looking for well known people, just maybe not Amy Winehouse-level well known. (No matter, the piece I submitted was way too long for their purposes anyway.) Still, the exercise was greatly beneficial for me. I got to spend a lot of time thinking about my friend. I got to spend a lot of time reading his thoughts, via his brainy, extemporaneous blog A Fistful of Science. I got to know JR better.
Below is what I submitted to the editors for their consideration.
Tonight, in Brooklyn, friends of Jerry Fuchs are gathering to share their grief, but also to share stories and celebrate the life of an extraordinary person. I count myself as a friend of Jerry’s and am both deeply saddened by his passing, as well as the fact that I cannot attend his memorial and be a physical part of the community he built in New York City. So, I’ve decided to write my thoughts and share my stories here:
Life just isn’t fair. If it were, people like Jerry Fuchs would live forever.