Today's the 10th anniversary of the death of Leslie Harpold, a friend who died on Dec. 7, 2006, at age 40 in the middle of a brilliant run as one of the first and best web essayists. Before there were blogs and social media silos the web was full of personal sites, hand-coded in HTML by people who had no idea what we were doing -- because there were absolutely no rules or expectations. Leslie's creativity flourished on that vast undiscovered canvas.
Most of Harpold's work is no longer online, but her legion of friends still pass around her words like they were contraband.
I thought this would be a good day to share one of those essays, which was published on Hoopla 500, a project where she wrote to that word count. It was written when she was living in New York City.
Leslie was good at making you sad, but for this occasion I wanted to show an example of how funny she was.
08/30/2001 - "Unsaid"
To the man who ordered three pounds of deli meats while I stood behind you waiting, pretending to be interested in the display of featured cheese selections:
Your shirt looked so soft I wanted to touch it, especially since you reeked of fresh laundry. I wanted to lay my face on your back for a moment, then never see you or speak to you again. I just wanted that one moment.
To the woman who leapt out in front of me on Houston Street and jumped into the cab I had hailed, looking over her shoulder at me, saying "Survival of the fittest, sorry!" as she climbed in:
Fuck you. That was just rude.
To the woman who was going on and on about her thighs in Prada:
You're beautiful. Relax. Yes, they were extremely cute pants, but the truth is there are a lot of pants in this world and you are so pretty the only one worried about your pants is you. Most people are more interested inn what's inside your pants and I mean that with every conceivable dimension that phrase invokes.
To the teenager who was trying to remember who wrote Paradise Lost after quoting the ending passage:
It was Milton, and just knowing those ten lines puts you so far ahead in a game you may not even realize you're playing -- more than you know. I was blown away and inspired. Don't sweat your SAT scores, just keep reading and thinking and you'll be okay.
To the guy who was talking to the bartender at Gaslight:
That reminds me of a joke. The angry wife met her husband at the door. There was alcohol on his breath and lipstick on his collar. "I assume," she snarled, "there is a very good reason for you to come waltzing in here at six o'clock in the morning?" "There is," he replied. "Breakfast."
To my downstairs neighbor who I discussed the building's water pressure with:
Are you okay? I've been a little afraid of you since that time three years ago you were taken of of here in straitjacket. I didn't even know that actually happened, but it was a really disturbing image. I hope you're okay.
To Annabelle, whom I ate lunch with:
The worst part is -- I actually did think it was funny.
To the guy at the table next to me in the restaurant who said "Who the fuck would want to go Michigan on vacation? What the fuck was he thinking?"
I would, I just did. It's not as bad as you think, actually it's quite beautiful. Plus the people are nice. To be honest though, I bet half of them would say "Who the fuck wants to go to New York?" if you asked them.
Today would be a good day for friends and readers of Leslie to share her words. If you do, let me know so I can link to it on this post.
- Jason Kottke shared Leslie's How to Write a Thank-You Note
- Lance Arthur and Heather Hesketh shared her Possible Scenarios for Heaven*
- Jason Joyce shared her Rock Show Attendee's Creed
- Steven Champeon shared a 1997 email from Leslie