Today it was raining buckets in Los Angeles. I popped in to the UCLA bookshop where students stood in line for cheaply made umbrellas that fell apart moments after they bought them. Damp, disappointed girls scurried back in with a mess of metal and nylon. "Um, I literally JUST bought this and it's, like, already broken." The cashier would say over and over again, not looking up and gesturing to the bin of identical umbrellas, "Just grab another one." Clearly, this would not do.
So I went to one of my favorite thrift stores. There, I found the platonic ideal of an umbrella-- vintage, handsewn, with a wooden and mother of pearl handle. The sturdy, smooth, beautiful beige cloth snapped into a taut bloom. Until now, I was unfamiliar with this universe of umbrellas. I eagerly started writing the blog post in my head. "Sometimes, we come across an object we never knew could be thoughtfully designed..." I waxed on about the stitching and curves and craftsmanship.
And then Steve Jobs died today, and I could not help but think that these events were somehow related. Because the elegy I would write for Steve Jobs would also begin "Sometimes, we come across an object we never knew could be thoughtfully designed..." We fall in love. There is no other way to describe it.
I was five years old. I'd just moved to Santa Fe and my parents took me to a Radio Shack. There stood a square gray box, just at my height. It looked like all of the other square boxes save for a rainbow colored apple on its face. It was electromagnetic. "Gray. Box. Rainbow. Delight." To this day, when I pass that Radio Shack, my heart races like it was the site of a first date. You had me at the rainbow, Steve, and you've had me ever since.
Wherever you are, probably in a heaven or a universe whose beauty we can't possibly imagine until, like the umbrella, we see it for ourselves, thank you.