The internet is such a strange place…
We know so much, and yet so little about the people we encounter here. In the early days of online chat rooms, making connections with people had a somewhat sketchy, if not downright sleazy, implication. But as the world of social media developed and grew, it became a place to form relationships with people with similar interests.
I first dipped my feet into the social media stream when I started putting my panda ‘toons online. I wanted to see if there were panda fans out there (ha ha ha, right?) who might find my ‘toons about badly behaved panda kindergarteners and their beleaguered feline associate, humorous. It turns out that there was an appreciation for panda satire amongst the lovers of pandas that congregate on line. I mean the panda lovers congregate, not the actual pandas. But then again…
At some point I connected with the folks that organized an IRL Panda Convention in San Diego, home to the magnificent Bai Yun and her fuzzy stud muffin hubby, Gao Gao. It was not without a bit of trepidation that I made my foray for an extended meeting of real life panda fans. I had already met some of the DC panda clan. But that was just a meet up at the zoo and then lunch. This was a whole weekend of pandemonium. This would have been in early 2013, when the cute Wu Self made his public debut. If I remember correctly, he slept through most of it.
Later that fall, I returned to DC, after Princess Pinky was born, and once again met up with the DC pandaratti. The DC folks are a unique bunch, mostly because the zoo is in the middle of the city, and there is no admission fee, (although many of them are zoo supporters through FONZ: Friends of the National Zoo.) When a zoo is that accessible, it’s only natural that people go frequently and form close friendships with people they meet repeatedly.
Later in 2013, when the SOB GOP shut the government down, I turned to Twitter to join with other people expressing their outrage in general at such short sighted malfeasance. But I also found, there there was a whole community of panda fans there, that I like to call #PandaTwidder. Needless to say, bonds were formed over the injustice of The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Panda Cam Shut Down of 2013.
When I find myself in times of trouble, fluffy pandas comfort me…
Those who are familiar with my story of how I got into panda satire (and those that haven’t, should read this page of the Panda Chronicles that tells the story of my Pandapiphany…) know that pandas first invaded my brain in early 2008, and then by late 2008, when the economy had gone to hell in a hand basket, they proceeded to save my sanity. (That claim is somewhat open to question.)
And while I love those little fluffy black and white bears more than I can say, it is the people who love them and share my
fascination obsession with them that have really saved me. We now find ourselves in even worse times than the financial meltdown of 2008. (2020: hold my beer) We have an incompetent, quite possibly criminal “president” careening toward 100’s of 1,000’s of deaths from an out of control pandemic (which he takes no responsibility for), we have unidentified military-like personnel beating and kidnapping people off the streets in Portland, OR, we have millions of people out of work who have lost their health insurance and if the GOP controlled Senate doesn’t take some action on disaster income relief, millions will be out on the street.
On top of this, we have just lost one of our own…
On Sunday, one of the guiding lights of Panda Twitter passed away from a heart attack. Who knows how you cross paths with anyone on Twitter. Some one you follow, follows someone else, before you know it, you are in a 12 way conversation about whether this panda or that panda is the best panda ever, and don’t you think mebbee Bubba needs to lay off the Binky Bars. However I met Jayelle, she was a fan and friend of Panda Satire from the time we met. She was a fierce defender of social justice and voting equality. She loved her wife and she loved her brother and his family more than life itself.
It’s impossible to know everything about those you think of as your friends on Twitter. But if I know nothing else, I know these things: First, that one of her last thoughts must have been, “Damn! I don’t get to vote for Joe Biden and see Trump leave the WH in disgrace.” Not necessarily in this order, I think she told her wife she loved her, that she apologized to her most beloved niece and nephew that while she wouldn’t be there in person to see them grow up, she would always live on in them; to her brother who has serious health problems, that she was so sorry that she wouldn’t be there to support him, like she had been doing for so long; that she was furious that she wouldn’t get to see Bubba Wallace win his next race.
Jayelle had a huge heart and shared it freely with people on Twitter she would never meet. Who knew it would let all of us down so very badly. Rest in Power, Jayelle. Your absence leave a hole that can’t be filled.
But because she loved panda satire so much, this one is for you, Jayelle…
Rest in Power, Jayelle
Bob T Panda