John Nordlinger’s death was the quintessential metaphor of everything that is both right and wrong with the world today. Everyone was his “friend,” but nobody knew him. Without his Facebook friends, he would have died completely forgotten, poor, and many wouldn’t have been able to fulfill their purposes of driving up to Bishop and taking one last selfie with the guy. Before he was dead, his death was trending.
If you don’t tell everyone you’re mourning someone’s death on social media, does it mean you didn’t care?
John Nordlinger was a tech giant who practically innovated Microsoft’s gaming division. Before that he was a track star that won state championships, then joined the military twice, traveled India and became a guru, then loved a woman in Italy, then was an epic Muay Thai fighter in Thailand, then gave it all up to go to the best film school in the entire world, then who knows… maybe cured someone that one time. He made movies and tv shows. He survived West Nile Virus, then fled to the mountains to write and write masterpieces while climbing the highest peaks in the world accompanied by the most dynamic adventurers in the world. He was able to do all these things while ‘liking’ all his 2000 friends Facebook statuses every moment of the day.
A man who everyone thought was bullshit had the film prints to prove it. Interestingly, he never posted the unedited heroic shots, but rather everyone else did on social media after his death. We so easily forget about people when they’re alive.
Once upon a time, there was a man who lived and died and nobody wanted to feel like an asshole that they didn’t talk to him for years so they posted about what a legend and ‘dear’ friend he was during his final days on their Facebook walls only for those sentiments to be shoved down their digital data timelines never to be seen again.
“All that John really wanted from life was some love. He cherished those moments of peace and success in his life, whether it was climbing a peak, courting a woman or a yoga pose, but they were all fleeting.” This quote was originally supposed to go in his obituary, but some small town editor decided to cut this baby along with many other tragic humanizing statements about John Nordlinger.
John was 54 and he died from a genetic form of ALS. His father died from ALS. John claims while he was climbing the Sierra Mountains he was stuck by ice which ultimately was the cause that triggered the disease and lead to be “fatal on Aug 1, 2017.” John wrote his first review of his experience of March of 2016. He added the words”fatal on Aug 1, 2017″ two weeks before he died. John left hints for us all. (Note: Yelp has since deleted his reviews, so here are the clues I was able to dig up)
“ALS, OMG, that’s terrible! John was like my bestie for a day! What does ALS do again?”
“Oh the disease Steven Hawking has. That’s so sad. What does that disease even do?”
“Oh no, John is dead? RIP. I wish I could have gotten to say goodbye.”
“No John isn’t dead, he’s dying very soon but is able to read and can have visitors”
“How many days do I have left until John dies? I’m waiting for five other people to have time to see our dear dying friend John so we can all go up together.”
JOHN: “If they want to see me, why are they waiting for their friends? I’m dying.”
CUT TO: John’s dead. We all know nothing.
What does it mean to die with dignity? Does it mean having your loved ones surrounded by you? Does it mean having proper health care? Does it mean being able to reflect on your life and die peacefully? I don’t know if John truly died with any of these dignified things.
Before the circus curtains opened, John and I sat peacefully on his couch in his small cluttered one-bedroom house. He hoarded books, climbing gear, DVDs, and bins full of research for his passion projects. He liked his carpets clean and did not like it when people wore shoes in his home.
“John, what do you want to watch tonight?” Unable to use his Apple remote, he asked me to turn on “Beauty and the Beast.” In his last days, he wanted to spend his time watching happy endings and give me advice on how to find mine. He told me to marry a tech guy with money. He might be a little boring, not the best looking, and a little out of shape, but he’d be nice, be able to pay my student loans off, and I’d have a nice life.
John always felt like a beast and in peculiar ways he resembled an awkward Disney character. If Quasimodo and LeFou had a baby, you would get John – sweet gentle stubborn somewhat arrogant John with the speech impediment of a young child. I feel both lucky and sad to have had time with John before I offered to open pandora’s box for him and in so many ways I wish no one had ever known, but that’s me being selfish.
This is a long story that I have rewritten over thirty pages and weeks to express. Each time I write, I’m at a new stage in how I’ve accepted John’s death. I was first angry at John, at everyone on Facebook, and most of all so fucking angry at myself for creating the social media circus of John’s death. Yes, it was me. I’m a hypocrite imposter at the top of her game, but I’ve learned it was exactly how John wanted it. He had a grand plan and we were all part of it.
“The dawn of my life began with child abuse and isolation. I lost my smile hoping someone would inquire (why).”
Two months before John died he started to post cryptic hints on Facebook that he was dying, including a yelp review regarding a mountain climbing accident that triggered ALS in March of 2017. It wasn’t that he had too much pride to say “I’m dying,” but rather it was a mix of never feeling loved, so not knowing if anyone would care and it was indeed a game. He was a gamer; an all night blood shot eyes gamer. If someone cared, how far would they go? What level could they reach? He was a believer in the impossible and so am I. There are no coincidences and there’s a reason why I read John’s cryptic status at the time that I did. He found his avatar, me, and I reached every level but the very last.
I am forever searching for a purpose in my life and tend to idolize dead men as heroes. If a brave man is dead, that means he can’t hurt me or abandon me or be a dick and therefore I can remember him for what he was; a great man who had some fucking great quotes. John was dying, alone, poor, and had very little help. I knew him from grad school and to be frank I barely knew him. I knew he was alone and only a loner can identify another loner in disguise. Like myself, he felt alienated in our grad program at USC and I understand why he fled to the mountains. It wasn’t to be a legend, it was an excuse to be alone without appearing to be alone. Bishop is a small town between mountains. It has terrible cell phone service and is just very far. You can’t cut through the mountains to get there, you have to go all the way around them. John had no real home, family, and after all his years of travel and careers, he had very few real friends. Living in Bishop meant that he could spend Christmas alone and it might hurt a little less because if anyone did love him, it would be too far for them to travel to him anyway. His mother is still alive, but he explained that his relationship with his mother was the most dysfunctional relationship a mother and son could ever have. He had a lot of love to give and no one to give it to. I saw John and he saw me, so I rushed to Bishop because it was self-serving. I too just want to feel needed.
John had a lot of humility and he never expected what would happen would have happened, but in his dreams, what a beautiful disaster. After deep contemplation and thought John admitted to me he wanted people to know he was dying, so I posted a photo expressing my love for my dying friend and there was no turning back the shit show I created. Within hours, John had a thousand messages and I had hundreds. Everyone John barely knew wanted to know. I felt like I exposed him and the special moments I had spent with him were taken away. Everyone suddenly wanted that special moment too. Somehow I became John’s schedule manager and spokes person. I took on a job I didn’t want, but one I had to follow through with. Who else was going to do it? The sad part of it was that even his family wrote me asking for his home address. If I was the one who knew most about John, then no one knew him because I barely did. He didn’t know me either, until the end. By the time he died, he knew me better than anyone, but I still don’t think I knew him.
All over Facebook people were being condolenced for their loss of John and every other status update was a story about how John changed their life and how he was the real deal, but every private message I got said something like, “I had John in a few classes, but barely knew him and we lost touch and I feel bad.” Everyone admitted privately they didn’t know him, but then posted as if they did. Why? I am guilty of this and it’s fuckin twisted. Obviously this wasn’t ill willed, but in a time were we feel the need to post every moment of our lives on social media, we should start to think about why we feel the need to be part of something we simply aren’t. Although these are my sentiments, John lived on Facebook. He was in front of his computer every moment of the day, even before ALS, liking everyone and everything with his thumb, so the chaos that occurred made him grin at the madness… He was overwhelmed by it too. He loved all his visitors, but he soon began to see the pattern.
It not only became a trend to post about the man made into a myth, but Bishop became a destination to view the rare exotic creature one last time. The sad thing is, every time ‘they’ came in groups, John felt emptier. He expressed that he didn’t think people truly understood he was dying and very few tried to genuinely connect with him. A group threw ‘him’ a Game of Thrones party on a day Game of Thrones wasn’t even on, brought nothing for him to eat, wore their shoes all over his house, and left him wishing he could remember a select few how he had remembered them before the party, how he could remember them through their Facebook photos. The people John hadn’t seen in years also became legends to him. That’s what we do on Facebook, assume and only see curated moments of how someone designs themselves. He expressed how he felt many visits from his visitors didn’t feel genuine, but he didn’t want to turn anyone away at the same time. For the first time in his life, people told him they loved him, even if it was momentary love, he was finally loved.
I didn’t know John, but the dying man I met, I fell in love with. Almost everything in life is conditional, even love, and this wasn’t conditional. He was dying and I just wanted to be there… He did give me a purpose and in the past few months, it has changed my life significantly. He reminded me that humans should help other humans and that even on your death bed, you should still do what you love. John’s last breathes consisted of analyzing what made a good protagonist in a story. He gave me the rights to his life’s work in hopes that one day I’ll do something with it and that from it he could bring smiles to children who have lost theirs. Someone needed me and I guess if anything, that was the condition.
John knew the exact day he was going to die the day he picked his player, and yet like his cryptic messages on Facebook, he left it to the viewer to figure it out… Which was selfish and I’m so angry at John for the game he played. The hints were all there.
With 2000 Facebook friends, how do you die knowing you’re going to die? What would you do? We’ve all seen moms over post about giving birth to their babies, but a baby has barely lived. We post about birthdays and wish people we’ve met once happy birthday, but yet how do you announce you lived, you tried to love, and now you’re about to die? How do you do this gracefully when all you really want to do is scream, “Everyone! I’m fucking dying! Pay attention!” John didn’t want to fucking die. A man climbing peaks and going to film school at 50 doesn’t want to die. We all wished him a goodbye and pinged a thank you for that moment that one time, but I wonder when he read all these stories about himself, how he really felt. Not even on my death bed, if someone I barely knew told me how great I was, I’d think “that’s awkward you fake fuck.”
When Facebook went ape-shit, we used it to John’s advantage. The legend was suffering, had no money for rent, and very little help. I was selling things on Ebay for him just to make his rent. He raised over $37,000 on Go Fund Me in less than two months. So maybe the circus was worth it? That’s what the best part is about Facebook and that’s what social media was made for – real time connection to make the world a better place. If anything, it gave him hope that in the end, even if we’re all self serving, we are humans meant to help humans in need. John was in need and the beautiful disaster did save him. He was able to buy groceries, pay for HBO to watch Game of Thrones, turn on his air conditioning, pay a beautiful red head to assist him writing grammatically correct letters, and to just truly live a little bit longer without the stupid ‘in the end’ irrelevant worry of currency. In the end, after a full life lived, John was just a man still trying to get by.
John opted for assisted suicide. He said he was going to drink the “potion” when it got to a point where he couldn’t swallow anymore. He asked me to be there the day he decided to do it and film it. We couldn’t laugh about much or he’d choke and die, so we’d laugh with our eyes. How sick would it be to film his death? But wow, how brilliant would it be to film his death? He knew what was happening on Facebook, the irony. If there was one condition, it was that I wanted to be there. During my last days with John, I put on his pants for him, cleaned his face after he shoved food all over it like a baby, I put on his shoes, answered thousands of messages, and I even offered to wipe his ass if he needed it. John never told me the day he chose to die and he never said goodbye to me. It was like I lost at his own game he pretended to play with me. I got played. He did call a random person he barely knew to say goodbye and she announced on Facebook she missed his call and decided to text him back. If only she knew what I would have done for that call.
But what I hadn’t seen was John had already said goodbye to me before the storm. He said goodbye on Facebook the day we announced he was dying. John lived and died on Facebook.
After John’s death, Facebook exploded. We are at a time of sensationalization. We crave likes and attention and feeling important. It seemed everyone was waiting for John to die, just so they could post about it. It was this wave, this unexplainable icky slimy polluted wave. “John I love you brotha! John you were the real deal! John, I wrote you a private message, but now that you’re dead I’ll share it with everyone here.” It’s unfortunate to be bitter. No harm was meant by anyone, but then why does it feel so icky? People are still posting private photos of him that he never even posted himself. It’s like this competition, this pride of who knew the legend best. The conversations I’ve had with people post John’s death have all begun with, “I didn’t like how it was this trendy thing to post about John and to go to Bishop.” People felt it, but said nothing because how do you say it without sounding like a total asshole?
I’ll be an asshole. John’s Facebook death rubbed me the wrong way and nothing felt real. No way did all these people LOVE John. No one did and would have ever just driven up to Bishop to say what’s up.
John was a dreamer. He didn’t have a childhood, so like many, he believed in happily-ever-afters, finding light in the darkest of places, and the magic within. The night he chose to die was the night Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones drank the potion. There are no coincidences.
Once upon a time a man was born and died and people posted about him being a legend because that’s what he was. No one really knows much about a legend other then they were out there and there’s a story to tell. He drank a magic potion and hopefully went somewhere magical.
We played him and he played us… what will you post about today?
John, this is my goodbye. Merry Christmas.
Here is John’s Original Gangsta Obituary:
John Nordlinger passed away at his home in Bishop, CA following a short battle with ALS. Born in Boston, MA on July 5, 1963, John died on July 31, 2017. He was 54.
All that John really wanted from life was some love. He cherished those moments of peace and success in his life, whether it was climbing a peak, courting a woman or a yoga pose, but they were all fleeting.
One of John’s many passions was story-telling and writing. Who best to describe a person than himself? “The dawn of my life began with child abuse and isolation. I lost my smile hoping someone would inquire (why).”
John was forced out of his home as a child; booted by resentful parents, abuse and neglect. He and his siblings could only have breakfast if they watched the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker TV show with their mother and he often went hungry. He immersed himself in comic books, school activities, anything to keep from having to go home. He found a less judgmental home in the outdoors, and started hiking and climbing. He also began running track.
To stay even further away from home, John promptly joined the Army Reserve at age 17 taking basic training at Fort Dix, NJ and again at Fort Knox. From a pudgy boy, John would win a trophy for the most physically fit in his troop; which contributed to his platoon winning Honor Platoon.
Northeastern University let John attend, despite his initial experimentation with alcohol in high school the year before when he challenged the principal to a foot race and got suspended.
On the first day of class, he appeared at the Northeastern Philosophy department in his Army dress uniform.
Low on cash in his sophomore year – at one point, John hadn’t eaten in four days – he applied for a job with Academic Computer Services. The department head asked John what languages he knew, and knowing of only two (Basic and Fortran) he said all of them. She was impressed and hired him.
This act of survival would eventually blossom into a career with computers.
While training for triathalons in college, a swimming coach suggested John take yoga to increase his upper body strength. Suffering from chest pains one day at Fort Devens he goes to the hospital but gets no relief from Western medicine. His yoga instructor, Sondra Miller, performed a variation of downward dog move on him and his chest opened up. He had discovered the power of yoga, “It really shook up my belief systems, my blind faith in western science and opened my heart to new possibilities.”
He owed Northeastern so much money, the bursar’s office said they wouldn’t release any information about his grades, graduation etc. “So, trusting them,” John said, “I left and told everyone I had graduated.”
He later graduated after spending six years paying off student loans.
Landing in Colorado Springs, John was assisting with a Digital Equipment operating systems workshop at night and rock climbing during the day.
In 1988, his father, Louis Nordlinger, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (A.L.S.) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He had cared for his father for months before admitting him to Boston’s Mass General. The rest of the family had no idea Louis was ill. After years of separation, John was able to collect his splintered family together and pay their last respects.
Caring for his father was the proudest moment of his life.
At 26, John decides he’s going to climb the tallest mountain in the Americas, 22,841 foot Aconcagua in Argentina, then paraglide off the summit. He and his companions summit after suffering through high-altitude sickness, egos and exhaustion. They take in the view, but left the paragliders in their packs. “The curve of the earth is visible beyond the peaks and snow covered ridges resembled a huge Oreo ice cream sundae.”
He ran Digital’s Alpha Migration Project for their corporate operating system, VMS. He would leave Digital to be recruited by Oracle. After two years he was hired by Microsoft SQL Server as a lead program manager. He would launch the Microsoft Terraserver.
While attempting to climb Mount Rainier, John suffers a torn calf muscle and practices yoga in India, Italy and American and kickbox in Thailand to recuperate.
In January, 2000, he ventures to Northern India and studies with Ramanand Patel and Mukesh Desai in Rishikesh. John travels extensively through India, witnessing the poor and desperate beg and con for a living, but the downtrodden never resort to violence.
He said, “Rishikesh is a lot like camping in America except instead of trees there are people.”
He spends nights in ashrams on the banks of the Ganges. He attends Yoga and Sound workshops and kisses a python.
While traveling around India visiting with IITs, John got the idea for a research lab in India. The director was reluctant often citing the dearth of Computer Science PhDs but then he realized both that the lab could mitigate some of the social ills and address the brain drain of Indians that gets PhDs in the US and stay in the US. After John convinced his Indian counterparts of the labs viability he convinced Microsoft Research and Bill Gates.
Following the attacks of 9/11, John rejoins the Army. In 2005, as a member of the US National Guard 19th Group Special Forces, Mountain Warfare Training, he is sent to New Orleans’ 9th Ward after Katrina – the Guns and Nuns Tour, Task Force Raven.
His travels abroad and the experience in New Orleans drives him to pursue a career in storytelling, via Hollywood. He graduates from the University of Southern California with Master of Fine Arts degree and a TV pilot, Boots, under his belt.
Boots is a story about a homeless veteran. John got the idea after studying the lives of people on Skid Row for his Master’s thesis and being a vet himself. It was also on Skid Row that John catches West Nile Virus.
He moved to Bishop in 2014 to climb, hike and write. In December 2015, John is hit by a chunk of ice while ice climbing Lee Vining Canyon. His right arm goes numb immediately but John still goes out climbing and hiking, completing the John Muir Trail and climbing Mount
Whitney that he summited nine times in three years. He begins to lose his balance when walking and stops hiking.
John was diagnosed with ALS in May 2017. He’s convinced it is the nerve trauma from the ice climbing accident that has triggered his ALS. He cracks jokes up until his final breath.
John is survived by his mother Loraine Nordlinger, sister Beth and brothers Stephen and Francis and his caregivers, Molly Peterson, Rainie Kennedy, Cassandra Jordan and Christa Kerr-Olivera He called these women “angelic.”
In lieu of flowers John suggested people participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, August being Ice Bucket Challenge Month. For more information go to alsa.org.
“Heaven for me would be being with my beloved, eating ice cream and rescuing people from hell.”
(The quotes from John are taken from his, “Memoir” from April 2017 and interviews in July 2017.)
*NOTES: I GAVE TOO MANY OF MY FUCKS AWAY. WE’RE ALL HYPOCRITES HERE. (except that dude James Jou… that dude kept is real AF)
*After deep contemplation, I have refrained from adding all the Facebook circus posts because in the end, they were never meant to hurt anyone and I do not want to hurt anyone. This piece is purely my own sentiments and John was lucky to have so many angels appear in his last days.
*Bill and Vixen Molly are real AF too. Molly got a GOT tattoo honoring John. If that’s not friendship, I dunt know wut is!