Thursday, May 12, 2011

More On The Loss Of J sub D

His official name was John D. Hannah—I think the D stood for David—but most of the friends he had at the end of his life knew him as J sub D. That was the name he used to post online, at Reason’s Hit and Run, Radley Balko’s Agitator and a variety of other blogs; if I recall correctly, he originally planned to go by his initials JD when he started at Hit and Run years ago, but modified it upon discovering a regular poster by that moniker already there. That’s good, though, because it’s easy to find his old thoughts online when searching for “J sub D,” while JD commenters are a dime a dozen on the web.

Over a thousand people who don’t normally check this blog visited in just over 24 hours to read about J-sub. Ironically, as DA Ridgely points out, none of us, J-sub's online friends, would have known the details of his death if not for the Detroit Free Press column mourning how he died forgotten, but “Far from forgotten, John had simply become temporarily disconnected from his family and his many online friends.” Many indeed; over a thousand at my last count.

I think I made a mistake in my last post, though; I said he’d been homeless the last few months of his life, but after reading Mitch Albom’s article again I think he was actually homeless for the better part of a decade:
Hannah, as near as I can piece together, grew up somewhere in Wayne County. He served years in the Navy, reached the relatively high level of E8 (in the Navy, that would be a senior chief petty officer). At some point, perhaps a decade ago, his wife died, and he took it hard. He didn't want to live anymore.
He just dropped out of sight," said JimHoffner, who oversees the kitchen at Pilgrim Church/I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministries in Detroit, where, for the last five or six months, Hannah had been sleeping among other homeless men, on vinyl mats beneath wool blankets. "He was a helluva nice guy. Intelligent. He helped with the chores here. At some point every day, he would walk up to the library at Wayne State. I think he used the computers there."
Yeah. He did. That’s when we’d talk.

I guess he just lost interest in life after Donna died. I knew he still mourned her, but never realized how hard. With a military pension and health insurance, I don’t think “lack of money” put him on the street … but I can definitely imagine his depression over Donna draining so much of his mental energy that even minor matters like “taking pension money and paying bills with it” became impossibly Herculean tasks. At least with us, his friends at the forum and the regular commenters from other blogs, it seems he did find something interesting again, at an energy level he did not find draining.
He was Caucasian, thin, 5 feet 5 or so. He smoked and had lung cancer, which he accepted.

"He said he came here to die," AnnetteCovington related. She is the wife of the church's late pastor, Henry Covington. She knew Hannah as a quiet, decent man, who, after the kindness shown him at the shelter, said he changed his mind and wanted to live.

It was too late.
Maybe we, his online friends, helped him change his mind too. I like to think so. He obviously didn’t want us to know how what was going on with him, though. Maybe he wouldn’t have wanted Mitch Albom to write that Free Press column, or for me to find it and connect John Hannah with J sub D. But he should not be forgotten.

John/J-sub’s memorial service will be today at 1 p.m. (Detroit time). Representatives from the military are supposed to be there, as well as some people from the shelter and a family member or two. I doubt any of his online friends will make it on such short notice.

From the “reads differently in retrospect” archives, here’s the transcript of a little chat J-sub and I had at the forum on March 27, four days before he stopped posting for good:
JENNIFER: Regarding Earth Hour, I'm sympathetic to the whole "Let's reduce waste and save the earth" kind of thing, but hate all symbolic gestures because people think making the gesture equals actually doing something. On the other hand, given that these are many of the same people who banned lightbulbs and dish detergent that actually works without your having to add trisodium phosphate to it, it's good for them to be distracted by meaningless symbolic gestures rather than continue pushing through their horrible legislation.

J SUB D: My favorite, by far, meaningless gesture ever attempted was Hands Across America. I found it im-fucking-possible to avoid mocking it from conception to failed attempt.

JENNIFER: I'd managed to forget all about that! Wasn't it supposed to be some symbolic "homelessness is bad" thing?

J SUB D: I think it was about peace on earth or kill the A-Rabs or something.

please hold, googling, googling ...

The wild and wonderful wiki wrote:
“Hands Across America was a benefit event and publicity campaign staged on Sunday May 25, 1986 in which approximately 6.5 million people held hands in a human chain for fifteen minutes along a path across the continental United States. Many participants donated ten dollars to reserve their place in line; the proceeds were donated to local charities to fight hunger and homelessness and help those in poverty.”

Since homelessness and poverty are no longer the major problems they were back in the '80s, I guess we have to call it a success.


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