Well, I had one of the coolest moments of my career randomly outside of a teepee in West Texas. I shouldn’t be surprised.
Magical, magical things happen in West Texas.
It’s like this vortex that even made Jeff go “woah, this is really weird.”
Considering he has a front row seat to all things weird all day every day, I made a note of it.
As per usual, I am getting ahead of myself.
The last few months have completely changed my life. I’m autistic and have a condition called synesthesia. I had no idea that I see the world differently, and now that I’m aware of it, I have three “boxes” where I “fill” things.
I ask myself is it because I’m …
Autistic? [insert keyword here in a google search] with “autism.”
Synesthesia? [insert keyword here in a google search] with “synesthesia.”
or Just Jen? That part I don’t need to google.
i experience life with a 365 degree camera.
It allows me to pick up on the majority of concepts very quickly.
<tangent> The more complex the better actually. For some reason I process complex situations faster – I must have more brain damage from being born dead in that part of the brain. Technically speaking, being born as a one on the APGAR scale isn’t “fully” dead, more like dead adjacent.
I’m still mad my parents waited over 30 years to tell me I was BORN NUMBER ONE!!!!
Do you know how many more arguments I could have won with my older brother if I had just known that little detail as a child? </tangent>
cues and typical social norms do not come naturally to me, and because of that i can study body language independent of any emotion attached.
Meaning, I’m a natural at studying body language because I am a naturally neutral observer.
I don’t look at someone with their face squished together and see my aunt Bertha’s neighbor who was really mean to me as a kid. I simply see someone experiencing disgust.
Reading body language isn’t THAT simple, you have to first establish a baseline, but you get where I’m going with this.
What’s even more interesting is that what I THOUGHT was body language (up until a little over a month ago) isn’t actually body language, it’s literal shapes. I see shapes around people.
Each one is like a cookie cutter that my brain goes “that’s so and so.” I’ve noticed lately, I point a lot while doing it. Either at a thing saying “go there,” or a person “that’s so and so.” I’m not consciously thinking and then saying “that’s so and so” I’m hearing it for the first time when I say it out loud.
Even during Covid – I can recognize people with masks on because I’m not staring at what is on their face, I only see a very simple shape and my brain goes “so and so” as my ears hear for the first time what I had just processed.
Man, I really do not recommend the life experience of being gang stalked, BUT if you have synesthesia and DON’T KNOW IT … it can really change your life for the better!
This is how I normally see people …
Every person has a unique shape similar to a fingerprint.
<tangent> I’ve had a lot of people tell me recently it may be spiritual or some sort of molecular structure similar to atoms that I have a visual of … considering I JUST discovered the whole “shape thing,” you’ll forgive me for not wanting to deep dive into even more information that makes my head feel like it wants to explode. </tangent>
I’m gifted, and while this is new news to me, it wasn’t new news to someone I loved very dearly who had spent seven years trying to get that information through my head.
On February 3, 2022, the world lost a very talented and great man I was very lucky to call more than just my friend, I considered him family.
I met Gil Prather on the CNBC show the West Texas Investors Club.
Our first meeting is forever documented on the show (something that is questionably helping with the grieving process – more on that in a minute).
At the time, I didn’t know who Gil was.
What I did know was that the investors on the show had us sign paperwork saying that their company was going to be potentially investing (money and TV shows are very strict – it’s the same with the game shows I’ve been on).
The paperwork for the company I knew would be public information thus revealing the identity of the investors (something producers had hidden from the entrepreneurs).
Jason Henry (one of the producers) knew I would know this information as we had been in the same “Hollywood circles” for years at that point.
As the only entrepreneur on season one to figure this out, he helped me mess with Gil (who was not listed on company paperwork) by telling me that he was once in a Mexican jail, had been in Vaudeville and the Music Hall of Fame.
Playing along and staring down at the road while inside the truck Gil was driving due to the fact that the floor had a massive hole in it, I asked “are you still a wanted man?”
His response was, “only by the girls.”
That comment set the tone for our entire relationship.
I had a lot of additional opportunities because of the show, not just because I figured out their identity, but also because I truly wanted to learn more from Rooster McConaughey and Butch Gilliam (the investors) and my new wizardly friend Gil. (He was a wizard in the episode.)
I practically demanded that I run their social media for the show, and while I didn’t expect to go on the press tour with the guys, the biggest opportunity that came of it (outside of also being the company’s first exit) was getting the chance to know them so intimately during arguably some of the biggest moments of their lives.
at the tcas, a press event for all network shows, i took photo after photo of gil with “all the pretty ladies.”
Gil had no idea who any of them were, nor did he care, he was simply happy to be enjoying the view.
No matter where the event, or meet up (which was typically in Butch’s helicopter hanger in Midland, where they interviewed the guys on on the show) Gil would always pull me aside to “really talk to me.”
I would, of course, lead with questions like, “have you uploaded any more new music to YouTube? Do you need a tutorial on it just so you can understand the basics?”
He would lead with first … silence, I think he was waiting to make sure I had taken a breath.
And then with the comment “you know that you’re a genius, right?”
Thinking he was just saying that because I’m a tech nerd, I’d brush it off and go on to whatever hundred other thoughts I had in my head at the time.
He would again, wait for me to breathe, and then say it’s not what you know, “it’s what’s in your eyes and how you move them.”
Gil was a member of Mensa, btw, don’t let his accent fool you, the man was literally a genius.
He’d continue, “your eyes move so fast and you’re actually processing the information as your eyes move.”
Looking away (as I have trouble looking people in the eye when I’m thinking or sometimes just in general) I’d listen but brush it off.
“Have you taken the Mensa test?” he asked one particular night on Butch’s picnic table.
“I can’t take tests,” I admitted.
Which isn’t technically the case since I can sit for countless Buzzfeed quizzes on long drives – what would have been more accurate was that it didn’t interest me.
at least at the time, mensa would have been one more thing that made me different from everyone else.
I was born KNOWING I am different.
It wasn’t until the last few months with now knowing WHAT I have that allows me to understand HOW I can fit into the world. I’m no longer self identifying as the “odd woman out.”
The last time I talked to Gil was on January 6th.
I let him know the good news on my condition (synesthesia had not been diagnosed yet), and how life changing it is knowing I have this gift in reading people.
“I’m still figuring out the moving parts, but I’m at least generating movement so that feels good,” I admitted.
We chatted for a while about what I was learning, and about how I was going into a training program with a Human Lie Detector.
(What a crock of cracker in a barrel that man turned out to be. I keep saying IF YOU CAN’T TRUST A HUMAN LIE DETECTOR WHO CAN YOU TRUST?!)
i could hear gil’s smile through the phone as he told me how proud he was of me, and that he always knew i was special and how happy he was to hear i was seeing it for myself now.
The last thing Gil said was, “I love you” (which is what we always said before ending the call).
I followed up with an “I love you too” and the last thing I said was “I’ll see you soon.”
Gil didn’t reveal on the call that he was ill.
I had called Butch after Gil to check in (and also share my news), and asked if I could come for a visit around the first week of February.
I figured the guys were busy as Butch (very out of character) didn’t text back to confirm.
On January 31st, I saw the video most people saw posted in social media of Gil on what appeared to be his death bed.
Shocking but also how rock and roll I thought to document your own death.
Instinctively, I called Gil (yeah, right, like he was going to answer) and while still in hysterics crying- called Butch right after.
“I know why you’re calling, Gin.” (How they pronounce my name – Gin like the liquor not Jen.)
I don’t remember what I said, I’m sure an “I’m so sorry” came out, and I’m sure I said “please let me know if you need anything,” knowing that when I say that I REALLY mean it.
Unsure what to do and filled with anger that I didn’t get to see my friend one last time, I decided to text him telling him how much he meant to me.
This is what I wrote:
An hour later, I got a response back.
It must be a family member, I said to Jeff.
In case I was wrong, and not wanting to miss any last opportunities to talk to him, I leaned in harder and kept texting, also sending a video of him from the episode coming back to life as the Wizard.
At the end of the video I told him one last time how much I loved him and the read receipt still remains on “Read” at 1/31/22.
In the most Gil Prather of Gil Prather ways, he managed to negotiate his “plug pulling” and got to witness the equivalent of his own digital funeral.
As the RIP messages came pouring in from social media, Gil ACTUALLY read them telling his nurse that sure, today at 8pm might work, but so could 6 am tomorrow morning.
I’ve never heard of ANYONE doing anything like that, or even being that aware mentally when their physical body is literally taking their last breaths … but knowing Gil, he was going to go out EXACTLY how he wanted.
it’s definitely a new life experience grieving someone i can watch still on television.
(In fact, on Peacock, The West Texas Investors Club still streams daily.)
I feel like it’s a double edge sword in terms of grief.
I know that at any given moment I can turn on our TV to see him, and BECAUSE I can turn my TV on anytime to see him, it makes me feel like he’s still here.
The grief will be what it will be, I can’t control it.
What I can control, is what I choose to do here on out.
Ok, so I have this gift (something Gil told me for years incessantly) and yeah sure, the Human Lie Detector was a crock of cracker in a barrel but he’s not the only cowboy in this rodeo.
<tangent> During multiple sessions the Human Lie Detector referred to himself as a cowboy. I’ll post about all the red flags I saw in a separate post. It’s comical and now that I see the “pattern,” I can’t unsee it. </tangent>
Still wanting to learn body language, I then signed up for a free trial of body language expert Joe Navarro body language course.
i learned recently that joe has the number one body language book in the world.
Impressed by the structure and user experience of the modules, I decided this wasn’t the time to be a wallflower and reached out to Joe to tell him my truth (and what I believe is one of the strangest turn of events) of how all of this awareness in reading people came about.
This is what I sent him:
I don’t know what was more shocking, Gil texting me back on his death bed or what happened next …
JOE!! JOE NAVARRO!!! JOE NAVARRO NOT ONLY RESPONDED BUT HE RESPONDED BACK WITH HIS RECOMMENDED READING LIST!!!
I did what any other nerd would do in that moment, and I completely ignored the attachment and instead started to cry … hysterically.
Baby sea lion level …
I don’t know if I was crying just because of his response, or because he too saw in a single email what Gil had told me for years. Confused, excited and elated, I just let it all out.
84 minutes later, now calm and mostly cried out, I wrote him back.
20 minutes later he replied yet again … this time from his IPHONE!!!
Clearly he either uses dictation or types really fast. I then cross-referenced the attachment and seven minutes later replied with this:
28 minutes later he replied with this:
I scoffed and laughed quietly to myself knowing I own them all.
Since I had the floor, I made sure to tell him that, and also give mad props to his team and collaboration with Wired.
I was still rocking saline stained cheeks when Jeff came home later that evening.
“Why are you crying,” he asked?
“BECAUSE I TALKED TO JOE NAVARRO, I SAID!!!”
Still confused, he said, “isn’t that a good thing? Why are you crying?”
“He told me I’m smart, to stop seeking a guru, and to just read a few books to get the basics but that anyone else will just take our money.”
Still confused, he said, “isn’t that a good thing?”
“it’s the best thing ever,” i said still crying.
“I have action items and my next steps. I’ve already ordered the books he suggested. And if I’m understanding him correctly on the ‘disciples study’ (which he also mentioned in the email), my next journey is about transformation and becoming the leader. I keep trying to be a student, but I only need to learn the basics; I have to shed the student skin. Technically speaking ‘disciples study’ is a religious reference but I’m not taking that part, or the shedding my skin part literally.”
Books now in hand …
… this past weekend I went to West Texas to honor Mr. Prather.
His celebration of life was down in Terilunga, Texas.
To get there we had to fly to El Paso and drive 5.5 hours or so to get to our “casita” outside of where his ceremony was going to be.
En route down, I got a call (which was shocking since I didn’t have service for very long) that an email migration had not gone through. Being in charge of said migration, I had to handle it immediately.
Frustrated at the lack of hot spot strength or even wifi, we pulled over to a hole in the wall place that had a teepee and a handwritten sign … a sign that had WIFI written below it.
Still in my skeleton onesie (what I wear while traveling) I opened up my laptop in the ONE spot there was shade.
Being Irish, I have to protect my softly spring like skin.
as i did, i looked up from my computer and immediately recognized the person sitting on the other side of the teepee.
I forgot to mention there’s also a teepee present in this scenario.
It was Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey.
To my surprise with a single look, he knew that I knew who he was.
Normally people can’t tell when I recognize them … Jack is obviously not normal.
One, because I have resting processing face – so my face doesn’t flinch at moment of recognition.
Two, because my eyes were hidden behind my massive Tom Ford eye glasses, so even if there was a “give” there, it would be unlikely based on frame to eyeball ratio.
Three, because in this moment I’m also in a skeleton onesie, so typically people notice the onesie and not the covert people recognizer in it.
Still with my eyes on the prize, I placed the call required for the email migration.
in what might be one of the coolest moments in my tech career, i then had to place a call to godaddy requesting assistance.
Being a techie and using GoDaddy is the equivalent of considering yourself a professor at a prestigious institute only to then have a syllabus offering how to learn your ABCs.
I didn’t set it up, and I wouldn’t even pass judgement on it IF I WEREN’T IN FRONT OF JACK DORSEY WHEN IT HAPPENED.
I placed the call, as I carefully omitted words like “GoDaddy support” and “customer and PIN number” (which is redundant btw, the N in PIN is the word number … moving on …).
“This is for a very important client, and this must be handled immediately” I made sure to say loudly in a firm authoritative voice. (Both parts were true.)
Jeff, who quickly read what I typed on my computer “THAT’S JACK DORSEY” understood why I was sounding so weird.
Still on the phone call, Jeff then looked up and took a shallow breath.
Now on hold, I asked him, what he was seeing.
I mean how can ANYONE get bigger than JACK DORSEY?! I said with eye movement and not words.
He sent me a text with a link to Rick Rubin’s google search.
I didn’t know who he was, but I knew it must be important because I’ve only seen Jeff get starstruck one other time.
I clicked the link and saw this search result:
Rick Rubin and Jack Dorsey were not only having lunch together, but they were having lunch together at the RANDOM SPOT IN THE MIDDLE OF NO WHERE IN WEST TEXAS THAT WE PICKED BECAUSE OF THE HAND PAINTED WIFI SIGN.
And it wasn’t just that they were there, it was even the seat I chose outside of the teepee. It was the only one with shade!! Had I gone ANYWHERE else on the property I might not have seen Jack.
Look at how close they are!!!
I’m normally not a “take a spy photo” person but considering this was one of the coolest moments of my life, I needed it documented.
I made sure to text Butch and tell him how strange this was. I know he knows “of the twitter” but expecting him to know one of the co-founders was a bit of a stretch.
The migration went through, and as Jack was clearing his plate I went in for the kill.
considering i was a skeleton in this scenario, i made sure to approach carefully.
“Mr. Jack,” I said very quietly out of respect, “thank you for all of your contributions to the tech community. It’s an honor to meet you, and Ben Parr says hello.”
Immediately he laughed, and shook my hand.
For those who don’t know, Jack just this week went on the record for saying he’s partially responsible for the decentralization of the internet, something that he now regrets.
Totes no big dee.
Obviously, after Butch I messaged my long time homie Ben Parr how ABSOLUTELY WEIRD IT WAS to be in Texas IN THE MIDDLE OF NO WHERE and see Jack.
I would still be excited if I were in LA, NY, SF, or even Miami but West Texas?!?!
Jack left a short time later, as we both processed what just happened.
“I just met Jack Dorsey,” I said to Jeff still not believing it myself.
“And Jack gets to say today he met a skeleton.”
damnit, i thought, his version of events might “out cool” one of the coolest moments of my life.
We arrived in Terilingua later that evening.
Thankfully, after a long day of travel, my tired bones got to crash in a hammock outside of our casita.
The ceremony wasn’t until Saturday so that gave Jeff and I a day to not only get acclimated with the place Gil called home, but prepared Jeff for meeting Rooster and Butch.
“You only have three actual family members, and you consider Rooster, Butch, and Gil your other three,” he said. “I’m excited to meet them, but have no idea what I’m in for.”
“Neither do I,” I admitted reminding him that I grabbed our passports just in case we ended up in Mexico.
Which wasn’t that much of a stretch considering the AirBnb warned of a breakfast place across the street that is actually in Mexico so if you dine there, you face either a $5,000 fine for crossing back into the states illegally or have to clear border patrol some undisclosed distance away.
After a toe dip in the Rio Grande (the actual place Gil called home), we met up with Butch over at the Starlight theater.
In true Butch style, he arrived in a Pinzgauer and asked if we wanted a lift to the party.
Okay, I thought, now I get why this can be intimidating as we climbed into the back of the all terrain vehicle.
the pinzgauer attracted so much attention that instinctively i began waving like a pageant queen.
::elbow elbow wrist wrist::
We then met up with Rooster and Gil’s family over at the High Sierra (where they held his ceremony).
I gave Rooster a big hug as I introduced him to Jeff.
I’ve heard of feeding your husband to the wolves (or more recently tigers) but Roosters can be just as lethal I noted as I left Jeff to walk to the bar to grab us all Miller Lites.
Of course in true Jeff fashion, by the time I came back with the beers he had already introduced himself to the rest of the family and was already deep in discussion with Rooster’s wife.
I then introduced myself to Gil’s family, and somewhere around the second round of newly filled glasses, I started asking questions about Gil’s service.
you know the movie 27 dresses? i’m like katherine heigel’s character, but instead of weddings, i give a good funeral.
I can read the room and understand who has had too many … who hasn’t had enough … I asked logistics on electronics, placement of extension chords and chairs … things people who are grieving might not think of.
Normally this is something the venue might take care of but considering when we sat down our table had to be wiped off from the dust storm three days earlier, I wasn’t willing to “bank” on the establishment providing these details for our dear friend Gil.
Apparently, I looked so “official” that night that one of the patrons stopped to ask me if I worked there.
i paused, and said, “that might be the best compliment i have ever received. thank you, but no i don’t work here … at the high sierra in terilingua texas.”
Sometime later, I grabbed Jeff who was still deep in conversation with Rooster’s wife.
“We really hit it off,” he said excited.
I smiled knowing he finally “got” what I see with the guys, and was also selfishly really glad I didn’t have to plot logistics of another funeral so quickly.
Gil’s celebration of life was as bittersweet as the life he lived.
Rooster and Butch provided the laughter, the crowd provided the tears, and One Eyed Jack (his actual name) provided the closing poem Gil had requested him to read.
it wasn’t until the end of the ceremony that i took a breath and realized where i was.
This is it, I thought, as tears streamed down my face. Goodbye Gil, it really has been real good to know you.
Jeff continued to hold my hand as the tears were quickly replaced with shock and laughter.
Some two eyed fellow grabbed the microphone and informed the crowd that in a few minutes Gil’s ashes would be spread over the crowd via helicopter.
“HIS ASHES ARE GOING TO BE SPREAD AT HIS OWN FUNERAL?!” I said to Jeff shocked. “That’s the most rock and roll thing I’ve ever heard … and actually makes sense since all the people you loved are right here.”
Butch, Rooster and the family then spread Gil’s ashes over the cheering crowd.
And whether we liked it or not, we all went home with a piece of Gil that day …
… and that’s just how he would have wanted it.
Thank you for everything, Gil.
I love you. 💔