Sorry for the total radio silence. My year is going fine. Well, my year is going well except for the things that are not going well. The New Year was wonderful. Party with friends. Downtime with Jim after a busy couple of months. Lovely weather. Tasty food. Good movies. Came back to work at MetaFilter to find that a moderately well-known user had died. This is a difficult thing in Internet communities, in a different way than real-life communities. Many people hadn’t known Andrew’s real name and knew very little about him other than what he had shared on the site. He had made a not-funny-in-hindsight comment about faking his own death a month earlier. Strange times. I spent a chunk of New Years’ Day swapping facebook messages with his 26 year old widow and talking to other members of the community. It was slow going, but we worked through it. We have a procedure on MetaFilter for what to do when people die. It works okay. I hate having to use it.
Then, three days later I got the staggering news that my internet-and-real-life friend Brad Graham had died. In his sleep. Of natural causes. He was my age. Another internet-and-real-life friend sent me an email when he found out and saved me from having to learn the bad news on Twitter. And it’s a different sort of difficult. Brad was one of those people who everyone loved, everyone wanted to spend more time with, everyone could pass on a joke he’d told them but say “but I can’t really tell it like Brad could.” He had “Break Bread with Brad” events at a lot of occasions when he’d travel — in San Francisco for Fray Day, in Austin for SXSW — and it was the best opportunity to get to know other people, nerds like us. I was luckier than a lot of internet people in that I’d actually gotten to spend some real-life time with Brad, at his house when I was driving x-country and at a very small wedding of dear friends. Brad was so popular and fun to be around that even though he made you feel like the center of his universe, it was tough to get much alone-time with him and I think I’d had more than most. The MetaTalk rememberance thread filled up with people who haven’t been on MetaFilter in any real way for years. People who barely blog anymore wrote moving pieces about him on their website.
Like most people, I went digging through my old emails just to read some of the things he’d said. I read about my contribution to the Bradlands Underpants Drive to contribute to Katrina victims in a Bradlike way. I read about the time I’d put his cell phone number in my calendar and then uploaded it to the internet and he’d found it by Googling his own cell phone number. I went so far back in my emails, I actually found a time (that I had forgotten) when I had a separate email folder for “internet friends” and email from Brad was in that folder, from 2002. He fixed a typo for me, I don’t even remember what for, but he called me “darling” when he told me he fixed it.
I haven’t been writing anything else because I’ve been missing Brad, someone I’d realistically see in person once a year at most usually less, and it seemed wrong to write about it and wrong to not write about it. A bunch of us are collecting donations for a memorial for him for the theater where he worked. If he was someone you knew, please consider a donation. I know I’ll remember him for many different things: good hugs, good advice, good stories, a wicked sense of humor that was always edgily appropriate (I think? for me?) and a magnetic personality wrapped up in a funny sweater. Oh and I guess he invented the word “blogosphere” I had no idea.