skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Tuesday, 05 January
A couple years ago, I was in Chicago on a business trip. My good friend Brad L. Graham met me at my hotel lobby for a night of dinner and subsequent carousing. We hugged warmly, despite the fact that I had met him only a couple times in, as they say, "real life"--but I had known Brad for the better part of a decade; first through a website called MetaFilter and then via another more private site where I and a bunch of other degenerates and perverts hang out and bullshit all the live-long day in order to avoid doing work.
Brad, a tremendously energetic and unapologetic flirt, immediately engaged the staff. After we hugged, he turned to the bell desk attendant and said, in his improbably deep voice, "Excuse me, lovely lady. Could you recommend a restaurant where I could take this devastatingly handsome man?" (I am emphatically not handsome in any conventional sense. I sort of resemble a shorter Toxic Avenger with slightly better skin.) He flashed his trademark snaggly grin, and you could see her respond in kind. She pointed us to some place that I do not remember, but seemed to feature attractive ashtrays.
The flirting towards me was of course harmless and vaguely ridiculous, since he knew very well that I'm straight and married, but he also knew my weakness for wordplay and playful repartee, and so as we sparred throughout the evening, gradually endrunkening ourselves (the business meetings the next morning were murder), we found an easy groove. We shared the same vices and spent the evening reveling in both of them--nail-biting and tearing the legs off of earwigs. (Not really. I'm of course talking about drinking martinis and smoking shitty domestic cigarettes.)
It was a simply *jazz hands* fabulous evening, with Brad making his trademark groantastic punny jokes and occasionally making utterly silly salacious remarks about nearly every male or male-ish person who happened to enter his ambit.
My friend Brad was found dead on Monday, apparently from "natural causes" in his bed. He was 41 years old. I will myself turn 41 in June this year.
I am devastated. I hate the phrase "natural causes." What the holy deep-fried fuck is natural about dying from some handwavey horseshit at the age of 41? Let's leave aside the idea that "natural causes" generally elides the whole idea of providing an explanation of "causes" at all. What fucking causes? I'd like to see some fucking newspaper article describe some poor bastard's death as "natural murder." Fuck. You might as well state that he died from "Stuff."
I am also pissed off. It's difficult for me to make sense of, and I don't know how to articulate it, other than to repeat the completely worn-out trope that death is a bitch, and it's unfair, and frankly, can go fuck itself. I don't really want anyone to die (though of course I've engaged in hyperbole to the opposite, as we all do), but Brad? Really? In the words of I.I. Rabi upon discovering a subatomic particle that nobody had ever predicted, "Who ordered that?"
And it's strange to me to have these feelings--these cloudbursts of tears that have been coming on me for a couple days--over someone who I met physically only a couple times, but who I knew what I would considerably fairly intimately over eight or so years on the fucking Internet. I don't think I'm the only one. The MetaFilter thread announcing his death (technically a subsite called MetaTalk) brought dozens and dozens of old members out of the woodwork (many of whom had to obtain help from the administrators to restore long-lost login passwords) simply because they felt the need to express their utter grief.
I won't go into the details of his storied life. You can look it all up. You should. The man was an Internet legend for a lot of reasons, but those details are boring compared to the man qua man. He was one of the most generous souls I ever had the great pleasure and great fortune to meet. He's gone, and there's a void in the world that will never be filled.
I miss him very much.
I keep thinking of the closing lines of John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. "O God--please give him back! I shall keep asking You." Well, unfortunately, I don't believe in God. If I did, I'd be pretty pissed off at him for this fucking horrible nonsense, this worthless, wrenching death. But I'll bet you a million dollars that Brad would forgive Him in a heartbeat. With his last heartbeat.