This isn’t what I thought I’d be writing about tonight. This is about the furthest thing from what I thought I’d be writing tonight.
…and it felt like I’d been sucker-punched.
A bit of background – in 2005, I attended South By Southwest Interactive for the first time. I knew practically no one. And the ones I did know (save for a certain Jersey refugee and his wife), I didn’t know very well. I was stepping WAY out of my comfort zone – so much so that I didn’t sleep the night before traveling, and thought, albeit briefly, abut calling the whole trip off.
Brad Graham wasn’t the first person I met in Austin that year – that distinction went to Kristin – but it was Brad, through his annual “Break Bread…” opening night soirée, that I met so many of the people with whom I would spend the following 4 days and remain in contact with over the following five years; in no small way, he helped build the SXSWi family. And in that time, we bonded over our shared obsessions – theater, web geekery, Doctor Who – and I’d felt like I’d found something of a kindred spirit.
Brad passed away sometime over the long New Year’s weekend. He was 41 years old. I think James may have said it best: “The glue of SXSW for the past decade is gone.” And I never got a chance to thank him for welcoming me, with open arms and a cold beer, into that amazing family.
I’m not going to pretend that I knew him as well as the folks who were with him at that first SXSWi 11 years ago, but that doesn’t make his death hurt any less. I knew him well enough to know that he was a sweet, funny, passionate man. He had no shame (I mean that in the best way possible), and heaven knows he never missed an opportunity for an ribald comment…and that’s one of the reasons why we loved him.
I’m not sure I can write much more right now, and to be honest I’m not sure if what I’ve already written will make much sense unless you’ve taken up residence in my head. I will get around to that Doctor Who post soon – I think Brad would have liked that – but somehow I think it’s only appropriate to let Brad have the last word.
Thank you, Brad. Godspeed, you magnificent bastard.
Edit (2:50AM) – there’s a memorial page (of a sort) up on Metafilter.