January 9, 2006. This is not the start of a happy new year. I learned over the weekend that Grant Burns died suddenly last Thursday.
Grant was a long-time personal friend and has worked with me on NewPages almost the entire history of NewPages. He was the guy who came along about the third issue of the print incarnation and became editor. He made the magazine a thing of beauty word-wise. He was a great editor and writer. He made it all seem so easy, and often made me laugh out loud.
After NewPages went online, Grant wrote columns as Uncle Frank. His columns in "Uncle Frank's Diary" were funny, pissed-off, and smart. I hope you've been reading them over the past few years. I originally asked him to write a column that might be interesting to other librarians, but he was just too angry so often about the politics and stupidities of the day that he let Uncle Frank have an explosive "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more" voice.
We didn't see a lot of each other in the last many years, but kept in pretty regular touch through e-mail. We talked about his columns, the occasional movie, and whatever else friends drop quick notes about. (Our exchanges re: The Detroit Lions are simply unprintable.) Grant was always right there for me through the years with a warm-hearted, arm-around-the-shoulder note when I had my moments of personal tough times.
I took a quick look at saved messages this morning, and found this e-mail message from last year. It felt appropriate to include:
Uncle Frank’s lying low while I’m trying to get my railroad fiction manuscript through its crunch time...
Foggy this morning, so I took Lansing Road most of the way in (I don’t like to drive in freeway fog, owing to the crazies whose faith in good fortune keeps ‘em going at 70 mph, until they rear-end you). My my my, sometimes the world is just so pretty: I was all by my lonesome most of the way on Lansing Rd, no cars before or behind. As I entered and left rolling fog banks, I’d see the vague trees on either side of the road suddenly clarify in open stretches; they were all coated in frost. Still and perfect, the fog, the frost on the otherwise-dark trees, no one but me around—I felt as though I’d stepped into some ancient Japanese painting of a forest untouched by human paws. The world doesn’t give a rip about us, but sometimes it certainly does present itself nicely. We’re lucky to get a chance to look.
I feel very lucky to have gotten the chance to know Grant Burns. And I feel nowhere near ready to stop writing to him and hearing from him.