Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Year of Not Blogging

Wow, where to start? It's been more than a year since I blogged here - made a recipe, photographed it, and committed my mostly improvised ramblings to the blog. Our blog. Our blog that's on the "blogosphere," a term our dear friend Brad Graham coined and he was further dismayed when the term 1) took off in popularity and 2) got an entry in the OED. Brad poo-pood it all, but I secretly think he liked this claim to fame. Not that he would ever admit it, mind you. He'd have gone to his grave shrugging off the fact that he invented the term blogosphere. And in January of last year, that's exactly what he did. Brad was found dead in his house on January 4, 2010. He was 41. He was supposed to have been at my New Year's Eve party the Friday before, as always, but wasn't feeling well. Some of his coworkers (and our mutual friends) were at my party and expressed concern for his absence, and for his overall health because recently he hadn't been as energetic, as lively. We were worried, we told him we were worried, and we were happy to learn he was scheduled to go to the doctor after the first of the year.

I had seen him a couple of weeks before at his annual holiday party (looking gaunt, and I told him as much), and then again on a casual weekday evening when we decided to get together for drinks & gumbo at his place. Since we were nearing Christmas, I brought him a tin of the Hard Rock Candy I had made the Sunday before, along with homemade single malt butter scotch. He was quite pleased with the treats and had a few that night.

So we didn't see him at NYE. I sent him a text message 2 days after while sitting in the theater to watch Avatar in 3D, with no response. Not entirely unusual, but not exactly right, either. I left the next morning for meetings in Washington DC, which was cold and miserable, and I was cranky about having to travel so early into the year. My meeting was with the National Institute of Health and the National Library of Medicine for my "real" job, participating in a workshop on defining a schema for biodiversity publications. I took this picture and uploaded it to Flickr: I look at this picture as the last time my life made sense in 2010.

Less than 5 minutes later I got a call from Tagert. I knew something was up, but I couldn't leave the meeting. So I txtd him
I'm in dc in a mtg & can't use phone, but can txt. What's up?
His reply was
Sorry for this format. Brad Graham has died. Ken found him this morning.
I left the meeting & started talking with Tag. And honestly, from that point on the rest of the trip is a blur. I have flashes of activity, like standing at the platform waiting for the Red Line to take me to my hotel in Dupont, listening to Elton John on my iPod singing "Sacrifice", with tears streaming down my face. I was alone in DC while Brad's other friends were meeting in STL for an impromptu gathering, and that's where I wanted to be more than any other place in the world. But duty called, and I stayed through the meetings then made a return home, and within 2 hours of arriving in St. Louis I was over at Tagert's. That was tough, but so necessary.

And then the next day my partner and I had to make the very tough decision to put our 10 year old dog, Sam, to sleep. She'd been fighting cancer for more than a year, but it was clear she was getting weaker and her cough & discomfort were bad. We took her to the vet, fairly certain what the advise & options would be, and we were right. Our vet also knew Brad and so knew what a double whammy this was for us. We knew it was right thing to do, but that didn't make it any easier. I remember sobbing into my partner's neck, just shaking my head, not understanding why this was all happening at once. I stayed with Sam and she went peacefully with the help of the excellent doctors at Kingsbury Animal Hospital.

I was scheduled to leave for 10 days in Beijing at 4am the next morning, and as it turns out months before Tagert & our friend Mikey, plus me and my partner Chris, had purchased tickets that night for a Lady Gaga concert. None of us wanted to stay at home and feel sorry for ourselves, so we went and had a crazy, cathartic time. And then 5 hours later I was on a plane to Beijing.

The storm stopped there, thankfully, and the rest of 2010 went along with normal bumps & bruises, but nothing as brutal as losing the guy who completed Tagert & me. We were a great trio because we each had different relationships as duos: Brad & I had a bond over redheads and technology, Tag & Brad had SciFi and film, and together we had showtunes & shenanigans & laughter & friendship. So for Tagert & me to lose that essential third wheel has been a big adjustment.

And every time I went to blog, I thought of Brad. Tagert & I had talked to Brad, who was a PR/marketing whiz, about taking our blog to the next level - coverage in the local foodie mags, cooking segments on local shows, appearances and demos at STL food & wine events, publishing a cookbook, etc. But after Brad died, I felt alone in that endeavor. I mean, Tagert & I are quite capable dudes, but Brad was Mr. Connections. And without his help, it just seemed...pointless.

So throughout this year of course we've kept cooking, and I've got a stockpile of recipes that are now well-tested and ready to roll out. But I wonder if our moment has passed. Tagert & I set up this blog in 2007 as a way to advertise our unique culinary point of view, and now that I look around, there are many people doing our "downhome with a twist" thing. I feel I'm at a crossroads here, and I'm really curious from readers what *you* want from us, if anything. I still want to blog about food because I love food, I love to cook, and I think I have some unique insights to share with other people who like to cook, based on my rural upbringing and subsequent move to a diverse city full of new flavors and ideas.

So what do you think, dear reader? Have we lost you in this year of not blogging? Are you still interested in our recipes and stories about how we came to make them? Or, should we just close up shop, turn on Ina Garten, and leave the food writing to the pros? Leave your comments below. They really are appreciated!

Chris Freeland