Nadia Sends a Letter to Frank….

Dear Frank,

I know I’m supposed to be writing about you, but ever since I learned you’d left us for the record store in the sky, all I’ve really wanted was to talk to you one last time.

In the years that we’ve known each other, in a virtual sense, you became a constant in my life.  I read your columns more regularly than any news source in my life. I may not always have recognized the bands you wrote about, old or new, but I always found myself in awe of your passion and reverence for music and your admiration of those who make it.  Truly I don’t believe there is, or ever was, a truer lover of music out there than you.  That love of music is what brought us together, across the expanses of two countries, connected through the power of the internet and Bob Segarini.  People like to rag on social media, saying it’s ruining the world and humanity as we know it, but this is one of these instances where it did what it was intended and connected to people that never would have known each other otherwise.  And Frank, I’m truly grateful to have been connected to you.

For a while, you were just another voice on Don’t Believe a Word I Say.  You were the incredibly hard act I had to follow every week, your enthusiastically lengthy Tuesday columns sometimes overwhelming this girl Wednesday to the point of writer’s block, much to my and Bob’s chagrin.   A self-described curmudgeon, you were the last person I expected to reach out to me for any reason.  We were basically online coworkers with no real connection other than our love of music.  But it was that love that became the foundation for a strange and sweet kind of friendship that I cherish even more now that you’re gone.

You emailed Bob back in 2012, eerily right around this time of year, asking for my mailing address.  I can’t remember how the discussion started, I imagine some back and forth comments on a Facebook post, but you wanted to send me some Son of Man recordings you had in what I imagine must be a vast music collection.  You knew of my love of grunge music, and the band was a contemporary of my personal favorites, with a personal connection to you.  That you ever cared enough to go to that effort, to send a random Canadian girl some super rare music to feed her grunge music addiction, was my first indication of the heart of gold that once beat inside of you.

I listened to these recordings, half out of genuine interest and half out of respect for you.  You were such an expert in music, and I looked up to you like an excited student would look up to a revered professor.  I listened with a combination of curiosity and studiousness, knowing that I had to report back to you, because the effort you went to, but also because I had to rave about them to you.  I asked you if I could return the favor, and send you some mix CDs but you demurred, I realize now because you didn’t want to accumulate any more “stuff”.  But you did ask for music recommendations, and those I sent your way, either via email or in my column when I still wrote it.  It warms my heart to this day that you listened to bands I wrote about, and even went out to see them live when they were in your neck of the woods.  Our musical exchange would go on, and grow, in a way that ensures I’ll never ever forget you.

I’m going back over our correspondence now, trying to pinpoint the moment when you appointed yourself my vinyl godfather from the Pacific Northwest (you gave yourself the role, I only granted you the title).  You started the process by becoming my writing godfather first, providing constructive criticism peppered between lowkey praise.  The fact that you, a seasoned writer whose own prose I greatly admired, took the time to not only read my work but to try to help me improve it meant so much to me.  Looking back, I wish I’d written more of the type of work that I knew you enjoyed from me, but I had my own path to follow, and you understood and encouraged that, like the father figure you became.  I wonder how you’d feel knowing the most heartfelt piece I’ve written for  a while was about losing you?  But I digress….

The moment you became my vinyl godfather happened, of course, on DBAWIS.  My friend Bobby Singh had taken me to purchase my record player, and, knowing I had no records to play on it, took me to his favorite record store.  The experience turned into a column, as many did at that time in my life.  And there you were, not only reading my work, but providing your patented brand of warm fatherly disapproval and encouragement.  And, like any godfather worth his salt, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

You were right, I liked it in vinyl town, and you made sure the time I spent there was always an adventure.  As promised an email appeared in my inbox, with an inventory list that substantiated your record store staffer past.  The Bangles, the Eagles (that you wanted to offload so very much), the Animals; according to your note this was just the first batch of many records you wanted to send my way.  Again, I found myself in awe of your consideration, generosity and selflessness.  Try as I might, you wouldn’t hear of me paying a cent, not even to cover what I’m sure were exorbitant shipping costs.  Your response:

“I am most happy to allow you the pleasure of records I have treasured enough to have kept them through the years.  At this point of my life, I neither want nor need anything.

From then on, you would surprise me with musical care packages from time to time.  It would bring e such joy to see what goodies these hand wrapped bundles contained.  I cherished each album, not because of who it was by or what songs were on it, but because a kind man I’d never even met had taken the time, effort and money to get it to me.  It’s was the intention, the caring behind the action that mattered most to me, and that’s what makes me miss you ever so much right now Frank.

Reading through our email correspondence makes me miss you even more.  The messages are few in number, just a handful.  They’re not very long either, just a few lines here and there.  But the weight of the content was belied by its brevity.  Nuggets of advice on my writing, tips to help me grow as an interviewer, even a few dry jokes here and there.  You were like a modern day penpal, and I realize now how much I missed seeing your name in my inbox.  I miss it more now knowing I’ll never see it again.

The last email you sent me had the subject line “I Love You.”  I hadn’t done very much to earn such a message.  After a few care packages I finally got you to tell me what I could send you in return, books by author W.P. Kinsella; “the ones about the reservation, not about baseball.”  It wasn’t hard for me to track a couple of paperbacks online (another one of those few and far between internet blessings).  This particular book came as a surprise to you, in my effort to give you a small sense of the joy I received whenever I received one of your surprise packages. Based on that email subject line, I’d like to think I succeeded.

When you lose someone suddenly, especially someone that has an impact on your life, there’s a strange combination of numbness, longing, regret and sadness that takes you over.  I’ve been walking around in a fog of those feelings for a week now, since learning of your passing.  You may have only existed on the edge of my life, but you made your presence known, with your words, with your actions and with the music you blessed me with.  That you saw potential in me, enough to reach out, enough to take the time to advise, and to make the effort to send me those wonderful records; that’s the best gift you could have ever given me.  I only hope that someday I’ll feel that I was worthy of that gift, and that you never thought your efforts were wasted.

My dear friend Frank, wherever you ended up, I hope you’re surrounded by music, basking in sunshine and have nothing but comfort and happiness around you.

Yours in love and music,

Frank Gutch Jr.

=NE=

Nadia Elkharadly is a savvy and dynamic media maven who’s not shy about speaking her mind, whether it’s from her keyboard or through a microphone. Nadia is the co-founder and managing editor of Addicted magazine (www.weraddicted.com), an online lifestyle and entertainment magazine based in Toronto. There she is able to indulge in all the things she can’t live without; music, fashion, travel, beauty, and more. Nadia is also the #ladyboss and MC of Handsome International Men (www.himpromotions.com). Inspired by Magic Mike and similar Las Vegas productions, HiM aims to evoke the confidence, strength and beauty of women by providing them with an entertainment option has so far been the domain of men. New experiences lead to new opportunities, and it’s Nadia’s philosophy to be open to whatever life brings her way.

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