MAILBAG: Behind Blue Eyes II



Come on, “sad man” Why is that necessary? Why not something more positive and uplifting, and respectful of his spirit? I’m not the only one irked by your choice of words.

I don’t pretend to try to “dictate” anything you do. But you have comments and an editorial e-mail listed as plain as day on your site – what do you expect? Even Joey Sweeney – your nemesis – got it right.

Would a better choice of words been so hard?
Laura Koepfler


Your reference to “Behind Blue Eyes” was not at all clear…in these situations it’s best to think first before trying to make a clever reference. And such a lazy ambiguous one at that. Think of the person and less about you. We all knew Bruce suffered from clinical depression. A lot of us saw or talked to Bruce on a weekly/daily basis. We don’t think he’d have appreciated being defined as “the sad man.” While he loved music, he wasn’t a goddamn song lyric.

If you request feedback and write something half-considered, you’re going to get a hostile response.
Francis “Rusty” Cratil


It's not an epitaph, it's a headline. By the way, we are done talking about this.
Frankly, your unrelenting rudeness and unwarranted hostility
doesn't strike me as the qualities Bruce prized in people he called 'friend.'
Jonathan Valania

I started on the [remembrance] piece thursday night and immediately found it much more difficult than imagined. Encapsulating someone as unique as Bruce is a taller order than I thought.I was away from my computer all day Friday, so I was not aware of the controversy that had arisen. I will admit, that upon seeing the headline, I was put off a bit. I believe in this case, it would have been better to err on the side of seriousness. Bruce wasn’t a public official or celebrity. I’ll take you at your word that no disrespect was intended. As for Rusty, he was a close and dear friend of Bruce’s until the end. Many of us drifted away from Bruce in the last few years out of familial obligations, geographical obstacles etc.. Rusty is at ground zero of this tragedy, and if he seems especially emotional on this issue, he certainly has the right. Trading barbs via email with a grieving person is never a good idea. This unintended controversy has made me, for the time being at least, unable to properly construct a remembrance. There are many who might be able to fill this need. If I’m able to come up with something fitting, I will pass it along, but I don’t want to just fill space. A man like Bruce deserves something more.

Rich Kaufmann


As one of several people who saw Bruce on a weekly basis, checked up on him, worried about him and spent the past several days contacting his friends, cleaning his house and comforting his sister (his sole surviving family
member), I feel free to tell you that since none of us remember crossing paths with you doing the same, you really didn’t know him at all and haven’t got a fucking clue. Those of us who knew him spent this evening at the Ukie
Bar discussing his life, and your posting came up. The feeling was unanimous: you’re an ignorant, self-serving dick.

My name is Francis Cratil. Bruce knew me as Rusty, as does Rich Kauffman; the Rolling Hayseeds played at my wedding and Bruce sat in on a couple of songs. We are not done talkiing about this; get the sling ready.

Don’t ever presume to tell me when this conversation is over…

We will meet, and soon.



Are you threatening me? Look, I am sorry for your loss, I know your grief
and understand your anger, but you are directing it at the wrong person.
Let it go. I never pretended to be his Best Buddy, but I’ve known Bruce
for a long time, thru many a beery Khyber night. I was a big fan of Go To
Blazes, but enjoyed all the projects he was involved in. A few years ago,
when I was on staff at PW, I wrote a story about Marah. He wrote me a very
long letter detailing his shafting at the hands of the Bielanko brothers.
He didn’t want me to do anything with, especially not publish it — he
just wanted me to know. I thought that was pretty classy. Still do. So, I am shocked
and saddened by his death. I only tried to let people know and share what
I thought was a pretty nice Inquirer obit with a lot of people that don’t
read the Inquirer. Wanted to give the guy his due. You didn’t like they
way I did that. I’m sorry about that. But really, you should start your
own blog then. Besides, drunk emailing threats of physical harm is just a
bad idea. People get arrested for that. Think about that.

Jonathan Valania


Drunk emailings? You are an arrogant bastard. Yes, Bruce was a classy guy.
And he deserved better than the label “sad man,” which some dimwit who’s
trying to be deep or witty plants on him. The fact is, I don’t think you
give a shit about our loss. This has all been about you…your need to
“say” something with a headline, protect your turf and then try and play a
“friend” card you were never even holding.

And I know I’m not the only person upset by this, or the only one to have
written you. Christ, even the Marah website was more respectful.

We don’t run in the same circle, so when we meet is not clear. But we will.
So, if you want to keep amping up my anger with your arrogance, so be it.



Do you mind if I publish your email as part an effort to defuse this situation?
Jonathan Valania
No, I don’t mind. This whole thing brought up the issues of e-communication and how it’s changed the way we deal with grief and such. Dan Campbell made the observation that stuck, “This would have been a great conversation to have with Bruce.” That’s what we miss the most.

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