The Drift

The Drift


When I’m sad or grieving or just dealing with something enormous, my first impulse is to sit down at the keyboard and get it out.

I’m writing tonight.

This afternoon in San Francisco a man named John Durham died after many years of serious health problems. Those are the facts, but not the story. To those of us who knew and loved him so much, he was THE DURHAM: a life force, a gentle soul, a fantastic dresser and a terrible speller. He was generous to his students at USF, to the many one-time interns whose careers he started, to industry colleagues, to shopkeepers and clerks and nurses and complete strangers. He shared his wine, he reached for the check, he did the work to bring his industry friends together over lavish meals that he himself couldn’t enjoy in later years. And he always pivoted the conversation to “…but I want to hear about YOU? How’re YOU doing?”

As I sit here typing tonight with two glasses of 2013 Syrah on the table, I feel like a light has gone out and the world got just a little dimmer. My memories of John were so personal, our conversations so deep and rich. But I also realize that in the world of THE DURHAM, I’m just one of many souls at many tables who are feeling this way tonight. I poured that second glass for John, but it’s there for all of you who knew him as well.

Memories I’ll hold close forever are of John and me at iMedia. Doesn’t matter which one, doesn’t matter which city or resort. No matter what either or both of us had going on, we’d end up sitting next to each other in some breezeway or patio or riverside rocking chairs like Statler and Waldorf, the two Muppets in the balcony, commenting on the world, sharing deep ideas and laughing like fools. And never for twenty or thirty minutes: for an hour, for two. While we connected many times by phone and unintelligible text messages over these pandemic months, our last time together – our last hug- was at the iMedia reunion he organized in New Orleans in February 2020. We sat together over coffee in the hotel lobby for close to three hours. He talked about the directions his life might go in future years. He talked about feeling blessed. Having been to hell and back, he was now a man who simultaneously had so much left to do while also being completely at peace with whatever lay ahead.

It was perfect.

In short, he was THE DURHAM. To his friends, no explanation is necessary. To those who were never touched by him, no explanation is possible. Go in love and peace dear friend. Your name will be spoken and your laughter and kindness and humanity will be celebrated for many, many years to come.

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