Always remember that, folks: The Internet is made of people. I got that from Warren Ellis, and it’s totally and utterly true. There are good people on the Internet, and bad people; people you’d follow once more unto the breach, and people you’d toss into the breach head-first and then walk away. There are winners and losers, friends and enemies, casual acquaintances and even lovers.
This is about an online friend of mine who went by the moniker “Gumdrops”.
Gumdrops, or “Gummy” for short, was a film music fan. And by “fan”, I mean, “rabid hobbyist”. I’m a gatherer of film music, but Gummy was a collector. He amassed a pretty impressive collection, many of the discs of which were quite rare. His collection includes, to give just one example, a copy of David Shire’s score to Return to Oz. Just try finding a copy of this. You’ll pay through the nose.
Longtime readers will know that before this blog, my main outlet for online blatherings was the Usenet group rec.music.movies. I gradually became disenchanted over there, and when that disenchantment lined up with my discovery of the blogging medium, the writing was on the wall (or the Web), and I departed r.m.m. pretty quickly after launching this blog. For a time, I also posted at the FilmScoreMonthly message boards, and it was there that I met Gummy.
He was a jovial soul, who usually signed off his posts with “Yuk yuk!”. He had a way of disarming many heated discussions with a quip or two, and it might have been tempting at first to not take Gummy very seriously as a film music fan, but one quickly learned otherwise: this guy knew his stuff. He was conversant on many composers and their works, and he knew far more about film than I do. But through it all, he never took it all that seriously — or, more properly, he never took it so seriously that he lost sight of the passion of his film music, and he never forgot what music is for. He looked for music that moved him, that made him feel something. He was the guy who’s constantly coming up to you, discman and earphones held out, grinning wildly and practically tripping over his own feet as he tells you, “Wow, you gotta hear this!!!”
That was Gummy.
When the FSM boards finally became too generically unpleasant for me and some others to stick around there — it happens, you know — we went back to rec.music.movies, which had become pretty much of a wasteland. Posts were rare, and posts that were about film music and not about where we might procure cheap CIAL!$ were rarer still. But we started posting, a tiny little community, and gradually things picked up. Not to the point of r.m.m.’s hey-day back around 1999 or 2000, but we got some nice discussion going. Often the discussions were sparked by Gummy’s thread-launching posts, when he’d throw out single questions or provocative statements.
Gummy also loved to share his music, and he cheerfully made copies of just about any score in his collection that anyone asked for. I was the recipient of more than a few of his mailings. Scores that I now own, thanks to him, include the afore-mentioned Return to Oz, Howard Shore’s Soul of Ultimate Nation and The Last Mimzy, John Williams’s Jane Eyre, and a large number of Japanese filmscores as well. His generosity was stunning, and it often bothered me that my own film music collection is not nearly as extensive as his, not because I was jealous of what he had, but because I couldn’t really return the favor. Some time ago he told me about some items he was looking for, and by sheer miracle, it turned out that I own them. Last week I finally got around to burning copies.
You can probably tell by my use of past tense in this post that he’s never going to hear them.
Gregory — “Gumdrops” — became suddenly ill last week, and by the time he became ill enough to require hospitalization, his fate was set. He finally died today. I never met him in person; to me, he was “only” a set of words on a screen, and an occasionaly envelope in my mailbox. But remember: The Internet is made of people, and Gumdrops was one of them.
Other friends from r.m.m. have been in contact with his wife, and we’ve learned Gregory’s passion for film music was a lonely passion until he first went on the Internet and discovered that there are other such-passionate people around, all over the world. And amidst all the cantankerous discussions that take place in Internet forums on any topic, Gregory was a person motivated solely by the fact that the music, and the act of sharing it, just plain made him happy. His vocation, it turns out, was furnace installation. He loved the Pittsburgh Steelers (he lived in that area), and he lustily cheered their Super Bowl win from two seasons ago. But he didn’t trash-talk a few weeks back when his Steelers tossed my Bills around like rag-dolls. That’s the kind of person he was. He took joy in things, and appeared to have no patience at all for the joyless side of the very same things.
So yeah, I’ll miss him. He was a friend. Tonight I’ll listen to some of the music he shared with me.
Goodbye, Greg. Yuk yuk.
I am so sorry for your loss. A few of my online friends are gone now too, so I know the void left by their passing. The Internet is, indeed, made of people, and some of them are wonderful.