Laughing Matters – Fan Mail and Hate Mail

While I generally prefer email from readers who enjoy my columns, I also encourage readers who don’t. Writing is such a solitary endeavor, if I don’t hear from readers once in a while, it feels like I’m just talking to myself. (Which I do enough of as it is.)

Readers upset with me have frequently emailed and we usually respectfully agree to disagree. Angrier ones, however, often tip their hand in the e-mail subject line. For example, if I see “You’re an idiot!!” I have a sense reading this won’t be the highlight of my day. (If it is, I’ve had a really bad day.)

On May 15, I wrote “Ocean Park Loses a Legend,” about the tragic Covid-19 death of Russell Braunstein, a friend of mine for thirty years. Lovable though often a curmudgeon, Russ was a handy man and city employee at the Ocean View Tennis Courts. (If you needed help with your backhand or a leaky faucet, Russ was your guy.)

Following Russ’ passing, the emails I received were universally sympathetic, often sharing funny stories about Russ. (Including, though possibly apocryphal, that one summer Russ brought his pet monkey to camp.) Seemingly out of nowhere, and 2 ½ months after the column was published, I received a “hater email.” But more on that later.

Russ’ favorite childhood memories were from the summers in the 1950’s when he attended Camp Roosevelt in mile-high Idyllwild, located in the mountains above Palm Springs. Russ was very young and it was so meaningful in his life, he maintained friendships with many campers right up until he passed away. (Of considerable comfort, his older brothers, Richard and Robert spread Russ’ ashes on the grounds of what used to be Camp Roosevelt.)

A good number of Russ’ friends sent me touching emails thanking me for the column. The fact is it was my honor and, given with Covid, he wasn’t allowed visitors, it was my only way of saying goodbye.

But on 7/26 I received a rather unpleasant email from Bryan. (Not his real name nor will I reveal his email address.) It had “Russ” in the subject line so, assuming it was one his camp friends, I opened it eagerly. It was definitely not “touching.” (Unless you include fingers squeezing your throat as touching.)

Yes, I invite emails from my critics, but I never imagined that I’d ever receive such a vile one, especially on the tragic death of a long term friend. Bryan must have an agenda (as in being very partial to “orange,” if you get my drift) or is missing a heart.

He began by referring to Russ as my “buddy,” I suppose to cast doubt on our friendship. Bryan says he read the column in the Next Door app because he’s been on Main Street since 2003 as the owner of a “brick and mortar store.” (As opposed to a “mud and thatched roof” store?)
Bryan claims he read my column because he was curious to see if he knew Russ. And yet didn’t mention his store’s name or even his last name. And, so far, no merchant on Main I’ve asked knows who he is. (Undeterred, I might keep asking.)

Did Bryan really wait 2 ½ months to express his outrage? If so, talk about a slow burn. If not, who reads ten-week old Next Door posts? Talk about having too much free time.

His major complaint is he didn’t learn anything about Russ and that I only wrote it to promote myself. (In response, I sent Bryan six other columns about Russ written in the past fourteen years but haven’t heard a peep since.)

Many of Russ’ friends and family enjoyed the humor I included in describing Russ’ and my friendship, whereas Bryan diagnosed me as “painfully depressive.” Rather bossy, he insists I give up writing and, what sounds like classic projection, says, “You’re sad, lonely, angry and can no longer feel the joy of anything you do.”

Imagine, all that after reading just one 800 word column? Maybe Bryan’s mortar and brick store specializes in psychic readings?

I can only suspect Bryan’s despises my political views. But to attack me on a column written from grief, seems borderline sadistic. (Forget “borderline.”)

Bryan could have scrolled any of my over 500 columns on the Daily Press website and thrown a dart to find one with less emotional meaning for me. (Which perhaps is why he chose this one.)

To be fair, or he’s really weird, after all the hateful, evil insults, he signed his email, “Yours truly, Bryan.” Was he being sarcastic, twisting the knife or finally displaying manners?

I don’t dare speculate. If I do, in 2 ½ months, I might get another hate-filled email. In all honesty, one like that was more than enough.

Jack is at: facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and [email protected]

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