09 March 2009

Goodbye Guskind

I have been away for a few days, purposefully staying away from computers for a change. And so, I only discovered today that Robert Guskind, the creator and author of the widely read and highly influential Brooklyn blog Gowanus Lounge, died last week.

I never met Guskind, but, nevertheless, he loomed large in my blog life. He was the first important blogger to reach out to me during my early days of writing Lost City. I knew little of blog etiquette back then. While posting an item about the (now gone) Revere Sugar Factory in Red Hook, and lacking a photo of the structure myself, I trolled the internet for a few minutes and found a handsome shot on a site I had never heard of called Gowanus Lounge.

I don't know how, but Bob found out. During a time when no one contacted me about anything, Guskind sent me a strongly worded e-mail asking why I had "borrowed" one of his photos, of which he was "proud," without giving proper credit. I was a bit alarmed by the note and, after briefly considering the idea of ignoring it completely, I wrote back and offered to take down the photo. Bob replied in a much more friendly tone that I was welcome to keep it up, but to be sure to credit him in the future. Soon after, he added Lost City to his blog roll. It was the first major blog roll where Lost City featured, and, for some time, whatever small number of hits I received came from Gowanus Lounge.

Guskind accomplished much in the last three years of his life. Gowanus Lounge was christened only in April 2006, but it quickly became an area leader, rising to the top of the Brooklyn blog pile. Part of this was due to his exhaustive coverage. He posted more than a dozen times a day, covering every major issue affecting every neighborhood in Brooklyn. I always wondered how he managed it. (At first, I thought he had a staff. Gowanus Lounge was so comprehensive in its reporting, one imagined it had a City Room as big as the Times.) He was also generous, showing his support for other bloggers by frequently linking to their sites. Finally, Guskind led the way in the righteous fury that is a keynote of Brooklyn blogging, railing against the sort of corruption, cynicism and thoughtlessness that was destroying the borough he loved.

Through recently published posts and articles, I have learned a lot of sad things about Bob. The New York Post reported that he "was found dead in his apartment from what police sources said was an apparent drug overdose." Brooklyn Paper wrote that he had separated from his wife, whom he had married in 2007.

Blogging is hard. It eats up your time. It pays you little or nothing. And you have to care very much in order to keep it going every day. Brooklyn bloggers tend to care even more, I think, because to live in Brooklyn for any length of time is to care about Brooklyn. I always got the feeling that Bob cared very much, more than the rest of us. Maybe he cared too much. It's sad this think of Brooklyn's many days going past without him commenting on events. In the best possible way, his daily posts showed that what happened here mattered, every bit of it.

(Thanks to New York Shitty for the very nice photo.)

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