Happy birthday, John Christopher Burns, half a century old today. We’ve been friends since college. We met in 1977, at an organizational meeting for the following year’s student-newspaper staff. The editor passed around a sheet for everyone to write down their summer mailing address. Mine was 1832 Barrington Rd., Columbus, Ohio. His was 1860 Barrington Rd., Columbus, Ohio.
Turned out John didn’t really live there; it was one of the apartments his mother occupied in her post-divorce perambulations, and the closest thing to a permanent address he had. But it was an opening. We’ve been friends ever since.
Lots of years ending in 7 in this story, I just realized. I guess that means we met when we were both 20, and we’ve known each other 30 years. The older I get, the more I value long-term friendships, people who saw you through the disco years, three unfortunate perms, five bad boyfriends, one good husband, two horses, a dog and I-don’t-know-what-all, and still like you anyway. One is silver and the other’s gold, etc.
Here’s some of what John taught me: Computers, typefaces, design. I was never much of a design student, but I know more about typefaces than the average person because of him. I appreciate good design because of him. I use a Mac because of him. Here’s some of what he did for me: Designed three or four resumés, my wedding invitations, this website in all iterations (which he has hosted for 6 years now, at a cost to me of $0.00). He even designed the name on Alan’s boat.
But mostly, he’s been my great, good and true friend for 30 years now, and I hope for at least that many more. Happy birthday, John.
P.S. In one of those twists that I just love, he shares his birthday with Helvetica. Typically, he has an opinion about Helvetica: “ubiquitous, beautiful, and intolerable in its ubiquity.”
P.P.S. Don’t ask him about Optima.
Kate and I are headed out of town for a couple of days. (I wish for: Florida. I settle for: Columbus.) But we have some bloggage for y’all to chew on in our absence:
I don’t know what to say about Don Imus that won’t add to the general cacophony surrounding a story that isn’t really that important in the grand scheme. (Number of Imus-related stories in yesterday’s Free Press? Four. Number of stations that carry Imus’ show in Detroit? Zero.) I used to listen to the show and I liked it, but I also winced a lot. I always thought of Imus as a palate-cleanser after an hour or so of NPR, the guy you listened to on the way to work who prepped you for a day of office politics. So I don’t really have anything to say, but that’s OK, because two of the best things I’ve read are Doghouse Riley’s and Lance Mannion’s.
This is for newspaper people only, so be forewarned: When Neal Shine died last week, at first I couldn’t understand why I felt so sad — considering I didn’t know him or work for him. And then it dawned on me, as it did on Jack Lessenberry. It’s about the death of newspapers, not one man. And this passage, about the role Shine played in the tragic strike of 1995, made me wince:
He had worked for (Knight Ridder) his entire life, and they had promoted him from copy boy to publisher. Threatening to fire people he had known for decades must have given him enormous pain, but it was something he felt bound to do.
Where his tragic mistake lay was in thinking that the modern corporate newspaper company appreciated and valued loyalty. Indeed, Knight Ridder mostly undervalued Shine. They never gave him the top newsroom position (executive editor), probably because he was from Detroit and never had worked elsewhere. Indeed, he had to help a succession of out-of-town bosses find Woodward and try not to unduly embarrass themselves.
And now, I must hop to and drive south. Escaping — strangled sob — a winter storm warning en route.