|The Coolest Thing I Ever Gave Him|
Brian Kozicki wasn't a woman-hating asshole.
Maybe that seems like a low bar, a gimmie in the hurdles of life. For a man in Brian's chosen profession, not being a woman-hating asshole was a goddamn miracle. (I shouldn't focus on that. Brian was so many things that not being misogynist is only a tiny part of the picture.) If he'd climbed mountains or bred pygmy goats you'd marvel at a life lived in pursuit of a passion. And Brian was deeply passionate about his interests. (But goats and mountains weren't among them.) He loved his family, his community and his chosen life. He was a passionate advocate of literacy. He was a man who believed the least among us had the same value as the most. He was a man who tried to live his values. Mostly, he succeeded.
To use a tired comparison, he was a bear of a man. Sentimental, loudly dressed, eager for a laugh or a good natured argument, Brian embraced people in all their diversity. He greeted his friends with huge hugs, then said goodbye the same way. He could be so full of cheer that it was impossible not to smile. (He wasn't always happy, none of us are.) Happiness was a goal he worked toward. Given a choice, he chose joy. If Brian couldn't fix his own problem, he'd work on yours. If you didn't have one, he'd tell you about someone else's so you could work on it together.
Most of the time, Brian picked up the check at meals. "It's a business expense." (It wasn't.) He always apologized after complaining, even when the problems were huge. He didn't want to bring you down, enough about him, back to you. I loved making him laugh. His face would light up when you surprised him. He welcomed people like he'd been waiting all year for just that exact person to walk in the door. Brian treated a five year old with a dollar the same way he treated a hipster with hundreds. He was as passionate an advocate for his wares as Steve Jobs was for Apple. "Just look at this!" he'd exclaim. "I'm going to give you this because you have to see it!" If you loved it, he'd beam. If you hated it, he'd be just as excited. At least you gave it a shot. That's what Brian always wanted, a shot.
Brian owned a comic store. He owned a comic store in boom years, in bust years and in between years. His dream of a large multimedia arcade wasn't meant to be, but it would have been my favorite place ever. He once introduced me to Paul Lee by saying Paul would love me, when normal protocol is to treat the artist as the main event. I think, although I could be wrong, that it was Paul Lee who drew Brian into Batman as a bartender. It made sense. Brian loved to talk as much as he loved to listen. The counter was his natural habitat. He could talk me into any book, any restaurant, any person. When I'd get annoyed and write irritated letters to editors he'd call and offer me a book signing. Manchester's own, featured in a new tirade.
There were three things Brian never got me to do. The first was disc golf. The second was work the shop. The third was joining him for SDCC. For years he tried to tempt me. (Did I want to have dinner with Mark Hamill?) He'd bring me signed things from Kevin Smith or Jason Mewes. "Look what you missed!" followed by "Look what you missed again!" and eventually "What's wrong with you!?!?!" He'd say "You should go. We'd have a great time. Kevin Smith would love you!"
Brian died at 46. This is ridiculous. I am writing this a full month since his death but less than twelve hours since I found out he's gone. The world needed Brian. It needed his enthusiasm. It needed his passion for education in whatever guise it came. When I first met Brian I saw or spoke to him several times a week. Then I moved away. Then I had kids. Then I had cancer. Then I had it again. Over the years a few times a week turned into a few times a year. Each time, each conversation, was one of laughter and joy. (Even the ones about chemo.) Listen, I know this was filled with cliches. This wasn't an original thought or an innovative page. This was a very long way to say something very small.
|I want you to meet my friend Brian. You'd really love him.|