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There are a few individuals on this planet whose humanity exceeds the arc of their life. BronxBoy55, aka Charles Gulotta was such a man. I met Charles so long ago that I’m not exactly sure when it was, but I’m pretty sure it was he who initiated the long-distance friendship. I was new to blogging, had few followers, and wasn’t sure what to think of this newfangled fad. I think Charles found me before I found him, which is even more amazing since he was already well established, with a huge readership—a condition which entails reading and responding to oh so much material. In any case, Charles’ comments on my early Blogger posts were always kind and encouraging. I was lucky if I received one fistful of comments on a post. But BronxBoy55 had at least 70 responses to each of his brilliant posts over at “Mostly Bright Ideas: Some of these thoughts may make sense. But don’t count on it”.

Reading through the comments to his posts was like traveling the world and peeking inside minds far brighter than my own. Charles responded to each comment—and sometimes there were hundreds of them—with humility, grace, and genuine care. Never a mere “Thanks,” but always a genuine recognition of the real person behind the comment.

It was in the wake of Charles’ vibrant trail of comments that many of his followers befriended each other. I picked up readers and friends all around the world, from India to Australia and islands in between. Charles Gullota was the brilliant star around which a constellation of diverse, thoughtful, and sensitive readers and writers exchanged ideas and encouragment. After connecting us, Charles slipped quietly out of the blogosphere. While we lamented his departure, many of us continued to blog and to stay in touch in one manner or another. When a memorial posted by his family appeared on Facebook in late October, Charles’ virtual community came together to grieve, to remember, and to marvel at what a fine man he was and at the solid community he anchored.

Illustration by Charles Gulotta

In his brilliant stories and essays, BronxBoy55 unfurled an uncanny ability to start with one idea and let that idea disassociate into a flurry of new, seemingly unrelated ideas, taking the reader on a magical carpet ride. Not one to leave things unfinished though, Charles skillfully pulled his ideas back to the source, connecting the dots to the original theme with tongue-in-cheek humor. Not only a masterful storyteller, Charles was also blessed with a sense of humor that leaked out in illustrations that he included with his narratives. He turned the mundane and the frustrating into virtual comedy skits that I’m sure damaged a few monitors with coffee spray.

Rereading Charles’ posts and the attendant comments takes me back in time—a time when blogging was rather new, when we (or I) didn’t fully understand the phenomenon, nor quit trust it. It was a time when my followers were quite a different assortment than my current followers. They were not better or worse, just different. The longer a blog lives, the more its audience evolves. My heart skips a beat as those old blogging handles reignite memory. All of Charles’ followers were good, kind, and thoughtful people, attracted of course, to the center around which we all happily floated in a stream of admiration. With the heartbreaking passing of Charles Gulotta, a handful of us even managed to connect digitally via Zoom. Not everything about the pandemic has been bad. We have jumped another hoop to make the planet even smaller—a virtual world where we connect across time zones, glimpse each other’s bed head or home school routines.

RIP my dear friend, Charles Gulotta. You did your job here and a fine job it was.