As the first cold snap blew into Minneapolis in fall 2007, I woke up to a massive nosebleed. In the shower, chunky-looking clots poured from my nostrils. I frantically recalled all the Lurlene McDaniel books that started with a teenager having an unexplained nosebleed and ended with the kid dying of leukemia. Even though I was well out of my teenage years with no other outward signs of poor health, I bundled up my nose and bussed myself to the health center at the University of Minnesota, leaving a nervous voicemail for the adjunct professor from whom I was a teaching assistant. I wouldn't be able to make our 8AM class.

I figured that G.R., the adjunct/boss I assisted for Publications Editing, would go on with his day, but he called back as soon as class was over: "What's up? Are you okay?" He was genuinely concerned.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I admitted, sheepish. "They said it's just the change in my environment and the dry air from heaters." After a couple of years living in the damp southeast, Minnesota's early season of forced-air heating dried me out, the nurses said. Decidedly not life-threatening. I felt like a weirdo for even thinking a nosebleed was a big deal. 

"Come back to Murphy Hall," he said, "and we'll get that taken care of." He drove me in his red Impala to the Quarry Target where we picked out a humidifier. He insisited on paying for it, that it wasn't a big deal, that he was just caring for a friend.

At the time I was confused — I had moved to Minnesota alone and took great pride in my independence, so I didn't need anyone to take care of me, especially not my kinda-boss, a man 13 years my senior who had a lauded career as an editor of the local alt-weekly. But G.R. Anderson, or Jerry, knew that I was new in town, that my family was 1,000 miles away, and that I probably would procrastinate on buying a humidifier if he hadn't taken me. 

He dropped me at the Uptown triplex where I was renting a room and commented, "You live right by the C.C. Club! We'll have to get a drink after work sometime when you're feeling better."

And so, every couple of weeks for the remainder of the school year, we'd take off for an early happy hour at the C.C. Club, a bar made famous by one of his favorite bands, The Replacements. In the nearly empty bar, I was a captive audience as he unloaded gobs of fascinating stories. Our trips to the C.C. were a delightful corollary to the editing and reporting skills he taught in class. 

A true anti-establishment Gen Xer, G.R. Anderson Jr., was a drummer in a rock band called Rex Daisy (who I'd never heard of) and had been signed to Geffen Records until the deal fell apart because of the very rock n roll concept of mergers and acquisitions. After the rock band dreams weren't paying the bills, he honed his other talents as a writer and attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His writing and reporting were celebrated, and he was considered one of the best writers in his cohort. Following J-school, he wrote and edited for City Pages, at the time the best of several print alt-weeklies in the Twin Cities market.

When we drove from the U through south Minneapolis, he pointed out the places where he'd reported stories: Little Earth, the subsidized housing project with a large American Indian population; 26th and Bloomington, once considered to be one of the most dangerous corners of the city; Rudolph's, the barbecue restaurant that Prince patronized. 

At the C.C. Club, Jerry would buy my drinks and let me smoke his cigarettes, but never once hit on me or acted like the creepy dudes from my New York publishing internships. He just wanted a drinking buddy to listen as he regaled me with long-winded tales of David Carr, David Geffen, and David Lee Roth. Sometimes we'd talk about the class we taught; sometimes, the topic was writing. We shared a deep affection for culture of the early 1970s, particularly 1972. He had an extensive knowledge of how my favorite rock songs were created and was always deeply charismatic and funny. He induced guffaws when he put on the Liverpudlian accent to mimic whichever Beatle needed impersonating at the moment.

I was happy for the friendship since I was new in town, and when I was honest with myself, I enjoyed his company more than my current regrettable and short-lived boyfriend. Because I was still 24, obtuse, and invincible, it never occurred to me that a 37-year-old man enjoying more than three drinks at a 3PM happy hour might have been a little out of the ordinary. We taught an 8AM class after all, so 3PM was basically the end of the workday. Never mind that Jerry had two other jobs: the City Pages role as well as a drumming gig in the polka band at the Polish bar Nye's. He always had extra time for good times, invincible in his own way.

He'd put quarters in the jukebox, and we'd trade sets of three songs. We had similar, but not the same, taste in rock n roll. He hated Radiohead, which I never understood, and I hadn't keened to The 'Mats yet. But we found common ground in The Stones, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, AC/DC, Elvis Costello, Fleetwood Mac, and Elton John.

Jerry and I also didn't always see eye to eye. He only let me have the floor to answer occasional, extremely pointed questions about my musical or political tastes. When I spoke, I felt nerdy and uninformed. He'd correct me, and I'd nod.

My perception was that he was put off because I was never particularly impressed by his past or the famous people he had met in passing. "I'm not impressed" was my calling card as a 20-something, a defense mechanism acquired during my NYC sentimental education that wasn't as well-received in the earnest Midwest, where hard work meant worth. From his attitude, I read that he was happy to move on to other, cooler companions once they were free from their daytime commitments.

A couple of times he queued jukebox songs where he had been the session drummer. "I'm the drummer on this song," he said. I nodded and smiled limply. At the time, I knew lots of drummers.

The morning after Van Halen played the Xcel Energy Center, Jerry barreled into class, enthusiastically asking, "Anyone catch Van Halen last night?" The undergrads stared back blankly, as was typical at 8am. "No one? Well, it was a really great show." He was clearly disappointed that today's youth didn't share his taste. 

Later, at happy hour, he asked me, "What's wrong with Van Halen?"

I scrunched up my face and dismissed him. "Ehh. It's cock rock." 

He stared back in disbelief and gestured at the jukebox, which was playing the Rolling Stones song I had chosen. "Carver, everything is cock rock," he said.

After the year we taught together, we fell out of touch. G.R. had his whole thriving career to attend to, and I had to figure out what to do with a mass communications degree as all the print publications folded in the Great Recession. Because our friendship was perceived by more Puritanical parties as inappropriate, I dared not ask him for help finding a job.

We didn't speak for 15 years. At a certain point, G.R. disappeared from the periphery. By the time I'd found my footing at a media company in 2017, he was long gone from local bylines and never mentioned in conversation. Once he sent a message about an open role as an assistant editor, one he was far overqualified for. "I'm not on the editorial side. They do their own thing," I explained, not wanting to tell him the truth, that there was no chance in hell he fit the role.

Just before COVID, we made half-hearted attempts via Facebook to get together and catch up. I learned that he was sober but not much else.

But in 2022 I reached out when he started publishing on his own website. I remembered him as a mentor and a great collaborator, and I was blindly hopeful that maybe he could work with The Content Technologist. I thought we could discuss the hot mess that is Minneapolis city politics at the very least.

We caught up. Jerry described the interim 15 years, which were full of heartbreak on his end. He had been in and out of treatment for alcoholism, had one too many DUIs, and suffered from PTSD from his run-ins with law enforcement. He was in and out of the hospital for years but kept bouncing back. He was not a victim, he insisted, and was managing his condition. We discussed the addiction treatment industrial complex and the depressing state of corporate health care. He was infuriated that our society imprisons addicts instead of cares for them, but despite his experiences, he was still a believer in the American system.

Although I knew that he had made a good deal of bad choices, I primarily remembered him as the man who went out of his way to make a Target run to care for his lonely weirdo TA. I wanted to return that caring, now that I was rid of the dopey unimpressed affectation from years ago.

G.R. Anderson Jr. was an extremely impressive person. When he worked at City Pages, he was the ideal alternatively weekly editor and developed deeply reported stories about communities and topics otherwise overlooked by the toxic positivity of Minnesota media. He trusted absolutely zero politicians except maybe the outspoken former Minnesota governor and ex-wrestler Jesse Ventura. His reporting on the Minneapolis Police Department exposed the city's egregious settlements of police brutality cases years before the murder of George Floyd, challenging the police union and its ongoing acceptance of outright violent behavior. 

As a teacher, he shared everything he learned at Columbia and more with eager journalism students and approached his work seriously, with empathy. He taught the practice of reporting, even when it wasn't directly in the curriculum. In our editing class, he described real-life newsroom editorial situations that I'd never encountered as a lowly copy editor. He loved a short, declarative sentence; espoused the value of scene in narrative journalism; and insisted that I read everything I wrote one last time before sending.

As a drummer, he played thousands of shows and was a session musician to greats. During our off years, he cohosted an extremely popular radio show. Later, he developed new songs with his band The Ardent Spirits and continued to write about his plentiful harrowing and hilarious experiences.

But alcoholism is hard to beat, especially when living your values leaves you without much extra cash, and he relapsed many times.

Regardless of health, the various avenues for gainful employment for a man like G.R. dwindled as he aged. In the 1990s you could make a living as a working session drummer and freelance alt-weekly writer. But all the print magazines have folded, and across the board there aren't many positions open for middle-aged people with well-documented chronic health problems. Adjunct teaching has garbage pay rates. Local music scenes have been decimated by music industry consolidation and endlessly diminishing royalties from streaming. Although the pandemic is over, very few people get out to rock shows just to check out some new bands, and Jerry's music wasn't really ripe for social media promotion. 

In early 2023 I sent a message to G.R. about some claptrap in the newspaper about journalism and objectivity. Objectivity is a myth! I argued. He was willing to listen and to discuss, even if he was a staunch believer in the old rules of journalism and American news values. We began talking regularly, long conversations in the middle of the day. We talked about writing and music, and he told me more stories, mostly about his rock n roller days but a few about the reporter years.

I added him to my music newsletter, where he became a Reply Guy and affectionately antagonized my taste. Unlike other internet writers, I very much enjoy Reply Guys because why else are we writing if not to receive replies? Jerry was the best kind of replier: brief, occasionally complimentary, and always sharp.

At one point, he brought up David Lee Roth. "I know you think it's cock rock," he said, "but give a listen."

I was shocked he remembered my dismissal of his favorite band from 15 years ago. Before that conversation, I had been unsure whether he even knew which former student he was talking with, but his memory was sharper than he let on.

So as a middle-aged person, I gave Van Halen another shot. Being open-minded and not giving a fuck is one of the best parts of middle age. Van Halen sounds wild and free. David Lee Roth is goofy and fun. I understand how one might prefer that exuberance to the dirge-like and cynical Radiohead.

During the past year, we became close as his illness worsened. We continued our tradition of listening to the other's jukebox picks, texting our favorite songs back and forth multiple times a week. 

And I saw in him roads not taken, career dreams that would never pan out for either of us. We were/are the same in many ways. Both of us had a penchant for running straight into difficult situations and a tendency to disagree, loudly. We both thought that talent, craft, and tenacity matter. We valued honesty, even when it appeared rude or even hurtful to others. As long as we could maintain our freedom and be heard, a little discomfort didn't matter.

He was deeply supportive of my work most days. When I was a graduate student, I didn't take myself seriously, but he did, and that resonated even during the years when we weren't in touch. Sure, there were days in the past year when he called me a "slave to Google," but backed off when I reminded him that I worked for myself. Even when he wasn't familiar with the concepts in The Content Technologist, he insisted that he enjoyed the writing and editing. 

"I read every word you write," he said. Whether or not it was true, it was catnip, especially coming from someone I considered a talented mentor and a great writing teacher.

Reading the memorial Facebook messages that have been trickling in, I get the feeling that he lifted others up in the same way. Yes, he could be challenging and quite loud with his opinions. He did all the wrong things in contemporary communication, mansplained and talked over everyone. He called in various states of mind during the most productive hours of weekday mornings and wouldn't use a calendar even when I begged him. But he was genuinely trying to be a good person, to understand other people, to be heard, and to find a way to fit in, even when he was outright rejected.

During the summer he told me he was looking for jobs. I said that I wished he would focus on his health. He mentioned that maybe he could do some work for me. I laughed a little too loud.

"Why not?" he wondered, not angry, genuinely curious.

"Your irascible personality doesn't really make for a collaborative work environment." It was as nice as I could be in the moment.

"Yeah, but that's part of it. That's part of the whole Jerry package."

"Doesn't mean I don't enjoy our conversations. The whole Jerry package is fantastic for friendship."

He paused, considerate, then started, "Have I ever told you about the time I met Mick Jagger?"


G.R. Anderson Jr., passed away on February 10, 2024, at the age of 53. He was a mentor and my friend.

At the jukebox with G.R. Anderson Jr
At the jukebox with G.R. Anderson Jr · Playlist · 437 songs · 2 likes

Every song G.R. sent me over the past year, with a few of the songs I sent back that he appreciated. It's almost 30 hours of music, meant to be played on shuffle.

Some selected stories by G.R. Anderson Jr.:

Thanks to RacketMN for digging through the Wayback Machine to find some of these.