Technology is amazing when it can bring back the best of the past and press it forward with new life into the future. Now that SoundCloud is here — and is a reliable and robust service — I have finally been able to bring together a series of 12 voicemails Dr. Howard Stein left for me in 2011 — he died a year later at 90 — and, with his expressed permission then, as now, I am able to share them with you to help create an arc of a man and his mind in collaboration.
Here are a few things you should know about our friendship and writing collaboration as these 12 minutes of 12 voicemails unfold:
I always called him back right away.
Howard did not have voicemail, so if he wasn’t home when you called back, you never got any credit for calling when he’d call you back and ask why you didn’t call him back.
Howard and my wife Janna had a very public — and very affectionate — platonic love affair. They often exchanged cards and letters and I think Howard was ultimately more fond of her than he ever was of me. Howard was Deaf in one ear, and Janna was born Deaf — so they both had to struggle to understand others and deal with impatient people and rely on lip-reading. Howard and Janna were highly, and deeply, bonded from the moment they first met in 1987.
You will hear in these voicemails how he did not like our 10txt blog — even though I tried to explain it to him many times that it was an exercise in being concise — sort of like how Rent a Revenge was an exercise in cunning. He didn’t buy it.
Here is Springtime for Howard — I changed the title because it wouldn’t index well.
Here is the Golf article he mentions.
This is the Peter Thiel piece.
There are times when Howard sounds feeble-voiced in these voicemails — and he was struggling with serious degenerative heart disease, but 2011 was a siren song of a year for him with us — he published some of his greatest articles in and around that last active year. Unfortunately, Howard’s 2012 was filled with the worst human terror of never again waking up from the dark.
As you listen to Howard — yes, it’s odd to hear him in my ear again two years after his death — you will immediately understand why he was so beloved by his friends and students and family. Even when he disagreed with you, he was never disagreeable, and he was forever charming. Howard Stein was more than a mentor or a teacher — he was an inspiration and a friend.