This past weekend, friend and fellow author Carl Brown passed away. Although we’d lost touch over the years, he’s someone I’ll always remember, and I wanted to share these memories.
I first met Carl shortly after moving to Louisville, Kentucky from Wisconsin. A then-mutual friend asked if I wanted to go to a party Carl was hosting. I said why not, and we went to a house in the Highlands I would later learn Carl called Sanctuary. I don’t remember if I was nervous about attending a party where I didn’t know anyone, but Carl made me feel welcome.
For Carl, Sanctuary was more than a name. He was bipolar, and open about his diagnosis. His living room/office walls were covered with charts depicting his mood swings. Depression seemed the most prevalent, and he would take to bed, spending the time sleeping and reading.
He didn’t let that stop him from seeing I suffered from depression and urging me to get help. I’m much better, and while I probably resented him initially, I see where he was coming from and am grateful he cared.
Carl had two loves: judo and chess. A judo instructor, he achieved the title Shihan (Master Instructor). He was also a master at chess. I think we came to a draw one time in the few times I played the game with him.
He obtained a law degree from Vanderbilt University, and was a Jefferson County Commissioner. Carl used his experience as a lawyer and martial artist to pen articles in Black Belt Magazine and write The Law and Martial Arts. His fiction included Bethlehem Baby and Blackstone: The Antichrist (which included Bethlehem Baby), both religious fantasies. While not a church-going Christian when I first met him, Carl would eventually find his way to Highland Baptist Church in the Highlands. Before then, his Sundays were filled listening to the soundtrack of Jesus Christ, Superstar. I wonder if he saw the John Legend version this past Easter Sunday.
He also wrote a column as “The Plain Brown Rapper” for LEO Weekly, Louisville’s alternative newspaper, and hosted The Plain Brown Rapper interview show on then-cable station TKR’s public access channel. About ten years later, Carl was back on local TV, this time with Carl Brown’s Reality, a show we worked on together. It aired on then TV station WYCS. He interviewed local politicians, artists, advocates, among other members of the Louisville community, and I videotaped and edited each episode. We even worked on a short film, “The Art Thief,” that would later be compiled on a DVD of short films included in the book $30.00 Film School (2nd edition) by independent filmmaker Michael Dean.
Carl’s friendship has meant a lot to me over the years. He was even instrumental in my meeting my husband, James. Carl was a witness, along with James’s son, at our wedding at the Hall of Justice. (We were married in a judge’s chambers.)
I can’t speak for other people’s experiences, but for me, Carl Brown was one of the nicest, most helpful people I’ve ever met. His loss is a tragic one. Requiescat in Pace.