13 June 2012: Ed Quillen was master of his craft

Ed Quillen was master of his craft

Long-time Denver Post columnist Ed Quillen died last week.  Ed was as irreverent as they come, that is when it comes to establishment hypocrites.  Ed was an unabashed liberal.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ed once.  He was a guest on KYGT.  He drove over from Salida for that very purpose.  To say I was honored is to make an understatement.

The topic: potential for rail—old-style or hi-tech—through the I-70 Corridor.  Ed had written that due to the grade it’s an impossible dream.  I took him to task, and with guests Jo Ann Sorensen and Randy Wheelock we engaged in a stimulating on-air conversation.

Before or after the show, I treated him to dinner at the Buffalo and was mesmerized.  Over the years, I’ve interviewed big names including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Sen. Mark Udall, and Gov. John Hickenlooper.  The time spent with Ed ranks tops for several reasons.  The primary one: He went out of his way to visit Clear Creek.  The rest were here for ulterior motives: They were running for office.

There was genuineness with Ed.  He was present and engaging, not aloof or careful.

Intellectually, one knew he/she was at a distinct disadvantage.  The wheels in his head were constantly turning, and like being outplayed by a superior chess player, one sensed Ed was three moves ahead of you.

Ed knew history.  He devoured it.  He was not burdened with the need to regurgitate what was served up by the winners.  Ed was a veritable Colorado embodiment of Mark Twain.

Ed wrote with soul and passion without being overbearing.  There was edginess to his message, which cut to the quick and often to the bone.  Those on the receiving end could only sputter and cough.  A fun part was reading letters in response to his point.  Outraged and indignant voices castigated him, but they never laid a glove on him.  I like that.

Like the late Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes, he mastered his craft by being himself.  When one read his pieces, the reader knew he/she was looking into his soul.

I’ve been told by readers they detect “wistfulness’ in my writing.  The comments are intriguing in that I’m unable to put my finger on the precise meaning of that notion.  It’s both frustrating—left brain in action—yet fascinating—right brain rising.

So when I consume, ingest writers such as Ed—syndicated conservative columnist Kathleen Parker likewise comes to mind—I try to ascertain the reason their writing is so engaging and come up short, for I’m trying to filter and process that which dwells in the realm of art: elusive, intangible, and stuff of the gods.

Ed died at age 61, a victim of a heart attack.  He had, according to the account in the Denver Post, just cleaned up his office and settled into his easy chair with a historical work in preparation for his next piece.

I can picture every movement.  It is now 1:56 AM on the morning of Thursday, June 7 and here I am, pecking away at my computer.  At 2:00 AM, when the rest of my local world sleeps, ideas flow freely.  I have the ether to myself.

Passionate writers approach their craft not as a chore but with pleasure.  There’s a Zen to it.  Not all pieces such as this one flow.  We experience writer’s block when ideas are locked, frustration with finding the right word or phrasing.

I reflect upon the description Hillary Clinton gave of Bill when he writes, of how he can work, rework, and then rework a line seemingly ad infinitum.  When I read that, I said, “Yeah, I get it.”

Writing is a gift.  When forced or belabored, the reader knows it and finds it tiresome.

With the passing of Ed Quillen, the Denver Post is now depleted of gifted writers having fired Mike Littwin.  Sorry, the writings of Vincent Carroll, David Harsanyi, and especially Mike Rosen are dry, boring, dull lectures.  They’re no fun to read.

Accordingly, the end of Ed is not only a loss for his family and friends it’s one for thoughtful Coloradans thirsting for well-constructed literary pieces in their media.

While I’m saddened by his death, I feel blessed given I’ve experienced the richness of his writing and am able to appreciate it, because for me, as it was for Ed, good writing inherently flows from the soul.

Rest in peace, friend.

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