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Reporter remembers a reader who replied to all his stories for 17 years


For 17 years, one reader commented on everything that Houston Chronicle entertainment writer Andrew Dansby published. They only met twice, but Dansby received an email from reader Steve Goertz nearly every week, largely about music, but also other things. And then a few weeks ago, Dansby heard from Steve's family that he'd passed away from cancer. He wrote a piece for the Houston Chronicle remembering their correspondence, and he joins us now to talk about it.

Hey, thank you for being here, and I'm so sorry for your loss.

ANDREW DANSBY: Thank you so much for having me. I keep deflecting condolences to his family. He was a special guy, and I miss him, and I know they do also.

SUMMERS: Now, you cover entertainment and culture broadly, but as I understand, Steve mostly wanted to email you initially about music. What kind of things did y'all talk about?

DANSBY: A lot of sort of his sweet spot was country music and roots music, Americana. But, you know, I did find that he would always respond to everything, even if it was a strange, avant garde jazz thing or a classical piece, or even things in film and theater and visual arts. He just always sent a note to let me know that he was kind of reading that and he was interested.

SUMMERS: Was there anything that you felt was unique about Steve as a music listener?

DANSBY: I think that sort of open-eared approach. I don't have the studies in front of me, but I've read enough of them to say that, you know, in our 30s, typically, we stop seeking the new. And it is hard to keep up with music because the things we know and like and that are familiar - they comfort us. My daughter brings me music, and I listen to all of it. And some of it, I love, and some of it, I like, and some of it, I nod. And Steve just had a very polite way of nodding, I think, for some of my more far-flung tastes and inclinations.

SUMMERS: I wonder if you can share a little bit about what Steve was like to you. What did he do? What kind of person was he?

DANSBY: I'm sort of operating off of just email exchanges, for the most part. There was an in-store show at the local Cactus Music record store here. That was the first time I met him, and it was interesting 'cause he wasn't super chatty. There was a gentle stoicism there, this ability to engage and interact and to speak frankly and emotionally but without sort of the theatrics (laughter). And so through this, I mean, I was constantly getting updates about his health. I think there the stoicism probably was greater than I knew, in that he would go over scans and tests. And he always put a positive spin on those, but I could kind of tell things weren't going great, you know, until the end when I heard from his family.

SUMMERS: Andrew, are there any songs you'll be listening to in his memory or things that he particularly loved?

DANSBY: A lot of times when I'm feeling mopey about somebody who's left us - and I mean, after the past two years, that's - it's a more recurring theme than not - I go to a lot of this ambient, minimalist music - William Basinski because I wrote about him years ago and Steve responded that - hadn't heard of the guy, didn't know his music, found it interesting, and then responded later that he found it actually quite engaging and compelling.

SUMMERS: That's Houston Chronicle entertainment writer Andrew Dansby remembering his friend and reader Steve Goertz. Andrew, thank you for sharing with us.

DANSBY: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.