One of the weird things about having been around the blawgosphere for a long time is that you know people from back when, and people who stumbled onto the internet later can’t understand how friendships came about given their current impressions of personas. I’ve been friends with Mike Cernovich since his blawg Crime & Federalism, long before his Gorilla fame on twitter.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Elie Mystal, who found his way onto Above the Law back when it was funny and relevant by winning ATL Idol. The commentariat there spent a good deal of time kicking Elie in the butt, as he (like me) became renowned for his typos, and I came to Elie’s defense for two reasons. First, he was brutally smart and hysterically funny. Second, I like Elie and he was a friend.
This wasn’t about just the online persona, but the guy. We’ve sat together in real life. We’ve imbibed an alcoholic beverage or two. Whether he likes me, I can’t say, especially since he was invited to join me at Casa de SJ and ultimately told me he just couldn’t be bothered. But I like Elie.
Who is the guy? I did a Cross of Elie for Fault Lines, but this came after ATL took its dive down the social justice rabbit hole. Lat had sold. Kash Hill had gone legit. Joe Patrice found his first paying job and Elie was The Man. And Elie made the most of it, going from funny black man to angry black man. Then really angry black man. Some folks loved Elie’s polemics. Others were put off by some of their less sound arguments. Through it all, he was still Elie to me. He’s allowed to be wrong, and he’s allowed to think I am too.
But yesterday, Elie announced his ATL gig was done. His “Departure Memo” was very on brand for Elie, setting out a list of societal grievances without a hint about why he’s leaving or where he’s going. He’s going somewhere, even if he doesn’t know quite where yet. We always thought he was ripe for a cable talk show that would reflect his gregarious personality and outrageous sense of humor. Maybe that’s in the works. Maybe he’ll even give me a call to play the tepid white Colmes to his vehement black Hannity. It could happen.
Whatever happened and wherever he goes, he’s still Elie, my old buddy, whether he likes me or hates me. I wish him godspeed as he moves to Elie 4.0, and my invitation still stands.