Pati and I were different people, headed to different places. Senior year, she was the arts and entertainment editor of The Post and I was the sports editor. We were the back of the book and, as such, competed with each other for space. What A&E got, sports didn’t get and vice versa. It had long been a contentious arrangement that created some bad feelings. This was especially true in the Friday paper, in which A&E ramped up for the weekend events and sports did the same, especially for the heavy sports. Football and basketball always played on Saturdays back then and we ran extensive preview packages.
It was a lot of stuff and sometimes the paper only had six or eight pages.
But Pati and I forged a bond and a friendship. I think we must have worked late nights together on Thursday junior year. I can’t really remember, but I know that I did it all three years I was at the paper and I know we had started being friends before senior year. Crazy nights. The Friday paper was the biggest, always, and a lot of times I was the last one off the floor at 3 or 4 in the morning. Those were the cold press days, when we ran the copy through this machine into sheets of paper, and then waxed them and physically built the pages. Exacto knives, pica poles and proportion wheels were our friends.
Pati and I never argued over space. I had to have candy and always brought lollipops with me and always shared them with her. As I think about it, she was probably my straight man. I was loud and passionate and lacked decorum. I was also very good at what I did, as was she. We just liked to be around each other.
If I was at the paper that year, so was Pati. And I was there 20 or 30 hours or so a week that year, on top of classes and going to games.
We loved it, every moment of it.
As I replayed so much of this in my head yesterday, after learning of her death, I remembered that Pati was the vehicle through which the most intimate story I ever wrote was published.
The Post has long been one of the best student papers in the country and we were riding a high at that time period. We had a four-section paper the first week of classes, with color, and in that spring, not long before graduation, we published a magazine. It wasn’t huge, but it was very well done. It was Pati’s baby. She called it “Groundfloor.” A handful of staffers were doing long pieces for it. She was in the end stages of editing it when a story fell through.. the back page. I’m not sure if the story collapsed or the writer did. But Pati was in a bind. She asked me if I had anything. Hesitantly, I asked, “What about personal experience?”
She took it.
It was an essay I wrote for a godawful magazine class, one of my final journalism credits, taught by a professor that I openly loathed. He graded me not by the papers I turned into him, but by comparing them to my work in the paper which he said was better. He made the mistake of telling me that in front of a witness and I knew I could take him to the ombudsman and get relief. Instead, I turned in a first-person story about the death of my mother. I had, in the nearly four years that had passed since her death, rarely told anyone. I certainly never wrote it down before. But, frankly, I did it out of spite because I knew he’d have to give me the ‘A’ that he had been denying me.
Pati never knew my mom was dead until I gave her that paper. She edited it kindly and I got a lot of responses to it, not a few from strangers.
But Pati was the star and her magazine, printed on this amazing paper, was a huge success. I was happy to help her. I still have several of them stashed in a box. It was ambitious journalism for a bunch of overgrown kids.
Pati went to NY after graduation. I don’t know what she did there, but her life changed when she got hit by a car when crossing a street. She also met Johnny Depp at a party, once. After that, in no particular order, she went to Portland, Me., where she worked for the symphony and eventually returned home to Cincinnati where she worked for the Cincinnati Orchestra. Somewhere along the way she donated one of her kidneys to, I believe, her sister because that was the kind of person Pati was.
I spent a week with her in Maine, in 1992. It was the last time I ever saw her. We had kept touch faithfully for those first six years after school, but life changes and we drifted out of contact.
We reconnected on Facebook several years ago and it was a joy to communicate with her. I was also, finally, able to return a book she had lent me, ‘The Golden Notebook.’ I’m so glad I was able to get it back to her. Pati enjoyed my posts about my daughter. She didn’t post much and sometimes vanished for a while.
When I read her obituary, a sparse, terrible thing that didn’t come close to capturing the person I knew her to be, a button popped up to donate to the National Kidney Foundation. So I did.
I cannot believe she’s dead.