Yesterday was May 30 - opening day for the Sex and the City movie that I have been drooling over for a year. Although I have only been to one (1) movie since Jane was born - the U23D movie - I was sure that I would be there for SATC the first day it opened, cosmo in hand, girl posse in tow.
Instead, I found myself at my friend Ken's wake last night. This was my former co-worker at The Record Journal, a mid-sized daily newspaper I used to write for after I got out of college. I did an internship there for Ken during my final semester, and after subsequently graduating and writing freelance stories and obits for a few months, I got a full-time reporter's gig covering arts and entertainment. And, yes, it was just about as awesome as you can imagine - free concerts, meals at restaurants, all the CDs you could imagine, tickets to shows, you name it - I covered it.
I sat right next to Ken for most of my time there. And when I say "next to," I mean "right next to." Newsrooms are not like the spacious ones you see on TV or in movies, at least not where I worked. It was just clusters of desks shoved together and a constant hum of phones ringing, interviews happening, scanners buzzing, and people talking.
Ken was one of several bosses I had during my time there, and he really was a phenomenal editor. His knowledge of the area we covered was unmatched. He grew up there, and knew everyone and everything about what we observed and recorded every day. I could go on and on, but truly, the thing I'll remember most about Ken is that he was freaking hilarious. He was one of the most sarcastic people I have ever known - a sarcasm mentor, if you will - and we laughed all. the. time. Sure, many times it was at my own expense, but I was constantly getting into trouble back then, and Ken had commentary for it all.
We had about a million inside jokes, many of which were ran through my head over the past several days. And over and over again this week, I found myself shaking my head. I couldn't believe he was gone. And I figured last night at the wake it would all sink in. But I still can't believe it. I really can't.
I know it must seem strange to be mourning someone who I haven't worked with for almost eight years. I did stay in contact with Ken, and most recently saw him about a year ago, he making fun of my ginormous pregnancy belly, and I ranking on him for wearing a tie to work (Ken was not known for his fancy attire) and his new office (with a door!), because he had just received a promotion.
But Ken was the reason I ever became a journalist. He was the reason I ever got paid to write. He taught me so much - a sentiment that was echoed by so many people at the service last night, whether by rookie reporters or the many hockey players that he coached that were in attendance. And by people like me - people who left the business nearly a decade ago but left a bit of herself in that newsroom.
I left the newspaper in late 2000 not because I didn't love it - because I did - and not because I wasn't good at it - because I was. I left because 10 months earlier my father had passed away, and I realized that I couldn't live a 24/7 newspaper life that was required of you if you were a reporter. It was very difficult to make plans, because you didn't know if you would be covering a story. I missed many birthday parties and holidays at the expense of a story. After my father died I knew I didn't want to miss out on another second of my life, so I made the jump. I sold out, as one not-so-close former co-worker put it.
Whenever I visited the newsroom after I left, Ken and I always fell right back into our jokey banter, as if I'd never left. But now he's really gone - and I still think I'll be shaking my head for a long, long time.