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Lifetime piling up

By LOU PAPINEAU  |  October 16, 2014

A few personal highlights: In the early days, I talked with hundreds of musicians: Paul Westerberg, Laurie Anderson, Warren Zevon, Michael Stipe and Peter Buck of R.E.M., Richard Thompson, the Edge, Grace Slick, the guy with the hair from A Flock of Seagulls, and Billy Zoom of X, who gave me one quotable line — “We make stuff up and play it.” And we got to champion a few of them: we put Marshall Crenshaw on the cover — twice; I gave the Hold Steady 4.5 pages (and it’s not musical, but I wish we had done an Orphan Black cover). We assembled poignant tributes to Randy Hein and David Lamb, pillars of the local music scene who passed too soon. In 2010, I got the staff at AS220 (whose empire now includes the Washington Street building where the NewPaper was launched) to go up on their roof :

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And for the last three years, I got to write about beer; thanks to all the folks who answered my constant queries and shared their brew-related opinions in the survey pieces. (And one last Bottles & Cans & Clap Your Hands note: Grey Sail’s new double IPA, Captain’s Daughter, is damn good.) Cheers!

An old and dear friend got right to the point: “Heard the news this morning about the Phoenix. What are you going to do?” After I clean out the desk and dump piles of pulp into the recycling bins, I’m going to try to do nothing for two or three days. Since 1980, every week has been defined by a deadline.

I just did the math: this is my 1809th issue as managing editor (the NewP debuted on 3.8.78; my first piece, an interview with Rachel Sweet, ran in July ’79; I did some typesetting and had the East Bay route before getting the editing gig). And I never missed an issue (even after a Major Medical Procedure; I have years of unused vacation time). That’s a whole lotta editing, image-gathering, headline-writing, and cover-making. Yay, journalism!

The inbox is stuffed with condolences and thanks from colleagues and reps from dance companies, arts organizations, bands, etc., all saying boo-hoo and wishing well. And the social media reaction to the demise of the Providence Phoenix has also been touching and heartfelt and greatly appreciated.

What we did mattered to people — getting their band in the listings, getting in 8 Days a Week (thank you, Jim Macnie, for thousands of stellar entries and spirited music writing), winning a Best Music Poll award (I’m gonna miss spray painting the gold records), and getting cited as The Best. At the back end of the hundreds of hours that went into those issues — when “Best” was a four-letter epithet — all of the work was worth it to see how happy the winners were at our Best events (and to subsequently see the Best stickers and Best awards proudly displayed all over the state).

We also honored Local Heroes in the Best issues, welcomed inductees into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, and covered our lively and quirky and vital little corner of the world week in and week out. We done good.

(And here’s the parenthetical note re: how the paper has shaped my life beyond the 1809 issues. It has been the throughline for everything, and I have the family, friends, and memories to prove it and cherish forever.)

Music is my other throughline — it brought me to the NewP, it brings the noise all day, every day (I forced Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 on the production crew when we worked on weekends; we also spent thousands of hours with WBRU), and it has connected me with new friends (and writers) through the miracle of streaming radio. So let’s leave with a couple of lyrics for the ages.

From the Schemers’ “Remember” (thanks for music and friendship, Mark):

Please don’t forget [our] name

You never really die if your memory’s alive

And, from the Hold Steady:

’Cause it’s one thing to start it with a positive jam

And it’s another thing to see it on through

And we couldn’t have even done this, if it wasn’t for you

We gotta stay positive

Amen.

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