PROVIDENCE JOURNAL REPORTER
One week in 1996, the Phoenix personals carried an ad for a 23-year-old “outdoorsy” redhead. I was just coming off a disappointing relationship with someone “my age,” so I figured, “What the heck. It could be fun hanging around with someone almost 10 years younger than me.”
We agreed to meet at Cafe Paragon on Thayer Street.
The night before our date, she frantically tried to dye her chocolate-brown hair red.
I walked into the restaurant and saw her at the bar. Model gorgeous. Way out of my league. We had dinner. Most excruciating date in history. We barely said three words to each other. After dinner, we went to Trinity Brewhouse for drinks. More silent torture. Turns out that by “outdoorsy” she meant that she went outdoors almost every day. Like from the house to the car to the mall.
For reasons that defy explanation, we made a second date, which didn’t go a whole lot better than the first. That led to a third date, which led to a Florida beach at dawn on the first day of spring the next year. What better time and place to pop the question to an “outdoorsy” girl?
More than 18 years after those few lines of ink in the Phoenix, we have two spectacular sons. Two boys who owe their life to a newspaper that, sadly, is at the end of its own life.
PHOENIX CONTRIBUTOR SINCE 1983
A thriving arts culture not only deserves but demands the kind of press coverage that the NewPaper/Providence Phoenix provided during its 36-year run. From the Chorus of Westerly (yay, George Kent!) to the blues and jazz in Woonsocket (take a bow, Chan’s), I kept my eye on the state’s musical events for the most part. But music is politics and politics is theater and theater is storytelling and storytelling is at the heart of visual art — and yep, they’re all connected if viewed correctly.
Rhode Island, a compact and confounding place, has always provided audiences with plenty of the above, and our little weekly was heroic when it came to expanding the coverage of plays, exhibits, films, concerts, and festivals and legislation that La Prov’s statewide daily shrugged off as being too insignificant. I’d sometimes look at an issue and be amazed that all the key events of a very packed week were represented, from a Wisconsin skronk outfit’s Club Babyhead blast to an avant-garde film fest at the Cable Car. That’s important stuff, and it made me feel proud to be part of a squad that had their eye on the ball.
Whether questioning the nogoodniks in office (y’all ain’t really thinking of putting Buddy back in power now are ya? C’mon, guys. . .) or beating the drums for an adventurous show at Perishable Theater, the editors and their writers made sure Rhode Island felt a bit more alive. Enthusiastic previews, post-gig critiques — all that coverage helped animate the action across the state. Lou Papineau is an under-heralded linchpin in this impressive achievement — he had his hand on the wheel since 1980, and refined each issue with his insight, clarity, and stamina (in some quarters it’s known as The LouPaper). Applause goes his way from me in particular — Lou gave my byline a major boost early on.
Nope, given the state of global print media, it’s not shocking that the end has arrived. But it is infuriating. Culture-wise, there are plenty of vital new characters in action these days and the Phoenix won’t be around to shine a light on their work. Here’s to all those they celebrated, and here’s to the power of teamwork that made doing so such a blast.
MUSICIAN, FORMER PHOENIX DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL PROJECTS [NASHVILLE, TN]
The loss of the Phoenix has been weighing heavily the past few days. It’s easy to move away from home with the naive expectation that nothing will change while you’re gone. You secretly hope that your friends will still be at the same bars, keeping a seat warm and a beer cold in case you might stop in. Coming to the realization that there won’t be another Phoenix waiting in my mailbox or another chance to hound Lou and Chris about a covering a show is going to take a while to sink in.
I left my desk eight months ago, and while my career at the Phoenix was rather short, it made a lasting impact on my life. It was my first job with health insurance and a steady paycheck. It helped me find stability while chasing freedom, I was never told no to an idea, never asked to not go on a tour, even when it meant someone would have to pick up the slack while I was gone, and when I decided to leave the state, my fellow staffers at the Phoenix helped me with that final push of courage to take a risk.
For me the Phoenix will always represent freedom. The articles and writers never held back for the sake of keeping everyone happy; the Phoenix either was your paper or it wasn’t. It was the voice of the counter culture, the forward thinkers, the artists, musicians, writers, hippies, and rebels who make our state so great.
Times change, economies change, and next trip home there will be one less thing to look forward to. But the ideas the paper represented, our little corner of the world that the paper tried its best to capture each week — that will live on forever.
Thank you for being our voice for so many years.
PHOENIX CONTRIBUTOR SINCE 2008 [KANSAS CITY, MO]
“You have to ask David Byrne if that arm chopping motion he did was an homage to his days slinging wieners in Providence.”
“I’m from Kansas City, Lou. I don’t even know what that means.”
So I asked it.
I learned, quite forcefully, that it was not such an homage.
But contributing occasionally to the Providence Phoenix gave me the pleasure of talking to David Byrne about slinging wieners in Providence, talking to Beck about the primordial ooze of Newport folk, and talking to Bill Flanagan about the thrill of working for this rag back in the days when black ink actually produced black ink. It gave me the chance to get a glimpse into the life of a city that values it wieners, its music, its books and, above all, its distinct and true Providence-ness.
My first assignment here, from Lou Papineau, the paper’s managing editor, was to deliver 1400 words on the Hold Steady’s then-new album, Stay Positive, because he thought it was a great and important record, and he thought you should know about it. For those who know little about publishing, know this: that’s insane. Nobody does that. And now nobody will. Which is a shame because real illumination often requires more than 140 characters and clickbait headlines.
Stay positive, Providence. The pleasure has been mine.