In 1989, a publisher sent me on a modest book tour, which included a day in San Francisco.
There I was taken around town by a media escort named Kathi Kamen Goldmark, one of the most charming people I have ever met.
From then on, every time I pecked away on a book I did so with the ultimate goal of once again being driven around The City by this interesting lady who knew the parking spaces, the back doors, the on-air “talent” and where to hang out for coffee between appointments in the city by the bay.
Over the years Goldmark organized the writers’ rock band, the Rock Bottom Remainders, and wrote her own book, and generally became more of a star than some wordy doofs like me she had escorted.
It was a jolt to read her obituary in The Times on Sunday after she passed on May 24, of breast cancer. I will always have the vivid memory of chatting about books, Steely Dan, New York, the ‘60’s, and maybe even a bit of discreet gossip about other authors who had sat in my seat.
Her passing reminds me of the episodic life journalists lead. Particularly at The Times, we have doors opened for us, we are taken inside, we meet people for an hour or two, and then we write our impressions – and we always remember that one encounter.
Just off the top of my head I can think of some epic people I interviewed and essentially never met again – The Dalai Lama (just to drop a name), Colleen Dewhurst (on matinee day), Tony Blair (I knocked on No. 10 and just went in, pre-arranged, of course), Ronee Blakley (the lead in the Altman movie Nashville), Joyce Carol Oates (she had a boxing book going), Ruud Gullit (the great Dutch footballer, in a restaurant outside Genoa) and Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, the boxer who was doing time in New Jersey (“for something that he never done,” as Dylan put it; the guard offered me a seat on a spare electric chair in the waiting room, but I declined.)
What I’ve learned is that these singular events do not come around again, although other singular events do. While pushing my Musial book in 2011 I had the distinct delight of being driven around one day by Elaine Bly, master St. Louis media escort, with her Tennessee accent and her BMW.
Carpe diem. Enjoy the time. My condolences to Kathi’s family, friends, band mates, and all the one-day wonders like me, who had the pleasure of meeting her.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.