Monday, October 15, 2007

Goddamn it, MEB

May 2007 photo by William Rodarmor.

An old and dear friend -- someone I always admired and was sometimes a bit scared of -- has died, I learned today. Marjorie Ellen Baer. She was 53, and she suffered from brain cancer. All day long my own brain has been flooded with images and thoughts of her, someone I met 31 years ago in Washington. Someone I lived with in Adams-Morgan as we both muddled through grad school. Someone I relied on when I ventured west. I stopped to see her in New Mexico, where she lived on the Laguna Pueblo, and then absolutely mooched off her when she landed at 545 Frederick. Visiting her is really how I got to know San Francisco well, walking endlessly, meeting her SF pals and exploring odd corners with her.

Later, I had landed a job at IDG, and at some point she came in as a freelance editor -- a copyeditor at first, though of course she was capable of much more (as I think most good copyeditors are). She moved up at Macworld and then eventually on to Peachpit, where she really made her mark as executive editor and acquisitions editor.

But this was years later than our original connection. By the time she moved from the Haight to Berkeley she had blossomed into a bona fide Whole Person with a Real Life -- something I usually felt I hadn't quite mastered. She was in a long-term book group. She was an instinctive cook. She read far more than I did -- and remembered everything she read. She had a sharp and encompassing sensibility for art of all kinds. She traveled to interesting places and absorbed them fully. She had strong opinions about many things. All of this marked her as a somewhat daunting person to me, though of course her mien was far from daunting.

When we reconnected after years of absence, we finally got to see each other's houses -- we'd both managed to become Bay Area homeowners (no small feat). Hers was as homey and unpretentious as all her previous homes, of course. Once we met at Pt Isabel to walk Mika (a longtime cat owner, she was as delighted by dogs as any canine fan I know). Another time we toured Alice Waters' garden for kids at the school near her place. And last July we exchanged notes about finally having an in person visit when she felt better.

I meant to get over after she'd been sick, and I didn't. I just -- didn't. Every reason sounds lame now, but I was waiting for her to let me know it was OK to come. She wasn't one you could fly to and start with the heavy-duty caretaking. She couldn't stand that.

There are so few people around from that era of my life -- and even fewer whose interests and beliefs continued to mesh with mine, that cover the same territory. I'm just -- heartsick. Knowing her and knowing she's gone makes me want to change many things in my life. Because she made her life work. She was one of the few people I always looked up to. And now I do even more. Goddamn it.

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