When the weather warms up like it has here in Southern Cali, I start thinking it's margarita:30 time. But more than this, my mind also wonders back to a time in the early and mid part of my newspaper career. A time of collaboration like I have yet to see again. A time when people's strengths weren't ignored but nurtured. A time when a "working" manager, was exactly that and respected all the more for it. And it makes me miss it. It makes me miss her, especially.
I miss her, Miss Lisa, as we fondly called her. I miss her smile. I miss the goofy confused look on her face when she didn't like something but was trying to hide it. I miss working with someone of such great integrity and insight. I miss her "Boy, howdy's!" and "You betcha's!" and "Praise the Baby Fifa's!" and her denim skorts with socks and Birkenstocks and her low-key, mellow demeanor, even under pressure.
Yes, I think of her often.
But most especially, I think of her every time I decide to make a margarita at home. As a matter of fact, the Waring blender I use to make them I bought for one of our first shoots together for the food section. It sits on my counter. A constant reminder of an incredible woman.
Lisa was a visual manager at the newspaper back in the mid-90s. I was on the photo desk, working as a photo editor and illustrator in Features. I had the opportunity to work with her first when she was designing pages. I cherish the times we spent in the studio, lying on our belly's in the middle of the floor, sketch pads in hand drawing and brainstorming Food section presentations: she as designer, me as photographer of the projects. We made a good team.
Then again, she made a good team out of anyone she worked with. She was elevated to Features Design Editor and that's when we, her team, really took flight. Her faith in my illustrating abilities gave me the courage to truly flex my talents. Under her guidance, I gained a reputation like I had never experienced before. She guided without the need to thumbprint all over the work. We weren't her technicians, executing her ideas. Instead, she was our mentor, our teacher, guiding us to be the best versions of ourselves. And everyone who knew her, felt the same way about her.
She loved and appreciated her staff. She would hold, "We made it through (fill in the blank)" parties at her house. Often, she would host just the ladies, too. We'd tell stories, watch Almodóvar films and black & white classics with newspaper themes. And we'd drink beers or share her awesome margaritas out on her deck overlooking the San Diego Harbor.
Lisa moved on from San Diego, to the LA Times for a spell before heading out to the midwest. But we kept in touch, here and there. Not nearly as much as I would have liked. But life, well, life can get in the way, can't it?
Until it's too late. Too late to call. Too late to write. Too late to catch up.
Lisa left us a few years ago. A rare form of cancer. It left a gaping hole in most of us, no matter how much time had passed since we were in each other's presence.
So, during this warm weather spell, as I sit and sip, I raise my margarita glass up in a toast to you, Miss Lisa. In your honor, I share with the world the margarita recipe you taught me and know with a certainty that you wouldn't mind.
Peace be with you, my dear, dear friend.
(Find the recipe here.)
Until next time...