Because of a long-planned trip to England, I was unable to attend the memorial to Michael Rosenthal or to join my voice with those who said so many wonderful and completely true things about him in the edition following his death. I correct that situation now by writing the column I had hoped to never write.
Without Peggy Clifford, the first editor of The Mirror, I would have never had this column or worked for Michael Rosenthal. Mike would understand that my tribute to him begins with a deeply felt thank-you to Peggy for what continues to be one of the most satisfying experiences of my adult life; the writing of this op-ed piece every week since 2002. Peggy and Mike didn’t always see things the same way, and yet they did because they both loved this city of Santa Monica.
Every single day, as his illness steadily kicked back at him, Mike was writing the book on courage and guts. He was battling for more time with his family and as he told me more than once… more memories for both him and his son. You have lunch with a guy who describes traveling to far away places to have exotic treatments in an effort to add more days to his life with his loved ones and your own problems begin to embarrass you. Adult education, the real kind… moves in mysterious ways. Across the table, through the blur of your self-involvement and on into your heart. And thus did Mike Rosenthal become a teacher.
I don’t think he was even cognizant of this precious thing he was doing for all of us, because he was still completely preoccupied with The Mirror and what it could do. Owning and publishing The Mirror was a way Mike could write his life, something that many of us attempt to do with various classes and books and eastern disciplines. Instead of all that, Mike printed a newspaper that was him. The connectivity he felt to other businessmen and the movers and shakers of the city of Santa Monica was beautifully and precisely drawn by means of a small newspaper that many would walk past as copies sat waiting in a pile. But he knew that you, dear reader, would not walk by. And so he kept at it until that last sunrise that he viewed from his home. You were reading The Mirror, so Mike kept publishing it. And because of that, you also had a relationship with Mike.
So let’s talk about that relationship, and what we’re going to do about it to honor Michael Rosenthal. First of all, if you’re reading this column it means you’re about a third of the way through the paper. Keep going. Read all the great stuff still to come. Take note of how Mike worked to make this paper well-rounded and fill it with things like local sports so that it was a real paper of Santa Monica news and not a “shopper” filled with coupons. Do the crossword puzzle, because I swear Mike loved knowing that people did the crossword puzzle. Take the next five minutes you were going to spend playing with your phone or your Blackberry and finish reading this newspaper.
Then tell other people that you often pick up The Santa Monica Mirror and that you read it. Don’t be a closet Mirror fan. Come out, baby! We need you to walk the walk. Newspapers are getting killed like frogs on a rainy stretch of highway. Pick up The Mirror and walk around with it. Use it to gesture or to perhaps gently discipline your pet. But have it with you. Be seen with it. Cite from it when discussing local events. Dare I say, be proud of it. Because there was a great guy that worked like crazy and put his resources on the line so that you could have it.
Every so often Mike took heat from people about this column, and there’s a possibility that more than once it didn’t help advertising sales that I had just been critical of some new improvement or new plans by the city. Mike knew perfectly well that as a comedy writer I could have given him a happy smile, oh those crazy tourists, grin-and-bear-it piece every week. But he defended that I wanted to do more, and he stood up for me. Much as I appreciated all that at a personal level, I don’t think it was ever about me. Because they–whoever “they” might be–were going after the paper. Mike’s paper. The Mirror and Mike were one.
The things that really matter often occur to us too late. We have thoughts we want to share with a parent about a generous and caring gesture that they made years ago. But we can’t because now they’re gone. And so it is that while I tried at least once a year to write something that would indicate to Mike how much I loved my job, I know now that I should have just said it to him a hundred times over when I had the chance. I should have written this entire piece six months ago and then read it aloud to him over lunch. But we didn’t get to that. Maybe because Mike was talking… about all the things he wanted The Mirror to do. Mike… I love my job. Thank you. And there’s this other thing we should have told you, boss: We love you, too.