Sunday, November 29, 2009

Farewell, Mike

I got the phone call from somebody at the office who had seen it on the wire: Mike Penner had died in Southern California at age 52. The Los Angeles Times obit, written by Keith Thursby, is here.

Former Timesman Ross Newhan remembers Mike here. And Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register writes about him here.

Pretty much everybody in the business knows Mike's story, and it's literally a "I'll never forget" moment when he wrote the column heard round the world. I was on the golf course and got about 10 calls to my cell phone. Not much point in rehashing it.

I just remember Mike as one of the finest writers I have ever worked with, an extremely creative mind who came up with some of the best lines I've ever read or heard. But they were never forced in his columns; they always worked. And he was a good person.

I'll also remember Mike's annual holiday gift to some of his friends, his KPEN compilation of that year's best alternative (I'm hoping that's the right word; some of it was admittedly beyond me) music. I was kind of sad the first year I didn't get one after moving back to Florida, but I understood. I was kind of out of the circle.

I can't really even begin to imagine what he has gone through in the past few years -- well, I guess it's more a lifetime -- and to me, saying "perhaps he has finally found peace," while well-intentioned, doesn't quite fit. I wish he had found it while he was still with us instead.