Last Friday night I attended the P-I Farewell Party at the Ballard Elks Club with my good friend Karen Sykes. We really weren't sure what to expect. Initially, I was excited at the thought of getting to meet some of the people I've admired over the many years I have enjoyed the paper. I also looked forward to meeting up with some of the individuals I have worked and conversed with in recent years.
As the date approached, a certain uneasiness set in. I began to feel awkward about it. Most of these people were now unemployed and probably didn't have a whole lot to be happy about. This was a goodbye party. It was personal for them. If they wanted to cry over a beer or two or five, they deserved to do so amongst the privacy of friends and colleagues.
Well, the worry was much ado about nothing. What a festival! Karen and I arrived and were immediately greeted by John Engstrom, whom Karen has worked with for years. While we chatted, David Horsey's laugh caught my ears as he joked nearby. He was in a tux and enjoying mingling with others.
Art Thiel also sported a tux and seemed to be enjoying himself as he shook hands with old acquaintances. As an avid sports fan, I have read Art's columns for as long as I can remember. Of course, as I peered up at his 6'7"ish frame, all preconceived notions about what he looked like went out the window! All except his mug, of course.
Greg Johns and John Hickey were also present. Probably not a good time to talk about the M's and spring training though. Rain check?
As Karen and I made our way through the crowd, John Owen politely grabbed her arm to chat. Wow, John Owen! His smile was infectious.
Jean Godden was there too. What a powerful presence she had. She seemed a goddess amongst her own, and attracted a crowd wherever she went.
Soon the band started up and it was David Horsey belting out the Ramone's "I Wanna be Sedated", followed by "Twist and Shout". You could see how much fun he was having with the room!
What an event! I would estimate attendance around 1,200 - 1,500, and most all seemed to just be enjoying the evening and the opportunity to reacquaint with old co-workers. If there was anyone missing in attendance, I have no idea who.
As we continued to work our way through the crowd, I was proud to witness several people approach Karen and exclaim, "So you're Karen Sykes! I'm so glad to finally meet you! I've been reading about your hikes for years...." Karen was quite taken back. As a freelancer, she had no idea she had built such a following within the walls of the P-I. I was incredibly happy for her.
Karen and I eventually met up with Greg Johnston and his lovely wife Lorna. We chatted with them at their table until it was time for us to leave. Greg and I hope to hook up on some hikes this spring and summer, and have some specific ones in mind.
I feel very fortunate to have attended this event. No, I feel very fortunate to have witnessed this event. This was a celebration, and it blew away all my expectations. The looks on the many faces I saw, and the happiness they projected at an event marking the demise of their livelihood will last with me for a long, long time.
I wish everyone from the P-I success in whatever endeavors they choose to pursue, and I have no doubt that they will find success.