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Goodbye and Good Luck, Sarah Fenske

posted Thursday July 1st, 2010

It’s official. I’m a wreck.

Work any place for 17-plus years, and co-workers will come and go. I’ve said my share of good byes and even shed some tears. The alt weekly I work for has a small staff, and people work really hard. You get attached.

But I can’t recall a departure that’s affected me like this one. And it’s odd, because Sarah Fenske and I were not destined to like each other.

On the surface, we’re nothing alike.

She’s tall and skinny. I’m not. She wouldn’t be caught dead in glasses; I refuse to try contacts. Her drink of choice is gin, and gin hasn’t passed my lips since New Times celebrated its 25th anniversary (and the paper just had its 40th).  

She was raised Lutheran and converted to Catholicism and goes to church all the time; I’m such a bad Jew I’m seriously considering having a quinceanera for Annabelle instead of a Bat Mitzvah so she doesn’t have to go to Hebrew school.

Then there’s politics. Sarah Fenske’s political idol is Barry Goldwater.  Mine is Mo Udall. Get this: She likes Sarah Palin. Really. If you really want to understand how different we are, check out the point/counterpoint we did about Palin in September 2008.

Oh, and how could I forget to tell you this? She prefers white chocolate. How can you trust someone like that?

And yet, I can’t think of anyone I would have rather crashed John McCain’s un-victory party with on Election Night. (Above is a picture taken with one of her idols, Congressman Jeff Flake, on Primary Night 2008. Another fun party.)

That’s funny, because I really should hate Sarah Fenske’s guts, and not just because I prefer vodka to gin and would never drive a convertible. When Sarah arrived at New Times six years ago, I was still smarting over my transition from staff writer (read: rock star, at least in my little world) to editor (roadie).

Here was this girl (barely out of her mid-20s), new to town, who liked to write about government bureaucracy and petty politics and all the things I liked to write about, before I had a screwed-up kid and they put me out to pasture.

I was expected to line Sarah up with stories, show her around town, introduce her to my most trusted sources. And so, because I tend to be a brown-noser at work (I’m terrified of losing my health insurance, okay?) I did. I pouted a lot, but I did.

And you know what? It was awesome.

It pains me to say it, but it’s true: Sarah wrote better, harder, more impactful stories in her six years at the paper than I have in 17. She kicks ass. I know everyone in Phoenix is saying how sorry they are she’s leaving, but I can think of several crooked politicians and a few shady consultants who feel otherwise.

Our boss is fond of saying that everyone at New Times has a little bit of smoke coming out of their ears. Sarah’s on fire.

Not only that, but she does it with grace. She claims I taught her a thing or two as her editor (again, gracious of her — perhaps nothing more valuable than to stop overusing colons, which I notice I can’t stop using in this post), but I’m the one who learned from her. 

And so I wasn’t all that surprised when she announced she’s taken a job as managing editor at the company’s St. Louis paper. But still, I’ve been sniffling at my desk ever since. (Literally. Ask the guy across the hall.)

An hour or so ago, she breezed past my office for the last time, stopping to grab a quick hug and shove on a pair of oversized sunglasses. “I prefer to cry in the car!” she said, refusing to have any of it when I chased behind her, stopping to make her promise she won’t stop writing.

She claimed that’s the part of the new job she can’t wait for. “Writing is too hard!” she said.

That, I told her, is because you do it right.

Co-workers come and go, but some are irreplaceable.

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8 Responses to “Goodbye and Good Luck, Sarah Fenske”

  1. What a lovely tribute and what a loss for Phoenix. Good luck to Sarah!

  2. hmmm. Sarah Palin AND white chocolate? she must be awesome if you can overlook all that.

  3. i love you, cate.

  4. 1. what cate said
    2. I’ve been working on something within, and you’ve helped by this example. If you can dig right wing Sarah, then I can do the same for the conservative pinheads who vex me.

  5. That does it. I’m going to have to find Robrt a slinky cocktail dress and he’s going to have to be the trophy hostess at Press Club awards next year. Thanks a bunch, Sarah. If we don’t miss you already, we will once we see Robrt in a von Furstenberg wrap dress.

  6. Somehow, I wouldn’t have made the connection between Fenske leaving and me in drag. Huh.

  7. sarah, we’ll miss you so much. your “no holds barred” approach is so needed in this crazy ‘ville. best wishes for your new ventures.

  8. Good luck to her. Luckily, we still have you here.

    p.s. go for the quinceanera.

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