Monday, December 3, 2012

Bye Bye Brandie

The best part of this photo is it was not staged. This really is
what Brandie is like at work.
According to a detailed review of sitcom, Facebook and other popular culture lore, the ultimate test of friendship is who will drive you to or from the airport, closely followed by who will help you move.

My favorite line on this subject comes from Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory."

It goes like this: "Hold on, you honestly expect me to believe that social protocol dictates we break our backs helping Wolowitz move, and in return, he only need buy us a pizza?"

The answer is yes, that's how it works.

Having now done that Saturday, I can now get down to the business of why.

It would appear I am only the latest to write a blog post about the departure of our irrepressible police reporter Brandie Kessler.

First it was a post by Frank Otto, who Brandie and I like to irritate by calling the "first assistant deputy police reporter."

His spot-on description of Brandie being like an enthusiastic 6-year-old who never gets too jaded to care about the people she's writing about was an impressive and unexpected insight for someone who he is only a "first assistant deputy police reporter."

Maybe there's hope for him yet....(just kidding Frank. There's no hope for you. You work at a newspaper.)

Mercury Photographer Kevin Hoffman took this photo
after we won some awards or something. I've always liked it.
In addition to Brandie and I, are Carl Hessler,  
who Brandie
tormented on the phone daily and who was frequently mistaken
for her husband, (Don't worry guys, she's not seeing anyone),
Michelle Karas,  
Eileen Faust at right and, of course,
the boss lady, Nancy March, in the foreground.
Then the boss lady, Nancy March, weighed in on Nov. 28 with her own tribute, this one highlighting another facet of Brandie's time at The Mercury, the constant flow of truly good ideas.

This one included a classic photo of how Brandie managed to throw a pie in her editor's face and not get fired. That, gentle reader, is pure newsroom genius.

Heck, Brandie even wrote one herself in the Nov. 25 edition of The Mercury.

And so it appears that I am late to the game. But hey, I was busy. I mean I was loading a rental truck with the girl's stuff for goodness sake!

(By the way, the name of this game is "How Quickly Can You Make Brandie Cry?" No lie, the girl has a hair-trigger and the folks at the Kleenex company are very happy with their fourth quarter results. Chances are I've already scored once or twice by this point.)

But I'm not going to write about working with Brandie in the newsroom, because that's already been done and besides, then I would have to get into a detailed explanation about why I wear headphones when I'm there....

It took a highly-trained journalist like Brandie to capture
this important moment in my life, when Michelle and I
met the Caped Crusader at a Reading Phillies game.
Instead, I want to write about my friend Brandie.

There is a line in "Tequila Sunrise," an otherwise forgetable movie, that has always stuck with me: "Your friends are the only thing in life you get to choose."

I have always said, there are two kinds of friendships: friendships forged from  common interest and friendships from common experience.

And if you are truly lucky, you get a few that have both.

Which is not to say Brandie and I share ALL the same interests. I like soccer, but I don't scream at the screen. And I like dancing, but you know, I like watching other people do it.

But while we obviously share the same experience of working in the same place with the same people, we also share a hard and fast common interest, or perhaps I should say belief.

We both refuse to let go of the idea that journalism can still do good in the world: That helping people to know and understand what is going on around them not only performs the passive purpose of keeping them informed -- always a good thing -- but also empowers them to understand their world and to act.

Brandie was among those who "volunteered" to pour Sly Fox
beer at the Pottstown Volleyball Rumble in June.
Can you 
guess how we got paid?
All that AND a fondness for beer, what's a old hack reporter not to like?

Additionally, Brandie is funny, clever and comfortable enough in her own skin to come to your house and insist on winning whatever board game you trot out; even when it means trouncing your kid, whose lip is starting to tremble.

(We've mentioned she's competitive right?)

Oh yeah, and she likes anything with four legs and fur.

But I think perhaps Brandie's most dually enviable and exasperating quality is that she is also inhumanly empathetic with people she has only just met, some might say to a fault.

We tease Brandie a lot because you always tease people of extreme sentiments, people who don't hold much back.

When she gets like this, you want to roll your eyes, shake your head and tell her its hopeless.

But she won't let it go, and before you know it, there you are helping out, Brandie's insistence having awoken the deep sleeping angels of your better nature.

An older and more guarded person, I am mostly in awe of the personal bravery required to always be putting yourself out there like this for people to take pot shots at.

It may be because that's the only way she knows how to be, but to have remained that way after all this time makes it a choice, and a brave one.

And while Brandie is definitely brave in that regard, she is a wuss about one thing, which she herself admits -- change.

I suppose it's easier to always wear your heart on your sleeve when you have a safe, familiar place to go back to if you need to.

Brandie had become very comfortable here in Pottstown, but she is also young and she still has time to move her career forward.

She had gone as far as she was going to go in Pottstown and her youth and circumstances still allow her time to do more.

The opportunity at the York Daily Record is a great one, as it is a really good newspaper and she will have the opportunity to try different things and, very important in a journalist's life, make more money.

And so we pushed her.

We (and by "we," I mostly mean Nancy and Michelle) convinced her apply; and we advised her during her very public musings about what to include in her application.

And, when the time came, Michelle and I showed up early on a Saturday and, joined by her family, helped her move her stuff; all the while reassuring her it would be fine, that she would do fine and her new location looks awfully cool.

Michelle took this with the same i-Phone that helped
use find, of all things, a pub, after we unloaded Brandie's 
stuff at her new place in York. (Michelle called this photo: 
"Brandie and Gansta Santa." Not sure what that means...)
(As we say in the newsroom, this had "the added advantage of being true.")

It doesn't mean we won't miss her.

Of course we will.

Or that we won't see her again.

She has already demonstrated we will see her plenty.

But this was the best thing for her (we hope).

And so we pushed her, because that's what friends do.

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