UPDATE WITH PHOTO: Remembering Shaun as a True Individual
Photo courtesy of Samuel Lippke
December 5, 10:00am | When we have little interaction with someone who has passed, it tends to be the abstractions -- husband, son, publisher, graduate, advocate, award-winner -- that fix the person in our imaginations.
But when it's someone we know up close, one-on-one, what we take away from the relationship as we move forward into the now-lonelier rest of our lives are those concrete and idiosyncratic aspects of personhood that made the departed soul a unique part of our everyday existence.
For me Shaun was one of those persons -- a positive and integral part of my life's landscape -- and I'd like to share a few slivers of perspective on his uniqueness.
"John Charles Greggorius Zacariah LaMont the 28th, for God, country, and the Long Beach Post -- not necessarily in that order -- how are you?"
That was typical of the greeting I'd get from Shaun when he would call me. When I would phone him, it was usually quite a bit simpler: "Grrrrrrrr-rig-gor-REEEEE." Something about saying my name amused him terribly; he wasn't sure why. I am told by the guys in the office he used to enunciate it to himself, just because.
It seems generically sappy to talk about the glint in someone's eye, but if you ever caught Shaun in a playful mood -- which wasn't hard to do -- then you know he was living proof that such a thing is not merely a figure of speech.
Shaun Peter Josiah Malvernius Constantine Lumachi the 1st, the one and only, was for me a pretty ideal person to work with. With, I say, and not for -- even though he was my boss -- because that's a better reflection of what it was: a partnership. Yes, he was the publisher; the buck stopped with him. But it was never anything supercilious; you felt like a teammate, not an inferior.
Shaun went out of his way, repeatedly, to let me know he supported me all down the line, that he had my back. It is impossible for me to overstate the value of that kind of support from a boss, especially when what you're doing is putting yourself out there in ways that don't always meet with universal public approval.
He was, in my experience, unfailingly true to his word. Many arrangements between us over the too-few years of our acquaintance were left informal -- the kind of thing you can do when someone's word is his bond. That was the feeling I got from him, and I went with it. He never once betrayed my faith.
Shaun did not possess the ego-insecurity to think his beliefs were necessarily the right ones. He was wont to emphasize that everything -- including his executive decisions -- were up for discussion. This wasn't due to a lack of vision or confidence on his part. Quite the contrary. He wanted what was best for the Long Beach Post; he wanted us as a unit to take part in the civic conversation as dynamically as possible. And if someone had an idea contrary to his about how to do that, well, let's talk about it.
When Shaun debated you, he did not do so in a touchy-feely way; it was very no-nonsense, very unembellished -- something I very much appreciated. He stated his point, then listened to you state yours, and so on. If you interrupted him (which I did sometimes -- Shaun's slow diction was full of pauses), he would calmly say, "Let me finish…," pause, "let me finish…."
He had no qualm about expressing his displeasure; neither did he have qualm about admitting fault. He could change his mind, and he could move on quickly, genuinely, and completely from a disagreement. He was not small in this realm of feeling and behavior. I am not aware of his being a small person about anything. We all have our peccadilloes, our foibles, perhaps even our sins. Smallness never seemed to be one of Shaun's.
He was sometimes tardy and forgetful, mostly because he made himself so damn busy. At some point I stopped being irritated by it because it was just so him. The last e-mail I sent him was the fifth reminder that he needed to get me the press credentials he was supposedly sticking in the mail a month ago. Typical Shaun.
"Ok. Will do." That's the last thing I'll ever hear from him. I don't get to pester him when a week later they still hadn't come. I don't get to hear him find newer and longer ways to enunciate my name. I don't get to continue with him this great project, this idiosyncratic journalistic experiment of improving Long Beach through coverage and conversation.
And I don't get to say goodbye. The best I can do is remember him here in the tradition we established in these virtual pages, and hope those he left behind are able to sustain and further his Long Beach legacy.
But for the first and only time in my experience with Shaun Lumachi, I feel short-changed.