Judith was a ghost to me. She was present, but never corporeally. It strikes me as ironic that I never met her, considering that the body — her body — was one of her principal concerns. We talked on the phone a lot, though. I heard a warm voice and robust laugh. She talked dirty too. She swore. But she also talked like a kid; she said "Ooh!" sometimes. We had long conversations on the phone, and she always spoke her piece with flair. I wasn't able to always, but I believe that made me a better writer because I wanted to show her that I too had a distinct voice. Many of the pieces I wrote for the Reader were written for Judith, and if I turned out a good one it was likely because she talked me into it.
Judith found me through my family, and she found me at a time when I desperately needed to be found. My father wrote a cover story for Judith about visiting his father in La Jolla, and my brother wrote a cover story for her about a wooden boat. Then she asked me if I could write for her. This was in the winter of 1997. A cliché, I know, but I was a graduate student working on a dissertation and recently deserted by a longtime girlfriend who -- if you can believe it -- had been cheating on me with a guy named Randy. Judith persuaded the Reader to fly me to San Diego, put me up in a downtown hotel, and pay me to drink in bars and clubs for a week, research for a story on the local music scene. She did this for me I don't know why -- because my father and my brother write well? This was an editor who gave more than she took away.
I let Judith down by taking a job as a staff writer at another weekly paper. She paid me back by hiring me to work full-time for the Reader and then asking me to write a lot. She never said "Hi" when I answered the phone; she just started talking, taking an idea or a joke somewhere. For nearly ten years, Judith was a thread in my life, holding me together and leading me here.