Thursday, May 27, 2010

"I am the poem"

I can barely write today's post.

Patricia Kaye died Tuesday from advanced metastatic bone cancer. Most of you knew her as YakPate – the audaciously brilliant Los Angeles blogger, poet and daily commenter to this blog. I knew her as Pat. She was my best friend.

I can't begin to explain how much darker the world is without her.

I met Pat 22 years ago, shortly after I moved to Los Angeles. She was the owner of a boutique graphic design and marketing agency in Burbank, and the coolest business woman ever to rock a pair of leopard print leggings. She hired me as a freelance copywriter, but it didn't take long to realize we would develop more than just a temporary work relationship. I think the first hint was during a late afternoon brainstorming session for one of her fussier clients:

"We need inspiration," I said. "Do you want me to make some coffee?"

"Sure," Pat said. "And I'll run down to 7-11 and pick up a bottle of Baileys."

She did. And we drank it. I don’t remember if we came up with any usable marketing concepts that afternoon, but I do know that we planted the seeds of a grand and flourishing friendship. It was a friendship that blessed and transformed me in more ways than I can count.

I quickly found out that Pat was no ordinary marketing executive. Beneath the business suit ("Corporate Drag," as she referred to it) beat the heart of a true poet. Not only did she write poems and short stories with breathtaking talent and insight, but she viewed the world -- all of it -- as some kind of beautiful jungle just waiting to be explored. Everything was an adventure, and everyone was invited.

When she was younger, she lived like a character out of a great hippie rock opera: once working as an exotic dancer on top of the Luxor hotel in Egypt, later making leather goods in a commune in the Canary Islands. She was a passionate activist for populist causes and seemed the most happy when she felt like she was making a difference for those less fortunate. Even as a business owner, she infused work with big ideas and even bigger Robin Hood-ish generosity. She specialized in the marketing materials for credit unions -- the fair-minded, member-owned, little-guy financial institutions competing with big banks. Pat was the credit union industry’s champion. In fact, she was a champion of most underdogs and outsiders. Maybe that's why she was friends with me.

There was something wonderfully pixilated about Pat. Just being around her made your surroundings seem as if they were twinkling with fairy dust, with a possible banana peel hidden somewhere to slip you up and keep you laughing. While she could have discussed philosophy with the great thinkers of the Western philosophical canon, she also could have made George Carlin tip his hat, squeal with laughter and quite possibly shoot milk out of his nose. The woman was capital F Funny – possibly from her years following standup comedy in the early 80s (another incarnation, and the topic of her unpublished novel, The Ha Ha Cafe) but most likely from her keen ability to see this world as the ultimate absurdist circus. If anyone could take an existential pie in the face with great style, it was Pat Kaye.

No matter what happened, in Pat’s world the future was always about radical possibility. The past? Something to mine for gems. Although her history included long episodes of tragedy and despair worthy of a Gothic novel, those dark times never defined her. They just made a great backdrop for all of her sparkly light.

And man, was she ever sparkly. She was one of those fairy godmother people who gave far more then she took, who made everything a little more lovely and magical and whose gifts not only delighted but changed you. Just ask her nieces and nephews, her sister and brother, and her many many many many friends. We were damned lucky to be loved by Pat. So much of who we are is a direct result of knowing her.

A couple of weeks ago, Pat flew back to Louisville by ambulance plane to spend the time she had left with her family. The pain had become almost unbearable and the options had been whittled down to one: hospice. Even then, in the face of such surreal, Kafka-esque circumstances, Pat was hopeful and inspiring.

“How do you do it?” I asked her the day before she left. “How do you stay so bright and beautiful in the face of such crap? How do you manage, even now, to have fun?”

“Because life is wonderful,” she said. “Even the part where it ends.”

She shared with me one of the last poems that she wrote. I remember the final lines, although I wish she were here to correct my paraphrasing:

I used to think it was important to be the poet
But now I realize, it doesn’t matter
Because I am the poem.

I am the poem.

Pat was 66 years old. Details of the services in Kentucky can be found here. I'll update when I know more about the memorial service in Los Angeles. Read more of Pat's gorgeous words at her blog here.


San Diego Farmgirl said...

Oh Laurie, your post is just perfect! What a wonderful tribute. Thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Libba Bray said...

"Everything was an adventure, and everyone was invited."

This is the most beautiful celebration of a a friend I have ever read. And you captured the sparkle and poetry of Pat to a T. You're right, the world is darker without her. Sending you so much love, honey girl. xo

Judy Williams said...

"I am the poem"

Indeed she was. I loved her for years, long before we even met face to face. I will treasure the beautiful beaded jewelry she made me and I can wear it and have her around my neck.

I had a dream of her two nights before she left this earthly zone. We were sitting on a couch, I think the one in your living room. Maybe it was her way of saying farewell.

I will miss her wit, her unending inspiration, but mostly her love and humor that blended together like a safety blanket in which I could fall and know that everything was all right.

Adieu mon amie, Pat. Je t'aime.

Virginia said...

Oh my. Pat would smile with great love to hear your wonderous words Laurie. I didn't have the pleasure of her friendship but I'm grateful you did. She sounds like the kinda gal I would have loved.

Mister Earl said...

What a wonderful tribute to your friend and Farmgirl's aunt. I heard so much about her and I loved reading her blog and seeing her comments. What a wonderful contribution she made to your world and our world.

(You made me get tears on my monitor.)

Nikki said...

Laurie...thank you. If you don't mind I will use some of this when I talk about her tomorrow at the service. She loved you so much...she really, truly did.

dbdubya said...

That's a beautiful tribute to friendship, Laurie. I'm sure Pat is smiling. My heart hurts for your loss.

I am the poem - what a wonderful thought and final gift from your friend.

altadenahiker said...

"Because life is wonderful. Even the part where it ends."

I'll never forget that. This tribute is beautiful, sad, happy.

TheChieftess said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss Laurie...of the world's loss. Your tribute to her is magnificent and truly heartfelt. "I am the poem"...thought provoking, lovely...and darned sparkly!

ben wideman said...

Laurie, what an incredibly touching blog post today. Thank you so much for sharing.

Niece Grace said...

Truly wonderful. You capture her well!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I think you and Pat are made of the same cloth. You're the sparkly girls. That never changes. Bless you sweety

Shanna said...

Honey, I am so sorry. I'm sorry that I didn't know Pat better than I did. But I'm glad that you had her. Your tribute was beautiful.

I appreciated Yakpate's comments on your blog and wondered who this person might be, long before I knew Yak was Pat.

I had thought that your recent post, the one with the clouds lifting in the sky and the trees in silhouette was about Pat. It was the one with my comment "poignant".

I know her better now, though, because your post today and the poem that she is.

Trish said...

Laurie---the pain is evident, the hole in your heart slathering all over this page. In one post you were able to make the world gasp for air and wipe away tears.

The only thing I can offer is that Pat was in your life, she touched you and she will live on in you. That may not be great solace at this moment, but in years to come, something will make you smile, or laugh heartily, or even cry. It will be Pat, still living, thru you.

Thank you for sharing her with us--- I did not know her except thru her comments here, but I teared up reading this post--- Dammit, we lost another good tired of losing the good ones.


altadenahiker said...

I've been thinking about Pat off and on all day, and wanted to add this:

I only met her twice, but the first time, I was very surprised to find she was shorter than me. From her blog, I thought she'd be tall, much taller, because she wrote so big.

Stopped in a church today, don't even know the name of the church. Doesn't matter; I just wanted to light a candle for Pat.

Judy Williams said...

In honor of Pat, I had my hair colored in three different shades today. It's only hair, but it's the least I could do. She colored the lives of those who knew her. If a person could be technicolor, it was her.

Petrea said...

I always loved Pat's comments on your blog. I guess thought she would get better and I was going to meet her. Today I met her through your eloquence, and hers: "Because life is wonderful. Even the part where it ends."

Bellis said...

I'm so sorry she's not going to be commenting on your blog any more, I so enjoyed reading her contributions. And Laurie, your tribute is wonderful - I hope Pat reads it. In heaven.

Laurie said...

Thank you, everyone.

Cheyne Gateley said...

I'm not much good with stuff like this, but for what it's worth, this is a beautiful post.

Jilly said...

What a perfect tribute to your friend - yes, the most beautiful tribute I've ever read to friendship and a good friend - indeed, to love.

She really was the poem and you - today - are the poetess with your words, dear Laurie.