J. Shimon & J. Lindemann
Isthmus has always been a collection of odd and compelling characters. None more so than David Medaris, who began writing for the paper as a West High student and who spent almost three decades as the listings editor and then a staff writer.
I was editor. David was David, which is to say he cut his own path. As the arbiter of listings, he functioned like a human algorithm. He precisely sorted and summarized hundreds of disparate and often recondite events that poured into the paper each week. No monk in a priory had a more exacting system of categorization.
David lived and breathed by his rules. Yet, paradoxically, he was also an exuberant, free-range thinker. He spied life’s complicated facets like a jeweler with a headlamp. Here was the reporter who would ponder endless questions for a story. David had to know. He had to understand. He was immensely curious about life and people. There was a sense of wonder and pleasure in comprehending both the mundane and the profound.
He also had a little sign on his desk: “Just tell the story.”
That was David: Painstakingly diligent, yet the faraway flutter of a butterfly in the Amazon might set him off on an intellectual ramble in the Isthmus lunchroom. He took delight in it.
His death Oct. 18 at age 57 after many years of beating back brain cancer was like a kick in the guts to his friends. His love affair with his wife, Michana Buchman, Isthmus associate editor, was something any of us would want in this life. He always spoke of her with a tone of awe and respect. If only all of us could be so considerate of our partners. Now he’s gone.
As with the recent death of Tom Laskin, another Isthmus original, David was evidence of how the best news and creative venues prosper when they embrace smart, quirky talents. The machine-stamped writers could fit in elsewhere. Isthmus leaves the door open for strays and rebels.
In David’s case, he avoided the antisocial compulsions found in too many good reporters. I will always remember him greeting me with an expansive “How are you?” That big loopy smile followed by a penetrating gaze as he read your body language for clues. David really cared. His life was more than the sum of the transactional events that most of us navigate on a daily basis.
Locked into a conversation where his thoughts led him down a rabbit hole of digression, David would stop in embarrassment and turn the conversation to others — how was your partner? And the kids, what were they up to? Did you have any travels planned? David was sincerely interested.
“How are you?”
Not so good, David, now that you’re gone.
His many friends will have different memories than mine. But that’s what David did to us. We all had our reasons for loving him.