Over the years, when journalist John Bear would join me for my smoke breaks at work, the asphalt parking lot would magically transform into a wildly bizarre movie set — along the visual lines of “Sin City” or “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” It was a lavish banquet of schemes and ideas. Bear is super animated (word is, he’s of cartoon ancestry), so he’d act out many of the scenes with spirited gestures.

We had plans to create a YouTube channel, giving Boulder its headlines from a poorly lit newsroom storage closet, or while sitting on two ratty old recliners we’d drag out to the parking lot every day. We’d lace our pipes, read the newspaper headlines and discuss. For a town that puts prairie dogs on a pedestal and throws its homeless population under the bus, nothing was off the table. (Calm down, Boulder, I somewhat jest.)
We talked about starting a punk band with yours truly as the frontwoman because, to put it lightly, I’m a fucking presence. I can’t sing for shit, so I’d scream nonsensical prose into the mic while Bear concocted the superior beats.

We had plans to film Bear dramatically reading his “Bear With Me” columns, complete with props. Maybe a podcast? The ideas were endless. The language was NC-17. The political correctness was naught. The parking lot would sprout vibrant characters who would wade through bloodflowers during that slow-burning recess.

But since much of the newspaper biz has been ball-gagged, bitchslapped and whipped like a Catholic school kid — all the while screaming its safe word to the high heavens (AP Style! AP Style!) — we never had time to act on our projects. Plus, a severe lack of motivation transpires knowing that any viral creation would line the elephant-skinned pants of a hedge fund, thus becoming its property.

So we’d saunter back into the newsroom and pound on our keyboards until the day was over.
Now Bear has polished off this chapter of his life, which is a damn shame. The kid can write. He has the exceptional flair for making the written word dance in readers’ minds. I caught on to this rare talent and tossed him in the rotating cast of columnists for the Colorado Daily years back. Then, my goal was to hire him as features writer for the Daily Camera when the position opened, but he said, “I’d rather be your friend than have you be my boss.”

Fair enough.

Lately though, friends and colleagues have been laid off, fired, are relocating or just plain old jumping ship. This marks a substantial loss of institutional knowledge that these veteran journalists and photographers brought to the desk.

Now that Bear has bolted, I’ll smoke el solo, emitting only 50 percent creative vibrancy in the parking lot. But while exhaling plumes of toxins across that asphalt adventureland, I’ll channel David Byrne to help get through a job that probably won’t exist with time: “Once there were parking lots / Now it’s a peaceful oasis.”

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