Lee Perlman (1949-2013): Epilogue
Preface and postscript by Tim Curran, Publisher, Mid-county Memo
Memo readers know Lee Perlman’s work.
He reported for various neighborhood newspapers in different parts of Portland, making him ubiquitous at city and neighborhood meetings for more than 30 years.
He even did a stint at the Oregonian in the 80s.
The last week of his life, Lee had the perfect aliveness of a person about to commit suicide.
Like always, we were going back and forth on what he was writing for the next issue.
It wasn’t until after Lee’s death I learned he battled depression for years.
After much thought and consultation, I decided readers are entitled to his final words that came in the form of a resignation letter emailed to us on Monday, Aug. 5.
In hindsight, his note takes on an entirely different meaning.
Lee’s last words are his epilogue, certainly not his epitaph.
I do not agree with Lee here; he may have made a mistake now and then, but he was a great writer.
This opinion of himself cannot be denied, but is it true? We can’t deny his truth, but we can deny his perception of himself.
Sometimes perception is reality; however, many times, it’s just perception. Always there, truth is a slippery and hard thing to get at.
I knew Lee Perlman for decades, but I didn’t know the man.
Everyone loved Lee Perlman, except Lee Perlman.
“To: The Hollywood Star, Mid-county Memo, Portland Observer, Southeast Examiner, Southwest Post
From: Lee Perlman
With great regret, I do hereby resign any and all positions I hold with you all, effective immediately.
Although you have been incredibly generous and supportive of me, and the wages you pay are fair under the circumstances and in view of the type and quality of the work I do, collectively and in combination with other income I am able to procure, it is not enough to sustain me or live on.
Equally important, I can no longer stand to see the mistakes, pedestrian writing and shallow reporting on important topics in your publications, and know that I am responsible for it. Finally, too often I have treated people, including friends, shabbily in the holy cause of submitting a story and meeting a deadline.
You can and should do better–writing is a buyer’s market–and you are more likely to do so if I remove myself from the scene, as I am now doing.
I sincerely regret the lack of proper notice but, as you will see, this could not be avoided. My best to you all and my sincere thanks for all you have done for me. I only wish that I could have deserved it.
I met Lee Perlman, who was reporting for the Memo and five other neighborhood papers, in March, 1988 after being hired to sell ads for all of them.
Rich Riegel, a colleague of Lee’s, described him accurately as a “curmudgeonly self-contained writing machine.”
When I bought the Mid-county Memo in 1991, there was no question Perlman would continue to write for the paper.
He quit more than once over the years, but never for very long. To him, the work was more important.
Lee was similar, but also very different from every other journalist I’ve ever met.
He was erudite, quirky, modest and wryly humorous. He was a highly intelligent and a principled man who loved to tell stories both on the page and orally.
With a passion reserved for boodlers and liars, Lee hated computers and the Internet.
He only used them begrudgingly, and only for work. But man, could he report.
Despite this publisher’s hope Lee would personalize or popularize his pieces, he never did.
For Perlman, it was just straight-ahead reporting of the large and small issues affecting Portlanders; I was happy to get that.
He is irreplaceable.
“Death isn’t what you think; you can understand yourself better after death.”–David Foster Wallace (1962–2008) from his short story “Good Old Neon” published in Oblivion: Stories