Rich, Kathryn, and David have already written very fine appreciations of Mike Potemra here on this Corner, as has Nat over on the home page. They give a sense of a one-of-a-kind, very kind man. Enormously modest, he would have been astounded by how much he will be missed — at how much he is already missed. I cannot believe that I will never hear that voice again. As an editor he was patient, tolerant, open to debate — he enjoyed the back-and-forth — and a delight. And when, in editing a piece, the “no, I don’t think so, Andrew” came, as from time to time it inevitably did, it was always accompanied by a chuckle at my failed attempt to slide something by. In another life and in another time and in another vocation, he would have made a fine gamekeeper, hugely respected by the poachers he so genially thwarted.
During the years Mike lived in New York, we would have dinner every month or so in, of all places, an Outback Steakhouse on Third Avenue. If I arrived a little late, he’d be sitting there, a plastic bag (of course!) by his side, typically reading some theological text of (to me, anyway) astounding obscurity, and he’d laugh merrily at my amazement, before the conversation turned to, well, just about anything. He read voraciously, his views on new movies were generally spot on, and if his musical tastes sometimes surprised, well, why not?
His quest for an apartment in LA was characteristically zany. He told me how he had thought that he had finally found a good place. Price was right. Place was right (it had to be no more than a bus ride from the water). Building looked good. He asked at the door. An SRO. Oh well. When he finally did move west, I asked him how he was going to move all the books.
“Oh there will only be three or four of them,” replied the man who read and read and read, “everything else is on a kindle.”
For Mike, it was content that mattered. Come to think of it now, it’s astounding that just one kindle was enough.