I recently learned that Pat Connors, owner of Pastiche in Tucson, has lost his battle with stage four lung cancer and has moved into hospice. His family was thoughtful enough to let everyone know; there’ll be a helluva pre-wake wake to celebrate his life at the restaurant on Tuesday. It’s a rare gift to have the chance to tell someone who has made a mark on your life how you feel about them while they’re still around to hear it. I posted this on Pat’s Facebook timeline, which is filled with tributes, but I have some friends who have given up social media, or never had it. This is for them.
Once upon a time, when the phrase “Tucson restaurant scene” was pretty much an oxymoron and Tucson Guide was still published four times a year, the magazine gave me an assignment, to write about restaurants that showcased art. One of the places on my radar was Pastiche, a “modern bistro” that had recently opened in my neighborhood. When I walked into the restaurant, I was wowed. So many venues slap up a row of bland paintings in a way that seems like an afterthought; the restaurateurs get to fill their blank walls and say they support the arts. Not at your place. The work I saw was at Pastiche was big and bold and colorful, integral to the design of the restaurant.
But it was for sale, so I bought a piece, the magical realist watermelon pear (or pear watermelon?) by Gonzalo Espinosa pictured here [now living in Mexico but then in Tucson]. It cost me more than I was paid for the article but I didn’t care. I loved it. Still do. It’s on the wall across from where I sit at my dining room table and it’s what I look up at every day when I raise my eyes from what I am eating — and reading. Yes, I’m one of those people who sits with her head in a book while she eats.
Which brings me to my next story.
It was 2009 and Am I Boring My Dog, my first original book with a big publisher, had just come out. I was proud of it and was hoping to sell it around Tucson but I was having no luck. I tried PetSmart, Petco, even a local dog business whose owner said, “If I carry your book I’m going to have to carry everyone else’s in town.” (Like that would be such a terrible thing — and like there were dozens of Tucson dog book authors just waiting to descend on her. But I digress.)
Then someone suggested that I try you. Pat loves dogs, my friend said, and is a big supporter of the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. And he sells other things besides wine out of the little shop adjoining Pastiche. Sure enough, you didn’t hesitate. You took ten copies, without question and with enthusiasm. You even paid for them upfront, saying it would be easier that way than consignment. I never felt like a supplicant but, rather, like someone who had something valuable to offer that you would be pleased to share with your customers.
So when people step up — and they will — and praise you as a patron of the arts in the community as well as a supporter of dogs and all things related to them, I can personally attest to those truths.
These are just a few of the many reasons I am so bereft that you will no longer be here with us–at least bodily. At the same time I find comfort in knowing that you will be present in the ways that count, in my heart and mind. I’ll see you every day in the bright sunshine of Gonzalo’s watermelon pear. Or pear watermelon.
And that’s just my story. You touched many, many lives in ways you probably don’t know about or remember. Thank you for giving me the chance to tell you how you touched mine while you’re still around to hear it.
And fuck cancer.