Two years after the paper had started, the owner and publisher of NP decided she just couldn’t do it anymore, and despite offers from elsewhere to continue the name, she wanted to stop.
Publishing an alternative paper in a largely conservative city like St. Louis was no easy task, though. The second year was plagued by growing difficulties, and both Carrie and I began to feel the strain of the operation. Bryan and I would attend late-night proofreading sessions at Carrie’s house each month. Daughter Emily would interrupt Carrie regularly, often offering unsolicited suggestions of her own for what should be in the magazine. Her rambunctious rabbit could constantly be heard scurrying across their wooden floor, causing Bryan and I to look at each other and laugh at the sheer surrealism of it all. Bryan nicknamed the bunny “Bun-zilla.” Everyone got tired and kranky at times. And the paper developed a habit of coming out late or erratically, something that didn’t help our cause.
There was also plenty of heated discussion on Noisemakers, the Internet discussion group Carrie had started as a complement to the publication. We had to develop thicker and thicker skins to deal with commentary from various scenesters about what the paper should or shouldn’t be doing. As with any endeavor, everyone has an opinion about your work, some more constructive than others. But we persevered, and kept covering the music, film, and events that we deemed worthy. The Yahoo! group began to attract an amazing number of movers and shakers in the music community: musicians, record store employees, writers, club owners, and fans all came aboard to discuss the ups and downs of the St. Louis cultural scene. So did the occasional troll—the Internet term for someone who enjoys stirring up trouble on listservs. Noisemakers eventually bogged down in scurrilous debates and pointless one-upmanship, a state of affairs Carrie probably couldn’t have predicted and which didn’t sit well with her. So eventually there was a parting of the ways, with Carrie’s group remaining primarily an informational one for bands and event planners, and a splinter group called Nonoise taking with it the folks who enjoyed rancorous debates and as little moderation as possible.
Meanwhile, the monetary situation worsened for NoisyPaper, and Carrie and I found ourselves butting heads over some things. Two years after the paper had started, the owner and publisher of NP decided she just couldn’t do it anymore, and despite offers from elsewhere to continue the name, she wanted to stop. In the stressful period that followed, hurtful things were said by a number of people. There came a point where Carrie and I had a clear choice: were we going to stubbornly stick to our own points of view, and risk losing our long-time friendship? Or could we, somehow, find our way out of the quagmire and remember where we had come from, and all we’d been through?
In one of those powerful exchanges that I’ll never forget, Carrie and I elected to do the latter. I apologized for something I said, and told her how grateful I was to her for creating the publication, giving me the opportunity to do it with her, and putting so much effort into an essentially thankless operation. Carrie apologized for some things, too, and we let out all that tension and all the emotions that circumstances had caused us to suppress. It was like a huge sigh of relief. Friendship was more important than being right or wrong. And friendship was certainly more important than the ego strokes or lack thereof from outsiders constantly critiquing your efforts. Carrie and I had spent an enormous amount of time together; she even joked, regularly, that we were like a married couple in many ways. She and Mike had been separated for a while, and during that time I was most likely the male who logged the most hours at her house. I got to know Emily, I got to know the condition of Carrie’s refrigerator quite well, and I saw for myself the strain that trying to be a publisher, a full-time employee, and the mother of a feisty little girl took on Carrie. It wasn’t hard to be empathetic towards her plight, and to eventually understand why NoisyPaper was just too much for her.
The paper published its final issue in August 2001, but Carrie and I kept in touch through e-mail and occasional phone calls. We met for lunch downtown when she was working at the May Company and I was temporarily working at an office a few blocks away. We just chatted about our lives, and barely talked about the wacky world of alternative publications or the volatile Yahoo! group. By this time, Mike Shelton, one of the most distinguished musical hobnobbers St. Louis has ever known, had moved back with Carrie, and it was clear she was happy about it. It made things easier with Emily, and Carrie was glad to have her family together again. And though she still took an interest in the music scene, her attention was elsewhere. She just wanted a calmer life. After working a full shift at a downtown firm, who would want to come home and have to deal with deadlines for a publication? For Carrie, time had simply become too precious.
In one of my last conversations with her, she said “I am so glad not to be doing that stuff anymore. It’s just too exhausting.” I would occasionally e-mail her little updates, or ask her for advice. I saved a few of her e-mails to me, which are unbearably poignant to me now. In one, Carrie wrote, “I’m still knee-deep in the middle of home repair and haven’t had the chance to respond to your last letter. But please hang in there. There are lots of things you can do for yourself by finding peace within yourself. That’s the most important thing. Find peace in yourself. Not always an easy task, but worth the work.”
In my final bits of communication with Carrie, she had taken her own advice and found some peace. Her job was getting better, and most importantly, her family situation was stable. She had more time with Emily, who was entering her teen years, and more time to see friends. I was happy for her. Meanwhile, part of her legacy continued when the ambitious team of Laura Hamlett and Jim Dunn launched Playback St. Louis in early 2002. Carrie had established the framework for such publishing ventures, showing what was possible—and what obstacles needed to be overcome. A book could be written about the lessons she taught many of us. Her legacy is a considerable one. Because of Carrie, scores of people in the artistic community here got to know each other and become friends. Because of Carrie, numerous writers gained professional-looking pieces to add to their portfolios. Because of Carrie, unsung artists throughout the St. Louis music scene and in some cases beyond, gained exposure and acquired clippings to add to their press kits.
And because of Carrie, among so many important things that were to change in my life, I personally learned lessons about collaboration and compromise that continue to this day. I learned that communication is a crucial thing, something to be respected, maintained, and nurtured. And I learned that no ego-related issue, no creative difference, is worth sacrificing a friendship for. Publications come and go, deadlines pass. But our friends and our loved ones are what endure and make the boldest headlines in our lives. They’re the ones who make up our personal community.
The concept of community is perhaps Carrie Lindsey’s greatest and most enduring legacy. Carrie was a sociable person. And she envisioned a community that could become a dynamic part of the culture. She envisioned a community of writers, musicians, photographers, artists, club owners, and advertisers who would collaborate on revitalizing and promoting the local scene, hopefully to inspire curiosity and excitement where all too often, there was merely apathy. And she was an inclusive person. The welcome mat was always out at Carrie’s house in Webster, whether for a casual visit or a high-falutin organizational meeting to plan an event or brainstorm for a new issue. Carrie wanted to hear your ideas. She was never indifferent. Things mattered to her very much. And even if she was short on time, she was seldom short on patience. I admired that about her very much.
In the end, Carrie’s need for community became singularly focused on the community closest to her—her family. Mike was her partner again, Emily was a teenager developing her own talents, many of which were strongly influenced by her mother, and Carrie found a level of stability she hadn’t experienced for years. Her interest in art and music endured, but her priorities had shifted, and that was okay. As she told me, finding peace within yourself was the most important thing. And it appeared Carrie had found that very peace. I dearly wish I could call Carrie up and talk to her again. I wish I could laugh with her about some of the trivialities we used to get worked up about, ask her what music she’s listening to now, and find out about Emily’s latest projects. I wish I could just hear the warmth in her voice again, and say thank you, one more time, for all the things she brought about in my life. But the random tragedy on I-55 has now made that impossible. Carrie, old friend, I will never forget you. May you, Mike and Emily rest in peace. And we’ll make sure the beat goes on, okay? Farewell.
If anyone wishes to share their thoughts/remembrances of Carrie, Mike, or Emily, please feel free to e-mail them directly to the author at email@example.com. If you would like your words or photos to be a part of Playback’s online tribute, e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.