Elaine Rivera loved people: “Two eyes a nose and a mouth—and all so different!” She loved all kinds of people, from the flower lady in her Bronx neighborhood to the political operatives she covered as a classic New York City beat reporter. Well, that isn’t exactly true. She didn’t love intolerant people—was, in fact, downright intolerant of them. And despite (or maybe because of) her brief marriage and series of long-term lovers, she had her reservations when it came to men. Notably, however, she remained close with almost every one of her exes.
    I met her when she was working at Time magazine on stories like the crash of TWA Flight 800 and the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, and, less typically, covering celebrities like Christina Aguillera and John F.  Kennedy Jr.  Usually she was a crusader for the underdog, the poor, the victims of racism and hatred. And she really, really cared. She went to the Washington Post after Time, but DC was a bad fit. "I am so outta Virginia, baby. I'm never living in the south again—they can just kiss my Puerto Rican ass," she crowed as she drove back to the home of her heart. She resettled near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and worked as a political reporter for WNYC, leaving to take a journalism chair at Lehman College. The latter moves, trailing many scarves and bags, were particularly astonishing because Elaine’s major bugaboos were technology and bureaucracy.  “This job is kicking my ass,” she would say, no matter which job it was. Now I wonder if the reason she was so exhausted was the liver disease she must have had for years. The only exception, which her more recent journalist friends got very tired of hearing about, was her golden era as a staff reporter for almost a decade at New York Newsday. One wonders what time she had to get to work there, for Elaine was never a morning person.
    Elaine was a party person. She always brought the party hats, whether it was a birthday party—which she adored—or New Year’s or Fourth of July. Confetti, sparklers, flags, balloons, bought at the 99-cent store. Her stories, too, made her the life of the party. One favorite was about the time she was staying over at a friend’s apartment and, mistaking the hall door for the bathroom door, locked herself out of the apartment nude in the middle of the night. Wrapping herself in a rug, she got on the elevator to go downstairs to call her friend, who had slept through the pounding on his door. The elevator got stuck in the lobby. Elaine pressed the emergency button and a woman over the intercom said there was nothing she could do. Elaine, of course, asked her name. “Tookie, Tookie, I’m begging you!” wailed Elaine. “Please call my friend. I’m standing in the lobby in the middle of the night in a rug!”
     Elaine loved being surrounded by celebration and friends, of whom she had an inordinate number. She was always trying to mix them, with varying degrees of success. Well, we’re mixed now, along with her devastated family from Cleveland, in love and in loss.


William Hill said...

A hallmark of sensitivity.

otra rubia said...

She should be here. :(

D.R. said...


Unknown said...

thank you ~ I loved reading your stories about Elaine