A Life Less Restrained

When I learned that my brother Pat had passed away, I was riding shotgun along a rural road through southeastern Colombia. At the time, I was working on a land tenure project and heading out to the Colombian plains to interview dairy farmers. I was as far as could be from where I wanted to be, so I held my phone firmly. It was my only connection to those who were feeling the same sorrow. Every time I opened a messenger application, I squirmed in my seat as the noise in my head agitated the emotions in my heart.

My family made plans to fly back to Utah as fast as possible. In the meantime, we all contributed to his obituary and started discussing how we would carry out a memorial for our son and brother, saying Pat would have wanted this, or he would have hated that.  Three days later, I landed and was able to say my last goodbye to my oldest brother before his body was turned to ash.

We went to his apartment in downtown Salt Lake to meet all those unfair tasks the living face when dealing with their dead. At 43, he succombed to a massive heart attack that likely took his life in just a few seconds. He was found lying peacefully in bed, freshly showered and shaved, getting ready for another day of work and life.

Five days after the fact, we held a celebration of life in Pat’s honor at his alma mater, Weber State University. The idea, to come together, hug, condole with one another and mourn. We followed that up with several speeches meant to honor Pat. My brother Josh and I wrote down a few key memories that highlight the many facets of his personality and his love for all living creatures.

Enjoy and reach out to your loved ones today. Life is fleeting, you won’t regret it.

August 2, 1973

On Pat’s due date, July 28, the doctor attempted to induce labor at McKay Dee Hospital, because in his ninth month Pat flipped from the natural birth position to a floating double-footling breech. Pat was not ready and refused to be born that day, and my parents nervously returned to Rock Springs Wyoming. Pat was going to come out on his own time.

On August 2, as mother put a plate of spaghetti on the table, her water broke in a gush, and they gathered their bags and headed back to Ogden. The 2.5 hour drive was filled with panic as my father watched the gas gauge go from orange to red. It was the summer of ’73, the country was in a gas crisis.

They made it and so did the baby. The doctors were about to do the needed tests for a C-section, and on the way to x-ray, Pat stuck his foot out, eliminating the possibility for a cesarean or a cervical block, all that was left to do was pull him out. As traumatic as it was for my mother I’m sure it was even more so for my brother. So began his life, upside down, and that’s probably the way Pat would have wanted it.

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Josh remembers the Axel F episode

As early as the sixth grade, Pat was already nurturing his love for music. As an 11 year old, he was already digging the latest New Wave and Mod music, listening to Beatles records with my dad and visiting my Uncle Mark up in Logan at a local record store. Pat listened to his share of eighties hair bands and was a true child of the music revolution served up on cable television through MTV.

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Dynamic Duo: Pat and Josh

But what most don’t know is that Pat once played music too. He saw an opportunity to learn an instrument and he chose the saxophone, which is surely the coolest instrument among the band geeks. One of my best memories of Pat goes back to Junior High at a T.H. Bell Band concert. Pat was in the 8th grade, and I was just starting band in 6th grade, also playing the saxophone. Why? Because my big bro played it, of course Pat was a killer sax player. Most of you had no idea. In a way it’s sad he didn’t keep playing.

At this particular concert, everything was going as planned: rafters full of moms and dads and little brothers like me and a lot of well-rehearsed noise from the entire band. The collective noise built up and came to a crescendo, nearing its end. The first chairs of the band were all on the main stage, and suddenly from the brass, emerged Pat, separating himself, and just started wailing on his sax. I’d never seen anything like it up to that point in my life.

He started playing Axel F. You know that tune from Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley. When he finished that riff, he seemed to get bored and started to improvise. It was amazing. I gave me chills. Pat’s solo ended with one of those screaming high notes that topped off the junior high band concert, like a painter’s final brushstroke.

Maybe it was because he was my bro or maybe it was the music, but it was one of the most inspiring performances I had ever seen. I will never forget that. I realize now that it was yet another example of the beauty and terror coursing through Pat’s veins, which we only saw in glimpses.

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Lil Kenny G

Nick remembers the icy waters episode

Pat was never a big fan of playing team sports. Instead, he coopted the rise of skateboarding and then the birth of snowboarding. Our neighborhood had the skate ramps to support the new hobby, and Pat soon proffered his idea of role models: Tony Hawk and the Powell Peralta gang, on all of us. When he wasn’t watching MTV, skate videos were passed around. We didn’t have video games until 1987.

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Young Pat gets air behind our house

In the winters, I remember Pat and Josh fashioning leather straps to old skate decks and trying to shred the ice on Romer Hill. Pat owned an early generation Burton and then a Kemper. These sports defined him as an early teen.

In 1990, my father bought a boat, and water skiing became one of Adolescent Pat’s passions. He was a great skier, became strong and then doing it on one ski wasn’t cool enough, so he started trick skiing! He was an individual through and through.

I remember one winter when Pat jumped at an opportunity to waterski the day after Thanksgiving in the frigid waters of Pineview. That night, I stayed up late to see him on the local newscast, for only a few plucky teenage kids would be waterskiing with snow on the ground. Things like that filled me with immense pride. My brother liked doing things that I perceived as unique and edgy.

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Pitter the Kidder: the day after Thanksgiving

Josh remembers the Michael Jordan episode

Even if he didn’t like playing team sports, he still loved watching them. We all did. After the Jazz’s breakout season of 1987-88—took the Lakers to seven games—my Dad managed to get season tickets at the old Salt Palace.

For the next several years, we would convince my Dad to drive us down hours before the game started. We would hang out in the Marriott Hotel lobby, waiting for the opponent players to come out and walk across the street to the Salt Palace. When players came out of the elevators, we and other fans would waylay them and badger them for autographs on our basketball cards.

On November 15, 1989, the Jazz played the Bulls. Pat and I were determined to get my Jordan Rookie card signed by the legend himself. We camped out in the lobby and when Jordan came out of the elevator, he was mobbed by kids. Pat played interference for me, blocking kids out of the way as we inched our way closer and closer to Jordan, and when Pat opened up a big hole right up the middle, I got in close enough to slip my card between Jordan’s thumb and his Walkman.

But then we both got pushed around the crowd and started clawing our way back in as we walked from the Marriott to the Salt Palace. It wasn’t until we were just reaching the front door that Pat opened up another hole for me to get next to Jordan.

“Michael, Michael! Can you sign my card?!”

“Sure, give it to me.”

“It’s under your thumb. Right there.”

The card was still there, after the whole mob-infested journey across the street. He signed the card and handed it back to me. Pat and I celebrated like you’d never seen, hugging and cheering.

It was one of those “You can do anything if you just go for it!” moments in our lives that shaped our fates and perspective. And that was all before the game even started, a game that turned out to be one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history, an amazing 8 point comeback in 41 seconds.

It was the single greatest live sports event I ever witnessed, and Pat would say the same

Nick remembers the DV8 episode

Pat took me to my first concert in 1992: headlined by a hardcore band out of New York called Helmet. The Jesus Lizard and Therapy were opening. They  played a legendary SLC venue called Club DV8. It was not the kind of concert you would normally send your 7th grader to on a weeknight.

My parents were out of town, so Pat took advantage of the moment to show his brother something new. Much as my Uncle Mark took Pat to an Oingo Boingo concert when he was 14 years old, Pat was paying it forward.

The concert was loud and heavy. It was alive. I probably jumped off that stage a dozen times that night. And every time Pat would go crazy, cheering me on!

I went to school the next day with my ears ringing, and my heart full of love for my brother. It was one of the earliest times in my life where I looked around at my peers and thought, these people have no idea what I went through last night! I was a really lucky younger brother! There was not a better older brother for an innocent kid like me to have. I learned so much, and not just about music.

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Pat gets excited at concerts

Josh remembers the Mexican torero episode

Our parents instilled a love for travel at an early age, taking us to cool places like Yellowstone, Hawaii, The Bahamas and the Yucatan. By the late-nineties all three of us were starting to travel the world on our own. In 1997, Pat and I planned a big overland trip through Africa that would go on to be a seminal experience for both of us.

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Pat’s early affection for Mexico

Before that, my parents took us on a trip to Mexico City. We saw pyramids and museums, walked through the Zócalo and huge markets. But my greatest memory from this trip was the bullfight we attended on the outskirts of the city.

We all entered the stadium, which was never more than a third full. Our family took our seats and the bullfight began. I’d been reading Hemingway at the time, so I was imagining myself as an aficionado, checking out the bullfighters and evaluating their performance, playing the part of any literary-minded tourist.

Not Pat, from the moment the first bullfighter stuck by the first harpoon, Pat was seething. While we sat and watched a typical bullfight, just another, albeit, strange sporting event, Pat saw an innocent animal being tortured to death for the entertainment of cruel people. He started screaming from the stand, making a huge scene

“This is bullshit!” he screamed. “Stop this!”

And he thought his cries could stop it. He actually thought he was going to stop the whole spectacle and shame the entire bullfighting world into ending their cruel and sadistic sport!

When we picture Pat, this is the man we picture: a man screaming from the stands of a bullfight, not giving a shit about what anyone else thought of him. He cared only for the poor animal on the stadium floor, the victim caught in an unfair situation with no one to advocate for his life.

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Gringos at the bull fight; Pat’s not impressed

Nick remembers the farewell episode

After Pat had traveled to Africa as a tourist and a reporter, he came back to Utah and finished a journalism degree at Weber State University. Following that, he moved in with me in Josh’s house in SLC, where a lot of our friends had lived out their university years.

Pat unofficially moved into our basement, where I had lived the previous summer for a short time. A queen sized bed was tucked upon the cement support below unfinished rafters, patches of carpet and a bare lightbulb or two hanging from the ceiling. This was the way to the infamous ‘cloud room’, a chamber of smoke where literature, philosophy, language and economics were discussed into the wee hours. Pat lived a minimalist’s life. He had a few books, a radio and his bike.

When I graduated, Josh decided to sell the house and after four years of being a centerpiece of our lives, the house deserved a proper send off. The big party got off to a great start, nearly 100 people were in and out of the house, drowning themselves in beer and wine, playing the part of binge drinkers we’ve all come to expect from college kids.

When the police showed up around midnight, the party flooded out the backdoor and into the alley, a typical university party bust. Pat and I stayed inside and kindly acquiesced to their requests to turn down the music, take it down a notch, and start sending people home. Once the police turned their backs and walked out the front door, Pat started getting fidgety. Before we could even talk about the next steps, he was hanging out the back door, screaming to the moon:

“Everybody can come back now, the cops are gone!”

I’ll never forget those words, which essentially shut down the party for good since the police officers hadn’t walked off the front porch. My brother, a hyperactive ball of energy, pushing the limits of the freedom to party, intoxicated by friendship and brotherhood. He was a force to be reckoned with and that force was an inspiration for so many.

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The last group to live at 9th & 13th

Josh remembers the Barcelona episode

Pat’s love for music and travel came together in the summer of 2003 when he came to Europe to visit me and Nick and join the tour of my European reggae-rock band. After a trip to Turkey, we headed to Barcelona with the band.

Nick had organized an apartment for the band, thereafter known as ‘the Piso’ where we stayed for three weeks. Our goal: to pay for the entire trip — room, board, drinks, feasts, nights out, everything with the money my band would make busking in the streets and plazas of Barcelona.

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On the streets of Barcelona

We had a suitcase full of more than 200 discs that we burned ourselves back in Germany. If we could sell them all, the trip would be paid for. It will probably come as no surprise to you that Pat became our lead CD salesman on the street. After all those years buying and trading CDs at Graywhale, it was Pat’s turn to sell the music to the masses.

He was living out a dream of his, and he was relentless. Each jam session brought huge crowds in the middle of summer in the heart of Barcelona, sometimes over 100 people circled around these intense performances.
The Spanish speaker, Nick usually went around first looking for the low hanging fruit.
Pat followed with a bag of CDs, yelling “diez euros” into the faces of his customers. Sometimes Pat would tell them in not so subtle ways that if they weren’t there to buy a CD, they had to move on… He was sure that every person there needed a Kontradiction CD.  That was a Pat marketing lesson for all of us.

One night after a day street performances, the band was invited to play in a bar in the Raval. The music evolved into a party and an impromptu jam session, when all three of us brothers took the vocals, jumping around, singing Violent Femmes ‘Country Death Song’ for a crowd of Europeans and Latinos into the night.

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Brotherly jam session

Nick remembers the Liberian diamonds episode

When my family and I moved to Liberia in 2013, Pat surprised me. I walked down to the gate to find out who it was and was caught off guard. For a matter of a few seconds, I did not exactly know who was standing before me. Pat grinned and said something like “it wasn’t easy to find you!” followed by a softer version of his signature laugh. He was clean shaven and had gained a few pounds. I must admit, that for split-second I questioned who this guy was. We hugged it out there on the streets of Monrovia.

Pat was drawn to West Africa again and again. His first experience came in Sierra Leone where he worked on a story about the protracted civil war, its victims and the future of peace. As a marketing genius, he returned to the region, this time to Liberia to help create content that would be used for fundraising for a Utah-based NGO called Sahbu, which sponsors education for street children. This time, he came for the diamonds. Sahbu had done so well fundraising off the paintings of former combatants, they decided to try to auction off some rough diamonds and see how much they could raise for more scholarships.

These trips proved to be eye-opening experiences. After his death, I recovered one of his notebooks from his trip to Sierra Leone. I thumbed through his notes, reading the quotes he had highlighted and the personalities he interviewed on his journey. I was a teenager at the time when he had gone off to Sierra Leone to follow his dreams. My brother was courageous, that’s what I thought at the time.

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Hanging out on my balcony

Pat stayed with us for a few nights. I introduced him to my wife, Ignacia, who was pregnant with our first daughter. It was the first time they met. I worried how my wife would come to understand my sometimes complicated brother, Now there was nothing to do. Pat showed up out of thin air. I met his diamond-liaison, Alex, and one day Pat came back to our house with a bag of diamonds. As he displayed them across our coffee table, he looked up at me and said:

“What if I just took one, I don’t think anybody would notice?”

“That doesn’t sound like a good idea,” I replied.

“Naaa, these are worthless unless they can actually benefit the Liberian people.”

Pat continued and told me how he believed these gems had no place creating profit for outsiders and that the Liberian people desperately needed to turn their diamonds into a stronger source of income for the country’s poor. He wanted an adventure, but he also wanted equality.

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Gathering stories in Liberia

Nick remembers the Sleater Kinney episode

One of the last shows we attended together was Sleater Kinney in February 2015. SK is a three piece women’s punk rock band and Pat’s favorite all time. He was the quintessential fanboy: he traveled to see their shows, bought their books, talked about them to me all the time. Pat was in love with each member as much as we was in love with their music. He paid for my ticket because he wanted to make sure I didn’t miss this one.

We all know what it’s like to be in a concert with Pat, especially when it’s a band he has been dying to see. First you stand there waiting and when the music starts, Pat starts moving through the crowd, sometimes with reckless abandon. You follow him as he elbows his way up front. He starts dancing, singing, jumping up and down, and carves out a small space. That is his sanctuary for the next hour. Pat can get rowdy too. People push back, yell at him or roll their eyes. But he doesn’t care. And then there are times Pat finds that kindred spirit, somebody who is hearing the same music in a different head.

I remember being in that winter crowd, relishing the way Pat reacted to Sleater Kinney’s music. He was happy, he was motivated, and he was moved. He would grab me by the shoulders at each song and tell me how much the song meant to him, what album it was from. It was a fitting last show.

Josh remembers the Gary in the Podcast episode

After nearly a decade at the Park Record, Pat made the transition from Journalism to the Marketing around 2010. In 2013, I convinced him to come out to San Francisco to help me with my startup Post Planner, which started only a few years earlier. Pat was our blog editor and his work resulted in an increase of website traffic of 20 times, going from 30,000 unique visitors a month at the beginning of his tenure to 600,000 unique visits at the end. Nothing short of amazing.

To sweeten the deal, Pat and I rented a sweet pad in Pacifica, a beach town 20 miles south of San Francisco. The house as much Post Planner’s office as it was Pat’s place. Pat and I spent many a day down there, writing blog posts and planning world domination through marketing and social media.

Every day I would drive down from the city, along one of the most beautiful coastlines in California, and drop down over the coastal hills and into Pacifica. My ride always passed by a small commercial block that had convenience stores, coffee shops, and restaurants where there was always one lone homeless man sitting in the same storefront on the corner. He was an older man with a bushy gray beard with a kind but empty look in his eyes. I waved to him every once in a while.

A few months into Pat’s time at Post Planner, we started a podcast about marketing and recorded a few episodes. One day Pat and I were sitting in our ‘studio room’ brainstorming about possible guests for the podcast, whom we could interview. We ran through the usual suspects – marketers and influencers.

“We should interview Gary” he said one day.

“Gary?” I said

“The homeless guy on the corner by the coffee shop,” he replied.

First, I was impressed he actually knew his name, but not surprised. I gave Pat a funny, disapproving look.

“Bro, I don’t know about that. I mean what does he have to do with marketing?”

I’ll never forget how Pat answered. He proceeded to tell me Gary’s life story: his once successful law career, his time at Stanford and how he ran into trouble with his career and marriage. I said “dude how do you know all that?” Pat said “because I talk to him when everyone else ignores him”.  Pat knew Gary’s story because he had taken the time to ask and listen.

I can picture Pat now, talking to him, nodding his head and saying “In-ter-esting” and squinting his eyes as he listened harder, replying with things like “That’s very well said.” And I can also picture Gary feeling a connection with my bro, feeling like someone cared about him. I have no doubt, my brother did care about him.

And that makes me feel good. It will always make me feel good. It will always bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Pat was a good man.

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Josh and Pat in Ocean Beach just a few blocks from Pat’s house

 

Before we held the celebration for Pat’s life, we met up with his closest and oldest friends, discussing old stories and what he meant to all of us. We discovered a common theme, that Pat continuously thought he was letting people down, especially his own family. Pat, if you are out there watching and listening, we want you to know that you did not let us down. You raised us up, and we will always be lifted by our memory of you.

 

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Three bros in 1984

 

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Three bros in 2004