Red Echo

November 17, 2013

I went out for an early dinner last night and didn’t come back for nine hours. It was an adventure, and it was one of those nights that makes me love living in Seattle and wonder how I could ever start over anywhere else; I just kept running into interesting people, making new connections and restoring old ones. But it was complicated, too…

Started out with dinner in the U-district, then over to the Neptune for the Kronos Quartet / Degenerate Art Ensemble show. Lots of familiar faces in the crowd. Old friends, former co-workers, people I’d like to get back in touch with. The music was satisfying and weird and intense as I’d hoped. I don’t have the vocabulary to explain the dancing, and you’d think I must have been tripping if I tried to explain it, but I couldn’t stop watching it.

Met some friends outside the theater after the show, went over to some house I’d never been to before, to the birthday party of some guy I don’t know, one of the people involved in producing Sparkle Donkey Tequila. Oh, hey, there in the back yard it’s Comfort, the Church of Mez/Groovlabs shade structure, set up as a German-style beer hall. People wrestling in the straw, people doing keg-stands, a table full of pretzels and sausages. And half of them are my old friends from KAOS! Heck yeah. I drank some beer and caught up on things. Awesome. Never did meet the birthday boy.

Next we decided to go find the Jerk Church fundraiser party at Hazard Factory, but while we were heading out we heard the cops had raided it and stolen all the booze and the cash box. Suck! We decided we’d go restart the party – went by ALTSpace and picked up a box of fireworks, then headed to Georgetown, intending to arrive with liquor and excitement.

But we didn’t make it. On the freeway offramp we came across the scene of a terrible motorcycle crash. The rider had hit a slick, slammed into the guardrail, and flipped off the bike – falling four stories down to the train tracks below. Oh, man. It was so quiet – people were still trying to figure out what to do. The bike was still running. A broken brake line squirted hydraulic fluid in my face when I tried to move it. I was a little bit stunned. People helped me wash the gunk out of my eyes, then we rolled the bike out of the road.

The cops showed up, the paramedics arrived, we left. It was sobering. I’ll likely never learn who the rider was. He (probably he?) likely died instantly – we arrived seconds after the crash, and he wasn’t moving. It was a long fall.

Tragic, certainly, but – also – not a terrible way to go, when you have to go. One moment you’re full of life, doing something you love, the next moment you’re gone… And it’s one of the things you have to accept as a possibility when you ride a motorcycle. Of course you do everything you possibly can to avoid it, but you just don’t get to control everything. My own recent crash reminds me of that: what else could I have done to avoid it? Added more and bigger lights to my bike, maybe. Taken more time to practice rapid braking maneuvers, maybe? But there it was, things suddenly went wrong, and now I have my right hand in a cast. Things suddenly went wrong for him, and now he’s dead.

But really – this is just life. It’s immediate and dramatic when you’re on a motorcycle, because the risks are obvious, but this is something that’s true for everyone. You just don’t know, you can’t know, you can’t control it all. Things happen, and lives change or end. Nothing for it but to take reasonable precautions and then embrace whatever time you get.

Anyway. No party mood after that. It was late and quiet. We went wandering through the industrial district, roamed up through West Seattle, hung out at the viewpoint for a while, talking and taking pictures. Calm returned, perspective shifted, friendship deepened. A good night, all considered.


  1. A few years ago Charlene and I were headed up to the San Juans for my sister’s wedding, and decided to take a day or two in Seattle first. We went somewhere for breakfast, that turned into a conversation, and the entire day unfolded with the sort of “this led to that which led to …” serendipity that you can’t script.

    Aside from the gruesome motorcycle crash, it felt like the sort of day you describe, and I’ve always loved that Seattle can offer that even to a stranger.

    Comment by Dan Lyke — November 20, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

  2. <3

    You're right. I should write about it, too.

    Comment by foxtongue — November 23, 2013 @ 11:57 am