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Love Is the Shit That Makes Life Bloom

colma 1987
1998-10-31 Jay's costume for Ghoulbooty


I've been trying to remember when I met Edward Jay Salmon Jr, who was known to all as Jay. It was through high school friends of his, whom I'd met at a party at Jack and Pauline Palmer's house in Bellingham that may have been in early 1986. I'm pretty sure I first met him when he and a bunch of those Bellingham kids moved to a big house on Capitol Hill in Seattle and threw a house-warming party. It must have been in late 1986 or early 1987, because Robyn came to the party with me, so I'd met her by then. I think it would've been before July 1987, because that's when Victor and I drove to the Oakland Westercon, and I'm pretty sure that Victor had moved into the Quack House with Jay by then.

That's when I really got to know Jay, when he lived at the Quack House and I came over frequently to hang out with Victor. Those were crazy days, and not all of it in a fun way. I could Tell Some Stories, but this is almost definitely not the place for them. But there were definitely fun times too, and I remember one night when things were jumping and Jay and I went out in the front yard to spraypaint his scooter with a camo stencil. Jay was in the group on Halloween in 1988, along with Victor and Robyn and a couple of others, when we went to see the Butthole Surfers at the Union Station and caught an opening act called Nirvana that sounded pretty damned good.

1992ish Jay
Circa 1992, listening to music in my room


I went to a lot of shows with Jay over the years. Too many to list the best ones, although those Butthole Surfer shows were pretty epic, and later we saw a number of great Spearhead shows as well. There were other milestones along the way. I remember when he brought his new girlfriend, Elonna, to a party at our house. I can't remember what year it was when he and Elonna moved into the house next door. That house had seen a number of people come and go in my years living with Denys in this house, and it was always awkward to negotiate the bills for the shared water/sewer mains with the new inhabitants. Finally we had good friends there, and it felt more like we were one big family sharing two houses.

Eventually Jay and Elonna got married at a memorably mad and boisterous ceremony up in Bellingham. Jay's mom died, and I met his dad a few times when he came down to stay. He was a Navy veteran of WWII with an ancient leopard head tattoo on his arm that had turned into a black blotch over time. I'd known Jay's brother Rolf since way back, when he and Jay shared an apartment near the poster factory where they worked up north, before Rolf moved to Portland and became a baker. Jay's dad died, but I'm not sure if that was before or after Jay and Elonna's daughter, Sophia, was born. Elonna wanted a home birth, and I remember running down to PCC to buy a sack of sea salt when she started to go into labor, only to return to find that she'd gone to the hospital after all.

1993-09-11 With Tami, Elonna, and Jay at CRR housewarming
At the 1993 housewarming party for my parents' place at Crooked River, with Tami, Elonna, Jay, and me


My friendship with Jay changed after Sophia was born. He had to become more responsible and was totally dedicated to his daughter, while I remained a pot-smoking bohemian slacker. We didn't go out to shows so much any more. Still, the new socializing was back porch barbecues at their house, where Jay played the Patio Daddyo, grilling flesh and mixing martinis in a cocktail shaker that I gave him for his birthday. We listened to lounge music under the chili pepper lights as the late summer evenings stretched on for eternity, and life was mighty fine.

A few years ago Jay and Elonna separated. They were both scrupulous about not pulling their mutual friends into whatever conflict it was that had grown between them. Elonna stayed in the house with Sophia, and Jay went on a bit of a walkabout, first living in a friend's house in Ballard, then moving into a group house on Magnolia, where he became more or less the household coordinator, looking for new renters when there was a room open. Most recently he had moved into another group house up in Northgate with a bunch of single mothers. I hadn't yet visited the new place, but I ran into him at Northgate Mall almost immediately after he found it and was happy to hear that he'd landed in such a promising new home, where Sophia would be more than welcome.

2013 Jay and Sophia
Jay and Sophia in September 2013


When I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, Jay started to invite me to go for long walks. He'd been struggling with an autoimmune muscle disease for a few years, so exercise was something he needed more of as well. I think it was about a year ago after one of our walks, as we sat drinking a beer at Fremont Brewing, when Jay told me that he felt that the past couple of years had been a frozen emotional wasteland for him and that he was finally coming back to life. He was dating other women (and had much more patience with the complexities and setbacks of dating life than I have ever had) and was pursuing a number of activities to try to make contact with others and to energize himself: ecstatic dancing, some kind of group singing exercise, some kind of vaguely spiritual-sounding group self-realization thing.

What struck me as he told me about these various adventures and experiences over the past year is that he was becoming much more open and articulate about his feelings. I was probably as close to Jay as I am to anyone, but the closeness was never based on talking about what was on our minds or in our hearts. He wasn't someone I went to if I needed to talk about my trials and tribulations. He didn't really seem to know how (and I'm not exactly brilliant at it myself), but lately he was really opening up. He was really starting to flower as a human being, and it was fascinating and heart-warming to watch.

1999-08 - With Jay
With Jay on the back porch next door in the summer of 1999


The last few times Jay came over to the house to watch a Seahawks game with me, I cooked something. This was a new development in our friendship too, and I felt that I was making up a little for all the meals he'd cooked for me over the years (often with Elonna, to whom I'm also deeply in debt on the meal front). Last Sunday I cooked a lentil and sausage stew. When I texted that it would be on the menu, he texted back, "Wow. Awesome." He was always very appreciative when I cooked for him. It felt good to be feeding my friend, and to be sharing another meal with him. Healthy food, made with love. We sat on the couch together, watching the Seahawks lose a close game to the 49ers. He fell silent in the last half of the game, which I attributed to the fact that it was a grinding, difficult contest. Was it more than that? When he left, he seemed fine. See you later, gator.

What I've been given to understand about the cause of death is that in January he had been diagnosed with a-fib, which Wikipedia tells me is short for atrial fibrillation, a form of cardiac arrhythmia. Apparently it was the conjunction of this condition with his autoimmune muscle disorder that caused his heart to fail. It's still not clear to me whether he knew he was in danger of sudden heart failure. He hadn't told anyone about the a-fib, although he'd told Elonna in January that he was having his heart checked out. His housemates heard him get up and take a shower Tuesday morning. It was only when he failed to pick up Sophia after school that day that alarms were raised. Elonna and Sophia found him dead in his bedroom that evening when they went to see why he wasn't answering his phone.

1998-10-31 Brian Makes Up Jay
Brian applies make up to Jay for his awesome Halloween get-up (see above) in 1998


How do you encapsulate a person? The first thing I think of when I think of Jay is his weird, silly, playful sense of humor. Cheese-slapper, he used to call me. "Chili cheesedog!" was a favorite epithet. One time, Denys, Elonna, Jay and I went to the outdoor cinema in Fremont. They gave everyone a name tag at the gate, and Jay's read Peaweasel. To this day I have no idea where the name came from or what it means, but it certainly struck me as the perfect name for an old cheese-slapper like Jay. Whenever the time was ripe I'd call him Peaweasel, and it was always good for a laugh.

He loved to dance. He loved funk music, and we spent many an hour in my basement room or in the front room of his house listening to funk and, in earlier years, shaking our booties. In the acid jazz era we sought out the clubs where DJs were mixing it, and another unforgettable live show was seeing Bootsy Collins at Rkcndy and getting a sweat-drenched hug from Bootsy himself after the show. Jay had started going out dancing again in the past year and was disappointed that I was no longer game.

He dearly loved his daughter and had dedicated his life to her. He dearly loved his friends. He was always smiling and laughing, always quick with a silly joke. I always felt utterly at ease with him, always felt at home with him. He was like a brother to me. I never said any of this to him. I gave him plenty of hugs though, and I think they said what needed to be said. Somewhere, if only in memory, those hugs and laughs and that easy, loving brother-feeling is never going to end. Bless your good, grinning soul, Peaweasel. I am an incomprehensibly lucky man to have been your friend.

1996ish Jay Closeup

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
holyoutlaw
Dec. 14th, 2013 07:49 pm (UTC)
Very sweet and moving, thank you for sharing these memories.

I never really got to know Jay, and appreciate your stories about him.
randy_byers
Dec. 14th, 2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
It's always so hard to know what to say about someone. I have a lot of little Jay stories floating around in my head, including things he told me about his life before I met him. It's hard to distill it all.
smofbabe
Dec. 14th, 2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
A beautiful tribute. So sorry for your loss - it's hard to find a friend with whom you feel so comfortable and even harder to lose them. Hope these memories give you some comfort.
randy_byers
Dec. 14th, 2013 09:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks, J. I'm blessed with a lot of great friends, and I want them all to live to a ripe old age. I can see that I'm probably going to start feeling angry pretty soon that Jay only got 48 years on the planet. Not that it does any good.
gerisullivan
Dec. 14th, 2013 11:59 pm (UTC)
I'd posit that the anger does do some good. It's often (usually?) part of the process.

Many thanks for these photos and memories of Jay, and the friendship you shared. So many years, and not nearly enough.
randy_byers
Dec. 15th, 2013 05:11 pm (UTC)
You're right. Anger comes with the territory. My feelings have been all over the place the past few days.
croneitude
Dec. 15th, 2013 06:32 am (UTC)
He sounds like a wonderful person and friend. What a huge loss for you, his family, and your whole community. Big hug.
randy_byers
Dec. 15th, 2013 05:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks, E. The hugs help, even virtual ones.
voidampersand
Dec. 15th, 2013 07:45 am (UTC)
Sorry you lost such a good friend, and when he obviously still had so many adventures left in him.
randy_byers
Dec. 15th, 2013 05:13 pm (UTC)
Yep, he seemed to be getting set to blast off to whole new worlds.
mcjulie
Dec. 15th, 2013 07:27 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry for your loss -- and happy for your friendship.
randy_byers
Dec. 16th, 2013 04:17 am (UTC)
There seems to be some kind of weird supply and demand thing going on. There will be no more Jay in my life, so what Jay there was has become even more precious.
missfairchild
Dec. 16th, 2013 05:59 am (UTC)
This is beautiful, Randy. I am so sorry that your friend is gone.
randy_byers
Dec. 16th, 2013 04:01 pm (UTC)
I just wish it did more to fill the Jay-shaped hole in all our lives right now.
ron_drummond
Dec. 16th, 2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
Bless you for the consistent warmth and generosity of your witness. The last paragraph busted me up.
randy_byers
Dec. 17th, 2013 12:13 am (UTC)
I'm still feeling pretty weepy myself. There's going to be a viewing of the body tomorrow, and I hope it helps me say goodbye. I'm having a tough time with it. Untimely ripped from this mortal coil ...
ron_drummond
Dec. 17th, 2013 04:23 am (UTC)
Don't try to hold back, man -- let your grief be, let it run, Jay's more than worth it, and so are you.

I'm glad you're going to view the body -- a friend here died last summer, and I went to the viewing, first time ever, I actually think I made it to 53 without ever having seen a dead human body, and there Ned's body was, and I stood there staring at it for the longest moment, and it was so patently NOT him in any way, he was so very much not home, that as freaky as it was it actually helped. I knew he was somewhere else. Gone.
randy_byers
Dec. 17th, 2013 04:51 am (UTC)
There were viewings of all four of my grandparents. The one I remember most distinctly, for some reason, was my Grandma Roth, and I had pretty much the same reaction you're describing. Partly it was that she had lost a lot of weight before she died, so she no longer looked like my mind's eye saw her.
Ellyn Hammond
Dec. 17th, 2013 06:01 am (UTC)
Jay
Little brother you have no idea how much I will miss you. Your big sis Ellyn
randy_byers
Dec. 17th, 2013 03:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Jay
Your family raised a fine human being in your little brother, Ellyn. I'm so sorry he had to leave us all so soon.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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