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Memorial memories

Yesterday after work I went to the Elysian for the memorial for Nap Cantwell. I didn't really know Nap, but I know his father, Dick, whom I first met when he was the brewer at the Big Time, before he went on to co-found the ever-growing Elysian empire with two partners. I met Nap as youngster a couple of times in the early days of the Elysian over a decade ago when Dick would bring him and his sister around, and once at a party at Dick's house in the hills north of Ballard. Nap was eighteen when he hit a van on his bicycle a couple of weeks ago, surviving for a week in the hospital before he finally succumbed to the injuries. He would have been nineteen yesterday.

The Elysian was already crowded by the time I got there. I talked to Nathaniel, who is a Big Time regular and fixture of the Ave as one of the former co-owners of the Allegro coffee shop. I've gotten to know him better since he started pulling espresso at Bull Dog News in the past year. We were soon joined by Hazel, whom I first met when she was a barback and then bartender at the Big Time starting in 1991. She tended bar at the Elysian for five years as well, and we've became good friends over the years. Then Oliver showed up. Hadn't seen him for ten years or more. Like me he was a regular at both the Big Time and the Elysian. Later, I gave a hug to Dawn, who was another bartender at the Big Time in the early days and who was the one who had told me about the memorial when I ran into her on the street in Fremont late last week.

Eventually I was standing by myself beginning to feel a bit out of place because I really didn't know many people in the jostling throng, and a woman I didn't know asked me what I was drinking. "It looks like lemonade," she said. I told her it was a wit -- a Belgian style wheat beer -- and gave her a taste. "Ooh, it tastes like shandy!" she said.

She asked me how I knew Nap. It turned out she was there because her son was a friend of Nap's. She had been to the earlier memorial service in the Olympic Sculpture Park, and she told me it had been a very powerful, tearful event, with eulogies by Nap's uncle, mother, and father, and a song written by a friend while Nap was still in the hospital.

"From everything I've heard," I said, "it sounds like he was a sweet kid."

"Yes, he was a sweet kid. He had his issues, as does my son."

"What teenager doesn't?" I said.

"Especially boys," she agreed. "Have you ever read Shakespeare? I think it's Henry IV? A prince -- is his name Hal? -- runs with a bad crowd, people like Falstaff. That was Nap. He ran with a crowd that was kind of ... ghetto."

She laughed, and I laughed too, out of surprise. She didn't elaborate on her word choice.

"Yes, he was a sweet kid," she said again when the conversation lapsed. "The kids had a party at my house, and even though my son was 21 I couldn't serve them alcohol. I made mulled cider, and Nap kept coming into the house and telling me how much he loved it."

Eventually she said she wanted to go look at the flower arrangements that I had mentioned were at down on the lower level.

"My name's Randi," she said.

"What?!" I said.

"My name's Randi," she repeated.

"My name's Randy too," I laughed.

"With a Y?"


"Mine's with an I." And we smiled and shook hands, and off she went.

I talked to Nathaniel a bit more after that and then he went off to talk to somebody else. I finished my beer -- the one beer I was allowing myself. I had run out of people to talk to.

Nathaniel had remarked earlier that he was surprised he didn't remember me from the old days at the Big Time.

"I can be invisible," I said. "It's one of my superpowers."

Sensing that I had become invisible, I slipped away and started the long walk home, hoping to walk the beer off, thinking about the friend of Nathaniel's who had just died from the effects of diabetes, thinking about my friend Stu in the hospital after a stroke. I'm sorry Nap didn't get a lot more years on the planet, and a lot more birthdays. Thy life's a miracle, as Edgar tells Gloucester in King Lear, and it's the truth in the form of a lie, like all the best stories.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jun. 15th, 2012 04:44 pm (UTC)
That's sweet and sad.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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