Cafe Racer Shooting
Contributions to the families of the victims may be made via caferacerlove.org. Contributions to the widow of Don Largen may be made via the Donald B. Largen Memorial Trust Fund at any branch of Bank of America.
Drew Keriakedes and Joseph Albanese were weird and witty guys who could mock the hide off a goat, but as sweet as fresh honeycomb. And they were both extraordinarily talented.
Drew was better known to most people by his circus/vaudeville nickname of Shmootzi the Clod, and Joe was also known as Meshuguna Joe or Dexter Mantooth (which he earned because he made his wisdom teeth into a necklace). As Joe's wife, Kelly Albanese, said to me: "Sometimes he was Joe Albanese, sometimes he was Meshuguna Joe, sometimes he was Dexter Mantooth—but what he always was, was good to me."
"The only, only real tragedy of his life was that more people didn't get to hear his music," Sari Breznau, of Circus Contraption and Orkestar Zirkonium, said about Drew's songwriting.
To hear Drew's sweet, ragged pipes was to love him. You can hear Drew singing, Joe playing bass, and Sari singing backup in Circus Contraption's closing-show anthem "Good to Know Ya," now an oddly appropriate showcase of Joe and Drew's gleefully apocalyptic sense of humor. Its chorus: "Hey, it's been good to know ya. But the time has come for us to say good-bye. Put on your mask and don your feathered boa. We'll sing and dance until the end of time!"
The impromptu wake held the day they died showed the breadth and the openness of their lives. There were grizzled old bikers, young punk rockers, nicely dressed neighborhood folks, at least one bearded lady, and a bona fide strongman who kept slapping his hand over his eyes and weeping. People drank beer, passed around huge jugs of whiskey, played and sang and danced. According to people at the wake, Drew had asked his own murderer over to his place a few nights ago, a man who seemed to be unhinged and had been kicked out of Cafe Racer a few times. Drew wanted to make a human connection with the man, to help him out. Drew was that kind of guy.
He was also a multi-instrumentalist who mostly played ukulele and steel guitar, and he grew up, according to Sari, in a super-Christian family in northern Florida. Then he abandoned that life. He had been, Sari says, a "one-man circus freak in the woods outside of Portland." One spring a few years ago, she'd come with Circus Contraption to the Oregon Country Fair. She said she found Drew "lying on his back in the dirt on the road behind where the bus was parked. He was singing 'Over the Rails' [his song, which became a Circus Contraption standard] to the stars by himself. And I thought, 'This is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard,' and I got my ukulele." They joined each other in a drunken, vaudevillian, circusy jam session in the dust. The deal was sealed. Drew was in the Circus.
Joe grew up in a family of wise-ass New Jersey Italians and mostly played standup bass—jazzy American circus stuff by profession, though friends at the wake said he was an insanely good prog-rock player with wicked speed who never quite found the right band to showcase those talents. "You've seen him play," Kelly Albanese said. (In fact, he and Drew played my wedding a few years ago, as a favor, in exchange for all the food they could eat, a bottle of whiskey, and whatever I could afford to pay them.) "His fingers were just a blur! He loved the strings, and the strings loved him. And his fans loved his love for playing."
Joe was also a leatherworker who'd make his own coats and backpacks out of hides, as well as a mellow savant who had a gift for puns. "That sounds ridiculous," Sari says, "but it was sheer genius how he could make associations so quickly and deeply in his brain."
At root, they were both marvelous, unique people who were extremely talented and had lots of good stuff left in them to give to the rest of us. They brought people joy. And their wake—with much sobbing, hours of impromptu street music, and lots of simultaneous laughing/weeping—is the kind of wake anyone would want. God broke the mold when He made them.
Good-bye, Drew and Joe. It breaks my heart just to type that sentence. BRENDAN KILEY
Gloria Leonidas has been described by those who knew her as a kind, energetic, generous woman of "incredible strength," as Father Photios Dumont of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, where she was a member, said to the Seattle Times. She served on the board of the Evergreen Health Foundation, had worked as both a small-scale electrician and an expert in large-scale lighting design, and was a volunteer at her daughters' school, Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. A family spokesperson and many who knew Leonidas declined to talk about her life, "out of respect for the family's wishes," according to one of them.
On the night of June 4, inspired by Leonidas's lighting work—which included projects such as the relighting of the Statue of Liberty, according to the Times—Town Hall mounted a silent public memorial for Leonidas: A square of light beamed from the building onto the pavement in the adjacent parking lot where she was shot.
In a statement, Town Hall executive director Wier Harman said the memorial is intended to "shine our light—metaphorically and literally—in commemoration of Ms. Leonidas's life." The memorial's title, Only Light, is a reference to something said by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE and ELI SANDERS
Donald Largen made his living as a land-use and urban-planning consultant, but to many around the neighborhood, he was the quiet guy in glasses and a black knit cap who'd always smile and nod when you saw him. If he knew you, you were his friend. "If you asked Don how he was doing, he'd actually tell you," one neighbor said. "On summer nights, you could hear him playing saxophone in his backyard."
Another said: "He was the nicest guy ever."
Don was a regular at Cafe Racer. He lived in a bungalow just down the quiet, pretty street adjacent to the cafe. He'd often stop in for an Americano in the morning, and he usually didn't stay for too long. Most of the times I saw him in there, he didn't even take a seat. Last Wednesday, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. (He's the closest patron to the camera sitting at the Cafe Racer bar in the surveillance video still that was plastered across the front page of the Seattle Times.)
Don is survived by his longtime partner, Glenna Wilson. GRANT BRISSEY
Kimberly Layfield was a regular at Cafe Racer who lived and worked in the neighborhood. Cafe manager Ben Dean said she was a "sweetheart," was fond of mimosas (her nickname was "Kimosa"), and would often sit at the counter working through crossword puzzles with Drew Keriakedes, another of the people slain in last week's shooting.
"She was one of those kind, kind people," Dean said. "She always wanted to make sure everyone was happy, always tried to make people laugh." Layfield was originally from Albany, Georgia, where she'd recently been visiting her family for several weeks. She returned to Seattle just days before the shooting. "Her last two Sundays were spent at our church," said Dr. Jeffrey Spicer, a pastor at the Albany First Southern Methodist Church, who officiated her funeral earlier this week. "The Sunday before last, her grandmother turned 103, and we had a birthday celebration for her." Layfield, he said, "wasn't, to my understanding, even planning on going back yet, but she had to go back to Seattle for something to do with her employment, for some trivial reason."
Dr. Spicer said a visitation ceremony at the funeral home in Albany was "wall-to-wall," with hundreds of people lined up to hug and comfort her parents. "She was a very pretty woman," Spicer said, "but her spirit was twice as pretty. Just a few minutes with her, and you'd start relaxing and feel totally at ease."
Layfield had worked as an actor on independent film projects—including an internet sitcom called 35th Street Mission—and was working at Roosevelt Dental Center. She "was just one of those unique and wonderful characters" who frequented Cafe Racer, Dean said. BRENDAN KILEY
Leonard Meuse is a survivor. At a Monday-night memorial for the victims of last week's shooting, someone announced from the stage that Len had woken up and was talking. The crowd hollered in tearful celebration. "I spoke with him today, and he was cantankerous," Len's brother Dan Meuse said later that evening. That, he added, was a good sign.
The Meuse brothers—three total—were born and raised in Seattle and graduated from Roosevelt High School, just one mile from Cafe Racer, where Len worked. "He loved it there," Dan said, echoing the refrain that Cafe Racer is more than a cafe: It's also a living room for an extended family of artists, musicians, and neighbors. (It's also popular with motorcyclists—Len is a Harley man.)
After working as a medical researcher at the UW and Stanford, Len became a chef, a baker, and a brewer of homemade beer. "He makes this barley-wine vinegar," Dan said. "I've got some in my pantry. It's great for steak marinades."
Dan said that Len was breathing well on his own and is being moved out of the hospital trauma center. "But for us," he added, "this story is only just beginning." Yesterday, Dan had to tell his brother which of his friends had died in the shooting. And Len's physical recovery from the gunshots won't be easy. One went into his face. Another passed between his aorta and his spinal column—just a millimeter's difference would've killed him. "The lung was punctured," Dan said. "The liver was shaved, the kidney took a chunk, the vertebra was chipped... I don't think there are statistics for this, for what he's gone through and will go through." BRENDAN KILEY
Although Ian Stawicki was the perpetrator on May 30, he can also be seen as a victim of his own untreated mental illness. Alice Moore remembers him as a handsome guy with black Irish looks, big blue eyes, and a flock of pink flamingos tattooed across his back. As a terrible cook who was nevertheless willing to cook for 20. As an ex-military man who taught her to shoot a gun but never picked a fight. "I never saw him be violent with anybody where he was the aggressor," Moore, 39, says. "He was one of the guys who would calm people down when they were looking for a fight."
Moore met Stawicki through Capitol Hill friends in the late 1980s, when she was just 16. They bonded over a love of Social Distortion, Dead Kennedys, the Misfits. "We were your typical Seattle youth culture crowd. Punk rockers, all of us," she says.
Within years, the two were living together (they dated briefly), but they were rarely alone: Stawicki regularly invited strangers he met around town to crash on their couch. It sometimes irritated her, she says, "But that's the kind of guy he was: welcoming."
Which is why it's painful for Stawicki's friends and loved ones to reconcile their memories with the man who, about five years ago, began living a life of conspiracy theories, telling people that the government was forcing him to complete covert operations. The man who was arrested for domestic violence in 2008 and for a weapons charge in 2009. The man who on May 30 did the unthinkable.
"I look at the pictures of the victims, with their tattoos and piercings, and they look just like many of our very close friends," she says. "It's devastating. The alternative community is our community."
Moore says Stawicki acknowledged his mental illness only once, about a year ago. "He mentioned going to Fort Lewis for a [psychiatric] evaluation," Moore says. "But in the next breath, he was talking about a covert military operation he'd finished." So she told him he should consider the possibility that what he was thinking wasn't true. "It was the nicest way I could think of to tell him, 'Dude, you're totally off your rocker.'"
Stawicki listened. You could see him considering it, she says, before he simply shut the conversation down. It was heartbreaking, Moore says. "I felt there was nothing to do but tell him that I cared about him and that he was always welcome at my house, for any reason. Or for no reason at all." CIENNA MADRID