Looking Back on a Year’s Worth of Last Days
There are no certainties in life. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. However, this essential truth is hard for many of us to grasp. Why? Because it is so easy to believe in the stability of things, the natural rhythms of the day, the rise and fall of the sun, the regularity of our beating hearts, our breathing, our sleeping, our awakening. To be healthy and happy is to feel exactly that nothing could ever go wrong. But this is the grandest of illusions. What makes this long-running column by David Schmader so great and unique is not only that it has this understanding (the void above which all of our little lives are suspended is real) but that it still maintains a sense of humanity despite the cruelty, misery, stupidity, the nothingness that can overwhelm us at any moment. Just because so much in the world is awful does not mean we have to be awful human beings. This is the profound message we meet every week in this column.
Last Days in 2012 was as rich in human suffering as it was in human feeling.
Notice the last three words:
SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2012 Speaking of celebratory gunfire, today brings none, just a bunch of tragic gunfire in Mount Rainier National Park, where today park ranger Margaret Anderson was fatally shot, allegedly by Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24-year-old Iraq war veteran who'll be found dead from exposure in the snowy park tomorrow. Condolences, onward, upward.
Notice the first nine words:
SUNDAY, JANUARY 8, 2012 This week of unusually awful news ends in Russia, where today a 26-year-old woman in the city of Bryansk was pushing her 18-month-old child in a stroller when the sidewalk collapsed and the ground caved beneath them, plunging mother and child into the underground municipal sewage system. "Police say the woman was rescued, but the child was swept away by the current into a collecting tank for the sewage system and was presumed dead," reports the Associated Press. "Investigators say they are working to determine the cause of Sunday's accident but suspect faulty construction of the sewage system may be to blame."
This may have been the best piece of local writing on Whitney Houston's death:
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2012 The week continues with a memory-searing moment shared by countless shoppers at the Capitol Hill Value Village, where late this afternoon the somber voice of a Value Village employee intoned over the intercom, "It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that Whitney Houston has died."
All you need is the first sentence to feel this:
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2012 In lighter news, a North Carolina man is dead after he accidentally drank gasoline, then lit a cigarette.
What you will find here is more evidence that Schmader is Seattle's best eulogist:
FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 2012 The week continues in Seattle, which for years has been blessed with the presence of Christopher Martin Hoff, the young plein air painter (and Atlanta native) seen working at his easel on city streets for the past 10 years. Hoff's gorgeously precise and moody street scenes have been featured at Linda Hodges Gallery, Seattle Art Museum, and in the permanent collection of the City of Seattle. In 2010, he received the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Award to pursue a project documenting the reconstruction of New York City's World Trade Center. All of which makes today's news of Hoff's sudden death by natural causes so awfully sad. As David Martin, owner of the Martin-Zambito gallery, told Stranger art critic Jen Graves: "I thought he was one of the finest young painters here in Seattle, and he was one of the sweetest, nicest, most genuine people I've ever known, and I really mean that. I know people say things like that when people die, but he really was an excellent person, too." Rest in peace, Christopher Martin Hoff. Everyone else, enjoy his work at christopherhoff.com.
Saying it like it is:
WEDNESDAY, MAY 9, 2012 In better news, the week continues with President Obama's long-awaited evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage, for which he today declared his unequivocal support on network television.
Again, the first sentence:
TUESDAY, MAY 22, 2012 The week continues in Marysville, where a policeman faces criminal charges after his misplaced gun turned his 3-year-old son into an alleged killer and his 7-year-old daughter into a corpse.
Last Days always captures the mood of our city after it's been struck by a tragedy:
WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2012 The week continues with the worst day in Seattle since the Blue House massacre, as today a mentally ill man visited the Roosevelt area's Cafe Racer and opened fire with two semiautomatic handguns, fatally shooting four people and leaving another in critical condition. The well-armed man then got himself to First Hill, where he fatally shot another person before getting himself to West Seattle, where he fatally shot himself. The heartbreaking particulars of all this horror have been covered in depth, leaving Last Days to cover a personal angle, introduced by Hot Tipper David: "I know that [today]'s shooting at Cafe Racer will be in next week's Last Days, and I wanted to contact you before you publish. If you don't already know this, the family of Cafe Racer is one of the most talented, intelligent, loving, and most welcoming groups of misfits that's ever graced the earth. No one deserves this experience, of course. But this couldn't have hit a more spectacular group of humans. Please, please, please express in your article the unbelievable amount of love that exists between us all and make that the focus of your report if you would." Dear Hot Tipper David: Your wish is my command.
When nothing happens:
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2012 Nothing happened today, unless you count extreme Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner's history-making plunge from a capsule roughly 24 miles above earth down into the eastern New Mexico desert, where he landed safely after a nine-minute, sound-barrier-breaking AIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2012 In lesser but still delightful news, today we turn from the triumph of Barack Obama to the failure of Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential hopeful who ran a campaign riddled with flip-flops, factual distortions, and grotesque failures of diplomacy, and who "planned to celebrate his election as the nation's 45th president with an eight-minute fireworks display over Boston Harbor," reports the Boston Globe. Instead, the $25,000 extravaganza was hauled back to the warehouse undetonated.