Two of the four people killed yesterday at Cafe Racer were much-loved musicians who lived at the heart of Circus Contraption, God's Favorite Beefcake, and other great theater and music projects I've loved. The others shot at the cafe yesterday were neighborhood characters and fixtures, murdered (by all accounts so far) by a madman with a gun and too little help.
Everyone who has died today—and this year—due to gunfire in Seattle is being grieved across the city. But these were the two guys I happened to know and whose wake I attended. I wasn't there as a reporter, just there to pay my respects. But a few details I noticed (and some photos):
1. Last night's wake took place at D's house (we're holding the names until they're officially released), which he shared with his wife and some roommates, just a half a block from Cafe Racer, where he was murdered. Another man who was shot lived on the same block. It was a spontaneous neighborhood funeral in plain sight of the Cafe, where police were coming in and out and spraying the blood off of their shoes.
People were mourning—drinking, hugging, laughing, crying, and doing that emotional mourning dance between sinking into the depth of the sadness and rising up to tell a joke or a story and then sinking again.
2. As has been reported elsewhere, the killer had been kicked out of the Cafe a few times and even his family members expected him to do something drastic. People at the wake said D had invited the man over to his home just a day or so ago, trying to make some kind of connection. (D was, by all accounts, a nice guy.) But D's wife, they say, wanted the man to leave because he was acting oddly and scarily.
3. D's house is normal for the Roosevelt area: A front yard, a back yard with a vegetable garden, some carpeted floors. The living room had a bunch of instrument cases (guitars cases, banjo cases) and effects pedals. The novel on the table: Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. The record sleeve lying on the LP player: The Harder They Come by Jimmy Cliff. In the bathroom: a cat box with a little bit of poop in it. Just a normal house, full of extremely sad people.
3. The mourning was mostly happening in the front yard, within sight of Cafe Racer, and it was intense. Many of the people there were show people—musicians, actors, acrobats, vaudevillians.
4. A few hours after I got there, a fire truck showed up, presumably to wash the gore out of the cafe. (A police officer said "this site is clear, let's clean it up" moments before the firemen went in to blast it out.) The crowd gathered at the police line to watch their friends' blood rinsed out of the cafe. Some people cried, some quietly teared up, and several people poured wine and whiskey onto the sidewalk for their friends.
As the last police cars and motorcycles were pulling away, and the TV news crews were filming them, the crowd gave the TV cameras a rousing middle-fingered salute. (There had been tension all afternoon between the reporters circling the wake and the mourners, who said they thought the reporters—despite their this-is-a-really-important-part-of-the-story patter—were behaving like vultures.)
5. People brought instruments and started playing in the middle of the street between Cafe Racer and D's house. Orkestar Zirkonium played Balkan-style brass songs that oscillated between gleeful and doleful and sounded something like this. It was the closest thing to a New Orleans jazz funeral I've ever seen in Seattle—a pack of musicians showing up spontaneously, blowing their horns and banging their drums with tears streaming down their faces.
Some folks played violin dirges. One man did a handstand, circus-acrobat style, in the middle of the band, doing midair splits and slowly gyrating his legs. Two women sat on the shoulders of others and harmonized an Appalachian song that made pretty much everyone cry. An accordion trio played some of one of the slain's songs and the crowd sang along.
People also brought large paper lanterns, the kind with a little rectangle of fuel you can ignite and then wait until the paper fills up, let it go, and watch it sail. People cheered as each balloon went up. Then a plane flew over and someone worried that it would hit the balloon.
6. During a lull in the music, a graybearded man began singing a doleful prayer in Hebrew—a "prayer for peace," someone said—and many people joined in.
7. Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered to set up flowers and tributes outside the door to Cafe Racer, from art patrons to neighborhood folks to people with banjos and accordions around their necks. The news cameras were all there to record it.