I'm sure no one who is a regular reader of this column will disagree when I say that it has been a tough 2003 for the music community in terms of accidents and emotional hardship. Because of this, some of us have found ourselves facing up to tough soul-searching. It wasn't until last Sunday morning at 3:00 am, as I sat in the basement office of a Portland club with one of my oldest friends, that I realized the reason I've been spending so much of the past few months seeking out people I've lost contact with. I'm hoping to get a little perspective on life here in Seattle. At first I thought I might be avoiding the present by living in the past, but if anything is obvious to me today, it's that sometimes, like returning to The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, or The Sun Also Rises, it's good to go back and reread the stories that shape your adulthood.

There was a moment last weekend that I needed more than I'll probably ever understand, although I knew it was important as it happened. I was at a reunion show for a band the hipster crowd of Portland has forgotten about, and I don't blame them. It wasn't of their time, but it was of mine when I lived there. Somehow the band had heard I was coming down for the show, but none of us had seen or spoken to each other before the members took the stage. As the frontman sang and jumped around in his underpants with so much enthusiasm it was hard to believe nine years had passed, he noticeably scanned the crowd during several songs, then pointed up to me. He wasn't sure he'd found the right face until I stuck out my pinkie, a gesture understood only by the two of us. It was so fucking great to see that smile. "We used to do everything together," I thought as I remembered us doing just that, platonic best friends who couldn't say no to each other. But somehow, I'd managed to let nine years go by without checking in. After the show, he introduced me to his girlfriend of five years, telling her, "We used to do everything together. EVE-RY-THING." How could I have forgotten? And if you've ever sat at a table with me when I've softly karate-chopped your crossed knee (so you'll reflexively kick the shin of the person sitting across the way), now you know who to thank.

I feel a sense of relief, having checked in with people I hung out with before I moved to Seattle. It was here that things got out of control for me, probably because Seattle is more sophisticated and therefore harder to be yourself in sometimes. I want to make sure we all don't forget about each other, even when it's hard not to walk away. The recent suicide of Elliott Smith being the last straw, I'm ready to join Julianne Anderson, who asks, "Do we dare wonder 'What's Next?'"

"With the loss of Elliott Smith, Scotty Jernigan, the Exploding Hearts, and other ongoing tragedies too terrible and numerous to recount," says Anderson, "the local music community is starting to consider the end of the 'helplessness.' It's just time to be 'proactive' as opposed to being 'reactive,' meaning we as a community have to make it easier for our 'people' to get help--immediate and/or long-term, easily accessible help, including financial and educational support."

Anderson, myself, and members of the loosely configured local music-industry support group for women, the "Ladies Who Lunch" network, are in the process of forming a non-gender-specific "Resource & Action Chapter," tentatively titled the RACk, with the goal of assisting music-community members in crisis. Says Anderson, "Our intention is to start a fund, build a website, host some seminars and events, to educate, inform, assist, and comfort those in need." The cause is embryonic at best, and as the organization begins, Anderson asks that you "please feel free to e-mail in if you want to be an active part of our charter to rack@alphafemale.net."

We get off our asses to support our friends' bands. We can do the same to keep them alive and healthy.

kathleen@thestranger.com