I can’t say that we were particularly close. Like many others, I only knew him by his first name.
That isn’t really true. When I think of him, I can say that I knew him by his gentleness, sensitivity, kindness, generosity. It was always a delight to encounter him in the wilds of the Austin music scene. He was someone that deeply valued his privacy, and as someone that has felt much safer in anonymity, myself, I appreciated that. I think there was a mutual element there. He had a gift for making me feel special and genuinely appreciated, while still respecting the strange distances I’m comfortable with. And I think that’s truly a rare thing, to be able to understand that.
I’ve been crying a lot in the two days since I found out. My first reaction was a sort of removed disbelief. Why is it the best of us that go first? It was so totally senseless. Unfair. Fitting — in its own twisted way. He fell victim to the very broken and real flipside of the same scene that he loved and inhabited and nourished and, for me at least, helped to define. I can’t imagine the past several years that we’ve all been here, partying, listening, dancing, and connecting with each other without him. I’m thinking of the times we’d run into each other or meet up, and seeing him always meant hugs and smiles and sincere conversation. (When we could hear each other over the music, that is!) He always made sure I was having a good time. He’d freely share what information and ins he had about whatever was going on, to try to make my experience better. Roaming around the messy, dark nightclubs and energetic festivals with him. Appreciating the same music together.
All I can think of, really, are the things he embodied. His kindness and sweetness and generosity. He was a gentle, subtle presence. Organized with an attention to detail, comfort, and safety. Supportive and constructive and giving and I’m already missing his observant tweets, often tinged with his endearing self-consciousness about his social awkwardness. His commentary on the fashion choices of the drunk. His nightly posting of the sunset behind the Austin skyline from his apartment. It was so clear that he loved this city and appreciated the beauty of living here, and that spirit is something he grew in all of us.
I hate to say that I did take it for granted that he’d be here, and that we’d become closer friends. I can’t ever look forward to seeing him again, sharing those quiet moments amidst the frenzy that don’t get documented by any party photographer or selfie. Just being in the moment together, brought there by our shared appreciation of the amazing magic that happens here. The magic that happens here solely because of people like him. I’ll remember him as such a lovely and gentle spirit that always managed to make me feel beautiful and real.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that all I’ve been able to think of the past two days is how profoundly he’s affected me. As someone who can identify with his elusiveness and desire for privacy, I’m struck by how he managed to overcome my defenses and let me know clearly, consistently, and so sweetly that he saw me as a person and appreciated that I existed without being the least bit intrusive. I hate that it took this tragedy to have these thoughts coalesce and appreciate the gifts he gave so freely, but I’m learning;
I’m learning and I want to carry these thoughts forward. Be kind. Be respectful. Share what you have freely so everyone can have the most fun they can. Be enthusiastic about the music and the energy. Go to the afterparty. Go to the beach. Love where you are and the people you meet. Look out for each other. Do it all despite whatever anxieties you might have. And cultivate an attitude of respect for safety for your own sake and for the sake of all of us in all of your decisions. It’s obvious something needs to change about how people move in and out of Austin when they want to celebrate — but this is a whole other and very serious discussion.
Thank you, Kelly. Thank you for being a friend, and for showing me how it’s done. I’m better to have known you, and I hope you’ve made it to the most beautiful eternal shoreline to rest your heart.