Wandering Elegies

Sam had been one of the founding members of Speakeasy, so while I had heard his name often over the years, we didn’t actually meet in person until Blasé died. At the memorial service, we were introduced to each other by mutual friends, and the group of us decided to head to Sam’s condo in West Seattle afterwards … to reminisce and reconnect.

Blasé had been a veritable force of nature — a rabble rouser and a dilettante, an artist and a commercial photographer, a cynic and a philosopher — and he had touched all of our lives in very different ways. For me, his somewhat objectionable behavior had resulted in my actually having the opportunity to join Speakeasy — an experience that has had an immeasurably positive impact on nearly every facet of my life — and his keen, artistic eye, and cool professionalism enabled me to learn how to love my portly little bod.

The latter might not mean that much to you if you didn’t grow up as a fat girl in a society obsessed with lithe beauty. These days, body positivity is an actual political movement, but in the years of 90s waifdom, fatness wasn’t something anyone wanted to cosign. There was no social acceptance platform with which I could use to soften the blows, and so I turned inward and focused on internal interests, eventually developing a sense of myself squarely rooted in my curiosity with the world around me and my creativity for interacting with it.

In fact, I had so completely disassociated myself from my physical form, I was often quite stunned by anyone expressing either positive or negative sentiments about it — as if, in doing so, they confirmed my greatest fear: I had been seen. I was infinitely more comfortable as the observer, merging into the background. In fact, even though I am far more connected to my physical self now than I ever have been in my life, I’m still more comfortable watching and absorbing from a distance.

Either that or getting right into the thick of it: No one is watching you when you’re writhing on a crowded dance floor, because they’re all too busy dancing, too.

By the time I met Blasé and was posing for him in varying levels of undress for a series of Speakeasy’s advertising campaigns, I had started to get a little bit more comfortable with my physical form. His humorous, respectful and open way of working completely disarmed me, and it enabled me to start the journey of recognizing — and learning to love — my own, unique beauty. His photos captured my curiosity, my playfulness, my creativity, my intellect, my mischievous nature; all the qualities with which I had aligned myself as a way of alleviating the demands of inhabiting a physical form that was regularly demeaned and degraded. It was a revelation to see those very qualities reflected in the physicality I had been taught to despise. That process enabled me to come home to myself in the most visceral way possible, and so while I doubt Blasé was ever aware of the measure and tenor of his impact on my life, losing him was incredibly bittersweet.

The evening of Blasé’s memorial, we headed up to the rooftop deck of Sam’s condo. He had picked up paper lanterns for us to light and send out to the Seattle skies in effigy. And we sat on the rooftop, smoking pot, sipping wine, sharing stories, laughing, learning. Our mutual friend Adrienne noted that Sam and I both loved live music, and that initiated our all-too-brief friendship, bolstered by some rather joyous musical discoveries and experiences.

When I learned that Sam had passed away quite suddenly in his sleep after only a year of actually spending time with him, it at first seemed like a poorly delivered joke — or a dramatic twist to a tale you’re crafting, but then think better of almost immediately and rewrite. It was just over a year from when we met at Blasé’s memorial service, and now this profoundly unique soul had moved along, too.

Sam inspired me; while some people might look to those that are almost saccharine in their positive spirituality, Sam was someone who had battled — and continued to battle — some serious demons. He had fucked up, he’d made some shitty mistakes, he’d hurt people that he’d loved deeply. And throughout all of that, he persevered: He remained an unassailable optimist, curious about the world around him, dreaming of big ideas, and sharing the joy that he found.

And even though he’s gone, he will continue to inspire me — to live life as fully as I know how, to keep dreaming, to keep creating, to keep exploring. The shock of his loss is still reverberating throughout my life, and I am certain to feel it for years to come. Someone as phenomenal and irreverent as Sam doesn’t come into or leave one’s life lightly. They do so with a glorious clamor, hitting all of the wind chimes and channeling all of the birdsong. They make such a large space for themselves that, when they are gone, the hollowness is bittersweet, for you must simultaneously celebrate the gorgeousness they imparted while also keening mightily for their return.

From Blasé to Sam, Autumn to Autumn bookended by reverberating losses. But I’m fairly sure that both of them would be quick to remind me that while we’ll all die, someday, on all of the other days, we will not. So we’d better fucking live.

3 thoughts on “Wandering Elegies”

  1. shannon applegate

    Kat, this really affected me. As Blase’s daughter and a life long friend of Sam’s, I really appreciated you digging so deep to celebrate these two incredible men. Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much, Shannon. It took me awhile to process, and I think I really have only just begun — and I knew them minimally compared to you! Speaks to their high impact way of living.

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