Bridget was love. Truly, essentially, she embodied love: for music, for animals, for her faith and heritage, for her friends and family. She was always the first to remember a birthday, an anniversary, an important date or event in pop culture history, or someone else’s religious holiday. And she honored all of these milestones with equal reverence, her unmatched memory for trivia sparkling, and joyfully indignant if someone dared to treat something special (everything) as something ordinary. “You don’t remember Sammy Gravano?!” she spouted with practiced – but totally earnest – incredulity. “You don’t remember the Ed Sullivan Show?” Or the dietary rules of Shavuot, or the Day the Music Died, or the Schoharie Creek Bridge collapse, or the expected due date of a church acquaintance’s pregnant pet? I loved Bridget for (like me) not always having much of a grasp of the current moment, but being ready to recite and perform the 1962 hit parade at the drop of a hat, and often delightfully unsolicited. We bonded over a mutual zealousness, if not over the same things. She often enthused – quite comprehensively – about Elvis, The Doors, Nirvana, Guns ‘n’ Roses, and a litany of jazz musicians and movie stars from bygone days. Time dulled none of their importance to her. She was drawn to bright and colorful clothing, and bright and colorful people. It takes one to know one.
Bridget’s criticisms were often as richly detailed as her cultural knowledge. These topics ran the gamut: men her age who acted too old/were not libidinous enough/only talked about the Seahawks, anyone who disrespected her people (“her people” including friends, family, Italians, and the entire gay community), and the administrators of her apartment building who wouldn’t let her adopt an enormous bull mastiff. In addition to these heady moments of endearing irritability, there were, too, fits of incredible sorrow. She would remember loved ones, both human and animal, who were ill or had died, and empathy would consume her so suddenly and so completely that it was often jarring to witness. I can’t imagine how much more jarring it was inside her body and mind, care cresting into pain, pain emerging into tears. But the moment one would wrap her in a consoling embrace, her body would begin to shake not from crying, but from laughter. Pointing at some ceramic representation of a farm animal, she would gleefully cackle, “That dog looks just like Jayson! That kitten is Theo when he gets mad! This duck is Ben!” The pain was not forgotten, it seemed – it just had company, and joy was once again pushed to the forefront of her heart, and then she had somewhere to go – always, somewhere to go – and business to attend to, and for that moment it would be okay. It was hard to watch physical pain become her constant shadow in her later years, but despite it, off she would go to make her rounds. There were always people to visit and greeting cards to procure. “I’ll see everybody tomorrow,” she’d announce as she went, as if clocking out of a job site. In a sense, she was. Her job was to be Bridget, and nobody did it better.
I would wish for another tomorrow, just to hear her sing “Cry” or “My Way” or “White Rabbit” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a voice both piercing and lilting, always powerful, always self-assured and glowing when in her element. But now she is free from pain and at peace, and I like to imagine her singing karaoke with David Bowie and Elvis (“They have the same birthday, January 8th”) and all of them in their prime of life (“Did you see the arms on Adam Ant?! I wish I were 30 years younger”), tipping back Heaven’s best whiskey and reminiscing with Frank Sinatra about the old neighborhood. There are cats and babies to coo at (and that one looks *just like*….), lost loved ones to catch up with, tsotchkes to collect, gruesome mob murders to read about, and as many giant, friendly bull mastiffs as she desires (“Hi doggie!”). She’s got a saddle on one and is riding it to John Lennon’s place so they can work on their maverick duet of “The Oldest Established (Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York)” for the next Toastmasters’ meeting. Surely Bridget, of all people, would have a bulging appointment book and a thoroughly full dance card beyond the veil. And perhaps this version of Heaven is blasphemous, but I don’t see how it could be wrong to wish for Bridget to be all the happiest and healthiest parts of who she was, forever. God bless you, Bridget, and all who love her…and “remember, sunshine can be found beyond a cloudy sky.”
JOHN BOY RICHARDS
Of the many people I’ve met in my time at the Couth Buzzard, none of them embodied the spirit of a Muppet more than John Richards. I say this not with malice or teasing, but with due respect. The Muppets are creations of joy from a brilliant, playful mind. They are colorful, loud, exaggerated characters, full of mischief and curiosity. Would you be surprised, having met him, to learn that beneath his “I Don’t Want To – I Don’t Have To – You Can’t Make Me – I’m Retired” t-shirt, there was not skin, but felt?
Muppets are known to delight, amuse, and teach children, but have enough wit and humor to win the attention of adults, too. John Boy could often be found engaging with both a kid and their parent, gently guiding both on the finer points of the game of Go, for which he had boundless passion. In addition to our weekly game nights, John also taught at the Seattle Go Center, and was a beloved figure in both the local and larger Go communities.
Muppets love to sing and dance. John could often be found singing to himself as he typed away on his computer, on which there was usually a virtual Go board open. “White Flag” by Dido, “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell, “Hold Me Now” by the Thompson Twins. And in his youth, he studied folk dancing – I wish I remembered more of that story! While running the Couth Buzzard Writers’ Group for many years, he developed a fictionalized and highly humorous version of his storied life, but I recall only bits and pieces. Luckily his Facebook still stands as a kind of scrapbook, his vibrant personality preserved in digital amber.
Muppets are movie connoisseurs. John once handed out printed copies of his list of favorite films, hundreds of items long. Also known by the moniker “Movie John,” his list contained both cult favorites and enduring classics, and he peppered his normal conversation with tidbits from all of them (“Yeah, a BLOOMIN’ BOOK!”). The recommendation I enjoyed most is “Expiration Date” – a quirky, locally filmed dark comedy that told one everything they needed to know about John’s sense of humor. He was an evangelist for the things he loved – for a time, he carried copies of this film around in his bag, just in case someone wanted to try it out. The movie he seemed to talk about most was “Freedom Writers,” one that he knew I found to be a work of dubious revisionist history, but that was John: eager to see the positive in most anything. Our opinions sometimes clashed, but gently – and I’m sure we annoyed each other at times, as friends do. But when it came to things like learning about equity and etiquette, he did try, and I know that he worked hard to cultivate a humanist worldview. John came from a time of white male supremacy and condescension, and was proud of his evolution away from the ideals he was born into. He championed things like environmental activism (John was particularly enamored of Greta Thunberg), disability rights, ending the war on drugs, and affordable physical and mental health care. He enjoyed learning new things as much as he enjoyed teaching them, and loved a good cultural or linguistic exchange.
As I type this, the silence of game night feels particularly loud without the punctuation of his running commentary and chirping exaltations. The Muppet analogy can only go so far, and I know there are many more things I’m forgetting to mention. Like the importance of Buddhism in his life, how his smile reached his eyes when showing off his shiny, new, purple wheelchair, how he delighted in sipping his favorite Green River lemonade or buttering a toasted Morning Glory muffin. John was, in fact, the only person to have a Couth Buzzard menu item named after them. The John Boy pizza took the best ingredients from all the other pizzas – the more the merrier! – and combined to make something uniquely delicious. That urge to make something brand-new of anything and everything around him was John Boy to a T. Each day, another customer shares a memory of John, the stories going back years – how he welcomed them into this community, how deeply woven he was (and is) to the culture and personality of the store, and the store to him. He will be deeply missed by everyone who calls this place a second home. Raise your banana milkshakes and give a toast of thanks to John Boy, our teacher and our friend – may you rest peacefully.
The Buzzard lost another true original with the passing of “Mr. Magic Realism” – fantasy and science fiction author Bruce Taylor. He was a warm, kind, funny, clever, gentle and generous soul who personified whimsy, and we greatly enjoyed his author events, where he recounted intricately woven tales in his inimitable style, and sporting his signature duds: an all-white suit, top hat, with a dash of color or a funky patterned necktie beneath his jacket. I didn’t see Bruce much outside of his readings, but our connection over Facebook revealed deep love for his partner Roberta, pet cats past and present, and being outdoors – all of which buoyed his creativity. Bruce seemed to thrive around other thoughtful, inventive, eccentric folks that matched his energy. And all of us at the Buzzard who miss him hope that through his many published works – available at mrmagicrealism.com – new readers will discover and be delighted by Bruce for years to come. May whatever lies beyond the door be good and welcoming to you, friend.
“Yesterday I learned of the passing of a friend, and a friend of the Couth Buzzard Community, Patrick Haggerty. Patrick was an extraordinary person. A member of the Gay Liberation Front, a Socialist, and the first openly gay musician to release a country western album, ‘Lavender Country,’ in 1973. We met at the Port Townsend Film Festival in 2015 and immediately connected. Patrick invited my lover and I to a bar where he and his band were performing that evening. It was one of those magical musical evenings, as we danced to ‘I Can’t Shake the Stranger Out of You’ and ‘Back in the Closet Again’ and many more wonderful songs. I invited Patrick to perform at my store. Lavender Country graced our space for two consecutive Valentine’s Day Concerts. R.I.P. Patrick. I am so honored to be one of the many lives that you touched.”
“His activism alone would have been enough to secure him a place in gay hearts and gay history. But indeed, “Lavender Country” and its follow-up, “Blackberry Rose,” elevated Patrick Haggerty to the status of legend. Though the music was full of queer celebration (I fondly remember his husband J.B. offering me my favorite piece of LC merch, a hanky ‘for my horse’), Patrick was candid about what it was like to grow up gay in a violently homophobic America. He spoke tearfully of brilliant futures lost to bigotry and the AIDS crisis, and with fierce passion about labor rights and solidarity. At the 2019 Valentine’s Day show, he introduced the song ‘Back in the Closet Again’ thusly: ‘No one is above anyone else in the working class, certainly not immigrants. They are our comrades in the international socialist revolution.’ That night, he prefaced many of his songs with the reasons why he wrote them, and a common theme was ‘there was simply no other song on this subject.’ So I asked him what song he hadn’t heard that he would like someone to try and create. His first thought: a song about Leon Trotsky that is ‘not didactic’ but shows his heart and passion, and if I were to make this he’d help me sing it. How I wish I had risen to this challenge! But I was truly glad he appreciated the question as much as I appreciated his sharing of his own story and passion. His talent, friendship, and unquenchable spirit will be remembered by all who knew him, and countless generations of queer people for whom he paved a radical and defiant path.”