Vern Rumsey remembered

Photograph by Pat Castaldo

By Pat Castaldo

When I got the text, like so many of my friends, I didn’t actually believe it.

I was instantly back in my apartment above Drees, hearing him call up, “Pat! Pat!” to the open window, holding a 12-pack of whatever was on sale at Safeway. “I’ll come down and open the door, just a minute.”

“Oh, you brought us beer,” I say to him, smiling, as I push open the heavy glass door open and let him in.

He looks at me, sheepishly and fully Vern-ly, with that smile he had where his jaw would clench a little and his cheek lift, “oh, um, this is just for me.”

Vern meant so much to so many people, and as I think now about never seeing him again, I realize completely how much me meant to me.

I am crying, playing the Long Hind Legs self-titled, thinking about how easy he was to just sit next to for hours. How good of a dude he was. How we could keep pace drinking cheap beers and working on album covers, talking about the everything and the nothing of our lives.

I think about seeing him play music a million times.

I think about visiting him out on the farm, pulling up in the dart after following his directions and wondering “where the hell am I?”

I think about my own thoughts about him over the years, “wait, why isn’t Unwound the biggest band in America right now?” and “man, Vern smells like cigarettes right now, I’m gonna crack a window,” and even, “I would kill for another Long Hind Legs album. So, so under appreciated.”

I think about the life he lived and all the people who’s lives he touched. I feel for the ones who loved him more and closer than I was ever able to.

Vern wasn’t without faults, he’d be the first to admit it, but that was the Olympia in him — that is that bit of Olympia in all of us who were there.

We were an incredible cast of misfits and outcasts, living under the constant grey clouds of the ’90s. Living with a constant drizzle and dampness of the same three square blocks that circled from the Reef, to the Capitol Theater, to our walk-up apartments or punk-named houses.

The magic of Olympia was never the place — it was the people we knew then. It didn’t matter if you were friends or enemies or eventually both; all of us where an alchemy for each other, something that permanently touched and changed each and every one of us; that turned us from teenagers to adults, with a lot of stops and starts in-between.

I can feel it in me, the Olympia, even twelve years after I moved away.

Part of that Olympia is Vern.

We lost a part of Olympia today. Vern took it with him.

Vern Rumsey was best known for being the bassist in the Tumwater, Washington post-hardcore (we still called it grunge back then) band Unwound. He passed away August 2020. Proud to call him a friend, I helped do several album covers of bands he was in. He will be missed.

This was originally published on Pat’s Medium page.

Remembering Sam Jayne

Sam Jayne (right) with Sonia Manalili. This was taken backstage at Webster Hall, October 2019, when Love As Laughter was opening for Built To Spill. Photograph by Tae Won Yu.

By Lois Maffeo

What I normally remember about touring: great crowds (Detroit dance party! Edgar & Rogilio at Rice University! Fireside Bowl every time!) and the disaster nights with hosts who had 14 cats and creepy collectibles. But one night on tour burns brightest to me for being so exhilarating and fun. Lois and Lync were touring together, and the first leg was pretty grim: $11 at the door in Missoula and maybe those 14 cats in North Dakota. And, even when we got to Minneapolis, the club (NOT the Fireside Bowl!) said Lync couldn’t play because Sam Jayne wasn’t 21 yet.

So Sam and James and Dave sat outside, looking in the picture window to watch Lois & The Hang Ups and then after the show we were all invited to Julie Butterfield’s house for a party. (She had lots of epic parties in Minneapolis and Olympia. I hope she writes her memoir some day.)

Anyhow, it was a fun party and it went on late and nobody left. At some point, several revelers noticed that they had run out of cigarettes and I volunteered to march down to the all-night convenience store, collecting three dollars from each of the smokers-in-need. The real reason I wanted to check out this little market was something I had noticed on the drive to Julie’s—there was a lit sign that advertised Fresh Cotton Candy. I was about to start out when Sam Jayne offered to walk there with me. Sam Jayne was not just a gallant buddy, I’m pretty sure he wanted in on the cotton candy too.

And the convenience market was open and they fired up the cylindrical cotton candy machine and we bought four packs of cigs and three cotton candies that looked like sparkling pink turbans atop long paper cones. We paid up and Sam asked for the change in quarters. I thought he might need them for parking meter change.

And did I mention that this convenience market was located next to a self-service car wash? The kind that has the long jet hoses in holsters in each of four concrete stalls? That was where those quarters were headed. Sam flashed his notorious, snaggle-toothed grin and ran for the nearest jet wand. I knew that I was in for a soaking, so I took up a position in the next stall and I fished a quarter out of my pocket. We ran the hoses out to their ends and sprayed water at each other and cackled and tried to avoid getting hit with water and mostly failed. Then we walked back to Julie’s, utterly drenched, with soggy packages of cigarettes and three wet paper cones. The cotton candy had disintegrated in the first blast of spray.

The party had mostly evaporated by the time we walked back and the smokers had given up on us and gone home, sparing us the contrition of delivering damaged goods. The last guest was about to leave, lacing up his roller skates for the roll home.

It’s a golden memory. I think about it regularly and when I heard Sam Jayne was gone, I knew he would always be with me.  Going for cotton candy.