I just got the text and like so many of my friends, 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.