Sunday, April 27, 2014

Remembering Kelly

Last night I planned to attend the Cloud Nothings show with The Men at the Mohawk so I did what any self-respecting blogger would do, I went to bed around 6pm, woke up around 8pm with the intent of heading downtown around 9pm. However, my plans changed very quickly after awaking from my disco nap. I had a Facebook message from my friend Merideth. She had attached a screenshot of a tweet from Glitoris saying that our dear friend Kelly was the pedestrian hit by the car Friday night. I looked at the message again in disbelief then I logged on to Twitter so I could see the update for myself but it still didn't fully sink in.

I had read the story of the drunk driver killing the pedestrian when I first woke up Saturday morning. My friend Chris had posted about it on Facebook because he was stuck in traffic when the SECOND drunk driver almost drove through the crime scene. I was aghast at the story but I never dreamed I would have a personal connection to the incident other than knowing a witness. That's why when I found out that the pedestrian was my friend Kelly, it was even more shocking.

My first interactions with Kelly were through Twitter. I hadn't been on Twitter very long, I don't think I even had 100 followers yet. I was searching my own username to see if anyone was talking about me when I stumbled upon the ATX Hipsters account. It was basically an RSS feed aggregating and sharing content from Austin Music Blogs. At first I was insulted at the insinuation that I was a hipster but I got over that pretty quickly. I messaged the elusive ATX Hipsters to thank them and ask if they could alter the script to it included our Twitter @ mentions when the stories were posted. I received an enthusiastic response saying what a great idea that was and the idea was implemented almost immediately.

In the months that followed I became more connected with ATX Hipsters online as well as the other content creators in his feed. I don't remember if Kelly and I met at a tweet-up or at a show but I know that Tuezgayz is really what started it all. There were about a dozen of us Austin scenester-types who were at Tuezgayz religiously for the first 6-10 weeks. It's hard to believe now but there was a time when it was like our little secret and it felt like we all knew each other and we all became friends. It was on those nights that I really got to know Kelly and he moved from a figure in my online life to a friend in my actual reality.

Over the years we grew closer. Since Kelly lived downtown I would text him whenever I was going to a show or whenever I knew I would be downtown. Before during and after SXSW he was my number one person to contact if I wanted to talk shit, or if I wanted to know about secret events. We used to love to spread rumors about secret Wilson Philips performances, we would text each other about lines and send each other tips about where to avoid. We walked the city together, we stood in lines together, we watched buzz bands together and we talked shit together.

Kelly loved his anonymity. He loved the idea that no one knew who or what "@atxhipsters" really was. In the wake of his tragic death I have seen tweets reaching out to the atxhipsters "team" or posts referring to Kelly as a she and it makes me chuckle. I feel like Kelly would love that to some he is still an enigma. He was a genius with coding and the scripts he wrote to create the atxhipsters twitter feed will live on and it will hurt my heart every time I write a post and receive a Twitter notification from atxhipsters.

What many of you may not have realized when you read about Kelly's tragic death is that he was killed about three blocks from his front door. Kelly lived at 11th and I-35, he was killed at 8th and I-35. Kelly hated drunk driving, he was known to let people who were too drunk in his bed while he slept on the couch. He and I had extensive conversations about the need for better public transportation in this city. The last time I spoke with him was two weeks ago and we brought it up then.

Austin is a city of alcohol tourism. We have at least three neighborhoods dedicated to the consumption of alcohol. People travel to our city from all over the world to get drunk. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand. The 6th st entertainment district over-serves their clients on a regular basis. No one should be carried out of a bar because they are too drunk to walk and that behavior is just normal for dirty 6th. The Austin bus system isn't horrible but it's not enough. This city desperately needs a more comprehensive public transportation network. That network should include trains, buses and contiguous sidewalks. Our city likes to boast of the miles of hike and bike trails but I would be pleased with a safe, contiguous sidewalk from my apartment to the grocery store. The Austin City Council is having one big circle jerk over the success of the B-Cycles while completely ignoring how many car vs bicycle accidents we have every year.

Kelly was hit by a drunk driver while trying to walk home. After the first asshole killed my friend, another drunk asshole almost killed the cops at the crime scene of Kelly's death. After THAT asshole was arrested ANOTHER ASSHOLE ALMOST DROVE INTO THE CRIME SCENE!! WHAT IN THE FUCKING HELL AUSTIN?!?! My friend's death caught THREE drunk drivers at the same fucking intersection. You know the best part? You can see the fucking Austin Police Headquarters from where Kelly died.

I don't know what's going to happen in the wake of Kelly's death but I know that I'll never get to spend time with my friend again and that makes me really mad. I want to forgive whoever killed Kelly but also hope that person his haunted with the image of what they have done for the rest of their lives. I hope when they close their eyes the image of hitting my friend with their car is seared into the backs of their eyelids.

I don't really know where we go from here and I'm sure this isn't the best memorial I could have written for Kelly but I had to say something. I had to let you all know that I love Kelly. I'm glad he was my friend and I'm really, really pissed off that he's dead now. I'm even more pissed off that someone who was dear to my heart is now one of the several pedestrians killed by drunk drivers in Austin this year. Cars hitting pedestrians shouldn't be a normal thing. When I tell someone my friend was hit by a drunk driver while walking home, I shouldn't have to specify which car vs pedestrian incident I'm referring to.

Right now I want solutions. I don't want band-aid fixes, I don't want to hear all the reasons we can't beef up our infrastructure. I want people getting shit done. Don't ask me how are we going to pay for this infrastructure because so far we're paying for our lack of infrastructure in human blood. How many more of my friends have to die before we get our shit together?