Michael Louis Serafin-Wells

 
 

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Remarks at Gillis Tribute - NYC

Michael's remarks last night at tribute to Youngblood co-Artistic Director, Graeme Gillis, at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City:

 

"When Michael (that’s me - hi) met Graeme...

Nina Steiger had dragged him over to my apartment to multi-track some sound cues for a Youngblood show on my Tascam. Garageband didn’t exist yet. And Graeme wasn’t running Youngblood he was young blood. Well, he still is...

Mid-record, he looked around my rent-stabilized hovel - the guitars and amps and  CDs and the open copy of “Our Band Could Be Your Life”. And that’s what we talked about that day. We both liked The Replacements and Husker Du (although Graeme calls them Huss-ker Doo, like the Nebraska football team). We discovered that we both had the Metal Circus t-shirt. We often wear it at the same time. Usually on Thursdays...

I went away for a while. A couple of years. When I came back everybody else had left. Curt and Graeme and RJ and J Holtham and Jorelle (remember Jorelle?) were keeping the place alive even without any money. I know there’s no money now either but this was really no money at all. Graeme could’ve gone anywhere but he was invested, he believed in this thing Curt used to talk about, this faith in creating and sustaining a community of artists you could walk in off the street to join and even more importantly always come home to. Nobody more than Graeme is the reason why this place is still here. In the spirit of works in progress...

Six years ago, Curt died. I’d gone running that morning and when I got back I had three messages from EST. I called back and they just said “Curt’s been found”. Found? Whaddya mean? Is he dead? “He didn’t show up for a meeting this morning. He didn’t answer the phone. Graeme went down there. To his apartment. The police just called. Just please... please come to the theatre.”

So, I did. All day long and into the night I called people with the news, huddled with everyone who turned up dazed in Curt’s office. And all day long and into the night, Graeme stayed at Curt’s apartment, in the hallway, actually. The cops wouldn’t let anyone in. But Graeme stayed put like a Roman, like the First Centurion. At some point, they let Kathy, Curt’s ex-wife, inside. Graeme, in his grief, still had the presence of mind to tell her to grab Curt’s “book” - a bulging address book slash journal that had every imperative bit of info scrawled in Curt’s inimitable hand, within its pages. Kathy lifted it and Graeme stuck the fragile, unwieldy document inside his stocking cap, where it remained as he carried it protectively for that entire week as we held the wake, nearly burned down the theatre carrying out the Spirit ceremony Bill YellowRobe had instructed us to perform and went to work on the memorial.

The EST servers went down the night the program needed to go to RJ and the printers, so Graeme came over to edit and compile the whole thing on my MacBook well into the night. There was a lot of mishegoss but the memorial came off and Graeme gave the most incredibly moving, funny, heartbreaking tribute. Through those days, people would just randomly fold each other in to an embrace. I remember, as the months passed, that Graeme was a bit cross that nobody hugged anymore. I fucking love that.


I went away again after that. I had to because, well, there’s always been something a little wrong about me, I think. A critical piece simply missing. I never quite knew what it was deep inside. Maybe that ache that mythology explains with the story of human souls being split in two at their birth, half being given to another and our lifelong quest to find them - the person with the other half of our soul. So I went away and somehow she found me. My sweetheart, my soulmate, my Summer. She found me in my travels and then our travels became one. Eventually, we showed up here and maybe Graeme more than anyone could see how happy we were, how completed I finally was. She saved me, you see. And maybe Graeme, more than most could know how ruined I was, I am, that she could be taken, dying of traumatic brain injuries after an accidental fall. Two years ago. She was just 31.

No one knows what to say. There are no words. But there’s Graeme. There’s Graeme who knows there’s almost nothing to say but said it and keeps saying it, anyway. There’s Graeme, who doesn’t even have to say anything. Just sits with you, his eyes full of protection and love and friendship, for hours. At a diner or in a garden or on the bleachers behind third base in the park. Or just lets you slip quietly into his office and sit on a chair there for as long as it takes. There’s Graeme and his faith. A faith, that by its unselfish unshakable steadfastness can only always bolster your own. There’s Graeme. Thank god for him. Thank god for you, my brother. I fucking love you..."