Rumor Has It

Passages:

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

For the most part, I try to be optimistic about things, especially in this space, but I’m throwing in the towel on 2019. Putting it plainly, it was a hard year, marked by too much loss, no more so than at the end.

On Christmas Eve, Scott Hartwich, founder and owner of Hammerhead Coffee, passed away suddenly. Although Hartwich was not of the local music scene, he was so much more than just that guy responsible for introducing his Velvet Elvis blend to the world. He and his wife/partner Mary Burwell loved and lived and breathed Bellingham. They didn’t just eat eggs benedict at the Mount Bakery or shop at the Co-op or hit up the Farmers Market, they acted as evangelists for the town and people they loved. As well, they donated Hammerhead Coffee to just about every charitable cause or organization in town. That spirit certainly lives on in Mary, but it won’t be quite the same—at least not for a time—without her co-conspirator for good, Scott.

Like so many people, I met Scott randomly downtown, introduced by a mutual friend. And like everyone, I immediately warmed to his genial nature, which was tempered by just the right amount of saltiness. Mostly, though, his was a steady presence, deeply woven into the fabric of the community. It is easy to imagine him always being there. It’s hard to imagine him ever being gone.

What was already difficult only became more so less than a week later with word that beloved Bellingham and Seattle musician Elijah Nelson, longtime bassist for Black Breath, and before that a member of Lago Volunteers and Wizards of Wor, passed away in his sleep, just a couple of weeks after his 40th birthday.

As with Scott, the news is so shocking it is nearly impossible to believe.

Elijah was a kind, quirky, delightful wizard of a man who seemed to exist in a perpetually good mood that was somehow totally authentic. Despite his tall stature, the abundance of ginger hair held in place with one of his many headbands and an appearance that could be construed as imposing, Elijah made friends easily, pretty much everywhere he went. The only places he ever exhibited anything resembling aggression were onstage with Black Breath and when he was manhandling a pinball machine.

I’m not sure what Elijah loved more, music or pinball, but I would never wish to make him choose. A fair number of Seattle’s pinball machines—and some in Bellingham as well—bear his nigh-unbeatable high scores at the top, along with the ELF moniker that announced the wizard been there and conquered all. Many truly lovely and heartbroken tributes have poured in from his friends since his death, including one that says, “If I ever see someone about to knock ELF off the Grand Champ score on any machine I will absolutely slam tilt your game.” Seems a fitting way to honor a real-life wizard.

Past Columns
A Trickle of Tunes

June 24, 2020

One Strange Summer

June 10, 2020

COVID Chronicles

May 27, 2020

Pandemic Problems

May 13, 2020

A Bummer Summer

April 29, 2020

The Show Goes On

April 15, 2020

My Pandemic Diary

April 7, 2020

We’re Baaaaack

April 1, 2020

Strange Days

March 25, 2020

Making it through

March 18, 2020

Pandemic Panic

March 11, 2020

You’ve got mail

March 4, 2020

Of bongos and backwards balls

February 26, 2020

Drink it up

February 19, 2020

Apologies in Advance

February 12, 2020

All-Ages Action

February 5, 2020

Music at the Movies

January 29, 2020

Hot in Herre

January 22, 2020

Chicken and egg:

January 15, 2020

Say It Ain’t So:

January 8, 2020