After flipping the middle finger to cancer for a couple of years, Wayne Karrfalt died on December 30, early in the morning. He was a friend to many in the Seattle cinephile community, and he led an adventurous and playful life that ought to be an example to many of us.
The first time I saw Wayne was in 1990 when I was moderating a movie series in a room on the University of Washington campus sponsored by the Henry Art Gallery. He and Mark Steiner (now an anchor of Scarecrow Video) were refugees from Michigan State who spoke up in the sparse crowds we had and generally made the experience much more rewarding than it might have been. And because Wayne was who he was, we were soon drinking beer on the Ave and talking about the joys of movies and the woes of the Mariners and lots of other things.
The last time I saw Wayne was about six weeks ago when we had lunch at Serafina. A round of chemo had made it easier to eat and he wanted some good food. After lunch we went for a walk down along the water on Eastlake and looked at the houseboats and talked about movies and the Mariners. And talked about the way he’d prepared for the aftermath and provided for his wife Hiroko, and his pride in having done so, and how important that was to him.
In between those encounters are some secure memories: seeing Neil Young in concert in the early 1990s after sitting in Wayne’s VW van in the parking lot and enjoying a couple of beverages; the going-away party I threw at my apartment before Wayne went to Japan for what turned out to be a long stay in the Nineties; the time he loaned me the CD of Nevermind which he’d somehow gotten a few days before its official release; the letters he sent from Japan full of hilarious adventures; sitting in the sun at the Pike Place Market after his diagnosis when he talked about having left nothing undone in his life and having married the woman of his dreams. And a habit he had, while walking along next to you, of leaning into you slightly, as though needing that contact and being unabashed about it.
Wayne had a writing career, which included reviewing movies for the Tokyo Times and doing a great deal of entertainment and technology writing during stints in Los Angeles and Seattle. In Wayne’s obituary Hiroko uses the phrase “sweetness of character” to describe Wayne, and that’s about right; he had that, combined with a strangely fearless nature. An ingratiating and lovely guy.
The week before Christmas a few of us planned to visit Wayne to watch a movie, but that was forestalled by a trip to hospice. Wayne quoted Drugstore Cowboy in his last email, a typical bit of bravado. I wonder what movie we would have watched.
Wayne was an enthusiast for movies and life, which, the way he did it, is an awfully good way to go. His obituary can be read here.