Horrible news. My friend Thomas Peake died in a fall from a trail in the Grand Canyon. There is a memorial group for him on Facebook and I’m sure there will be no end of reminiscences about him. My friend Chris has a post about this sad loss, starting from the point when Thomas was missing when there was still hope of him being found alive. Those were the days.
I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve met who I’ve never heard a bad word about, and Thomas was one. Hell, he might be the only one. He always had a smile on his face. This kid was so full of joy that it leaked everywhere and splashed everyone in his vicinity. I’m pretty sure that the last time I saw him I told him that I loved him. It was around the time my Dad died and I was keenly feeling that mortality pressure that says “Don’t leave these things unsaid. You never know what time is the last time you see a friend.” I was just in Atlanta two weeks ago but because I was busy with Dragon*Con I didn’t reach out to any of my friends away from the con. I could have seen Thomas but I didn’t. That’s a decision that will haunt me.
Thomas taught me how to screen print, from making the screens with the light table through squeegeeing down the ink, in the old Student Center building at Georgia Tech. It was on his word that I first listened to Fugazi. I saw Pineal Ventana for the first time at a house party of his in Home Park, and I believe I brought my mom to one of those crazy affairs. I worked with him in many capacities at WREK and would hang out with him at shows all around Atlanta. I’m pretty sure we skanked together to “Take the Skinheads Bowling” at a Camper Van Beethoven show once. I converted one of his zines to HTML in the early days of the web for his “micro-publishery” experiments. He published music zines and screen printed his own covers while I sat in awe watching him mix inks so that no two would be the same.
When I was working in the Perimeter area around 2003, one day driving home I heard this car honking at me when I wasn’t doing anything. I was annoyed, and I looked over to see Thomas with a goofy smile on his face, waving and honking like crazy. We had lunch a few times after that, and the last of those was the last time I ever saw him in person. I loved this crazy man and I wish I had spent 100x the hours in his presence that I actually did.
Several of my friends have had health scares in recent years, including one that just saw his own home for the first time in six weeks this weekend. People my age that I know have died, but they were acquaintances. Thomas is the first of my peers to pass, a guy I deeply loved and who made my life appreciably better by just knowing me. This is a corner I wish we’d never turned, and if I could jump into the Grand Canyon to bring him back I would. He was a better guy than I will ever be so that’s a trade that would be plus EV. I’ve known for less than an hour and the shock is still sinking in, but all I can think is that the burden is now on all his friends to be better people as a way to honor his memory. I’m starting now and if you catch me slipping, call me on it. If you play the Peake card, there is no defense.
My deepest condolences go out to his wife, his family and all of the rest of his friends who are bereaved. There may be thousands in that last camp, as Thomas was a gregarious, loving, well loved guy. Losing him is a wound that will never heal, but may we all learn to one day live with the pain.