Every now and then you’ll read of someone’s passing and (with all due respect) platitudes are trotted out that suggest Mr. or Ms. so-and-so was a 24-7 ray of sunshine that beautifully touched the lives of everyone lucky enough to share their oxygen. The majority of these obits range from mild exaggeration to outright bullshit. So on this unspeakably sad occasion when Esme Barrera (above) is unanimously recalled as a spectacular wit, an unfailingly thoughtful person and all-around-ace party starter, I’ve got to say that her friends are right on the money. And I will forever consider myself insanely privileged to have been one of them.
On Saturday night several gangs of Austin musicians engaged in the routinely tedious exercise of tribute artistry, and though I’m usually immune to the charms of human jukeboxes, Dikes Of Holland’s B-52’s homage was a blast, as was a collection of Flesh Lights, The Dead Space and Bad Lovers members ripping their way thru the Cheap Trick songbook. It was one of those not-rare-at-all nights in this nutty town where you run into almost everyone you know, and you’re absolutely thrilled to be in their company (if they manage not to get sick on your shoes, anyway). Seriously, it was one of the better New Year’s Eves I’ve ever staggered thru, and I’ve lived thru 48 of ’em.
There’s not a shred of hyperbole in my voice when I tell you such a party would’ve been sorely lacking without Esme’s presence. As will all future parties, because in the early hours of Sunday morning, she was killed just blocks away from the venue where she and so many others who loved her to bits were ringing the new year.
Details continue to drip out of the internet, the local paper, Austin’s Kent Brockman impersonators, etc. and what little we’ve learned is already too horrible to comprehend. For her family, friends, co-workers and the kids she helped, making sense of these events is impossible. Much is being written and reported tonight about Esme’s work as an educator, her volunteer efforts for Girls Rock Camp, and that’s legit, admirable stuff. But even if you only knew her thru the kind of moments that never show up on someone’s resume — the late night recaps of what happened the previous night, the number of times she’d leave a mind-blowing show and try to pretend it wasn’t that great (never quite pulling it off, either), how much she tried to do for the people in her life, new and old — you weren’t merely lucky, you won the lottery. Even in a locale with a low percentage of jerks / poseurs, Esme was unfailingly genuine…and (I mean this in the best possible way) never afraid to risk looking dopey, but more importantly, never reluctant to let someone know she gave a hoot.
If you’re reading this, didn’t know this woman and you’re saying to yourself, “big deal, I know someone just like that,”, tell them. Today. We can’t bring Esme back, but any moment going forward not spent trying to match the very high bar she set… is time wasted.