A Son Of This House: Sean Meyer 1982—2024

He was a son of this house as a boy. Later, he was the son of other houses.

Jan 19, 2024

But as a boy, through elementary, middle and into high school Sean Meyer was so often present here with us that, like the other sons of this house, Bear and Brendan McCreary, his laughter and his gifts melded into ours. He is present in photos of Christmas and New Years and Thanksgivings, the Elvis parties, family celebrations and birthdays for many years. More poignantly, he was present on those days so ordinary they are mulched into memory, woven, almost unseen, into the fabric of a collective childhood

Sean Meyer and Brendan McCreary met at Parkview School, at about age eight or nine. They played together on the basketball team where both were hapless. But they discovered shared enthusiasms, music, movies, action figures, games in which they wove elaborate stories for their own ongoing delight as boys, and then as teens. They created around them a core of friendships still strong and extant to this day.

The high school equivalent of Ben Hur.

Music and movies were lifeblood to Sean Meyer. One of my favorite memories of him and Brendan and Tyler Swank was the making of “Le Maître de la Bête Sauvage” (Or roughly, The Master of the Terrible Beast.) Its origins were modest, an assignment for their high school French class. Whatever the actual assignment was, in their creative hands it became an extravagant twenty minute film, the high school equivalent of Ben Hur. The script was written by Brendan and Sean, and then translated into French by Greg Finnigan (whose study habits exceeded theirs and who was doing much better in French than either Sean or Brendan). I do not remember the story, but “Le Maître de la Bête Sauvage” required a cast of well, not thousands, but perhaps twenty people, along with extras. Sean directed. The film crew included camera personnel, security (with badges) caterer (moi), costumers, sword fight instructors, stunt people, custom-made dummies falling from trees in the park, deathless dialogue (all spoken in French even by those actors who were not in French class). In the last scene Tyler, wearing a clown wig and a woman’s dress (one of mine, I’m told) is being chased down the street by a car with a crazy driver. The French teacher, needless to say, was dumbfounded. Sean did the final edits, and to my knowledge, had the only copy.

Even after high school, Sean remained part of my immediate life. He went to LA with me to visit Bear and Brendan at USC, to have Thanksgiving at my sister’s in Riverside, California, to hang out at the Boingo Cover Band gigs in Anaheim. Here at home, he and Tyler Swank, Anna Mortimer, Phil Swenson, Shaun Johnson twice yearly performed the Geranium Exodus, bringing the potted geraniums into the house in October, taking them out in April. And for years, once a month or so, we would all get together at my house for dinner and a movie, usually an action movie or a classic Western, especially when I was researching the novel, American Cookery. He was a good friend to me, a support and a ballast in various emergencies, including, most dramatically, the basement flooding in 2010. He was one of the pallbearers at my father’s funeral in 2012. He outlived my 101year old mother by only three weeks.

For the rest of his life he shared his gifts with his hometown.

After a stint at the Evergreen State College, Sean moved to LA, studying guitar at the Musician’s Institute. There he had a number of musical adventures, including playing guitar for artists recording with Wind Up Records, and Geffen Records and touring with these labels around the US and Europe.

But his heart was always here, in Bellingham. He returned to this city where for the rest of his life he shared his gifts and enthusiasms. He played in many bands, Bowie and Queen tribute bands, country (and western) bands, punk bands, rock bands, and my personal favorite for a title, Guillotine Eyes. At one time he told me he was playing and recording with six different local bands at the same time. He taught guitar for years to students of all ages. He worked for a long time at Harris Street Music store (which was not on Harris Street) and every year on his birthday, October 30th, I brought cake and a card to the store.

But there are whole vast tracts of Sean’s life in which I had no part, no knowledge. I can only guess at his complex inner and emotional life. I believe he masked his pain. He was fortunate, late in his short life, to find Julia Skerry who brought him joy and gave him strength. These last few years, I saw him only infrequently, especially after he left the music store, Covid intervened and my mother’s heart attack in 2021.

In October 2023 Brendan called me and asked me to sit down, that he had some bad news. He said that Sean and Julia had called to say that Sean’s body was riddled with cancerous tumors. I remembered then that Sean’s own father had died of cancer when Sean was just three years old. He would have been just Sean’s age. Sobering.

He insisted we see it as a demanding moment.

With this news, like everyone else eager to help, I splashed into action, part of the bucket brigade, contributing money to a fund, signing up for Meal Train, anything that would help Sean and Julia through this demanding moment. And that was how he insisted we see it: a demanding moment, not the end. He remained steadfastly upbeat about his treatment and his chances. I last met with him and Julia delivering a lasagna dinner to them. I last heard from him personally in December when he emailed a request for my recipe for French toast. On the afternoon of January 3rd 2024 Julia set up a Facetime call from the hospital so Brendan and I could talk to him, words that seemed to me so utterly inadequate, necessary yes, not useless certainly but unequal to what we wanted him to know. He died on January 4th.

Trailer Wars! The Bellingham equivalent of Cinema Paradiso.

What I am writing here does not aspire to obituary. That takes in the whole life. I did not know his whole life. Rather, I want to laud the gifts Sean so generously gave. He ought to have been better recognized while he lived, but at least I can record here that for nearly ten years Sean Meyer gave to his hometown, Bellingham, the equivalent of the experience chronicled in that wonderful Italian film, Cinema Paradiso where the whole community comes to the theatre, not simply to watch, but to bond. He created Trailer Wars and these evenings were wildly popular, great choral, communal moments of enthusiasm, laughter, competition and camaraderie.

I was part of the very first audience who crowded our butts together, December 2008, on the couch of the place Sean was living at the time (older folks on the couch, younger ones sitting on the floor). I don’t remember the short films we watched, but it was the first of what would become a monthly civic film festival.

Trailer Wars offered community and encouraged expression.

Sean and a number of close compatriots, Chris Patton, Tyler Swank, Anna Mortimer were the core, founding group. Beginning in April 2009 They invited anyone to make five minute trailers. (Time limit was later changed to three minutes, for the sheer volume of entries.) The invitation read:

Trailer Wars!
Bellingham’s Monthly Movie Competition
By and for lazy local filmmakers
Pits all comers in a steel cage–of cinema
Open to All. Come to participate or just to vote.
Don’t be shy. No trailer is too amateur.

The audience for Trailer Wars quickly outgrew the couch. Sean and the Trailer Wars core crew prevailed upon (what was then the Pickford, later the Limelight) art house cinema to show the films. Soon they reached out to local businesses for endorsements, supporting ads, product placement, engaging the town’s commercial community. Trailer Wars not only invited the participation of would-be, wannabe, or might-yet-become filmmakers, but the Trailer Wars core group lent their expertise—and their equipment—to participants, teaching the basics of film-making, basically, informal education. Trailer Wars was an inclusive, creative, civic enterprise. In short, it offered community and encouraged expression.

Winners got to keep the Trailer Wars Crown for a month

Once a month Trailer Wars brought scads of people into the theatre on otherwise dull weeknights. Admission was probably five dollars. Tee shirts were later sold for ten bucks. Trailer Wars nights were always sold out, standing room only. Sometimes the small theatre was so crowded people were sitting on the floor in the aisles. Indeed, on one occasion, if memory serves, someone called the fire department, and they intervened saying that blocked aisles were against the city’s codes.

In many ways Trailer Wars was a throwback to those long-ago, fabled days of the Saturday matinees when the main feature was preceded by a serial. Trailer Wars’ serial was Baycove Terrace, a high spirited, goofy-spoofy soap opera, filmed locally and propelled by the many talents of Sean Meyer, Chris Patton, Tyler Swank, Ryan Covington, Anna Mortimer and others. After the installment of Baycove Terrace the various trailers were shown, just as they had been submitted, without edit or censure.

Participants always brought their posses to the Pickford to cheer. These noisy supporters sometimes reminded me of the theatres in 19th century Paris where the actors and the playwright would import their own cheering sections, known, in French as claques, to the theatre to drown out the jeers of their antagonists who also brought their own heckling claques. Unlike 19th century Paris, the Pickford never erupted in fights, but there was always cheering, and muttering, occasionally shouts. After the trailers were shown, paper ballots were passed out with the names of the trailers and the audience voted for the best trailer. The group with the biggest posse often won.

The winners got to keep the Trailer Wars Crown for a whole month. They also got to choose the genre for the next month (mystery, musical, noir, Western, zombie etc). They were disqualified from winning the following month.

I Did It For Love

The trailers were, clearly, not all of equal quality. But some were little gems. In terms of narrative strength, filming, continuity, many were, honestly, superior to the many student films I saw at USC (made by filmmakers with access to high grade equipment and technology). My favorite of all the Trailer Wars films was, I Did It For Love, much of which was shot at my house in December 2009. After the holidays, I was cleaning up, and I found the shooting script in Sean’s own hand. I put it in a folder and it stayed in a file cabinet until I began to write this remembrance. I read it and wept.

I Did It For Love told the story of an Irish family, particularly a father-son conflict over music. It was directed and filmed by Sean Meyer, and written by him and Brendan, both men who had grown up without fathers present. It starred Brendan McCreary, Tyler Swank, Anna Mortimer with a supporting cast of Bear McCreary and Raya Yarbrough, Phil Swenson, all of them affecting Irish accents.

A three minute film, it was beautifully dramatically economical. It had humor and pathos. When I saw the final, finished, in the theatre, I got all misty though I had seen its various parts in bits and pieces in the making. It had a lovely, lilting theme song with whimsical lyrics written and sung by Brendan with Anna chiming in at the end. In part the lyrics to “I Did It For Love” read:

If you were lost, no matter the cost, I’d find you
And always ask what I did it for
(I did it for love)…

I would sleep for a thousand years
I would cry ten thousand tears
I would sing a million songs
(What for? What for? What for?
I did it for love)
I would climb the highest peak
I would brave the cold and heat
(What for? What for? What for?
I did it for love)
I would bring you breakfast in bed
If you were sick, I would pay for your meds
(What for? What for? What for?
I did it for love)
I’ll be with you until the end
And always ask what I did it for.
I did it for love.

Brendan and Bear and I were not there at the end with Sean. We were all three in Los Angeles. But many others were at his side; he knew he was loved. Fittingly, the Trailer Wars crown was in his hospital room.

When the call came on the morning of January 5th, I sat with the phone in my hand, staring out the hotel window watching the 405 freeway, all those automotive corpuscles speeding up and down the concrete veins, and all the little lives within, everyone on their way to destinations, none of them knowing what I—what we—had lost. A son of this house. Sinéad O’Connor’s plaintive ballad, “This is to Mother You,” played in my head.

I never dreamed I would say goodbye with no hope of hello.

I Did It For Love can be found
https://youtu.be/utyDkxy9pcQ?si=4yftmrb5bnYyWPse

Other Trailer Wars can also still be found on You Tube.

27 Comments

  1. Cassandra Davis

    This is clearly written with a mother’s love. There are children we give birth to and then there are the children who gift us with their presence in our lives.

    May you be comforted during this time of loss.

    Reply
    • Astrid

      Dear Laura, Bear and Brendan.
      Friends we meet as children or friends we know since a long time seem somehow part of our family; because we share so much with them, and we see them evolve through the years.
      It seems that you loved Sean much, and he loved you too. You met each other as children, and finally you had the same passion of music and arts as adults. It is rare. Sean seemed to be full of passion, curious and creative.
      Laura, you speak of a son of your house, with a maternal feeling.
      It is nice to have written these memories. You all will keep good and happy memories with Sean.
      I am really sorry for your loss.
      Je vous adresse toutes mes condoléances.
      Sorry for my English ,
      Batchigs,
      Your cousin from France,
      Astrid

      Reply
  2. Stephanie Diane Hammer

    This is beautiful and fitting. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Steve Swank

    Thank you Laura. I remember Sean as a 6 year old, wandering down the alley towards out house on Broadway, Ty and he hit it off immediately and began a long friendship. He will always be near and dear to out family and will be sorely missed. Wonderful human.

    Reply
    • Patty Stephenson

      I didn’t know this young man but your words brought tears to my eyes. He was obviously well loved by many, and therefore had a rich, if much too short life. I loved watching the scenes in the movie from your home and with your family. The video also reminded me of some of the “projects” the students in my French classes did over the years. While the assignments were simple with a goal of helping the students learn more, some of the creative geniuses produced true works of art. you are lucky to still have this trailer to enjoy!

      Reply
  4. Janna Jacobson

    Beautiful tribute, Laura! Love to you and all your extended sweet family!

    Reply
  5. Sharon

    What a beautiful way to honor Sean.

    Reply
  6. Connie

    Thank you for writing and sharing these lovely memories, and for always being such a special presence in Sean’s life. I remember binging on Trailer Wars and laughing until I cried.

    Reply
  7. Marian

    I wish I had known him. I am so sorry for your loss. Your beautiful tribute made me understand it is Bellingham’s loss too – our loss too.

    Reply
  8. Brenda Wilbee

    I am moved to tears over this Laura, and sorrow with you, Bear, Brendan, and so many others that this was a life that ought not to have been cut short.

    Reply
  9. Pam

    I had to read this in parts as the tears were too much. What a lovely tribute to a beautiful soul. He was well loved and well-lived.

    Much love to you and Brendan.

    Reply
  10. Joan Lovitt

    Beautiful, Laura. Thank you for sharing. He sounds like an wonderful young man.

    Reply
  11. Laura Rink

    A beautiful remembrance. My condolences.

    Reply
  12. Victoria Doerper

    Such a poignant tribute to a beloved man who lightened your days and enriched your family. I now know him because you shared his story and I mourn his loss along with you. May his spirit rouse Trailer Wars in the afterlife and may you glimpse them in your dreams.

    Reply
  13. Tele

    Oh, Maestra. Thank you for this. Love to you & all who loved Sean.

    Reply
  14. Roe Grave

    Beautifully written tribute to a talented man who died far too young. Even though I write from the other side of the Atlantic, I feel as if I knew him, as your writing about him paints such a vivid picture.

    Reply
  15. LINDA QUINBY LAMBERT

    I have always thought that the most important writing we do is to and for those we love. This sweeping story of interactions with Sean testifies to motherly love that goes beyond biological connection and brings dimension to Sean to those of us who didn’t know him.

    Reply
  16. Shannon Hager

    Thank you for the tribute to a creative soul who inspired the creativity of others.

    Reply
  17. nancy adair

    As I read your beautiful words, I not only wished I could have known him, but I wished I could see I DID IT FOR LOVE. Thank you for that blessing. Sad to know the world has already lost such a creative and passionate soul.

    Reply
  18. linda morrow

    A special tribute to friendship, love and creativity.

    Reply
  19. Sean Dwyer

    Such a huge loss. I’m very sorry, Laura. What fun those days must have been. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    Reply
  20. Richard Little

    Thank you for your loving words, Laura. You had me at “Parkview,” birthplace of so much talent. Cherie and I didn’t know Sean, but I’ll pass this along to Rick. “Trailer Wars”? What a hoot!

    Reply
  21. John Hoffman

    Laura,
    Your thoughts and words are helpful as I think of this loss. I very much enjoyed being near the wonderful creativity and talent of Sean, Brendan, Bear and their community. A significant piece of that community was nurtured in your house. Thank you for celebrating Sean’s prolific art. I never wanted to miss a performance of Sean and his compatriots. He will be missed.

    Reply
  22. Katey Roemmele

    What a lovely and beautiful remembrance of Sean. I didn’t know him, but have seen several people post about him online and can see how much he meant to so many and what a creative talent he had. Your words really honor him. I’m sending my condolences to you and your sons.

    Reply
  23. Dawn D. Landau

    Poignant and deeply moving; what a beautiful tribute to a child of your heart. There are kids who were so present in our home, as they and my children grew up, that they were family. This beautiful piece captures the deep love we feel as mothers, to children from and of our lives.

    Reply
  24. Margie Kimberley

    I enjoyed the heck out of Sean and his lust for life. Thank you for nurturing and loving him. And thank you for these beautiful words that so eloquently capture his essence.

    Reply
  25. Nick V

    Incredibly moving…I was fortunate to have known Sean for a short seven years. My heart aches for a life cut short. Sean was so incredibly creative, gifted and unique, thank you Laura.

    Reply

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laura kalpakian
Fair Augusto & Other Stories

Fair Augusto has been reprinted by Paint Creek Press and is available on June 20th 2023.

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