Casey Jarman is gone. We will not let him be forgotten.
Wait, that sounds a bit misleading. To clarify: He isn't dead. He just moved to San Francisco, where he will serve as managing editor for his self-professed "favorite magazine," the McSweeney's-owned monthly The Believer. For four years, Casey was Willamette Week's music editor and—if the Post-It note on the soda machine warning of expired VitaminWaters is to be believed—our "conscience" and "ghost dad." We've missed his presence around the office and in the paper since he stepped down last September, and will miss him even more now that he's left the city.
To give him a proper send-off and wish him good luck in the Bay, we asked current and former WW staffers to reminisce about their favorite Casey Jarman pieces.
AARON MESH, WW staff writer
What do I love about Casey Jarman? To begin with: Everything. But to be more specific, no writer in this paper's history was as simultaneously funny and sincere. Reading him is like being hugged by a guy who's laughing. Actually, working with him was like that, too. But you'll get the picture so quickly—just read his two reviews of "Babies" (the second one is even funnier), or peruse his discussion of the Billboard Hot 100. Anyone else would have made an exercise in snark. He made it into hilarious moral outrage that reminded readers that music should actually be good. That's the lesson of Casey Jarman: Be good. And he was never better than the night Greg Oden's career crumbled.
HANK STERN, former WW managing news editor
No matter the subject, Casey's pieces always reflect exactly who he is: a person who cares deeply, who enjoys a great eye for detail and who makes people smile at life's absurdities. The best way to describe what a great colleague he was at WW is that Casey was a blast to be with on deadline, and great to grab a beer with off deadline. Here are three pieces that will always leap to mind when I think about Casey at WW:
MARTIN CIZMAR, WW arts & culture editor
Casey's warm profile of Kurt Thomas, the oldest man in the NBA. Thomas had never before been profiled, partly, as it turns out, because he's not big on colorful quotes, but Casey managed to paint a great picture of him, anyway.
BEN WATERHOUSE, former WW stage editor
Working with Casey Jarman was a constant delight. He's as thoughtful, self-effacing and generous a writer as any Willamette Week's ever seen. Sure, he blew every deadline I ever assigned him, but that's because he was busy transcribing absurdly long interviews with David Bazan, or tracking down everyone who ever played at Satyricon, or recruiting bands for his annual Christmas album. Casey has always been a font of crazy, impractical ideas, from the creaky Motorola scooter he left for over a year in the back room to his unrealized ambition of dedicating an entire music section to Portland's hispanic musicians, and printing the whole thing in Spanish. Oh, lordy, will I miss him.
MICHAEL MANNHEIMER, former WW assistant music edtior
Where do I start? Aaron already beat me to the punch by mentioning Casey's heartbreaking reflection on God and Greg Oden, and Casey was often at his best for the paper when writing about Portland's troubled love affair with the Trail Blazers. I'll always remember when he played video games and hung out at Buffalo Gap with Channing Frye, revealing him to be the most "Portland" Blazers player of all time. And his live blogs were just a thing of beauty—random game observations, hilarious asides about dining options at the Rose Garden, MS paint cartoons, love for Marcus Camby and odd, scrappy role players, and the Red Panda lady that balanced plates on her head while riding a unicycle at halftime. Seriously, I miss reading those every day.
Also: every single piece by his toke-happy friend, Rusty Feathercap. Air Air Hockey forever, man.
KELLY CLARKE, former WW arts & culture editor
I can't help thinking that every time Casey Jarman writes a story he falls a little bit in love with his subject. How else to explain the sweetness and sadness he can bring to a story about an old-school soundman saying goodbye to his rock club [Berbati's 1995-2010] or the sweaty, ear-to-ear grin he gives a bunch of horny sailors grinding on a bunch of local girls in what should have been a totally stupid, throwaway piece about a DJ night at Greek Cuisina during Fleet Week [Keep Ya Ones Up!]. Casey unfailing finds the human heart of a story and offers it up to his readers. He snags you with a moment of beauty or awe or pain that reminds you that these are real people doing real wonderful/wonderfully stupid things. I've always liked this little hunk of "on the road" specialness he sneaked into a profile he did on Floater, a critically-panned Northwest band with a rabid fan base that he went on tour with for a few days [The Band That Wouldn't Die]:
"The mountainous hills outside Nevada City, Calif., are murder on Floater’s van. A 12-hour drive and a five-hour nap after leaving Portland, and the California sun is beating down as the wagon inches up a hill. It smells like smoke in the cabin, and the brake lights on the trailer have given out for no discernible reason. This is nowhere, but it’s a beautiful sort of nowhere—a skinny, twisting road surrounded by tangles of green and brown underbrush on one side, with ominous walls of rock on the other."
The people and things that Casey writes about are special. Because Casey works hard enough and loves them enough to make us see them that way. Plus, the man can absolutely slay a karaoke crowd with his take on Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love To You." Watch out San Francisco.
MATTHEW SINGER, WW music editor
If I can get personal for a moment: Five years ago next month, I came to Portland for the first time to interview for Willamette Week's open music editor position. I felt good about my chances. Two days later, they let me know I was the runner-up for the position, losing out to the then Assistant Music Editor, some guy named Casey Jarman. Later that summer, I applied to become his assistant, and flew up to Portland from California once again. Casey and I ate sushi, watched Olympic basketball, went to see Pierced Arrows at Backspace. Two days later, he let me know that I was the runner-up for that position, losing out to some guy named Michael Mannheimer. Casey began the email informing me of his decision—sent at 11:36 pm on the day he promised to let both of us know who he was hiring—by stating he felt "really awful about this, really gutwrenchingly awful," then proceeded to explain, in much greater detail than necessary, why he went with Michael over me.
This taught me two things about Casey: 1) As a writer, the dude often goes long, and 2) He cares. Deeply. Alt-weekly writers have a reputation for being cynical, snarky cranks who hate everything, including their own job. In his tenure at WW, Casey crushed those stereotypes in a huge bear-hug, with the warmth and heart he imbued into everything he wrote and edited, from cover stories right down to an 80-word concert listing. Picking a single example is almost impossible. And, to be honest, my favorite stories of his—the hilariously poignant review of Babies and his piece on Floater, where he did what all great music writers should always do and try to understand the taste of others rather than forcing his own down the readers' throats—have already been taken. I'd be remiss in not mentioning his highly prescient Macklemore profile, in which he did the other thing great music writers should do: predict the future. But really, if you want to get to know Casey Jarman through his writing, just search his name and pick a piece at random. It's all there.