Being September and a lover of all things trope, I was originally going to dedicate this month’s write-up to the beginning of the school year. Or perhaps of co-curating a locally-sourced art show that opened on Sept. 5. I still hadn’t decided.
That was the case, rather, until that same Thursday, when trickling whispers on Facebook of an acquaintance’s sudden death turned into a crest of confusion, then into a deluge of grief, shock and upset.
Isamu Jordan, known as Som by friends and acquaintances alike, was found dead at age 37 in his Spokane home Thursday morning. He was a commanding presence on the Inland Northwest music scene who arguably had helped significantly change the face of music in Spokane. He was the emcee of the hip-hop orchestra the Flying Spiders. He was a journalist for the Spokesman Review whose style, flair and passion were a large influence on my own voice as a young journalism student at Eastern Washington University nearly ten years ago.
I imagine, had I stayed in Spokane after graduation, I might have worked with him at the Spokesman. I’d actually met him a couple of times. There’s one meeting — the most recent one, the last one — that stands out in my mind in particular. I was in Spokane with some friends for a hockey game, and I’d heard from my friend who was in the Flying Spiders that they’d be playing at a venue nearby.
So, after the game, we stopped in.
The show was over, but the band was still packing up their equipment. I wanted to go in to say hi to my friend and offer some help. Som was in the elevator; he held it for us as we bustled in from the cold outdoors.
“You’re Isamu,” I said, recognizing this man who helped shape my love and passion for the local arts. “You used to write for the Spokesman Review.”
He nodded. “I still do.”
“Oh, s-sorry. I don’t live here anymore. I just wanted to say thank you. I loved your work. I was a journalism student at Eastern a few years ago, and you were — are — someone I looked up to very much as a source of inspiration and influence when I was learning how to write.”
He smiled warmly at me, a smile that crinkled up to his eyes, and thanked me in return. We shook hands and exchanged names. I told him I was a friend of one of his bandmates and apologized for missing what was undoubtedly a great set. I promised I’d make it to some future show, especially if they ever meandered down to the Tri-Cities.
We parted ways, my nerves a-janglin’ from having met someone I admired and respected deeply, and having been able to express my gratitude for him just being who he was.
He was a DJ, an artist, a teacher, a father and a husband and so much more. He was a man, as accounts go told by those closest to him, fighting the depths of depression.
And that’s the thing about depression. When you’re the pebble tossed in the center of those murky waters, that dark stillness below is all you see. When you’re consumed by it, you don’t often see that the ripples you’ve created touch the shore.
Som, your presence and commotion and vision will be sorely missed, even by those who knew you only in passing. It is my deepest, sincerest hope that those ripples of something amazing you’d started in Spokane will continue to spread further through your words and your music.
Thank you, and peace to you and all who knew you. Your greatness will carry on. Like your fellow Spiders said, superheroes never die.
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