My memories of Sean the San Diegan are not many. We were never close. But with the release of his band Minmae's new record, I'd Be Scared, Were You Still Burning, what I do remember comes back clear and clanging like a supper triangle.
San Diego hated Minmae or Minmae hated San Diego. However it was, they were not sweethearts. (Though he'd grown up there, San Diego's scene didn't let Sean play in any reindeer games. Ever.)
The week he moved away, Sean and I went to Tijuana, where we drank slugs of tequila and told two girls that we were "escritores famosos"--famous writers. I remember Sean speaking perfect Spanish, and I remember him bleary-eyed, tired, drunk, older than me, taller, bigger, black-haired like a young, tubercular Orson Welles.
By the time I moved to Portland in 2001, Sean had set solid roots. San Diego had been unkind to him. (Though any kindness you get from a land where men dress like sunburnt toddlers, in oversized shorts and T-shirts and boxy skateboard shoes, should be taken with a wary eye.) In Portland, he looked 10 years younger.
I saw Sean play for the first time at some pizza joint. His drummer's terrible solo project opened in a big dramatic moment: The drummer left his guitar on stage, feeding back, then ran to the back of the room and threw a shoe at it. ("This is Portland?" said my disappointed roommate, a teenage girl who'd just fled California for Oregon's greener grass.) Since then, Sean has hired better people, and matured his art into intelligent, gripping, gemlike pop.
Last week I visited San Diego and asked a few people if they remembered Sean or his band Minmae. None did. ("Those palm trees swayed me out," he sings on the new record.) But, as they say in the business of death, he's in a better place now.