Gone Too Soon

Saturday, November 17, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

WESTWARD HO, Days 26-27:
Seattle, WA

On Friday, our first day in the Seattle area, we set out with a list of letterboxes to search for around suburban SeaTac, Kent and Renton. Though the rain stayed with us all day, Lady Luck was less than a constant companion.  We ended the day finding 4 boxes and unable to find 4 others we attempted.  
Two of the letterboxes we found were in Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, both in memory of a guy named Johnny Allen.  We learned about his life in one of the letterbox clues.  Born in Seattle in 1942, Johnny had a difficult childhood.  His parents had a stormy, off-and-on  relationship, but managed to have five children together, with Johnny being the oldest.  All of the children spent time in foster care intermittently with the youngest three eventually being adopted out.

Johnny's impoverished mother, who was only 17 when he was born, struggled to care for him after her husband went into the Army and was stationed in Alabama, and would often leave Johnny in the care of friends or relatives.  Once his father left the service and returned to Seattle, Johnny's home life became even more tumultuous because of his parents' heavy use of alcohol and tendency to fight when intoxicated.

Eventually Johnny, whose parents had changed his name to James Marshall when he was 4, found a refuge from the poverty and neglect in music.  In elementary school, he would carry around a broom and "play" it like an air guitar.  Finally at age 15, he bought his first acoustic guitar for $5 and took his first steps down a path that would lead him to change music history, performing under his nickname of Jimi.
With a mainstream career that spanned only four years before his untimely death from drug overdose, Jimi Hendrix cemented his place in the music world.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has described him as "arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music."
Final resting place of Jimi Hendrix
Based on the flowers and notes and other tokens at his domed gravesite, Jimi Hendrix still boasts a legion of fans.  As many cemeteries as we have visited letterboxing, his was the first marker we have seen with lipstick kiss impressions left by visitors.
Jimi Hendrix performing in 1969 at Woodstock, where he was the headliner
Hoping to avoid workday traffic, we headed into downtown Seattle Saturday morning to visit the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and other famous sights.  As we drove, we received a shocking call from our nephew.  He delivered unthinkable news.  Our brother-in-law Don had experienced a massive heart attack and died instantly. 

We returned to the hotel immediately and began packing our bags.  A 2,500-mile drive back east was out of the question.  The Hampton Inn where we were staying was kind enough to allow us to leave our car in their garage, so we booked the first flight available back to Atlanta, which turned out to be on Sunday.