Monday, October 25, 2010

R.I.P. Dylan Ellefson: The Most Amazing Man I've Ever Known

My best friend and roommate, Dylan Ellefson, passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 21.

Growing up, I never experienced a death other than the usual... distant uncles... grandparents... aging relatives... But I'd never had to go through the death of a friend. I always considered myself lucky and thought perhaps I'd dodged that bullet. But it seems that was not the case.

The day he died, I dragged myself out of bed, the sole reason being that I could see a light on in the living room and I was fairly certain Dylan was awake. He was almost always the first one awake in the apartment on weekends. Sure enough, there he was, standing in the kitchen in his silly plaid pajamas, asking me if I'd be interested in helping him make eggs in a basket. Melissa woke up soon after, and he cooked us eggs in a basket and bacon. Then we all sat down together to watch South Park. When the rerun was over, Dylan had to get to work. He was a proud employee of Hot Topic. Melissa mentioned that I needed to get to a store to pick up a pink wig that was being held for me, and Dylan offered to drive us. When I got out of the shower and got ready to go, there was Dylan, dressed in layers of bright neon rags and massive, highlighter yellow Tripp pants. He was wearing smoky make up and had his hair spiked up in the back. It was his Halloween costume for Hot Topic. I teased him, telling him he looked like Tidus from Final Fantasy X, and he laughed at me because I couldn't remember the term "Blitz Ball." Then we got in the car, and Dylan pulled into a parking lot out of the way, just so we could get out of the car easier. We thanked him and he drove off, hoping to be early for work.

The day went on as normal... I bought my wig, Melissa and I went and got tea, we bought some fruit at a market... then we came home, where Melissa realized she had an e-mail from Dylan's mother. The e-mail said to call her immediately. Melissa called, and I felt as if I somehow already knew what I was going to hear, even though Melissa didn't say anything that would lead me to know what had happened.

Dylan Ellefson had passed away.

There are too many cliché things I could say about how it felt to hear this news, so I won't even bother. Not knowing what else to do, Melissa and I began phoning as many people as possible and created a Facebook group in Dylan's honor. We couldn't think of any other way to let Dylan's friends know - especially because he was so popular. When The Badger Herald reported on the incident later in the day, the article had to marvel at the fact that the Facebook group shot up to almost 250 members within a few hours of being created (it's now well past 400). So many people loved Dylan. Some of Dylan's closest friends, including Maggie and Jamie, came over to help us out, and our other roommate, Hannah, returned home to join us in our grief. Melissa and I spent the night nursing Facebook, trying to manage the group and confirming new members, as well as e-mailing people and talking on the phone with grieving friends.

I feel like I've spent so much time trying to contact people and deal with newspapers and reporters that I haven't had a chance to just stop and feel sad. But writing this post is going to be my way of dealing with the grief for a moment.

I met Dylan Ellefson in my first semester Japanese class my freshman year of college. That was over three years ago. I met him through my friend Evan, who put out a message on Facebook looking for fellow Dir en grey fans attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dylan had seen us in class and decided to hang out with us. A friend told me that Dylan said he'd always wanted to talk to me in class because he thought I was really pretty and seemed really funny. I was so touched that anyone would think something like that about me. Immediately, Dylan struck me as a quirky goth-kid. He had long, hippie-like hair and, despite his incredibly slim build, he was always wearing massively over-sized Tripp pants. Dylan and I hit it off right away, and it was hard to imagine our group of friends without him. We shared a lot of the same taste in music, including Marilyn Manson and lots of assorted JRock. We sat together in class every day and Dylan was always able to make us laugh, even when the teacher was talking and we weren't supposed to be laughing. Though it seems strange to say, Dylan was one of the most pure-hearted people I've ever known. It's rare to meet anyone as truly good as Dylan was. There wasn't a mean bone in his body. He told me he was trying to "live life for the lolz" - and that's exactly what he did.

The two of us shared so many incredible memories together. Even though we lived in dorms that were extremely far apart our freshman year, it seemed my friends and I were always at his place, or he was always at ours, or we would meet at a dorm somewhere in between. Our group of friends was inseparable. Sophomore year, we all moved into Nihongo Hausu - a Japanese language floor in the international dorm. There, Dylan felt as much like a family member as a neighbor, and many nights were spent playing video games and watching TV in his room. We did so many things together: went to Renaissance Faires, conventions, concerts, water parks, slept over at each others' homes outside of Madison... I remember he and I went to Marilyn Manson together, just the two of us. We saw Dir en grey together several times in America, and he was with us when our group of friends went to see D'espairsRay just a few months ago. Anyone reading this blog who's attended Dir en grey or D'espairsRay in Chicago or Milwaukee has probably even seen or spoken to Dylan, and not even known it was him. He was so incredibly friendly and approachable.

Living in Nihongo Hausu together, Dylan and I spent every day together. A day in which I didn't see or hang out with him was not a normal day. We even continued to have classes together. Junior year brought about the unfortunate splitting of our group. While Hannah and Evan and Melissa and Dylan stayed in Wisconsin, I left for Japan. The second semester that I was abroad, Dylan also left Wisconsin to study abroad in Spain. Yet no matter how many countries apart we were, he and I always managed to find time to chat on Skype multiple times a week. There was absolutely no question about the fact that, upon returning to America, the two of us would be living together.

Senior year, it was now Evan's turn to go to Japan, but Hannah and Melissa and I all moved in together in a four bedroom apartment. Dylan and I seemed only to grow closer, and we joked that we were in a bromance together. We cooked food together, went shopping together, and had so many inside-jokes together that I almost feel like the two of us had our own language.

Dylan was an incredible person, plain and simple. He was working hard to fulfill his Spanish Education major and he was already student-teaching Spanish at an elementary school. He was a diligent student and was constantly rolling his eyes at my inability to focus on a textbook for an extended period of time. He was also a great employee and was never late to work. Sometimes I would pop into the East Towne Hot Topic just to bother him and watch him goof off and make an ass of himself in front of all the employees and customers. Dylan radiated warmth in a way that I've never before felt in a human being. He was so overwhelmingly positive that even a difficult or frustrating customer became his favorite story to tell us at the end of the day.

I loved literally everything about him. Looking around the apartment now, there's nothing that doesn't remind me of him. His pumpkin is still sitting on the counter, with a ghost carved into it and the words "FEED ME CAKE". His socks are still lying on the floor where he tossed them. His dirty dishes are still sitting next to the sink. His Nightmare Before Christmas lunchbox is still sitting on the counter next to the pumpkin. At one point, sitting there in the living room, Melissa suddenly started to freak because she could still smell the bacon Dylan had made that morning. I got up and realized that the pan was still in the sink. Not knowing what else to do, I began obsessively cleaning it. I cleaned it once... twice... three times... anything to get rid of the smell. When the news reported on Dylan's death, there was a single photo released of a pair of shoes lying on the sidewalk surrounded by cones. Just looking at the photo I knew the shoes were his. After all, who else but Dylan goes to work wearing red plaid shoes? And it pains me to think that my last photographed memory of Dylan is just that... a pair of red plaid shoes tossed upon the sidewalk surrounded by police cars...

If ever there was a person who wasn't ready to leave our world, it was Dylan. He was incredibly ambitious and wanted nothing more than to teach his own Spanish class. He was even dreaming so far ahead that he was trying to find a way to travel to Japan and teach Spanish at a Japanese university - a way to combine his love of both languages. Dylan was someone who never slowed down long enough to even consider that his life could be cut short. Still, he filled my life with so much love and laughter that I feel as if he lived ten times longer than he actually did. I truly feel as if I have no regrets about the time we spent together. I truly maximized the time I could've spent hanging out with him, talking to him, and getting to know him 120%. If I had spent any more time with him being his friend while he was alive, we may have fused together at the hip.

I hope he knows how much he meant to me. I hope that even on that last day, as I stood there gathering plates for him while he made eggs in a basket, Dylan was able to feel how much I loved and adored him. I hope that he never once doubted our friendship for even a moment. I hope that even as the worst happened, he had no regrets and felt no pain. I hope that he was able to move on, knowing that he was loved in a way that few people will ever experience.

For now, Hannah and Melissa and I have been able to support each other through laughter. At first, we were uncertain if it was okay to even think about anything funny... if it was too soon. Yet even as the three of us stood there in the kitchen, bewildered, unsure of what to do, Hannah finally had to say, "Dylan even left his dirty dishes there for us to wash." After a moment of silence, Melissa muttered, "that bastard" - and we all laughed. It was a nervous, hesitant laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. But soon after that, we began to realize how important it was to look back upon Dylan's life positively and remember how much he made us laugh. We needed to laugh and remember all the amazing things he did, not dwell upon his tragically early death. Dylan would have wanted us to "remember him for the lolz." Soon, we found ourselves laughing nonstop as we reminisced about all our favorite Dylan stories...

The time Dylan managed to splash an entire can of Spaghettios across his face...

The time Dylan danced and flailed around the room to the song Yozora...

The time Dylan vomited into a clear glass on a table at a Japanese restaurant...

The time Dylan did The Macarena with me during an opening band...

In fact, I don't think I have a single memory of Dylan that isn't full of hilarity. But that's what we need to focus on...

Yesterday, my friend Jamie drove Melissa and Hannah and I to the scene of the accident. The whole drive there, I was unable to stop my brain from recreating Dylan's last moments. No matter how hard I tried to stop it, I couldn't make it go away. He dropped us off at the wig store... he drove away... he drove down this road...

At the place where it happened, there was already a ribbon tied around the tree, commemorating where the worst event of my life happened:

It was hard to stand there, knowing that Dylan's life ended at that very spot. We all stood around the tree, unable to believe that something so terrible could have happened at such an unassuming location. On the way there, we each bought a bouquet of flowers that represented either how Dylan thought of us, or how we thought of Dylan. We also bought a bouquet to put down for Evan, who's still in Japan and can't be here with us. As for my bouquet... Dylan was a rabid fan of the band D, whose symbol is a red rose. His ring tone was Tightrope by D and he and I listened to D's 7th Rose album together multiple times. Because of that, I bought him seven red roses and laid them down at the tree. It sounds cheesy, perhaps, but it was just the kind of cheesiness that Dylan loved. This was our memorial to him:

Melissa and Hannah cried, but I stayed silent, simply thinking the whole thing over. Cars zoomed past us, perhaps curious about what we were doing, perhaps knowing what had happened and wondering who we were to the victim, and some perhaps failed to notice us or care. It was hard to believe that traffic could proceed as normal behind us while something so terrible had already halted my life at that spot. We stood there, the four of us, frozen in a circle around the tree.

But I don't want to focus on that. I don't want to focus on where Dylan's life ended, I want to focus on everything he was before that.

He was bright...

He was funny...

He was original...

He was always trying to make us laugh...

He was creative...

He was loving...

And everyone loved him.

At this point, it's hard to imagine life after Dylan, but I know he would've wanted us to try and remember all the good times and do our best to move forward.

The thing I'm most grateful for is that, due to the nature of the last moments I spent with Dylan, my final words to him were "thank you" and "see ya." I think very few people get the chance to say those are their final words to a loved one. I didn't know at the time how grateful I'd be that "thank you" would be the last thing I'd say to him, but... I'm glad it was. I'm glad that, even in the end, I was able to let him know how much I appreciated him, and what an honor it was to have known him.

Dylan, you were one-of-a-kind, and your spirit will live on through all the wonderful stories and memories that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life.

You were one of the greatest things that ever happened to me.

And I'll never forget you.

R.I.P. Dylan Ellefson

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Carving!

Hello all! I've got a cute little post here. One thing I really, really missed while I was in Japan was American-style Halloween. I mean the kind of Halloween where you go to pumpkin patches and carve pumpkins and drink apple cider and make pie and watch scary movies. Well, I've been doing a bit of that now that I'm back in America and it's October!

My friends Maggie and Kat invited my apartment-mates and I to come over and carve pumpkins, so Melissa and Dylan and I headed on over. Lots of awesome ensued!

At their apartment, there was a cute kitty named Phantom! My apartment doesn't have a cat, so I feel very pet-deprived. Here's Melissa petting the kitty!

And our big pile of pumpkins!

Phantom wants in on the action:

Kat and Maggie decided to put on Rocky Horror Picture Show in the background. I saw that movie, like... ten years ago, so I didn't even remember it.

Some of us drew with permanent markers on the pumpkins, while others printed out stencils online and taped them to the pumpkins to make more accurate carvings. We were supposed to be carving, but I think we were more intrigued by the film at first:

Here's Dylan drawing on his pumpkin. He's drawing a ghost that's saying "FEED ME CAKE." No, I don't know why, lol.

I printed out and pasted a kitty face onto my pumpkin, lol! Sounds cute, but in a fit of morbidity I stuck a knife in its head before cutting the top off, lol:

Pumpkin guuuuuuuts!

Okay, I'll stop being morbid, I swear:

Carvin' away...

Kat's very excited about hers, lol:

Here's how mine turned out (yes, I gave it fangs, lol):

And then I highlighted the edges with permanent marker:

Here's Melissa's.

Then we put candles in them!


We put candles in all six of our pumpkins and put them outside in the dark:

Graaaar! Mine came out kinda looking like Nyampire, lol:

We even had a creepy night sky above to make the mood complete:

Then we came back inside, where Phantom decided he loves my purse and snuggled up in it. Aaaaaaw:

And that was pumpkin carving! Super fun!

Also, I've discovered a giant folder of pictures I took over Winter Break in Japan that never made it on the blog. A lot of them are really awesome and I can't believe that entire month of photos went neglected. I'll probably start working on Winter Break photo dumps of Japan for upcoming blog posts!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Random Blog Translations: Jin's Saga

My featured Random Blog Translation for today will be Jin, the bassist of UnsraW:

This is a little different from my usual translations because it encompasses multiple blog posts and "nau" status updates. "Nau" is like the Japanese blog version of Twitter, literally deriving from the English word "now", as in "I'm doing blah blah blah now." Recently, Jin from UnsraW had a bit of an adventure in Red Bull usage and, at my friend Melissa's request, I'm going to translate what happened (Melissa also reads Japanese and was following the little saga with me).

As always, a warning that I'm not a fluent speaker of Japanese and I make mistakes. I apologize if there are any inaccuracies or errors in my translations (I do these translations for practice and no other reason). Notes will be numbered in parentheses and explained at the end of each of Jin's separate posts.

For days before this little blog saga began, Jin was complaining of extreme insomnia. He hadn't slept in days and was getting very frustrated. Our adventure begins with this blog post from Jin:

Ah... We're done with the studio.

In place of tobacco... Red Bull.

I'm far from sleepy.

One might think it helped my physical condition but...

It's an optical illusion.

It's beyond ible-horr fection-per

From here we move to pre-production.

(1): Jin likes to flop the syllables of his words, sort of like a Japanese form of Pig Latin. Japanese is a syllabic language and Jin's way of speaking is to break two-syllable words in half and reverse them. For example, the word "hidoi" ("horrible") became "doi-hi" (which I turned into "ible-horr").

Following this post, Jin made a Nau update with a picture of himself holding three Red Bulls in one hand and this message:

I entrust myself entirely to Red Bull.

Melissa and I were somewhat horrified at the realization that tiny Jin was going to be drinking that much Red Bull. You're not supposed to drink more than two at a time, and even that can be pushing it. Much to our horror, Jin soon followed up that Nau update with this one:

The result. Even though I'm drinking three Red Bulls, I'm drinking five at the same time.

Although it's hard to determine, it appears that Jin drank somewhere between five and eight Red Bulls within a twelve hour time-span. Ouch. Somewhat fearing for the guy's health, Melissa and I looked up what happens when you drink too much Red Bull. The first thing to pop up was a story about a man who drank eight Red Bulls and had a heart attack. Jin soon followed up with this somewhat spastic blog post:

Leaping about...

We're done with pre-production.

Various musical phrases are racing about inside my head.

♀△¥%☆Ω〒$#◎♂… (1)

We're challenging ourselves with an area we've never been before.

As a result of asking that Red Bull support me, I drank too much and it's too effective.
The look of death has appeared on my face.

I thought I was calm and composed, but I certainly had an ible-horr look on my face
Tonight especially I wanted to get a good night's sleep, but I also want to take time to become accustomed to the new song.

Of course, that means Red Bull.

(1): I typed this up as literally as possible. As I mentioned before, Japanese is a syllabic language, and what Jin typed up was literally a series of spastic katakana syllables. I did my best to space them and give them the rhythm Jin was aiming for. I also copy-pasted the exact symbols Jin used at the end of the line. For those who's computers can read Japanese and wish to see the original, this is how the post looked in katakana:


(2): See the note above about Jin's syllable-flopping way of writing.

Jin didn't post for a good 24 hours after this experience. I began to worry about him, thinking he may have really overdone it on the Red Bull. I mean, all I could think when I read the above post was, "that dude's trippin' balls." Sure enough, that very morning Jin woke up and wrote this Nau update:

Beware of over-drinking.

He must've felt like crap.

Well, no such saga would be complete without some kind of horrible suffering to follow it up. This was Jin's blog the following day:


Right now all my laptop's data... poof

My desktop is pointlessly clear.

(1): Jin's original onomatopoeia was "pa".

(2): Jin literally wrote "fuck" in English.

The next day, Jin wrote that he spilled apple tea all over his PC keyboard. That guy just can't catch a break, can he?

At the time I'm typing this, here is Jin's latest blog, which I think appropriately sums up the entire saga:

When you get into something and you just can't stop.

It's that kind of personality.


It's a disadvantageous personality

A few days ago, while listening to the new song, even the approaching morning wasn't so bad.

In one hand, a cigarette.

In one hand, a Red Bull.

What in the world are you doing, Jin

(1): This is a play on words. The sentence "that kind of personality" is "sonna seikaku." Then Jin corrects himself and says "son na seikaku" which means "a disadvantageous personality" (a "son" is literally a "disadvantage").

(2): Jin doesn't actually name himself in this sentence but instead refers to himself as "ore" (a rather arrogant, male way of saying "I"). In that sense, Jin is referring back to himself as though he's talking to himself.

And that's the saga! Quite an adventure, isn't it? It was good practice for me, and hopefully somewhat amusing to everyone else. I don't want my own blog to decay, so I'm hoping to keep doing stuff like this. There are a few random things I can blog about which I might post here soon.

Hasta luego!

Sunday, October 10, 2010