Last night I learned that my acquaintance Caleb Schaber had killed himself in Gerlach, Nevada about a week ago.
I met Caleb here in Seattle sometime in the 1990s. He was living in a space called ‘the Ballard Playhouse’ that had once been a neighborhood theater; he was living in the former projector room. He was pals with my friend and inveterate zinester Chuck Swaim and it was Chick who introduced us at an art opening that featured a work originated by Ohm International at Bellevue gallery in 1988, Art Booty. Caleb sat down and played a few hands and seemed to genuinely care for Chuck, who is a remarkable specimen himself.
We would bump into one another on and off as he completed (I think) his journalism degree at UW, and one day he called me out of the blue and insisted I come over to his place for a party and to shoot a segment for his Fisher-Price Pixelvision cable access show, High As a Kite. I read one or two things I had written for the camera and then Caleb gave me the grand tour, carefully pointing out the bullet holes he had added to the interior of the place when having ‘target practice’ with his .45 out over the showrom floor from his aerie over the small theater. He also showed me his bicep tattoo, a four-inch-high stencil-lettered inscription stating “FUCK YOU” in black, dense, ineradicable ink.
Strangely, after he left town, the space was taken over by the Sun City Girls (Richard and Allen Bishop and Charlie Gocher), some folks with a fine appreciation for high-proof freakdom.
Caleb made friends with the burgeoning Burner social set here and also worked as a bartender at the long-standing bohemian watering hole the Blue Moon, north of downtown Seattle. I once bought a beer from him at the crowded bar and when he handed it to me he leaned over the bar, brought my head to his ear, and told me that he was working his second shift in a row on the same acid trip, which had apparently been in process for 48 hours or so.
In the lead in to New Years’ 2001 Caleb got involved with a group of art pranksters and became a driving force in the midnight erection of a large model of the Monolith from the film ‘2001,’ acting as the spokesperson for the group and eventually transforming the notoriety into a campaign for Mayor. The Monolith grew out of Seattle’s over-the-top clampdown on New Years’ 2000 celebrations, which in turn was a reaction to the WTO protests here in November 1999 and the near-to-Seattle December arrest of Algerian Ahmed Ressam with a carload of explosives on his way into the country from Canada, the first intimation of what would come in September of 2001.
Caleb moved on and away from Seattle after that. I would occasionally get an email from him and when I noticed that Jeb and he knew each other and that he’d done some work for Nuvo, we corresponded for a bit. He told me he had worked as a bartender at the Kabul Hilton and also had some work in Iraq prior to that and had returned to Iraq to try working as an independent journaist. I was working as a writer at the time and was able to get him some editorial contacts that led to him doing some more stringer work for local papers in Indiana, profiling deployed Guardsmen, including Bloomington and MFT’s own Sgt. Therron Thomas.
Caleb was actually an embed for a time with Therron and Mike Matthew’s unit, and Caleb or Therron sent or posted some pictures of them together in the desert. Therron seemed to appreciate Caleb’s intensity of spirit and sense of humor. I’m sure he’ll have something to say when he hears about Caleb’s passing.
Once he was back in the States, I would hear from him occasionally, but we never got together. He seemed to be moving around the country quite a bit. I’m sorry he chose to leave when he did, and my thoughts are of his family.