Track meet

Here’s a claim to fame: She spit schnapps in his drink—and lived to write about it

Kelli Guerriero is the event producer and executive assistant to SN&R president & CEO Jeff vonKaenel.

One morning when I was 12, I was sitting at the kitchen table eating sugary cereal next to my mom when we heard, “What light through yonder window breaks!” from a booming, articulate-yet-groggy voice in the living room. We knew my brother had friends sleeping over, but we hadn’t checked to see who was in there.

“Shakespeare!” my mom yelled back. Her excitement over the prospect of an intellectual conversation was apparent and understandable. Her last encounter with my brother’s friends was one who tried on her lipstick without asking.

We heard the commotion of someone getting up off of the couch to come meet us. I don’t know who we expected, but it sure as hell wasn’t a giant black man with an even bigger grin. He introduced himself as Tracker.

I will never forget that moment, among many others, with Tracker, and not just because of how larger than life he was—in personality and size—but because I gained another big brother that day. He thought it was cool that a 12-year-old was wearing a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt, and I just thought he was cool.

On September 28, 2007, Kyle Alexander Brown, a.k.a. “Tracker,” was found dead in his home by a close friend. Tracker’s death was traumatic news, and I dreaded the calls I had to make to inform some of his old friends—including my brother who now lives in Florida—that Tracker was gone. Once the calls were made, family and friends, my mom included, started sharing stories about Tracker to help soften the hard blow of losing him.

A group of Tracker’s friends gathered for a memorial service at Midtown’s Town House bar at 21st and P streets on October 20. I had the pleasure of hearing his brother and sisters share stories about him—stories that he never would have told us. We got to see Tracker’s face again, in the faces of his siblings. It was both heart-wrenching and wonderful.

While I was taking all this in, I couldn’t help but remember what happened the first time Tracker brought me to the Town House. He, another friend and I had been drinking, and I wanted some gum because the inside of my mouth didn’t taste so great. Tracker had a better idea, suggesting I order a shot of peppermint schnapps.

I complained that it would make me sick.

“Just spit it out,” he said with a shrug.

I got the shot and as I swished it around inside my mouth, I realized that I didn’t have an empty glass to spit it out into. Tracker, who I thought was paying attention, handed me his half-finished Jack and Coke, so I deposited the saliva-enriched shot into his glass.

The look Tracker shot me was one I will never forget.

“Kel, I gave that to you so you could chase the shot,” he explained very slowly. “You just spit in my drink!”

He looked at the glass, at me, and then at the glass again, unable to comprehend why the hell I would spit in his drink. We started laughing hysterically—and were eventually joined by Tracker, especially when he remembered that the whole spit-out-the-schnapps-breath-freshening strategy was his idea in the first place.

It’s one of my few claims to fame: I spit in Tracker’s drink and lived to talk—and now write—about it.

Many people shared their Tracker stories that night. It was the kind of fun Tracker would have wanted. Even though I believe he left this Earth knowing how much we all cherished having him part of our lives, I still wish I could have made at least one more memory with him.