This Guardian Angel Bleeds Red

Page 2 of 8

In the early 1970s, they lived in an abandoned log cabin near an artist community, about three hours north of Vancouver. The families that lived there grew their own food, chopped wood for fuel, baked bread and carried well water. Meals were eaten under the light of kerosene lamps. The communal atmosphere gave Sebastian compassion for his fellow man, remembers his mother, Sue Scott. The families would all pile into a fishing boat and travel to Vancouver to pick up bags of grains.

But the crop Sebastian says he became most familiar with was marijuana. He was still just a kid when he got his first job harvesting pot plants, a job for which he was also paid in pot — until he quit smoking at thirteen in an act of rebellion against his parents.

The Metz family was one of artists (Sebastian's father was a writer and editor), not athletes, not warriors. But Sebastian fell in love with hockey the summer before high school, after the family moved to Vancouver, playing on the concrete with homemade pads from the time he woke up in the morning until the sun went down. At age sixteen, he was out on the ice, skating until his ankles bled in hockey boot camps, then skating some more.

Months after graduating from high school in 1982, Sebastian met a female Guardian Angel from Portland who was in Canada trying to start a Vancouver chapter. Several high-profile crimes had captured the attention of Canada's national press, and many Canadians were panicking that they had imported American crime.

Sebastian went to a meeting and loved it. He enrolled in the training session — which reminded him of hockey camp — and walked with the first graduating Vancouver class of 42 people, Canada's largest chapter at the time.

Sebastian remembers splitting up fights while on patrol, but he says the Angels were also targets for people who didn't like their do-gooder image. On one occasion, a rocker in motorcycle boots and a jean jacket started hitting Sebastian in the face over and over for no apparent reason. "Calm down, calm down, calm down, sir," was all that Sebastian could utter before his fellow Angels pulled his assaulter off him.

The pain wasn't as bad as Sebastian thought it would be, but the fear sank in shortly thereafter. Sebastian had to resurrect his nerve, which took a couple of weeks. Back on patrol, he was jumpy for a while, but he went on to become the chapter's leader.

In 1987, Sebastian flew to New York to be trained for six weeks as a regional director. But the Angels were also checking him out to see how he'd measure up in the big city.

"When I first met Sebastian, he was like Don Quixote, swinging at the windmills, talking in run-on sentences. He made no sense at all. He was a hippie kid," remembers Sliwa. "At first he was hopelessly naive, always willing to give the bad guy the benefit of the doubt. He'd get clocked from time to time, he'd get snuckered, a thug would get up on him, but he maintained his idealist way, always pleasant and polite. He was what we called a trouper; he could survive on air sandwiches and unsweetened Kool-Aid because of his communal upbringing. Most Guardian Angels don't react well to that, but he actually adapted better than anticipated. Very few other Guardian Angels had that kind of determination and that kind of what we call moxie."

When a city is in its most dire need, the Guardian Angels respond with a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week program, constantly watching the streets for trouble. Three things are necessary to run 24/7: donated food, space and a leader.

Sebastian's personality helped him tolerate the Angels' space, above a porno theater in Times Square. The place had no toilet, so the Angels had to go across the street to the Port Authority; for showers, they had keys to an abandoned theater that had a sink but no lights.

But that same personality also hurt him. Sebastian was a chatterbox, Sliwa remembers, which was sometimes perceived as a weakness on the streets.

Sebastian believes the Angels attract two kinds of people: crime fighters and peacekeepers. He considered himself a peacekeeper, and in New York he was in a chapter full of crime fighters, many of whom had lived around violence all their lives.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Luke Turf