Remembering Looper

Jason (in orange) celebrating his new name with Daryl, 1989.

I had a call from a former co-worker yesterday that our friend Jason had died. He was 49.

I had just been thinking of him as I worked on my new bedroom, wondering what to do with the ceiling. One of of the last times I saw him he was at my Jones Street apartment admiring the bronze walls. His one criticism was,  “but after all that work, the eye goes straight to the top.” He was right. I’d left the ceiling white. A couple of coats of ox blood provided the unity that was missing.

We had lost touch over the last decade and I had not seen him in a few years. We didn’t have many mutual friends so there seemed to be some distance. But not really. Everytime I did see him we’d just pick up where we left off years ago.

I hired Jason at the law firm in the late 80’s to work on a huge data conversion project. He was 20, a bit shy and tentative. But under that veneer there was an intelligent, steely core. We teased him because he could take it. We teased him a lot. As a constant reminder that his middle name was Hickenlooper, Daryl gave him the nickname Looper.

The project was years of tedious data entry digitizing hundreds of thousand of rows of manually kept information. Jason was very conscientious and rarely made mistakes. I did the proofreading.

A couple of years after we finished the project I was at his cubicle and noticed memorabilia he had tacked up. One was a correction sheet from his first month on the job. Apparently there had been an omission. In the margin I’d written “where the fuck is volume C?” He may have been intimidated but it didn’t prevent him from appreciating quality leadership.

Jason soon bossed me more than I bossed him. I didn’t care. I was having too much fun to stand on ceremony.

He loved and developed a good sense for fashion and design.  And had a more worldly view than you would expect for someone who had grown up in rural Utah.

One trip we took together was to LA to watch his cousin direct a porn video. The shoot was one of the most boring afternoons of our lives. These people really are acting, there was not an ounce of genuine passion on the set.

Another vacation was to Puerta Vallarta. We basically just wanted to swim and sit on the beach. But we forced ourselves to make one excursion a day.

We found and photographed the tacky life-size statue of Liz and Dick in the marketplace. They really were short people. We rented a jeep and drove up into the jungle where Schwarzeneger filmed Terminator.

Another afternoon we went horseback riding in the hills. Jason was a much better rider than me, he got the good horse. I was saddled up on Glue-Bait. We were shocked that she made it back to the corral.

The last night we had a few margaritas and were walking on the beach back to the hotel. He said he had to pee so I looked for a bush or a rock.

Without warning, he pursed his lips to hold his cigarette and pulled up the inseam on his shorts. He relieved himself as we walked. He did it with such elan, never missing a stride or making a mess. James Dean mixed with Who’s Next.

We made a trip to Paris when the French currency was still francs. At the airport newstand we were unloading our last of that fake money. It would do us no good back in the ol’ US of A.

We browsed and noticed, shelved next to Paris Match as if it were just another issue of Hello!, gay porn. Explicit and unsealed. So we spent our last centimes on local photography.

We had been out late the night before and it had been a stressful dash to Orly that morning. We were exhausted when we took our seats. As the cabin crew did their final safety check, Jason nudged me.

He closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and tilted his head in mock slumber. The porn on his lap was opened to one of the more enticing spreads. I’m sure the steward remained professional and only noticed he was securely fastened.

Jason was an angel who could be anything but. And people like him make life really interesting.

Jason and me just released from Auschwitz, 1992.


Versailles Days, Beluga Nights

At the first Castro Street Fair, drunk. Me anyway.
At the first Castro Street Fair, drunk. Me anyway.

The happiest days are those when babies come. Second is when UPS delivers new wall covering. My Evans & Brown paper came today, I’m thrilled.

Mark is the E of E&B and one of my best friends since college. In the nomad lifestyle of the 1970’s we ended up as roommates several times.

He hired me and was my supervisor at Williams-Sonoma’s nascent mail-order business in 1975. Mark alone saw my potential. If anyone could wrap a corn dolly, put it in a box then tape it shut, it was me.

I was with him the night he met his partner Charlie, New Years Eve 1977. We were at a pot-luck, carry-in supper in the church basement. Or maybe it was the sleazy backroom of the first White Party. One of those.

I feel close to Mark because of an unspoken affinity we’ve shared since the beginning. With all the craziness about, most of it created by us, he could remain grounded.

Like with politics. While we were as radical as anyone, neither of us could embrace the entire gestalt of the movement. We don’t have the same parents. You are not my brother. You are not my sister.

You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change the world. 1976.

Another bond was a fascination for the absurdity of excessive wealth and fame. The lifestyle, the trappings. And its heroines: Judy, Zelda, Jackie, Wallis, Babe, Tallulah, Doris Duke, Marie de Medici. So intriguing yet so silly.

Mark’s nickname for me is The Begum. For emphasis, The Holy Begum. She was the wife of the Aga Khan, an object of adoration to millions of followers. We imagined religious ceremonies where the faithful carried her on a perfumed palanquin then honored her with her weight in precious stones.

All she had to do was look pretty, be remote and exude serenity. If she ever opened her mouth the illusion would be destroyed. She probably sounded like a bowling alley shoe attendant. Mark thought my skills fit the Begum job description as well as they did the mail order one.

Photo-booth with Dale, 1974.

His counsel through the years has helped shape my persona.  Once in Bloomington we were getting stoned and watching The Price is Right. Televisions were rare in our hippie days. When we had one we watched whatever was on. We only got three channels.

Mark teased me for being blasé. “You’re so lackadaisical, no one’s going to like you if you don’t show more enthusiasm. Why can’t you be like these contestants?”

Never one to shrink from a challenge,  I silently stewed over his comments through a couple of commercials. Then I correctly guessed the price on the Samsonite luggage.

It’s tough for me to get above middle C so my shriek was unconvincing. The faux jubilation was more believable. I flailed my arms and legs in the air causing the chair to flip over backwards. Rolling on my neck into a reverse somersault, I bounced to my feet, jumped up and down screaming, “I won! I won! Can you believe it? I won!”

Mark sat and laughed. He has never asked to see that side of me again.

The blue of French royalty meets the black of the Caspian Sea.

I am not a designer and was once threatened with jail time for decorating without a license. I have unorthodox ideas. Some work, some don’t, but I’m always willing to throw out the mistakes. The point of contention, however, is over which ideas are the mistakes.

My bedroom is small, 11’x12′, so I’m getting flak for using a king size mattress. It was the best mattress I had so I kept it. That’s it. No bureaus, desks or overstuffed chairs are needed to complete the look. Just the posturpedic. Putting the bed back in bedroom.

It’s not in a frame so it’s less bulky. And, like Hugh Hefner, it’s the center of my universe. All business is conducted from there. Minus the pipe and slippers.

The task is to make the surroundings visually interesting. That’s where the Versailles wall paper from the Treasure line comes in. It’s mesmerizing. A medium blue with a touch of green and glitz, it’s the perfect backdrop for my huge, fake Grandma Moses.

Keeping the focus on Grandma, the other three walls are black. A camera obscura effect using Tiburon Ray Beluga.  It has a seductive quality that is subdued, rich.

It will be a couple of weeks before I finish. But thanks to Mark, this place will soon start feeling like home.

Would You Have My Baby?

If I were a carpenter, that is. Which I’m not as you can see from the pictures below.

The kitchen needs seating but is too small for a table. So I built a bar. Here’s how to do it.


Use donated planks from a well-meaning friend that aren’t quite the exact size. Attach metal braces to achieve the proper width.

Cut to fit lengthwise using the portable jig saw you haven’t touched in 10 years. It’s funny how the blade flies off if you haven’t tightened it properly.

The hours of consternation and reworking are worth it when you consider the couple of bucks you’re saving on a new, custom cut board.

Scrounge through your Mother’s basement to find a slab of pharmacy marble, preferably 23×50 inches and early 20th Century.

Order hairpin legs from Amazon and attach. Clean, wax then paint. Choose color wisely. Mine was a toss-up between white and lime green.

Have a friend help lift the two ton slab onto the base. Laugh out loud as he pops the stitches from his recent surgery.

Then listen to him laugh when your bifurcated two plank solution butterflies and you need to buy a custom cut piece of wood after all.
Spend half your social security check on decorative moulding. Paint, miter and prepare to glue.

Always remember: measure twice, think once.

Build up the base by gluing on landfill to make it flush with the marble. Slather with wood putty to create a smooth surface so the trim will adhere.

Humming the old hymn How Firm a Foundation makes this step go quickly.

A good buffing and Voila!

Not every piece of furniture needs to be a fine piece of furniture. But I doubt if Joseph of Nazareth himself could have done a better job on this one.