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.