My buddy Jake died last week. In Chicago, he used to play drums and I'd play guitar and he was sloppy but good and hit the drums hard and danced around the beat but never lost it. He reminded me of a cross between Keith Moon and Peter Sellers. Then he moved to NYC shortly after me and we used to listen to records and see rock shows and watch football together.
He had a light about him. Everybody loved Jake. He flowed through the room. He had long hair and, often, a mustache. Something about him glowed. He could really seduce you with that.
He introduced me to a ton of great music. Weird avant garde German instrumental shit from the sixties and underground psychedelic stoner rock. He had vinyl flowing through his blood. He told me about Wooden Shjips and Cave and Cluster and other bands I never would have found and wound up on repeat in my life.
He once ordered a bunch of Russian wooden crates off the internet and then spent the next year trying to sell these crates to everyone he knew. You could use them as a table. Or a bookshelf. Or whatever. And they had Russian printed on the side. He never sold ya hard. But if you needed a crate, he was your man.
He also would sell other stuff. He had a store on Amazon. Books that were signed and promo CDs and other random crap. He was always buying and selling stuff and working the angles. He couldn't handle working a real job. He had to carve out his own groove.
And we'd watch football together. He liked the Bears and the Jets. It'd be the middle of winter and we'd be watching the games and he'd fire up the grill and make pizzas on it and roast shrimp kebabs and give us some of his home brewed beer that he made under his bed. One time I had people over on my roof and he brought a neon Jets sign to light up the roof. For the next three years, we talked about that neon Jets sign every time I saw him.
And he dated and lived with Gina, one of my best friends and someone I knew even before Jake. They showed me what it's like to be a resilient couple who goes for it over the long haul while I spent years bouncing around relationships. I remember the first night she emailed me about him after their first date and how she referred to him as "the young turk." It's one of the best emails I've ever read and I'm sad I don't have a copy of it. I just remember grinning the entire time. Jake had a way of making everyone around him grin.
I think about The Beach Boys song "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" when I think of Jake. He belonged in the sixties or seventies, not now. Same thing geographically. He loved the city but I think it was too much for him. He should have been on a tractor somewhere. He was so sensitive. I think he wanted to swim under the current so it was tough for him to deal with a world full of waves.
He took drugs. Lots of 'em. He said he had back problems and so he needed something for the pain. I never really knew what he was doing. We'd smoke weed but the rest of it he hid from me. Later on, I'd hear about trips to the methadone clinic and trying to kick stuff and most of the time he seemed fine but once in a while I felt like he wasn't all there. He died of a heroin overdose. I wasn't too shocked. He had been spinning out for a while there at the end. He moved back to Chicago. I hadn't talked to him in a while.
He used to do high kicks. Everyone had to back off and give him space. And then he'd launch into the air and kick his leg over his head. Total seventies rocker move and it seemed like the world would freeze for a split second when he did it. Then he'd land and we'd all laugh. It was a joke but it wasn't. That high kick was as beautiful as any dance move I've ever seen. I love you Jake. Rock on.
Sandpaper Suit is NYC standup comic Matt Ruby's (now defunct) comedy blog. Keep in touch: Sign up for Matt's weekly Rubesletter. Email email@example.com.
High kicks forever
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