I know what you think I’m going to do. You think I’m going to throw up some song that makes me think of the Lady, and of our time together. But see, friends, that’s easy. I can pick any one of about at least half a dozen songs, from the whimsical to the romantic, to songs that are all hers to songs that take on meaning for us as a couple. But there’s only so many times I can tell that story, so let’s tell a new one.
I stopped trying to pinpoint the moment Jeff and I became friends long ago. if you’re fortunate enough, sometimes you can meet people who become monuments on your life, immovable and permanent. Jeff is that for me. Freckle faced, oldest of three, all with a shock of pumpkin-hued hair on their heads, son to Colleen and Al, the only other people I have ever called ‘Mom’ and ‘Pa,’ a mutual love of Transformers, GI Joe and Masters of the Universe must have fostered our first conversations, though I can’t remember with any certainty anymore. Maybe it was just that we were in the same grade, had a similar form of blue playground humour and didn’t play sports with any skill or proficiency. Our talents were in other areas: he an adept artist who displayed prodigious skills, me a writer with a gift for making our classmates laugh. As we moved on through elementary school at Stella Maris Catholic, we were each selected for an advanced class once a week that further alienated us from classmates but pushed us closer together. We would hop a bus to LaSalle once a week and spend the morning devising elaborate schemes to thief the answer keys to the logic problems we had to solve, just so we could play Oregon Trail sooner.
All the things I developed an early love for in my life, Jeff was there. We both heard Run-DMC at the same time. He was always hustling me on comic book trades, scoring a Todd McFarlane issue of Spider-Man for some worthless issue of X-Factor or some other bullshit. We ended up in separate classes for the latter half of grade school, and a questionable decision to skip me a grade saw me enter high school a year before Jeff. But I made a return to Stella Maris to help him on his final project for music class: a video. Set to this song.
Thing about 3rd Bass was, the music was cool enough in a late-80s way, but they were white! And they were white guys who made the kind of rap music I wanted to hear. The Beasties had already lit the torch for white rappers, but they didn’t make the music I wanted to hear. I hated most of License to Ill. Still do, to be honest. AdRock, MCA and Mike D made hip-hop for people who didn’t already like hip-hop. They rode the wave of the Run-DMC/Aerosmith crossover to take the music to the white suburbans who wouldn’t have given it a chance any other way. And this was necessary. Shudder to Think what would have happened if Vanilla Ice had brought it to middle America first.
But Serch and Pete seemed like they were white guys making hip-hop music for people who already liked hip-hop, and they made no secret of what they thought of the Beasties [they beefed for most of the early 90s until MCA got what I see as the KO with his verse on Professor Booty]. The Beasties looked like punks in their videos. Serch was kicking workboots and team jerseys, his cracker ‘fro teased into a fade with his damn group’s logo shaved into it. They made kids like me feel less like freaks. As the only kid on the block with a copy of Public Enemy’s ‘Nation of Millions…’ in his tape player, I would never be completely normal, but at least some of my classmates could see a 3rd Bass video on Muchmusic or see them perform on In Living Color and see that the music was a little bigger than they might have thought.
So yeah. Jeff and I choreographed a video and dance routine to that song. I was Serch, complete with fake glasses; Jeff was Pete, complete with cane. Jeff’s dad filmed us in his garage, since nothing says urban decay and inner city living than a workbench and some saws swinging in the background.
Thank God whoever’s holding the only remaining copies of that thing isn’t savvy enough for YouTube. Trust me, the dancing featured in the actual video isn’t that far off. I’m telling you, we were pretty good.
Also of note: how much more of the lyrics I understand now. Though I still have no idea what the hell ‘Iggin‘ means.
But you know how this story ends, don’t you, friends? We survived different high schools, different majors at university, 10 years making music together in three separate bands, standing as the best man in his wedding and being by his side through his divorce, aside from a few emails thrown back and forth I haven’t seen Jeff since last Christmas, and it felt awkward when I did. And I don’t know whose fault that is anymore.
I might tell you he’s impossible to get ahold of, he’s never home and he never calls back anyway. I might tell you I feel like he doesn’t want any reminders that conjure up his life before his divorce, and that includes me. I don’t know any of that, that’s just how it feels sometimes.
He might tell you I’ve turned my back on everything that made me who I am, lighting a fire behind me and Windsor and salting the earth once the blaze died down. He might say I’m a snob now. He might say I’ve never made the woman he now lives with feel welcome. He might say I hold him to a higher standard, that I expect more out of him than I’m prepared to give myself, that I judge him for letting his talents stagnate, for never drawing anymore. That I hold him to a standard I’m disinclined to hold myself to. I don’t know if he feels any of those things, but I’d be inclined to agree with him on at least two if he did.
But the thing is, it doesn’t really matter. Because when you’re friends with a man for over 25 years, if you’re that lucky, you know the bond may feel the strain, but it never breaks. Maybe you go years without seeing each other, and maybe it takes more planning to link up than it should. But it doesn’t break.
Once, when I was coming home from a visit to Toronto to see Charlon, a visit I knew heralded our relationship’s dissolution, Jeff picked my up in that busted ass Ford Aerostar van he used to drive [RIP] before we headed over to the youth centre were volunteering at. I was probably 19 at the time.
“Man, you know the weird thing?” I said.
“As Mike and I started hitting Windsor, all I could think was that I couldn’t wait to get in this car and act like an asshole with you. Is that weird? Does that make sense?”
“Yep. I was kind of thinking the same thing as I picked you up.”
I laughed, “And that’s not weird?”
“Probably. But who gives a fuck?”
He’ll always be the Evan to my Seth and the Jesse to my Cassidy. Whatever bullshit we throw at each other between now and the dirtnap, no matter how thin the bond stretches under the strain, it never snaps.
Honourable mention: I’m pretty sure as we drove to the youth centre on the night mentioned above, we were rocking with this.