To encapsulate 27 years of friendship in a short essay is impossible, but beginnings say a lot.
Jason and I met the first day of high school, in 1985. I immediately liked him and hoped he would be my friend. That day, he made a drawing of a made-up superhero character getting his head bashed in by an unseen foe … and gave it to me as a gift. My heart leapt. I think we both needed each other — we were totally awkward, socially inept 14-year-olds who liked to draw, freaked out by this new environment of school and all its potential perils for nerds — and this was his naturally charming way of inviting me in. I have that drawing to this day.
Before long, we were in drawing classes together, going to the Vogue to see art films, and attending Philip Glass concerts at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. Together with fellow conspirators Jeff Mueller, Jon Hawpe, and others, we plotted zine, music, art and video projects — a creative calling that defined our lives. For me, his enthusiasm, raw talent and energy was literally intoxicating. His humor made the horrors of high school an adventure, and his friendship … well, I simply cannot imagine what my life would be like without him. I honestly don’t know how things would have turned out: if I would have believed in myself as a creative person, taken my own talents seriously, and pursued art-making as a career.
His impact on my life stretched well beyond high school, as our early dreams of writing music and “making stuff” was realized in ways I couldn’t have predicted. We found ourselves driving rented vans as we toured with Rachel’s, playing filthy bars in Denver, rock clubs in Brooklyn, art museums in Boston, even a Renaissance-era church in Florence, Italy. I cherish those days, those long conversations on the road, where we debated the merits of “The Empire Strikes Back” over “Star Wars” (“Return of the Jedi” a distant third), buzzed over Massive Attack’s latest record, or admired the lush fall countryside we were driving through. No matter the venue or situation, he always felt gratitude for the experience, and always had a generosity of spirit that humbled me, as I tend to be the nitpicker type.
We weren’t without our differences, explosive arguments, and periods of radio silence, but, not so deep down, we knew we would always be brothers. It was usually something art-related that brought our orbits back in line, some project we needed the other’s help with; or simply the pace of life and the fact that we needed to know how the other was doing. How the other felt about Soderbergh’s latest movie, or that a “Blade Runner” DVD box set had just come out. Urgently important things.
Once, when Jason visited me in NYC some years ago, he secretly made a drawing of Spiderman and hid it in a flat file drawer in my room without saying a word so that I would discover it — who knows — days, months, years later? Just a bit of surprise Jasonalia for me to find someday. But the moment he left my apartment for the airport to return home, I went and sat in my room, pondering his visit, and my eyes fell upon my flat files. Something felt different about them, and in the first one I opened, there was the drawing.
I lived for those moments, the strange brainwave connection we could have, just the honest and often goofy conversation we kept airborne between us since that first day in high school, a collaboration of living filled with uncanny coincidence, timing, film quotes, rap music … and superheroes.
Greg King is an artist and filmmaker in Los Angeles. He attended duPont Manual Magnet School and is a former member of the bands King G and the J Krew, Rachel’s, and The Young Scamels.