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August 8, 2012

The song that does not end

I’m driving through California’s Central Valley now. Some of it looks like the photographic inverse of the American South.

Out in the country, where one might expect to see little farmhouses and barns surrounded by sturdy oaks and maples, there are little farmhouses and barns surrounded by giant palm trees. The rolling hills and pastureland that should be verdant and thick with humidity are a consistent shade of yellow-brown that blows around in a flat, burning heat. What appear to be volcanic rocks pepper the landscape. One could nearly expect to look up and find two moons hanging in the sky, just like on Luke Skywalker’s Tatooine. But there’s water here somewhere. The place is absolutely teeming with agriculture. I picked a lemon off of a lemon tree the other day. It seems a paradox.

Mysterious beauty aside, traveling is an acceptable endeavor only insomuch as it implicitly suggests my eventual return to what I love very dearly, what is familiar to me and that — when I do return — my home will be roughly the same as it was when I left. Such will not be the case on this trip.

When I come home, Louisville will be in exactly the same place: right there next to the river. It will probably be very hot and will likely look about the same, by which I mean beautiful. I know it will have shifted slightly, though. Something will be out of place. Familiar but changed.

Absolutely nothing else is relevant or worth commenting on right now, but sitting down to eulogize a dear friend is, in a word, completely fucked. The insufficiency of 1,000 words about a human whose influence was as broad and deep as Jason Noble’s borders on the absurd. Our time with Jason, too, was criminally brief. We — all of us — wanted more, and Jason fought hard to accommodate. That he doesn’t get any more days with us, that we don’t get any more days with him is an impossible truth, an unacceptable fact and a bullshit paradox.

Most anything one could think to say about Jason was said often and in pleasant company while he was with us and well. This is because he was a good man, and good men generate glad tidings from all corners. When you’re inspired by someone, you tell people about it. When you’ve met a person who seems to have been sculpted from something as sturdy as kindness, someone who generates positivity like a spider winding a web in a sunny corner of the room, you tend to say so, often and to whomever will listen.

So much of what made Noble an amazing human is already a known quantity, and he’s been spoken of with great affection for a very long time. If it seems redundant to say more of the same about our friend now that he’s passed, it’s because those sentiments could never be said often or fast enough to keep up with him.

Jason was both consistent and constantly developing. He was good: at being a friend, being hysterical, being really far-out while remaining grounded, creating, being sincere, incisive, and inclusive, making sense of — or at least adapting to — a world that is nonsensical. He was good at these things consistently. Still, every time you looked, he was changing, constantly becoming more of what he already was.

There’s a Bonnie “Prince” Billy tune about “the song that does not end,” which I’ve always figured for a description of creativity and the creative process. I could be totally wrong about that. All the same, when I hear that tune, it elicits a picture of creativity as an endless stream of insight and information, one that can be accessed by all with some degree of success, and by a few with incredible felicity. Everybody can roll up their pants and wade in the creek when they are able; some folks are actually fish. Jason was a fish; he lived there.

The breadth of Jason’s creative impulse fairly beggared belief. This point just cannot be overstated. What was more amazing than its scope and impact, though, was the way Jason’s creativity, moored to his generosity, stimulated creativity and generosity in others. It’s easy, even natural, at times like this to overstate a person’s attractiveness, achievements or gravitational pull. Who could raise an objection? I just have to tell you, though, that in my experience, Noble really was the type of human who demonstrated the possibility of actually being good and encouraged others to be that way just by being present.

Like so many in our community and others scattered out in the periphery, I owe a great deal to Jason both creatively and psychically. But “owe” isn’t really the appropriate word, is it? It’s a feeble little word that wants. A community relies on mutual input and, in equal and opposite measure, we offered Jason what he offered to us: communion, love, discourse, and a set of expectations that makes a community worth being a part of.

My friendship with Jason was still under construction. After nine or 10 years, I felt like we were really getting somewhere. There was a lot I still wanted to know about him and learn from him. Why do you think a genius like Alan Moore has allowed himself to get screwed so often and so badly? Where do you buy those shirts you wear?

More than questions, answers, information or wisdom, though, I’m going to miss just being around him. He made me glad.

Jason routinely called me “Montigo.” There was never any real explanation for this. It just started happening the way nicknames happen. In our all-too infrequent visits, in totally random PDF files of various comic book villains he’d send me, drawings he’d show me, or every single new Batman trailer released in the months leading up to a debut that he made sure I was aware of, I was always happy to hear from him. It made me feel good to be his friend, and I miss him very much right now.

Thank you, Jason.

We love you.

Jason Noble was a Louisville musician who performed with the bands Shipping News, Rachel’s and Rodan. He also was a LEO music columnist. Noble died Saturday following a three-year battle with cancer. Please look for more about Noble’s life and work in the Aug. 15 issue of LEO Weekly.

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