The day before the last day I ever saw Jack, we went to Paseo Nuevo to see Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood. When we came out of it and walked back up State Street to his truck, I felt like I was in a trance, the pace and the length of the movie had overwhelmed my sense of time. I wasn’t sure if I even liked the movie, I had to read some reviews to help me figure out my ambivalence, but Jack had no qualms, he loved it. Looking back now, I understand why—it was about him, it was for him. He grew up in the early sixties surrounded by the type of man in that film, a man he learned how to be: strong, loyal, masculine, self-sufficient. Jack's father was an actor in TV westerns (click on that link and you’ll see his photo). At one point in Once Upon a Time, Jack elbowed me and pointed to a TV Guide in Leonardo DiCaprio’s trailer: the actor on the cover was the dad of one of Jack’s friends who starred in a Gunsmoke-type show. Little things like that hit Jack’s Tarantino sweet spot, and that night we watched Inglourious Basterds for the twentieth time, just to hear the way Brad Pitt says Naaazis.
Jack was one of the best—maybe the best storyteller I’ve ever known. Give him a few beers and he was a one-man podcast. There was the story of smuggling a knife into summer basketball camp in Indiana; of driving around Memphis in a Cadillac with his high school friend Vamp, who was also a pimp; of his uncle dealing drugs in Little Italy in the seventies and then dying mysteriously in Florida; of getting mugged on the way home from school on the Upper West Side. The story of the girl who broke his heart and the girls who came after who didn’t know why he was making them pay for it. Hundreds of stories that as he told and retold them were slowly helping him come to terms with who he was and what he’d made of himself.
I had wanted to record as many of them as I could, so that Jackson would have audio files of his father’s life, but we never did it, maybe because Jack wanted to write down his stories, turn them into a novel or a script. I’m not sure what stopped him. Maybe he lacked the confidence; maybe he couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with his own brain.
I finally unpacked his suitcase yesterday, one of his friends threw his clothes in there and zipped it up before they put it in his truck and drove it all back down to me. Everything was sort of crunched up and none of it smelled like him, I guess I waited too long. I was going to wash it all before I gave it to the thrift, but I can’t imagine making the effort when he still has so much clean laundry on his dresser to put away! It’s been almost a month, why has he not put it away yet? The cat has been sleeping on it and it’s covered in fur and I don’t want to have to wash it all again.