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On May 1st 1980, a group of my friends and I attended an anniversary party. Actually, I suppose I should say ‘attempted to attend’, because we arrived early and there were, as yet, no festivities. Being young and easily bored, we cast about for something else to do. Someone (I don’t recall who) suggested we all go to a nearby abandoned quarry for some swimming and rock climbing. It seemed like such a great idea at the time.
Upon our arrival at said quarry, I cast my gaze upon a 100-foot sheer cliff face, a remnant of mining operations past. Without a thought or concern (hell – I was 16 years old, for chrissake) I strode up to the wall and began my ascent.
Everything proceeded beautifully until I reached a point about 30 feet up the cliff. As I looked about me, searching for the next handhold, my friend Jason shouted to me from behind and below.
“Don’t go up that way, Terry,” Jason admonished. “You can’t make it to the top that way. You need to go up where Dion [another friend, scaling the cliff 25 feet to my right] is.”
My response to this was elegant in its simplicity: “Fuck you, Jason,” I yelled over my shoulder, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
And then I fell off the cliff. 30 feet onto solid rock.
Much craziness ensued. Dion ran barefoot more than a mile to summon help. All my friends got soaked to the chest helping the emergency personnel transport my stretcher across a raging river. My mother was summoned to the hospital on the second try (the first try was Jason, who called at my request. My mother failed to answer the phone because she had grown tired of answering the damn thing that particular evening. Jason let it ring for so long, though, that when a nurse called back, mom felt guilty enough to answer). I was x-rayed almost unto glowing. End result? A broken and dislocated wrist, and multiple contusions and abrasions.
And May 1st officially became Fuck You Jason Day. It’s my favorite holiday of the year, and I celebrate it without fail. Traditionally, celebration of Fuck You Jason Day took the form of calling Jason on May 1st – preferably at 2 am, necessarily collect – just to say ‘Fuck you, Jason.’ This is the way in which I celebrated the holiday for the first 15 years of its existence.
But then, in 1995, Jason died, making it impossible for me to call him, collect or otherwise. Cancer came for him, first showing itself in his lungs, eventually invading the entirety of his body. It pretty much ate him alive, and believe me, boys and girls – cancer is evil, evil, evil.
Let me tell you a little about Jason. I used to call him ‘tall, fuzzy and ugly’, and he was all those things. And yet, he was constantly surrounded by stunningly beautiful women. Just one more damn thing I’ll never understand about women, I guess.
Despite the many attempts to canonize Jason post-mortem, saintliness was never anywhere near him. He was obnoxious and belligerent, and I loved him like a brother. He was stubborn and opinionated, and he was just about the best friend you could ever ask for. More than once I have insisted that he was actually a comic book character.
I remember a night in the early eighties when Jason and I went to a local bar. We were disinclined to pay the cover charge that night, so we endeavored to sneak into the place. The bouncer caught us and promptly kicked us to the curb. Not to be outdone, Jason and I walked around to the back door of the bar and quickly snuck our way in.
The bouncer who had initially booted us noticed our unauthorized presence and immediately escorted us back to the door. At said door, I insisted on finishing the beer I had purchased, a decision the bouncer reacted to by attempting to wrest the beer from my grip. There was a brief struggle that ended with the mug of beer falling (I swear I remember it in slow motion) to the ground and shattering spectacularly. The bouncer and I shouted at each other for a few minutes, after which he threatened to call the police, a threat that Jason and I met with the kind of disdain that can only be achieved by a couple of 18-year-olds who have never really had to pay for their own mistakes.
So while the bouncer returned to the bar to call the authorities, Jason and I wandered into the parking lot and sat upon a stranger’s car while we awaited the arrival of our (alleged) doom.
It only took a few minutes. A police car came screaming down the street and turned into the parking lot, tires squealing. It pulled up alongside the car we were sitting on, and a police officer threw open the door and leapt from the car.
Jason jumped to the ground. “They saw you coming,” he exclaimed, pointing westward, “They took off that way!”
The police officer said “Thanks!”, leapt back into his car, and drove off.
I stared at Jason in dumbfounded admiration for a moment, then joined him as he fled the scene.
That was the kind of guy Jason was. He could actually pull shit like that off.
So I’m missing Jason a little more than usual – thinking about him a little more than usual – because it’s that time of year. Tomorrow is Fuck You Jason Day, and I will celebrate in the fashion I have done so since Jason died: I will go to the cemetery and drink a beer (or two) with my favorite dead guy. And I will be careful to pour the backwash upon his grave. It’s only fitting. I know some people think it’s a little odd, but I don’t really care. I haven’t stopped loving Jason just because he died. Our friendship endures. And it’s the kind of friendship that gets the joke.
And so I wish you all a most pleasant May Day. I know at least two couples who were married on the day, and I wish them a most sincere Happy Anniversary. For me, though, May 1st will always be Fuck You Jason Day, and it will be a personal holiday that belongs to my dead buddy Jason. So there’s really only one good salutation:
Fuck You, Jason.