Archive for April 4th, 2006

Me and My Shadow, Pt. 5
Tuesday April 4 2006 @ 4:16 pm

I stood in the lobby of the sound studio where we were recording voice tracks for the “Clerks” cartoon, phone to my ear, stunned.

“What?!” I demanded.
“Jason’s escaped,” repeated the program director of the rehab clinic nearly two hours outside of L.A. where we’d checked Mewes in only the day before. “He asked if he could step outside for cigarette, at which point he fled the grounds. He won’t get far though, because he doesn’t have any shoes. We expect to recapture him soon.”

Visions of Mewes running through fields, pursued by rehab workers on horseback, a net scooping him up a’la “Planet of the Apes”, raced through my head.

When Jay was brought back to Steps, he was placed in a building across the street from the rehab proper. The decision from the top brass was that he could remain in the program, but he wasn’t allowed to mingle with the patients in the main building. Instead, he was placed in lockdown in what was tantamount to a psychiatric ward. For one week, he wasn’t allowed to take calls.

I’d stayed in Los Angeles to work on the “Clerks” cartoon for a bit after the Mtv Movie Awards, but was planning to head back east soon, as Jen was almost ready to deliver Harley, and I wanted my kid born in Jersey, not California. Three days before we left, I was finally able to speak to Mewes.

I’d called the psych ward’s main number, and they gave me the digits for a payphone on the unit’s floor.

“Hewhoaw?” said the voice on the other end, sounding vaguely like an old, retarded woman.
“Hello. Yes, can I speak with Jason Mewes please?”
“Who’s that?”
“He’s a patient there. Long hair. Kinda young.”
Apropos of nothing, the voice asked “Do you like my glasses?”
“Excuse me?”
“Hold on,” the voice said. Then, I heard the voice call out into the room in an almost sing-songy patois “Dum-Dum…”
There was a momentary scuffle until I heard a familiar voice barking “Gimme that!” Then, Mewes snapped into the phone “Fucking Dum-Dum! Do you hear that, Moves? This guy’s calling me Dum-Dum! You’ve gotta get me out of here!”
“That was a guy?” I asked.
“Do you like my glasses?” the apparently male patient said to Mewes.
“I ALREADY TOLD YOU I LIKED ‘EM TEN TIMES! NOW FUCK OFF!” He followed it with a sotto “Jesus.”
“How’s it going in there,” I inquired, already pretty sure of the impending response.
“I’m in the fucking nut-house, Moves! You gotta get ‘em to take me back across the street!”
“They said they’re unwilling to have you back there, Jay. You’re to do the rest of the program from where you are.”
“In a fucking insane asylum?!”
“You wouldn’t be in an insane asylum if you hadn’t made a run for it. You wouldn’t be in rehab at all if you didn’t start doing dope.”
“I know, but this is crazy. This fucking PLACE is crazy. That glasses guy? He told me he’s my Mother. And if he asks me one more time…”
And, as if on cue, the patient piped in again from what sounded like a few feet away “Do you like my glasses?”
“GET AWAY FROM ME!” Mewes yelled.
“You get away from me!” the guy yelled back, then called out in the sing-songy tones “Dum-Dum!”
“Moves, I’m not gonna make it in here. I’ll go to another rehab – any other rehab. But I can’t stay in here. All these people are insane. I’m not insane. I’ve got a drug problem, yeah – but I ain’t nuts.”

The boy had a point. We made arrangements to have him moved to another rehab, this time a place called Cry Help in Los Angeles. Once he was securely in the new program, Jen, Scott and I flew back to Jersey on the Miramax private jet Harvey had sent for us, as Jen – waaaay pregnant and set to pop at any moment – wasn’t permitted to fly commercially that close to term.

Harley was born in Red Bank at Riverview, the same hospital where my Mother had given birth to me 29 years prior. All of my friends and family came to see the baby that first week; all of my friends and family except the rehab-riding Mewes.

A month and change after Harley was born, Jen, the newborn and I were back on a plane out to Los Angeles to do more work on the “Clerks” cartoon, just in time for Mewes’ discharge from Cry Help. I swung by the clinic to pick him up and almost wept after seeing how good he looked and hearing how great he sounded. We got him a hotel room at the Nico, a few doors down from ours, and stuck around L.A. for two more weeks, recording all Mewes’ voiceover for the first four episodes of the cartoon, before collectively heading back to Jersey.

It was a sheer delight to be around Jason at this point. He was crisp and clear in a way he hadn’t been since pre-”Dogma”. But with this newfound clarity came candor: as part of his Twelve Steps, he started confessing a litany of prior bad acts and sordid activity that I hadn’t been aware of. While it was refreshing to listen to the truth coming out of Jason for a change, one of his mea-culpas proved unnerving.

The dealer Mewes had burned at my backyard gate – the one who had simply left with a warning that day? Had he known his Mewes-related troubles weren’t about to stop with being owed thirty seven bucks, he might’ve instead forced entry into the house and taken the boy out altogether. As part of a plea bargain with the Keansburg police that stemmed from the possession charges resulting from the deployed airbag-induced pull-over, Mewes had to turn in his dealer. After ducking the sting operation as long as he could, Stephanie and Mewes were involved in a set-up and arrest that saw the guy ultimately incarcerated.

All of this was done on the down-low, while Jay and Stephanie were both still residents at my house. In retrospect, Stephanie hadn’t put up any fight to stick around when her parents showed up to get her that day. I’d always assumed it was because she saw an opportunity to turn her life around. Suddenly, I realized it might’ve been a self-preservatory move of a different color altogether – because once the dealer they set up got out of jail, he might be looking for a little payback. And if that was the case, he’d probably go looking for Mewes and Stephanie at their last known address.

My house in Oceanport.

But even though Mewes assured me the guy worked alone and wasn’t getting out for at least two years, that was the moment I decided I should probably move my family elsewhere.

But the relocation would have to wait, because the “Dogma” premiere was fast-approaching. The film had its domestic debut at the prestigious New York Film Festival, where a thousand protesters showed up, shaking Bible-quoting placards at us. The Catholic League-led campaign against the flick had slow-boiled into a 300,000-strong hate mail endeavor, the three legitimate death threats of which resulted in all View Askew mail and packages being opened by bomb squad professionals for four months.

With all the stress we were under, it was nice to know Mewes – thanks to his newfound sobriety – wasn’t responsible for any of it. Living with us back in Oceanport, Jason had become a model citizen, just saying No. He’d visit his Mother regularly, steering clear of her readily available Oxys. His one request in months was that Stephanie be allowed to attend the NY Film Fest unveiling of “Dogma”. He hadn’t seen his ex since Steph’s hasty departure from our lives, and now that they were both clean, he was anxious to spend time with her. After making him promise that drugs wouldn’t factor into the visit, I conceded.

Stephanie took a train and joined us in NYC. The one-time Terror Twins rode in the limo with Jen, Harley and I to the Lincoln Center screening of the flick. At the theater, Jason was in attendance for the intro of the film, along with Salma Hayek, Chris Rock, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Alan Rickman, composer Howard Shore, Mos and me. When the intro was over, the boy asked if he could head back to the hotel with Stephanie for a little private time. Not wanting to be a cock-blocker, I allowed it, providing he get back to Lincoln Center by the end of the movie.

While the film screened, Jen told me she couldn’t be one hundred percent sure, but she feared she saw a needle kit inside Stephanie’s jacket while we were in the limo together. I couldn’t leave the theater, shoot over to the hotel to check on the pair and hope to be back in time for the Q&A panel that would follow. Instead, I said I’d confront Jason about it when he returned for the post-screening panel.

Had Jay returned to the theater, he would’ve been able to bask in the glow of the upscale audience’s “Dogma”-driven adoration of Jay. Had he shown up at the after-party, he would’ve been showered with praise by Harvey Weinstein. Instead, all night I fielded “Where’s Jay?” queries.

It wasn’t ’til the following morning that I’d learn the details of his absence: Stephanie and he had gone back to the Four Seasons on 57th where they shot up, getting so loaded they forgot to fuck before she had to get on a train back to Ohio the next morning. Rather than spend the night romantically, they opted to spend it narcotically. And with that, Mewes had fallen off the wagon. He’d managed to stay clean a mere four months.

Excuses were made along the lines of “It was just this one time, and I know it was stupid, because I shot up instead of getting down with her.” Still, I booted the boy from the house anew, with Jason insisting he was staying sober from then on in.

The next time I saw him was at Harley’s christening, the weekend “Dogma” was released theatrically. He didn’t stick around at the party very long, and it was clear that his mind was elsewhere.

Shortly after the holidays, Jen, Scott and I moved out to Los Angeles for three months, to work on the cartoon. When we finally returned to Jersey, we needed to record two more episodes worth of voiceover with Jay. The difference in his voice was noticeable when he showed up in that Manhattan recording studio, but his appearance was even more telling. He looked like a junkie again.

Still, it wasn’t all bad for Jason. He’d been dating a girl named Jamie for some time, and one night, he decided to propose to her. He told me about it the day after he’d gotten engaged.

“I proposed to Jamie last night,” he said.
“Get outa here!”
“It’s true. I put the ring in my fish tank, and when she came into my room, I told her to check out the new fish I bought. She found the ring, and I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me.”
“Classy, dude. I wish I could’ve seen that.”
“You can. I videotaped the whole thing.”
“Yeah – I hid a camera so that I could get it all on tape.”
“I’d like to see that tape,” I said.
After a long beat, he added “I made another tape, too.”

I knew where this was going before he elaborated. Mewes gave me both his proposal tape and his celebratory fuck tape to watch and critique. Suffice it to say, the proposal tape was easier to watch, as the fuck tape featured an Oxycontin-numbed Mewes engaged in sadly lackadaisical sex. What should’ve been a hot viewing turned out to be just another reminder of how far from the land of the living the boy truly was.

The “Clerks” cartoon had a short life on ABC, canceled after only two airings. By that time, I was working on a script for “Clerks II”, but started thinking, instead, of making the all-Jay and Silent Bob flick the fan-base had been requesting for years. The reasons for this change of direction were two-fold: 1) after dealing with the scandal of “Dogma”, I thought it’d be nice to make a movie where death threats wouldn’t be a factor; and 2) a Jay and Silent Bob-centric flick was my best chance of getting Jason clean again.

I told the boy about my plan, and he got excited. I told him he’d make more money this time around than he had on all the previous films combined, and he got even more excited. I told him the only way any of this would come to pass would be if he got clean, and the excitement dwindled. Reserved to his fate, he agreed to clean up, and back into my house he moved.

Jason had, at this point, lost a bunch of teeth, thanks to heroin abuse. There were unconfirmed reports that Mewes had went into the dentist and had repairable teeth removed, solely so he could get an Oxycontin prescription. The end result was a mouth that more closely resembled that of an eighty year old’s than someone in his mid twenties. A trip to the oral surgeon was in order.

The doctor said roughly thirty thousand dollars worth of dental work was needed to fix Jason’s mouth and fit him with false teeth. We started the month-long process of root canals and drilling with me pulling aside the dentist and asking what type of pain reliever he’d be prescribing.

“The kid’s asking me for Oxycontin,” the doctor said. “He’s got a pretty bad addiction.”
“Yeah, we’re working on that now,” I confessed.
“Point is, I don’t know what I can prescribe for him that would even approach the dosage his body’s used to now. He’s doing twelve hundred milligrams a day.”
“Is that a lot?”
“Let’s put it this way: if you took four hundred right now, it’d probably stop your heart cold.”
“He’s built up quite a bit of tolerance, huh?”
“It’s amazing he’s not dead.”
“He comes from sturdy stock.”

That stock he came from had been steadily supplying her son with a diet of Oxys that the boy would have to be weaned from. Worse still, Mewes wasn’t taking the pills orally: he’d crack open the time-released coating and chop up the narcotic inside, snorting it to get it into his system as quickly as possible. The doctor suggested a slow reduction, dropping Jay a hundred milligrams a week until he was off the drug completely.

I took charge of the pills and began doling them out every morning. Invariably, a soft knock would come at the door around six a.m., with the boy asking “I know it’s early, but can I get my medicine now?” After nearly two months, we’d only gotten down to four hundred milligrams a day, and even at that dosage, Jason was complaining that he was getting the shakes.

Our program was interrupted when Mewes got a job on another flick in advance of “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”. Entitled “R.S.V.P.”, it was to shoot in Vegas, and Jamie – the boy’s fiancé – agreed to accompany him for that shoot, promising to take over the dosage-lowering program in my absence. The pair left Jersey a few weeks after Mewes’ final dental visit, at which point he had a mouth full of teeth again.

Jen and I packed up the family (Harley, naturally, as well as Jen’s parents Byron and Gail) and headed out to Los Angeles. We set up house in Toluca Lake months in advance of principal photography on “Strike Back”. The rental property came with a back house that was designated as Mewes’ once he was done with “R.S.V.P”

The reports out of Vegas were not inspiring. Jamie said Mewes hadn’t diminished his dosage, but instead increased it, hovering somewhere around a thousand milligrams of Oxys a day. I told the boy that, once he got to Los Angeles, we’d be sticking him in a rehab. Jason agreed, so long as it was a week-long program: the kind in which the patient is heavily medicated as they detox from their drug dependency. The notion of kicking drugs with different drugs seemed backwards to me, but if I’d learned anything over the last three years it was that I didn’t know shit about drug dependency.

I found a program in Beverly Hills that Jason agreed to enter. Based in Cedars-Sinai Hospital, it was a ten-day detox-only regiment, after which drug counseling was stressed. Mewes wasn’t interested in meetings as much as he was looking for a painless way to get narcotics out of his system.

The sad truth, by this point, was that Jason was no longer doing drugs to get high. He’d long-since passed the point of ingesting heroin or Oxys for pleasure. By then, he needed the steady diet of narcotics solely “to feel normal”, as he would say. When the body builds up the kind of tolerance level Jason’s had, you don’t fiend for anything else beyond NOT detoxing. It’s no longer about feeling good as much as it’s about not feeling bad.

When we admitted Jason into the program upon his arrival in L.A., he’d discover what “bad” really meant.

To Be Continued…
Peep a three-years-clean Jason in the “Clerks II” online-exclusive trailer.