Tuesday 28 March 2006 @ 4:00 pm
Since the gossip sites have seen fit to print only the portion of the Jason Mewes story I told at UPenn (that portion being what said sites seem to feel is the only interesting aspect of Mewes’ life), I figured why not put the whole tale of Jason’s battle with drug addiction into print here, where folks can get a better idea of who Jason truly is and maybe why he fell victim to heroin abuse in the first place. I’m thinking it’s gonna be at least a four-parter, and I’m hoping to wrap it up by April 6th, the day Mewes celebrates his “Sober Birthday”, when Jay will mark his third straight year of living completely drug and alcohol free.
At the least, it’s a more comprehensive profile at a guy who’s accomplished a lot more than celebrity bathroom sex; at the most, it’s an ode to a very unlikely hero of mine and a man I love (in a decidedly hetero way).
On a mid-December early morn, circa 2003, on the balcony of my house in the Hollywood Hills, Jason Mewes, my friend of seventeen years and co-star in five films at that point, dropped a bomb that shoud’ve repulsed the shit out of me, or at the very least, made me vomit a little in my mouth.
“Last night, at the Spider Club, Nicole Richie dragged me into the bathroom and fucked me.”
And yet, instead of retching, I found myself battling another type of growing lump in my throat – the kind induced by watching your child enter the world, or the last ten minutes of “Field of Dreams”. I was suppressing tearful joy, momentarily setting aside the compulsion to smack Jason upside the head, hollering “Don’t fuck the vapid, dammit!” due to the fact that I was so insanely proud of how far the boy had come and relieved that we were having this conversation at all.
See, for years, Jason had had what seemed like an unbeatable, untreatable addiction to, alternately, heroin and oxycontin. It was a heartbreaking, trying and puzzling five-year stretch for me, so I can’t imagine how bad it was for him (well, that’s not entirely true. Mewes would periodically flash self-awareness with statements like “If I’m still like this when I turn thirty, I should probably kill myself.”).
Those who’ve never struggled with drug dependency themselves, or loved anybody who has, will often dismiss the props more empathetic folks extend to the ex-junkie with caustic bon mots along the lines of “So he/she quit drugs? Big deal. Why celebrate someone for finally exhibiting common sense? They didn’t have to get hooked in the first place. It’s not like someone held a gun to their head and told them to try drugs.” Oftentimes, these are the same people who think being gay is a choice, too.
But in the case of drug abusers, not every addict has the luxury of choosing a glamorous existence of despair, lies, theft and self-loathing. Some people are born genetically predisposed to chasing the dragon.
Born the son of a heroin abuser, Mewes spent most of his childhood raised by an aunt while his Mother fed her jones or spent years in jail. She wasn’t above stealing credit cards from neighborhood mailboxes, which resulted in the only Christmas gift of his childhood Jason recalls receiving from his mother: a new bike. The bike came in handy when, during a brief period of her smack-addled fifty years, his Mom operated as a drug dealer, using an oblivious nine year old Jason as a bag-man who delivered drugs to locals his Mother didn’t trust enough to deal with herself.
With no Father on the scene (to this day, Jason still doesn’t know who his Dad is), the story of Young Mewes plays out in an almost depraved Dickensian fashion. The nights when his Mom wanted to party, she’d drop him and his sister off at the houses of total strangers. The origins of Jay’s fear of confined spaces can be traced back to said drop-offs when, shortly after his Mother lit off for brownstone pastures, he and his sister would be locked in a closet for safekeeping.
And yet, given the astounding level of parental neglect, Mewes somehow managed to grow up to be a good, if somewhat offbeat, kid – the guy with the million dollar heart (and, sometimes, a nickel fucking head). It was that combo that made me fall in hetero love with him seventeen years ago, though it was far from love at first sight.
Highlands, the town we’re both from, isn’t a sprawling metropolis by any stretch of the imagination. Classified as a borough, Highlands is primarily a sea-farming town, with clamming as its largest industry. Roughly one square mile in length, it was rumored that the town had once made the Guiness Book of World Records for having the most bars in the shortest distance. However, the decade-old addition of a ferry into the financial district of across-the-river Manhattan has since sent real estate in Highlands sky-rocketing to dizzying heights: my childhood home – a small, three bedroom ranch-style house in the once inexpensive downtown area, purchased in the late ‘60’s for $14,000 and sold by my parents in 1998 for $90,000 – is again up for sale, this time with an asking price north of $300,000. The waterfront condos that’ve sprung up around town like coffee bars in the last ten years, start at easily over half a mil.
But back in the day, all men (and women) were not as equal, as the pre-ferry Highlands was distinctly separated into two classes: the more affluent uptown and the lower income downtown. The latter was the home to a young Smith and Mewes, separated by about two blocks. While I hadn’t really known Mewes growing up, I’d known of him: locals referred to the boy as “That Mewes Kid”. You’d hear stuff like “There’s that Mewes Kid. He broke the window at Beedles’ Pharmacy.” Or “There’s that Mewes Kid. I heard he fucked a dog once.” Neither, of course, were true, but that was Mewes in the ‘80’s: a sonic boom with dirt on it, often at the epicenter of any number of suburban legends.
I was formally introduced to Jason by my friends Walter Flanagan and Bryan Johnson, shortly after completing a year-long stint as a latch-key kid after school activity director (i.e. – I oversaw many games of kickball, foosball and billiards from three p.m. to six) at the Bob Wilson Memorial Recreation Center – a building named in memory of the town’s greatest celebrity, the former mayor who moonlighted as a prop man in the movie biz while managing to pick up a few bit parts along the way (the cameraman on the soap opera in “Tootsie” who passes out when Dustin Hoffman finally reveals himself, live and on-air, to be a man? That was Bob Wilson). After I’d moved on from the Rec Center, Bry and Walt began regaling me with tales of Jason Mewes, who they’d started hanging out with, after weeks of digging on his Rec-related monkeyshines. On our way to Devils’ games or mall trips, Bry and Walt would lavish the highest of praise on the absent Mewes with “Isn’t he fucked up?”
It was only a matter of time, I knew, before he’d be incorporated into our group – a group that I’d only recently joined myself. On a Saturday trip to a NY comic book show, Bry and Walt sprung the young Mewes on me, insisting we bring the fellow comics enthusiast (who owned no comics) with us to the city.
“You’re serious?” I asked, giving Mewes the once-over. “He’s a kid. You want me to transport a minor over state lines in my car? No way.”
Mewes, my junior by four years and Walt and Bry’s junior by six, was still a high school student at this point – something my compatriots and I hadn’t been in years. But that wasn’t nearly as threatening to me as the addition of a fourth party into our merry band. I’d been hanging with Walt and Bry for roughly a year, so I was the new funny guy. I knew that bringing on a newer, funnier guy meant relegating my cache’ to the backseat.
And the backseat was, indeed, where I’d wound up, as Bry trumped my refusal to let Mewes into my car by opting to drive his Firebird into the city instead, thus accommodating the minor a golden ticket into our clan. Worse still, Mewes had screamed “Shotgun!” thus usurping my hallowed front seat position. For the duration of the hour-long trek into mid-town Manhattan, I was forced to listen to my two friends cackling at Mewes’ braying, as he punctuated every outlandish comment with “NEH!” – a post-script that essentially meant “I’m kidding.” (Hence, the ass-kicking-inducing declaration “I fucked your Mom last night!” was rendered benign, so long as it was quickly followed with the requisite “NEH!”) Beneath the guffaws of Bry and Walt, I could be heard muttering, arms crossed, “He ain’t so funny.”
Mewes became a constant fourth wheel in our triumvirate. If we went ice skaing, Mewes came along. If we went to the mall, Mewes was in tow. Late night trips to the Marina Diner? Mewes was not only there too, but always in need of a few bucks for fries. And through it all, I always regarded the kid as an interloper. My conversations were invariably directed at Bry and Walt, while Mewes listened in, ever sporting a puzzled look at the topic of conversation until he saw the opportunity to offer up some sort of outlandish what-if scenario that featured him fucking something or someone inappropriate nearby, topping it all off with a resounding “NEH!”
The truly noteworthy aspect of any of these hang sessions was the complete and total absence of booze or drugs. I’d fallen out with my former high school crew over the introduction of mandatory weekend keggers into our social agenda, distressed by the fact that hours of pre-star-69 crank calls had been replaced by obsessive quests to lay our hands on beers. Bry and Walt offered sober-living fun – not by virtue of any desire to lead clean, drug-free lives; simply because none of us were particularly fond of getting loaded. The addition of Mewes didn’t change that at all, as a young Jason declared himself “straight-edge”, which he defined as “no booze, no drugs, no chicks”. We’d tried to explain to him many times that a straight-edge life wasn’t defined by the absence of pussy, but a then-girl-shy Mewes opted to include it into his program anyway, to relieve himself of the pressure of trying to score. The vast amount of jerking off he’d engaged in on a daily basis, as related to me, Walt and Bry regularly and in vast detail, whether we wanted to hear about it or not, probably would’ve precluded any shot he might have had left over to offer potential girlfriends anyway.
But as Bry and Walt became less interested in Mewes and more interested in their respective chicks, the then-single me would often answer the doorbell at my house to find Mewes standing outside.
“What’s up?” I’d ask.
It was in this fashion that I sort of reluctantly inherited Mewes. And while I had volumes in common with Bry and Walt, on the surface, Mewes and I were about as different as could possibly be. Without Bry and Walt around, I bristled at his what-if scenarios. I’d spend double or triple time in a conversation with the kid, as I’d have to define over 50% of the words I used for him. And all the while, I remained resistant to his charms.
Until that day at the Rec Center.
Walt and I had just come back from our weekly new comics run, and were quietly sitting in the Rec library, bagging and boarding our books. The kids hadn’t gotten out of school yet, so it was deaf-child silent in the building, save the metal rantings of King Diamond emanating on low volume from a nearby boom-box. Then, suddenly, the stillness was shattered, as a sent-home-from-school-early Mewes kicked the Rec door open, marched into the building Groucho Marx style, and proceeded to fellate everything somewhat phallic in the room.
Walt and I watched with wonder as Mewes grabbed a pool cue and pretended to suck it off. Losing interest, he ran up to the phone on the front desk, grabbed the receiver from the cradle, and pretended to suck that off. He grabbed the flag pole and did the same. He grabbed a whiffle ball bat and did the same. This went on for twenty minutes, with seemingly no regard for our presence whatsoever. He never looked at us as if to say “Are you seeing this shit?” He never looked at us at all. He didn’t seem to care that we were even there. This wasn’t a show for our benefit. It was as if he’d been walking around Highlands moments earlier, took a gander at his watch, and was like “Wow – it’s two o’clock. I’d better get down to the Rec and suck everything off.” The kid had an agenda, and he was actively fulfilling it.
It was when he finally reached the Rec’s only video game – a standard “Asteroids” kiosk that time had forgotten – that he finally paused. Studying it momentarily and finding nothing dick-like to pretend to suck off, he seemed stymied. There was no joystick to give him purchase; just a roller ball and a fire button. Walt and I watched with great curiosity, waiting to see how he’d overcome this unforeseen obstacle.
After what felt like five minutes, Mewes shrugged, bent down to the game controls, and started working the roller ball like it was a clit – his tongue darting in and out of his mouth, lapping at the orb as he spun it with his finger.
That’s when I finally caved and fell completely in love with Jason Mewes. I thought “This kid’s a comic genius. And if nothing else, he knows how to suck a dick. So if I ever get really bored hanging out with him, at least there’s always that to fall back on.”
From then on, Mewes and I became inseparable. We were a very unlikely pair, but we somehow found common ground. He became my adopted son of sorts, and I wound up being his biggest advocate in our little group, bringing him into our weekend street hockey games (for which I had to buy him roller blades) or taking him with us to the movies (for which I’d have to buy his tickets).
Bry, Walt and I made it our mission in life to get him laid, as Mewes – the most uninhibited, say-anything pottiest of potty mouths – would clam up around girls. At one party, we hooked him up with a chick who dragged him into the bathroom to make out, while we waited outside the door for news that he’d finally busted his cherry. Through the door, we heard stuff like “That’s not it” and “Eww, gimme some toilet paper.” Later, we’d learn he didn’t make it into paradise before going off like a broken hydrant against her hip.
For years, Jason would crack me up with his weird observations and impromptu comedic sketches. Even though the dude never did the high school plays or showed any interest in theater or acting, I’d constantly commend him with “Someone should put you in a movie, man.”
One day, I decided that I’d be that someone, when I finally left Highlands for a brief stint at the Vancouver Film School. I was gone for only six months before dropping out and heading back home, where I discovered the once-straight-edge Mewes, in my absence, had become a weekend warrior: booze, weed, and chicks were the order of the day for him, as he racked up bed-post notches that left my own in the dust. He’d changed somewhat, with the addition of Blueberry Schnapps and dime-bags, but was still very much the same loveable nut-bar regardless: the kind of guy who, after knowing you for five minutes, would say things like “It’s warm in here, isn’t it?” and then pull his cock out.
It was that Jason Mewes who I’d co-opted for the Jay character in “Clerks”, the script I’d written shortly after dropping out of film school. The role was written to Mewes’ strengths, so much so that his complete inexperience in acting wouldn’t be a hindrance. The part was peppered with his colloquialisms and catchphrases, written to Jason’s intonations and verbal patois. And yet, after reading the script, Mewes first words were “I don’t know if I can do this, man.”
“Why not? It’s just you on a page.”
I spent a month teaching Jay how to be Jay, during which time I accepted the fact that I’d never be able to pull off the role of Randal – the part I’d written for myself – and concentrated on finding something else for me to do in the flick, on camera. Since the part didn’t require the memorization of any lines, I opted to slip into the role of Jay’s quiet muscle, figuring Mewes and I would at least look visually interesting standing beside one another (him wiry and full of energy, me not). And together, dressed in costumes not at all unlike what we normally wore at the time, we became Jay and Silent Bob, the neighborhood drug dealers.
The great irony, of course, is that it’d be drugs that would one day not only threaten the continuation of Jay and Silent Bob, but also Jason’s life.
To Be Continued…
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