‘Ciao, Darling’ – For Jason


Seventeen years ago my friend Donna called me to ask if she could invite her friend Jason to a party being held at my house. Jason had just returned to Maine (where he grew up) from California and didn’t know too many people any longer. I of course agreed, saying ‘the more the merrier’.

I liked Jason instantly. He had a quick wit and an even quicker smile. He mentioned one of his ‘traits’ as being a Virgo thing, and I said, ‘Oh, me too…when’s your birthday?’ When he told me, I laughed. We were born on the very same day, two hours apart. I had met a birthday twin. We found in no time at all that we liked so many of the same things….old prime-time soap operas, Charlie’s Angels, Tom Jones, Barry Manilow, Melrose Place, and so much more.

We began planning our joint 30th birthday party that year. It was to be a grand extravaganza. Togas and karaoke. An unbeatable combination. Jason, a graphic design whiz, came up with the perfect party invite design and we collaborated on the content. I still have a copy of it as it’s such a fond memory for me. It said ‘On August 28th, 1998…Cities Will Crumble…Oceans Will Burn…and Cake And Ice Cream Will Be Served!’ The back of the tri-fold invitation contained directions to the party, and a ‘Q&A with the birthday boys’……it was such a treasure to me…now even more so. We had our party, me in a Minnie Mouse sheet with ears and bow tie, Jason in an Elvis tapestry. We drank, sang Sonny and Cher, opened presents, and celebrated turning 30 like no other people we’d ever known. It still is the birthday I talk about the most, reminiscing and laughing about it, and marveling at how some people are horrified to turn 30, but with such a party to then look forward to and now remember, I cannot imagine ever having any hesitation about it.

I owe Jason so much. He helped me get myself out of a bad relationship I had entered into with someone quickly after another relationship ended. I needed to move, on very short notice, and Jason told me he’d decided to have a roommate to save some money and asked if I’d want to find an apartment together to share. I readily agreed, and we moved into our swanky, two-bedroom open concept flat on Munjoy Hill that we shared for over a year until he moved in with his then partner, and I took the place over on my own for many months until I moved from there to the Boston area.

During our time as roommates, Jason and I indulged in many, many viewings of one of our favorite movies, Polyester, by the brilliant John Waters. It was shown on and off for a month on a t.v. station, including commercials, and no matter where we came in to the film at what time and how many times we’d seen it, we’d sit in the living room together and laugh as hard as if it was the first time we were seeing it. We discovered how much we both loved ‘9 to 5’ with Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton, and would watch that film over and over as well. We drank martinis and shared confidences and lamented past involvements that hadn’t worked out the way we’d hoped. We saw each other through disappointments, gave each other relationship advice, listened to endless hours of thumpa-thumpa dance remixes, and lived our lives to the fullest for two newly ‘gay over the hill’ (meaning over 30) studs on the prowl. We even held a slumber party one night, so that some of our non-mutual friends could come hang out and perhaps expand both our circles a little more. I recall watching a movie with everyone, laying on a sleeping bag on the living room floor laughing away with Jason sitting on the couch behind me, martini glass in one hand, the other hand rubbing my freshly-shorn hair on the back of my head because he liked the way it made him feel all squishy inside.

Jason introduced me to the wonders of ‘Strangers With Candy’ starring the brilliant Amy Sedaris. He produced for me an entire, complete set of Charlie’s Angels trading cards from the 70’s, put in plastic protector sleeves and with every sticker that ever came with the cards….and even a 20 years old piece of petrified bubble gum from one of the card packs.

One weekend, after I had been in Boston for a few years, Jason and I and our respective partners made one of our dreams come true. To attend a Tom Jones concert together. We made a pact that, like the women who threw their underwear up on the stage at Tom, we’d stuff jock straps into our pants, walk down to the barrier, and proudly declare our love for Tom and toss our hidden jock straps up at him.

We spent a weekend together, sans partners, at one of my apartments outside of Boston sharing laughs and movies we’d watched a hundred times already, chilling martinis and enjoying each other’s company. Jason was the kind of friend that no matter how much time passed, we were always friends, and nothing had diminished about it. He of course knew I became a father several years ago, and knew that was something that required a lot of time….time I used to give to friends. He never seemed to mind that our time became online instead of in person as the years passed. We still chatted, we still texted, we still made Alexis Colby (and other Dynasty characters) memes that we shared on one another’s Facebook timelines.

The last time I saw Jason in person he came to my sister’s funeral three years ago with our mutual friend Donna. I’d not seen him in a few years, but despite the passage of time, and all the funny stuff we’d shared, I knew once again that Jason was a friend through good times and bad, and not hesitant to show it.

Jason and I had, not long ago, started talking about making plans to celebrate our 50th birthday (jointly), and how we’d have to make it a ‘barn-burner’…..I hadn’t had the chance to share this with him yet; but I was thinking along the lines of a Dynasty party, where one of us dressed as Krystle, and one as Alexis. There would be no wondering who would be who. Jason was the #1 Alexis Colby fan of all time…I would never have dreamed of putting on the dark wig instead of him.

Most recently I shared a Strangers With Candy video clip with Jason that I knew would make him laugh, and we chatted about the availability of Seasons 1 – 8 of Dynasty on Amazon Prime, and Jason commented that we’d have to have a viewing party complete with ‘Moldavian Massacre Martinis’ – something we’d have to invent, as they don’t yet exist. This was a few weeks ago.

Today my friend died. He and his partner were at a Maine beach over the weekend, and became stranded on a sand dune. They were picked up from the water eventually, but sadly Jason’s injuries were grave. He was on life support, but his EEG flatlined last night and he was removed from life support today. He passed away shortly after 1pm. He was surrounded by his parents, his sister, and his partner, Michael, who is physically okay after the accident this weekend.

Emotionally, I cannot imagine anyone who knew and loved Jason being okay knowing that today his life ended.

I don’t wish to try to make my loss seem more substantial than anyone else’s. There are so many people who loved Jason and admired him and drew strength and happiness and comfort from his amazing ability to love. I imagine his family is in agony. I know our mutual friend is heartbroken, and I know that for all of us who loved Jason, this world will never quite be the same without him.

For myself personally, this isn’t just grief….this is shock, denial, amazement, and absolute heartbreak that Jason’s life, at least the physical one, has ended. I cannot imagine that in this world, despite the presence of billions of people, Jason is no longer in it.

Goodbye my friend…my birthday twin….my Dynasty Dynamic Duo Diva…..my confidante, my advisor, my muse, my savior, my d.j., my big bright shiny smile that always melted away any gloom. I will miss you terribly. This is a tragedy beyond imagining…beyond comprehension….and I am absolutely and utterly heartbroken to know you are gone.

As Alexis would say….’Ciao, Darling’.


18 thoughts on “‘Ciao, Darling’ – For Jason

  1. Mark says:

    So well written. Quite a tribute and a precious collection of memories.
    Love and heartfelt condolences to you and others who were touched by Jason.

  2. Betty Gravelle says:

    Oh Brad, I am so sorry to read this. Having lost my closest friend in the world many years ago, I know how heartbreaking, shocking and unbelievably painful this must be for you. It’s something that never really leaves you, but wonderful memories will help get you through and will keep him with you always. My deepest condolences my friend. Hugs ~B~

  3. Beautiful tribute Brad. Parts of this reminded me how we used to watch movies, have slumber parties and how much fun we had. You,Scott,John,Eric,Doug,Jennifer,and the others that would appear along the way were to me a family. I am sorry for the loss of your friend. He sounded like someone fun to be around just like you always was. We are lucky when people like that show up in our lives and are blessed that we knew them.

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