Our Old Friend Jerry Jillian Luft
Our old friend Jerry from the skateboarding days had Ronald McDonald hair. A zany perm of harmless brown. Everyone in our crew had a nickname and his was “Jerry’s Kids,” a reference to those Jerry Lewis telethons. It wasn’t cool, and I never called him that, but he was a puny newcomer and newcomers took shit.
Our old friend Jerry from the skateboarding days claimed his mom dated Huey Lewis sometime in the 70s. Most of the skater dudes couldn’t care less but I did because we loved Huey Lewis. And the News. Parked in front of MTV for most of my childhood, I considered Huey a paternal figure, a kind uncle, or someone like my neighbor, Jim, who drank beer and joked around, inviting us kids over to pet box turtles and baby gators he’d rescued from the roadside. Someone affable and kind and up for a good time.
Our old friend Jerry wasn’t alive at the time of this alleged romance so there’s no way to confirm if Huey told his mom corny jokes while they drank good whiskey in her kitchen or if at the end of a date, he’d loosen his tie and yawn-smirk when he said he was beat and Johnny Carson was about to start and could he come to her place and stay for the show. Or if when he had a few too many, he’d sing outside her fire escape until she yell-whispered out her window, “God damn you Huey, you’ll wake up this whole town with that golden voice of yours. Get your ass up here!”
Our old friend Jerry would visit us during those strange summers when we were in our early 20s and unemployed and stupid hopeful because we still had our library books and a roommate who managed a Taco Bell. Sick of chalupas and scrounging our parents’ couches for change, he’d treat us to his version of Shepherd’s Pie: instant mashed potatoes and cheap-ass ground chuck with a generous layer of Kraft Singles. He was a short-order cook at some restaurant back in our hometown and somehow he made trash taste delicious. Jerry would smoke his menthol cigarettes and make us laugh while we drove aimlessly on Orlando highways listening to music out of our boombox because the stereo broke a long time ago. Never the News. Just Operation Ivy, Sneaker Pimps, The Geto Boys.
Our old friend Jerry from the skateboarding days disappeared around the time we all graduated college. Or it’s possible we were the ones that disappeared. Maybe it was more of a mutual vanishing. We asked people what happened to him and there were rumors of heroin and some toxic girlfriend but no one knew for sure.
Every time I play Sports, I think of him and his mom, who I never met, and how she might have held Huey in her arms on some disco dawn and imagined having his child. Someone just like him. Someone affable and kind and up for a good time. Someone like our old friend Jerry.