I love my life if only for the moment, sir
— David Jewell
It started as a regular Saturday night for me, having an old fashioned while watching HBO’s Successionon TV, when a scene came on that gave me pause. It was a party scene for a character’s bachelor party in the depths of NYC. Someone knelt to do a line of cocaine, another stood behind them holding a glass of bourbon, and I asked myself, “I wonder what David is up to?”
I went to Facebook, punched his name into the search bar, and the main result was In Memory of David Jewell.
David and I first met in Whitehorse when I worked at the Best Western Gold Rush Inn. It must have been in the fall of 2006. I had started working night audit shifts at the hotel and David was working in catering. At first it was just incidental contact and conversations in passing, then David moved into the hotel to reside in a small hotel room down the hallway from the front desk. That’s when things started to happen.
There were many times of assisting David with setting up the banquet rooms in the middle of the night when the front desk was quiet. Bickering about the flow of movement of people through the space, how best to set the tables, and so on. All this happened with music playing from the sound system, sometimes with him having a few beers, others with a cigarette in hand.
When there wasn’t work to be done in catering, David had other jobs at the other bars in town. When he came back at 2:30am after the bars closed, he would come sit down behind the railings of the front desk and talk with me. Almost always he had a container of food, chicken Alfredo or the greasy wings and ribs from Tags1 There we would sit and talk about all things in life. Comics, TV series, business, girls – typical guys with me in my late 20s and he in his 30s.
Eventually, he moved upstairs to a kitchenette suite. Several hotel staff lived at the hotel during those winter months, myself included. I would get invited over for dinner and I learned how good of a cook David was when he took the time and energy to do it. Stuffed pork loins, steamed asparagus, mushrooms in a thick sauce. It was gourmet cooking in a small hotel kitchen. We would sit around and talk through the night. He was definitely one of the only friends I had during that time.
Because of David’s love of all things alcohol, he pushed me to try to drink anything beyond what I was having. At that time, it’s hard to believe, but I only had six drinks a year, at most. Throughout University, I almost never drank. I couldn’t enjoy beer or wine, everything else was too costly until Smirnoff Ice became more readily available. With David, I started to drink more screwdrivers and then rum and Cokes. “Drinks to put hair on your chest,” he’d tell me.
I never indulged as much as he did, still haven’t, but it was my first experience of staying out late drinking, closing bars, and hanging around afterwards at our homes (the hotel rooms.) Of course, it was also the first time feeling hungover and trying to function the following day. The first part, I miss; the second, not so much.
You never know how much someone influences you until they’re away from you and you start to really think about them. Last night, I was going through our conversations on Facebook Messenger and seeing how we talked over the years after he moved away from Whitehorse. He went to Vancouver with his girlfriend in 2007 and I visited them a few times. Those trips really introduced the city to me, walking along the Sea Wall, Gastown, Granville Island, and Kitsilano. On one of the trips, I was introduced to Memphis Blues BBQ. Years later when I moved to Kelowna, I discovered that they had a franchise of it and the food was still as delicious as it was when I first had it in Vancouver.
Marvel comics, Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, and so on. I was introduced to so many things by David. He was the internet for me before I was as connected and tuned in as I am now.
David also introduced me to Tom Waits. This was right before he became more widely-known with younger generations with his influence on Heath Ledger’s performance of the Joker in Dark Knight.David was always, and I mean always quoting Tom Waits’ songs.
Eddie graces Buick got 4 bullet holes in the side
charley delislesittin’ at the top of an avocado tree
mrs storml stab you with a steak knife if you step on her lawn
His songs always came to mind in our late night conversations. There was never a night without him playing it in the background. The piano riffs, the low strumming bass, his raspy voice singing or talking to the listener. It was intoxicating then and it is now.
Wherever you are now, David, I trust you’re sitting around with your father singing along to your main man, cigarettes in hand and a drink not far away.
- Tags is a legendary gas station in Whitehorse with some of the worst food in the world, but it was the only place to get food after 2am there. Desperate times lead to desperate measures. ↩