It's kind of -- well, fun is probably not the right word -- let's use educational, reading what other people think of the article, and of me.
How could I be so stupid? So gullible? So easily deceived? I ask myself that often. I am not any of those things, usually. Was I lonely? I guess I was, a bit, but any of my friends would tell you I didn't habitually trawl for love-n-stuff on the internets, or ever, really, for that matter. Even Josh would have to admit that. This "Jesse" spooled it out slow-ish, and we started out friends. Yeah, he sounded too good to believe, except for the crazy part, and the PTSD that he got from being traded as a sex toy for four years to pedophile drug dealers by his molesting hippie junkie dad behind his chilly feminist lecturer mother's back. Too good to believe except for the older brother who shot himself the first night Jesse was raped by the dealers, the night his father hooked him on heroin to help him deal with the pain. Big brother couldn't deal with not being able to protect his younger sibling, and so offed hisownself. "Jesse" may have been a journalist/fireman who loved yoga, but he was damaged. Janna had done her homework on me before "Jesse" ever made an appearance, so she knew what would prick up my ears (fnar).
Janna made a slurry of fact and fiction, hard to tell even now through the sludge how much of it had actually happened to her. I thought for sure that even though Annie Martel might not have been "Jesse's" therapist, that she must have at least known Janna from back in the John Denver days, because Janna had so many stories about them. I spoke to "Jesse" on the phone often, but he was always whispery and hoarse, because he was shy and didn't talk much in his 3D life, so his vocal cords were weak, but jesus, could he write. Now, I'm sure we all know people like that, folks who come alive in type but are pretty inept in person. "Jesse" and his family had been exposed to an internet freak who'd been stalking Janna trying to get close to Dan Fogelberg, and had gone as far as to impersonate her on the Dan Fogelberg boards and to telephone her home to freak out her daughter. "Jesse's" sister made him promise never to expose them to people like that again, so he (and Janna) were very leery of giving out any personal details to people they didn't really know. These are some of the backstories I was given, Janna covering her ass.
It would take pages and pages to explain how I got sucked in (operative word with my 20:20 hindsight being suck, of course) for as long as I did, but here are the main points in a nutshell. I was committed to a project with 100-hour workweeks for the entire year I knew "Jesse." I did try to fly to Denver early on in the "relationship" to see him, but his dog Wrinkle had just died, his grandmother was conveniently dying, and it would have been inappropriate for me to be there during such a tense time for the family. I had bought a plane ticket and was on my way to the airport when "Jesse" called and implored me not to come to Denver. He wanted our first meeting to be perfect, he was beset by anxiety, blah blah blah. We made other plans, but then of course after a weird buildup over several weeks, he shot himself and then was in a psychiatric hospital where only family and his therapist could visit. Then, of course, I couldn't cope with "Jesse's" nuttiness (he'd been diagnosed as bipolar) and we stopped talking for a while, although I was still communicating with Janna, because we'd become friendly.
Confused yet? Bored? Sorry. It's so convoluted.
We picked up again and made other plans, which were scuppered because "Jesse's" mother revealed that his father wasn't really his father, so the fact that he'd been molested by this man as a child wasn't so bad because it wasn't incest. "Jesse" then had to go on a quest for his real father, who was Irish, and a repressed Catholic, and gay, and repenting for sinning against the Scriptures (for fathering a child with a woman whose husband it was he really wanted to have sex with, being a hypocrite and marrying and fathering two more children, and of course the gay thing) by doing charity work for Concern in war- and disaster-torn nations worldwide. So "Jesse" went to Pakistan against his sister's orders, and she, being his legal guardian (since he'd OD'd after 9/11, but hey, that's another story) went to the courts so they would send authorities to pick him up at the airport when he came back and commit him for flagrantly disobeying her. There went that weekend we were supposed to meet in Laguna Beach. It was hardly ever "Jesse" canceling things, it was circumstances.
And "Jesse's" real father's name? Davian Blaine. Yes, dear readers, I know. But I was already in so deep there was no way I suspected "Jesse" wasn't real, as outlandish as that all sounded. I'd been having email conversations with other friends of his, his ex-wife and other friends of his had posted on his blog, I'd seen pictures of his friends and ex-wife and son, his sister's house and his llamas. Which, of course, turned out to be Dan Fogelberg's house and llamas.
I finished my taxing job after a year, prepared to make a move so we could try each other on. And then, well, "Jesse" died. And Janna was utterly lovely to me. Of course, most of "Jesse's" other friends were quite horrible to me, because they never understood why he was interested in me in the first place, and constantly criticized me for not making more of an effort to be with him. But Janna was always a comfort, telling me stories, and encouraging me to set up the tribute blog. I was emailing with "Jesse's" son, who was going to spend time in Spain. I had an address. I was emailing with "Jesse's" ex-wife and his best friend Cakey. And Annie Martel, "Jesse's" therapist. I met Janna, and she was real, we spent a few days together driving around Colorado and New Mexico, while she showed me some of "Jesse's" favorite places. She cried real tears when talking with me about "Jesse" on his birthday. I saw them. Seven months passed between "Jesse's" death and Janna's visit to my house, and the now much-viewed confrontation.
Now, I've known people with strangeass names, and for the offspring of hippie parents, Jesse Jubilee James isn't totally off the wall. His other siblings had stupid names too. And hey, should Sandra Bullock be worried because she's married to some guy called Jesse James? [editor's hindsight note: why yes, yes, Sandra should] I've met Moon Unit Zappa, for fuck's sake. So, that really didn't raise any alarms, 'specially since "Jesse" was pretty goddamned embarrassed about it, the way any real person with fucked parents would be. I've known people who seem to be disaster magnets - I lived with a girl called Laura, and another called Tammy back in the 80s who were precisely that, so that was believable also. The weird life, well, shit, I've had a weird life, which I will not go into here, but suffice it to say that rather than raising any alarms, someone else with a weirder life just made me feel more like a kindred spirit.
And if that shit ain't weird enough, tell me, we have Harlan Ellison, a man whose Love Ain't Nothing But Sex Misspelled was read by me at the tender age of ten, snatched off my mom's bookshelf, which made me a fan fo-evah. Harlan Ellison, the man who bound me to the incredibly talented, funny-as-shit, far-too-opinionated, love-you-till-it-hurts, Macaulay-Culkin-lookalike Joshua Olson. Harlan Ellison, whose books I've toted around the world more than once and now fill two boxes stashed downstairs till I build my bookcase. Harlan Ellison, who has been the significant influence on me for more than three decades, whose work I still quote chapter and verse anytime the situation deems it necessary, which is quite often.
Harlan Ellison, THAT Harlan Ellison, is the fella that breaks it to me about Jesse Jubilee James. Harlan. Ellison. For fuck's sake. Now who has the weird life? Who's surreal now?
So, I can't say I blame anyone who thinks that Josh's article is a piece of internet trickery, or that this blog and the video is all part of the hoax. Would that I was as skeptical two-and-a-half years ago.
But it ain't. It was real. Horribly real.
And so I ask myself again, How could I be so stupid? So gullible? So easily deceived?
It wasn't that easy. But I have no answers for the rest of it.