When Jon came to my place the first time – it was also the last time he came to my house, because he never left. Sure, he left for a few errands and by that I mean — 2 weeks after being there, I had bought a rack for his clothes. We started in my one bedroom apartment above my elderly landlord, but after Jon refused to take off his clicky-clacky boots in the house (It rattled downstairs!), Old Man Landlord angrily began threatening that if I didn’t get “Mr. Jaguar” to leave, that I would be leaving. So, after searching feverishly – we ended up in our house. I remember when we pulled in the driveway to look at it, Jon was on the phone and he said, “Just go in without me.” And motioned me on. (He’s been giving me that same encouragement this week, too as I imagine he will for the rest of my life.) I went in and walked through the house, thought and thought, small-talked with the man who would be our future landlord. Jon finally appeared in the doorway. “Oh I have to show you this place, Jon,” and he said “this is it. I don’t need to see it.” He told me later he’d already been off the phone and heard me inside talking to the landlord and he knew just how my voice raised when I was happy and which one of my comments were genuine and which ones were fodder and he hadn’t even needed to come to the doorway. “I can always read you,” he told me.
I’ve started so many sentences to Jon through the last couple years with “The thing about you and me is.” We talked a lot about ourselves because we had big egos, we talked a lot about our mutually wonderful and psychotic friends because we had big hearts, and we talked a lot about our parents, my brother and his sister, and our family because we had big influences. We also talked about big dreams, mine and his and ours. All those dreams had their own categories and were filled practically to the brim. We talked about the next house we’d graduate to and how the only thing it needed more space for was for a billiards room. We talked about the next thing we looked forward to and the next thing we dreaded. And we laughed. We laughed everyday. We laughed the last time I talked to him – he told me he was dancing with old women at the local bar and I told him that if he was still mad that I’d had a fairly dramatic temper tantrum, he should realize how effective and scary I could be if a robber ever got in the house. I’m still laughing with him. I laughed yesterday here in this funeral home and I saw a woman look at me, confused. I could almost read her expression – wasn’t that the 30 year old widow? I worried immediately. Like every other time, I’d found myself uncomfortable in social world, I immediately wished for Jon. And then, I remembered – for some reason – the time that Billy Bob Thornton called and Jon was eating a sandwich.
You see, If Billy Bob Thornton calls – its not like God, but it kind of is. In the way, that you can’t call him back. Like directly. Jon had missed his calls a few times and the phone tag was becoming so Seinfeld that it was unbearable and he finally fixed a sandwich to rest his mind. A big sandwich. He settled himself in his chair and the phone rang. I looked at him. He looked at me. He was chewing feverishly. The phone rang again. Panicked, he answered. “Hello” he garbled out a piece of lettuce flopping from his lip. “Listen Billy Bob, I’m eating a sandwich. Just hang on a second.” He put the phone down and spit the remaining mush directly onto a hand towel he was using for a paper towel and picked it back up again. He got up to go outside on the balcony where he’d talk business when we were in such a cramped apartment. The phone went back at his ear “ Alright Billy Bob, I’m sorry man, I had just made this sandwich…” he stopped short. Looked at his phone. Looked at me. “He hung up.” He said, “Oh god,” he asked with true horror on his face, “Was it the sandwich?”
That story ended even funnier than that. But I won’t tell you. Because I have always been and will always be very greedy with Jon. We were very much alike in so many ways and in the ways we weren’t alike – well, his weaknesses were my strengths and my strengths were his weaknesses. We’re both painfully good looking people and we’d had a lot of attention from the opposite gender before we met – and after some hilarious and sweet conversations – again that I’ll be greedy with – we came to the conclusion that the difference in them and us is this time we were in love. With each other. At the same time. And all the time. I am curious and he is curious and even knowing that, I think each other will always be the best discoveries of our lives.
As the condolences and messages and flowers and all that have overflown on me since Jon left us – I’ve realized just how impactful he was. Some people adored and idolized him. Some people considered him an instant brother. Some people called him their most kindred spirit. And some people shit on him. And some people were jealous of him. And some, lucky ones like me and the ones closest to him, really knew him. What’s most amazing about that is – is the person that is the Colonel– and the person that is Jon Hensley are – and give me some room here to explain this – the exact same person and two totally different beings. At the same time.
You see, like here’s an example. The Colonel Jon Hensley has a huge career. He makes very smart, very strategic decisions. He warms people up when they need warming and cools people down when they need cooling. The Colonel cuts deals. The Colonel is shrewd. The Colonel is fearless and charming and unwavering. The Colonel is the one who posed in the hundred photos that fans have sent in this week. The Colonel is the one who didn’t bat an eye when he told, on multiple occasions, other not so genuine in the music industry to – excuse my French – just plain old eat shit.
But then, when the Colonel wasn’t there. There was Jon Hensley. Jon Hensley cooked me dinner almost every night a week. And then he did the dishes because he didn’t trust that I’d wash them to his standards. He watched the entire Michael Palin travel series with me and that guy spent at least 4 episodes on the same daggone boat. Jon Hensley is the one who used to cry when U2 With or Without You came on because he always said that song was important to his mama and daddy. Jon Hensley is the one who, when I would turn over in bed at night and clutch a pillow away from him – he’d wake me up in the morning and he’d laugh and say “MARY that’s not me.”
Its confusing because the Colonel and Jon Hensley were even often there the same time. Like – Jon Hensley would play lazer tag with Shooter and then the Colonel would make us lie and tell the venue that we had traffic problems if we ran late. A couple weeks ago, The Colonel had set all the prices on Shooter’s merch and then Jon Hensley came up and gave a 19 year old kid from Pikeville, KY who couldn’t afford a thing every vinyl he didn’t have. The Colonel would smooth talk us into the swankiest hotels and the most amazing restaurants and most wonderful places. And Jon Hensley would hold my hand through it all. You see, he was a complicated brilliant miracle of a being. And for that, again, I’ll have to be greedy with my memories and keep the rest mine for now.
The thing about Jon is – if he knew I had such an audience – he’d want me to have spent none of this time talking about him. He’d have wanted me to tell you about how his mother and sister are the most beautiful and his daddy was the strongest. He’d have wanted me to tell you about his Shooter Jennings and about how he is the most fearless talented musician and the most loyal friend – He’d have wanted me to tell you about his Wanda Jackson – the first female to ever record rock n roll – the apple of his eye. He would’ve wanted me to tell you that in 1980, Merle Haggard became the only non-jazz musician to be on the cover of DownBeat Jazz Magazine. And how Dwight Yoakam is a revolutionary. And how Marcy Playground Sex and Candy is the best pop song. And how Bob Dylan did not suck on Letterman and if you thought so, you just don’t get it. He’d have wanted me to tell you about countless more things. He was blessed with the best childhood from his parents and grandparents and aunt Tee Tee, he was blessed with the best teenage years from some hooligan friends, one of which is now our hooligan minister here, and he was blessed with the best 20s and 30s by a very powerful circle of the most brilliant artistic wild group of maniacs that are many of the people here today. It’s because of you, that I got him for two whole years to bless me.
The thing about Jon is he existed to make, create, manage, and dream – without some promise of any credit –It’s the same way that we often don’t know who actually wrote our most favorite song on the radio. In life, Jon was the only non-musician I know who – in this sense- wrote so many songs.
The thing about Jon and me is – in only the way someone who really loves you can – he took what my parents built of me and he built on top of it. He laid me a foundation and he left me many guardrails.. Just like he first came to my tiny apartment and never left – my whole world is his house now and I have moved in permanently.