My friend from high school, Jayson Bronzini, passed away this week.
I think it’s safe to say if it wasn’t for skateboarding Jayson and I would not have been friends.
Skating isn’t like other sports, there is no coach, no court, no rules. It’s totally individualistic. As a sport it tends to attract athletes as well as antiauthoritarian lost boys, yet if you grew up a skater in Castro Valley there was a fierce tribalism to skateboarding.
Jayson was an athlete, he was the best skater in our group. His physical prowess automatically garnered respect, even from those who were older. But Jayson also had a self assuredness, wisdom, and a charisma that made him a leader.
Our tight-knit group of friends would spend hours unsupervised, roaming from spot to spot, skating yes, but also eating, talking, running from the police, being up-to no-good and creating indelible memories. The friends I made skateboarding were equal parts street gang, sports team and surrogate family. I can’t imagine I will ever experience a closer, more tight knit group of friends.
Of all the guys in this ragtag group of misfits, Jayson and I probably got along least well. He was the only friend of mine that I ever got into a fist fight with.
The problem was, Jayson was better than me.
Not because he was a better skateboarder, everyone was a better skater than me. No, Jayson was a better person than I was. He saw through my charades and he called me out on them. This was high school, I was into a lot of immature and downright stupid stuff. Jayson, was younger than I, but he was more insightful about my shortcomings than I was.
There were three specific things that Jay criticized me for: the way I treated girls, the activities I was getting up to, and the substances I was experimenting with. Jayson publicly and vocally disapproved. He was chivalrous and moral. At the time I labeled his opinions as overbearing and intrusive. The hard part was all of his criticisms were accurate. He knew it, and I knew it, although as a high schooler I couldn’t admit it.
While not my closest friend, Jayson was the first friend I had who held me to a higher standard. He was the first friend I had who expected me to be a better person, and I’ve never acknowledged that his words and his opinions made me take a hard look at who I was and who I wanted to be. I can honestly say that Jayson helped make me a better person, he was the catalyst for personal growth.
Over the years we lost touch, and then there was Facebook, with it’s sheen of friendship. We were Facebook “friends” but we never really reconnected beyond cursory pleasantries. I never said thank you to Jayson.
Thank you Jayson.