SEAN “CREATURE” JUSTIN
I was informed this afternoon of the passing of a friend I knew. Between his fellow peers, he went by the pseudonym ‘Creature’, and suffice to say it suited him. His was a kind of over confident attitude with a type of manic spirit and humor that would bring a smile to anyone’s face.
We met through a friend ages before and out of the blue, crossed paths at a local joint where it ran goth and trance nights. After a while, we became friends, but the fellow I remember was a person who lived life larger than most. He knew straight off the bat that we both had our demons, but with a dry laugh, he’d quip, “That’s common ground right there!”
A lifetime ago before I’d left the city, Creature was the one I’d tag alongside the midnight ventures into the concrete heart of Vancouver. He’d show up, wearing that filthy unwashed jacket of his, with a wolf grin and ask what I was up to. Nothing, bored, at home, I’d say. He’d chip in, “Quit jerking off and meet me at the Waterfront.” I’d hesitate, reply, but why? To which he’d say, “Quit being lazy and come meet me.”
I’d throw on a pair of day old jeans, a denim jacket, and off I’d go. Hell, I doubt I’d thought it twice about what he was planning, but there he’d be in the corner with a vapor out in thirty degree heat in leather. Sometimes he’d actually be sober when we met. “What took you?” He would say, then throw me a hug and add, “How the fuck have you been?”
He was simple that way but not unintelligent. There was a kind of fire to him that fit the image of an old-school punk. A modern day animal, the likes that would throw down at a whim when he was able, and rock the night when it suit him. There was a type of energy that makes the rest of the world chase after his antics, whether it was a series of lame jokes or some reason to cut loose, spiff a toke, and drain a shot of honey JD before stashing the bottle in the pot of a bush.
So there we’d be, the two of us, and because more often than not he’d improvise he’d drag my sorry hesitant ass all the way across the city, squatting beside every skater or street kid he’d find, and jam out on the curb to some street performer or urban funk that suit him. “They’re people too, man.” He said once. “Ease up.”
He was the kind of person that gave a damn, never showed it proper, but you’d felt it just being next to him. If you were depressed, he’d slap your shoulder and say, “Quit that. Let’s rock.” and together you’d go, up to no good, but all in good sense.
In a way, I felt that he knew how most of us felt, the alternative kids in the modern era. The 9-5 shifts, the materialism, and all the standard fuss and logic never quite applied. Sure, a person gets old, the fire dies down, but deep inside it never went away. He made a point that every venture or time spent together was well spent, not in worry or doubt, but the likes of ensuring every second was put to mischief – all in a reasonable, harmless sense.
Whatever serious conversations we had were brief, concise, and though he seemed impulsive in his approach he was reasonable enough to cater and adapt. No evening spent was wasted for someone half-prepared to raise hell and chase away the gloom of tomorrow in the dead of night. Shitty day? Let’s meet. Feeling down? Let’s rock.
The Creature I knew was a man of blunt words, passion, and a kind of friend that was there when you needed him to be. He’d show up and speak to you after months apart like it was only yesterday. His memory ran as deep as his capacity for living at the heat of a moment.
I remember one evening when we met up years ago, the conversation went somewhere along the lines of “Fuck it, we’re both single and unemployed. There’s a concert. Let’s go.” I showed up and the first thing he does is drag me off to yet another bush to a half-bottle of fireball. “Drink up.” He said. I don’t drink. “Alright. It’s Fireball.” I shrugged, said screw it, and took a shot. Liquid courage, it’s called, and riled up a notch we went off to Hastings.
Every street kid, gutter punk, skater we came across knew this man by a firm handshake. He knew them all by name. We shared smokes. I don’t think either one of us thought of the filth and the dirt, only that there was company to be had. Time passes, we’re outside of the Chinatown theater and the echo of Agent Orange manifests out of the blue. Dune spills his can of beer and Creature along with the rest of the leather clad, spike-studded adolescents cackle as Dune drops down and sucks beer off the curb. Hardcore, man, that’s fucking hardcore.
You got tickets? I asked him. “Uh, do I look like I got tickets?” He asked, flashing that wolf grin of his. Why am I not surprised, I say back. “Let’s wait for an opening.” He replied. So we wait, as half-bloodied and dizzy punks stagger out, and all the while watching the street cars pass by until both our stomachs turn a growl. “Forget it. Let’s go chill somewhere else.” He says.
Come by a half-hour, we enter Funky Winker Beans, a dive bar, and there’s an open mic and stage. He cuts the cue and requests Ace of Spades from the MC. Miraculously they kick it on, crank the bass up a notch, and Creature takes the stage by storm flanked by the other vagrant street scum that we knew along the way. The whole place goes insane. He’s a one man army, a tour de force, and all the while I’m sober and screaming at the lyrics.
He comes out a half-hour later, it’s late, and I can tell he’s somewhat intoxicated. “Where’d you go?” He asks, bumming a smoke off me. I was waiting for you, I said, and it’s been way past ten minutes. “I got a girl’s number.” He informs me. Did you get her name? I asked. “I, uh, don’t remember.” He says. Of course, you didn’t, I said.
Moments later, there’s a gorilla in a t-shirt looking steamed, and it hits me that Creature’s probably made a move on the lug’s missus. It’s a dive bar in Hastings, this kind of behavior’s practically the norm. You thinking about what I’m thinking? I asked him. “Yeah.” He says and we both knew what I meant.
We bail out, run off into the night, and half the street gets out of the way as we’re screaming and hollering our asses off like a pair of young misfits.
Why are we running?
I DON’T KNOW.
Is he still behind us?
DON’T STOP RUNNING.
Creature, slow down. Wait, you bastard!
NOPE. NOPE. BYE.
My lungs burned, I curse him out, and we scuffle but we wind up finding that half-bottle (untouched) and hop on the Skytrain where we manage to score up a screaming encore. Those tourists were from Holland or something, and their accents butcher the Ramones in ways that television couldn’t. We were young and alive and sure, we were getting old, but damned if it didn’t feel good to live life the way the fierce only knew how.
The Creature I knew was a man of hidden talents, overconfidence, good humor and a kind of a friend that stood up at the drop of a hat. He’d gone out the way he’d lived, a kind of special underachiever that cherished and loved all the people he’d cared about; the kind of modern beast that saw through the mantle of age and maturity, took every opportunity to remind himself and all his friends about that at a spur of a moment.
He had a kind of class to him that he knew but never played out. He may not have been the most successful, the most inspirational, but he was a damn good soul for sure. I don’t think any of his friends would disagree. In a way, after all the craziness died down and daylight hit, we both knew about going back to the norm; shake hands, hug brief, and catch ourselves together at the next cycle of living. In all honesty, that’s the only way to live in this day and age.
You gonna crash on the couch, I asked him. “Yeah. You got head phones, man?” Yeah, why? “I just wanna chill and listen to music before I sleep.” Here you go. He slips it on his ears and the next day he takes off with them. The bastard never gave them back but that doesn’t matter. They’re just earbuds. If you throw up on my carpet, I said to him, I’ll make you eat the fucking patch. “Try me.” He says and heads off to sleep.
The good die young, as the saying goes, and I grieve for him. I wish his family strength at such a time of hardship. I wish his friends too the same kind of strength at such an awful time. Towards the end of his time, he pulled through, sobered up, and had a bright future – all the while with every shred of fun and thrills that lay in wait, like it never left before. I’d like to think wherever he is now, that kind of peace and joy will last forever.
I promised him that we’d catch up for old time’s sake, share that shot of JD, once I came back. Now instead if you’re listening, you magnificent bastard, then you save me a seat on that rotten couch on that pile of burning tires, when the time comes that I take you up on that. Rest in Peace, my friend, and I’ll miss the ever living fuck out of you in your absence.
Woe to the angels that deny you that jacket you always wore when you get there.