Growing Up: Annotated

In 2014, I wrote a song called Growing Up for Jason Macierowski's 40th birthday. He threw himself a party, I wrote him a song and performed it live.

Shortly after his 47th birthday, in January of 2022, Jason passed away. The Worcester Magazine published an article this week celebrating Jason's life, noting that "everyone has a Jason story".

Growing Up hints at some of our times together. This annotated version of the song lyrics shares more of our story.

Growing Up

We met just a shade before fifteen,
Fast friends hanging out in the science wing.

I met Jason Macierowski in the fall of 1989, when we were both starting our sophmore year at Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts. The science wing was an extension to the main building, like a hitch-hiking thumb stuck onto the middle of the primary building's figure-8.

Jason and I were part of a group of kids who tended to get to school quite a bit before the start of the day. We would get breakfast in the cafeteria, swing by our lockers, maybe do some homework, and then wander the halls. The science wing was part of our loop.

Jason and I were always surprised that we never met earlier than our second year at Cathedral. We had many of the same friends and took the same classes our first year, but happened to be in different sections of each course. Everything changed our sophmore year; together in almost every period.

Our band was Tintern Abbey.
We had no fans, we played so badly.

The band we formed in high school was called Tintern Abbey. Our first performance saw us pelted by oranges thrown by our classmates.

From Tintern Abbey, Jason became, and often used "Tintern" online. It was a frequent enough handle that some folks used that tag in person, as well.

And we just keep growing up.
I learned to drive long before you.
Took my mom's caravan to high school.

My birthday is in October, Jason's was December. That sounds like our birthdays were close together, but trust me: when you're sixteen waiting for the freedoms that arrive with a driver's license, months drag on forever!

I would sometimes drive my mother's blue Plymouth Voyager to school, as I often needed to pick up orders for our store from the S.S. Pierce in Springfield.

One time, a butternut squash rolled underneath the seat of the caravan, where it was found by my friends. The squash was given a face with a black marker and roamed the halls of Cathedral, accompanying our friend Jeff to many of his classes.

I remember your escort wagon,
Fearing for my life in the way back.

Jason often drove his mother's Ford Escort wagon to school. Yes, it had wood paneling.

One time when driving with Jason, I ended up in the back, with the rear seats flat. Wherever we were headed, there was traffic on the road, and Jason decided to try to jump ahead by cutting through the parking lots of some strip malls. Jason did not know slow, and he did not know gradual stops. He was wickedly familar with abrupt cornering, however! By the time we got back to the main road, I was lying flat in the back with a hand firmly gripping each front head rest.

And we just keep growing up.
We went to a Chili Pepper concert.
Pearl Jam and the pumpkins were a great start.

My first "real" concert was on the 3rd of November, 1991, at the Springfield Civic Center. Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Pearl Jam was almost unknown at the time, as "Ten" had just been released. I think that Jason had known of them before the show, but I went in cold. The Smashing Pumpkins were supporting "Gish", and were the strongest draw for me and Jason. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were the headliner, touring to support the just-released "Blood Sugar Sex Magik".

It felt as if all three bands were growing up, maturing, and finding themselves — just as Jason and I were also learning who we were.

Almost lost my glasses in the mosh pit,
Long before they had their big hit.

We moshed. Things were never violent in the pit, but as the crowd surged, my glasses were knocked from my face; landing on the floor. I still cannot believe that I found them again and that they were undamaged.

And we just keep growing up.
We went to college and lived together.
Didn't last much past October.
You were always, "Open the blinds, please!"
as you streaked through the rain in your white briefs.

Jason and I both applied and were accepted, early decision, to WPI. We lived together our first year, on the first floor of Sanford Riley Hall. WPI was pressed for housing, as our tiny double had previously served as a single.

Jason's bass amp (later named "Ed") became part of our wake-up routine. My clock radio had a tape deck that could be programmed as a scheduled alarm. It also had an auxilliary out. The radio was wired to the bass amp, with Ministry's N.W.O. ready to go. We were guaranteed to make our 8AM classes!

Before half the year was up, I swapped rooms with someone else on our floor. Small things, like closing the curtains when dressing, caused friction.

And we just keep growing up.
Shared a girlfriend, maybe three or four.
Made a tape called, "What happens behind closed doors".
Back then we were bitter like coffee,
Playing all night at Eleni's Midnight Cafe.

Jason and I were in a number of bands together, starting with Tintern Abbey. Jaded started soon after we arrived at WPI. It was initially Jason, me (Aron), and our friend Dan, who lived across the hall. We couldn't bring ourselves to call the band "J.A.D.", and "Jade" was an R&B band at the time. We decided to name Jason's bass amp "Ed". Jaded was Jason, Aron, Dan, and Ed the bass amp.

Brian, another of our friends, joined Jaded for a while, but it eventually ended up as a duo: me and Jason. I sang and played acoustic guitar. Jason started off playing bass before buying an electric drum kit.

Jason handled all of our recording. We borrowed four-track and eight-track cassette recorders from friends until Jason got his own.

In 1993, we recorded an album called "What Happens Behind Closed Doors". The cassette B-side was a collection of remixes called "The Bitter Like Coffee Sessions".

Jaded performed a number of times at WPI and around Worcester, but our absolute favorite place was Eleni's Midnight Cafe (RIP). We would perform for an entire evening at Eleni's, sometimes playing every song we knew twice or even three times! By the time we wrapped up and finished our coffees, it was early the next day.

And we just keep growing up.
I got hitched and you were my best man,
Even though your hair had a skunk tan.
Your toast was absolutely perfect.
We saved that bread! It's somewhere in the basement.

Jason was the best man at my wedding in 2001. Unfortunately, he had a habit of making dramatic hair changes immediately before important events. In high school, Jason decided to give himself a buzz cut, not realizing that yearbook photos were the following week! For my wedding, Jason died his hair black, leaving only a single streak of peroxide blonde.

As the best man, Jason gave a toast at our wedding. With his toast, he also gave us toast - perfectly browned and protected by a plastic bag. Jason's toast has been stored with a small number of keepsakes, ever since.

And we just keep growing up.
And now it's time to say happy birthday,
Even though you threw your own party.
Happy birthday, Jason Macierowski,
you're forty years old.

Jason threw himself a party for his 40th birthday.

And we just keep growing up.