Recently, a neighbor asked, “can ghosts have tattoos?” If they had tattoos in life, why wouldn't they retain their personalized art as a ghost? If Jason Dembinsky is a ghost, he'd probably have tattoos.
That's what first caught my eye. When I saw the tattoos, I thought, “he's definitely in a band.” His passion for music was inked onto him, coming up through his throat like the sun rising from the ocean.
It was a large festival. It's easy to get lost in a crowd, but he stood out. He had that charisma.
It's that “it.” People talk about “it.” “It” is hard to explain, but Jason had that charismatic “it.”
You could pinpoint him in a crowd. You remembered him once you seen him. I remembered him.
The next thing that stood out to me was the unicorn. For years, I'd been asking people about unicorns, merely because I can, which results in me getting yelled at sometimes. Some metal guys are too cool to talk about unicorns, but Cyanide Sunshine featured a zombie unicorn on one of their concert shirts.
As soon as I saw the unicorn, I wanted to know the band. I had to ask who they were. Low and behold, when I walk up to the booth, there's the guy I saw before, the one with the tattoos, Jason.
Though we had only passed each other earlier - not even said a word to each other, merely giving each other a mutual head nod of acknowledgment - he greeted me like an old friend with a big hug. He introduced me to his band mates, and I had them pose for a picture, but they were surrounded by people anxious to say hello. Gracefully, I bowed out, and moseyed around the festival, on with my life.
Half thinking I'd never see them again, imagine my surprise when I saw the zombie unicorn again. There can't be that many bands out there sporting unicorns, especially ones with rotting flesh and a purple mohawk. Sure enough, there's Jason and the guys from Cyanide Sunrise rockin' the stage again.
They were becoming familiar. For a moment, I thought they must be local, as I kept seeing them playing at various shows. No, they're from Pennsylvania, not Detroit; they're just ready to tour around.
The point is I watched them come up. They were one of the bands I was keeping my eye on, expecting good things to come from. I was sure they'd be pulling in some sort of media attention; not like this.
I didn't expect Jason, the charismatic lead singer of Cyanide Sunrise, to make news by dying. His full potential was not realized. It's unexpected, unfortunate and devastating to more than a few people.
Others felt the same way as me. They had been watching the band, expecting good things. Though it'd be nice to have a magic wand and fill the sky with colorful rainbows and unicorns, bad things happen.
When I finally did get a chance to sit down and talk with Jason, at least we recorded most of it. Just like before, he greeted me with a big hug, as if we were elementary school chums. Though he had the rockstar image with the vivid tattoos, he didn't have the huge rockstar attitude; he was down to earth.
It had been at another big festival. Kelly Rosner and I had time to kill. She had just turned to me and asked who we wanted to interview next, and I saw Jason walking by; it was like it was meant to be.
We went on the bus. Though it was just the three of us at first, we were quickly joined by the others. To my surprise, they remembered me; not only did they remember me, they remembered my writing.
They had quoted parts of my review back to me. That's about as good as musicians watching people sing their songs. It hits that chord deep within the soul that let's you know that you touched someone.
Little moments like that make things worth while. All the drama that people don't see in the entertainment industry – as not all that glitters is gold – all the headaches go away for those moments. Even if it's ever so brief, it lets you know that something that you did mattered; it was appreciated.
We kept in touch after that. We'd randomly Facebook each other. Then boom; it's all gone.
In Michigan, we just had the first bad snow of the season. Just as the flakes stopped falling and the four-wheelers with plows get fired up to clear the driveways, you look around to survey the damage. Be thankful the power's still on, that you weren't involved in collisions, but you know there's accidents.
It's that moment when you know something bad has happened, but you don't know what it is or who it happened to quite yet. You're waiting to hear. Did someone fall through the ice or crash in a ditch?
There's that pure moment of calmness. Look around at the winter aftermath, watch the sun glisten off the snow and ice. Enjoy the beauty of winter for a second before the real blow comes, a death.
Winter is harsh. People die. Even if you expect the cold chill, it goes to your core, into your bones.
It rocks you. Feel it in the pit of your stomach. Death of a loved one stiffens you like the cold wind.
At least he left us something. He left us his music. Through that, he will continue to live on forever.
Songs are tiny reflections of a band's soul. Hearing his voice may provide a type of comfort. My thoughts go out to the remaining members of Cyanide Sunshine, as that's a whole new level of pain.
It's hardcore. It's not something easily forgotten. His memory will haunt like a ghost with tattoos.
Though I can only imagine how hard it will be for the surviving band members - as they all seemed to get along as friends, as well as music mates – I do know how I ache. Though I might not share a kinship as tight as someone you share a bus with, I do know what it's like touring on a bus for Ozzfest. I also know what it's like to be walking into a hotel outside of DC and be pushed aside by a frantic guy shouting to the front desk clerk, “we need an ambulance to the gold bus parked out back, now, pronto!”
That was when they found Dave Williams of Drowning Pool dead, and it was a fiasco. A couple years later, I met back up with the band as they started their tour with Hell Yeah in New Orleans; Stevie and CJ said, “write this down, for the record, that something fucked up is going to happen on this tour.” They said they had the same bad feeling they had just before they had gone on Ozzfest, like they knew something bad like death might happen, and sure enough, Dimebag Darrell was later shot in the face.
Years before then, I remember taking some of the last pictures of Betty Blowtorch. When I heard about the car accident, I couldn't believe it. I had just seen her, so full of life, then Bianca Halstead's gone.
The most recent unexpected car accident that pulled at my heart strings was Paul Walker. I remember meeting him when they did the world premiere for the original Fast and Furious movie in Detroit. He was another guy, real down to earth, relaxed, laid back, chill, cool person that vanished unexpectedly.
It doesn't matter how you die. We will all die eventually. Enjoy people while they are still around you.
My brother's most serious girlfriend just died in a car accident. Our grandfather passed just before that. Over the summer, my aunt, a nun, died of endometrial cancer that spread to her lung and intestines.
Whether you see it coming, or it blindsides you, it hurts either way. It doesn't matter if you were an immediate family member or someone who shared a 30-second connection. When you connect with someone, hearing of their death rattles your bones; it's sad, and we all handle it in our own way.
Make the most of every moment. You never know when it might be someone's last. Condolences.
Funeral Arrangements have been made for Saturday at the Christ's United Lutheran Church, 437 Airport Rd., Ashland, PA 17921. To anyone who would like to send condolences to Jason's family, contact Blanche Rowe, 1327 Centre St., Ashland, PA 17921. For more on Cyanide Sunrise, visit www.cyanidesunrise.com, www.facebook.com/cyanidesunrise, and www.twitter.com/cyanidesunrise.
The author of more than 100 books, Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing at the Johns Hopkins Unviersity. For more articles by Marisa, visit http://www.examiner.com/tourism-in-detroit/marisa-williams. For Marisa's books, check out www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz.