When Jason Met Steph … in Dayton
By Jason Webber
So there we are, sitting in Elsa’s, and she’s working on her second Bad Juan, which let me tell you is making her even badder by the minute, when she half-drunkenly slurs the question:
“So why do you like Dayton?”
I’m a bit floored by the question and my fork, containing a hunk of Super Burrito, freezes in mid-bite. She has been following me around all day long through downtown Dayton, devouring the chai French toast at Butter Café, pawing through the vintage vinyl at Omega Music and celebrating the fact that, yes, Virgina, there is roller derby porn available at Exotic Fantasies. Hell, inside Bonnett’s Bookstore we even found an old issue of Bitch magazine containing an article I wrote some years back.
I replied to her question by giving some rather canned answer about how much I loved my job, the wonderful friends I’d made in the Gem City, and great local businesses like the Neon, Second Time Around and the Wine Gallery. But the real reason I love Dayton so much is because it gave me one of the best days I’ve ever spent with Stephanie Richards in the decade she’s been tolerating my ass.
A quick history: 2001. Dearborn, Mich. I’m dressed as Austin Powers at a Halloween party. When she first lays eyes on me, I am humping the dance floor as “I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls plays in the background. She later told me it was love at first sight. Yeah, I know. Weird girl.
The next 10 years played out like a weird mashup of 9½ Weeks, Wild At Heart, Annie Hall and the second season of Californication, with Chris Isaak, Neko Case and Regina Spektor providing the soundtrack. Three breakups. Two reconciliations. At least four broken dishes. Two Andrew W.K. concerts. One case of infidelity. We finally called it a day in 2007, but discovered something most of our mutual friends still don’t get: After everything we’ve been through together, we still are there for one another without reservation. Consider: while the world partied on New Year’s Eve 2010, I was up in Detroit crying gallons of tears into her shoulder after enduring a particularly painful breakup with a recently departed girlfriend. Even though I had broken Stephanie’s heart something awful — not once, but twice — here she was, holding me as I sobbed. Staying on good terms with an ex is one thing, helping nurse them through a breakup with a subsequent partner is a whole other monster. But that’s just the way we work.
And so it was on a hot, pre-summer day that I convinced her to come down from Detroit for a daytrip to Dayton. She was charmed by the quaint chicness of Butter Café, marveled at how many tattoo shops dotted the area and admired UD’s campus. When we hit the Oregon District we looked a lot like Jesse and Celine in Before Sunset — two slightly jaded ex-lovers in their 30s just walkin’ and talkin’ about might’ve-beens, never-weres and what-ifs. But I guess it was shortly after leaving Exotic Fantasies with Stephanie proudly holding a brown bag of derby girl porn (she skates on the Floral City Roller Girls team in Monroe, Mich.) that it dawned on me how cool it was that even after 10 wacky years, we still could introduce each other to new experiences or discover new things about one another. Until she came to Dayton, I never knew she liked her margaritas served with a sugar rim or that the day would come where she would let me buy her pornography (she never let me do that when we were going out).
We concluded our day by heading to Blind Bob’s for my Wednesday night ritual of doing karaoke with friends, all of whom had heard about the legend of Stephanie as long as they had known me. Steph and I proceeded to introduce them to the legendary Jason/Stephanie karaoke duet, courtesy of our stunning (if I say so myself) rendition of “Where The Wild Roses Grow” by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue. We received a near standing ovation by the Blind Bob’s crowd, which made us both look at each other and smile. Had we really been doing karaoke duets for a solid decade? Apparently so. And it was still a thrill.
Some days linger in our memories for the rest of our lives and that day will definitely be near the top of the memory bank queue. Lou Reed could not have envisioned a more perfect day and I could not have imagined a more perfect person with whom to drink Bad Juans. I’ll tell ya, Dayton, sometimes I really, really love you. Thanks.
Thanks. For everything.
Reach DCP freelance writer Jason Webber at JasonWebber@daytoncitypaper.com.