Hail the Traveller – I’ll miss you Jake

I found out today that Jake Harrison (on FB as Jake Otto Parts), a friend of mine I haven’t seen or chatted with in person for over 30 years had died yesterday. You would think ‘Well you hadn’t been in touch, how much could they mean to you?’ but apparently… a lot. This hit me pretty hard. The James Taylor lyric ‘… but I always thought that I’d see you again’ has been playing on a loop in my mind all day.

I asked a mutual friend of ours, Richard Zeitz, about what happened and he said he had heard it was inoperable tumors. I guess he did have time to say goodbye to folks though, which is bittersweet.

On top of being sad and confused today after hearing this, one additional thing that irks me is I had found out he lived only an hour or so away sometime in the past few years. Definitely some time during Covid. I had thought ‘I should really go visit sometime, or maybe just show up and leave something weird on his doorstep with an Antioch sticker on it to make him wonder who had stopped by’. But I never did, and now I’ll never be able to catch up with him, find out what he’s been doing since we last saw each other at Antioch College in June 1989 (I think that was when we last saw each other).

So I figured I’d just write down everything I can remember about him, or at least what memories came up today when I heard he was gone.

I met Jake when attending YRUU conferences in the ‘Metro District’ in New Jersey in 1986 or 1987. Jake stuck out because he would drive down to the conference from VT, usually with a few others, so they would arrive at 12 AM to much fanfare. It was like Norm arrving at Cheers!

It seemed like he knew everyone, including all the sometimes slightly older and much cooler NJ YRUU regulars like Chris Scanlon, Mark Gibson, July Siebecker, Rob Strausser, John Fadem, Eric Kaminetsky, etc. He always seemed happy and easy to chat with. I recall at one point him taking me outside to show me his car where he had painted his entire bumper the same shade of green as his license plate and had painted white numbers before and after the plate to make it pretty hard to read his actual plate. If I recall correctly I believe he had already gotten one warning from a police officer in VT about that and was planning to paint over it when he got back but wanted to take it for one big trip to NJ to show it off before he did that.

Because Jake knew about other YRUU conferences in New England, that got them on my radar and somehow, back in the days before the internet and e-mail, he was able to get me info about several of them and I finagled rides with others heading up to them as well.

First off, Jake very well may be the reason I ended up at Antioch College. Sometime around May 1987 I had made plans to go up to a YRUU conference in Vermont and was going to get a ride with Rachel H. McKay, a friend from Pennsylvania who was going to drive up there to that conference as well. I don’t know this for certain but I certainly remember riding in Jake’s car for some period of time, so I think either Rachel’s car had a problem or he met us part way and picked us up. I really don’t remember anything else about that weekend besides the car ride, and the only reason I remember that was that Jake was talking all about his recent trip out to Ohio to visit this really cool little college that he was going to go to that coming fall. Having just recently applied to a number of colleges myself but not having any fraction of the passion that Jake expressed for any of them, I asked him what college and he said it was Antioch. I remember rummaging around in my backpack and pulling out my acceptance letter from Antioch and handed it to him. “You mean.. THAT Antioch?”. He reacted in shock and wonder ‘How the fuck? I haven’t even applied there yet and you are accepted? Are you going?”. At the time I had given up on going to anywhere ‘interesting’ and had sent a deposit into SUNY Potsdam, but after hearing Jake’s first hand account… i was sold.

Now it’s possible I might have made that decision independently, but certainly Jake’s first-hand account gave me a big push.. Not to mention the fact that he would be there, I’d know someone there! Oh and Rachel started at Antioch in January 1988 too. He should have gone into college admissions!

Our first term there he was in a different dorm, I think it was North or Presidents, but we would see each other around campus (there were only 300 or so people on campus each term back then). After our first quarter we both ditched our existing roommates and roomed together in Willet Hall. We also took a number of similar classes, I think they were Physics 1, maybe Calculus I too. Possibly an ICMA class with Dick Wheelwright, but I think that may have been a later term.

I do recall being quite annoyed with him as my roommate from January to March 1988. He was a ‘Bad’ influence on me. He would basically ignore assignments and deadlines as if they didn’t apply to him. So here we were, in a number of the same classes and I’d be trying to do homework etc, he’d be hanging out in our room with a few friends, heading out to ‘Connor House’ to play pool and hang out with people until ridiculous hours,, driving to Young’s Dairy at midnight to get 10 cent donuts, and just generally being a social extrovert all the time.

So there I was trying to be a good student and trying to get work done before fun, but there he was, taking the same classes and saying ‘Come on Matt, lets go!’… and I inevitably would … Surely Jake must have a plan to do that homework tomorrow. Nope, he didn’t. So now it would be the last minute and I’d be hustling and stressing to get it done while he was saying things like ‘i’ll do that later’ etc. In addition, he was supposed to be my lab partner in physics, but on days when he didn’t make it to the lab I’d be trying to do it all alone.. And then he’d show up late and copy all my lab data. And then… and this is why i remember all this… sometime during the last week of the term, it was like he remembered he was in college and he’d kick into academic overdrive, completing weeks worth of homework, assignments, essays, etc. that he’d somehow convinced the professors it was ok for him to turn in late… with no penalty. So when the term ended, we both would pass the classes and our written evaluations (no grades at Antioch) would both basically read the same. We were only roommates for one term but remained friends, though I’d say we traveled in different social circles (his being exponentially ‘cooler’ than mine)

I don’t recall much else about being roommates with him. He had his acoustic guitar, all black, somewhat scuffed up, I don’t recall him playing it much but having it there was my introduction to playing guitar and I know I learned a few guitar basics, including how to tune and change the strings, from him. He showed me a few minor licks like the opening lick of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, the ‘Jack and Diane’ intro, or the baseline for a few songs. Enough to get me hooked. I bought a guitar of my own that coming summer.

I do recall he had a Paul Simon guitar book and would try to play from it but would inevItably curse Paul Simon’s name for having so many weird difficult chords. Years later when I could play better and tried to play those songs myself I realized he was right, Paul Simon is an evil evil man. I specifically recall him saying at one point. ‘AHA! That bastard! There’s no way he did this by accident!’, turns out Paul Simon had actually included the chord that was played on a standard guitar tuning with no frets pressed down, just all the open strings. I recall jake taking the songbook and heading down the hall to the common room to show anyone who would listen what he had found.

I know we did do at least 2 ‘road trips’ to YRUU conferences in NJ and Pittsfield, MA on weekends that term (though maybe one of them was fall ’88, not sure). He had a rusty old Subaru, or maybe a Datsun, at the time. I believe for the NJ conference, he had figured the chords to a recently popular song ‘Keep your hands to your self’ by the Georgia Satellites and we composed parody lyrics to it on the trip there. Why I remember this to this day I have no idea, but I know we started it with ‘I’ve had a little change in my pocket going jing-a-ling-a-ling but we spent it on toll-booths trying to get to this thing.. And then end of the chorus was something like ‘Why we did this, we don’t know, but we drove over 500 miles from O-Hi-O’. I don’t recall it being well-received, or well-performed, but we both found it amusing at the time. For the Pittsfield, MA conference I believe Richard Zeitz had joined us as well. Pretty sure we spent a whole day driving there and another one driving back (probably missing classes… bad influence!) I remember he ran a workshop at the Pittsfield, MA one with a title of something like ‘How to save the world’ or something like that.. And then the workshop was just him asking people random questions and seeing where things went. The entire discussion had absolutely nothing to do with ‘saving the world’. I remember being fascinated to watch him just lead a group of 20 or so peers in what was clearly something he had no plan for, he was just making it up as he went along. I remember asking him ‘You didn’t have a plan or a script at all for this workshop? You just winged it?’ and he answered something along the lines of ‘Yup, I just wing it and it always works out’. This may have been his entire college and life philosophy at the time.

In retrospect, there were some good things about having Jake as a roommate. I didn’t know the term then but i was certainly an introvert on many levels. Jake absolutely was NOT, he was a social instigator, always planning that coming weekend’s hall party theme or other things. He would bring all sorts of people I’d never met back to our room, which was a great way for me to meet people without ever leaving my room! Or being part of planning a party I’d never ever plan on my own.

I do specifically recall that our hall, Willet in Birch Hall, had done something to get in trouble with the Dean of Students, and that our hall advisor (may have been Matt Derr) had arranged for Steve Schwerner, the Dean of Students, to come to our hall to talk with us. Jake took this as an opportunity to plan a party around this, including finding as many inappropriate decorations as possible and setting up a table in our common room, made out of the closet doors from our room, as a buffet of chips and snacks, and it also served as a game table where he had set up the board game ‘Dealer McDope’. I don’t recall Steve Schwerner being much fazed by these antics and in retrospect, I’m sure a hall of first years trying to be ‘cool’ and act edgy was something that Steve had seen a thousand times before. I do recall him noticing the tables were wooden doors (the door knobs kind of gave it away) and being a bit confused by that.

In fact, I believe it was Jake who first introduced me to the idea that we could re-arrange the room using various pieces of furniture to do things differently. Willet Hall rooms had built-in ‘backrests’ adjacent to each bed so you could sit on them like a couch. Jake figured out how to take them off and then figured out we could lift the bed up 4’ and prop it up on two of the wood dorm chairs to make it a ‘loft bed’ with handy storage for a mini-fridge, laundry hampers, guitars and lots of dirty laundry below it. He also figured out we could take the smaller ‘cubby’ door that covered up a 1’ wide x 6’ tall storage area next to the closet. We then mounted that with shelf brackets about our mirror/dresser area, giving us a nice bookshelf. I repealed this bookshelf hack every term after that and I know a number of others followed suit. I’m sure at some point people looking through that dorm couldn’t figure out why so many of these doors and walls had screw holes in them ?

I think it was Fall 1988 when Jake and another friend of his, I think it was Robert Revere, got a radio show on WYSO on Thursday mornings from 2 – 6 AM. Somehow he roped me into this one night for a segment where I played silly stuff from Dr. Demento tapes etc and then another one… I recall once him getting me set up and then him just sleeping on floor behind me as I ran the show for a while. Finally, there was one night where he contacted me around midnight and said ‘I cant do the show tonight, can you cover for me? If I don’t do it I’ll lose my show’. So I grabbed all my cassettes and just did my best, including doing the meter readings you’re supposed to do every hour (cause of course Jake had showed me how to do that since that way he didn’t have to do it). So I was alone in the studio for 4 hours just making it up as I went. At 6 AM the station manager, Brian Gibbons, showed up and stopped in the studio and said;
‘Who the hell are you?’.
I sheepishly answered that I was covering for Jake.
He asked ‘So you’re here all alone?’
“yes sir”
“Did you do the meter readings?”
I held up the clipboard, ‘yes sir’
He took it and looked them over.
“Do you have an FCC license?”
“No, sir”
He then said ‘I’ve been listening to your show for the past hour or so’.
My heart sank, oh fuck, I’m in trouble and Jake is going to lose his show. I was partially correct. He then said something like ‘So without taking any of our training you did this all alone for 4 hours?’
“Yes sir”
He then said “Ok.. two things.. ONE.. Let Jake & Rob know they don’t have a radio show anymore, this was a huge violation of our rules.”
“Two… if you want this slot, it’s yours, but you have to come my office and fill out the forms for an FCC license and you need to take our next training session to make sure you know all the procedures’
Jake couldn’t care less he had lost the show and was just glad there were no other repercussions.

I went on to do this radio show for several terms until the novelty of staying up until 6 AM just because I was on the radio wore off, though actually I think WYSO instituted a stricter policy about student volunteers needing to take a class, and then never offering that class. but it was too late… I’d been infected by the community radio bug and years later when I moved to Maine i ended up getting very involved at volunteering at WERU, and I’m still volunteering there and hosting a show (remotely) to this day.

So not only did I possibly end up at Antioch because of Jake, but one of my life-long hobbies may have been kickstarted by him as well.

I believe Jake’s plans for a coop job for the spring and summer 1988 were to be a ‘freelance journalist’ following the presidential candidates for the 1988 elections. I recall him being somewhat enamored of Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson and was going to “follow their lead”. Of course, true to Jake’s style, this had no plan, no budget, no approval. He had ‘press passes’ from the Antioch Record and was just gonna wing it. I don’t recall how that went for him, but it was back at Antioch in the fall of 1988, back on Willet Hall again, seemingly no worse for the wear.

The last time I saw Jake was, I think, June 1989. I recall talking to him as he packed his car parked outside of North hall on the horseshoe, and he was telling me all about his plans to move to DC and start a party-organizing business. I had to admit, if there was one strength he had it was the ability to create a party and a theme, and implement that in a short period of time.

We lost touch after that, he stopped attending Antioch and I got more and more busy and involved there.

Once the internet and email came around I believe we got in touch. In my somewhat sparse email history from the 90s and early 2000s I see a few outgoing emails to his email address at the time, BillieMtn@aol.com. I gather in 1998 he was part of organizing a ‘conference’ ala YRUU Conferences called ‘COG” but i don’t recall much more about it… and I didn’t attend (sigh)

My mind’s eye mental picture of him is him wearing a green trench coat or bathrobe, blues brothers style sunglasses, holding a coffee mug and a cigarette and laughing a little too loud.

I’m sure other memories of Jake will surface at a later date. For now I’m sad to learn he’s gone, but glad to know he was surrounded by loved ones and close friends when he passed. I’m also thinking about who else is on my ‘I should really get back in touch with’ list. Maybe I can channel a little bit of his social extrovert powers to push me out of my comfort zone.

Photo here copied from Hope Anne Nathan


and I wrote the following in the private FB group for his friends after attending his memorial service on 11/13/22 in Northampton:

Just wanted to extend thanks to everyone who helped organize put on that amazing ceremony. I’ve never attended a memorial service that wasn’t somber, serious and boring. I learned so much new stuff about Jake, and was reminded of so much I’d forgotten. “I laughed! I cried! it was better than Cats!” Seriously, it was unforgettable, and I’m honored to have witnessed it.

The songs that were performed and sung are on an endless loop in my head. The quotes that were read out loud and included in the Boinko card reminded me of so much.

“Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet & Keys”… oh so THAT’s who I learned that from!

Like if you had asked me Sunday morning, did Jake like “the Hitchhiker’s guide””, I would have said ‘probably’. At the time I left for college I could practically quote entire sections of the book/radio play.. so duh.. of course it makes sense we ended up being roommates… and wait.. was his whole bathrobe thing a nod to Arthur Dent ? <mind blown>

and that ‘I like to play with my Wang… personal computer’ quote reminded me we both liked the Dr. Demento show, and in fact that’s how he roped me into being part of his radio show since I had boxes of cassette recordings of that show (including that Wang skit). For some reason I was reminded of another quote he and I would quote from another Dr. Demento favorite, ‘Star Drek’. (I was ‘shlock’)

SCHLOCK: And you will have what you always wanted…

JERK: What’s that, Mr. Schlock?

SCHLOCK: A bleached blond in red convertible on planet Shwartz.

JERK: Ain’t I somethin’!

I can totally hear him saying ‘Ain’t I somethin’!’

Yes Jake, you were !

(and wasnt there a photo posted in this group of a red convertible that people had lost the keys to? Hmm… )

This whole awesome event was the closest I’ve had to anything resembling a YRUU conference in … wow … ~34 years. It’s been so long I’d forgotten what it was like to just hang out with people and talk about everything and nothing. I never get a chance to be ‘bored’ with people anymore. I miss that all so much.

So it was all bittersweet, getting to see some old friends but for such a crappy reason… and since the one person ‘in’ that room I wanted to catch up with was Jake, and I couldn’t, that sucked the most. It was an honor to see and hear from so many others who were close with him.

The rest of this post is (also) way too verbose, more about me than Jake, and very possibly uninteresting to anyone but me but I’m gonna share it anyway, but really if you want to scroll on by at this point, no harm no foul.






On a personal note, ever since college, I’ve been getting more and more introverted… to be honest I was introverted long before then but I would attend YRUU conferences and make friends with the really nice extroverted folks who would take me in tow and then I could just draft behind them and meet other awesome folks… Jake was a great person to draft behind ? Pretty sure this is how I got to know Bonnie Rovics as well.

But after college we all get more serious and isolated and then we move away to new places … which is really tough for an introvert. Life goes on, and I kinda felt like that’s how it had to be, no more fun weekends with lots of friends, we’re old and serious ‘grups’ now, fun is for kids ? We’ll hang out again ‘someday’ … “we’ll get together then, I know we’ll have a good time then. “

I’m a computer geek by day (ok… all day), I go entire weeks now without talking face to face to anyone outside my home, and certainly not with anyone about anything non-work related. I’ve learned that introversion and self-isolation is a self-fulfilling/re-enforcing thing. I describe it as ‘Eeyore mode’ where I get in this ‘well I don’t want to bother anyone else, they have more important things to do’.

So back to the subject at hand … I was in that mode when I entered the church on Sunday. I actually arrived an hour in advance but sat in my car for 40 minutes so not to intrude or bother anyone who was setting up. I was kind of planning on just skipping out after the ceremony. I felt like an intruder since I hadn’t been back in touch with Jake, or the handful of other people I knew there, for decades ? Who was I to act like I belonged in this elite circle of awesome people that were Jake’s “real” friends?

I had a minor panic attack during the ceremony when Jen Devine mentioned Jake’s college roommate was going to speak next. “OMG Is she serious? Where’s the nearest exit … oh wait… phew… it’s not me.” Thanks, Steve Fargin for sharing more “Jake at college” stories (and for being brave enough to get in front of a room and share them)

I was still debating just leaving at the end of the ceremony when Jen mentioned that Jake kind of collected and sought out the ‘rejects’ and ‘outsiders’ and I thought ‘Oh.. yeah.. that’s right!’. and that made me feel enough at home to risk at least going in the basement for the potluck for a little bit. (Thanks Jen)

I’m super glad I did. Even when I was down there I wasn’t brave enough to go talk with strangers, so I found a nice wall to hang out by and debated making a quick exit. Then Sarah M. Hougen walked up and recognized me and greeted me. <mind blown> Wow, really? Someone remembered me (and more surprisingly, recognized me)? Thanks so much Sarah, I can’t express how much I appreciated that.

My all-to-brief conversations with other friends I’ve long since lost touch with like Rob Strausser, Graham Mitchell, Charles Olson, and Bonnie Rovics are still playing in my head… wishing I had said more, asked more and caught up more. Rob very tactfully pointed out to me indirectly that when I was summing up my life for the past 30 years I had just mentioned where I was working and not things like, oh I dunno, getting married, having kids. Wow… what is wrong with me? <smacks forehead>

So as Jen suggested, what lessons/wisdom will I take from remembering Jake? I’m going to try to step out of my comfort zone and be more social, even if it means I say something awkward I will regret having said for days afterward, and I’ll also try to remember that maybe there are others out there feeling alone and lost and are just waiting for someone to talk with them. How will us ‘rejects’ ever escape that gravity well of loneliness unless some of us take steps to break orbit.

Oh and more importantly, maybe it’s about time I started getting back in touch with other long lost like minded friends. “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”

Thanks again for letting be part of something so amazing. It was an honor to witness it all and to sing along.

Oh and if all you cool people are gathering sometime in the future and wouldn’t mind an awkward introvert drafting along behind you, let me know ?

Yet Another Scammer tries to offer me free money

Below is my chat with a fake account on instagram using messenger pretending to be a friend of mine. It’s always the same dance; “Have you heard about the free money?”

I went a different route today, besides just mentioning ridiculous things like dental floss factories and pigeon races, I started looking up the images on google images.

If anyone’s bored please text the cell # they gave something to annoy them ? Or please go report that FB page as a scam.


11:10 PM

<Fake account>:Hello

<Fake account>: How are you doing

You sent: Hi. Pretty good , how are things up in VT?

<Fake account>: I’m doing good. Good to hear from you how is work and family doing?

You sent: All good. What’s new with you?

<Fake account>: Well I’m doing pretty great, feeling blessed and just trying to stay safe. Life is good here can’t complain, I’m just wondering if you heard about the good news yet?

You sent: No what good news?

<Fake account>: Oh I thought you aware of the IDA program they announced on TV few weeks ago?

You sent: Nope, what’s IDA?

<Fake account>:It an International Development Assistance program by the government due to the pandemic to give out financial assistance to everyone to pay bills, start businesses, for college students even for old, retired and disabled.

<Fake account>: A friend of mine who works for the government told me about it, which I applied and got some money delivered to me by the UPS. I think you should also apply too. Have you heard of attorney Jennifer L Keller?

You sent: Wow ! Golly we can finally build that dental floss factory you and I talked about!

You sent: No I haven’t heard of her

<Fake account>:She is a family friend and she was the one who helped me get it, I will give you her direct link so you can also apply okay.

<Fake account>:https://www.facebook.com/Attorney-Jennifer-L-Keller-111339188275953

<Fake account>: Click on the link now it will take you direct to her Facebook page. Send her a text and tell her I refer you to her. She is always active and she will help you get your winnings deliver to you.

You sent: Ok I’ll drop her a note. This sounds too good to be true, free money? Surely there’s a catch

<Fake account>: Text her now to confirm if I gave you the right link to text and let her know I refer you to apply for the program.

You sent: how can I txt her, I don’t see a cell phone #

You sent: ?

<Fake account>: Click on the link I sent you above…..it will take you to her direct Facebook page. Text her now and tell her I refer you to her about the IDA PROGRAM.

You sent: but in order to send a text message I need a cell phone number. You know how I still use my old flip phone, I can’t do anything else on it besides send txt messages

<Fake account>:Okay

<Fake account>: Hold let me send you her private text number

You sent: ive looked all over her facebook page and I dont see any phone numbers on there

<Fake account>:(970) 528-0446

<Fake account>:Send her a text now and keep me posted

<Fake account>:

<Fake account>:Can you find anything like this when you click on the link?

<Fake account>: This is her Facebook page

You sent: Wait.. I just looked at her photo and I know her… but the name you said isn’t correct. That’s my friend Jennifer Smith in Chicago. She’s a lawyer but not an attorney general. What is going on?

You sent: Here’s her web page – Look – https://www.tresslerllp.com/…/attorney…/jennifer-smith

You sent: That’s the same photo!!!!

You sent: Hey – What’s going on, are you betting on pigeon races again? I thought we solved that on Star years ago!

<Fake account>: replied to you Oh sorry I made a mistake that’s a typographical error while typing her name.

You sent: I’ve contacted her about this she said something about reporting that page. I dont understand it but it sounds like she’s pretty angry

<Fake account>: Jennifer Smith I mean earlier. I knew she is a lawyer. She was the attorney that help me get the package.

You sent: she doesnt even know you! You’re lyring to me. I’m calling your mom right now

<Fake account>: replied to you Do as I have said….send her a text on the link I sent you or through the text number I gave you.

<Fake account>: replied to you I would not have told you about the philanthropy if I didn’t get the money or if there was some trouble with it. I was given full assurance on it by the person that told me about it, She couldn’t have misled me because she is a very honest and trustworthy person, so is the agent. The philanthropy is one hundred percent real and not a scam.

<they sent a photo of a box of cash at this point>

You sent: Dude now you’re just messing with me. You know I used to be part of the Columbus Ohio Drug Enforcement Agency 6 years ago. I TOOK THAT PHOTO DURING A BUST – Look, here it is in a newspaper article – https://wpde.com/…/more-than-a-ton-of-pot-1-million… WTF dude!

<Fake account>: This is not real from you I don’t believe that anyway. I already share with you about this ongoing program so it is left for you to apply or not

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