Jos Claerbout Memorial Service

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[Alejandro "Jano" Cabrera]

What I'll miss most about Jos will be his stories. Jos always had a story. They were typically very funny--about the things he had done or the people he had met, and they usually would carry with them a lesson, a lesson he had learned. So with that in mind, I'd like to share with you all a story about Jos and a lesson that he taught me.

Jos and I lived together in Washington, D.C., in 1996. One day he walked into my room in a way that only Jos could walk into a room--with his arms outstretched, a big smile on his face--and he said, "Friend, I have an idea that you would be a fool not to want to be a part of."

I had known Jos for four years at that point, and I knew his ideas were a mixture of pure genius and sheer lunacy. But I was curious so I said, "Tell me about your idea."

And he said, "I have three words for you...that will change your life...and the life of everyone else who hears them."




And with the patience I hope to one day have for my own children, I looked at him and said, "What are you talking about?"

Jos had a vision of creating a table--a massage table--but not just any old massage table. He wanted it to collapse in on its own to such a degree that it would be the size of a small briefcase. His grand vision was to take this massage table from place to place, set it up in a matter of seconds, and tell people to, "Jump on!" And he would give them a massage.

Having known Jos I knew that if he was going to come up with ideas and share them with us, he'd have a specific role in mind for his friends, so I said, "What's my role gonna be?"

He said, "Just wait."

And so, over the course of the next few weeks, Jos began construction on this massage table. Turning an already more than cramped kitchen into his workshop, he built a massage table.

Two weeks later--now I had seen this come together in bits and pieces--two weeks later, he had a grand unveiling of the finished product. He brought me into the living room, sat me down, and there underneath a table cloth, was something.

And he yanked it [the table cloth] back, and standing there next to Jos was the ugliest looking table I had ever seen in my life. It had six legs, and by lightly yanking off the table cloth, it looked ready to collapse in on itself. And not by design.

And so I looked at this and with dying horror I realized what my role would be. And he looked at me and said, "Jump on!"

And I said, "No, Jos, I don't think anyone should be jumping around this table."

He said, "No, no. This is a firm table." And he proceeded to tap the air about two inches above the table to prove his point.

Well, I did jump on, and I did trust Jos, and the table didn't collapse. But it wasn't exactly how he originally envisioned it. It wasn't so much collapsible as much as it had to be taken apart by mallet and a hammer. And it wasn't exactly portable; being constructed entirely out of wood, it weighed about 55 pounds and was the size of a 27-inch television set. And rather than having a handle, he had to lug it around with a dolly. But as Jos often told me, "These, friend, are but minor points."

Jos built a table.

There are many others here who have their own version of the table. Some of you only think of it, some of you start it but don't finish, and some of you finish, but never appreciate what you've done. Jos recognized the table for what it was: a dream that he made a reality.

And that was the lesson that he taught me: Life is so precious, and in the time that you have, you have to take what your dreams are and make them real. That was the lesson that Jos taught me.

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