Boxing - Jamie
Jamie @ 139 LBS amateur fight
Boxing – Jamie
It was the middle of July sometime, this was in 1991, and I had been working at Caesars for, well it wasn’t too long. I think I got in there in early spring. It took a while to get in there, to get through the corporate, six weeks, they ain’t in a hurry. I had to go downtown and renew my massage licence since my old one from Bally’s had expired. I’d gotten canned from Bally’s in spring of 1988 and went into dealing. I broke in as a dice dealer and worked my way up and through four joints, middle-level joints, and I was working at the Barbary when I got a call from an old contact, and he juiced me into Caesars.
I distinctly remember the day I got the okay from corporate; the manager called me, “You’re in!” I called my parents; I felt good, and it was a milestone in my life. For a guy like me, a solid underachiever, this was my graduation. It was a status job, and only the Mirage was stronger. I took the job with some misgivings because I had worked so hard to get a game together, a dice game, get to the point where I could deal, where I could get and keep a middle-level job—I’m changing horses in midstream here. But I knew I wouldn’t get a shot like that again; ever. The odds were against it.
And not just that, but the Barbary was one of the most stressful joints in town. I wanted to relax and be comfortable; I wanted to be able to smoke dope and do my job, and I could do that, and I did do that. We all did. Plus it was better money. And I got to keep more of it. Massaging is hard work, and at that time there was no cross gender massage in Clark County. Men only and how much fun is that?
Wait a minute; I think I landed Caesars in late 1990, regardless, it doesn’t matter. In Vegas, you tend to hang out with the people that share your occupation. You are sharing the same hours, and you are living the same life, and you have the same interests; which is money, but various hustles and different realities. So generally we would hang out at one guy's place after work and drink, smoke pot, and maybe do some lines. These guys never came over to my place because I persisted in living downtown. Their places were just off the strip. Besides my place was a dump and I lived there the whole time I worked at Caesars. A lady friend I know told me later, she said, “I never understood why you lived like that.” But I was too insecure in my job to move to a nicer place, besides my dump was quiet and comfortable. It was good enough for me. 24-hour liquor store four blocks away, crack and crack whores on the corner, a pornographic bookstore a block away in case I needed a new magazine, in short, I had everything I needed, and the rent was cheap.
We would go to Lester’s place on Harmon, Sometimes It was John’s place, and he had a junior one bedroom in the same complex for a while. Now in Vegas, almost every place that you rent is furnished, and usually, they are nice comfortable living units, and they have a standardized look. I mean I also lived in motels outright. Sometimes they had these plastic looking “paintings” on the walls. This adds to the sense of impermanence, of transience and of being anonymous. Sometimes we went to Joe’s place on the West side, he was married and had two daughters, and we didn’t go there too much. Jerry was married and lived in a double wide out by Nellis AFB. Sometimes we went there. After a while, Jerry broke up with his wife and started living with an older woman that we called Grandma when he wasn’t in earshot.
So one night we are at Grandma’s place off of Tropicana somewhere. We are drinking, smoking pot and smoking cocaine laced joints. This was a beautiful plush development, a nice big swimming pool. We are high and full of energy, talking shop, the usual, Vegas life. Talking money, talking old scores, talking work, because if you don’t work in Vegas, I don’t know what you would do. That’s what it is, that’s what Vegas is, one big hustle and we were soldiers, more so when I worked as a dealer.
We are out there at Jerry’s and Grandmas place, she has a dog, and we all go out to a nearby park and walk it. I can remember I’m talking to Jerry about something that doesn’t make sense moneywise; but we are kicking it around, and suddenly we get the insight and it’s, “...about the money!” And we’re kicking ourselves because we already know that. We knew that yesterday already. We always knew that. If a certain policy isn’t serving anybody, if it’s deleterious, if it doesn’t make sense then you know, you know, that somebody is making money off it and they have the power.
It was a lovely evening, the coke was a pleasant surprise, I drove downtown, back to my place and I’m feeling good. I had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, and I can’t quite recall if I was going to work tomorrow or not. We might party any night since we had different days off. I pull up to my dumpy little crib and when I enter the first thing I saw was that my answering machine was blinking red. “Who could that be?” I didn’t think it would be work. I sit down on the couch and hit play. Tony Dowling’s, Jamie’s manager’s voice comes on; he has a thick Irish accent.
“We buried Jamie Ollenberger three days ago.” He explains the circumstances, Jamie had been at a bar about three weeks ago and he borrowed a Mustang and drove over to the North Shore and got caught up in some new road construction there, and he flipped the car over and broke his neck, and he was paralysed from the neck down. He lived for three weeks in a respirator. Dowling apologized for not calling me sooner, he misplaced my number, wrote it on a newspaper or something. I found out more details recently when I met his nephew for the first time.
This wasn’t a digital answering machine, and it had the micro tape. I played it over and over. I played that tape until I wore it right out. I was in shock. I was thinking, right away, I was thinking, “I don’t want this.” I just didn’t want it, the weight, and the pain that never ends. I had this wild idea that I would take the tape and throw it out back, in the dumpster. I mean total denial.
I had some pot left, and I smoked that. Then I figured that I would just have a good cry, cry it all out, get it over with, but that’s not the way grief works. I couldn’t call the shots; it was there for me to experience like most people that ever lived or ever will live. It’s the never part; that’s what’s devastating, never again. He was 31 years old. There was a lot of second-guessing too if I had been in Vancouver.
Another thing is that the stages of grief, to me they don’t mean shit. Labels don’t help; it’s always going to hurt. It was like a door shutting in my face. I shared things with him that are lost forever. He was at my first fight. He was my mentor.
I seem to recall that I did work the next day. I told the spa manager, Michael, what happened, I was afraid of falling apart. I didn’t but in between massages I sat and cried. The emotion was coming through me in waves, and memories were running through me unbidden. I got through my day, and I phoned Eddie to see if he was holding, and I ran over there to pick up some pot. He could see I was upset. He asks me what happened, and I tell him, “My friend died, he was thirty f*cking years old!” It came out as strangled rage and grief. I was sobbing. I thought he was 30 at the time. He says he didn’t know I felt that way about anyone. I guess I didn’t know either.
I get around to phoning Dowling, and he gives me more details. I had been planning on quitting Caesars in the fall. I’d had enough of Vegas. I couldn’t get a hold of Jamie; he didn’t have a phone in his name, he didn’t respond to letters if I even had his address. I knew that he’d been having a difficult time. Transitioning from being a fighter to when boxing is over is a difficult and perilous traverse. Jamie was having money troubles, and I was like, “That’s okay, I have some money.” And Dowling told me that Jamie had to make his money. I was looking forward to us getting together and celebrating my success at Caesars, and I don’t know. It never happened and now it never will. When I talked on the phone to Dowling before Jamie’s accident, he asked, did I have anything that I wanted him to tell Jamie? “Just tell him I love him, that’s all.” So he told me that he did tell him that before he died.
Tony told me that since Jamie couldn’t talk, he licked Dowling’s hand, “Oh, Jesse, it was terrible.”
Jamie had a motorcycle accident a few years before the car accident, and they had to put screws in his leg. But he rehabilitated himself and fought again. I’m saying I had a foreboding, but just the same, I was shocked to the core. Thirty-one years old! We were supposed to get old together! This was the guy that helped me to be a man. It wasn’t my father; nobody else was there, not really. I don’t even know if I can use this piece. I’ll leave it alone for a night.KGg�2S��\�