Growing up with Jos -- by Kate Price

Growing up with Jos -- by Kate Price


The Greek God returns from Hawaii

In younger years Jos had a different sense of style, appropriate to the decade ('80s) we were in -- low riding corduroys, earth toned sport shirts with matching piping, and large plastic framed glasses. While his fashion sense was different, he had the same biting and insightful humor, irreverence for foolish people, and sweet and sensitive personality. One could say that Jos was a diamond in the rough in elementary school, brilliant, yet, as of many of us were, under-appreciated. Then came the year away, when the Claerbout family went to Hawaii. After returning home, Jos made his entrance into the local social scene one day at the local pool, SCRA. We were having a regular swim meet, and the early teen equivalent of a cocktail atmosphere was present -- small clumps of kids talking about the latest news. Then lo and behold, there he was, this 6 foot tall Greek God of a 14 year old, stranger returning to the fold. What a return! No one recognized him at first, but eventually we did. The girls approved, the boys admired, and the diamond was appreciated even more than he had been previously.

Fun at fifteen

Jos went through a period of massive entertaining and sociability in our freshman year in high school. He was the mover behind a series of evenings that brought many people together -- often to local restaurants, then back at the Casa de Claerbout for a fun evening of flicks and hot tub time.

One particular evening I remember was our homecoming dance. We went on a double date, he was with a classmate of ours, and I with a guy from another school. We had pictures taken at his house, and eventually went on to a dinner at Sundance, a local seafood restaurant. It was an amazing scene, young teenagers eating at this solemn restaurant, cutting up with Jos jokes, roaring with laughter so loud we held the attention of the whole room.

Keeping a slim figure

I remember him giving me insights about health and body one time. "Kaatje," he said, "this is the secret for lean living -- sleep until noon, have one bowl of cereal for brunch, and later a sensible dinner."

Roaring up and down the stairs

Most precious to me of my Jos mannerism memories is the way that he would roar up and down the stairs to his house. I would always hear the cheerful yell from up yonder before he would come down to greet me in the entry hall as we prepared to hang out or go on an adventure. And then when it was time to go up and retrieve something, the same tremendous energy was spent, leaping and bounding up the stairs.

Did he actually graduate?

Later we would spend hours talking about the days of our lives, stories and insights. Jos was my role model of self direction and self assuredness, a sign of which was his decision to graduate early from high school and leave it all behind. When it came time for graduation, Gunn High School told him he wouldn't receive his diploma because, they insisted, that he had not turned in a book which he said he had. He said go ahead and hold that diploma, I don't care!

We get Doc Martens shoes

On the day of the Bill Graham memorial concert in San Francisco, Jos and I decided we must go. And so we took the Cal Train from the California Avenue station to the city. Before heading for the concert site, Jos wanted to go and visit Haight Street and get some Doc Martens. And so we bussed to Haight Street, and walked up to the very high point of Haight in the Haight/Ashbury section, and went into a shop that he had his mind set on. He picked out 20-hole black boots with steel tips.

AirWair with Bouncing Soles: The Original Dr. Martens --- oil, fact, acid, petrol, alkali resistant. I got a matching pair, without the steel tips. And then we walked from Haight to the concert, which was almost over, and because the buses were so packed after the concert, we walked all the way back to the train station, running at some points, breaking in our new purchases.


Jos and I share in common our great admiration of our older brothers. When we were in elementary school, our favorite hang out activity was sitting under the picnic table on the lower grass field and talking about our brothers, trading stories of all the latest cool things they had done, their lingo and gear, sometimes bringing artifacts for illustration.


When we went off to college, Jos chose Pomona, and I chose Oberlin. Oberlin didn't work out well for me, and I wanted to transfer, and considered Pomona. Jos welcomed me with open arms, and hosted me in his Smiley dorm single. What was extra special about Jos' pad is that he had taken a lesson from brother Andrew and put in multiple couches, a real couch pit in fact, of two facing one another, making for a fun and social place. He said it was to attract women, but I also noticed a trend Jos exhibited of both seeking comfort, and providing a large group social hub, and this pit satisfied both.

On the road

We had a very special trip down to Claremont from Stanford at the end of one vacation during our Pomona careers. We traveled down highway 1, Jos entertaining Jon and Diane and I all the way in the camper. He was fully in his element, truly appreciating being with family -- on the road or at home.

Our last full day together

Of all the fast paced times I spent with Jos, there were quiet times too. In fact, much of our time together was contemplative time. One was just after he finished Pomona, we went to his current favorite body of water, a local reservoir, and brought with us his "superlative" inflatable canoe. In addition to reassuring me about the fun one could have in an inflatable canoe, Jos demonstrated the great joy of just kicking back in the yellow vinyl accompanied by the sharing of great reading material, none other than the Weekly World News.

We caught up on the facts of our lives, but for the majority of the time we just floated together, around the willow trees dipping into the water, being silent. Eventually we headed back to shore. Navigating around the beginner sailing lessons just beginning, Jos made three new friends as we took the boat from the water. Just an ordinary day, made extraordinary by Jos.

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