New Orleans, LA - 2019-04-16
Tim: I came here from England after I lost my brother to a drug overdose. I’d always wanted to come to the United States. I had done this apprenticeship with this very small company in England, and I’d learned to do this old-fashioned sign-writing, something called box painting, an archaic trade.
I came to New Orleans in the early nineties, and I tried to apply my trade. I got a lot of jobs painting signs around the French Quarter. I got to do a CD cover for an old blues musician—a guy called Big Miller, which for me was a major thing.
I tried to make a living here for two years or so. House painting supplemented my income; I did a lot of that. And then one day I heard about this new music venue that was opening here, and somebody said to me, “You should go down there and see if they need help.” It was the House of Blues. I got hired and ended up doing a lot of their decorations inside, and then I got taken to Los Angeles and worked on every one of them around the country, which for me, as you can imagine, was a pretty good gig. One of my old teachers came to visit me, and when he saw what I was doing he was like, “You’ve found your calling; this is so up your street it’s unbelievable.”
BW: Can we talk about your brother?
Tim: He was my brother... something was going on way before he ever experimented with drugs. As a child, he would do…things. He would steal; he would do some really awful things. Obviously, there was something disturbing him--never really got to the root of what it was. Drugs were just a symptom, really, just a means of escape from whatever was causing that pain, but it was something that was there from a very early age.
As addiction happens, behavior becomes sort of unbearable. You can’t get your mind around it really, with all the stealing, the lying, and the deterioration of the character. My dream was to teach him this and get him sort of straightened up.
He was four years younger—Christopher John Jordan. He was twenty when he passed away. I was more than sad; it was a terrible, terrible blow. It was the buildup, the five years or so before he passed away. He was in and out of rehabs—calls home from the family in the middle of my girlfriend preparing a meal—I would get the phone call, “Timothy, I need you to come home. Christopher’s acting crazy,” and I’d have to leave whatever I was doing and go home.
It was a long drawn out thing, and as one of my friends Chad—the original punk rocker—said to me, “It must be quite difficult for you because you really can’t get on with your life while all this is going on,” and that really was how I felt.
During the inquest after his death, the pathologist gave his version of events and talked about how very minimal amounts of the drug were found in his system—minimal amounts, and he choked basically in his sleep. They were about to record a verdict of suicide, and I stood out. I couldn’t understand how they’d come to that conclusion as I’d just heard “minimal amounts of each chemical found in his body and choked…” I asked, in my very ineloquent way, how it could possibly be a suicide. The coroner said, “I think I understand what Mr. Jordan is trying to say. I think he would be happier if we would record a verdict of misadventure,” and I said, “Yes, I would,” and the verdict was put on the record as misadventure rather than suicide, but if nobody had questioned that it would have been recorded as a suicide.
BW: Why do you think it was so important?
Tim: It was a small victory. The actual death was [caused by] a cocktail of synthetic opioid and a tranquilizer, which nowadays is known to be a pretty lethal cocktail. I wanted people to be aware of that. And I did not believe it was suicide. The last time I saw him he had just gotten an apartment and was doing really well.
So, now I’m just here in New Orleans doing what I’m doing.
BW: Painting a sign that says, “Apothicaire.”
Tim: Yes, strangely enough...
BW: Do you ever think about what it would be like if he were still alive?
Tim: All the time.