Candidly Crew with Jay Capistrano: the Return Interview

The adventures and misadventures of Jay Capistrano.

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Location: 409 Cardew Road, a Brownstone in New Haven

Candidly Crew with Jay Capistrano: the Return Interview

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Writing celebrity profiles for a magazine like the Rhydin Times causes one to become immune to the abnormal. I have done profile pieces in a submarine at the bottom of the ocean with a subject in a formal tuxedo. I have done profile pieces in a hot air balloon floating over the Old Market district while my interviewee waxed on poetically about modern civility. I have waited backstage at music festivals, concerts, and television studios while my profile subjects entertain crowds of eager fans. It seems anymore that the only thing I am shocked by is the normal.

In that way, Jay Capistrano shocked me.

We met in his New Haven brownstone. For a man who had spent his entire adult life in the public eye, there was a surprising lack of ego to the place. The furniture was not expensive. It was comfortable. The art was not pretentiously picked out for him by his team. The walls were full of pictures of family and friends, and art he and his wife personally picked out through their travels. The home was not expertly decorated. Instead, it was laid out with the eye of a parent of a newly crawling toddler.

But don’t take this as a statement that he is boring. Normal, polite, kind are painted as mundane qualities. This, however, is a mistake. Jay is, after all, a legendary duelist and long time member of the Wrecking Crew. But dueling might be the least interesting thing about Jay Capistrano.

* * *

This porcelain vase is unusual. I've never seen anything quite like it. It's very natural. Do you know where you got it?

[taps the vase carefully] "We were in Korejai Nava 23, helping a colony there evacuate a village after flooding. They gave it to us as thanks -- we usually weren't allowed to accept gifts, when we were deployed on those aid missions, but it would have culturally been ruder for us to turn it down than to take it."

Do you feel your time working on those sorts of aid missions for the Rhovnik Foundation jump started your interest in charity work or did it just deepen what was already there?

"It was always something I was looking to do. When I left the Crew in, like, 2013 and again in 2015 -- with their blessing, of course -- I was going to school. I graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in social work, then went right to the Rhovniks. I kept it kinda quiet at the time but summer of 2016, I interned at a place in the city that worked with teens kicked out of their houses for a lot of different reasons."

And recently? Have you been able to continue? It can't be easy to try to balance community service obligations with physical rehab and being a new father.

"It's hard as hell! [laughs] I mean, the injury...ended up butting against Adam's birth. And we -- the doctors -- they weren't sure if this was something that might pop back up again if I fought a bunch like I did at the tourney. So I gave it time, after the paternity leave, and I said, 'I think that's it, I don't think I can duel anymore,' and they put me on the retired/inactive list, and I got a job at Tea For Teens. Now, I think I know what you're going to ask next -- "

Why now? Your son isn't quite a year old yet. From what I hear, your wife is now a part-owner and managing her adoptive mother's dojo. What's fueling this comeback?

"I want to be a role model. I know that sounds funny coming from -- "

A Wrecking Crew duelist? There is quite the list of incidents of behavior, that as a parent, I'd rather my kids didn't mimic.

"People forget though. The 'Not My Overlord' shirts? The RhyDin Shield? We did that."

So -- sorry, I interrupted you before. Why now? Why are you returning to the rings?

"Dueling comes with money and prestige. I've got a couple of projects I'm saving for, looking to launch, and I'm never gonna stop...doing things to help the less fortunate."

Are you ready to talk about any of these things or--

" -- Yeah. I mean, one of them's kinda like, the helping thing, the other's...maybe a little less? You pick which you wanna hear about first?"

Let's start with the helping and go from there.

"I'm always looking to raise more money for Tea For Teens. Since I won't be able to do the work I was doing there if I go back into dueling full-time, I want to get them set-up so they can get whatever they need. [pause] Look, I believe in what they do, helping at-risk kids, teens kicked out of their houses because of their religion or their sexuality or because they're lycanthropes or vampires or something else they never asked to be. It's something very close to my heart."

That is an admirable reason to put your body on the line. And the second project?

"A skate company. I see a lot of kids down in Dockside, Old Temple, even up here in New Haven skating, but a lot of the gear's kinda junk. Three things saved my life as a kid. Skating, punk rock, my friends. I can't play an instrument or sing, but I can be a friend, I've got a lot of friends to help, and I know what makes a good board."

That sounds like a nice place to land in retirement. Is that the plan?

"I think so. [grins] But we've still got some titles to win, don't we?"

One thing that we, fathers, don't have to answer that mothers often do is how to balance it all. You're talking about competing at a very high level while continuing to keep up a certain level of commitment to the community and your sponsors. How do you balance that with being a husband and a father?

[sings] " 'With a little help from my friends.' [laughs] Seriously, though, I'm so lucky to have Jamie [Jameak] and Stick [Sarah Allian] and Sapphire [Ravenlock] and the Grazianos around to pitch in when things get super-busy for me and Sami. The Crew puts a lot of resources into me, it's put a lot of resources into me, but it's never, like, super-corporate the way some people think it is. They're my friends, my family, almost the same as Sami and Adam are."

I'm surprised they're not here. One of the first things that sports stars like to do to show me that they have matured is to trot out the wife and kids. Yet, here we sit in a quiet house.

"Sami basically had to grow up her entire life dealing with the b------t of being the kid of famous duelists. I mean, I don't blame her. There's a lot I put up with that I'd prefer not to, that I didn't think I ever would. But now she's got a choice, and we're also not going to throw Adam out into the spotlight until he's old enough to make that choice himself."

What kind of childhood do you want for Adam? What does that perfect childhood look like?

"I want him to be happy. I don't want him to hate me. I want -- are you familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, or the idea of adverse childhood experiences?"

The basic principle, I think. It's a pyramid with a base of physiological needs. Then safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. You have to successfully hit one before you can move on to the next, right?

"Right. You can't be, like, an actualized person if you don't have enough to eat, or you don't know where you're gonna sleep night to night. I know what that's like, I've known and I've met a lot of people who know what that's like, and I'm not gonna let that happen to Adam, and, if I can do anything about it, anyone else. It's...yeah, it's probably impossible for everybody, but not for him."

When you say that you've met a lot of people who have been through that, does that include you and Sami? Her story has been written about in the past in articles on her adoptive parents but I have not heard you address your childhood much in previous interviews.

"It all happened before I got here. It's a small part of why I'm here. When I was in high school, I got kicked out of my family's house -- dispute over religion. I had to drop out of school eventually, couch surfed around with friends, did some work fixing skateboards to make ends meet. I was lucky to have the support I had -- I know plenty of people had far less and went through far more -- but I also know that family's important. Consistency's important. Love's important, yeah?"

When you said that it all happened before you got here, what did you mean? Does it feel like a separate life to you? The before RhyDin and the after RhyDin?

"All that. [laughs] The events literally happened before I moved to RhyDin, but all your childhood s---, sorry, stuff, doesn't just go away because you move. I divide it up, like a separate life like you said, because it reminds me of how far I've come, how much I've grown since I got here. But what I want to take away from it and give to my son and anybody else who wants it or needs it, is 'I'm here, and you don't have to go through what I did.' "

And if they do have to go through it, you want to be that support system that walks beside them through it?

"Yeah, it's like that 'Lean on Me' song."

Is that an Earth song? You have to forgive me. [laughs] I need to brush up on my Earth musical references clearly.

"It is. [sings] 'Lean on me, when you're not strong, And I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on...' "

((Post name/headline written by Ria's player, and interview written with Sami’s player’s help, with much thanks and gratitude to both players!))
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