A little over a year ago, Duane Lavold, better known as Custom, passed away. This is Josh's story about Custom's final months. I'm sharing it here with Josh's permission.
For some background: I was born in 2001 in Sherbrooke. My family and me lived there until I was 12. We moved to California in 2013, That year I started skateboarding and have been a skate boarder ever since… the first time I talked to Duane was while riding my skateboard,
I have bi polar mood disorder, and in May of ‘21 when I was 19, I stopped taking my bipolar medications (I take them everyday now, though). The following month in June my mother invited me to leave her house because of my manic behavior. I am 21 years old now and maintain good relations with all my family members.
When I left my mother's house in June of ‘21 all I had was my wallet, skateboard, pair of shorts and t-shirt I was wearing. No socks or even underwear, and she would not let me return to her house to retrieve my clothes or belongings. I spent a total of 6 days at the hotel and spent 5 days with Duane.
I have a vaping habit, and I had no vape at the “Extended Stay” hotel in Newport Beach, California. (Where Duane was awaiting to be awarded his lawsuit for the Tic-bite.) The very tall Duane was nonchalantly smoking one of his Marlboro golds outside of the hotel with a pair of sunglasses while there was clouds in the sky. The age to buy Nicotine products in US is 21, so I asked him for a cigarette and he replied very directly in his nasally accent “No”. I remarked “do you know what I say to kids at the skatepark when they ask for my vape? No!” Immature, I know.
But he gave me a look down at me, over his sunglasses with a look I didn’t understand at the time.
Later that night he was smoking with a lady around his age who was staying at the hotel as well. I begged them for a cigarette and told them I was homeless and Duane gave me one.
He had me sit down with them outside of the hotel to smoke, and explain my situation. At first he didn’t seem to care, but the more I explained the more sympathetic he looked at me.
I told him where I was from, and we spoke a bit of French although he only had basic conversation skills. The lady left after the cigarette and I kept talking with him. At some point in the conversation that night I asked him if he has any pot, he did in his room.
We went up to his room (it was a mess) and smoked weed out of an apple pipe he kept in the fridge. I kept explaining my situation and hardships in my life like my broken down car and he didn’t know what to say. At one point smoking in his room I expressed my ideas for starting a skate brand and wanting to skateboard in Europe.
“YES YES yes” he replied. “You need to goto Europe and party, you speak French, you skate, and you’re in great shape.” I was hesitant but he convinced me to “forget your past, forget your old clothes, forget everything here and go to Europe.” He tasked me with getting generic white t shirts and a pair Levi’s, a hair cut, and a round trip ticket to Paris, while he ordered me a $30, 3-day backpack from Amazon, that I still use today.
Before I left his room that night I told him I had no clothes at all, and he gave me a pair of socks, underwear and a button up shirt. He told me about his lawsuit that night and the problems he was going through like with his legs, Hey Mister and how the music video costed “$1,000,000” to shoot, and to gargle salt water every night, because I could not afford to get sick while traveling.
We planned to meet up in Europe and party; he would be my 36 year old half brother as our story.
I bought my ticket that night as I had around $7,000 saved.
Over the next 4 days I would periodically go get Duane fast food as he could not walk very well, we would discuss our plans to travel and party while smoking pot, and during the day we would go up to the insurance agents watching (for the lawsuit) in between my tasks he gave me and harass them & mock them while he wore different pairs of funny sunglasses.
And he literally had an open door policy, and left his hotel room door open for me when I needed a cigarette or to smoke his pot. (Partly because he didn’t want to walk to the door to open it for me.)
My backpack came to the hotel 2 days after I met him (as he had Amazon Prime) and I bought all the items he said I’d need for my “tour” in Europe.
He gave me his what’s app which I’ll include along with another picture of the 3-day pack.
I got to Paris and immediately fell in love with the skate culture. I was going to need more money to party with him, so he told me to goto the Supreme store in Paris and beg for a job. Except this was not the early 2000’s and they laughed me out of the store.
He was nothing but supportive of me over our texts and phone calls while I was in Paris, always hyping me up, giving me adult advice I needed, and just being someone who was there for a kid in a really dark place while my parents refused to engage in any form of contact with me.
Eventually in July he arrived in Athens and got a hotel there, but couldn’t walk and needed me there, but I had spent all my money on my hostel for 2 months in Paris.
He did find someone to help him though, his “security guard” I’m not sure how that deal worked out but he said all the greek people liked him because he stood so tall he looked like a professional basketball player.
I have extended family in Malmo Sweden, and spent my last USD on a flight to Copenhagen (as I couldn’t afford to fly to Sweden) and my Swedish family got me a hostel in Copenhagen for a month while they worked thing out with my parents back home.
Had I gone to Greece I don’t know how good of an outcome I would’ve had. I just feel like I caused Duane’s death and feel terrible about it.
Duane and I stayed in contact until around mid-October of ‘21. He kept supporting my idea of my skate brand and to get a resellers license.
The last thing he sent to me was “I need a credit card.” After that I think he saw the situation he was really in not being awarded his lawsuit yet and that stress probably caused his passing :(
I know this is a long email but I think about the summer of ‘21 everyday and how Duane boosted my confidence as a young man to a whole new level.
Anything you have to say about my time with Custom is deeply appreciated.
Thank you so much,