Saturday, September 03, 2011

September 11


There will be enough people, in coming weeks, waxing poetic, nostalgic, horrific, demonic etc. about September 11th... 911... The Day The Earth Stood Still. I don't want to be disrespectful to the families who lost loved ones, nor irreverent, nor is it my intent to minimize or be dismissive. Sometimes, however, I think about what that day may have meant to me if not for... Well, we know what happened.

September 11, 2011 will be the 2nd anniversary of the death of Jim Carroll, a poet, memoirist and musician that has meant a great deal to me over the last 35 years. It started, I guess, with the release of the album Catholic Boy, which stood well apart from the pack in the era of Southern Rock, Disco, California-Lite and Arena Bombast. What we came to call punk and new wave was not getting a lot of airplay, even on the FM stations, which like Liberal Democrats in the U.S. and the Labour Party in the UK, had long become staid, stodgy, dogmatic and somewhat constipated. There were exceptions. People Who Died, was an exception among exceptions, but it wasn't even the real poetic dynamic stand-out for those brave enough to buy the Catholic Boy album. The title track, by the way, is still rarely heard unless you own it.



The real impact of Jim Carroll, in my life was that he inspired me to write. Yes, a good part of it was teenage, romantic, fantastic stuff about sitting in a tenement, hunched over a buzzing Selectric next to a bottle of bourbon. These notions led me down the garden path to twisted places, admittedly. No, I never published anything of literary import. What writing has offered me though, is an avenue by which I might express feelings and words that I've never been able to articulate in any other way. If nothing else...

Catharsis.

This one single avenue down which my darkest fears could be paraded away from me may have ostensibly saved my life.

Did in fact, give me a reservoir, or a catch-basin in which I could open a valve and relieve pressure, and still have everything at hand, in a safe place until it could be dealt with.

I've been writing a lot more recently--diaries if you will--nothing even vaguely resembling a coherent memoir. Again, it keeps me level. And having turned 50 this past weekend, I had actually wanted to express that making this far was a surprise. I have, as a loved one pointed out, given my past behavior, stunned the actuaries. It doesn't make all that much sense to pontificate on aging. You either will, or you won't. This ramble aside, I have been trying to recall a bit from Carroll's follow-up to The Basketball Diaries. It was titled Forced Entries and was in many ways, better than its predecessor. My copy of the book has long since disappeared... probably loaned out to someone else who is foolish enough to romanticize junkie poets. It began like this though and fairly well describes what keeps me scribbling and tapping:

>>>The fact is, in many ways, I hadn't planned to make it to this age. I think of my past as if it were some exquisite antique knife. You can use it to defend yourself or slit your own throat. But you can't just keep it mounted on some wall. I can no longer allow the past, however, to interpret my future. Not dying young can be a dilemma.

Such notions, I see now, are an indulgence. I inhabit a different body now. Each day, it seems, another self wakes up and heats the coffee. I can distinguish, even gauge, the passage from a disturbed youth to a disturbed adult by the subtle aggressiveness in my anxiety..

So, having lived, it seems only proper to begin keeping track again, to record the flux of each self, and weigh the shifting landscape of the city. I've given much of myself to feed its insatiable, tick-ridden underbelly, and I expect the use of its character, without threats or intimidation, in return. If you haven't died by an age thought predetermined by the timing of your abuses and excesses, then what else is left but to begin another diary?<<<

I feel this right to my bones.