red flowers in bloom

Stupor and the artistic fug: Patti Smith and The Lou Reed Cure

I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to today. I feel dull and grey and devoid of that spark. I could blame Leonard and his soporific spells. I could blame the weather. It is one of those grey and wet San Francisco days that is just dreary and cold and dull instead of moodily evocative, waiting for some hard boiled detective to come out of the fog and the shadows with his magnum, dragging a bum leg from where a jealous husband shot him whilst he was hot footing it out of a voluptuous bombshell’s bedroom window. I am not in the mood to write, not in the mood to pick up a guitar, nor sit sullenly in front of some netflix show with a cut-price Clint Eastwood and a Filipino Cherokee dude playing the main Native character woodenly approximating a thousand cheap western sidekicks that have come before him. I love that show, in almost a contradiction to everything that I am, feeling lulled by its pattern of murders and shootings, criminals and horses. I’m choosing to fret and pick at a sketchbook. I could never draw, it was not something I was ever good at. That doesn’t stop me trying, sadly.

I flip the switch on Cohen, trying on Television, seeing if Verlaine and the guys can jolt me out of my funk. Venus just sounds busy and fussy, the Ramones too brutal and basic. Stiv Bators and the Dead Boys live at CBGB’s can’t even wake me up just bring to the surface some barely concealed disgust. I settle back in silence. It is bad when even music won’t pull me out of it. I scroll down youtube’s list of everything you could ever wish to listen to, and disinterestedly click on Patti Smith playing Dancing Barefoot live with Johnny Depp and that singer from Pearl Jam. I had been reading Just Kids, Patti’s autobiography where she determinedly asserts that she never did any drug harder than weed. I’m insulted. She sang about poppies, about melting anal cavities on tables feeling like she was filled with butter, about baby needing more more, and to be frank, played on the druggie smack vibe. She was just a spectator, she insists, whilst leading us all down down that primrose path, holding her up as the Queen of Punk riot grrrl junkies everywhere. Nope. A smack vampire: Watching others chase that dragon and fall by the wayside, apparently, never touching it herself. Putting herself outside the bathroom, outside the experience, outside the circle of female junkies who made art. Above us. Her superior self control, her ability to write about the dark underbelly whilst not diving into it, almost igniting some kinda feeling of irritation.

Almost. I’m starting to worry about myself. I’m not prone to depression. Anxiety, sure, nerves strung tight as a high e string, over emotional watery episodes of tears, but not this. Not this black hole. I don’t even want a drink. I don’t even have that old longing to go find some trouble and change the mental channel I’m operating on. Nothing appeals at all. Not food. Not lust. Not anything much of anything. I don’t even think I see a future for myself. I don’t think I see the possibility of keeping my boy with me. It is like someone saw my tether to the shore line and cut the damn ropes. I persevered with Patti and her Johnny who would be Lenny, and Vedder looking like the cat who got the cream.

By the time I noticed Johnny and his artfully distressed acoustic guitar, some luthier having worn off the finish, just so, earnt by money and artful expertise of the person who finished the guitar, not a wild hand and a liking for metal picks combined with time poured into the blood on the steel strings, I was vaguely awake. Pretenders. Tourists. Not real. The real ones are dying in campers and ditches, or laying in their graves, or sitting in shelters sure that everything they ever did will come to naught in the end.

I cut off their self congratulatory rendition in a fit of pique. I know who I need in my life today. I need Lou and the Velvet Underground. I need to retreat to dirtier arms and grittier experiences. To reality.

Lou in all his bleach blonde trashiness, and his mimicking shooting up on stage while he sings Heroin, his butt-rock tendencies and his frenetic movements and the over exposed white heat white light camera work. Nothing inspires, but at least he doesn’t irritate me.

I think it is the fact that Lou paid the price, he didn’t hide his failings, his druggie drunken reality, he embraced it. He laughed at himself and at us. We were the big joke and Lou was in on it, he was there with us participating in it, and all those Jim Jims can go take a walk, eh Lou. By the time he bit down on that tie, and fake-shot himself up on stage, making his grime our art and entertainment, I might have cracked a smile. The ham! The hack. But at least he didn’t hide who he was. He had bravery. He allowed us to see him, for better or worse, jeers and misunderstandings and emulators, violators and brothers and sisters-in arms. I respect bravery. I respect Lou. I’m not sure I like him, and I’m pretty sure he would have found me tedious, but I respect him and his laconic don’t give a shit hurtle through life, burning through livers and years with abandon, death-dwarf that he was.

Tomorrow is another day. The sun is meant to be shining. I might walk down to the Embarcadero, or over to Golden Gate Park. I might go sit and watch the boats and over enthusiastic surfers in the Bay, while I drink my tea. Maybe tomorrow things might feel right again.

I sure hope so, I’m not sure how much more of this I can take.


    1. The Paltry Sum

      Hey Ron! Im sitting here playing little Stevie Winwood covers. If I deteriorate to the point of breaking out into Cher or playing folk standards whilst weeping into my cup of tea, I promise Ill pull myself together…

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