Blue is my favorite album of all time. I just can’t seem to stop losing copies of it, though. I dread to think how many times I bought it over the years! I am off out today to look at boats, (crown and anchor me, baby!) as it is spring break here in SF…last night ended with a bump, accused of being manic depressive “or something” due to posting so much. My feelings were hurt. I pay for my wordpress space, I enjoy writing, and don’t expect to have to justify that. I don’t expect or demand anyone read, and once again I’m accused of insanity because I’m doing something I love. I made a supreme effort yesterday to cheer the fuck up, and as usual…silenced…sad…accused of being crazy, and then feeling like I have to be polite rather than tell the person to fuck the fuck off then: “can’t you take a joke?” Yeah…no…sorry…not sorry.
So, normal Paltry is resumed no more fluffy kitten keyrings and posts full of pink fluffy cherry blossoms. Read or not, I don’t much care, but if you are going to write to me…yeah…I’d rather not have accusations of insanity, told to shut up, really masked under an air of false concern. I’m sick of being polite. I’m sick of being hurt.
I was saving Blue, Joni Mitchell’s opus, but since I’m sitting here feeling sad and kinda blue, and I upset the Boy by telling him to put jeans on if we are going out, not those goddamn baggy shorts, I’m throwing Joni Mitchell on like a sacrificial lamb. Blue means the world to me.
My mother had four albums. After the Goldrush, Neil Young. Beatles Blue compilation, and the Red one with the photo of them hanging over a balcony. I hate the Beatles. I don’t even care enough to go find out what it is actually called. Tea for the Tillerman, by Cat Stevens. It didn’t include Blue. Blue was the first serious album I bought for myself, nonwithstanding youthful brushes with Flock of Seagulls type bands. Dated, Paltry, dated…I had bought a copy of a music magazine. I can’t remember if it was Melody Maker, or the newspaper printed NME, or even a glossy imported Q….could have been Rolling Stone. Probably was. Anyway, within that magazine was a list of the top 100 albums of all time. Required listening. I decided to work my way through it, minus Michael Jackson who I already knew I detested. I just happened to pick Blue. I would say something corny like “or did Blue pick me:” but I was never that lame. I picked Blue, I used my Saturday job money, and paid for my very first copy. It was stolen by a bitch called Selena. I hope she never found love. I digress….Blue….
Back then, being a baby of about 15, I had no idea of the emotion Joni was talking about, I had no idea of loss and heartache. I had no idea of Love. Still, on sang Joni singing about having her baby adopted at birth, singing about useless nonconformer men, singing about blue tattoos on skin and walking around hades just for the hell of it, about drinking a case of her darling’s love and still being on her damn feet. She sang about Greek islands and a stolen camera, she sang about a California that only existed in my imagination at that point in time. She sang, and she played the most beautiful guitar and dulcimer I had ever heard. I remember sitting on my black spinning office chair, at my white desk and listening to Blue. It was the most important, most beautiful thing I had ever heard. I decided right then and there that she was my heroine, I wanted filthy fingernails just like she had in Carey, I wanted to dance under the moon in silver and lace, I wanted to be as free as she was. Yes, I wanted to be Lou Reed and live like Joni!
I wasn’t free. My father was abusing me. My mother was useless. I didn’t even much want to live, but Joni spun tales of ‘mean old daddies’, travelling the world, seeing Rome and Amsterdam. Joni was a riot! Joni was a one woman rebellion! Joni was a Goddess. I looked at her angular cheekbones and her flat blonde hair, and her gorgeous blue eyes and wanted her. I wanted to hold her and dance with her, I wanted her to tell me about the road. I wasn’t free, but I was when I listened to Joni.
Time wound on, that copy of Blue lost forever (“can I borrow it to record it onto tape? Please! Please!”….and then my precious bag of albums never returned gone. Bitch. I never lent another thing to anybody.) I got lost following Joni on her “acid booze and ass, needles guns and grass…lots of laughs” trip into hell. I found out what she meant when she sang “everybody’s saying that hell’s the hippest way to go, I don’t think so, but I’m gonna take a look around it, though.” I took Joni with me. She sang, and piece by piece I understood what she meant. I understood that distaste, that contempt for weak men, with her throwaway line, “Forever in the darkness?/ Where’s that at?/ If you want me I’ll be in the bar.” I remember turning round to whatever boy I was using to try and persuade myself I was straight, the one I had in mind was a sweet bisexual crossdresser. We were in the same conumdrum. I don’t believe he enjoyed women, and instead we had this easy mostly sexless friendship, until he accidentally knocked me up. “If you want me I’ll be in the bar.” I scattered abortions like confetti. Who cared? Yeah, well, I did. Back then I cared about me. Something I totally renounced in later years. It would have been a disaster. By this point I was in too deep. I travelled the world…”lots of pretty people there, reading Rolling Stone,” I never read Vogue. As Joni yells “will you take me as I am? Strung out…(on another man)?’ I’ld raise a glass to her, shouting along “Will you take me as I am?” The answer was generally no. They would take a soberer, less wild, straighter version of me, though. Never as I was, never as I was.
I grew up with Blue. On that flight out to Tokyo, flying out there for the first time, it was Joni singing This Flight Tonight, on my headphones. I had a CD walkman. I must have been on my 5th copy of Blue. Blues lost to drug money, to thieves, to lovers, to washing machines and shattered against a wall in a fit of pique. “Blackness, blackness dragging me down, come on light a candle in this poor heart of mine.” Joni knew. Joni knew. Joni sang to me “I shouldn’t have got in this flight tonight,” but I didn’t listen. “Up go the flaps, down go the wheels”, she sings…..Joni the Cassandra. Joni the Wanderer. Joni the Great!
Time passes, children appear, and I’m standing in Kaldi, an imported food shop. My left leg is bruised from toe to hip, my scalp is cut and leaking, my black eye gone yellow, and what comes on their Christmas time store music? “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees…they’re putting up reindeer, and singing songs of joy and peace…I wish I had a River I could skate away on..” I stood there in Higarigaoka and cried. I stood and cried and held Boy and Girl so close to me they wriggled to get free. I stood there and cried and Joni cried with me. I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
A Case of You was Billy’s song. I cared about him so. He was as much a vein running through the years as much as Joni was: “If you want me, I’ll be in the bar.” He generally was. My Joey, my alcoholic veteran of a thousand (psychic) wars. I tried to save him. Men destroyed me too. Different men destroyed him – old men and their old men wars that poor boys from Minnesota fought. “You are in my blood like Holy wine”, she sang knowingly. She knew the secret before I did, “go to him, stay with him if you can, but be prepared to bleed.” Bleed I did. Billy was more than a friend. Not as a lover. He was my brother. My surrogate father. My comrade. And the bastard let me down too.
Which brings me to now. I live in California, but I ain’t kissing no Sunset Pigs, Joni!..Joni with me all these years, all my adult life from a wide eyed child who didn’t want to live because her daddy wouldn’t get off her, to now. The Last Time I saw Richard…..”was Detroit in ’68”. She knew where I would end up, because she ended up there too. Me and Joni cackling at the men, the useless men who prefer women who like the lights up bright, who have coffee percolators and dishwashers. She told me “all romantics meet the same fate some day, cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café.” This writing is my dark café. Me and Joni, together through life.
“I’m gonna blow this damn candle out, don’t need no one at my table anyhow…Ive got nothing to talk to anybody about….” …and the needle reaches the end of the track and returns itself to the cradle while the record spins round and round, silently.
Joni has her beautiful wings, she emerges from her cocoon and flies away, while I’m left here. Alone. In California. Blue.