I had a wonderful time last night celebrating the birthdays of two awesome young people who I cannot say enough good things about. During the course of the celebration I was struck by two moments in the flow of the evening's events. Someone asked me how I was doing with my wife, Anna's, Lyme Disease very directly. I answered very truthfully, it's a real struggle keeping it all together. And then later, an old friend said she had read my previous piece about the song "Get Thee Gone" and felt she got a good sense about what Lyme was all about. This is an artist I admire greatly and have sweated it out in the trenches next to her and her family at hot, dry late summer art festivals many times, so feedback like that was well-received by me and really meant something. Words do matter and I am thrilled about that, because right now not much seems to matter to me at these lowest of times.
I started thinking about what it is to be an independent artist and the song "Whores" by Jane's Addiction came to mind when I started thinking of all the backbreaking labor that goes into hawking wares at an outdoor event to uncertain receipts and how so many amazing artists I respect make their livings flinging creations out into the world like this - including my wife. Much respect, I think none of you are whores f'real but I am pretty sure all of you have felt it for a moment or two negotiating with the drunks or the extremely indecisive. It's like, "What is it going to take here, buddy?" I am pretty sure this song isn't talking about real life whores, either. Being an artist can mean forgoing a lot of important, "normal" things in life and really, as I said, flinging your works out there to the world. That takes guts and it isn't always wine and roses doing it.
'Not just some art statement to drown a few passionate men.'
Whereas my last post about "Get Thee Gone" may have painted my wife as a bedridden shut-in, nothing could be further from the truth. She is one of those amazing, aforementioned artist flinging it out to the world and putting in the work to back up her creations. She is a bundle of energy who has nagging pain and other maladies almost daily but still works creating amazing pieces that she sells online...and up until this year...at various events around Northern California. It was poor health that kept her away from those events this year and that is the real nature of the disease right there. It hides and seeks until it fucks with your mind (was that good, Stephen, did I swear enough?). But still she remains incredibly upbeat and positive and that also takes guts.
"I'm gonna kick tomorrow..."
What does any of this have to do with Jane's Addiction and why are the song lyrics for this piece to "Richard" by the Geraldine Fibbers? The two are actually very much related, wrapped in the lore of the secret L.A. music annals. Both bands are tied together by the song "Jane Says". There was a real Jane, her name is Jane Bainter, she was a junkie, prostitute, and general mid Eighties L.A. underground rock groupie. On that first live album, Jane's Addiction nails this song and it adds so much to the pantheon of L.A. underground culture despite the "meh" nature of the band, overall. Ms. Bainter happened to live with my old friend Jack Gould of Trash Can School as well as one Carla Bozulich, who would soon launch Ethyl Meatplow before painting her masterpiece - the Geraldine Fibbers. Carla wasn't in much better shape than Jane back then but didn't need to run away to Spain to get her life together, she channeled it all into her music. You can tell by the packaging of the now 20 year old seminal release, Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home, that there are going to be scary little-lost-girl-in-all-of-us moments being exorcised all over this beast of an album. I'm mean a freaking school library checkout card as part of the artwork, you know where this all headed and it ain't, "...is my wig on straight?" In comparison, Jane's Addiction was never going to be my band, they represented the fringes of the source of danger in the L.A. rock world and had about as much edge as the Germs' big, blue circle logo and that might as well be the Foo Fighters, as far as I am concerned - music for weenies who claim to like rock & roll but have never actually met it. The 'Fibbers, on the other hand, were everything bad ass about this world: Dez era 'Flag, Pat Smear playing guitar at a house party dressed in nothing but a kids' pair of footed pajamas his woman egging him on, or the Alvins' showing the neighbors (us) a thing or two about partying to excess - a department we were no slouches in, btw. Carla, in fact, once sold stories of her life on the street as a young child to an up and coming Matt Groening for food money. Here's a women who has seen tough times and danced with a lot of demons but is still, to this day, flinging her art out to the world and putting in the work to back it up. It shows best in th the song "Richard", which is about dancing with Mr. D, the devil, and mental illness.
'I've been wondering what's been troubling my head'
The devil smiled and put on her party dress. Out on the curb, her curls were a mess. Chaos went tumblin' through her nimble hands. Never skipped a beat as she netted another man.
I often relate to the heroines of song, mostly because the most vivid prose available is usually set to a tune about a woman. I think, in a way, this is to speak to our collective fragility and mortality - regardless of our sex. I have a checkered, rock & roll kinda past, just like Bozuluch. I thought instead of directly relating my past in some awkward, TMI kinda way to y'all, I felt these lyrics would do a better job of it. They hit straight in the part of my troubled mind that has crossed paths with a lot of predatory women in life and often wondered, as fellow travellers, if they were as empty inside as I often felt. I am certain they must be, at least from time to time. This has had an obvious negative effect on my life starting at a very early age.
In forty-five minutes his head was on a plate. Served as the main course at a banquet for the state. Should've stayed home. Should've worked late. Should've sent those letters in the dusty milk crate.
But it's too late, ha ha. It doesn't matter anyway. Cuz when the light goes out heads are gonna roll.
Coming from as dark a place as this, empathy and love are going to be alien to this level of despair. Hurt and pain are the natural states of someone this on guard against humanity. Couple that with already coming from a dark place and mental stability is going to be elusive from time to time. When you are a young punk rocker, that's a badge of honor, as a married, middle aged idiot it's a liability.
In an hour and a half the devil was down by the sea, working strange mischief on her bride to be. It seems the pretty girl was laughing as her world was filled with doubt. She laughed as her own head was chopped off and the fish came spilling out. Watching the fish swim into the sea through a river of red, she said, 'I've been wondering what's been troubling my head and I thank you for expelling those irritating pests. Now if you'd slap me back together I'll be at my very best and we can go you devil, we can go.'
Honestly, I cannot think of a better way to describe the bad days going on in my head when dealing with the Lyme rollercoaster than as fish. I so wish those irritating pests swimming around in there could be released simply by chopping my head off and then gluing me back together again. I am certain tougher, more together people can hold it all together better than someone like me in these kinds of tense situations. But I have spent a lifetime allowing chaos to tumble through my grip... well, let's just say, it truly does take a worried man to sing a worried song.
Should've set the clocks back. Should've taken her time. Should've set her hair on fire with vodka and lime. But it's too late ha ha... It doesn't matter anyway. Cuz when the light goes out heads are gonna roll.
I find that most people limit themselves to one or two vices - a lot of sex, chocolate, or gambling - standard, boring ass BS. A bunch of fucking boozers, too. Gag! Me? I've subscribed to the holy trinity of sinnin': the unrepentant life of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. There's a reason this life is called the "Born To Lose" ethos, choose it and you know the ultimate outcome. Most people don't have that kind of certainty in life. Just ask Johnny Thunders, oh wait, you can't because he's fucking dead. Being married to someone like this ain't easy, add sickness to the equation and lookout it's danger Will Robinson. It's too late...
Now the story takes a happier turn. Cuz the devil loved the girl and the feeling was returned. They cut through the trees knocking the tops off as they flew. To a pretty place for kissing, a place with a view.
They watched a man lay down his hand in a game of chance. The lust for luck and security is a hopeless romance.
Thank god there is a happy ending to this story...and there is, I swear. It's the acceptance of one's checkered past and limitations of self carrying on well into the future. To be okay with that and to give up all hopes of expectations of a normal life, that is the real struggle I face everyday in my head, and that's not even including the Lyme Disease factor in the equation. Will I make it through all of this ok? Hard to tell...
The devil grinned and whispered, 'Comfort is a myth... The clock is ticking ticking, goin' tick tick tick tick.'
The time is now, don't ever forget that. I cannot stress this enough. Waiting for the perfect moment for anything is like waiting to crawl into the grave to take a little dirt nap. The keys to your own sanity are here right now and right now, seize the opportunity to make life better, if you can. The alternative ain't pretty.
Should've took the train. Should've wore black. Should've rode his high horse over a red apple jack. But it's too late, haha... It doesn't matter anyway. Cuz when the light goes out heads are gonna roll.
Quoting Freddie Mercury here, because the ghost of Queen looms large over the L.A. scene and is there anything more rock & roll than Bohemian fucking Rhapsody?
Nothing really matters. Anyone can see. Nothing really matters. Nothing really matters to me.
There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think of myself as being like Fairuza Balk's character in the film Almost Famous, a slave to the grind who has literally traded the life of flinging it out into the world like a real artist for one that is purely born to lose like Jane Bainter - one that is deeply sad. The doubt swirling in my head threatens to subsume me just like this and the future is always uncertain. but as long as there is a hellhound on my trail I will continue to run toward the light in the hopes I may find it again, someday.