Posted by: TOC | September 15, 2009

Jim Carroll, Robert Mitchum and the 103 Year Old Lady.

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“There ain’t much time left, you’re born out of this insane abyss and you’re going to fall back into it, so while you’re alive you might as well show your bare ass.”

—  Jim Carroll

Just a few days ago I was in Northern California to attend the funeral of a woman who was just a month shy of her 103rd birthday when she died. I was lucky enough to have met her once a few years ago and had a great conversation with her. She was witty,  “sharp” and completely aware of the world around her and of her place in it. There is a different kind of grief at a funeral for a centenarian… Since there is truly no sense of “she was taken so soon,” you realize that 99% of the sadness you’re feeling is really for yourself – for your loss, for the fact that you’ll miss her and for the less-escapable-than-usual fact that you too will someday be the guest of honor at a similar gathering… This final fact was made even more clear at the end of the service. Because this was a quietly traditional sort of funeral we were present to watch the lowering of the plain pine box into the earth and we all took our turns at the shovel, helping to cover her coffin in a final act of giving.

Today I woke up to discover that Jim Carroll had died at the comparatively young age of sixty. Granted, he did his physical body few favors throughout his life and I’m sure no one was more surprised than he was to be blowing out 60 candles on his last birthday cake. According to his official website, he died at his desk, working. I first became aware of JC in 1980 when, by some miracle, his first single “People Who Died” managed to get airplay on the one (dinosaur) rock station in my tiny hometown. I ran out and bought the album only to discover that the single quickly became my least favorite song … all the other tracks just blew me out of my chair. It was only after this introduction that I became familiar with all the books/writing that preceded his musical career. For me Jim Carroll bridged the gap between Rock and Punk… I think he was equal parts both and neither. Throw in his books and poetry and you had sort of a new Jim Morrison for the new (and meaner) seeming End Times that were the early 80’s (ask anyone who was there.) I got to meet him once after a show in Western Massachusetts. He had done some readings and some singing/guitar playing at a very small venue… nothing fancy. Afterward I chatted him up like the typical fanboy that I was, and I was struck by a guy who had made his choices and lived his life on his own terms, admitting that those terms weren’t always built on the healthiest of choices… but he owned them all and marched on.

This evening, when I got home from my daily (because I’m still not working) three hour walk, I discovered that Patrick Swayze had also died. This is also sad. By all accounts he was a good guy who put up a valiant and graceful battle with cancer.  I hope he rests in peace as well… but I was also bummed that his death was now going to completely obliterate any coverage/recognition that Jim Carroll might have (finally) gotten this week… It was like Robert Mitchum all over again…

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I’m a biiig Robert Mitchum fan. Even when I was a little kid, I knew a true badass when I saw one. I simply dug the guy long before I had the vocabulary to figure out why. When he died in 1997 I thought that he would finally get the sort of media coverage and send-off that would do justice to his career and (more importantly) his life – lived on his terms.  ….but the next day Jimmy Stewart died… and once again strong, silent, slightly sinister Mitchum was overshadowed by a media-frenzy of grief  over the passing of one of the biggest legends in Hollywood history. Tough break, kid.

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…and finally, this morning I walked my beloved old ibook (G3) laptop down to the mac repair place and was given the bad news that the motherboard was fried… effectively meaning it would cost much more to repair the computer than it would ever possibly be worth (and nearly what it would cost to replace the machine altogether.) In its own small (and not so small) way this was a sad thing for me too. I bought this computer with money I had earned as a writer and, over several years of faithful service, it helped me earn quite a bit more cash. It definitely doesn’t “owe” me anything. Sure, it is a bit silly to get so attached to what is, essentially, just a “tool,” but we do get attached to such things and grow accustomed to how they look, sound, function & feel. Obviously I still have my “home” computer, so I can still work, write and update my social media, but I’ll miss the comforting heft of the thing in my backpack and the handy convenience of being able to set up shop at the library, at my girlfriend’s or at the cliche’-ridden coffeeshop. Yeah, the more I think about it, it is pretty silly to get worked up about a crashed computer, especially in light of all the other “loss” I’ve commented on in this post, but I’m ok with that… I’m also thankful that I am such a consummate nerd: I had (of course) backed up alllll of the data and work that was on my laptop… including 3 scripts in progress and a 1st draft of a book,  as well as scads of notes, outlines, projects & ideas… so I didn’t really lose any data, just hardware.

I know this is not my usual sort of planetOCONNOR post. I don’t normally use this space to prattle on and on about “what is on my mind today” and all of that… but the truth is, it was a very tough day, after a tougher-than-usual week, and I wasn’t sure what to do with, or where to put, what I was feeling… So I decided to post it all here. Luckily I know (thanks to the “statistics” that wordpress provides) that there is precious little chance that anyone is going to stumble upon this post accidentally anyway… and I’m just fine with that.

Like the quote at the head of this post says: “There ain’t much time left.” Our blessing and our curse as frail humans is that we spend most of our lives forgetting or pretending to forget one simple fact: Our time here is limited and will come to an end, whether we’re famous celebrities, regular folks or motherboards. No one and no thing lasts forever.  No exceptions.

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