Monday, September 14, 2009

Jim Carroll, Dead

Only 60 years old, Jim Carroll went out early, like some other punks I can remember. It's always noteworthy when someone can make sense of their chaotic existence on paper. And then if the writing works and the time is ready for it, success follows. He was raised Catholic during a time when a lot of church rules were still being followed, no matter how detrimental to a child's upbringing. Those of you who were raised Catholic then will know what I mean.

That and growing up in Manhattan during one of its rotten periods, no doubt helped shape the man. Tall and lean, with lovely red hair and a ghostly complexion, it was hard to ignore Jim Carroll, especially when he wrote about so many dark themes. I had to get rid of my copy of "Basketball Diaries"--too disturbing. I've never seen the movie. It looks dreadful. But I'm glad he gave a voice to that kind of teenage misery because that will always be with us, unfortunately. And he made it OK to admit that. He and all the punks gave us the freedom to express our unhappiness, anger, confusion and dark humor. It wasn't a completely hopeless time but it wasn't very hopeful either.

Anyway, here you go.

Jim Carroll encounter: After a book signing at City Lights, I happened to be leaving the shop when he was standing outside. I asked him what he was working on lately and he said he was collaborating on a project with Boz Scaggs. Because I am known for my tact, I told him I thought Boz Scaggs was out of commission (that's what the rumors were, anyway). He said, "No, no, he's doing good work." Then in the most interesting dismissal by a famous person I've ever encountered, he proceeded to ogle, not the hot young woman who was passing us by on the sidewalk, but her five-inch yellow polka-dotted high-heeled shoes. It was so entertaining watching his eyes follow those shoes down the hill, that I didn't even feel dissed, just amused. He couldn't help himself, I could tell.

Tasteless Detention 7-inch single that we constantly played on college radio in '83 (and that I sing to myself on a semi-regular basis to this day).


michelle robinson said...

Oh man, he will be missed.

mamiel said...

Just bought his album "Catholic Boy" again. Fine, fine album that. Used to have it on vinyl.

I saw him open at a show once. He looked seriously unhealthy. I never thought he would be long for this world.

All the people who died, died.