Record Reviews and Fan Mail
It's been a weird few days re: artistic validation. On Friday this guy (Barry) contacted me about an old band of mine, The Creeping Charlies, reforming and playing a (paid [gasp])...gig. It's probably not going to happen, I realize. Not unlike when Joe Corbin offered to "buy" my first "song" back in 1985, once he cleared it with his "manager," these sort of things fall somewhere between wishful thinking and self aggrandizing prophecy. But the cool part of the story is that Barry still thinks enough of a band I was in (back in 19aught7) to write me and even ask the goddamn question (the show would be for his tech company's annual retreat, if I'm not mistaken; and, yes, Barry, if you're reading this, we're all in [just keep in mind Dan, our leader, has a wedding he has to go to on the 20th, FYI...]).
But there's lots of other stuff, too. Besides the Big Game Hunting of trying to get Junkie Love published (or The Boys of Belvedere as we're now calling it to separate ourselves from its dark, drug-addled past), or a TV show on the air, it's the little things that keep us going (in the third world plural). Because those big things also seem to fall between those aforementioned far-fetched points.
If you read this blog enough, you know that validation is one of its predominate themes. I don't mind getting naked in front of you. I think the only truly special asset I bring to the table is unapologetic candor. Or, as a rehab buddy of mine used to say when we'd make anagrams of our names, I need a lot.
(This guy, Russel, and I would wait for group for the really special cases to end, and then we'd sneak in after everyone was gone, and on the blackboard there were all these names from the class, big, blocked letters, and after each letter would be these really nice things written after them, because we lived in a long-term treatment facility, and most of these people were really wrecked, feeling pretty shitty about themselves after years of living on the street, being sick, having no education, criminal records, etc., so the counselors were trying to install them with confidence, so, like, the name "Chris" might have after it C -- caring, H -- helpful, and, well, you get the point, but what Russel and I would do is we'd write our names on the board and do the opposite, so, like, I'd write his name, R -- retarded, U -- useless,
S -- stupid, and this would make us laugh till we couldn't breathe because, yeah, it was our stupid sense of humor, but moreover, when you've sunk that low, to the point where you literally need Stuart Smalley, you have to keep laughing at yourself, like you've been in on the joke all along, otherwise you're jumping out that seventh floor window. Anyway, for me (because we used "Joseph" for the extra letters), Russel wrote "super needy." I remember literally holding my stomach because he had me cracking up so hard. Fucking still makes me laugh.)
And it's been coming in droves of late, these little things, which are really big things if you think about it, stories getting taken, etc., since they mean so much to me. Like, for instance, this recent review of the Wandering Jews' EP Down on the Farm. http://shitforfuckheads.blogspot.com/2011/07/wandering-jews-down-on-farm.html. As the review states, I went to high school with one of the guys, like a hundred years ago, but not the other guy. Chris and I reconnected like everyone does these days, via Facebook, but he didn't have to review my album, nor did he and his partner have to say nice things about it if they hated it. They'd simply find a reason not to review the damn thing. But they did review it, and they got all the influences right, and what the band was trying to do, and even nailed all the miscues, and that shit means a lot. I'm not getting a record contract at this age. That's not the point. What is, I've recorded some god-awful music over the years. This was the last cogent moment (http://tinyurl.com/3tg2umo). Uppers fuck with your pitch something fierce, and when I lost it at the end, I really lost it. I kept playing. Because I have the constitution of a wronged bull on steroids. But it was bad. It took me years to pick up a guitar again, and even longer to sing in front of people again. And it's still hard to do. But I love rock 'n' roll, and I have to keep playing because that's what I do. And I am damn proud of this new record (which I am hoping will soon be available in iTunes. At which point, I will shamelessly promote, promote, promote...), and I am thankful that shit for fuckheads (http://shitforfuckheads.blogspot.com/) saw something worthwhile in it too.
The other thing that happened was a phone call I received Sunday afternoon. By now, anyone who talks to me should know that that conversation is fodder for this blog, and all my work really (unless I am explicitly told not to use said person/conversation, a wish I will respect). I got a call from this girl, Carrie, although when I knew her, she was Bubbles (Bubbles appears, briefly, in Junkie Love, in the chapter "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" http://www.undergroundvoices.com/UVCliffordJoe.htm). (And since I just linked a piece in the awesome Underground Voices, let's do it again, this time with this uplifting, cheery nugget they just put out about my failed suicide bid: http://www.undergroundvoices.com/UVCliffordJoe3.htm.)
After I'd gotten sober I reconnected with Carrie/Bubbles at City College, where we were both taking classes to get our Drug & Alcohol Certification. She didn't recognize me at first. I used be smaller. A lot smaller. But then we start talking because we both knew Gluehead and all those crazy bastards, and when you go to get your DAC certification, you inevitably run into people you used to run with, and it's amazing how everybody just sort of...grows...up. Or they die.
So Bubbles calls me yesterday, Sunday, to tell me she with a woman who wants to talk to me. This woman, Stephanie, apparently has read my memoir (because a long time ago, when I first wrote the damn thing, I sent a copy off to Pete French, who made copies and began passing the damn thing around, and this actually happens a lot), and she now reads this blog (Hi, Stephanie), and says I'm the "new Bukowski," which is always nice to hear, and OK, on the surface, there is the obvious answer as to why I'd write about this. I am a vain, egotistical man, who, like most men of that ilk, is fraught with glaring, crippling insecurities and in constant dire need for reaffirmation. Not denying that. But there is also a subtext to this as well. Because I don't have that book deal (yet), and I don't have any fellowships to buoy my adrift artistic spirits. I am lost in a sea with every other fucking wannabe writer, because who's to say I won't one day be forced to self-publish my opus where it will be stored on Lulu's non-existent shelves right next to Aunt Edna's poetry collection about homemade jams?
But I get these calls a lot--I mean, enough that I'd care to remark on it--the random e-mails and phone calls from strangers who tell me they've read that book, Junkie Love, and that it's made a difference in their lives, however you define that. It's been happening regularly since I returned the Bay Area. And these are sincere reactions from people who actively seek me out. We're not talking thousands, or even hundreds. But there have been six, ten people, who didn't know me, read something I wrote, and it moved them enough to try to find me and tell me this. I won't deny the ego boost. (Of course, it's an ego boost.) But writing, like all art, needs to be an ongoing dialogue. The best of it at least. Creation doesn't occur in a vacuum but with an audience. And phone calls like the one I got on Sunday means that, even if my agent hasn't found our book a home (yet), I am doing something right. And that is enough to get going. At least on this Monday morning.
And in conclusion, a complete non-sequitor. For Jimmy. Because I love Jimmy, and I need him to stay alive so I can steal this thoughts. (And it's true. I have the monkeys. And I will let them loose. Someday.)