Today's guest writer is George Murphy. Sticking with our submission guidelines (stories can't be too long, and they have to be about me), Candy and Cigarettes is proud to present
Oil and water, night and day, Joe Clifford and I. Much in the same way that matter and anti-matter cannot exist in the same spot without fear of a cataclysmic explosion, Joe was, in essence, the anti-me.
I first met Joe in the spring of 1993, when one of my best friends (the legendary Rich Rice, aka Rock, aka Rico) and I decided to move, following graduation, to the much more happening Bay Area from the far less happening Berlin, CT, and its surrounding area. We made this rash decision, even though Berlin did have its own Dairy Queen, mainly because Rich felt that San Francisco was where he really needed to be to "make it" as a musician.
Rich and Joe were childhood friends you see, having bonded along their journey through adolescence together. It is important to note at this juncture in the story that Rich is, much like myself, a straight arrow, having never been much of a drinker or partier, and he could often be found helping old ladies cross the street. What I knew of Joe at this point was that he was an extrapolation of Rich, and that having already resided in SF, he was nice enough to pre-select an apartment for us to live in together as roommates.
On the night we left, Rich showed up to my house in his red and white "Super Blaze" Chevy Blazer, at which point he explained to me that, due to the fact that his drum kit took up almost all of the space inside the vehicle, we would be traveling light. I believe I ended up with a 2-foot by 2-foot space in which I had to cram all of my worldly belongings.
Taking the southern route, Rich and I traveled across the country quickly, often driving continuously in shifts, stopping only to replenish our fuel supply or to pee. Upon our arrival in San Francisco, I had my first encounter with Joe. As Rich and I made the cross-country trip, in what must have been a new land speed record, Joe was unprepared for our arrival...to say the least. The benign, introspective Rich Rice mimetic was nowhere to be found that night, and in his place was a very rude individual, who was more drunk AND high than anyone I have ever encountered (Note: I had just moved to San Francisco, and it took mere weeks to see this level of intoxication surpassed by other denizens of the city). Rich perhaps summed it up best when he noted, "Um, Joe seems to have changed a bit from high school."
Joe and I were almost immediately at odds. I despised the Gen X label that glorified slackers, and Joe epitomized it. Hate is a strong word, but I definitely had problems with the way in which this individual led his life. I disliked his "hipster" mentality, which he wore around like a badge of courage, and tried to point out to him that twenty-something adolescent angst and carrying around his novel in your back pocket does not make you Jack Kerouac. I loathed the music he listened to and the way in which he would try and draw parallels to his life as an absurd way of justifying his miserable existence. I scorned his drug usage and the way in which he tried to convince me that everything one put into his body was a drug. He saw taking drugs as a journey that broadened the mind, and I simply saw them as escapism for someone who was incapable of dealing with real life. However much I loathed these things, I could begrudgingly accept them. The one thing that I could not tolerate, however, was that this guy was perhaps one of the most talented individuals I had ever come across in my life, and he seemed intent on pissing it all away. In this life, in my opinion, there is nothing worse than non-realized potential and wasted talent.
Here was a guy who in a single night could conjure up an unforgettable melody along with words to a song that would touch all who heard it. An asshole who could somehow write some of the most insightful poetry you would ever read. And often in all-night, meth-fueled, manic transcendental states, could paint some of the most wondrous art I have ever seen, worthy of his own showing, public reading, or concert. I would often wake up in the morning to find some new, unbelievable work that he had created during the wee hours of the morning, sitting in my living room, along with turpentine that the geeked-out, thoughtless bastard would pour onto my oatmeal bowl in the kitchen sink.
Fast forward roughly 20 years....
Joe has seemingly accomplished the rarest of rare.
He came back.
He turned it all around, made good. After I left San Francisco and many of my friends behind to go to grad school, I had heard several sad stories about Joe. He became consumed by the dark elements of his life, and the choices he made sunk him to depths that frankly I didn't even want to think about. I can only imagine how horrific his life must have been. But then, things changed. Joe changed. Suddenly, I was hearing nothing but good things about Joe. Suddenly, this multi-talented guy was using his gifts for good, and was making a real go at it. Suddenly he had harnessed his creative talents and was inspiring those around him. Suddenly, he was married, had a kid, and had finally grown up (not necessarily in that order). People constantly make excuses for the way in which they live their lives. Joe never did. And that I truly respect.
*Editor's note/admission: Yeah, I was kind of a dick back then. Sorry 'bout that.
Do you have a story about Joe? Is it kinda short? Does it not suck? Then we'd love to see your work! Please send all short, non-sucking, Joe-related stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labels: drugs, Gen X, George Murphy, Jack Kerouac, Joe Clifford, Rich Rich