Thursday, May 24, 2007

Three Mile Island

Once when I was very drunk, I slept in the back seat of my car on the way home and according to my friends, crawled into the filthy floorboard and said, I love this spot! It's so comfortable. I don't know why I never thought about sleeping here before. Mercifully, I am spared the actual memory of this as I passed out shortly after making this wise pronouncement. Generous to a fault, I thrust my bottle of Southern Comfort on my sober friends in the front seat and made myself at home. I drank it then because Janis Joplin did and in my nineteen year old glory, I thought this was the best reason to drink anything. Janis, that beautiful Three Mile Island of love and misery, a Texas girl desperate to get away from it -- hell, what was there not to love? Every note meant something, every wail was my own. While other girls were falling in love with horses and haunted men, I was trying to commune with the dead and take their secrets for my own. Of course, I had my own secrets, but what good were those doing me?

I've never been comfortable with the pristine and beautiful and would choose the battered and worn over the new almost every time. The natural world, with its perpetual cycles of death and renewal, had ceased to be interesting to me. I liked things that died and rotted and the rot became something living, something to be tended to, like a garden, a garden in hell. Dying things stay with you a long time, get into your blood, make you love them. They demand an attention that something beautiful doesn't need. When I play footage of Janis for people these days, someone always says, She looks so old. I don't think so, never have. She's in what would be the prime and end years of her life, and she looks like someone who drank a lot of Southern Comfort and did copious amounts of heroin. She looks like she should look. The time in the car was the last time I ever drank any Comfort; the drink, too sweet for my taste, sounds better than it is.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Audiences like their blues singers to be miserable." Janis Joplin

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Little Children

Benedictions and Maledictions
Good luck to my beloved Pistons tonight!


Queens University said...

Love your hair!

Charles Gramlich said...

I wonder what you think about the movie, "The Rose," which as near as I can tell is a tribute to Janis.

Jimi said...

Another beautiful post full of poetry and excellent expresions, "that beautiful three mile island of love and misery. How well the image of a person like this come to mind, singing their heart out and living out their perception of their art in their daily lives and burning up like a match down to the finger tips. Not to mention taking secrets from the dead for your own. How inapropriately inspiring is that line? Or the entire tone of teenage life that you capture; I wanted to be Jimmy Page, you wanted to be Janis. We pick our idols not just by their art, but also because they live their art, even to ghastly excess and their detriment; one is dead and the other living dead. Both were practitioners of the excess associated with their art.

And the second paragraph is another evocative and hilarious in its cynical description of rot in the garden of hell. How beautifully written. Dying things stay with you a long time, the attention they demand... wow. I am trully in awe. Star's breath.

And Janis is a beautiful flower's soul captured on celluloid and in the airwaves around us. She is among the anointed hollywood dead, even if she was a blues singer first and foremost. Some of us will kick at the pedestal they have been placed on by others--just a little jostle. They get rated against the torturous standards that women are currently held to. Provocative and evocative today.

the walking man said...

Do you remember me telling you of my friend who spent 16 years of his prime in prison?

He was drinking Southern Comfort that night he did his crime?

Try just a little bit harder, I keep telling myself and I get more beat up and battered along the way and always have to go back and capitalize my i's because i don't like sending poor grammar to a scholar who gardens in the place of the battered.

Yet I can still commune with the dead but i don't because they don't like to be woken up, it pisses them off if you have no good reason for it.

AHHHH on furlough from my prison, and i haven't done a damn thing of any worth yet. cryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy baby.


T (definately for now) WM

Paul said...

my CajunQueen

Carmela Soprano said...

I tend to pick the new over the old, Michelle, especially when it comes to a Baume and Mercier tank watch like the one Tony got me in Vegas. But then the new is not too good, in fact it sucks, when you find out it's part of a gilt for guilt trip, very "Sopranoish" to use Maureen Dowd's term that was pointed out to me by my friend Gabrielle over lunch. I threw the watch at Tony not because I found out about what he was really doing in Vegas, but because he used the F-word on me when I told him he was playing the depression card and that I'd had enough bullshit because of our son's suicide attempt. He threw the watch against a wall. He'd had my watch engraved. "You are my life--T," it said. Thanks for all your support of the Sopranos, Michelle. I don't know if I'll make it through the final two episodes. Thank God there are only two left.--Carmela

Susan Miller said...

I love this post, Michelle. Your love of the dead I can understand. What I appreciate about our difference is that you saw the beauty in what they were while I was always trying to save them.

eric said...

Conversation Piece

I was trying to commune with carver
and ask him
what he thought the secret of life
was and if he was into sharing
on a dead Wednesday night

He was into sharing
certain things he tells me
I see two glaring white eyes
and a scotch glass
with teeth marks
testament to the mileage
over the years

I was typing all this on
the quiet face of a blank page
when he ripped it from
under my fingers

"This is no good.
You have all the facts.
I wanted a story--
something that took guts to write
and a dying heart to make work
Don't write to me about everything
that's in Portland.
I don't want to know what's in Portland.
Just tell me your going there if it doesn't work out."

He crumbles the page
uncrumbles it
and makes a wick
he sets it on fire
with his white eyes

He picked up his glass
sips from the rough side
tells me that he's the one
who has all night--
I have only the time left
on a beating heart
winding down
wasting my breath
asking Raymond Carver
the secret to life

Laura said...

I love Janis. She sang with such raw emotion, you could feel her pain with each note. Sometimes, when I'm depressed about something, I'll play a Joplin CD and belt out the song along with her. For some reason, after this I feel much better.

D'Augustine said...

I drink my last shot for the road, feeling like I'm strapped to a rocket called Jagermeister. I look at the clock and see my doom rounding the bend with less that thirty minutes and counting. The door looks like the gateway to heaven's hoard of holy love and sexy illicit substances. With a gauntlet of bodies to run before reaching the light, I drink my last shot once more for the road.

The first one stares me from up
to down--retake and down again. As I walk past, one reaches out a hand that's clutching at mine for all it's worth,
I give it a squeeze and release it to find another
she'll call me; the hand's face says this to me and four others.

One asks me if I have time for one more smoke with her in her car; I don't but I should by the look in her motel eyes.

As I pass the jukebox yet another being slings an arm around me like a tentacle--
I turn only to realize I've been
victimized by a man. Then my elbow remembers that it doesn't fit a victim's profile, giving me something to laugh about and him a reason to keep his hands to himself.

At the end is the warden
my bartending angel
about to lock up her inmates
for their treatment
she asks me why I'm alone tonight;

I ask me for the thousandth time
why am I alone.

I hear other feet nearing from behind me, no voice but a presence, and one I might not shy away from but turn to a pillar of salt for looking back to see her.

Forget it, I think.

I tell the angel of three in the morning: hey, somebody has to get home and sweep the bathroom floor before the big bang wakes up with murder on its mind.

She laughs; her flaming sword drops, she hugs and kisses me goodnight on the cheek. She says I'm a sweetheart and I'd better get home before I lost all the good graces in my life.

I tell her if I don't sweep the bathroom floor tonight, my universe will be reborn right before dawn, good grace or ill.
But she said that's fine, as long as the new universe had a clean bathroom for her, then her morning would be mine to make.

In front of me, an angel offering me her pillow of clouds. Behind me, it was beginning to rain fire. The demons were loose, and I'd drank with enough of them to know that we all desire the same fleshy sweet sins, if not unspeakably more so because we will die and the demons live on to haunt another.

And none of them got it.

The universe was depending on me to sweep the bathroom floor, to keep heaven and hell in balance, to find peace for one more day
under the dark clouds of a volcano.

The door in front of me opened, revealing the shadowed night. By choice I stepped away from the distorted light. I was glad I remembered to drink one more for the long road ahead, as it eases the transition from one circle of hell to the next one lower. I was well prepared for what I had to do.

e said...

I just remebered the rum and coke poem you had. YOu know, you rmom's friend (in the poem) who drank them all day? You ended it with a similar line, I thought.

I'm the same way but worse, you know.

Dan said...

Janis was wonderful. I remember that you have spoken of her fondly in the past. And why not? :)

Incidentally, this photo is amazing!