Tonight is one of those nights in which so many things seem to all come together from the far corners of the night sky. I fasted for a day and have deduced that it does indeed lead to an altered state of consciousness. And I think it may be needed in today’s world. The truth was, my friend, that I wanted to be like Jim Morrison. Tall and slender. I look at the man and he embodies an uncanny sense of freedom that I haven’t seen in anyone of these times. The Lizard King they called him, adorned in his leather pants and bead neckless with no shirt. His lion-like face draped in long and flowing brown hair.
I sound like some kind of gay man admiring the sonofabitch, but goddamn I say, what a man! What a spirit he was! Was there something to that state of excess to which he seemed to adhere so strongly, that ideal that ultimately took his life?
You see then, my friend, my first dilemma. I mean to deprive myself of the excesses in order to become a true artist, hoping that the absence of these things will lead to the heightened awareness that is key to the artist’s frame of mind. But not all artists followed such a notion, evidently. Certainly Morrison didn’t. “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” What did he mean by excess? Or what did William Blake mean, for that is his quote after all?
I just finished reading Rimbaud this afternoon, and he’s another one of the pilgrims. How did he view excess? He spent his youth frequently running away from home and school, opting to sleep on the streets if he must and to eat out of trash bins. True he’d be a fool to abandon food and sleep in life, he thought, but not if those things meant compromising his art. Perhaps in his case, they did, for having those things must have meant also having to stay home in confinement, unable to spread the wings that would lead to him to A Season in Hell.
Rimbaud was so young. So tragic. But he was a man who loved another. I don’t want to end like him, but I honor him. The boy child of poetry. Hell’s Angel. He lived his whole life without the comforts. How much of that time was by his own choosing is another, tragic matter. But I love the man.
Such comforts, foods and pillows, were nice, and none of these people denounced them outright; But the comforts were nonetheless petty in pursuit of the real feast, in light of the real hunger that was far more metaphysical and spiritual.
This was exemplified by the Beats, who made their home on the streets and highways of America. Kerouac and Ginsburg found the ideal in the jazz clubs and highways and brothels and sunrises and sunsets all across the country. They saw it in the holy nights in Mexico City and gyrations of 52nd Street in New York, where an otherworldly essence reached into their hearts and shook them without mercy, and oh how wonderful it was! I know without even being there. I know. I know it from reading them. I know because they were that good. They spoke these truths with a ferocity and passion equal to that eloquence of their hero, the jazz legend Charlie Parker.
Jazz. The music of our country. It is the voice of America. It tells our story when words no longer can. Listen to Charlie Parker, my friend, and you will understand. Listen to Coltrane and A Love Supreme. Is it spiritual? Is it a prayer? Is it love? Is it evil? Is it holy? Is it sex? Is it water? Fire? Is it all? An experience? Like Hendrix? Yes. But more. It’s deeper. Its more primordial and timeless. It is eternal. A human. A man. One who might stand from the dawn of time or into the distant future. Who might fall to his knees, dig his fingers into the middle of his chest and open it to reveal his heart, which would release itself in that magnificent beam of light that ultimately sails into the far reaches of space.
These things don’t come from kicking back and just admiring the men. You must be willing to ride with them. You must be willing to see not just the work, but what brought about the work. You must go with them, and find your own hallowed ground in the process. Otherwise you are just a critic. So go with them, my friend. You might see me out there. You might see Tom Waits out there too, howling at the moon.
Does the road of excess lead to the palace of wisdom? Yes. But I think Jim knew that it was an excess that went beyond the drinking. An excess that was found beyond his window, the window that we all begin with. There is an excess in the hills. There is an excess in these streets of LA. And I must make it my purpose to find these myself. For my sake and for the sake of what may turn out to be my own, some kind of art.
I’ll see you there.