Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Everybody In?

I’m dead. Not the cold corporeal type of death, but a warm, living death, a ghost trying to regain what he has lost. A death where everything is a faded, pale facsimile of the life I had. I went into my study and sat at the desk, it’s an old theatrical make-up table with a gilded mirror surrounded by those old fashioned bulbous lights, naked, astringent, that push light into every crevice and nook, no where to hide. Every night I sit surrounded in this room, a shrine to my "career.” The desk is stuffed with my newspaper reviews, photographs, journals, scrapbooks and notes. The mirror was cleaned up and glimmered, a relic of an age gone by, salvage from my past.

I lit a candle and popped a tape into the player on the desk, I watched the candle flicker and dance, casting shadows against the wall, hoping it would set the mood. I cleared my mind and let the music transport me back, opening the flood of memories. It was a ceremony I've been practicing, a little ritual to help induce self-hypnosis. A voice from the speakers said, "ladies and gentlemen, from Madison, Wisconsin, The Unknown Soldiers!" I closed my eyes, and I could see the audience cheering, an impressionistic flash of colorful clothes, and faces looking up at, me. I had been the singer in a Doors tribute band, The Unknown Soldiers, it seemed like if I could concentrate hard enough and remember all the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings, I'd find myself on that stage again. The music was raw but powerful, then my voice came booming out of the speakers, it was huskier than Jim Morrison’s, but I was able to tear out screams as well as his. We sounded like what The Doors had on a night Morrison wasn’t too drunk. I remember those days like the touch of a lost lover, the sensation lingers. More salvage.

I liked playing Morrison, it made me feel powerful. Getting a reaction from the audience, and being able to move them to ecstasy, despair, or joy. I imagined it to be something of how Morrison had felt. People had given me things, presents, trinkets, beads like Morrison's, poems that they thought I'd be interested in, women gave themselves to me because of it. I later realized they were only trying to get close to me, so they could touch something of Morrison, a ghost of someone not even myself. It had also gotten me to Los Angeles and my chance at fame, I can still almost feel the “whoosh” of air as fame rushed by me. I opened my eyes to the usual disappointment, I was still in the here and now. No audience, no cheering, no applause.

Jim Morrison, was the charismatic and controversial lead singer of The Doors, the 60's rock group that had such hits as Light My Fire, Touch Me, and Riders On The Storm, but also songs like The End which at first glance was a paean to lost love, but in the end had a modern telling of the Oedipus myth, like many young men Morrison worried about death, every twenty year old feels like he’ll never live to thirty while simultaneously feeling immortal. Since I was a teenager people, friends had told me I looked like Jim Morrison. I hadn't really paid that much attention to Morrison, or his music, but I took the compliments to heart, it had boosted my ego to think I looked like someone famous, and that's how my life took its form.

I looked into the mirror. I had the idea that I could look into myself to find the questions of my life, and I hoped the answers lay within the formulation of those questions. But all I could see was my craggy face being torn by the toll of time that Morrison never had to endure, kind of like Dorian Gray without the luxury of a portrait.

My friends and I had missed the 60’s, on a geologic scale it was only a stones throw away, on a cultural scale it was ancient history, it was like looking back to the age of heros, and beholding past glories through the ambered memories of our older brothers and sisters. So we tried to recreate that time, our own Summer of Love, going out to the park and smoking dope, at the feet of our very own Dion, listening to him play James Taylor songs on an acoustic guitar.

I wanted to be a rock star, everybody wants to be a rock star! Including you! You become something more, something special, it’s like alchemy from lead to gold, the mortal to the immortal. Being a rock star is power, power over authority, power over women, power over the truths of reality, by definition, a hero!

And why not The Doors? The Doors had both mainstream success and a cult following since their inception. Rock 'n' Roll is a lifestyle, high volume, dress, attitude, rebellion against authority, and nobody embraced that better than Jim Morrison, he’s the model of a rock star to rock stars. And The Doors were a truly revolutionary group. The music was primal, and Morrison’s lyrics and his confrontation of his audience was a message of revolution, not storm the palace walls, but a subtle revolution, an exhortation to change from within, the revolution within yourself, and that’s what scared people, because real change is always from within.

But I wasn't a rock star, maybe a simulacrum of one, a modern Prometheus, ever changing, facile. I'd had a taste of what being a rock star was like. Probably a shadow of what it really was like, but I'd been closer than most. I saw the top of the mountain through the mists. Performing had been the best high I'd ever experienced. Better than any drug I'd ever tried. I'd had a taste of what most people can only fantasize of, only dream of, and will never experience, nor can they imagine what it feels like even as they sing along, play air guitar, or beat out a rhythm.

I looked at the blank page staring back at me from the desk. I've been trying to write my autobiography on and off for years since the band broke up. I have to write it while I can still hear the chorus of voices of those I met, those I befriended, those I loved, those I cheated. The band had been my idea I was the lead singer. I'd gone through a lot of things with the band most people wouldn't understand. As the lead singer, I was the focal point of the band. I'd experienced a lot of things even they couldn't understand, but they had never understood me, or what I was trying to do. But if I can get this one thing right, if I can put this together and make you understand, then maybe others will understand. The one thing Morrison taught me was to have some irreverence for art, to break through to the subconscious, maybe I should sit write ‘fuck‘ a hundred times.

My 'fame', my 'celebrity' were now things of memory. Things were different now that I was a chef, albeit in a "fancy" restaurant. Now I had to "take orders" from people, and conform to other expectations, such as wearing a uniform. I learned the trade by going to one of those six month schools you see advertised on TV at three in the morning, financing and student loans available, it was either this or gunsmithing. I spent a couple of years working as a prep cook doing most of the actual preparation while the chef heated up the food, put it on a plate, added a colorful garnish, and took all of the credit.

I haven't been to work on time in weeks. I try, but something always seems to get in the way. Tonight was typical, I was running late and as soon as I walked in the manager, Sergei, was on me. He caught me in the prep area I was trying to make it look like I'd been there a while. He came up to me, close, I could almost taste the decades of garlicky food on his breath.
"Hey rock star!" He yelled, his thickly accented voice reverberating harshly off the stainless steel, pots clanking on their hooks as he rushed passed. I had told all my coworkers of my past "celebrity", regaling them with my tales, on and off stage, so they'd know who they were working with, that I wasn't just some cook. "You're late again, Michael."
"I know, I'm sorry, it was...." A smile crossed my lips as I tried to find the right lie. I was beyond any pretense of caring if I could think of one or not. I was beyond caring whether or not I kept the job. My wife would be the only one to care, but only momentarily because she would understand, and support whatever decision I made. From the moment I met her she believed in me.
"I don't want an excuse, I've heard them all from you," Sergei said, looking me up and down with disgust, "and look at your shirt, it's starting to look dingy." Every night sweat stained the shirt a little more, and a little more dirt clung to it. It became just a little dingier, just like the work, "do me a favor, Desmond," he said moving even closer to me and pulling at the shirt, "wash it."

Then there were the customers and invariably the complainers, 'the soup was too hot', 'too cold', 'how is the fish prepared?', 'the steak is too well done' 'too rare', 'not done enough', and inevitably the less satisfied they were, the 'ruder' I became. Sergei couldn't fire me because I was too good a chef, and had a small local following asking for me whenever they came in. Finishing this book is the only way I can get back what's been taken away.

(The Last Stage is available on Kindle, Nook Books, or if you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website(only $20!) at Jymsbooks via Paypal, please don't forget your mailing address!)

Chapter 2: Rock 'n' Roll Dreams

Introduction: The Last Stage

Writers want to be read. Readers want to read good books and discover new writers. It’s a leap of faith to ask readers to invest in an unknown writer and ask readers to buy a book, sight unseen. Reviews and word of mouth help to alleviate these concerns but they aren’t infallible. To get readers acquainted with my work, especially The Last Stage, I’ve serialized it here on this site.

The Last Stage is the story of Michael Desmond, a professional student who feels a sense of destiny in his life, but doesn’t know how to act on it. Throughout his life Michael’s friends have commented upon his resemblance to Doors lead singer Jim Morrison. Michael decides his road to fame is by starting a Doors tribute band. The Last Stage follows Michael and the band as they travel their roads to success and Michael’s Last Stage.

I write The Doors Examiner I've also written the foreword to The Doors FAQ, and articles for Rants, Raves and Rock 'n' Roll Magazine.

The Last Stage is available on Kindle Nook Books . If you would like a signed copy of The Last Stage they're available from my website (only $20!)at Jymsbooks via Paypal, please don't forget your mailing address!

I hope you enjoy The Last Stage!

Chapter I: Is Everybody In?