Waiting For John / An Ode To The Century Past / Imagine by Boris Glikman

The Dakota NYCWell, I finally made it to the city that never sleeps.  Of course the very first place I go to is The Dakota. I spent so many years reading about it, picturing it in my mind, dreaming about visiting it and now I am actually standing right outside its famous wrought-iron gates!

It is October the 9th, 2009. I have specifically timed my very first visit to New York City to coincide with his birthday. Surely he must come out and acknowledge his fans on a day like this, accept their greetings, perhaps even blow out the candles on the cakes some of his admirers will undoubtedly bring along.

Within five minutes of arriving at The Dakota—and what a thrill it is to see it for the very first time—Yoko walks right past me. Strangely, she carries no presents in her hands and looks rather melancholy on this joyous occasion. No, not just melancholy, more than that, she looks completely disconsolate and deflated, shrunken almost, as if some vital part of her has been amputated. But surely, once she walks into their apartment on the 9th floor, his famous wit will cheer her up and his cheeky smile will make her smile, too.

Meantime, I will stand here and wait for him to come out. I have flown across oceans to see him and see him I definitely will, despite those ugly rumours I overheard some time ago about something horrifying that apparently befell him a while back. What nonsense! Crazy things like that just don’t take place in our world. Surely fate would take extra-special care of such a man to ensure nothing bad happened to the creator of such sublime and immortal beauty. Why, I am certain he is half-lying, half-sitting on his bed right now, as I’ve seen him do in photos, picking notes on his guitar and creating more sonic jewels of ineffable wonder.

And so I will stand here and wait for him to come out, till nightfall if necessary, for I have to prove to myself that he is in fact a real person and not just an idealised construct created by mankind to satisfy its insatiable need for heroes. For it is almost impossible to believe so many timeless masterpieces could inexhaustibly flow out of one man. What if he is just an archetypal symbol of our hopes, our dreams, our aspirations for a utopian existence and so all my waiting is in vain? But no, that can’t be!

And so I will stand here and wait for him to come out, till nightfall if necessary, to wish him a happy birthday and to press into his hands some of my own poems and stories, so that he can see for himself that we both share the same ideals and beliefs.

And I will grab the opportunity to tell him how much his music has meant to me over the years, how his music gave me the inspiration and the courage to reach for peaks in my own creative endeavours, how music for me is the loftiest form of art and the most sublime means of expression. Alas, not being gifted with having celestial sounds divine arising and frolicking in my mind, I instead am constrained to convey my inner being through lame, unwieldy, coarse lumps of words.

I will let him know how I have tried to continue his mission of spreading hope and light around the world through my own writings, my own actions, my own conduct and interactions with people, for even one small candle can destroy the infinite darkness of the entire night.

Until then, I will wait, for I know if I wait long enough, he will come. He just has to come, for New York City is the place where everything is achievable, the place where impossible, ineffable dreams come true. And so if I just close my eyes and wish hard enough, surely he must appear!

“Waiting for John” comes from a series of pieces written by Boris Glikman titled “Impressions of America” after he visited the USA. This series takes a surreal and unusual look at America. Read more about Boris’ adventures here.

AN ODE TO THE CENTURY PAST

That was the age of despair, disrepair
of the damned and the condemned
but this is now, the New Utopia.

That was the time when we killed off our muses,
throwing their remains to the ravenous dogs;
our innocence disembowelled,
our hopes quartered
with five hollow-point bullets
on that cold December night. 

When six million replaced six-six-six
as the accursed number of all eternity and
six million nameless faces,
six million faceless names
were extinguished for that greatest crime of all –
Existence.

But this is now, the Neo-Utopia.

That was the age of despair, disrepair
when raven-black sun
threw rays of shadow upon the Earth
and giant bullfrogs ate pygmy antelope
bones, hooves and all.

But still we fought on, hoping for meaning to appear.
Yet when it arrived, it was only in our dreams,
dissipating the moment we awoke
and grabbed at its gossamer threads
with our crude, clumsy hands.

And this is now, the Last Utopia.

Imagine by Michael Cheval

“Imagine” by Michael Cheval


Imagine

When the city that never sleeps finally retires to bed, exhausted by its own exuberance and hyperactivity, then and only then does John appear at the memorial dedicated to him in Central Park.

Betrayed and forsaken by God, Fate and Mankind on that cold December night, John now performs for no one but himself, singing softly the sonic jewels of wonder he has composed posthumously, and still believing, despite everything that had happened, love is all you need.

He wears a hat made out of a mincer which is filled not with dead meat but with living strawberries, his favourite fruit, and his piano is a zebra-girl hybrid who died young, at the very same instant John passed into eternity.

If all this seems to be quite bizarre and beyond belief, one must remember this is New York City after all, a place where impossible and ineffable dreams do come true, if only one imagines them hard enough.

@Boris Glikman

Life by Keith Richards

Book Review
Title: Life
Author:  Keith Richards (with James Fox)
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Released: 2010
Pages: 576
ISBN-10: 031603438X
ISBN-13: 978-0316034388
Stars:  4.0

On the inside jacket cover of Keith Richard’s autobiography, Life, it reads in Keith’s handwriting: “This is the Life.  Believe it or not I haven’t forgotten any of it.  Thanks and praises, Keith Richards”.

Well, it seems pretty amazing to me that Keith could remember everything that has happened to him in his extraordinary life, considering I’m 21 years younger and can’t remember everything about my own less than extraordinary life and haven’t consumed a fraction of the drugs that he has!  However, I will say that with his co-writer James Fox’s help, Richards has written a very compelling road trip of a tale of what life has been like for him from the time he was a boy in Dartford, England (he was especially close to his mum, Doris & Aunt Patty and we are privy to some of his letters to her), to his grandfather Gus teaching him his first guitar lick, to the day he met his destiny – and perhaps arch nemesis – in the form of the young Mick Jagger, to the day they formed The Rolling Stones; and later, to the lows of heroin addiction as well as Keith’s joy in being a part of the X-pensive Winos and the Wingless Angels.

The hefty, award-winning (Norman Mailer Prize) tome opens with a recount of Keith’s bust in Arkansas during the 1975 Stones tour with much humour and fond recollection for both foolish choices and dangerous behaviour.  He reviews other busts as well, including one at his English home in Redlands, at Nellcộte in France, and the infamous 1977 Toronto arrest, and doesn’t shy away from talking about his drug consumption, what happened at Altamont in 1969, Stones mythology, or his own, at times, less than flattering behaviour.  If it wasn’t for their powerhouse criminal lawyer, Bill Carter, Richards would have spent a lot more of his rocker days behind bars.  Keith recalls, “The choice always was a tricky one for the authorities who arrested us.  Do you want to lock them up, or have your photograph taken with them and give them a motorcade to see them on their way?”  All laws do not apply to celebrities or really wealthy people and never have.

A lot of what has been written about Keith Richards has been fabricated or twisted by his own careless exclamations and the truth is that he has never had a blood transfusion; he just has a phenomenal constitution.

I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me.  I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl.  Is it half and half?  I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain.  People think I’m still a goddamn junkie.  It’s thirty years since I gave up the dope!  Image is like a long shadow.  Even when the sun goes down, you can see it.  I think some of it is that there is so much pressure to be that person that you become it, maybe, to a certain point that you can bear.  It’s impossible not to end up being a parody of what you thought you were.

What shines through in Keith’s Life is his absolute, undying passion for music, the legendary musicians who have influenced him throughout his career (Louis Armstrong, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters), his on-again, off-again love affair with The Stones, and his unquestionable love for his family: wife Patti Hansen, son Marlon, daughter Angela (whose mother is Anita Pallenberg) and daughters Alexandra & Theodora with Patti.  He talks a lot about the technical aspects of being a musician and as a non-musician, that wasn’t quite as interesting for me, but I loved reading about his friendships and escapades with other celebs and infamous music figures.

There are some wonderful glossy black & white and colour photos from Richards’ archives in two sections of the book as well as black & white memories at the beginning of each chapter with a synopsis of the main events covered in the chapter which makes the book easy to skim through to find what you’re looking for.

I found Keith’s relationships with Gram Parsons and John Lennon (“He was so open.  In anybody else, this could be embarrassing.  But John had this honesty to his eyes that made you go for him.  Had an intensity too.  He was a one-off.  Like me.”) very interesting and poignant, and reliving his relationship with Anita Pallenberg was somewhat akin to a raucous amusement park ride.  Brian Jones seemed to be a walking disaster from the start, but we don’t get to know much about Mick Taylor (except that he was quite moody), Ron Wood or Bill Wyman as Keith is closest to Charlie Watts.  We get a peripheral view of what was going on in the other band member’s lives from time to time, but this is, after all, Keith’s story and if you’re looking for the truth about the Glimmer Twins, you’ll get his side of the story here.  I also noticed that he is a total gentleman when it comes to describing the women in his life and there have been a few (first love Haleema Mohamed, Ronnie Spector, Linda Keith & Uschi Obermaier), and is very loyal to his mates too.

I concluded from reading Keith’s book that Mick Jagger is the cold, pretentious, entitled prick I always thought he was (“Mick doesn’t like to trust anybody.  I’ll trust you until you prove you’re not trustworthy.  And maybe that’s the major difference between us.”) which is why I never really liked him or have considered myself a huge Stones fan even though I always thought that Keith was one, cool, f***ing freak of nature.  It’s quite a miracle really that the band didn’t break up 30 years ago.  Charlie Watts has probably just as much to do with their longevity than anyone else in the band, but Keith is indubitably its heart and soul.  Perhaps because of the fact that for “many years I slept, on average, twice a week,” Keith Richards has done more in his 69 years than most people do if they live to be 120.

I love much of the Stones’ music because they created brilliant songs that are indelibly etched into the soundtrack of my youth (“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Sympathy For The Devil”, “Paint It Black”, “Gimme Shelter”, “Satisfaction”, “Angie”). I regret, sadly, that I’ve never seen them in concert and likely never will.  However, reading Keith Richards’ Life does help to dull the pain and it’s a helluva fun trip too!