“Freedom is…the right to write the wrong words.” – Patti Smith
this last (WOW, I actually started writing this post last year…shame on me!) year, I went to see ‘The Amen Corner’ by James Baldwin at the National Theatre, directed by Rufus Norris. It was an absolutely fantastic production (with a stand-out performance from Celia Noble which actually made. my. life.)
As soon as I started watching the play, I thought to myself “My mum has to see this.” Not only because it was amazing, but because I knew its themes would resonate personally with my (amazing) mum. I felt like a presence had reached out to me telling me that one of my life’s purposes was to make sure my mum gets to watch this. Being someone who is always questioning what my life’s purpose is (who isn’t though?), I couldn’t ignore this blatantly obvious one. I went to the box office as soon as the show finished to ask about tickets. They were sold out for the rest of the run, but I was told that if I queued at the theatre from 9:30am on the day of the performance, I could collect two, providing I was one of the first 20 people. But I would have to queue earlier to guarantee I got tickets, as the run was nearly over.
Now…not to toot my own kazoo, but in June 2013, I was up at 4.45am in New York City to head to the Music Box Theatre on Broadway where I would wait 4 hours for Orchestra seats for Pippin. [Wow, that sentence actually happened.] The only thing shielding my jeans from the New York pavement (I heart NY, but dat sidewalk be duuurty) was a Size zero newspaper. But I got the seats.
So when I arrived outside the National at 7.30am, and there was already someone there, I thought ‘Fair enough, I can deal with second.’ But as I came closer, I saw that he was sitting on a portable garden chair…cue Instant jealousy. You think I’d have learnt from the Big Apple. But alas, I sat on copies of the last night’s Evening Standard, shifting every so often to check that my backside was still alive. But I got the seats! And I took my mum, and she loved the show. Now, she wasn’t as ‘Huzzah, this show is so great, I am inspired to the core, I must be my over-enthusiastic self and write a blog about it, I am now a vegan’ as me, but she did enjoy it very much. And the second time, rather than just enjoying the show, I was happy that I could share it with someone. So I have finally got to my point…
The book. It’s called JUST KIDS. It’s by Patti Smith, and it just oozes levels of cool that I only come close to when I dance on my bed pretending I’m in a late 90s Britney video. With casual references to some of the musical greats – in a passing moment, Patti reads a self-penned lyric about Janis Joplin to the late singer herself – we are let into the psychedelic haze Patti and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe glided through together, then apart, then together…then…I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t know. Just read it. [But just to be clear, it is a memoir, not fiction]. Smith uses delectably poetic prose to take us on a journey of two young artists finding their place in the world.
It is a beautiful story to two peoples’ lives and loves of art , and each other. And it’s amazing to witness the way that, through the years, the former is crucial to the blossoming relationship with the latter, and vice versa. One of my favourite quotes of the book is Patti’s thought: “No one expected me. Everything awaited me.” I translate this into thinking that with no expectations, we can feel liberated to do, pretty much anything…oh yeah…I love you Patti…
I was so in the story to the point that all that was left to do was leap into the book and be a fly on the wall of the loft studio Robert & Patti shared after living in the Chelsea Hotel with the movers and shakers and art, music, and love-makers of the 60s and 70s. Andy Warhol, Jimi Hendrix, Sam Shepard. Figures that were going to shape the future. I can’t help but wonder if they were all, in some magical way, aware of the legendary statuses they would hold. Are they looking down at us, thinking ‘I told you so’ …or maybe they’re just Snap-chatting each other from Champagne hot tubs.
As soon as I put the book down, I just wanted to tell everyone about it. Not only my artistic friends, but anyone that wants to hear a love story. Because that’s what it is to me. And being a lover of all things art, I got a double dose of enjoyment. Now that I’ve come down from my prose-induced high, I can join some words together and share my thoughts. I think that when you read, watch or listen to something and it not only brings out something in you, but makes you want to share it with others, then it’s got to be shared. That’s what makes it powerful. And it’s a lot less awkward to share the amazing work of others than my uncomfortable break-up stories…I’ll still share the funny ones though, don’t panic ; )
We can make our own decisions as to whether life’s events are sent by destiny or mere coincidence. But if I’m honest, I don’t think there’s anything mere about this coincidence. I was meant to read this book. It’s inspired me, in an artistic sense, to think less and do more. To pick up a pen and write a haiku. To take a picture and capture a moment that would otherwise be finite; lost to the ceaseless flight of time. To stop sitting on my dreams living and working in New York City and go out and do it (legally).
So, watch out world, I’m coming. As soon as I shave my legs.