excerpt from a memoir

5

Malcolm X and Maya Angelou in Ghana, 1964.

Malcolm X on his last visit to Accra had announced a desire to create a foundation he called the Organization of Afro-American Unity. His proposal included taking the plight of the African-Americans to the United Nations and asking the world council to intercede on the part of beleaguered blacks. The idea was so stimulating to the community of African-American residents that I persuaded myself I should return to the States to help establish the organization. 

We all read Malcolm’s last letter to me.

Dear Maya,

I was shocked and surprised when your letter arrived but I was also pleased because I only had to wait two months for this one whereas previously I had to wait almost a year. You see I haven’t lost my wit. (smile)

Your analysis of our people’s tendency to talk over the head of the masses in a language that is too far above and beyond them is certainly true. You can communicate because you have plenty of (soul) and you always keep your feet firmly rooted on the ground.

I am enclosing some articles that will give you somewhat of an idea of my daily experiences here and you will then be better able to understand why it sometimes takes me a long time to write. I was most pleased to learn that you might be hitting in this direction this year. You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful woman. You know that I will always do my utmost to be helpful to you in any way possible so don’t hesitate.

Signed
Your brother Malcolm 

(Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s memoir A Song Flung Up To Heaven)

excerpt about BMW from William Daniels' memoir

“ABC followed the usual network pattern of interfering in the show’s creative process. Michael loved making references to literature and the wider world in his scripts, but network executives didn’t always catch on or, if they did, they doubted that viewers would. An ABC executive told Michael the Shakespeare references in the script for the pilot were “too intricate.” The audience would not relate to them. Michael was forced to take them out. The executive who had ordered him to remove the Romeo and Juliet lines complained afterward that now the script didn’t work. “What happened?” the executive asked. Michael replied, “You happened.”

Savage, Jacobs 😆

I hate hearing people talk badly about fat people because it reminds me my worth is tied to my body, appearance, and size. I hear fat shaming comments a lot–I guess it comes with the territory of being “thin” (aka the ever glorified unhealthy BMI). But fat shaming is triggering. Get too thin: have no friends, no one will like you. Get too fat: have no friends, no one will like you. I can’t live my life trying to stay in some arbitrary range–always too much and simultaneously not enough.
—  An excerpt from a memoir I’ll never write
4

Grace Slick on Jim Morrison

[Excerpts from her memoir: Somebody to Love]

“What when on outside the studio during that time (the making of Surrealistic Pillow), certainly dipped into the Surreal world. We all stayed at the Tropicana, a cheap motel on Santa Monica Blvd., where we had semi-kitchenette set ups and complimentary smog. 

On one of our first nights in L.A., we were coming back our rooms, when we heard what we thought was a dog howling. On the balcony, crawling on all fours, was a totally nude Jim Morrison, barking at the moon. Oblivious to the contrast between his natural state, and the urban slum look of midtown L.A., he kept up the dog act even after Paul Kantner stepped over him to get to his room.

When I asked Paul what he said to Morrison, Paul answered: “What do you say to a guy whose becoming a dog, nothing”. 

Jim was so willing to take himself completely to the edge of human experience. I found his performances both fascinating and frightening. I tried to imagine what kind of curiosity could take someone to those extremes, without the overwhelming fear of maybe ‘I’ll never get back.’ But back to what? Who’s to say which is the preferable reality?”


“As soon as we were free, we took about a week to buy some new underwear, then zipped over to do the continent (1968 European Tour) Co-headlining with The Doors.

In London, The Doors Airplane concerts took place in an old structure called ‘The Roundhouse’. Images of The Doors performing are still vivid in my mind. No colour, all black except one spotlight on Jim’s face. Both of his hands holding the mic right up on his mouth, eyes closed and silent. You could see him just waiting for ignition to come flying up through his body. The long silence was full of music he could hear but everyone else only felt, then in a sudden step backwards, arms lifting out to the sides, he yelled ‘Fire’. The audience let out a collective scream, relieved by the explosion they’d been anticipating. Most of them had never seen him before, but he had the ability to draw people into his mood without opening his eyes or his mouth. I was always fascinated by the way he seemed to go from one side of his brain to the other, ignoring all the synapses in-between, it was just like his lyric, ‘Break on through to the other side.’

And beautiful, he looked like a rabid Johnny Depp, perfectly formed and possessed by abstraction. I’d been backstage before and after all the shows, talking easily with members of both of the bands, but when I directed a remark to Jim, I usually got back a colourful non-sequitur.

“Jim” I’d say. “You see the broken chair by the speaker system. With a pleasant smile and pupils dilated to the very edges of the iris, he’d respond with something like “Lady in smoke shop, nobody for broken chair… broken chair”. He inhabited two places at once and although I knew there was some pattern of events going on in his head that connected what I just said to what he was thinking, it never made sense. I’m sure that the people who knew him well, must have heard normal dialogue out of him like “What time does the plane arrive”, but I never heard anything intelligible I could respond to, until I was able to see what he was like, alone, away from the frantic energy of the music halls.

We co-headlined in Frankfurt, London, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, and I cant remember which country we were in when It happened, but I do remember strangely isolated things like the colour of the rug in the hotel hallway, rose pink and maroon, and the nervousness i felt standing in front of the door to Jim’s room.

‘It’s daytime, he’s probably asleep, if he’s asleep, then he won’t answer my knock and I can go back to my room and stop shaking. What if it’s the wrong room? Oh fuck it.”

I did the secret knock, which he wouldn’t have known anyway since it was Airplanes private signal, the opening beat to one of our songs to let the other know it was one of us standing outside the door. I was surprised when Jim didn’t even ask ‘who is it?’ instead, he turned the handle and pulled the door all the way back so I could see him and the whole room.

He smiled. “What’s up?”

I wish I could remember my answer but some specifics about the past are clear while others are really vague. Since I had no idea that anyone would care about this 30 years later, I never kept a diary. In fact, had I known the enormous impact Morrison would have on future generations, I might’ve been tempted to wear a tape recorder. I also wish I could tell you that he came to my room to hustle me, but it didn’t happen that way; I was once again the perpetrator.

Either the hotel had sent them up, on a complimentary food tray, or he’d ordered them from room service, but either way, there were strawberries sitting on a plate on top of the coffee table. I went over to look at them just for something to do while I figured out what to say next, and Jim flopped on the bed and watched me. I brought the strawberries over to the end of the bed, and then for some stupid reason, I put my finger into the middle of one of them. There was an extraordinary cold and hard centre. ‘Frozen strawberries, thank you baby jesus for a topic to guide my conversation with Mr. Non-sequitur’.

“Okay if I put this plate on the radiator?” I asked him. This was Europe 1968, no central heating.

“Sure, but it’s not on” he said. One of the most coherent remarks i’d ever heard from him.

After I set the plate of strawberries on the cold radiator, he crawled over the top of the bed, reached out and picked one up, and squeezed it until it turned to juice in his hand. He laughed and did it again to another one and kept on laughing. Words are hard to respond to, but laughter makes it’s own sense. ‘I can play this’ I thought, and I relaxed.

It wasn’t 9 ½ weeks with Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke using food as erotic lubricant, it was more like kindergarten, play mud puddles and silly putty. Smash it, shove it around - not on each other, but we just individually tried to make a bigger mess than the other one could. He outdid me by smearing the strawberries all over the cream coloured bedspread, but then suddenly, the private stories in his head made him stop and go over to the top dresser drawer. He opened and closed it without putting anything in or taking anything out, and came back to where I was kneeling at the end of the bed, still playing in the fruit tray. I didn’t ask him what the dresser move was all about, I was afraid i’d be stepping on that fantasia tape that seemed to be running in his cranium.

This was new, like making love to a floating art form with eyes. I’ve never had anyone study me like that. It wasn’t the standard evaluation of body parts, he seemed to be appraising the distance between us, as if it was an invisible garment that needed to be continually breached with each motion. With our hips joined together, and his body moving up and down, it felt like he was taking a moment each time to circle the area between our bodies with his eyes and consider the space that separated us.

He was a well built boy, his cock was slightly larger than average and he was young enough to maintain the engorged connection right through the residue of chemicals that can threaten an erection. At the same time, he was surprisingly gentle. Somehow i’d expected the sort of frantic horizontal ritual. It’s interesting, the most maniacal guys on stage can be such sublime lovers, but I guess everybody had to stop being a jerk sometime.

Jim mystified me with that otherworldly expression, and at the same time, his hips never lost the insistent rolling motion that was driving the dance. When he did look directly at my face, he seemed to be constantly searching for the expression that might break the lock, as if I might be wearing a disguise. I’m not sure what I mean by that, but I can say it was both intriguing and disconcerting, waiting for him to ask me if I was someone else, an imposter or a product of his imagination.

I have no idea how long I was there, but there was no lying around afterward having a cigarette dreamily looking at each other. I knew I should leave before I got caught, we both had other relationships and it felt like I was an intruder. I dressed as fast as I could without looking like it was a race. Jim didn’t seem to notice, he appeared to be totally unconscious just lying there motionless on the bed, but, naked with eyes closed and without moving a muscle from his completely immobile posture he said, “Why wouldn’t you come back?”. Since I hadn’t said anything about coming or going, I didn’t know what he expected to hear, so I went into proper Finch College mode and said “Only if I’m asked”.

He smiled but he never asked.”


Slick, Grace, and Andrea Cagan. Somebody to Love?: A Rock- and Roll Memoir. New York: Warner, 1999.


How to succeed in high school

We were doing this timed essay to prepare for the AP language and comp test. They aren’t usually for a grade but I’m generally pretty good about doing my best. Thing is…we do these timed essays A LOT and I have been getting bored. So one day we had to analyze this excerpt from some dudes memoir and I was NOT having it so instead of writing it I just wrote the entire Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song and just turned it in. Apparently she decided to take this one for a grade. I got a 100%. Hickle DICKle yis

Originally posted by gifsme

you used to get jealous of those she’d share her lucky cigarette with–

“i want to be her last everything,” you’d say. “firsts are always taken and lasts leave a longer impression anyways.”

she is young and fleeting and you are young and lingering.

—  c.e.p., accept that she has moved on
She had too much of the world in her soul and not enough land to cover the distance she wanted to conquer. She was a hurricane, a storm, a fire blazing out of control. And, like standing in the middle of a beautiful downpour, he couldn’t bear to say goodbye. All he could do was close his eyes and begin walking away.
—  excerpts from a memoir i plan to finish someday // (m.g.)

Still the sweetest MFL story ever (excerpts from Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, page 238):

The night before we opened, Tony and I exited the stage door at the end of the evening well after midnight and were surprised to see a long line of people going all the way around the theatre, with bedding and chairs on the pavement.

    I asked, “What’s happening here?”

    “We’re queuing for the opening night gallery seats…,” “They go on sale in     the morning!”, “We have to queue now if we want a good seat,” they replied.

Tony and I stood and chatted with them for a while, and as we departed, I called out that I hoped they would enjoy the show.

The following evening, April 30, my dressing room was so full of flowers, I could barely move…the most endearing gift of all was a simple wooden Covent Garden tray, filled to the brim with bunches of dewy, fresh, sweet-smelling English violets -Eliza’s flowers. My lucky flowers.

When I opened the card it simply said, “With love from the opening night gallery queue.” They had apparently made a collection among themselves and purchased the violets from a Covent Garden vendor. That gesture meant more to me than I can possibly say.

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