Janis Joplin, Guru

After three months of coveting a Richard Avedon photography book displayed prominently in The Strand, I finally bought it.  This was the Summer of 2001, and even when I look at it now, after having read it probably thirty times, I’m amazed at the wisdom of Janis Joplin.  Here, re-typed (and probably re-blogged, though I haven’t bothered to Google) are Pearl’s pearls:

September 3, 1969:

I have like what anyone would call like, say, a loneliness, a loneliness of my own.  But it’s just a private trip and probably shouldn’t be forced on other people that much, you know what I mean?  God, fuck it.  Who cares how lonely you feel.  You just have to learn to deal with it like everybody else does.  Everybody has that, I think.  Everybody.  Even Christians.

I remember I used to think, goddamn it, it’s because I’m a chick or it’s because I haven’t figured it out yet.  It’s because I’m not twenty-one.  It’s because I haven’t read this or I haven’t tried that… Well, I’ve done every fucking thing and now I know better.  There is no “because.”  And it’s not going to get any better.

My father… see, my father is a very intelligent man and I used to talk to him a lot because he reads and he’s pretty sensitive and I was a mixed-up kid and too smart for my age –– right?  Anyway, so when I was eighteen, I ran away.  Well… went to California.  One day this thing comes along and I learned something.  It went pfshutt right in the side of my head and I sat up… and realized something.  I ran up and wrote a long, long letter to my father all about how I’d felt growing up was like climbing a hill and that sooner or later you’d figure it out and it’d all come together and you’d level out and it wouldn’t be such a fucking struggle every day, you know?  … But then I realized there wasn’t any leveling out, you know?  You have the same fucking problems –– or more –– when you get old.  I mean, you got more to deal with.  It isn’t going to turn that corner, man.  It just keeps going right on straight uphill.  So I wrote my father and explained this whole thing.  Well, the next time I came home –– my father has this friend, another man who’s also very intelligent –– and my father had evidently let him read my letter.  You know, “Look what Janis is going through.”  They were proud of me because I was a thinker and they liked that because they were thinkers.  So when I got home, this guy comes up to me and he says, “Well, I hear you learned about the Great Saturday Night Swindle.”  That’s what he called it.

The realization that there isn’t going to be any turning point… there isn’t going to be any next-month-it’ll-be-better, next fucking year, next fucking life.  You don’t have any time to wait for.  You just got to look around you and say, so this is it.  This is really all there is to it.  This little thing.  Everybody needing such little things and they can’t get them.  Everybody needing just a little… confidence from somebody else and they can’t get it.  Everybody, everybody fighting to protect their little feelings.  Everybody, you know, like reaching out tentatively but drawing back.  It’s so shallow and seems so… fucking… it seems like such a shame.  It’s so close to being like really right and good and open and amorphous and giving and everything.  But it’s not.  And it ain’t gonna be.

***

I live pretty loose.  You know, balling with strangers and stuff… a lot of people live loose, don’t you think?  Everyone I know lives incredibly loose.

Sometimes, you know, you’re with someone and you’re convinced that they have something to… to tell you.  Or, you know… you want to be with them.  So maybe nothing’s happening, but you keep telling yourself something’s happening.  You know, innate communication.  He’s just not saying anything.  He’s moody or something.  So you keep being there, pulling, giving, rapping, you know.  And then, all of a sudden about four o’clock in the morning you realize that, flat ass, this motherfucker’s just lying there.  He’s not balling me.

I mean, that really happened to me.  Really heavy, like slam-in-the-face it happened.  Twice.  Jim Morrison and Leonard Cohen.  And it’s strange ’cause they were the only two that I can think of, like prominent people, that I tried to… without really liking them up front, just because I knew who they were and wanted to know them… And then they both gave me nothing… but I don’t know what that means.  Maybe it just means they were on a bummer.

Meeting someone and balling them… means something, but it doesn’t mean near as much as it used to.  It doesn’t mean, like, this is it forever.  It means, Wow, I really dig you, let’s get together.  It just… takes it a step farther than, you know, talking on dates.  Know what I mean?  Really getting together.  It just means you dig somebody and want to be with them.  And that happens a lot, you know?  YOu meet someone, you like them, and you… be with them, maybe for a while, maybe for a couple of days, maybe for a couples of hours, maybe for a couple of years.

***

When I was twelve or thirteen, you know, there’d be the chicks who’d let the boy sitting two seats in front of ’em do their homework for ’em.  Me, I’d always say, “I can do it myself, man.  And better than you.”  I think these things get formed in a person really early.

I always wanted to do my own fucking number but I didn’t really have any person to be or anything to build my trip around.  So this music thing came along.  It was just… it was everything I needed.  It was something to do with all the feelings I had without changing.  You know?  It was something to believe in, something I could love and that would love me.  It was all there.

I think it creates distance for men, though, just because… you’ve already got something.  It’s likely already having an old man –– do you know what I mean? –– and then trying to have a sincere affair on the side.  There’s just something in the way.  For me and them both.  That I don’t really need them.

Like, I would want to need them.  I would really dig it if I could need a cat that much.  I think that would be just a wonderful feeling for a woman.  I know it: that’s what women are for.  Take acid and you realize that’s what women are for –– to need and be with a man and bear children, that whole thing.  But I got another trip going.

Well, maybe it’s like the grass is always greener, you know? –– it could be that.  “I’d be much happier if I just had a home in the country and an old man and three kids.”  Who fucking knows.  But I think that is basically a chick’s trip.  I know that whenever I have been in love and really just wanted to be with that cat, that’s the happiest I’ve ever been… Well, except for those few times on stage.

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