Categories
Poems

Sub-Consciously Concocted Conspiracy

I’ve been more paranoid than usual all day since last night.

I could have uncovered a scam, but instead I left the evidence

at a front desk with a guy named Guy. Why am I going to start believing

these sub-consciously concocted conspiracy theories?

I’ve been attempting to ignore them my whole self-aware life

and now the thoughts are becoming an overpowering influence.

I need to get off this planet.

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Categories
Non Fiction

Music Fights Oppression: The Seemingly Juxtaposed Jay-Z and Annie

The songs called “It’s A Hard Knock Life” and “It’s a Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” have only one difference in overall meaning and message to the projected listener; that the latter documents the destitution blacks experience in the ghetto, and the former displays the hardships orphans growing up encounter.  There are many differences between the main characters behind both songs however, for one- Annie is a fictional white orphaned girl, and Jay-Z a black entrepreneurial hip hop artist.  Both had disturbing trials growing up in a society that envisions its children growing up in green pasture suburban utopia.  This was not so for the fictional character Annie and the boisterous rapper Jay-Z.  Both versions of “It’s A Hard Knock Life” divulge the tribulations that an alienated adolescent living in American poverty must endure.
Jay-Z sampled Annie’s song in order to metaphorically express his view that growing up as a black child in the inner city can compare to living in an orphanage.  Jay-Z’s message is that the ghetto and the orphanage are one in the same, you have to fend for yourself in order to survive in a stratified and isolating society.  Jay-Z had to endure just that growing up in the projects in Brooklyn, and thus he applied his upbringing to It’s A Hard Knock Life’s verses: “I’m from the school of the hard knocks, we must not let outsiders violate our blocks”(Jay-Z). References to his upbringing in the Brooklyn streets sporadically pop up throughout the song, interspersed with boasts about how much money he makes after becoming at first a star rap artist and then a very successful entrepreneur.  The juxtaposition of rags to riches is the unifying theme to both songs.  Along with metaphorically linking his rap to Annie’s song, Jay-Z also connects the song literally to his past because his father abandoned him when he was a child. (CNN)
The music video for “It’s A Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” features black children in the streets singing the chorus sample: “It’s the hard knock life, for us/ It’s the hard knock life, for us!!/ Steada treated, we get tricked/ Steada kisses, we get kicked/ It’s the hard knock life!!”(Charnin and Strouse).  The children in Jay-Z’s video do not look pitiful and destitute, but they look defiant and confident about themselves.  Jay-Z’s philosophy about growing up poor means getting enough confidence that will allow you to use your abilities in order to come up from rags to riches.  Annie prevails in the same sense by being adopted by a wealthy and very bald caucasian gentlemen named Daddy Warbucks.  Yet Annie did nothing with her own abilities in order to escape poverty and alienation, she fully depended upon another person in order to bail her out.  Jay-Z follows the same individualistic philosophy that has prevailed in American culture for hundreds of years and he applies this to the lyrics “From standin on the corners boppin/ to drivin some of the hottest cars New York has ever seen/ For droppin some of the hottest verses rap has ever heard”(Jay-z). He was able to ascend from “boppin” on the corners to driving very luxurious automobiles all because he was able to develop his flow so well that he had to become a hugely successful rap artist, he wrote his own fate.  Annie on the other hand, was just adorable enough to win the adoration of a very rich man who was vaguely connected to her.
Although Annie was able to escape the orphan life it was only through another person, in order to provide a happy ending to the movie’s story.  Of course orphans never get the miracle chance that Annie does, and the lyrics in Annie’s version of “It’s A Hard Knock Life” disseminate not only how the neglected orphan feels estranged from society, but how they aren’t even given more than subsistence living “Cotton blankets, ‘Steada of wool! Empty Bellies ‘Steada of full! It’s the hard-knock life!”(Charnin and Strouse)   The orphans must endure the tribulations that the woman who runs the orphanage sets before them, but this only adds to plot development, and does not go much further in addressing legitimate concerns about social justice.  The base idea behind the whole song is referenced bluntly in the refrain “No one cares for you a smidge When you’re in an orphanage!”(Charnin and Strouse)
Jay-Z on the other hand, magnifies Annie’s orphanage refrain by extenuating that in order to rise from ghetto poverty, he had to have hustled, committed crime, and dominate other rap artists.  Domination is a main motif in Jay-Z’s song, placing it in the portrait of other rap artists at the time by portraying the rap artist’s struggle in the dog-eat-dog hip hop recording industry.  Jay-Z justifies his past criminal actions that are deemed negative by society because he believes that crime is the only way to overcome the weak position that capitalist and post- segregation American society sets him and many other black people in “fleein the murder scene, you know me well from nightmares of a lonely cell, my only hell But since when y’all niggaz know me to fail?”(Jay-z).  Jay-Z is quick to point out the trials a young black man growing up in the inner city faces: being thrown in jail, to dealing drugs and being involved with violence.  Annie on the other hand, was completely a victim to society, fleeing her social ills through fantasy plot sequences that presuppose the wooings of the extremely wealthy Daddy Warbucks.  Jay-Z didn’t have that luxury, he had to make the best out of his situation by hustling and expounding his verses with the world.
Jay-z. “It’s A Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”.  Volume 2 A Hard Knock Life. 1998.
“It’s A Hard Knock Life”. Charnin and Strouse. 1972.
Oprah Winfrey. Jay-z . CNN. September 9, 2009.

Categories
Fiction Short Stories

The Metal Box Passenger

I pressed the button for the sixth floor. The sterility stench was already getting to me. I was entrapped in a metal box raised by pulleys and wires and all kinds of things that were so mundane yet still unimagined of by the normal metal box passenger.
I looked out into the hallway. The linoleum floors were nauseating. Black and white checkered tiles were stretched out before me, making me feel dizzy. I didn’t know what was coming.
As I strode out of the box I saw something that disgusted me beyond all belief. There was a thing in the shape of a human being. I was twelve years old. I didn’t know how old that human was. It was alone in the translucently over-lit hallway, just waiting on a movable bed. That was proof enough to me at that point that death was the greatest determination in life. No other aspect in my existence could be enjoyed at that moment. I was young, but I was also wholly enveloped in the idea that nothing mattered since everything ended up the same.
I was beckoned by a stranger to follow some woman into a big room where there were a bunch of old people. I never seen so many old people in one place. They were all silent, just waiting while lined up in files, about to get shipped out into the unknown. They were mass produced vestiges.
I took my frail vestige and led him to the mechanical box. We didn’t speak inside the box. I led him, as the others my age led the others his age, to the park. We were going to play catch.
We were a block away from the park, but it took us ten minutes to arrive there. I helped my vestige roll over bumps in the sidewalk and traverse through clouds of pollen.
I had not said a word up until that point, and neither had anyone else except the religious instructors coordinating the event, and the plump nurses who tended to the flock of relics. I felt obligated to say something, so I did.
“What’s your name?”
He told me his name, but I didn’t remember it.
The young people were not adept at pushing old people in wheel chairs. There were a few spills throughout the trip, but it didn’t really matter. Almost all of the elderly were already quelled with painkillers.
The wheelchairs glistened in the sun. The parade of twelve year olds pushing twelve hundred year olds in metallic chairs was coming to a close. The park was only a few dozen feet away.
When we arrived we were given multi-colored beach balls. We were told to throw the plastic balls at the old people so that they would throw them back at us. We did it. There were young girls that were giggling while they were throwing the balls at the old people. Some of the old people really liked it.
It made me sad.
My old person didn’t seem to like throwing balls, so we stopped. It was then that I really looked at him for the first time. He was wearing a brown leather jacket, a white button-up shirt, and blue slacks. His face looked like it was made of melted hot wax.
“I wonder what it’s like to be him… it must really suck” I thought to myself.
Then I noticed his cap. It was a weirdly shaped cap that I knew veterans wore, so I decided to strike up a conversation. I sat down on the grass next to him and crossed my legs Indian style.
“Are you a veteran?”
“Yes… yes I am.”
“What war did you fight in?”
“The Second World War.”
“What was your favorite part?”
“What?”
He had heard what I said clearly. I mistakenly asked a similar question louder.
“What did you like most about it?”
His voice was hard to understand. It was faded and grainy, and it sounded sad. I could tell he was getting ready to tell a story, so I drew in closer in order to hear better.
“Well… Belgium was absolutely beautiful… We stayed in a country cottage there for a time, and it was peaceful… I met a Belgian girl named Angeline, and we fell in love…”
He kept stopping for what my young, impatient self felt like was forever, so that he could catch his hoarse breath. There was a hole in his throat.
“I loved her more than anything else in the world… even though it lasted only a brief while… It was the serene nature… I think… I can still see the meadows…”
I was disappointed. I thought the old man would tell me the wonders of industrialized combat. I thought he would tell me of battles, and bullets, and tanks, and planes, and all that stuff. I had just seen a movie about the D-Day invasion of Normandy, so I asked him if he was there.
The relic looked at me and sighed. He then told me that he was.
“Can you tell me about it?” I asked, so eagerly.
He looked at me some more. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know what he was thinking.
He must have decided right then and there that he was going to engrave something into my consciousness.
“Yes I will tell you… You see, we were in these boats… and we were supposed to land on the beach.”
His words were slow and muffled.
“The Krauts were shooting the hell out of us… and we were getting blown to bits.”
Each word was painstakingly forced.
“Uh… our battle ships were eventually able to blow up their pillboxes on the hill and…”
He said a bunch of other things, but I didn’t pay attention because something else was happening. Water was navigating through the soft crevices of the hot melted wax. I realized that he was crying while he was telling me this. I didn’t know what to do.
I made out something about his buddies in the other boat screaming, and something else about shrapnel and smoke, and vomit, and blood, and death. I couldn’t make out most of it though. The old man’s eyes were puffy and red, and I felt like I did something wrong.
There was a heavy chance that if the water droplets were allowed to run their course that they would then fall through the hole in his throat. I could have wiped the tears from his face. I could have stopped the cycle, but I still wasn’t fully aware of his suffering, so I didn’t. Even though the thought crept through me, and my cerebellum was ready to coordinate my hand, my vertebrae only tickled me; I willingly made no effort to help him.
His tears were inside him again. He croaked despairingly. The small noise he made was my personal revelation. I became aware. I had animus.
It was deemed time to leave. We had to push the vestiges in their metallic chairs back to the giant salt box that was their home. Only a half an hour had gone by, but the plump nurses decided that the relics needed time to rest. There would be plenty of time for that soon enough. At that moment, I decided on something that some would claim to be quite awful. I made a conscious decision, but it was mine own. It wasn’t what I was supposed to do, nevertheless, there was nothing wrong with it.
The tension and awkwardness advised me to stay silent. I was going to take him back with the others. They say that charity begins at home, well it doesn’t… charity begins in someone else’s home.
“Mister…” I said, “I’m sorry… I didn’t know…”
He made a grunt noise, and I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. The others were filing out of the park. Some ample, flesh filled woman in white guided my wrist, with her nails clenched to my skin for a second and a half, towards the veteran’s movable chair handle.
She didn’t need to guide me anymore, so she thought. Yet my mind swam in an ambivalent ocean once again. Any moment I could have triggered, overriding my second thoughts, and that is exactly what I did.
I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t know how, so I just waited. I carried out my deed with apprehension. I guessed that the staff would be negligent, or apathetic at the least, and my blind assumption may have been completely right.
None of the old folks had family, we were told that before our class arrived. We were supposed to keep them company for a little while. They were terminally ill.
We were alone, just me and him in the park. I sat with him for awhile. The old man looked at me again, for the first time since he began to cry.
He sighed two words of gratitude in my ear.
I gathered the courage to ask him his name again. Everything was peaceful except for the cars passing by us, and so it was mostly quiet.
“I’m sorry I didn’t hear you the first time, but what was your name again?”
He didn’t answer me, but signaled towards his breast pocket. The nursing home had placed a name tag on him, I didn’t notice it until that moment- it read “jim”.
We sat in silence for a few minutes more, while any awkward or negative feeling that persisted between us faded, and then we came to know one another.
I spontaneously grasped his chair and led him to a lone willow on a peninsula in a creek only a few hundred feet away, hidden from the road by shrubs.
As we sat in unbroken silence, I contemplated how this man’s perception of the world must have become. I thought I knew the horrors of war from what I saw in video games and on television. He knew them intimately; I realized that, but I wasn’t able to do anything except assist him in escaping that box that those humans were expected to wait out the rest of their days in.
The old man named Jim said nothing still, he was slowly rocking back and forth, as if in a trance. I wasn’t aware, but he was meandering along a stream with an ageless girl named Angeline.
Jim was a few inches away from the water. I made another spontaneous decision to take off Jim’s slippers. He soaked his feet in the water, and closed his eyes. I let him enjoy his existence, and I felt joy at having a part in helping this man be at peace. I sat on the strongest root of the willow, and acknowledged to myself that me and this man were two separate entities, yet I couldn’t help but to think that we were the same person, only in different bodies. That comforted me, but I knew the thought relied upon belief in something beyond the material plane which I was sensing around me.
I knew I didn’t believe in God anymore, I never truly did, I only accepted it as an innocent child because it was forced upon me. I knew also that I believed in something else, in everything around me, but I couldn’t put it to words, and so I remained quiet.
The creek was flat, the willow was still.
Why shouldn’t I have felt that way? Every individual piece of nature: the willow tree, down to the sturdy roots, every pebble and grain of sand around it, offered meaning. Jim and I made essence for ourselves through the world around us.
Dusk came and went without our acknowledgment. The wind made waves that looked like tiny moving mountains, and the willow swayed in the air.
Little did I know, there was absolute panic that could be described as the antithesis of what I was experiencing in that giant salt box. The word responsibility was thrown about, harshly. Administrative staff, nurses, and teachers were all openly blaming one another. Even though they were casting stones they still felt fault within themselves.
Of course there was no yelling, they were adults, but they believed that they had a very serious problem on their hands. And for all they perceived, they did. A kid and a terminally ill elderly man in a wheelchair were missing. The teachers went back to the park to search, while the staff debated on calling the police. When the teachers came back at night and said that they couldn’t find us the nursing room lobby became sullen.
“Hey, it’s already dark outside, you want to go for a walk or something?” I asked.
Jim chuckled, “You’re gonna have to help… an old man out.”
“Oh yeah.”
I put his slippers back on and led him around the bushes. We had not noticed the sirens earlier, but now all was silent except for the crickets and the cars. We were blinded by blue and red. There was shouting, and I didn’t notice, but firearms were drawn for an instant. It was deemed a necessary precaution.
I was only twelve so I didn’t get into any serious trouble, but at first they treated me like a criminal.
“What made you think it would be alright to do that?”
“I wanted to stop his pain.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“What were you going to do to him?”
“I don’t know.”
“What were you doing by that tree?”
“Sitting by the water.”
“Okay, but your intentions were to ease his pain, what were you going to do to him?”
I didn’t know what they were getting at, the word euthanasia wasn’t in my vocabulary at the time. They didn’t seem to understand that, and so I was punished by my school. It was as if Jim didn’t even have a say in the matter, he tried to talk to the authorities for me.
“Look here…” He croaked, in an explanatory manner.
No one listened to him. Instead they insisted that he was delirious, and in need of rest, so they closed him back up into his little room. The last look of despair I saw on his face made my chest feel like it was ripping in half. Then I wept silently.
I don’t regret what I did that day. If it wasn’t for that experience then I would have only thought about the possibilities of what could have happened, if he was free. It would not have been real unless I had acted upon my thoughts. On the contrary, I regret what I did not do that day. I failed, I was a coward. I ultimately only helped him for a short while. The police said that I would be held accountable for my actions through the school. I deserved it. I gave myself the responsibility of freeing this man and in the end he was just another passenger in a box. Certainly, there was nothing stopping me from carrying out my thoughts, only the circumstances which influenced me. He could have at least passed with his feet in the water and his head in his memories. They never let me see him again.

Categories
Non Fiction

Letting Go: Leaving the Memories Behind With Music and Drugs

“I didn’t have a hard time making it, I had a hard time letting it go.”
-Elliott Smith
Steven Paul (Elliott) Smith was a prolific singer/songwriter who began his career as a solo artist, a voice for estranged audiences, in the early nineties. His significant presence in the indie music scene was wrought with the sopranos and baritones that accompanied his drug addictions and extreme depression.  Smith was not only a virtuoso who could procure a cult following through musical skill, he was a man who was able to attain a peculiar, nonpareil relationship with his fans that made their relationship unique.  Elliott Smith was able to connect with his fans because his lyrics offered a personal parallel to their lives “With each album, his audience grew, swelling with legions of crushed romantics, the desperately lonely and the clinically sad” (Valania).  Elliott Smith’s biographer, S.R. Shutt, remarked, that through Smith’s lyrics, he “had not just found an artist, (but he) found a brother”(Sweet Adeline).  Smith’s fans could assuredly identify with that statement, since Elliott Smith’s lyrics were intellectually influenced by existentialists such as Kierkegaard and laced with raw, unadulterated emotion taken from his personal life that endure in relevance.  Hence, the shadowy artist made such an impact on his fans that it enabled them to harbor an anomalous relationship with him that was not without it’s own consequences.
To mainstream audiences, Elliott Smith’s career may have nebulously peaked when he performed “Miss Misery” at the Oscars in 1998, yet an overview of his musical career skips the most significance impact on his fans- which was his unexpected death.  Smith’s passing away was fluid with his musical career because his lyrics directly related to, and oftentimes foreshadowed his quietus.  The link between the interdependence of Smith and his fans could easily lie within his lyrics, which seemingly offered a depressing glimpse at his apparent suicide.  Smith’s commercial pinnacle preceded his drug induced mania, fueling his psychotic episodes and severely hindering his live performances.  During his shows, Smith would bluntly state, “I can’t remember the words. I’m so fucked up”(Gowing, 82). The songwriter’s drive, his motivation to write music was not the wild rockstar life, but to help ease his memories along with hard drugs. Elliott Smith’s cognitive dissonance correlated with his fans’ inability to accept anything contrary to what they thought were the events leading up to his death because some of his fans quickly accused Jennifer Chiba, Smith’s girlfriend, of murder.
Smith’s fans believed this because they could relate to his struggle with suicide and did not want to think that he ultimately decided life was not worth living. David McConnell was a friend and producer for Smith, and he admitted that during recording he “had him on constant suicide watch. He tried OD’ing. He would say things like, ‘The other day I popped 15 Klonopin, thinking it would help me die, and it didn’t.’ …The guy was immune to drugs” (Gowing, 83). Frequent listeners knew about his troubled past, how he dealt with his emotions through his lyrics, and his drug abuse (at one point he was smoking up to $1,500 worth of heroin and crack a day) (Gowing, 83). In order to get a better picture of Elliott Smith’s troubled past and why he so heavily abused drugs, his background must not only be understood, but the emotive subjects channeled through his lyrics must be fit in with the framework of his life. Certainly, it was his proverbial demons from the past that drove him to write the music that he did.
Smith was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but his parents got divorced when he was only a toddler, and so his mother had to move around frequently in order to support her son.  For the remainder of his childhood, Elliott lived in a quiet Dallas suburb with his mother and his life insurance selling stepfather, Charlie.  Smith later confided in his friends about his dark years outside Dallas in which he claimed to have been both beaten regularly, and sexually abused by his stepfather. This was why he became so engrossed in music at an early age, and it was not surprising that he quickly developed his musical skills because his family had a history of being involved with all kinds of music.  At the age of fourteen, Smith moved to Portland, where his father lived, in order to escape Charlie’s torments.  Smith felt guilt because he thought he had abandoned his mother in the process.  Throughout high school, music became even more of a catalyst for Smith to express himself, as he formed his first band, Stranger Than Fiction, and eventually moved on to the band that would precede his critical acclaim and rise to fame, Heatmiser.  It was during this period that Elliott became proficient with a variety of instruments, including the guitar, piano, and the drums, and as he put it plainly in a 1998 interview with Janeane Garofalo, “I like to play different instruments, and, you know, you can’t get better at things you never play” (Garofalo).  His introverted demeanor made him seem awkward during interviews, and he never gave questions lengthy or direct answers that would seem simplistic or facetious. However, Smith was honest, he played all of the instruments on Roman Candle and Either/Or, the former being the album that set off his solo career, becoming more successful than Heatmiser, and inciting the band’s dissolution. (Shutt)             Image
Yet Elliott’s musical outlet was not enough to stay his troubling memories.  After he performed “Miss Misery” at the Oscars,  Elliott fell into a drug filled mania that hindered his ability to perform in every aspect in his life, including his live sets. He would often apologize to the audience as they would shout out lyrics and sometimes even chords to try and help him play.  The artist and his punk musician girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba, were addicted to heroin, and they were easily able to maintain their addictions because of their music. Smith pushed his psychosis too far when he started smoking crack and adding a cocktail of prescription tranquilizers on top of his original dependancies. He was able to quit street drugs and alcohol “cold turkey” on and off throughout 2003, but this was only a partial recovery, because Smith was still abusing some of his prescription medications. (Gowing, 84)
The reasons why his fans felt so connected with him was because of his lyrics.  With songs like: “Say Yes”, and “Rose Parade” that were at times deeply metaphorical, and adversely, simple and straightforward; it’s no wonder how Smith’s listeners formed a bond with him through his music. On the simple side, “Say Yes” had a chorus that expressed a glimmer of hope for the melancholy artist, “I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a girl / who’s still around the morning after” (Either/Or).  This simple kind of message helped Smith win the adoration of his fans, which could be seen in their reception of his performance when watching him play live (Say Yes live). In “Rose Parade” Smith compared his outlook on other people and life to a mindless marching parade, “They asked me to come down and watch the parade / to march down the street like the Duracell bunny / with a wink and a wave from the cavalcade /throwing out candy that looks like money”(Either/Or). Smith named the album Either/Or after the famous treatise by Soren Kierkegaard because his songs were written about similar existential topics that included not only despair, but the sympathy for an individual struggling against the arbitrary societal structure that he or she must overcome.  Smith’s music often draws self-described societal rejects because his music is aimed at relating to the alienated individual.
The one thing Elliott Smith did not want was for people to think that his music was melancholy because he wanted attention, and so he dedicated songs to different subjects and emotions in life not relating to depression or drugs. His lyrical messages often opposed attention seeking behavior. Smith explored this topic by equating selflessness with innocence, featuring and adding his own lyrical/musical touches to the Big Star cover “Thirteen” on the album New Moon. Smith would casually talk to the crowd while smoking a cigarette between songs, spontaneously playing whichever one the audience wanted most, and they often requested this one (Thirteen live). The song reflected on a thirteen year old boy having his first feelings for a girl.
“Won’t you let me walk you home from school? / Won’t you let me meet you at the pool? / Maybe Friday I can / get tickets for the dance / and I’ll take you” (New Moon).
The melodic shifts Smith incorporated on the guitar with the beats of the lyrics made them sound more like beautiful and intricate verses in a sonnet than simple words about adolescent love.  The intricacies in the music were interwoven with the first complex feelings Smith related to while maturing. The boy offered his love to her, but it was free and selfless, which correlated with the innocence portrayed in the first stanza.
“Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of? / Would you be an outlaw for my love? / If it’s so well let me know / if it’s no well I can go / I won’t make you” (New Moon).
The innocent portrayal of complex feelings for other people and the world contrasted with what he saw as the simple minded, status-quo selfishness regarding relationships between men and women in contemporary American society.
Smith complemented “Thirteen” on New Moon with a song that had similar messages but in a mature setting. “All Cleaned Out” laments emotionally abusive relationships, throughout the song Smith would refer to his friend’s boyfriend in a critical, insulting manner.
“Here comes your pride and joy / the comic little drunk you call your boy / who takes your pretty plan / and then becomes a disappearing man / after a little while (New Moon).
Meanwhile, the speaker in the song reveals jealousy in the relationship, but his concerns become justified when the object of her affection abandons her repeatedly.
“I saw you with your make up running down / now what’s that all about / you say you don’t want anyone around / cause you’re all cleaned out” (New Moon).
Smith believed in compassion and understanding, and he wished to convey that the hedonistic attitude which has become so common in our culture leads to emotional pain and suffering. Smith also implied that the misogynistic tendencies of the past generations has carried on into the twenty first century.
“I’m sorry you think you have to hold your tongue / when your so pretty and smart / I’m seeing you caving in / becoming afraid of all these men / that you’ve given your heart” (New Moon).
Elliott Smith could relate to the downtrodden because his whole existence growing up was dampened with the shadow of his stepfather’s abuse. In the song “Memory Lane” Smith metaphorically described the oppression he felt dealing with his abuse.
“Your little house on Memory Lane / the mayor’s name is fear / his force patrols the pier / from a mountain of cliche / that advances every day” (From a Basement on the Hill).
Smith abused drugs because he needed a release from his tortuous memories. This made Elliott even more dissociated from reality, and as he meandered through his mind he made a habit of aimlessly wandering through whichever city he was in at the time. The ballad to drug induced wandering would have to be “High Times”, another lyrically-strong song off of the posthumously released double album New Moon.  The acoustic guitar is tuned a full step down from standard, which gives the song an eerie touch that magnifies the surreal perception of being an outsider in modern society.
“I went walking around the city some more / people watching with a cold blank stare / and I saw your face in everyone, I swear / seems I never get your kick quite right / I was walking slow to a dirty dive / I’m so sick and tired tryin to change your mind / when it’s so easy to disconnect mine” (New Moon).
His friends wanted him to kick the drugs that he used to cover up his vague childhood memories, and the Coroner’s report stated that he was on prescription levels of his behavioral medications: he was clean. However, the absence of Elliot’s street and prescription drug cocktail lifted the veil over his depression and could have very easily given him the energy he needed to kill himself. Yet the Coroner’s report also included: “possible defensive wounds on his arms, the absence of hesitation marks on his chest, Chiba’s lack of cooperation with the authorities,” and the fact that she pulled the knife out of his chest before paramedics showed up to the scene(King). Smith’s fans were compelled to feel that he wouldn’t harm himself because it would hurt them; they were attached to him as his biographer admitted “with Elliott, I had found someone who gave voice to the outsider’s way of looking at the world” (Shutt). Even though there is factual evidence that can be cited which would point to murder as a cause of death, it is still circumstantial evidence that seems to be used as a proxy for the fan’s deep seeded connection with Smith’s intimate words. Smith’s own words contradicted the murder theory around every corner, with his foreshadowing thoughts of suicide and even tangible proofs like his suicide attempt in North Carolina that failed  “Um, yeah – I jumped off a cliff. But it didn’t work.” (Garofalo).
The murder question existed because his fans wanted to believe that their idol would not have chosen nothing over everything else. Yet reality indicated that Smith could not handle his memories or his emotions. This caused him to give up, trying to make it work was irrelevant because no matter how hard he tried he could not let go of what was keeping him down. His fans thought they were justified in believing Chiba was responsible for his death, but Elliott’s message was inconsistent with throwing blame around and not being accountable for oneself. Whether he killed himself or not, Elliott Smith tried to live through his music, and with his songs he reached out to a broad audience, giving them an expression of himself that they could relate to when feeling down like him. Although Elliott’s fans were eclectic in themselves, it wasn’t hard for Smith to make such appealing music, it was hard for him to let go of the memories that drove him to express himself. Ultimately, it was his animus that led to his demise.

Image

Works Cited
“Elliott Smith Interview.” Interview by Janeane Garofalo. Viewed on Youtube. Web. 8 Apr. 2011.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMQxqae1CT8).

Gowing, Liam. “Mr. Misery” Spin Dec. 2004: 80-92. Google Books. Web. 10 Apr. 2011.
(http://books.google.com/books?id=_jMs8xO7QE4C).

County of Los Angeles, Department of Coroner Investigator’s Narrative. Sources, Det. King, Jennifer Chiba, Felice Eaker, Dr. Stanton. 21-28 Oct. 2003. Viewed through thesmokinggun.com. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.
(http://www.thesmokinggun.com/file/rockers-autopsy-doesnt-rule-out-homicide)

Shutt, S. R. “The Time It Took a Cigarette to Burn: Scenes from the Life and Art of Elliott Smith”. Sweet Adeline Biography. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.
Smith, Elliott. “Say Yes.” 19 Sep. 2003. Viewed on Youtube. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8oLojgTMVA)

Smith, Elliott. “Thirteen.” 1 Jan. 1999. Viewed on Youtube. Web. 2 May 2011.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBHGfJqcSGU)

Smith, Elliott. “All Cleared Out.” New Moon. Kill Rock Stars, 2007. MP3 file.

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(Photos are from unknown source found on Sweet Adeline.)

Categories
Fiction Short Stories

Unrest

Howard woke up that morning with the intent to kill every living person on the face of the Earth. The lack of sleep lingered over his body as if there was a slightly crushing force extending a tormenting orb throughout the realm that was himself. The Luger made him twitch with an incandescent longing for sanguine. Not yet. A window offered the glimpse of hell without, as the sinners roamed streets paved with sweat off the other sinners. His tropical worsted suit was in order for the day that he had planned, and his favorite blue striped bow tie would make a perfect fit for his calm demeanor. He had reached the gracefulness that can only be achieved through smoldering rage that burns into molten hatred for other sentient beings. This feeling of absolute disgust and antipathy bent all curved perceptions into straight, narrowed objectives. He had purpose.
The night before, Howie, as the friends he didn’t have in high school called him, departed his mother’s humbly decrepit apartment in Camden, New Jersey to see a double feature in Philadelphia. He lingered for a long, long while. One would wonder why Howie would sit through so many showings of the same films by himself, as both films were absolutely horrible and dull.
The first film, I Cheated the Law, was about a gangster who got away with murdering a man, until the wily lawyer protagonist tricked him into confessing to another killing. The gangster was so inclined into making the movie more tawdry than it already was that he even confessed to the original murder once he realized that the guileful lawyer pinned him. The second film, The Lady Gambles, was wildly complex in contrast. It was about a woman who visited La Vegas with her husband and tried gambling for the first time, but then became addicted. She fell into debt, and her husband divorced her.
Howie sat through each showing three times straight without getting up. He then went to the restroom and returned with a medium sized buttered popcorn and a Coke. Howie finished the popcorn like lightning, because he didn’t have the luxury of supper that evening. He spent the entire day erecting a gate that he and his mother could enter to get to her apartment without traveling through the neighbor’s yard. But they tore it down. That’s why he made his decision to kill.