That Time I Met My Idol Jim Carroll
When I lived in Atlanta, I managed a fun indie band called Viva La Diva. We toured the Southeast, played all around town, had a good following and sometimes scored really great gigs. One of those gigs was playing with the legendary poet Jim Carroll. A friend of mine in college gave me a copy of “The Basketball Diaries” that I still own to this day. That book is compiled of actual journal entries that Jim Carroll kept in his teenage years while he was simultaneously a local basketball star and an emerging heroin addict. I love that book and have read it cover to cover many times over. Jim Carroll is the sole reason why I started keeping a journal. For years and years I meticulously catalogued my life events as they happened. It would be the ultimate gift to myself. In my golden years I could read my journals and recall memories from my life that I may have long since forgotten. All the little details, the people I met, the places I traveled, the thoughts I had.
So back to Viva La Diva. We get the call to join the bill with Jim Carroll at The Cotton Club in midtown Atlanta. Holy crap this is unbelievable I think! Of course I will play it cool but man I’m going to get to meet Jim Carroll!!!! We get to the club, load in, and start doing our thing. Backstage at The Cotton Club is small. Front of house holds a good amount of people but it was really just a divey club. Viva La Diva’s dressing room was so tiny, it couldn’t even fit all of us in there, never mind the drummer’s friend Hobbs who came with us. He was also a huge Jim Carroll fan. Across the narrow hallway was Jim Carroll’s even tinier dressing room. The band was out in the club and backstage was just me and Hobbs. And then all of a sudden, Jim Carroll. I have no idea what I said, how I acted or anything at all except that he came across the hall and said to us, in his warbly ex-junkie voice, “Hey man do you guys want my cocktail? I don’t drink booze anymore.” Of course I want that cocktail!! How many people would be able to say that Jim Carroll gave them his cocktail?!!! Jim gives us the drink, then goes back to his dressing room to get ready for his show. Hobbs and I get to sharing that cocktail. The only thing I really remember is that it was red and it was STRONG. “Holy shit, what’s in Jim Carroll’s drink?” we ask each other. Rhetorical question of course because we drank it regardless. Then we shared a little ganja to get good and revved up. Jim hits the stage and out I go, leaving Hobbs behind. I was standing in the backstage hallway looking at the stage when the most numbing, utterly narcotic buzz I’ve ever had hit me like a ton of bricks. I mean this shit was alien. I was a partier. I knew how to hold it down, yet I only had half of that drink and I was off the planet. I mean I’ve never felt quite like that before or since. I could barely keep it together. I eventually made my way closer in toward the stage and knelt down near the empty monitor booth, hiding behind some speakers. The audience probably couldn’t see me. Jim definitely couldn’t see me. But I could absolutely see him. His set was awesome and tears ran down my face because I just couldn’t believe I had a secret front row seat to watch my idol perform. That and of course, I was wasted. When he was done, he walked within a foot of me, still not seeing me. It was then that I realized that Hobbs never came out to join me. He was a huge fan, where was he? I stumble back stage and into our dressing room. I found Hobbs curled up in the fetal position, clutching his rolled up leather jacket and practically crying for his Mama. He. Was. Trippin. “What was in that drink?” “I don’t know man, I just don’t know.” The night ended, our good friends made sure we both got home safely and I undoubtedly wrote something in my journal about the adventure at 4 o’clock in the morning.
Fast forward to 2009. In a rather strange turn of events my house got robbed. I kept my journals in a duffel bag in my closet because I always thought if God forbid my house were to catch on fire, I would grab that bag and go. That’s it. Make it out with the journals. For some reason the thieves grabbed that bag and ran. That’s the only thing they took. The alarm was going off, they had to take something and there just wasn’t anything valuable in my house. To them anyway. That bag had my life’s work in it. Nothing held more value to me. In my head, I let them go that night because I knew I would never see them again.
The week after my journals got stolen, Jim Carroll died suddenly of a heart attack. And just like that. Both. Gone. Forever.