Monday, February 2, 2009

Artificial Light

Our last, best, angry men are gone.

After 9/11, I was being interviewed by Pittsburgh Magazine for an article on "heroes". I chose my mom, because she's badass. I also noted, as I consider myself a bargain-bin iconoclast and wordsmith, that my artistic heroes were Warren Zevon, Norman Mailer, and George Carlin. I'm not one given to hero worship, so I had no second string- when these singular voices and weary hearts were gone, I was tapping out. Zevon died in 2003, Mailer in 2007, and Carlin (in a completely random gift that I will cherish forever) died on my birthday last year. I identified with them so strongly because, while all three men were unparalleled at their craft, they were inveterate pricks in their personal lives. Mailer was married six times, with several mistresses and kids; Zevon, a violent alcoholic and narcissist of the highest order; Carlin was a drug addict and tax evader. Now, I'm in no way comparing myself artistically to any of them- I'd be unfit to haul their luggage- but I share their unfortunate tendency to cut a swath of destruction in the lives of those around me. As such, I embraced these men as if their art held secrets that could answer my own questions. Before spinning off into the ether, they had each made peace with both their libertine nature and the people most adversely affected by their sins. I admired their suspicion that there's redemption to be found in unflinching honesty, even if it's ushered in only after a litany of lies, betrayal, wanton disregard, and the disintegration of one's own moral compass. They gave me hope that those of us with even the most fractured character could be humbled and transformed by staring into the dark.

An old adage says, "religion is the last refuge of the scoundrel". These men didn't find god in their last days, because their salvation didn't have to be faked. My heroes are gone, and there are no pretenders to the throne, but they left us their maps. Now we're on our own. Rest in peace, gents.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember reading that Pittsburgh Magazine article and thinking, "how sweet!" :)