I saw him once, in a theater in San Francisco. And his memoir, The Basketball Diaries, was an inspiration. There was something searching and wrong about him. He was a beautiful talented mess. I loved him, kind of, without knowing him. Indebted. Read most of his books.
His music made me uncomfortable. There was too much in common with my own life, except in his late teens, shooting heroin, he already knew who he was. He already wrote beautifully. He knew why he was turning tricks and the drama inherent in his situation. I knew nothing about these things. When a man asked me to get in his car, said he wanted to smell my feet, I didn’t know the potential. I wouldn’t write about those things for ten more years. And when I was twenty-one, and shooting heroin, and stripping in a gay club, it wasn’t interesting yet.
There was something privileged about Carroll. It’s the kind of awareness I saw in my students at Stanford. Children that referred to their high school teachers by their first names. But that didn’t make it less real. His writing was stunningly accurate. And those were people who died. And that’s where we really cross paths. At an early age I was surrounded by death, and in the past year I have lost three more. Victims, in their late thirties, of social class.
Jim Carroll died. And that’s just very sad.