I enjoy reading and spent most of my childhood Saturdays at the public library graduating quickly from illustrated Hans Christian Anderson books to Little House on the Prairie, then my elementary school self found Sweet Valley High and this escalated to really smutty novels by the time I was in 6th grade. That's another story....
So you could say, I enjoy reading.
The books of my childhood are still treasured old friends while books I read as an adult are great but rarely stay with me. Until I read Just Kids by Patti Smith in late 2011.
Honestly, I didn't even really know who Patti Smith was...my only real recollection of her was seeing her drawings in the Houston Contemporary Art Museum in 2002 and making a mental note of looking her up. I never did.
I picked it up because I was coming close to 1 year in depression, it was recommended by NPR's book review, I vaguely remembered her art, but mainly I was in depression and needed something to occupy my thoughts.
Patti Smith's memoir, her ode to her relationship to Robert Mapplethorpe and the New York that was way too gritty, filled with punk, art and the 70's of not disco but struggling artists is the most romantic written word I had ever read to that point. It's a love story. A love story to youth, eternal hope, innocence and relationships.
I never viewed friendships as "equal" to romantic relationships, one wasn't necessarily better then the other, they just weren't equal. Reading Patti Smith's and Robert Mapplethorpe's changes of their relationship as they grew up from "kids" in NY to who they became, brought tears of joy and understanding of how deep true love is- that it transcends sexuality, race, gender; that it's about choice, support, mutual understanding that neither is perfect and you're still there.
It gave and gives me a deep appreciation for my friends, whom I adore, always in awe of and that my friendships have carried me through some of the shittiest times of life. It gives me an appreciation to stay "silly", rather "unsophisticated" and naive, when Patti Smith wrote she still felt like a little girl who wanted to rebel and kick in storefront windows with her small brown shoes or almost passed out from having to fake injecting herself with heroin for a play, I loved her more. She wasn't mean. She wasn't elitist. She was and is kind.
She also became my first sign or guardian to change, when in 2015 after my 5 year relationship ended, at a standstill of what I wanted to do with myself, I happened to look online for shows playing in San Francisco on New Year's Eve, on December 30. All my friends in SF were couples doing couple things, I was toying with the idea of meeting another single friend in Mexico City but that didn't feel right either. When I saw that she would be playing a New Eve's show in a small venue, I immediately bought a ticket for one as I waited at the CVS pharmacy.
It was the first NYE I would have spent as a single person in quite a few years and the first I ever spent alone. I thought "Am I loser?" or "Do OTHER people think I'm a loser?". My friend tried to reassure me that she thought it was cool, brave and maybe I would meet someone magical. That thought crossed my mind and my reaction was to instantly dismiss that - I wasn't ready.
I went to the show, surrounded by groups of friends mostly in their 50's and 60's, with many wearing paper NYE festivity hats, and quietly waited for the show to begin after I bought myself a large glass of wine. Every minute that passed, I was feeling smaller and smaller until Patti Smith ran onto stage to join the opening band for a song. It was magic. Her voice is incredible but her speaking voice is even better. It's soothing, kind and still girlish, as if the young girl in Just Kids never grew up. I loved it.
The rest of show was amazing and after the midnight rendition of "Because the Night" with her daughter, Jesse on piano, I left the show - not having met "someone magical" but feeling brave, hopeful and calm. It was the most memorable NYE- not perfect but needed.
So now, I bought her audiobook, just to listen to her stories in her own eternally girlish voice and be comforted to have hope while I work on small personal projects. Because if anyone knows that you sometimes feel the need to create without being able to explain it or even never having shown a capacity for it, it would be Patti Smith.