I couldn’t sleep last night, so I got up, wandered around, decided to hop online and see if there were any other insomniacs in my usual virtual watering holes.
What I didn’t expect to find was a usenet post reading, “elliot smith, rip”. Posted by someone in the UK. A quick hop to a few other places and the horrible news was confirmed.
No, was my first reaction. No, no, no, no, no, no.
We were all rooting for him, so very very hard. Praying for him in our own ways. My friends in LA would regularly go to his shows, whenever they could. The reports were rough, sometimes, but there were enough moments of brilliance that we really, really hoped that his music would pull him out of whatever he’d fallen into.
He was one of ours. Favored son of Portland. On legendary Olympia record label Kill Rock Stars. And he was one of ours because his records captured a quality of emotion so many of us felt but were unable to express or articulate in any tangible way.
Who could forget that night at the Oscars when he came onstage with freaking CELINE DION? It was one of the ultimate moments of triumph of the underdog. Take that, establishment. It was bizarre but we celebrated as though we knew him, as though we played some part in him being up there.
But back to this past year. A new single came out in August. It was supposed to be portent for a new album, hopefully to come soon. So we had hope, still. So much hope. Even when reports from shows would relate how bad he looked. Hope.
Right now, I just don’t understand so many things. Here he was, doing what he loved, making a living at it. His work meant so much to so many people. But, clearly, it wasn’t enough.
So if that isn’t enough, then, what is? He was so fucking talented.
My friend Joey said, “You must really be done living when you can plunge a knife into your own heart.” Heather said, “His heart just couldn’t take the world on any more. I don’t know how else to understand it but that.”
Maybe I don’t get it because the pain has never ever been that bad. Maybe I have better coping mechanisms, maybe I have a strength I don’t give myself enough credit for.
All I know is that I don’t understand. And maybe I should be counting my blessings that I don’t.
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