johnmac's rants

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jim Carroll, RIP

Jim Carroll, RIP
By johnmac

September 14, 2009

Jim Carroll, poet and rocker, is dead.

I have read most of his poetry and
am saddened that his skill has been
taken from us. We have lost a voice.

He was also from my old neighborhood,
Inwood, the garden spot of upper Manhattan,
and deepens the sadness – even greater
because, although I didn’t know him
personally, many of my friends did
and they now mourn him so I am
further saddened.

He was also younger than I am and,
when you’re in your sixties, death is
a scary son-of-a-bitch,

But, most of all, I am sad because Jim
taught me something and I never had
a chance to meet him and say “Thanks”.

In my youth, our sins were drinking and
smoking. Anyone who used illegal narcotics
were either “dope fiends” (a popular expression
at the time) or musicians. Our fathers drank
and both of our parents smoked. This was
being grown up!

So we, as “kids” did dumb things.
I started smoking at twelve (12!),
drinking beer in the park at 14 or 15
and in bars at 16 – the legal age in
New York was eighteen (18) at the
time so we could start younger.

These “dumb things” of our youth
killed some of us – cirrhosis of the
liver; lung cancer – and led some to
AA. Many said they would “drink
until they died” - and they did.

(Personal Note – My freshman year
in college, I was a BB major
(“Beer and Basketball”) and my
stellar performance entitled me to
a position on “The Dean’s Other List”
I turned it around a good deal but still
spent the next many years with my
jump shot and the bar stool having a
very high level of importance).

But we weren’t fucking junkies!
We were better than that!
Or so we thought.

It was only after I left the Inwood
scene that illegal narcotics really
hit the neighborhood.

Jim’s “Basketball Diaries” was
a revelation. Here was a young man
who loved to read and loved basketball
(hey, that’s me) …. and did drugs.

Why? Because he was just as dumb as
we were at his age and the only drugs
that we had available were nicotine and
alcohol. When he hit our age, he had another
choice – and he took it – as I might have.

“Wait”, you say. “Drugs are illegal.
There is a difference!”
Psst – it was illegal to be drinking
eighteen cans of beer in the park at 17;
it was illegal to jump over the subway
turnstiles. It was illegal to sit in “Erin’s
Isle” at 17, on my tenth beer,
Dumb kids do dumb things.

Dumb kids do dumb things – and some
change as they get older and hopefully
smarter – and some don’t. According
to most, Jim did change. He had success;
the making of “Basketball Diaries” into a
movie brought him great publicity.

and his book helped me understand and
I thank him for that. I thank him for
writing about “God’s Country” (Inwood)
and I thank him for sharing his talent
with all of us.

Copyright 2009 John F. McMullen


  • John,
    You're not quite a generation from me yet your words rang true for my teen years as well as those of today's kids. Hopefully, as all parent hope, this lifestyle will skip my children's lives. We shall see.
    Frank M

    By Blogger asiaerin, at 2:46 PM  

  • I went to grammar school with Jim, but only through 3rd grade when boys and girls were separated. But we often hung out together in the park or pizza place or later on in the bar. Like most from the neighborhood The Basketball Diaries brought some chuckles when he referred to someone we knew whose name was changed. Although I didn't partake in Jim's drug of choice, I married someone who did, and could always understand the whys and wherefores. Many of us were creative and I was glad to have known such a survivor and creator. May he now Rest.

    By Blogger Mary, at 3:54 PM  

  • There is a very good Patti Smith PBS interview about Jim --

    By Blogger johnmac, at 2:58 PM  

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