I just finished reading poet / rock 'n' roll icon Patti Smith's memoir, "Just Kids," a reminiscence of her years in New York City in the 1970s. It's a story of being new in town, broke, and trying to scrounge together a life out of music, art and friends. It's a genuinely touching book, about gaining experience and losing friends, but never losing that wide-eyed awe of discovery of that first day in the big city, even after you've made it big.
Biographies are funny, in that they always start out just like anyone else's story, and until that whole become-a-rock-star-overnight part, it's all very relatable. But then they're playing Scrabble with Lou Reed and Andy Warhol, and then it kinda goes out of your range of experience. But that's why we love hearing those stories - to read about the adventures and decadence and reckless abandon that famous people are able to exercise. Us Regular Joes get a vicarious thrill out of reading about the money and fame and big exciting cities. However, the closest most people get to being a rock star is those four-and-a-half minutes onstage at karaoke. But hey, when I'm up there, I'm a god.
In retrospect, they probably don't realize that their lives will someday be held to the scrutiny of rock journalists who pore over every story of drunken nights and wild parties and rubbing shoulders with It People, until even the days spent in a grungy apartment eating Spam are made to seem epic in scope. It seems that when you get famous, your friends, your town, and even your old T-shirts become the stuff of legend. I remember reading a magazine article discussing the bands on T-shirts that Kurt Cobain wore before he got famous - I'm sure he never realized that his holey old clothing would be analyzed to that extent.
Who's to say that the decadence and abandon and hedonism of my misspent youth is any different? Oh, because me and my friends aren't, like, rock legends. But still.
Sure, Youngstown isn't swingin' 60s London, or 70s New York City, 80s L.A., or even 90s Seattle. But I had some pretty crazy adventures, and some pretty awesome and talented friends (some of whom are actually kinda famous, in their own right).
I know that the story about taking a bunch of Swedish guys to Taco Bell after their show in Youngstown one night and trying to explain what a burrito is on the roof of a friend's apartment isn't that exciting. Neither is the time we invented Bottle Rocket Frisbee. That party I had in 2006 was hardly a night at Studio 54, and our front-porch concert series thrown by my neighbors and I was hardly Woodstock. But if Iggy Pop or Mick Jagger did the same things, they would make a movie about it (probably starring James Franco).
That stuff might not be as epic as Jim Morrison's taste in pants, but it was pretty epic to me. Our youth was just as significant as any rock star's. And who knows, maybe Youngstown will become the next Seattle, and suddenly rock journalists will descend upon us like locusts, wanting to hear stories about every hole in the wall and every local legend. They'll sit me down in a canvas chair with some bottled water and I'll say "Yeah, the rest of the world never thought that so-and-so would be a star, but we always knew." And I'll spill the litany of our sordid people, places and things in such detail that you'd think it was the Renaissance.
So, former teachers, childhood friends, lovable bartenders, neighbors and exes, get prepared; you never know when VH1's "Behind the Music" is going to call you up to ask about my old T-shirts.