Monday, July 25, 2011

Some words for Winehouse

Saturday morning I had to get up very early, around 6 AM, to drive my girlfriend to work. Bursting out of sleep and into consciousness so early brought with it a still-spinning movie reel of vivid dream action. I don't often remember my dreams (although I have tried a few times, including recently, to record them in the morning immediately upon waking up in an effort to tap into that unconscious wellspring) but this time I was still seemingly half asleep. The whole story was fresh and I outlined it to my girlfriend during the short drive over to her job, including my own attempts at interpreting each facet of it.

My memory of the dream began with me checking into a hotel and my credit card being denied. The problem was quickly resolved (although there was intense worry upon my only form of payment being rejected) and I went over to the elevator to head up to my room. It was a crappy, rickety old elevator, probably representing the elevators at the hotel I stayed at recently in Pasadena, those were unusually old and slow as hell.

I went in and hit the button to head up to my floor but then two little children rushed in and started playing a game where they chased each other in and out of the elevator while their mother looked on, unable to control them. I realized the elevator wouldn't be going anywhere so I opted to take the stairs. Walking back into the lobby there was a big beautiful staircase in the middle that led up to a restaurant on the second floor. This lobby, in retrospect, was a dream distortion of the lobby in the hotel I was forced to stay in after I was stranded at LAX last month when the United Airlines computers crashed and passengers had to sit at the ticket lines for over 5 hours.

Walking up the hotel lobby steps I heard a news report blaring out from a television below: a young superstar NHL goaltender had suddenly died in a car accident. This goalie had a name in the dream but it wasn't anybody real, just an unconsciously garbled name but this news hit me hard and I felt terrible for this young man who'd died so suddenly. A very close friend of mine, a hockey goalie who I'd grown up with since the age of 8 or so, died in his sleep two years ago, just two weeks after his 26th birthday and, with the anniversary of his untimely death coming up soon it's likely that the thought of him was present here.

As I continued ascending the stairs onto the second floor, the news report's grim images and descriptions of the young man, normally a spirited and animated presence in hockey games, having his life evaporate from him on a stretcher bubbled up sadness from my heart into my throat and I nearly broke into tears. The stairs led into a restaurant and while walking through the restaurant I spotted a familiar face. It was a distinguished man with glasses and he was carrying on a monologue to a large table of people, I recognized him as an NHL general manager, in fact, the GM of the team who'd just lost their goalie to a sudden death. I went up to him and offered my condolences at this horrible tragedy and he was relieved to see me because he'd been trying to communicate to his dinner guests just how bad this news is. I helped elaborate it for him, noting how this young man was only 25 years old and was at the height of his athletic career, etc, etc.

Shortly after that I woke up. After returning home from dropping my girlfriend off at work it was still super early and I was super tired so I sunk right back into bed and went back to sleep for hours. When I woke up again I was spacey and slow, before I could even get out of bed I languidly checked for new e-mails on my phone and then resorted to Twitter. There I saw the news that Amy Winehouse had just been found dead at the age of 27. It felt like my dream had perhaps tapped into a splash in the collective unconscious.

I never paid that much attention to Amy Winehouse's music over the years but I was certainly blown away by "You Know I'm No Good." The woman clearly had an immense gift for singing, listen to her voice for a few seconds and it will rumble down into the deep recesses of your soul. As powerful as her talent was, her inner demons were just as strong. We all wrestle with our shadows. Nietzsche wrote: "One must have chaos within oneself if one is to be a dancing star." Reading about Ms. Winehouse's harrowing struggles with drug addiction it's clear that her torment ran deeper than we could possibly imagine. She certainly wasn't the first superstar musician to have a drug problem but reading the details of her preferred substances (crack, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine, alcohol) makes Ol' Dirty Bastard seem like a choirboy. And her descent played out in plain sight for all to see and judge.

I've been listening to her music a lot these past few days and I'm simply in awe of her voice. Russell Brand wrote a beautiful and personal tribute to her and described this feeling perfectly:
The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine.
I hope her troubled soul can now finally rest in peace.

I also hope that people can come to understand that she doesn't deserve to be tossed into the gutter because of her failure to cope with her problems. Artists are often lightning rods not just for controversy, glamor, and all the other paparazzi bullshit. They are antennas tuned into the aura of their epoch. We live in a chemically consumptive world and this brilliant young woman who couldn't stop gobbling up drugs is representative of our modern mass madness. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, PQ. I didn't know her music, but I really appreciated reading about her journey in the context of your blog.

    As to the dream, yes, a bleed through from the collective, but look at it also for what it can say personally to you.