patti & tricia

John Cale, Lou Reed, Patti Smith & David Byrne, NYC (1976) by Bob Gruen. Obviously they were just all born rock stars and had no life previous to that, right? Nope!

It took me a long time to get around to reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids and then a bit more to process it because I saw so much of myself in her story.  

What I liked best about the book was finding out that everything I assumed about Patti Smith was kind of wrong. I always thought of her as the poster girl for effortless cool, and that’s simply not true.  She is a bit of a try-hard, which is great, because so am I!  And you know what? I’m proud.  

Like me, Patti struggled from a young age with the whole “I know I’m an artist but I don’t know how to express myself!” thing.  Admittedly, there are worse problems to have and that I do actually struggle with, which is precisely why many people I love dearly typically don’t (and maybe shouldn’t) indulge such complaints.  

Patti had a real thing for Bob Dylan early on, but resisted music as a creative outlet for years.  Photo by Judy Linn.

I do think artistic existentialism (or whatever you want to call it) is a legitimate crisis to have, though. There’s sort of this weird adoration of people in creative fields that find their particular calling without much struggle, like somehow if the first thing you ever drew was a taco and it was a very great taco that's better than having a hundred ugly tacos drawn on crumpled up paper in your waste basket before you get it right even if the product looks equally delicious. Or maybe you decide that you don't even want to draw tacos, you want to sculpt them or write about them. Whatever, the point I was trying to make is that I'm hungry. Wait, no, I don't think that's right...

Certainly there’s something to be said for the wunderkinds among us and anyone else who takes a relatively straight shot to the top with limited fucking around. The hard work + good luck = success equation is simple and elegant and I think we all need to believe in it, but understand that it’s okay for our creative (or any other type of) self-discovery to be messier than that. Mine has felt like lots of flailing around with precious few moments of clarity and competence that usually end up with me feeling like all my previous efforts were tantamount to me running very fast and very far in the wrong direction.

Patti's companion, Robert Mapplethorpe, took a while to pick up a camera, but when he did, he found a lot of success photographing things like naked people and flowers.
But still, I don’t regret all the hours spent trying to train my tone-deaf ears to be something biology determined they never would long before I picked up my first guitar or wielding a paintbrush countless times just to form clumsy, tired shapes nor do I intend to give up the things I enjoy but have no particular talent for.  There are worse things to be than a dilettante.

Lately, it seems more and more like it’s time to pursue my first love, what I’ve always felt best at - comedy writing. Making people laugh consistently is something I'm actually! pretty! capable! of! and it feels nice, so why not? Though I haven’t yet found the best form form for my particular brand of earnest, politically-correct, whimsical humor to take, it feels right to try everything and take it as far as I can. My minimal-effort joke blog was on Conan, right? (Still not done bragging about that. Sorry.) So who's to say that actually trying won't turn into something real? Because we've established that, right? That trying is cool? K, good.


  1. trying is the greatest thing!

  2. She is a bit of a try-hard, which is great, because so am I! And you know what? I’m proud.

    Love this.

    that usually end up with me feeling like all my previous efforts were tantamount to me running very fast and very far in the wrong direction.

    You voice the frustrations i have also been experiencing so well. I know these feeling.


    1. babe, when i get to the starssssssssss it will because you were flying that rocketship with me!

  3. Just Kids is so good, isn't it? It made me sob. Heart Patti & Robert. Definite lessons to be learnt.


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