Patti Smith

I became very interested in Patti Smith and whatever she is up to when I picked up her book M Train (Amazon) when it first came out in 2016.

When I encountered this book, I had met the woman who is now my wife a little before this, and I was starting to fall for her. It was the middle of the week, and I planned to see her again the coming weekend, but time passed slowly. (As it does when waiting to see someone you're falling in love with...)

I went to the used bookstore, hoping to find a book that would make time pass more quickly. There was a small section in this store where they kept new (not used) books. Normally, I did not look in that section, but on that day, I did and saw M Train. Something about the cover intrigued me.

I picked up the book and started to read it.

IT'S NOT SO EASY writing about nothing. That’s what a cowpoke was saying as I entered the frame of a dream. Vaguely handsome, intensely laconic, he was balancing on a folding chair, leaning backwards, his Stetson brushing the edge of the dun-colored exterior of a lone café. I say lone, as there appeared to be nothing else around except an antiquated gas pump and a rusting trough ornamented with a necklace of horseflies slung above the last dregs of its stagnant water. There was no one around, either, but he didn’t seem to mind; he just pulled the brim of his hat over his eyes and kept on talking. It was the same kind of Silverbelly Open Road model that Lyndon Johnson used to wear.
—But we keep on going, he continued, fostering all kinds of crazy hopes. To redeem the lost, some sliver of personal revelation. It’s an addiction, like playing the slots, or a game of golf.
—It’s a lot easier to talk about nothing, I said.”

I had found what I was looking for. I bought the book, and it was my companion. It helped the time go by.

Later in this book, Smith writes about taking a trip to Tokyo, and she captures the way that an old wound can be re-opened by quotidian things:

I finally chose a few books by Dazai and Akutagawa. Both had inspired me to write and would serve as meaningful companionship for a fourteen-hour flight. But as it turned out I barely read on the plane. Instead, I watched the movie Master and Commander. Captain Jack Aubrey reminded me so much of Fred that I watched it twice. Midflight Mercifully, I fell asleep, and when I awoke snow was falling over Tokyo.

Fred is her husband, Fred Sonic Smith, who passed away in 1994. The simple, honest, beautiful words that capture the depth of this loss that she carries with her for 22 years...

I began to weep. Just come back, I was thinking. You’ve been gone long enough. Just come back. I will stop traveling; I will wash your clothes.

It brought tears to my eyes as I read it at a Starbucks. I marked the page. I don't know how many times I've picked up my copy of this book and reread those words. I don't know why I feel compelled to reread them, but I am compelled, and I do reread them.

Today, Patti Smith has a substack, where she shares what she is thinking about, and working on. It brings much joy to my life.

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