First off, I should say that I've never been a Patti Smith person. If you're a Patti Smith person, you know exactly what I mean. And if you're not a Patti Smith person, you probably know what I mean and might not even know who I mean.
I'm now a Patti Smith person.
I read Just Kids when it came out and loved it -- not just because Smith is a good and engaging writer, but because she wrote about that transcendent time in New York when art was Art and there was the Chelsea Hotel and grit and grime and music and being poor and doing your thing took precedence over commerce and Wall Street and all that stuff. I don't really know Patti Smith, though, other than through those iconic photographs and the language of her groupies. I got a ticket to go hear her through our library foundation, and because she is Patti Smith, it wasn't a free ticket like the other library foundation tickets but the slightly more expensive ticket that gave me a seat on the third row of this beautiful old theater in downtown Los Angeles. The place was filled to capacity with hundreds, if not thousands of Patti Smith people. Oh, and me.
But now I'm a Patti Smith person.
She was "interviewed" or rather was engaged in conversation at first with the writer Jonathan Letham and sort of spell-bound us with stories and jokes and observations and anecdotes. At one point she talked about how many books she'd read as a child, and she mentioned that when she went to a library and went to the children's section, even now, she had read all the books. She sort of had love and fierceness as an aura around her. Her eyes twinkled. She was reverent and really funny. She talked about art and music and gender and Bob Dylan (truly the greatest Bob Dylan story I've ever heard) and her children and her husband and Robert Mapplethorpe and writing and her poetry and what it means to be alive. She was transcendent. Seriously. Sweet and funny and not giving a fuckish in the best way. A bodhisattva.
And then it was over -- at least the conversation. She stood up and Tony Shanahan came out (see, since I'm now a Patti Smith person, I know who that is) with a guitar and then she sang. She sang two beautiful ballads -- one that she'd written for her daughter and another about her husband. I felt like I was floating at this point, such was her effect on me. Then she dedicated a song to the young people who had died in Paris and we all stood up and sang it with her. Because the night was made for lovers. It was crazy beautiful.
That's it. Some of you will be jealous. I understand. Some of you will have no idea what I'm talking about. I understand that, too.