Jim Carroll live on Sproul Plaza

It’s weird the things your mind remembers. . . I remember I saw Jim Carroll play a free concert one afternoon in 1980 on lower Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus. I was with my friend Mary Mayhem who I was madly in love with at the time. So I certainly remember THAT. Standing side by side with Mary as we watched the show. She was wearing her black leather jacket. I was 23 and she was 25. . . But the only thing I remember about the show was two moments. The first moment was when Jim Carroll sang the lyrics to one of his songs: “It’s too late. To have a date. With Sharon Tate.” I thought to myself: “What does he mean by THAT??” It was a bit of an odd and enigmatic lyric. . . . The second moment I remember: In between songs Jim Carroll was bantering with the crowd and he made a reference to his book “Basketball Diaries.” He had been a hotshot New York City high school basketball player before he got into heroin. And to emphasize his point, he did a pantomime of how he used to shoot his jump shot when he was a kid. And I remember thinking at the time: “He has good form to his jumper. I bet he really had skills and could play.” …. And that was pretty much all I remember about the show. It was like about an hour-long show around lunchtime. KALX, the campus radio station, used to put on a series of free shows back then (some of them were really good, I remember a packed crowd for a Fugazi show).. . But it’s weird how you end up with little fragmented moments of memories, years later, from all the various episodes of your life. And from those fragments, you carry around in your head the history, the story-line, of your past.

I remember one other vivid Jim Carroll memory from that period in 1980. I was lying in bed with Mary in her bedroom late one night at her house on Hearst St. after we had sex. And we were both laying there side by side, sort of getting ready to go to sleep. Mary was probably taking the last hit off of her bottle of Bud and smoking a last Camel cigarette. She always kept the radio playing at low volume when she went to sleep — she was a bit of an insomniac, so she liked to have something on the radio to listen to when she would wake up periodically in the middle of the night to distract her mind while she was trying to get back to sleep. And as I was laying there, I distinctly remember the Jim Carroll song “Those Are People Who Died” coming on the radio (it was probably KALX because they were probably the only station that would play something like back then). The album had just been released and it was the first time I had heard the song And I’m laying there in the darkness listening to the lyrics — which were pretty vivid and certainly backed up Carroll’s reputation as a “poet.” And I guess it made a bit of an impression on me. Because I still remember that moment 40 years later.

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