Why It’s Okay to Write About Deceased Peoples from the 1960s: Jimi & Me
Posted on July 25, 2008
Dalia Rubiano Yedidia is a mixed(up) kid who likes matching, organizing–not of the Excel spreadsheet variety, and has an unhealthy yet loving relationship with fried foods of all kinds. She has made a habit of (un)inhabiting multiple places that she desperately uses as remedy for her perpetual feeling of lack. Having moved 8 times in the last 2 years, she currently finds herself in Chicago, writing for the first time in a while and loving sticky summer. She is painfully insightful and an uncanny judge of character. Dalia is the epitome of thick wit. Curvy and no holds barred, we’re honored to have her featured.
Some artists control my inspiration thresh-hold, altering every book and movie and song and image I ingest thereafter, like the first time I witnessed the witching hour and watched the sun wash out the stars, or excruciatingly realizing that my mom, like the rest of us, surrenders to pain and mortality sincerely, quietly . After the 7th grade or so, these geniuses, with crippling thoughts that they manage to generously share and poignantly impose, have rarely been musicians. However, using up my one-time only ‘free pass’ to write about a dead rocker from the 60s, here’s my ode to Jimi Hendrix and his supernatural power over me. Go ahead: add it to the list. Diverging from one of our favorite pastimes as writers, which is one of the most common motivators for us to actually get down to business and write for once, I am not trying to ‘stroke the ego’ combining my nimble fingers and fast internet connection. This is not Dalia trying to subtly scream the “oh-my-god-let-me-tell-you-all-the-reasons-why-I-love-him-more-than-you-
toenails-and-was-allergic-to-night-shade-vegetables [eggplant, tomato, mandrake, and the like]” type of intellectual masturbation. Nope, my relationship with Jimi, though it does include a number of rotations around the sun since the first time I heard Voodoo Child, has nothing to do with a hardcore authentic pure fanatic blood-spilled-willingly history. I’ve only owned one album of his my entire life, and, inflaming my already infamous rosy cheeks, it’s a compilation.
Yet, something within my tangled hair and archetypical teen desire to belong is wrenched raw with each measure of precariously balanced guitar and drums that clasp their lyrics steadily, soothing my longing and confusion unlike any piece of writing, carton of McDonalds’ fries, or execution of my frequent impulse to flee to a new city. My first exposure when I was five years old was not a random and beautifully romantic personal choice that we sometimes stumble across in our childhoods, and now share with pride on first dates or Facebook. Nope, it was actually an involuntary listening to Electric Lady Land via my older brother’s tape player. How’s that for a big bro watching out for his hermanita?
Since this un-noteworthy (and clearly undeserving of a piece of writing) primary encounter and subsequent purchase of the Jimi Hendrix Experience during my record-buying middle school days, Jimi has entered and exited my life quietly, and yet noticeably, many times. Growing up in San Francisco, my next door neighbor’s ex-husband invented the Light Show, the ingenious visual orgy that mixes colors and fluid formations with music and pulsating body movements; an ‘art experience’ whose soundtrack easily included a Hendrix song or two. Naturally, Hendrix was on frequent rotation next door, in addition to the few tepid hits (comparatively to his full library) like Foxy Lady and Purple Haze on the local old white rocker radio station. And yet, as I non-challantly dismiss his popular anthems, I can’t help but allow the little hairs that dot my forearms begin to raise just thinking about the guitar intro to the latter and its impending epic explosion of poetry and riff and mayhem.
He also became a facet of my daily listening and tonal memory to the Freedom Summer of 2007, where a good-friend-turned-more-turned-tragedy put, in my humble (literally, as you now know) opinion, one of his most powerfully written and gorgeously vibrated ditties, Bold as Love, on a mixtape dubbed the soundtrack of that Summer. While this majestic musical magnum opus of a mere 4 minutes is now quite obviously and painfully connected to a loss deep and familiar like July Chicago heat or the wrinkles around my Abuelita’s eyeballs, I refuse to believe that this is the only reason Jimi affects me so.
Listening to him is an urgency wound into words too tight and fragile to mention. It is a change in mood, breeze, a captivating hurt that won’t let go of the wrists and ankles; it is not easy-listening. Even as I lay here, attempting to write about music — which we all know is like ‘dancing about architecture” — I cannot play him unassumingly in the background, fading in and out of my Sunday night thoughts that include calculating how long I’ll actually have to stay at work tomorrow, or what the “…” really meant in that ambiguous text message from someone whose face I can’t quite pull together from my Friday night excursions (?). No, Jimi demands complete attention of my body, my ears, my sensory memory and my willingness to surrender control. Digesting his vibrations is like watching the sunset fracture the Pacific Ocean from Taraval and 48th Avenue with Nano and his dad, a frantic, wired professor who trails off chaotically about how sunsets are one of those rare collection of moments that only get prettier as time stretches forth. He claims that only the older generation, bruised by nostalgia and dripping with the desire to impart knowledge, can truly discern them. The clouds fade into a limitless foam and the sky folds deep into its own routine of detaching and allowing night to cloak us with possibility.
I’ve recently found myself wishing life into a more linear course, only becoming more beautiful with each inch of time she reluctantly reveals to us. But somehow, while Jimi is just like the sunset and my unsatisfied youth, which currently lies within my unanswered–and typically selfish and implausible–prayer for a manageable life path, he is also the epitome of that capricious pattern of longing, knowing, mourning, melding, falling, and shaping that all of us are too familiar with before we even wake up each day, before we remember we are breathing. He holds me down in a way that is incomplete, vast; each bar is filled with waiting and fragmented disbelief, making it both unsettling and wholly transformative. No one will ever have me quite like he does, but then again, despite my certainty of his now familiar grasp, each chord beckons the nameless, spirals of seconds determined to unfurl. Until that twisted and bitter root called love finds its way into this half-step shuffle to complete that paradox, I’ll have to keep giving myself to a rainbow like you.