The Ghosts of Rock Stars Passed

by juli boggs

Christmas day is here. As wished in my previous post, I did indeed receive wool socks (two pairs, which makes four socks altogether), as well as one of those remote clickers that turns off any TV.

Last night I was struck with the sad news of Vic Chesnutt’s death (as well as that of Brittney Murphy, though that came as more of a relief), only to find out this morning that his RIP had been rescinded and he was still alive in a coma.   Until I found out he had actually died, again.Sources are still split on whether he lives or not seeing as most of their data is coming from Twitters by friends of friends of family which have proved, well, unreliable.

I haven’t been this confused since the third time I found out Keith Morris had died: just as I had but one opportunity to see Vic Chesnutt live, a Circle Jerks show I attended in 2004 sticks out as one of those glory moments of highschool punkdom. We sat on the stage at the feet of our idol, and afterwards Morris generously autographed whatever we handed him. We left the theatre feeling more or less like the coolest shit ever.

It was one evening about four years later that I was passing time with a friend in the living room of my college abode. Our asshole critique of new releases turned to approval of old classics and what we used to listen to when we were 16 and punk had still been dead for 30 years. As my friend tried to convince me of the timeless quality of Op Ivy (which I’ve never given a chance), I attempted to relate the spiritual invincibility I once felt following my small encounter with Keith Morris.

“So sad,” he smiled. His dread-lock toupee? His adult onset diabetes? “His death,” my friend

suggested. “He passed a year and a half ago from cancer or something.” I sat on the couch as the grief set in. First stunned, then crushed, then angry. To assuage my bereavement, we walked down to the corner store, pulling our pocket change for a 12 pack of beer.

When we returned home we put on old punk records and pushed all the furniture out of the way as we dramatically got drunk on the kitchen floor. Song after song played through the blown out tinny speakers: Fugazi, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat. For hours we lay there talking about tattoos and bikes and zines and house shows. We both spoke of people we’d lost touch with over the years, wondering how they’d fared.

By the sixth cheap beer clarity set in and tales of a punk-rock nothing turned to an introverted contemplation of my own mortality. Just as Keith Morris represented to me a spirit of forever young/ we are the world, his death marked the end of that essence- of my own youthful immortality. On the kitchen floor I was suddenly knew what I had long suspected: that it was all over. That I was growing up and selling out- we all were. That whatever I thought didn’t apply to me, did. That no matter what, I too would lose luster, grow old, and die.

It was then that my roommate Laura returned home, rudely interrupting my self-indulgent eulogy. “What are you doing?” she asked, and we both looked up at her. My friend took a long draught from his beer.

“Keith Morris!” I exclaimed. “Keith Morris is dead!”
“Again?” she asked. I remained quiet. I had missed something.
“Keith Morris is dead, again?” she probed. I insisted I was drunk and that I didn’t understand to which she articulated how he had died a year and a half earlier and I had freaked out, exclaiming that life as we knew it was over before getting ditheringly drunk on the kitchen floor where I then sat.

I stood up, she was absolutely right. Taking an invigorated sip of my beer I swallowed my reflections of mortality just as I had a year and a half earlier. Life would go on just as it already had. Laura moved to the turntable, restarting the Circle Jerks’ “Wild In The Street” and as she did Keith Morris lived again.

[The above story has been adapted from a version I wrote in college to which I was forced to add an editorial post script as follows:]

Keith Morris lived again, quite literally. Words cannot describe my surprise when I discovered while fact-checking that Keith Morris isn’t dead at all. He’s alive and well. He hasn’t died once, which means someday I’ll have a third, shit, maybe fourth opportunity to bemoan my loss and have yet another momentary crisis of spirit. “How could this happen?” you ask. How could I, your dear writer, have been so mislead on so many occasions? Lord only knows. Morris is currently 57 years old, working as an A&R manager at V2 Records to cover his increasingly large medical bills. Whether it was a publicity stunt leaked by Morris himself or merely a cruel and annually played joke originating from someone close to me whom I no longer can trust, we’ll never know.

As for Vic Chesnutt…