“No one expected me. Everything awaited me.” – Patti Smith, Just Kids
There are artists and artworks that shape your mind and that you do not forget. Two years ago on a sunny day in Madrid I have visited a sweet small vintage store. There was a carton box at the back with books to give away for free. I took one that caught my eye and it happened to be “Just Kids” by Patti Smith. I had no idea who she was and what kind of book it was but I was willing to read something new so I took it home. As I started diving deep into her world, I realized that I found a rare treasure. I struggled to stop reading and I felt absolutely overwhelmed by the power of her words. Patti Smith has become one of my female heroes, great artists and superwomen that give you example and inspiration. She has the rare ability to create an intimacy between her and her readers and the way she speaks about her life, love and death gives me goose bumps.
“There were days, rainy gray days, when the streets of Brooklyn were worthy of a photograph, every window the lens of a Leica, the view grainy and immobile. We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until, exhausted, we fell into bed. We lay in each other’s arms, still awkward but happy, exchanging breathless kisses into sleep.” – Patti Smith, Just Kids
I finished reading it and I decided to give it as a birthday gift to one of the most important human beings that have ever appeared in my life. I wanted to share the secret treasure that I had found but I have not expected that this book will shake him much more than it has shaken me.
One year later, when our roles have reversed in many senses, I found the book ‘M Train’, written by Patti in a later stage of her life, in my mailbox (Yes, some people still send letters and paper books!). It was another rollercoaster ride of emotions and great journey to get through to the last page.
“Nothing can be truly replicated. Not a love, not a jewel, not a single line. (…) How is it that we never completely comprehend our love for someone until they’re gone? Just come back, I was thinking. You’ve been gone long enough. Just come back. I will stop traveling; I will wash your clothes.” – Patti Smith, M Train
Right now, two years after I have discovered her existence, Patti Smith is coming to give a life concert in August, nowhere else but in Berlin. I am here, she will be here, and I feel like I cannot miss it. Right now I am back to re-reading “Just Kids” and after all that has changed since the first time I held it in my hands, I keep discovering so many new things, I keep looking with astonishment at different parts than before and I let myself be immersed by the fascinating course of Patti’s turbulent youth.
I wanted to share my excitement and anxiety that simultaneously result from this wonderful coincidence. And as I leave you with another good quote, you should start thinking about reading one of her books before the summer ends!
“I believe in movement. I believe in that lighthearted balloon, the world. I believe in midnight and the hour of noon. But what else do I believe in? Sometimes everything. Sometimes nothing. It fluctuates like light flitting over a pond.”
*Fun Fact about Patti Smith:
She belongs to the Continental Drift Club (CDC), an obscure society that was started by a Danish meteorologist. There are about 27 members from all over the world who meet in places like Iceland for their annual conference, and they’ve “pledged their dedication to the perpetuation of remembrance.” (Those are Smith’s italics from “M Train”, not mine. Evidently she wants us to really soak in that bit of info). She admits that she doesn’t meet the CDC’s usual criteria, but that they welcomed her “due to my abundance of romantic enthusiasm.” How cool is that? Belonging to a nerdy earth-science society that perpetuates remembrance? I’m not sure exactly what it means, but I know that it’s cool.