Monday, October 26, 2009

Caroline Jaffe, 1942-2009

I had to get that last post out of my system before tackling the real subject at hand. I'm not exactly looking forward to it. My friend, the legendary CJ, died yesterday, after a fight with cancer. Those that know CJ, or have ever seen her play at the Gallery Cabaret, will be devastated; those that don't have lost the chance to see one of the greatest performers of modern times. Her residency at the Gallery was on a par with Hugo Ball at the Cabaret Voltaire, the Marx Brothers in their early vaudeville days, Lenny Bruce at the Hungry i, Bob Dylan at the Gaslight, the Ramones at CBGB's, Chicago's unheralded Nightwatch at the relentlessly seedy Lakeview Lounge. CJ was also, in a thousand ways, a divine comedian, a fountain of light, a cosmic hummingbird, a prophet of the sublime, a staunch naturist, the equine spirit incarnate. I feel pity and remorse for those of you that might never have met her.

In full disclosure: as CJ would have suggested, I think, I've been spending the evening smoking piles of marijuana. What you've got here, then, is drug writing--if you've got a problem with it, you're prowling around on the wrong blog. CJ was a also a heroic user of drugs, getting high to the very end. I'm proud to have snuck her pot brownies when she was in the hospital undergoing radiation treatment. Marijuana is, I think, a basically introspective drug, and those that fear or dislike themselves are usually averse to it. CJ certainly didn't fear or dislike her Self. Her inner world was an epic expanse of love, freedom, music and wildlife that I can't even begin to imagine. Marijuana was her simple sacrament in praise of the Divine.

I don't know how much I have in me tonight. I'm drinking vodka, getting high, chasing oblivion. My relationship with CJ was strangely, inexplicably intense. I met her only in July. In September, talking on the telephone, CJ said, "I love you." We began saying it regularly. As she got sicker, I began feeling a sort of phantom sickness, which I struggled to describe to Yony. "It's kind of like," I said, "The end of E.T., where Elliot and E.T. are pyscho-physically linked, and one feels the suffering of the other." Yony laughed. "I think what you mean is that you actually care about someone," he teased. "Maybe not a feeling you're accustomed to." A good point, but something seemed to run deeper than that. She told me, the last time I saw her at the hospital, that she wished I was her son. She had a son, in fact, at the age of 15, who she put up for adoption and never saw again. I told her, meaning no offense to my own dear mother, that I sincerely wished the same.

Strange, also, that I seemed to be the only person so immoderately invested in her success. Her friends and adopted family, I think, for all their undying love, consider her "our CJ." When she is, in fact, everyone's CJ, brought here to enlighten us, and give us hope and harmony. The world will not be robbed of her formidable music. I'll run myself ragged to ensure it.

Damn all this eulogizing and fancy talk. It does nothing. The beautiful woman, see, in the photograph above? Just yesterday she was breathing and laughing and singing. Now they've removed her glasses and put her in a horrible little box and she'll never get to sing again. Philosophize all you want, this is a piece of shit world where everything dies. I put the whole apparatus up on trial. I want CJ back.

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