Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ode to Vonnegut.

Joe, a young man from Pittsburgh, came up to me with one request: "Please tell me it will be okay."

"Welcome to Earth, young man," I said. "It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, Joe, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of: Goddamn it, Joe, you've got to be kind!"

I woke up early this morning with a touch of a migraine, getting up around 5’ish to take my Imitrex and fall back into bed. It must've been an omen or some sort of sympathy pain, because I awoke an hour or so later to S.O. touching my arm softly and saying, “Hey babe, Vonnegut died last night.” At least S.O. was the one to tell me gently, and I preferred that much more than being told by Matt Lauer or something. I’m just not a Matt Lauer kind of girl...

I know I never met the man, but just like countless other of his fans, I felt like I knew him enough to know that I liked him. That’s the mark of a gifted artist – to make you feel as if you can identify with him in some way. And, I did. Just as Marvin Hamlisch and "The Entertainer" made me want to play the piano at age five, Kurt Vonnegut made me want to be a better writer. He made me more honest and unapologetic.

With his passing, it was as if I lost my favorite great uncle today. He was 84, so he lived a great and very meaningful life, but it still sucked to see him go - for all the selfish reasons we have when someone dies. He was supposed to be here in Indianapolis, speaking at Butler University, on April 27th. In fact, they’ve made 2007 here in his home city “the year of Vonnegut,” which is pretty apropos. I will never do his work justice in a blog, but I can at least pay homage the best way I know how and tip my proverbial hat. He was a visionary, and he will always be in my “top five writers of all time” list.

...what made being alive almost worthwhile for me, besides music, was all the saints I met, who could be anywhere. By saints, I meant people who behaved decently in a strikingly indecent society.

Perhaps my favorite thing about his writing style – and the way I presumed he lived his life – was his raw honesty of how he viewed the world and who he was. No bullshit, no pretense, and no apologies. A writing style that I could only hope to emulate. A way of living I hope to emulate, really.

So, I’m wearing my “READ VONNEGUT” shirt today. And, if I had a beer in my hand right now, I’d hold it up for a toast and say,

"No matter how bad things get, the music will still be wonderful."

Amen, Mr. Vonnegut.