Remembering A Friend

Posted: July 3, 2012 by Raul Parra in Music, Parra's Palliatives
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By: Raul Parra
Twitter: ParraPalliative

When I was seven years old my parents decided to get a divorce.  I don’t remember much of my home life from this point.  perhaps it is an emotional blackout, perhaps my seven year old brain didn’t care enough to file away those memories.  When I go to draw water from them, the well is dry.  I do remember after sometime I wanted to go live with my mother.

We moved into a well lived apartment in the on the South Side of Chicago.

Mom was free and becoming her own woman.  Myself… a pudgy slab of clay.  No direction and formless.  Scared and excited.

Cannaryville is like the negative image of Mayberry.  There are drugs and there are gangs.  There are haves and have-nots.  Sometimes the have-nots seem to out number the haves.  However, much like Mayberry, the old neighborhood also had community.  Strong bonds that stem from family and the lingering memory of what it is like to be a minority in a strange new country.  (Cannaryville is predominantly Irish American)

In what seemed like a short time to me, I went from my old neighborhood of Pilsen, where I had a few friends and seemed to know my place on the totem pole, to becoming a stranger in a strange land.  Needless to say I quickly became a shut in.

I remember walking in colorful Fall afternoons after school.  All manner of orange leaves fell like comets to Earth.

I remember the snarls of bullies.  Scraped knees and bruised fists.

After a few rounds and incidents with a few unsavory fellas I decided to give up on Me

I wanted to fit in.  I had no desire to be different.  I wanted to look like everyone else, talk like everyone else and find my niche.  I just wanted to put my head down and be ignored.

After awhile I did just that.  I stopped standing out.  I stopped talking loudly.  I shrunk like a wilting flower.  I thought I was happy.

Then with a flash.  Without warning. With little to no care of what would happen to me, a friend of my mother gave me a milk crate full of Doors paraphernalia.  Magazines, pictures, albums, posters, books and VHS tapes were haphazardly thrown into this Pandora’s box of Jim.  It’s like somehow he knew I was searching for something more than little league and pee wee football.

I don’t remember the first Doors song I heard or the first album I slipped into my CD player.  I do remember the collective feeling I got from those first few listens… that feeling was fear.  Frankly,  The Doors scared the shit out of me.  Their twisted carnival moans and Jim’s syrupy vocals were enough to make my hair stand on end.  When you’re seven-ish and you’re falling asleep to the radio serenading you and this comes on.. It might be enough to freak you out…

Over time the fear subsided and new and original ideas floated to the surface and without trying to, I began to break the mold.  Jim became somewhat of a mentor to me.  The older I grew the more my obsession grew and more importantly the less I wanted to fit in with others.

Jim was the first to turn me onto poetry, way before any teacher could sink their claws in me.  It was because of him that I first fell head over heels in love with the Beat poets

“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.” – Jack Kerouac

Morrison was also responsible for directing my compass toward the horizons of philosophy.  His love of Nietzsche became my love.  When I first read words like this I knew there was more than the racially divided neighborhoods of Chicago out there waiting for me

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

He was also responsible for turning me onto the Blues, which in turn sparked the idea that I could be a musician one day.  20 some odd years later I’m still strumming chords and beating rhythms out on my ragged drum set.

So how do you honor someone who has meant so much to you and literally shaped you as an artist and person?  I have no clue.  The only thing that came to mind is to tell my story and hope that it would inspire you to go search out some of those early heroes of yours and once again heed whatever message you once gleaned from them.  Even if it is only for a second, relive those afternoons when you had a hero.  Remember what it was like to not know who you are.


James Douglas Morrison

(December 8th, 1943 – July 3rd, 1971)

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