Tampa, Florida - March 21, 2007
No one thought up being;
he who thinks he has
- Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison was almost my college roommate. He moved out of a shared Tallahassee house to go to California and I moved in with his ex-roommates. I remember listening to one of his songs for the first time in 1965. Jim was born in 1943, and so was I. Jim was arrested at FSU in 1963 for getting drunk and stealing an umbrella from a Tallahassee police car. I was arrested in Tallahassee in 1964 for getting drunk and driving my Harley Davidson motorcycle at speeds over 100 MPH though downtown at midnight past the police station...an ancient judgment error. This link shows him being “booked” in Tallahassee and includes an interview with someone who knew him then. Here are Phred and Jim in the mid-60s.
In 1964, the Air Force sent me to school at Florida State University. I met a small group of “bohemians”. One of them had an old BMW motorcycle. This was before “hippies” emerged as a concept. I went scuba diving with them in the St. Marks river in the summer of 1965, looking for mastodon teeth and Indian pot shards. We called them “beatniks”. Their hero was Jack Kerouac. I’m sure Jim hung with the same group. One of them was named Tully. He had a goatee. Another was the legendary Jack Kennedy who threw outrageous keg parties and kept a severed human arm in his freezer. Jim hung out with the same group, but left in 1964 to go to film school in California. I arrived just after he left and picked up my first degree and Mrs. Phred in late 1965 and headed out to navigator school in California.
Jim was 27 when he died in 1971, and I didn’t. He was apparently unable to restrain his appetite for drugs and alcohol enough to continue living.
Jim now rests in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris along with Oscar Wilde and Heloise and Abelard. Mrs. Phred and I go to visit him and leave flowers each time we visit Paris. Last time a new feature was a fence around his grave and a very bored looking French guard on station to prevent the usual graffiti and vandalism. I leave the day-glow spray paint in my pocket this time. There always seems to be a few fans around Jim’s grave. They sometimes sit nearby drinking wine and stare up with strange, chemically altered eyes. You can buy a T-shirt nearby that has a picture of his original tombstone, a bust of Jim. Someone stole the first tombstone. The replacement is quite large and is probably bolted down. My T-shirt has shrunk in the wash. Really.
My favorite songs by Jim are "the hitchhiker" (his brain is squirming like a toad....sweet memory will die...) and "The End" (he took a face from the ancient gallery...father, I want to kill you! Mother....).
I have a vague recollection of walking into a place in San Francisco in 1967 between trips to Vietnam and hearing Jim playing. The name of the place was the Whiskey a GoGo. It might have happened. The attached link gives a history of San Francisco rock and roll from 1965 to 1969. He was there in 67 along with some of my other favorites (Grateful Dead, Captain Beefheart, Nico and the Velvet Underground, Quicksilver Messenger Service).
Here's a link that gives a brief biography of Jim. An accounting is given of the details of the public indecency arrest in Miami and in other places.
Some think that Jim might have been assassinated by the CIA as a subversive influence at the height of the Viet Nam war and Richard Nixon's power. On the other hand, Jim might well have staged his own death and could be living a quiet middle-class existence, perhaps in his home state of Florida.
So I put a picture of Jim’s tombstone on my blog. Here is a link to some of his strange poetry.
Now is blessed