My Buddy: Patti Smith Remembers Sam Shepard
He would call me late in the night from somewhere on the road, a ghost town in Texas, a rest stop near Pittsburgh, or from Santa Fe, where he was parked in the desert, listening to the coyotes shouting. Most frequently he would call from his location in Kentucky, on a cold, still night, when one could hear the stars breathing. Simply a late-night phone call from a blue, as shocking as a canvas by Yves Klein; a blue to get lost in, a blue that may lead anywhere. I ‘d happily awake, stir up some Nescafé and we ‘d talk about anything. About the emeralds of Cortez, or the white crosses in Flanders Fields, about our kids, or the history of the Kentucky Derby. Mainly we talked about writers and their books. Latin authors. Rudy Wurlitzer. Nabokov. Bruno Schulz.
“Gogol was Ukrainian,” he as soon as stated, seemingly from nowhere. Only not just any nowhere, but a sliver of a many-faceted nowhere that, when raised in a specific light, ended up being a someplace. I ‘d get the thread, and we ‘d improvise into dawn, like 2 run-down tenor saxophones, exchanging riffs.He sent a message from the mountains of Bolivia, where Mateo Gil was shooting”Blackthorn.” The air was thin up there in the Andes, but he navigated it fine, outliving, and surely outriding, the younger fellows, saddling up no less than 5 various horses. He stated that he would bring me back a serape, a black one with rust-colored stripes. He sang in those mountains by a bonfire, old songs composed by damaged men in love with their own disappearing nature. Covered in blankets, he slept under the stars, adrift on Magellanic Clouds.Sam liked being on the move. He ‘d toss a fishing pole or an old acoustic guitar in the rear seats of his truck, possibly take a canine, however for sure a note pad, and a pen, and a stack of books. He liked evacuating and leaving just like that, going west. He liked getting a function that would take him someplace he really didn’t desire to be, however where he would end up taking in its strangeness; lonely fodder for future work.In the winter of 2012, we satisfied up in Dublin, where he received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters
from Trinity College. He was often humiliated by awards however embraced this one, coming from the exact same institution where Samuel Beckett walked and studied. He liked Beckett, and had a few pieces of writing, in Beckett’s own hand, framed in the cooking area, in addition to photos of his kids. That day, we saw the typewriter of John Millington Synge and James Joyce’s spectacles, and, in the night, we joined artists at Sam’s favorite local bar, the Cobblestone, on the other side of river. As we playfully staggered throughout the bridge, he recited reams of Beckett off the top of his head.Sam assured me that a person day he ‘d show me the landscape of the Southwest, for though
well-travelled, I ‘d not seen much of our own nation. Sam was dealt an entire other hand, stricken with a devastating condition. He ultimately stopped picking up and leaving. From then on, I visited him, and we read and talked, however mainly we worked. Laboring over his last manuscript, he courageously summoned a tank of mental stamina, facing each obstacle that fate allocated him. His hand, with a crescent moon tattooed in between his thumb and forefinger, rested on the table prior to him. The tattoo was a keepsake from our more youthful days, mine a lightning bolt on the left knee.Going over a passage describing the Western landscape, he all of a sudden searched for and stated,”I’m
sorry I can’t take you there.”I simply smiled, for somehow he had already done simply that. Without a word, eyes closed, we tramped through the American desert that presented a carpet of many colors– saffron dust, then russet, even the color of green glass, golden greens, then, unexpectedly, a practically inhuman blue. Blue sand, I stated, filled with wonder. Blue whatever, he said, and the tunes we sang had a color of their own.We had our routine: Awake. Get ready for the day. Have coffee, a little grub. Set to work, composing.
Then a break, outside, to being in the Adirondack chairs and look at the land. We didn’t have to talk then, and that is real relationship. Never ever uneasy with silence, which, in its welcome type, is yet an extension of conversation. We knew each other for such a long time. Our methods could not be specified or dismissed with a couple of words describing a reckless youth. We were friends; good or bad, we were just ourselves. The passing of time did nothing however reinforce that. Difficulties escalated, however we kept going and he finished his deal with the manuscript. It was sitting on the table. Nothing was left unsaid. When I left, Sam was checking out Proust.Long, sluggish days passed. It was a Kentucky evening filled with the darting light of fireflies, and the noise of the crickets and choruses of bullfrogs. Sam strolled to his bed and set and went to sleep, a stoic, noble sleep. A sleep that led to an unwitnessed minute, as love surrounded him and breathed the very same air. The rain fell when he took his dying breath, quietly, simply as he would have wished. Sam was a private man. I know something of such guys. You have to let them determine how things go, even to the end. The rain fell, obscuring tears. His kids, Jesse, Walker, and Hannah, stated goodbye to their father. His sis Roxanne and Sandy bid farewell to their brother.I was far away, standing in the rain prior to the sleeping lion of Lucerne, a colossal, honorable, stoic lion sculpted from the rock of a low cliff. The rain fell, obscuring tears.
I knew that I would see Sam once again someplace in the landscape of dream, but at that moment I pictured I was back in Kentucky, with the rolling fields and the creek that widens into a little river. I imagined Sam’s books lining the shelves, his boots lined versus the wall, below the window where he would watch the horses grazing by the wooden fence. I imagined myself sitting at the kitchen area table, grabbing that tattooed hand.A long period of time back, Sam sent me a letter. A long one, where he informed me of a dream that he had hoped would endless.” He imagines horses, “I told the lion.”Repair it for him, will you? Have Big Red waiting on him, a true champ. He won’t need a saddle, he won’t need anything.”I visited the French border, a crescent moon increasing in the black sky. I bid farewell to my pal, contacting us to him, in the dead of night.