O Janis, how sweetly you sang in your hoarse
voice, a few octaves lower than the rest of
the birds around you. As you wore dirty red
bandanas and faded blue jeans with style
on stages surrounded by drunks and chicken
wire you sang the blues with your heart and soul.
My God, m’lady … there is not anyone
who’s existed before or since that was quite
like you. Why did you have to shoot heroin?
I wish I’d have met you at UT in Austin.
What was the contest you won, as voted on
by those idiot frat boys who went to school
with you? “Ugliest Man on Campus?” Assholes.
What years did you go to school there? Crap. Hey Megh…
when did Janis go to college at Texas?
I need to know for this quasi-love letter
I’m writing to her corpse and eternal soul.
“Hmm,” she replied, chewing on a pen she’d been
using to mark up a copy of Hocus
Pocus by Vonnegut. “Early sixties, I
think. Maybe ‘61 or ‘62. I’ll
Google it. … K, she graduated high school
in 1960. Hmmm … that’s odd. She died just
16 days after Jimi Hendrix passed on.”
This gives me a moment’s pause and I look up.
I’ve really only listened to her music.
I don’t know much about Janis the woman,
but as Megh reads aloud I begin to fall for
the same bird Kris Kristofferson once sang for.
“Primarily a painter while still in school,
she first began singing blues and folk music
with friends. While at Thomas Jefferson High School
she stated that she was mostly shunned. She was
quoted as saying, “I was a misfit. I
read, I painted, I didn’t hate niggers.” … Stop.
Relax, ok? It’s a just word. You only
allow it to affect you if you allow
it to affect you. If you blew it off the
way I laugh when I’m called Saltine Cracker
(or Baldy or Mister Clean or whatever)
people would stop using it to hurt your feel-
-ings. Please know that I say this with the utmost
respect. I realize I haven’t dealt with
anyone calling me misfit, but I have my
own weight to carry and I don’t burden folks
with it, nor do I complain as jerks pile
more tons on my brittle neck and shoulders. Why?
A friend of mine from Mississippi played ball
for Jones College. He always said, “If you’re cool,
you’re cool. If you’re an asshole, burn.”
Back to Janis: Meghan’s still reading, “As a
teen, she became overweight and her skin broke
out so badly she was left with deep scars on
her face. Other kids routinely taunted her
and called her names like “pig”, “freak”, “nigger lover”
or “creep.” Anyone care to sing along with
Thom Yorke and Radiohead? “I’m a creep. I’m
a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.” And we go falsetto…
“Sheeeeee’s … running out …. the dooooooor … or … or … or.” OK.
That’s enough of that shit. Did you know Janis
went to school with G. W. Bailey? He’s
Captain Harris from Police Academy.
He tried to stop old Bubba Smith, former Colts
D.E. … speaking of hand egg, Jimmy Johnson
(the Dallas coach with the hair, not Jimmie, the
NASCAR driver sporting number 48)
went to school with her before prowling on the
sidelines as Troy Aikman and company made
him look like a better than average coach.
Barry Switzer kind of disproved that theory,
though had Neil O’Donnell not thrown two awful
interceptions that looked intentional to
me… Meghan speaks up, breaking my reverie.
“Hey, would you like to hear what was said in the
July 27th, 1962
issue of The Daily Texan? Campus news
said, “She dares to be different. She goes bare-
footed when she feels like it, wears Levis to
class because they are more comfortable and
carries her Autoharp with her everywhere
she goes, so that in case she gets the urge to
break into song it will be handy. Her name?
Janis Joplin.” … What a wonderful woman.