The basement was filled with a din coming from the back. The bands were schedule to start at seven PM, but the show did not start in earnest until half after seven. There weren’t many people there at seven—few spectators, equipment was being setup, and the keg was still filled. The bands scheduled to play were unknown, not experienced before. By seven thirty the first band was playing, more spectators arrived, and the bar was busier. The bands scheduled to play were unknown, not experienced before. As the night continued the bands got better. The basement show was one execution in cultivating and exploring my subterranean interests, but the budding subterranean interests in the literature, drug culture, music, race, sexuality, and the obscene germinated in the ninth grade with learning about Jim Morrison.
My interest in topics outside of mainstream dominance began with my interest in 1960s rock band The Doors and the singer Jim Morrison. With reading Morrison’s biography No One Here Gets Out Alive the reader finds a vast list of books and authors he read. One author in particular is Jack Kerouac, known for his novel On the Road. The book held Morrison captivated with the story of cross road trips from the East to West coast of the U.S., and the eccentric characters that populated the margins of U.S. society. With my interest in Morrison I followed his reading interests and picked up my own copy of On the Road. The novel propelled me in to subjects and taboos the novel touched on like narcotics, sexuality, race, subcultures, and the American experience.
In the ninth grade and through high school I continued my interests. I watched documentaries about hippies during the 1960s and documentaries about the political and cultural climate of various narcotics. In the documentaries I learned about the intersections of race and immigration revolving around marijuana, cocaine, opium and heroin. Next I read Naked Lunch, written by William S. Burroughs, the most obscene book I have read yet. I was exposed to harsh descriptions of drug use and sexuality and obscene language. During high school I did not read further obscene literature, but found similar themes of death, sex, and violence, and drug use in music. The lyrics of The Doors vibrated with images of a “dead president in a driver’s car” and about getting “higher.” But it was The Velvet Underground‘s first album with explicate themes of violence and sex that sounded more controversial and gritty. My reading of obscene and underground literature took a respite during high school, and resurfaced in my sophomore year at college. During the winter break of my sophomore year I read Henry Miller‘s Tropic of Cancer. The book was published during 1933 in Paris and was banned in the U.S. for more than thirty years. In the book I read more descriptions of sex with obscene language. Since that year I have had the chance to read some more challenging books in my courses that included Piri Thomas‘ Down These Mean Streets and Cures: a Gay Man’s Odyssey by Martin Duberman. Reading for pleasure has been difficult, and books that have my interests are not always assigned, but I hope to continue to cultivate my interests when I find the time for it. Looking to the future the next book I hope to read is Hebert Selby, Jr.‘s Last Exit to Brooklyn. The novel is made of six sections that involve topics of drug use, prostitution, and violence.
Over the years I have found that I have an interest in taboo and obscene topics and the political and culture climate that surround them. Since the ninth grade I have dabbled in music, reading, and history that my peers have little or no interest in cultivating. Why do I have these weird interest in authors and musicians that write about oddities most people don’t want to hear or care to know? I can only guess that my interest in Jim Morrison sparked a concern in trying to understand who he was, and what populated his psyche. From then on I found it rewarding to look beyond that I see and find on the surface of what I experience everyday. It is easy to consume popular culture, and that does not mean it is valueless, but finding and learning about obscurities is more challenging and rewarding for a sense of self. It is the opportunities that come from learning about the marginalized, the topics mentioned in a whisper, or listed as banned and how they challenge you to grow that keeps me interested. The goal is to know and grow.