…On Getting Out Of Dodge And Making Life Happen, Or At Least Trying To, With Advice And Commentary From Jimmy At Trash And Vaudeville. (Feel free to apply this to any aspect of your life, because it’s really important and valid, okay?)
I am at a pivotal point in my life. I can stay stagnant and unhappy in a place that I have never fit into or belonged in, which is becoming increasingly unhealthy for me, but keep a roof over my head and some sort of—albeit, depressing—stability. Or, I can uproot myself from everything I have ever known and go to where THE OPPORTUNITIES are and try to make a life for myself. Basically, I am crippled by anxiety and fear. Nonetheless, though, a choice needs to be made. And in talking with close friends and even acquaintances, it has become clear to me that we are all facing some kind of big decision.
I guess the first step to enlightenment in cases such as this would be to realize (see also: get it through your damn head) that you are NOT the first person to come to a crossroads or fly the nest or take the job or write the song that ends up being your big break.
It’s been done before, and thus, it is doable.
I have always been in awe of people who have built up names for themselves out of practically nothing; people who have worked hard and fought and scraped and didn’t lose themselves in it, who dove for every small scrap thrown their way and owned it. Because even if it was hardly anything, it was THEIR “hardly anything.” People who didn’t give up on themselves, on their dreams. People who didn’t compromise simply because someone else told them that they had to. A picture of Patti Smith looking like a witch somewhere in the bowels of the New York City subway system is taped to my mirror, to remind me every morning that things are not as bleak or hopeless as I sometimes let myself believe they are.
When you feel like you’re coming home, every time you leave home—it is time to leave home. When you feel like your talents could be better exercised elsewhere, it is time to stretch your legs. When you feel like a dream has become too big for your body, it is time to let it go…and fucking chase it.
“Everyone who has a dream should follow it,” Jimmy Webb tells me over the phone, after graciously agreeing to let me interview him briefly for this project. “You need to follow your heart’s desire. Follow it, even if you don’t know what it is yet. Did I know I was gonna be friends with Iggy Pop and Slash? Did I know I was gonna dress the Madonna tour? Did I know I was gonna be ‘Jimmy from Trash And Vaudeville?’ No! I just knew I needed more.”
“I NEED MORE”—as stated by his giant back tattoo, which he’ll show ya, if you ask. “I wanted more; more color, just more.” I ask him at what point he realized he needed to leave his small town surroundings, and he said he always kinda knew. “Well, maybe not in kindergarten, or first grade, or third grade—ya know? It just kinda happened. I knew that it was a big world, and I wanted to explore it. When high school came around, I knew it was time to go! When everyone was filling out college forms, I was thinking to myself, ‘Do I want that? College and doctors and nurses and marriage and 2.5 kids? Definitely not!’ And so in 1975, I came to New York City with my clothes in a pillowcase and not a dollar in my pocket. It’s different these days, though. I think that would be a lot tougher now.” When asked if he thought it was still doable, though, he said, “Of course! If I don’t believe, who will?”
Obviously, those without trust funds and silver spoons will have to work a lot harder to hold onto what we procure for ourselves, to keep it, but that’s okay. Because who wants something they didn’t have to fight for? It may not be the same as it was decades ago, but the needs to create and explore and experience are still very strong in those who not only know there’s got to be more, but for those who want it. Those who can almost taste it. However—and this goes for any venture in your life, big or seemingly small—you can’t lose sight of what you set out to accomplish. It’s very easy to get caught up in the whirlwind, very easy to get intimidated or discouraged. It’s a big world, full of incredible and equally as terrible things. Perseverance and focus will do you a shit ton more good than the bottle when it gets hard. Don’t give up when giving up is easy to do…but don’t cheat anyone else (or yourself) in the process.
“Obviously, you’re gonna know when something is bad,” Jimmy says. As he goes on to tell me about a “street kid” he knows, the story seems achingly familiar—because it is. “I’m an anarchist, and this kid, I love him to death, he tells me he’s an anarchist too. And I tell him, you’re not an anarchist, you’re a junkie. You need something every day…you’re as dependent as anything.”
The easy way out, be it drugs or drinking or other risky behaviors, or, the complete opposite—staying right where you are because you’re frozen in fear and while you may not be happy, you’re kinda comfortable, so it’s okay—is a cheat. “And there’s no way to cheat and be happy,” Jimmy says. “If you win the game by cheating, you’re not a winner! You’re a cheater! I don’t even know where that came from…but, when you can’t look at yourself in the mirror, it is time to just take a second. Ya know?”
And that’s among the truest of truths. Lose focus, lose yourself. Lose yourself…lose the dream. I don’t mean to sound like a fortune cookie, but really.
“As cliché as this sounds, when it comes down to it, home is where the heart is. Home is where you flourish most. When you arrive, you know.” Jimmy says this to me in a way that only someone who has truly “come home” can. And it strikes a nerve, and I try to hide it on the phone, as he half-sings me the opening to “Search And Destroy.” “I’m a street-walkin’ cheetah with a heart full of napalm, I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb.”
“My dream, currently, is to see Iggy in Paris,” Jimmy says. “I’ve seen him in so many other places, but I wanna see him in Paris. Am I gonna give up on that because I have to work seven days a week or because I have responsibilities or because my house was destroyed in a flood or because I have to take care of my mom? No, I’m gonna see him in Paris one day! And I was just on the phone with Iggy, this man who led me to the gutter and back again, about life, and it’s just crazy. It’s just crazy how things happen.” And he’s exactly as he wants to be. And it is a truly beautiful thing.
And, just to clarify, for those of us who (sometimes, or a lot of the time…) need the clarification: he didn’t get there by bein’ a little shit.
I walk into Trash And Vaudeville, I’m greeted with a hug and a kiss and a really warm, personable approach, and that is what has kept the shops alive. That is what has kept St. Mark’s, the music, the people, all of it alive—because that is what rock ‘n’ roll is really about. Respect, taking care of the outsiders, the weirdos. Sticking together, and sticking it out. Having a good fucking time. “Be happy and appreciate everything, have good manners. Always be honest.” Always be honest to others, and especially yourself.
“Embrace life as you embrace people, and embrace people as you embrace life!” he says into the receiver in some seemingly unexpected moment of clarity, and we laugh, as he tells me it was I who inspired that in him. I don’t know if I can really take credit, or even how, but maybe this is what it’s all about. Mutually learning from and connecting with other people who share your dreams and ideals and want only what they deserve from the work they put into things. Finding yourself and your voice and your path, and not being afraid or ashamed to ask for help along the way.
We’ve all got choices to make, big scary choices that will affect our lives forever, and that’s terrifying. But if there’s one thing I have heard my whole life, but only recently realized was the actual, legitimate fucking key to everything, it’s GET OFF YOUR ASS. Stop making excuses, and start making things happen for yourself. If you keep waiting till you’re ready, you’re never going to be ready. No one is EVER ready; readiness is an illusion. You either stay stagnant and unhappy, or you come to care about something enough to just dive in and hope you don’t sink. So try. And if you fail, you gave it a shot. Recover your ego, and try again. Be kind to people. Be kind to yourself. Help others, and the universe will help you back—and even if it seems like it’s not, remember: we are given what we need when we need it, not what we want when we think we need it. Fuck greed. Fuck fame. Don’t ever let yourself become motivated by anything other than what motivated you in the first place—stay pure with your intentions. Stay simple with it, because what’s simple is true.
And of course, whatever happens…there’s always more.
I’d love to hear what you have to say; write in with questions or discussion topics or advice or, well, anything, really. Like us on Facebook!