— Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre
i was about halfway through edie: an american biography, an absolutely fabulous account of pop art’s favorite junkie, edie sedgwick, when i heard about paul. the book covers everything! warhol, the factory, the 60s, hells angels, the long line of the historic sedgwick family. but most of all, the drugs. the speed, the quaaludes, the heroin, the drugs that killed her. this little girl of about 80 pounds, according to her coronary report, died with .17% alcohol and .48mg% barbiturates in her system. the way she consumed drugs was like she was on a mission to take herself down. she was 28 years old. anyway, i recommend the book.
so i’d been reading about that and location scouting a short film i’m producing, “thank you, cabbage,” when my friend andy spotted an instagram posted by a friend with a cryptic message about paul. andy began to text mutual friends to find out what happened, if he was still alive, but we went underground without confirmation and on the subway i began to panic. “if he’s just in the hospital i’ll come visit him.” i thought it over and over like a prayer. when we got above ground, andy turned to me.
a: “hey sam?”
a: “paul’s dead.”
well, i can’t say i was surprised. paul, like edie, had a reputation for burning bridges - every friendship, every relationship - so i always figured the bridge between life and death might not be too far off. but you never actually expect these things, you know. so it was a shock, and i’m having a lot of trouble wrapping my mind around it.
i’ve been fortunate enough to never attend a funeral. that said, i’m sad i won’t be able to attend paul’s. his family lives in florida and so i assume it will be held down there. it just leaves the thing so open-ended for me.
almost everybody i know had stopped talking to paul. he started drama everywhere he went. he was unable to censor his thoughts for a second - just told you exactly what he thought of you. he was often rude, antagonizing, obnoxious. but he was honest and i couldn’t help but respect that. he was real. the problem was that sometimes he meant harm and sometimes he didn’t, and it was often hard to determine the difference.
it was about a year ago the last time i saw him. he took me out to a fancy vegan dinner at a restaurant he’d just started working at - he was entitled to a free meal and invited me to join him. it was a nice time. he talked a lot about anders, his ex-best friend, my ex-boyfriend. he would complain about him and then apologize for complaining. i think he just missed him and knew he had fucked things up beyond repair. and he had. he did a lot of shitty things to a lot of people and one by one everyone i knew shut him out. except me, for awhile. he never did anything bad to me and so i kept him at a safe distance.
at the time of this dinner, he had just returned to new york from a several month stay in florida, supposedly to “clean up.” when i’d last seen him before that trip, he was totally fucked up on drugs. i was going through a bad break up with anders and moving out of our apartment, and paul was taking my place. i remember running into paul in the apartment as i was trying to get some of my things. he looked like he had been up for days. i said, “you look like shit, man.” he was pale and his blue eyes were red and he was talking a mile a minute about the parties he’d been to and the coke he’d been doing and how he had been dancing with his shirt off - he then took his shirt off and began dancing - and i just about shut the door in his face trying to get away. shortly thereafter he took a break and went back to florida.
anyway so he came back, got a new job and invited me to this dinner. even at the time i suspected he invited me because he didn’t have any other friends. he was desperate to show me he was an ok guy. and i thought, despite the awful things he said about people and the childish ways in which he’d try to hurt people, that he was an ok guy deep down. he used to hang out with anders and i and bring us movies to watch and records to listen to. he gave me a morrissey t-shirt he’d made that i still wear whenever i go running. we went to shows together and he’d ask me to dance if it seemed like i wanted to dance but was afraid to initiate it. i recall the last time we danced that he was very sweet - he spun me around and dipped me, i was having a ball, and a few minutes later he began to nod out. fell asleep sitting up at the bar.
i didn’t realize that paul was on heroin. i knew he was on drugs, that much was obvious, but heroin just seemed like something that would be hard to keep quiet with him. he was a talkative guy, always bragging about his tattoos and who he was fucking and i figured he just did too much coke or whatever because it was hard to get him to shut up. i don’t know if he was hiding it from everyone or just from anders and i, but he never mentioned heroin. so on this night when we went out to dinner, as we were riding the subway home, i told him that i hoped he had cleaned himself up. i said he seemed much better and acknowledged that we’d never talked about his problems before and wanted him to know that he could talk about it with me if he ever wanted to. i think i mentioned coke in there somewhere and he said that coke wasn’t a problem for him and shut the conversation down.
the next day i got the following text from him: “thanks again for having dinner with me. it was really nice and i feel like you got to see more of actual me rather than what you saw when i left 6 months ago. i really just wanna leave that image of me in the past. i just don’t wanna ever bring up the past again i’m past it and i’m living a great life.”
so, that was the last time i saw him. almost exactly a year ago. he texted me a few times after that, asking what i was up to, if i wanted to get a drink, if he could grab his records that got mixed up with mine - i didn’t respond for the most part, being busy with my job and my new boyfriend and being reluctant to see him because i’d heard about the heroin by that point. i knew he didn’t want to hear what i had to say about it, so it seemed best just to stay away. i always assumed i’d run into him again though, or that somehow we’d reconnect. i don’t know why i felt that way because there wasn’t any desire on my part to make the effort. he scared me a little, the way he could turn on people, the way he could be up one moment and way, way down the next. but i always had a soft spot in my heart for him, like an estranged little brother.
he died of an overdose a little over a week ago, alone in his room, not even 23 years old. i can’t stop wondering what was going through his head in the moments leading up to his death. i don’t know what drove paul to drugs. i don’t know why he drove people away. paul always seemed like one of the loneliest people i’d ever met. just a lonely, scared little kid, like edie sedgwick and the many addicts before them.
live fast, die young. burn bright, burn out. these people zoom in and out of your life, elusive personalities, big! loud! talkative! but never letting you get close. they are subjects of fascination, admiration and repulsion all at once. was there anything i could have done? i don’t know. i don’t know. i will miss you, paul. i missed you even before it all came to an end.
When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me — it still sometimes happens — and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous — not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance… That pure chance could be so generous and so kind… That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space; the immensity of time… That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me & it’s much more meaningful…
The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful."
Ann Druyan, about her husband Carl Sagan. (via samreich)
Excuse me while I go cry. It’s a beautiful day outside.
Beware the man selling you The Word!
For a man knows many words
And he will fill your mouth with ‘em
Til you’re choking and gasping for air
And you can no longer speak
I showed this site to my boyfriend Mike because he’s interested in learning about nanotechnology and the concept of building elevators in space, which evidently is a real possibility: https://www.coursera.org/course/nanotech
He wrote his own obituary in response.
With only his degree from a website, Michael Borowiec changed the lives of millions with his space elevator…
…or thats what could have been. His project, funded by shady business men with connections to the radical Christian right, fell apart when they realized that it was not an elevator to heaven—-deeming it a work of Satan, all funding was pulled. Mike Borowiec was buried in an unmarked, shallow grave in New Jersey after his mental breakdown and subsequent heart attack… some speculate he died of shame. Mike is survived by his ex-wife Sam Marine and his cat Marbles.