Twenty years ago, as a student at North Shore Community College, I was obsessed with The Doors. My ambition was to be Jim Morrison. I’m glad I got over it.
Back then, I fancied myself a poet. I joined the Poet’s Society. I grew my hair long and started wearing a pair of leather pants I had borrowed from Sean Marley (back then, I could actually fit into them). I wore a suit jacket and leather boots to complete the look.
I didn’t like who I was, so it made perfect sense to try being someone else. It was a habit I would indulge in many times over.
It was also a side-effect of the fear I used to carry around. The first Gulf War was about to begin and there were a lot of kids worried about getting drafted, including me. So we tried to relive the lives of Baby Boomers from the 1960s as a bizarre comfort ritual.
One guy from Lynn took it further than me. He wore tie-dye t-shirts with fringe boots. He was a big guy and looked more comical than anything else. He would tell anyone in the smoking room who would listen that John Lennon was something close to the Second Coming of Christ.
Me and Sean took a bus ride with this guy down to Washington D.C. for a peace rally in front of the White House a couple days after the war started. That was quite a sight: Me trying to look like Jim Morrison, the other guy trying to look like Jerry Garcia. Sean was the most normal looking of the three of us. Those who knew Sean and his frequent hair-color changes will appreciate the absurdity of the sight.
The war ended quickly, but then Oliver Stone’s “The Doors” came out, with Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison. I latched on to Morrison’s rejection of his family. I wasn’t getting along with various family members, so there was another easy out from dealing with life.
I started drinking harder alcohol and fasting because that’s what Morrison did. When I would shift from fasting to binge eating I would grow a beard and just carry on like I was the Morrison of later years, when he got bloated from drinking and grew facial hair.
The dean of students at N.S.C.C. brought me in a copy of Rolling Stone from 1971 — the issue covering Morrison’s death. He let me keep it, and wrote a note across the bottom right side of the cover about how Morrison was an interesting figure, but that I needed to find my own path.
I also started singing in a band called Skeptic Slang, where I started trying to perfect the grunge version of Morrison.
Then I started to really get out of shape and lost the ability to keep up with the hours musicians typically kept. I turned my attention to journalism, and that’s where I made my career.
Of course, I developed a lot of the bad habits that fit the stereotypical image of a reporter in the 1970s and 80s — bad eating habits, drinking and smoking and other things a person can rarely afford on a reporter’s salary.
I stopped listening to The Doors for a long, long time. But the other day, for whatever reason, I started listening again.
But it’s not the same as it was back then.
I have a real life now, and it’s easier to be me than somebody else.
Besides, I’ve tried to be other people at other points of my life.
It didn’t work out.
I do still have the facial hair, but I found it easier to maintain a bald head than maintain the hair style.
To be me is much simpler in that respect — even if being me is hopelessly complicated in other areas.