8/23/18

i.m. Nathan Carson, Nov 2, 1979 - Aug 11, 2018


It's strange,
The way that people pick puppies.

In a cardboard box
Off to the side of the road
On a whim
Instantly forming a bond that lasts
Forever.
I have tried to do the same

With people.

- Nathan Carson 






I first met Nathan fifteen years ago at an Open Mic at a little place called The Planet Earth. 

While everyone else carefully approached the mic and nervously read their painfully personal poems, Nathan bounded on stage reciting Baudelaire.  It seemed a remarkable pairing: a fresh faced, skinny kid, reciting hellish, beautiful verses. 

I later approached him, as any good elder should, and told him he was far too young to be reading Baudelaire.  He looked about fifteen, though he was in fact, college age.  In any case, he lifted his shirt and assured me that he didn't just read Baudelaire; he'd had his words tattooed down his rib cage. 

Thus began a friendship that was at times exhilarating, other times, poignant, other times devastating.  I began inviting him to all manner of literary events, and he was perpetually up for anything -- with a bunch of crusty old folks.  Road trips to festivals, late nights round the fire, concerts on a whim. He relished spending time with folks who were two, three times his age, and was always a refreshing, inquisitive voice and a great conversationist.  If the room was filled with self satisfied liberals, he argued conservatism.  If the room was filled with stodgy conservatives, he was the raging liberal.  Whatever the alchemy, he became the missing element. 


I used to be someone
Now I am everyone
A fox in its den
Too mundane to notice
Because he is home.

Nathan was a songwriter, musician, novelist, memoirist, philosopher, mystic, painter, sculptor, poet and an adventurer.  He was also in turns, a pastry chef, a graphic artist, a table gamer, a fundamentalist christian, a pagan, a stoic, a UPS driver, a college grad, a landscaper, a fisherman in Alaska, a starving musician in LA, a street artist in NYC, and a homeless man.  

Everything he did he did with an intuitive's grace, skill, and vulnerability. And with a serious bent toward self destruction. 

When folks would tell him he was brilliant, he'd respond, Thanks, man, I totally agree.  

I once reached out to him when a family member was dying.  He simply replied, Every story ends the same, my friend.  

His only published book, a memoir titled Confessions of a Diarrhetic, was surprisingly beautifully written.  Though I wished he'd had a good editor, I was shocked that such a young person should possess such talent.  The book is funny, tragic, heartfelt, philosophic.   Well, everyone knows I take in strays. I began inviting him to the house for dinner, and he quickly  became a friend of the family.  My daughter loved him because he was hip and sarcastic and had tattoos.  She sports one of his tattoos on her body -- an image of Peter Pan.  My son loved him for his passionate love of sports and gaming.  My husband loved him because he had no filter, because he was crude and kind at once, because he was deeply curious, and for his deep devotion to Tolkien.  

I suppose I loved him for all those same reasons, but mostly because he was unapologetically himself.  From the beginning, he felt like kin.  Everything art and everything life was a spiritual journey for Nathan. He suffered, and he suffered greatly, but he was always quick to laugh, to learn, to make extraordinary art from the chaos that was his inner world. He had a sharp critical acumen, and a child's openness to everything. A rare combination.  

Over the years I've taught alcohol inks to probably hundreds of people.  Nobody took to the medium like Nathan.  I daresay nobody mastered the medium like he did. Across mediums, Nathan simply dove in, seeking excellence and the extraordinary.  He always found it.  He had an astonishing work ethic, and he was dangerously fearless. 

He watched me demo the inks for a few brief seconds, and then he was off to the races, making the medium his own.  I'd never seen anything like it.  He was a natural at everything artistic, and always preached that the impulse has got to be love.  Otherwise, we're fucked, he'd say. 
































Nathan was always off to the races. Nathan was always pushing buttons. Deeply introverted, and incredibly social, he was a series of contradictions: a young genius, tortured, brilliant, compassionate, and dark as the night is long.  Psychotic episodes came more and more frequently. 


Here's a video of him singing with his beloved guitar, which, some years later, he smashed to pieces, a symbolic gesture of leaving his musical career behind:

Nathan: The Aristotle of Me

Nathan spent the last couple of years in NYC, here in western Colorado, on the streets and in and out of jail.  The last few times I'd seen him he'd almost entirely lost touch with reality as we know it. 

He ended his own life last week. 

The service was the most beautiful service I think I've ever attended, brimming as it was with Nathan's music, poems, songs, paintings, stories, and spirit. 

The child had lived a hundred lifetimes in a mere thirty-nine years.  I'd always known he was driven, but I realize only now, just how profoundly prolific he was. In the last year of his life alone, he'd produced a hundred large scale paintings.  And the writing never stopped.  The writing sustained him until the end. 

I am on the fool's journey, he would tell me.  

The fool falls off the cliff, I'd remind him.

Only if his toothy guardians aren't there to save him, he would reply, half joking, half imploring. 

Nathan never slept.  He wrote, painted, despaired, found solace, and kept guard while the rest of the world was sleeping.  

Find something you love, said Bukowksi, and let it kill you.  In recent years, Bukowski became what Nathan called his surrogate father. Be careful who you revere, I would caution.  But Nathan never listened to caution. Nathan never listened to the rest of us telling him how he was supposed to live.  He lived like a goddamn shooting star.  

No force on earth could stop him. 

He called me his good witch, his primal spirit, his pixie mama, his mentor, his strange brew.  

I called him simply Yon Nathan, as he was ever young, and ever dreaming of far away. 

We chose one another from a a cardboard box on the side of the road, instantly forming a bond that lasts forever.  

No real bond is broken by death.  

Even when it hurts like hell.







sometimes i get down
because i'm not important
then i remember how shitty 
led zeppelin lyrics are,
and that 50 shades of gray sold 100 million copies,
and how (inexplicably) everyone knows einstein's equation
but cannot name the inventor of t.v.

four hundred thousand brilliant novels
died with their authors.
the authors became trees, 
the trees became greeting cards
-their words, less than that.

in a bar in alaska a poet sings a song so good  
you would play it at your funeral.
fishermen look up from their beers and wonder if it's thursday.
art with mass appeal is,
by definition average,
but stay the course, gentle painter,
your anonymity is a mantle, likely of inferiority,
but possibly of genius.

some brilliant work finds renown,
but the number of masterpieces
drowned by mediocrity
is unknown.

maybe that's for the best,
the world is already

so beautiful.

- NC





i.m. Nathan Carson, Nov 2, 1979 - Aug 11, 2018

It's strange, The way that people pick puppies. In a cardboard box Off to the side of the road On a whim Instantly form...