Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jon Griffin Dies at the Age of 43

I didn't like Jon that much. He rolled with a crowd that I didn't fit into and didn't like me. But he was an artist and a dreamer. He was always into something artistic, showing up anywhere art was being done or sold, or late at night when streetlight people gathered at bars and lounges after the tourists were mostly gone. Everyone in town knew him.

His death saddens me. Yes, it's tragic to leave behind a toddling daughter, but that's not what I'm on about. It saddens me because here was this sensitive, artistic, dreaming, jerky soul that was snubbed out in America like he never had a chance. Too many people in my life have gone out like this. 

There's just no place for artists. They don't last long; they have too many natural predators. Heroin ended up getting Jon Griffin. This country has no patience for people with addiction. We treat it like a family secret, like a dark skeleton in the cellar who rattles inaudibly as we turn up the party music to drown out the racket. But I didn't even like Jon. I knew he was on the horse from time to time, but thought nothing of it and have no idea if anyone ever tried to help him. But I miss Jon Griffin.

A while back he started a gallery with some friends that quickly became a kind of all-ages, semi-illegal, underground rock club called GONE Studios. I didn't like GONE very much, but I ended up there from time to time, one of my best friends became an investor for a time, my band played there, and it helped spawn other art projects in town that were cool and interesting. My opinion always was, it's not for me, but I'm happy it exists. You need an underground art scene. You don't even know you need it, but you do. And it's going to be dirty, and smoky, and you're going to want to take a shower if you get into it for any length of time. Having lived in the underground art scene for huge chunks of my life, I didn't want to spend that much time with the people of GONE. Plus, there were drugs.

I've never been against drugs, but our attitude about them in this country is so myopic it's sickening. And maybe people like Jon wouldn't turn to them if there were a different attitude toward art in this country. Maybe Jon Griffin could have made ends meet if things were different. Maybe better access to grants, maybe cultural subsidies, maybe just a larger group of Americans who appreciate art and are willing to pay to support it. But who am I?

So you know how I felt about Jon while he lived, but I am deeply moved by his passing and filled with sorrow, too. And a lot of my friends loved him so much.  


Unknown said...

I love this. Thanks Jack.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I wrote this in memory of Jon Griffin. My condolences to his family.

Unknown said...

Saint Jon

He never wanted more than gentle touch--
If he did, he'd never asked as much from me;
In his quiet room above the street
I'd given him all else he'd asked for free:

Relief from all the pains of others' crimes
Against ego, and against his family name,
He'd sought some respite amidst this town's chimes;
The substitute for church bells...all the same.

But that was many years ago as now
And since, I've heard him mentioned by a friend
We shared, as well as common pastimes, how
At last, alone, he'd met the cruelest end.

In life he knew the fate that's worse than death,
In death I think that nameless he shall be,
And weary, weary were his waking hours,
His eyes a flit with fleeting imagery.

-Scarlett Rose Riskin 12/12/2014