On its fiftieth anniversary, everyone’s talking about Joni Mitchell’s album, Blue. (Go here.) UD, who listened obsessively to the thing throughout her unhappy freshman year at Goucher College, hasn’t much to add – beyond random unhappy personal things – to all the superannuated hippie nostalgia out there.
As in – her roommate that year, Marian Dillon, was lively, beautiful and came from a wealthy, private school background (UD, remarkably clueless for someone from Bethesda, didn’t know what a private school was until Marian explained it to her). Marian hadn’t brought her horse to college, but Courtney down the hall had (can’t remember her last name, but she was closely related to Philip Roth and looked a lot like him), and UD should have been tipped off from the campus stables and horses and Courtney’s horse scrapbooks that Goucher really wasn’t a good UD fit… But I digress. The sad personal thing is that UD idly searched Marian’s name a few months ago and she died at 52.
That year was also sad because David Kosofsky and I were tumultuously on and off; he’d show up from College Park, we’d thrash around trying to make sense of our hopeless relationship, and then he’d drive back to school. Laurie Fleischman, his true love, was somehow (too long ago to remember) in the background of all of this. And that’s two other sad personal things: Both Laurie and David also died young. “WHAT LIVES ARE IN STORE FOR 2 SUCH AS US!” she wrote him from the Bronx High School of Science. Bizarrely, I ended up with her love letters/sketches/pressed flowers to David.
In one of them, she nastily alluded to wee UD as (yes) “Joni Mitchell.” (David had attended performances I’d given, in high school and synagogue, of Joni Mitchell songs.) For Laurie, Joni Mitchell was short for Not Charlie Parker, Not Hip, Not Jazz, Not… Blues. Joni Mitchell was short for Sylvia Plath – a suburban pipsqueak with the pseudoblues.
UD wonders if, over the years of Mitchell’s artistic development, Laurie felt more generous toward her.
So picture ol’ UD, years later, tears welling up as she reads Laurie’s letters to David and thinks on the bitter reversal of all that beautiful passionate arrogant youth.
I guess the Blue song for this is The Last Time I Saw Richard.