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The Year of the Monkey; a collective transience

A book cover redesign a part of the ongoing Avid Reader’s Collection from A-Z, a series about reinterpreting my experience of reading the book. This one features the letter ‘D’ pulled from the talking sign ‘Dream Inn’ who follows Patti Smith around on her dream like adventure.

I just finished Patti Smith's Year of the Monkey. Actually I have 20 pages left. But already, with so many thoughts and feelings towards this book, I had to start writing. What a lyrical and emotional journey she found herself on in 2016 and found a way to bring us in.  At 69 year's old Patti Smith still embodied the underground, transient existence of the 80's downtown New York. The year was about a journey up and down the west coast, from coast to coast and far beyond the plains of reality. She grappled with loss and aging; she displayed it in a fringe moving picture that somehow uniquely embodied the rest of us. While reading, I found myself reflecting on my own journey in 2016 as well as where I am today. 

It was my senior year. My hair was a faded pink blonde, void of any real color. I soon dyed it, what would later become a permanent fixture in my identity, a true black. I remember wandering the halls of my highschool also void of any real color. I was lonely and depressed and angry at everyone, mostly myself. 

–– Do you think you could help me with this concept, I don’t get it, I said to my statistics teacher. 

–– Honestly, Kylie. If you can’t get this, how do you think you’re gonna do in life? she said back.

–– I don’t know I – trailed off, not knowing how to respond.

–– I’m just trying to help you succeed.

Except she wasn’t. I went home that day hating myself. I didn’t know what I was going to do in college. I was stupid and I wasn’t worth any of it, I cursed at myself. I fell asleep sobbing on the tile floor of my bathroom. The coolness against my hot cheek sent me into a dreamlike state. It was the first time I thought of her. 

With turmoil like mine, many would turn to God. But my only connection to a higher power was a vision of a woman dressed in white. As I watched from a bird's eye view, she danced and twirled under the beating sun of the Australian desert. She moved in slow motion with long black hair cascading down her back. It was a stark contrast to the burnt red and white. I felt electricity from the desert brush though I watched from above. It brought a type of warmth that only my memories give. Back to my childhood where I once ran through the desert myself. Australia was my home. 

I woke up to my mother picking me off the floor and holding me in her arms. She pet my oily hair and smoothed it down to my head. It wasn’t the first time she’d found me like that, and wouldn’t be the last in the coming years.

The year was full of transient ideas; of me leaving for college; of my mom moving out of the place my dad left her; the worst president in history getting elected. These things sent me down a three year journey trying to understand my place in this world, tethered to an imaginary string of the world of Patti Smith. I didn’t know it then, but she would soon become an icon to me and my longing for adventure. To live as a nomad through my own mind and life, like she did hers. 

Now, it feels like we’ve entered another year of the monkey. It’s 2020. I’ve recently started taking medication for bipolar disorder; the whole world is in self isolation due to a pandemic; I lost a dream opportunity with Google; again I am feeling transient within myself. Like Patti Smith, I long for Ayers Rock. The symbol of the Australian desert permeates her psyche the way it does mine. A walkabout brings an inner peace only the strum of the electric desert can be. For Patti Smith in 2016 to long for a journey to this beautiful place the following year gives me a kind of hope where I too can make the trek next year. It will be my time to become the higher self of my dreams.



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