I wrote this song for my friend James. He's always been somewhat of a yardbird with a jake leg, a jagged smile and a bottomless stomach for all things alcoholic. I met him back in 1989 while we were both working at a bookstore in Atlanta, GA. I hope, when he reads this, he will be racked with relentless and nauseating pain when he gets the first whiff of unforgiveable sentimentality. I figure it's the least I owe him for miscasting me as Anna Karenina one night in an Atlanta subway
station and for subsequently trying to push me through a plate glass window in an East Village storefront.
In 1994, James was living in a boarding house on Staten Island when he began The Clarksburg Project. Beginning January 1st, 1995, he wrote, every single day, a letter, sometimes more, to the residents of a small town called Clarksburg, West Virginia. Some of the letters were brutally honest, some were just brutal.. brutal in the portrayal of their author. They described the daily, and sometimes quotidian existance of a not so average kind of guy. Intimate details documenting his own emotional desentigration and the downward spiral of severe alcoholism were read by smalltown America, along with undeniably bitter and hilarious anecdotes ranging in subject matters as diverse as ritual complaining of boarding room tenants...
"My neighbor, "The Babbler" has been yacking full blast. At least he seems to have his "Spells" in the day time these days. Four in the morning was his peak babble time when I first moved in."
He crank called singer/songwriter Paul Simon...
"I picked up the reciever and said nothing. The Star 69er said nothing as well. Just sat there in the sounds of silence. I hung up.. and then, a moment later, the phone rang again. Still, no one said nothing... but I could hear some kind of beeping noise like the call was being traced or something... (the paranoid sounds of silence) finally I dug up a Satanic sort of voice and said, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," because I'd recently read that the mention of that song pushes Paul Simon's buttons to the extreme since he decided to let the tall bald guy sing lead on it to placate him after some argument.. .and then it became a huge hit.. .etc, etc. When I hung up, the phone didn't ring anymore. I sat rocking back and forth, feeling like an idiot."
The Clarksburg Project has been called everything from a simple waste of time to sexual harassment via the U.S.P.O. Personally, I have always thought of James' work as nothing short of brilliant, pathetically sad, and gut wrenchingly funny. James is a letter writer of the old tradition. He is, suffice to say, quite obsessed with it. If you would like to write him a letter yourself, I'm certain that James would be thrilled to death. To reach him, simply contact, The Boulder County Corrections Department. They will give you the address, or, you can reach James at..James Thompson, Boulder County Jail, 3200 Airport Road, Boulder, Colorado,
A reminder, if you do not- wish to recieve a response, do not include a return address, as he will surely pay you the common respect of at least one lengthy diatribe of heartfelt, ernest, thoroughly enjoyable, and, dare I say, beautifully brutal honesty.
p.s. He really is a fun, warm, caring and loving person.