Gone Too Soon: Jim Ellison

I saw a post on someone's Facebook Saturday that, due to Facebook's fucked up algorithms, reminded me that Friday was 18 years to the day that Jim Ellison committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.

I started the post on Saturday, so if I had written it then, it would have been more timely, I suppose. But Jim's still gone and I'm still here and struggling to write things, to make sense of ideas and follow through. I'm still getting amazing ideas and writing blog posts in my head and never getting them out, and his spirit has picked another path and is going on some other journey.

I think that you'll always love the album that you were introduced to a band with best. For me, it was the underrated Destination Universe. Everyone knows International Pop Overthrow by Material Issue. But you don't hear many people extolling the virtues of Destination Universe.

But that was my gateway drug. It's funny, when you look at the video footage of Jim, he looked like he walked off the pages of some 1960s Britpop magazine. His hair, his clothes -- even his facial structure somehow just screams "British." But, he was a Chicagoan, through and through, and for a power-pop lover like me, a true gem in the city's crown of musical jewels.

There was the story I always tell -- of a friend and I going to the Metro to see Material Issue. Sitting through this terrible opener, just counting every nanosecond that passed until they were done. Then finally, Material Issue time. We were right up on the rail and just super excited -- and after the first few bars of music, we were also considerably smushed against the stage. Holy mother of fuck, were there people CROWD SURFING?

It was a strange time -- lots of guys in Seattle flannel, and the pull of the power-pop electric guitar energy turned into a mob of frenetic boys seething and swelling against us. We looked at each other -- we were going to get crushed, right? We couldn't stay here, right? We relinquished our front row center status for something a little more to the side.

I had always thought I would have plenty more chances to see them live. But I wouldn't. When news came down that Jim Ellison was dead; that it was suicide; that he killed himself with his car in his garage, I just didn't know what to think. There were rumors about his being distraught over a relationship. I probably was going through the throes of a breakup at the time myself -- I knew how terribly horrible the pain was. Yet, I knew somewhere that it would pass. It just had to.

I've always wandered in the middle of the "suicidal ideation" camp. On one hand, when doctors and psychiatrists ask the inevitable "Do you have thoughts of harming yourself?" Or whatever the question is that is meant to drive at "Are you thinking about committing suicide, yo?" I always answer "no." I'm not. I have no plans, I have no ideas, I have no real interest. I am not seriously considering killing myself. So, it's an honest answer.

But, I know that if there is such a thing as "normal," I also don't live in that world. When things get overwhelming or too hard to handle or really fucked up or I'm just convinced that life is never going to get better, my default is some variation on the theme/s of, "I wish I weren't here. I should kill myself. I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up. I wish I were dead. Fuck this, fuck life. I wish I didn't have to be in this life/body. I wish I didn't have to exist."

That's not normal, right? There's nothing that really comes after that. I have no further ideas beyond that. I don't think, "I wish I were dead, I'm going to get a gun." Or "I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up, I need to get some pills." It's just this default reaction -- it's just a go-to thing. I can't figure out how I'm going to get out of something or ever stop feeling some way -- you know what the answer should/could/would be? Not existing.

So, I know that I'm not your average bear. And I believe that the people who commit suicide -- who actually go through with it -- they are in that place so completely, they hear and believe nothing else. That is their only perception and their only truth. That pain is so sharp and clear, it is their only touchstone.

It breaks me when I hear someone crossed over that line. Where they could longer differentiate the truth from the false so much that they had to stop being here to end the pain. But I also believe that I don't get this place, this plane. And I believe we get a lot of go arounds. See you on the flip side, Jim.

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