Archive

Doors

(Another Doors-inspired piece from my college years)

I wandered through Père-Lachaise, looking for Morrison’s grave. I could tell I was getting closer, because I kept seeing the graffiti:

COME BACK JIM WE LOVE YOU

JIM WAS A JUNKIE

I wandered among the twisting French graves, hunted among them for he who was closest to me, chronologically if not also spiritually.

Jim?

Jim?

My thoughts echoed off the markers. I turned a corner, thinking the bust-adorned headstone might be there. I was wrong.

On a mausoleum wall stalked the white tiger. It was drawn in chalk with red stripes, livelier than any oil painting. It gazed at me hungrily, like a mad beggar, and I could not take my eyes away. The perspective was such it somehow looked distant rather than small. Part of me expected it to slowly grow larger, to come nearer. My eyes fell to what was below it.

There lay the artist, dead. A needle dangled from his left upper arm. His crazy smiling death mask bore an expression that screamed:

Happy are the dead. You will soon join me.

I stumbled my way out of the cemetery, desperately trying to escape from what I had seen.

I think it was back in college that I was first seized with the idea of a story set to The Doors’ Riders on the Storm.

I remember the story still.

In the hall of a Magyar lord, somewhere and sometime in old Hungary, a stranger came unbidden during a great storm. The lord of the hall would never allow himself to be accused of denying hospitality. Even though the stranger had a sinister air, still he was welcomed, and allowed to sit at the table with the lord and his two sons.

What the lord could not know was his guest’s frame of mind. The stranger struggled under horrible compulsions, like a toad squatting on his mind. In the midst of the meal he became agitated, picked up a knife, and stabbed his host to death, the blood pouring out to mingle with the Tokaj. Before anyone could react, the murderous guest ran from the hall and out over the Pannonian plain.

The brothers called for pistol, sword and cloak, leapt on their horses, and gave chase. With the rain and thunder, it took all their years of experience as huntsmen just to pursue their father’s killer, but pursue they did, becoming inexorably closer.

The elder brother was fearless, thinking of nothing save avenging his father. He did not know his danger. Not danger from the murderer–danger from his younger brother.

For the younger brother had a toad of his own. For years he had nursed a jealous rage against his older brother, who would inherit all their family’s vast estates while he received nothing. Even as they rode out, the men of the hall hailed the elder as their lord. But now was the perfect opportunity. All he had to do, as they closed with the killer, was put the first bullet in his brother and the second in the stranger. Then he would be lord.

Could he pull the trigger? Would the elder brother realize the younger’s plan? Would the killer escape in the fratricidal chaos?

Riders on the storm…

I have always heard the Doors’ “Light My Fire” thusly

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
China we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre

Let me explain. There was a phrase, common in the McCarthy era: “Who Lost China?” As in, who was responsible for allowing good, decent, Pearl-Buckesque China to be subsumed by the Kremlin Red Slava Rodina Konspiracy (Spoiler: McCarthy, upon consultation with what he pulled out of his own ass, decided it was Owen Lattimore)? By including the saying in “Light My Fire,” Jim Morrison was mocking the anticommunist piety of the previous decade, putting the ghost of Tailgunner Joe on the altar of his Fire

Did I honestly ever think those were the lyrics? Not really. But that’s what hit my brain.

(I also got the first line wrong, though not in any way that changed the meaning)