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My Own Private Idaho

Martha Plimpton
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix

"Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen"

"I have lost touch with the world"

Writing will now be painful. First I was not sure to talk on that problem because I know it is near the sensitive limit for a lot of us. And the question about the real need to make such a paper concerning River I raised at the beginning was never more appropriate than here.

From a moral point of view, I don't really know if taking drugs is bad. It's bad because it kills you and that's bad enough. I suppose you don't take drugs because they are hurting you but because they make you feel yourself different and better. Anyway I don't want to moralise on that and, as we say in French, to crash open doors. All has already been said.

The most painful words I heard about him? : "He was impulsive and careless. He took more drugs than I ever heard of anyone taking before. I don't know how anyone could take that amount of drugs without the idea that they were basically going to die." The reality behind these words, telling the truth or not, is heartbreaking.

Finally I think I've unfortunately made my mind on that question, and I'm not happy of it. Even if I were ready to give River credit and trust him, even if I have to take into account the too close attention a well known boy like him receives, it would be impossible to ignore his taking drugs or reduce it to a few tries. I've already noticed his physical evolution on photographs. There were too many bragging testimonies of so-called friends who shared time with him sniffing drugs. There were too many sad stories told by true friends about his behaviour. Now the only point I'm not so sure about is the frequency of his drug habit. As if it was important! Well it is in a way because I hope he enjoyed life a little bit when he was clean.

He started so young!

Yes, I'm also still angry with him. I admire the young girl who was strong enough to say she was still angry with him, immediately after his death, the death of the one she loved before.

If he had been my younger brother or my son, I would have not only yelled at him. Like a mad animal, I could have struck him the way a man who has never hit anybody could hit a friend he cares for, to show him the pain, the sorrow, the grief, the distress, the anguish, the agony he causes around him. Not because he hurts people physically when he takes drugs but because he ignores their feelings, he rejects their concern, their anxiety or their love. But also because you feel powerless in front of him taking drugs, in front of him retracting in his own little world, in front of him becoming blind to the sometimes ugly, but sometimes so beautiful world, the real world, in front of him who forgets what he likes in real life, his job, his beliefs, the others or even his music! And don't tell me you need to be high to play good music! I could give hundred names of the greatest musicians free of that disease!

And I'm irritated of all that nonsense, about the reason he took drugs linked with the pressure of his job: "River was so mixed-up. River had such a lot of pressure on him. River's last film was so intense and difficult, etc., etc." River was not an Egyptian child collecting empty cans in Cairo garbage fields in order to survive! You're not an actor if you don't want to! It's not such a miserable life! Remember what he said: " We're very lucky young men. We do what we want, we get to be creative and make money." HE was the one who said that. Nobody else. And he was not a puppet actor. He was really involved in his films, his characters. He was listened to.

Did his drug taking bring something to our feelings to him? Yes indeed! Because it gives us the impression that we, I, could have done something to get him out of that sad world. Because it seems that not many people tried to do it. We don't know exactly what happened inside the family and with the clean friends he had. Of course we know that getting somebody out of this agony is almost impossible without the goodwill of the one concerned. But did they really try? "They" being anybody around him. If not, and let me be really mean for one line, I truly, deeply hope they have regretted it every night since his death and they will regret it to the end of their life.

Well, I've lost my candour and I'm not so sure about that.

Having never taken any drug, I asked myself several questions about it that must be considered very naïve by the drug users. What is the real effect of drugs? Do you feel so light? Do all the burdens of your life just stop? Does it help you to be creative? If you're an addict, do you know the strength of what you take? Can you trust anybody who gives you a speedball?

8 times the lethal dose, 8 times!

I'm angry with him because he deprived us of him! And because he deprived himself of all there is to know about the world, other countries, people, cultures, music, and emotions. And he was ready, he was open for all that.

But let's face again the facts and it is difficult to write what follows: Drugs and the possible reasons he took them make him interesting. The probably stupid idea that we could have helped him foolishly creates a link between him and us.

And the main reason is this one: I think we don't love him because he took drugs, no! But we love him because he was helpless in that mess.

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