Carey sends message after message rapid-fire. He was reticent at first. But I gained his trust, so the flood gates have opened. Text exchanges, email, articles, along with his own caustic commentaries come at me all day. It’s a little much, but I’m flattered my hero is trusting me with his story.
It started on Twitter. Carey popped up there out of the blue. No one had heard much out of him for many years. Just rumors. That he’d lost his mind. Got cancer. Become a hermit. To me, he was a legend. A genius of music and movies. But, as with most legends, he was basically dead. Not of this world. Certainly not in any way part of my reality as a person. But now, here he is on Twitter. I hit the ‘follow’ button.
He spends most of his time on the platform making jokes. Occasional political commentary. A lot of attention paid to basketball scores. Funny routines, but repetitive. Scroll through the timeline and you’ll catch him recycling bits that hit. I can’t begrudge him this because to me he’s still the guy who wore that hat that way in that one movie.
The paintings are another matter. He says in interviews that the mystery sickness he’s battled now for decades has made him unable to pick up his horn. He had to pivot to painting. Claims he’s always been a painter. Mentions how his mother encouraged him when he was little. Says his pictures are as profound as his tunes used to be.
I can understand why Carey insists his awful pictures are good. He’s saying it out loud to will it to be true. His self-worth is tied to being a great artist so he thinks whatever he lays his hands on must be great simply because he was great once, doing something entirely different.
Look, medium doesn’t really matter. You either have something to say or you don’t. Whether by brush, horn, camera, or throat, if you have a story to tell you tell with whatever means are available. But just because you’re good at one thing, doesn’t guarantee you’ll be even passable at another. With apologies to the Gagosian Gallery, et al, Bob Dylan is no painter. You sell those things on name-recognition and nothing but. It’s very rare for anyone to excel at more than one thing. I’ll watch Carey blow his horn all day. I’ll watch his old movies and shows for hours on a loop. But, please, for the love of god, put down the brushes, my friend. You’re hurting yourself and others.
Of course I don’t tell him any of that. Once he starts responding to me on Twitter, I rarely question any of the absurd things he does or says. In a matter of days, he’s confiding about the long list of eminent figures who’ve wronged or abandoned him. He shares his fears about an admirer who he says has been stalking him. Forcing Carey to move out of the city to an undisclosed location. Only his lawyer and a couple assistants know his whereabouts. It’s all very cloak-and-dagger. There’s a paranoid pall over most of these communications.
But I lap it all up.