Chapter One

My Moment of Inspiration


It took until I was fourteen for me to understand the worldly power of images, but it all became clear in a moment, outside the largest prison in California, surrounded by news crews and flashing cameras. I was released because the media got wind that I was underage. I walked out into the blinding afternoon light to face a long line of fixated journalists, stretched down the prison wall, all eyes focused on me, accompanied by the newshound clamor of sound-bite semantics. Everywhere I looked was a camera or a face, seeking my eye to fire pre-packaged questions.

In a moment, I scrutinized the low-res hairdos, silk suits, large mouths and pancake make-up –creepy in person. Behind this front line were the support crews and their monstrous trucks with alien looking antennae. It struck me as some bizarre cosmic circus, where everybody acted out roles scripted so deep inside them that they had become unconscious.

Then suddenly, I was blinded by a blizzard of flashes from the paparazzi army crowding against the rope. The world went out of focus. Moments later, I suffered a fit which some called epileptic, others called demon possession and still others called prophetic. My body shook and convulsed. A deep booming voice shot words from my mouth.

While under the spell of this fit I improvised an out-of-body rhyme that lasted four minutes and was broadcast live to over seventy million people.

But I was not the force that animated my body. I went somewhere else —to a place about twenty feet above the ground, where I could watch events unfold from a semi-angelic, disembodied perch, listening to the litany rhyming from my mouth, taking in the desperate scurry of cameramen, journalists, sound recorders and cops, all rendered silent by my ghostly, whispering rhymes.

And then, without any ceremony, everything seemed clear and calm, moving with the inevitably of a fine machine. I could see the meaning of the spectacle below me! There was a contest to define the metaphors that ran the world! The winners of this competition could control the perception of events and in doing so, materialize a worldview in which things were defined with catch phrases and sound bites.

The army of media workers below were collaborating to create a definition of me and my story. Their tools were not simply cameras and lights, there was another language at work that acted on emotions, bypassing the intellect completely.

From my semi-angelic perch I could read the subtext of the people below me, that is, I could see into their emotions. I focused on the deft camerawoman straining to get a shot of my prancing body. I could feel her suppressed intensity.

She was in work mode, but churning in the background, I heard her thinking that even if her own teenage son were defiant and crazy like me, she had to what she had to do…and what she was doing was defining the moment with telling camera angles, shooting upward to convey hostility or down to create sympathy, zooming in to hit the point home, shooting mesmerizing close-up of my chanting face –magic so ordinary we don’t think about it.

Not only could I see into her, I could see into everyone’s heart! The jowly journalist beside the truck, whispering commentary to a separate camera —filling the world in on the history of me, the teen held without trial who had been the poster boy for the controversial Pharmerican Church.

With a affable tone of voice he announced that I was undergoing some sort of rhyming fit. I could feel how he disguised his anger with his military posture and his set jaw, but it was in fact the anger that won him his fans. He spoke a gestural language they could identify with.

I even saw into the mind of the psychiatrist back in the TV studio, displayed on the mini-monitor beside the truck. He was in turn giving real time diagnosis of my condition. Most likely, he said, I was an…um…epileptic. I could feel his anxiety.

Without bitterness, I latched onto the irony that no one was actually listening to the words I was rhyming down there, at least not the crew who were lost in the mechanics of their craft. Nor were the front-line reporters listening to me. Instead they were fishing for buzzwords and sound bites to reinforce their angle, their own take on the story.

I saw my embodied self – the actual corpus down there, spouting rhyme — the me who cast himself as a song and dance man, who didn’t need no ma or pa and lived on the streets of the far west.

And I relived my own history as if time were space, and every event that ever happened to me was laid out in front of me like figures in a pop-up book. Down an alley of my past I saw my young self in a room at the Paradise Motel performing for a solitary TV set.

I saw a moment of epiphany, alone on an empty road in the desert, preaching to the sky, I saw myself learning the mysteries of music in a club called nuthin.

Every significant event that shaped my life was visible to me.

I felt like I wasn’t alone, I had a gallery of mentors behind me in history, spirit guides who gave me words that rung a bell in my soul and called on me to become one of them.

I wondered if I was dead. This is what they say happens when you die. If so, who was I? Who spoke this voice, the voice of the me that hovered above the ranting bag of bones on the pavement. The voice inside, that deserved the name my outer self wore, because, in that moment, I was truly a frank witness, long before my name got lodged in the public imagination.

But my musings were not destined to be resolved, because my rhyming fit was suddenly over and my body collapsed to the blacktop like a coat, and lay quivering like jello, finally curling into the fetal position —dead still– before I returned to consciousness with a snap that shook my bones.

I was back –down here, inside the spectacle, lifting my body off the tarmac into the scandalous gauntlet of interview vultures, goading me to say more than I already had in my endless rhyme.

I kept my eye on the determined TV journalist angling into frame, mussing her hair, thrusting a microphone at me and shrieking questions, as I made my way toward the waiting car.

I was definitely alive, I reasoned. How else could I have figured out that the questions were unreal? I jumped into the waiting car and looked back through the window at the crews, already packing. The show was over.

But for me, the show had just begun. In that instant, I became famous for my indefinable words and otherworldly delivery. Ever since, avid bloggers, journalists and gossip mongers have been pinning labels on me. My rhymes have been recorded and dissected by news editors, religious fanatics, fans and businessmen with agendas…a billion ways of looking at a butterfly, only, in this case, the butterfly is me.

A million people said it was a stunt, four million said it was real. I’ve been called everything from terrorist to prophet. When you get labeled you feel obliged to become something other than what you are. The label gets you in it’s control.

I kept my eyes open and remembered everything, exactly like it happened. I can feel peoples feelings and put them into words. that’s why some genius called me Frank Witness and the name got attached like a tattoo. I like the name Frank Witness. It suits me because I am frank and direct.





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