Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dinner with the Boss (Excerpt, from Bus of Fools)

Desiree greeted them, ready to head out as soon as the boss showed up. And their timing of return must have been impeccable, for soon Garconteaux himself drove up and parked his car behind Roget's against the greystone fence. His portly figure commanded any room he entered, and by sheer force of personality, he inflicted himself on the world.
When he knocked on the door, all of them were ready. The Mobieles, Guru, and Jenifer, all greeted Garconteaux as though he were some Pere Noelle- and his jovial mood only broke the possible ice and tension. The five of them now made their way down the roadway into town.
The restaurant which was their destination, "La Cafe De Les Grenouilles Violet" was situated in a pleasant spot on the shorefront street, facing out over the English Channel, with an upstairs portion, which is where Roget had arranged the reservations. They were led up the stairway by a woman no older than thirty, no younger than twenty, who seated them, and returned with wine and bread in a basket.
"Haven't had enough wine yet today?" commented Jenifer, when Guru made a grab for the bottle.
"Oh, I think we can suffer a glass or two more. Helps with the digestion, you know." He winked.
"Monsieur Abbryggdd–" Garconteaux had the pronunciation perfectly correct–"You seem to be one of these Renaissance Men yourself. You helped create Le’ Eye Patch Troiseme, you helped make the OtherNet, you are talented and respected 'developpeur de logiciels', you are well known thinker on the subject of l’evolutione psychedelique…"
Guru held up his hand. "Wait- I'm only some of those things, halfway. I'm not Leonardo, you know. I'm aware my reputation and my work have taken on a life of their own in the minds of the public. But Renaissance Man? I'm a specialist. I have a couple of side interests. But I am still only a specialist. What I do I try to do well, and as simply and elegantly as possible. To suggest I am some kind of genius, though... I am not half the genius of Boffin Syznic."
"Ah, Monsieur Syznic! I have long wished I might meet him!"
"Well, I for one wish he were still around to meet. I have not heard a peep from him in nearly a year, now. It's anybody's guess- he was in a coma, last I heard. I only can send thoughts to him, but, unfortunately for me, he doesn't send them back."
"Maybe you could pick those up if you wore the Patch more...?" asked Jenifer.
"Well, yes-ah, I just do not know."
"The Patch! Mais oui, c'est le plus expensif! Did you know that it costs over €100 here?"
"Outrageous!" replied Guru. He and Mike Chen and Syznic had all agreed they wished to keep prices minimal in order to distribute the Patch far and wide, making it available to one and all. The idea! The gall! More interference from do-gooder government bureaucracies. They all need someone to police. May as well police the most benign things– they're so much more likely to not offer resistance!
Garconteaux explained.
"Our Economic Union has decreed that, it can only be accessed with the prescription of a doctor, and high trade tariffs are pushing it up, up, up! I only manage to get my supply by traveling to London, or sending a friend, to get them. Since England is not in the European Union, it's a little bit less. But it's still frowned upon even there. The medicine system in England, also, tends not to recognize these new products so quickly as they caught on in the USA. But..."
"But what?" Guru cocked an eye at Garconteaux, who talked on, before losing his train of thought on the vision of the first course, a steaming bowl of cioppino, being ladled into their bowls.
"But let me tell you, how it works! I have had sleeplessness for years. I tried everything- Xanadu, LoDose, Pax-All, melatonin- and nothing worked for me like the Third Eye Patch! Once I began using it my sleep relaxed - I was sleeping only five hours, each and every night, before. Now, I stay in the bed until past dawn, and my dreams... they are often as not very pleasant."
"That brings me to something else," said Guru. "Boffin Syznic as you probably know developed the Akhenaten Solar Panel Array. If you are interested in placing these in your new urban redevelopments- here at Trouville- I know that I can provide you with discounts importing them in from California. There will be shipping costs, of course, but the actual panels can be had at a fraction of their retail value even at US prices. Would you be interested in that?"
Roget's turn, now, to cock an eye towards his boss. "I would certainly like to incorporate them. They assure the residents of Trouville would have access to the OtherNet, and that we can continue with our Green Certifications program compliance."
"Walkability, Livability, Sociability"- our motto, yes Roget?" Garconteaux was only just getting started.
"Let me explain. When I was beginning the practice and met Trouvet, we were both quite adamant followers of Paolo Soieri and Buckmister Fuller. We wanted to provide design for living spaces which was both aesthetically pioneering, and environmentally sound and sustainable, and cost effective. This was not to say we wanted to do things cheap, but more to do things right the first time. And to make these communities places where people would feel they could remain forever. It's important to me that we turn this community- the Honfleur basin of the Seine- into a place where young people will want to remain, and stay, rather than provide no futures, so that they will necessarily want to travel to Paris for a better shake in life. Now, we have this fantastic opportunity, and the more we are seen as revisionists, or innovators, the better off we will be not only as a firm but as fixtures of new French modes of design. We are perfectly willing to adapt new American technologies into our projects, because, as I am sure you are aware, intelligent ideas know no borders.
"Ah, but I wish there were such a time, that there were no borders! It's a huge inconvenience, and if only people might learn to think around them– like looking down at our vast great planet, we see, borders are an artificial, and now, almost needless– creation of states and superpowers– the people of this planet need to get beyond their narrow thinking and consider us as all one species, before we kill ourselves, and choke on our own exhausts."
At that, he leaned back, tucked a finger into his belt, and with his other hand, began going for the soup. 
Jenifer and Desiree were quite quiet. Jenifer, who sat facing the sea, and Desiree, who sat opposite the table, with Garconteaux at the head, were absorbed in the dish, and Jenifer was dipping hunks of the white bread from the basket into it, and scooping up soup and loaf both.
"Monsieur Garconteaux? I wonder if you know anything about this man that Guru sometimes mentions- this Nigel Flinth?" Her question was acknowledged with a nod.
"Oh- him? He is a product of that media crowd over in London, The Gallows Group. He's one of their pet mouthpieces. He was once a music critic- now he goes out on vastly silly expeditions, like, say, after stories like the Third Eye Patch, as Guru well knows..."
"I testified with him in Washington DC last year. He's a bit of a twit."
"And Sir William Gallows himself, he was but a chocolate-cream knight. Everybody knows–" (he lowered his voice) "-and nobody tells, but he was a mobster most nonpareil, unless one wanted to compare him to his nemeses, the Dankos. Whom they say he had executed..."
"A wonder such a louse ended up knighted," scowled Guru. "Better men than that have gone wanting."
Desiree had become curious, now. "Monsieur Shank mentioned him a great deal - he said he had been a pet guinea pig for a little game that a friend of his create. My Next Life? I had a look at the website. How silly. A game can determine your future incarnation? He mentioned that Monsieur Flinth was the most interesting, highly evolved, player of this game."
"Steve was being sarcastic, no doubt, Desiree!" Guru affected his "I am one unamused bunny" face. This involved wrinkling his nose and wiggling his eyebrows. The sight of it caused Roget, as well as Jenifer, to laugh out loud.
The waitress reappeared, taking their orders. Guru decided to have the grilled octopus, Roget and Desiree who had often dined there, went for filet of swordfish, Garconteaux had a plate of barbecued elvers, and Jenifer had cracked crab. They were all quite ready to take on their main course, as the sun slipped over the western horizon, and the moon rose off someplace to the right hand shore of England in the north, and with the night, the awareness that a good meal amongst friends was perhaps its own reward.
"But to get back to my first topic, which concerns me, Monsieur Abbryggdd. The times when drugs were raging across the world, the heyday, as they call it, of the psychedelic revolution... those days are over. Do you think that your identification with the newer developments in that field will help or hinder you in your quest to become, as they say, a Lord, again?"
"That's not a bad question, Mr. Garconteaux. There are pluses and minuses to all that. It's quite nice that those things are getting a revisit by the same people who declared them illegal and dangerous back when . However, I found the attitudes of some of the so-called new "experts" to be about as retarded as I did that of the "old schoolers" in many ways."
"How so?"
"In that they are demanding clinical evaluations without taking into account, already, the experiences of those that survived those early years of public experimentation. The new researchers, it would seem, are often just as willing to persecute the old heads as they are to insist on sterile settings and diagnostics, pencils and paper, quantifying the supernatural if they can reducing it to numbers and figures which governments can understand. The better to undermine an experience that is basically anti-governmental."
"Well, if these drugs were legal again, perhaps these governments would have less reason to fear them as once they did?"
"Not at all. No government wishes its citizens to wake up from the slumber of their comprehensive systems of social programming. The psychedelic experience lends itself not to suggestibility and gullibility to propaganda, as governments had once hoped, but to questioning the basis and fabric of the universe, and that programming in particular. I cannot see this ending very soon, in fact, I think the more placidity is involved in accepting such oversight and funding, the more likely governments will continue to assert authority and unwillingness to accept new modes and ideas for the spiritual life. Which these drugs can, and often do, awaken, or reinforce."
"Very well-spoken. I do hope they give you that seat in Parliament."
The waitress came back to ask if everything was "alright."
They assured her all was fine, and she mentioned she would be back soon with their desserts, and coffee.
Guru kept on his topic. "What I mean by all that is one can see from just a few moments hanging out with them (if they'll let you) that the new researchers- some, not all by any means- possess all the hangups and uptightness that their forebears did, who helped make these substances illegal to begin with, and who continue to impose their own blinded mentality upon the person whose experience is limited to a casual environment without support of other trained and trustworthy experiencers. By demanding "sober" data that by itself precludes their ability to absorb, by proximity, the joy the experiencer may be undergoing internally. There's no possible way you can convince some governmental bureaucrat- no matter how many degrees he holds- of the depth and beauty possible in the experience, if that third party is unwilling to undergo the journey themselves or even acknowledge these drugs aren't possessed of some demonic energy. If they keep feeding that vibe, well then, who can blame the person on the experiencing end when they begin to feel uncomfortable with that "impartial" observer?"
"Some of the bravest people I know are those who went into the psychedelic experience with their eyes open and wide eyed innocence. That so many have often been persecuted by a system that refuses to value the resulting changes in personality as a social good, should be considered a disqualifying judgement about modern psychiatry and all it purports for the "well being" of its constituent population."
"Ah well. I know I bore the hell out of you..." Guru fell silent, remembering the little bit of paper resting in his slip pocket of his jeans. He remembered it, faintly, but he'd run the jeans through the wash already, so, it was just as much as if he had never bothered seeking out the dealer he had bought it from. Just as well. Like Jenifer had told him, it probably would not be a great idea to take any such journeys while the struggle for the Lordship was underway. Besides- they had the Patch! It would be worth it to keep on with whatever it might do for him, after all, he'd make an excellent spokesman for it, if he could but move beyond the perception of men like Garconteaux who might think he was "living in the past" and in a new world, "post-psychedelic" - involving the new doors the Patch was opening. He wanted to write Dr. Dryer and ask if she would consider opening a new study, purely of the patch and meditation... perhaps incorporate some of Steve Shank's Tibetan monk buddies... he made a mental note, that that would be a good idea.
Meanwhile, Garconteaux had become more excited in discussing his own life as it related.
"Non, non, not at all! I like hearing this! I had me some "trips" myself back in the day. I would even say they helped steer me toward my current career! Especially the mushrooms!"
"Mon Dieu! you have been through all that, yourself? I never would have guessed by your person, or your demeanor."
""Well you know," replied Garconteaux, "and as I hope you are aware, appearances certainly are not everything. It's possible to hold a great many dissenting and difficult opinions, here in the West, just so long as you don't look like you do."
At that, Jenifer blushed and nervously fingered her dreadlocks.
"I prefer the organic entheogens, as a means of connecting with nature. Although the other analogues, such as lysergic acid, are definitely capable of bringing one to a consideration of oneself as both particle and wave..." Guru's long stare deflected from his companions, and reverted to the ocean waves as they broke on the shore. He snapped back to attention as Garconteaux continued.
"You would not approve one over the other?"
"Nah. Mushrooms were always more of a "body trip" for me. Whereas LSD goes straight to the brain, blows out the dust and the cobwebs... The organics, for me, anyway- remind me that you are the cobwebs, too. Does that make sense?"
"Wel, yes, in a way. But consider how many people have used these drugs and how many real contributors to culture..."
"Like Trabajo?"
"Yes, exactly, like Trabajo–"
"I knew him personally. Not a completely successful example. He may have come up with the basic machinery, but, I don't think acid did anything novel for his arrangement of a business model. He was a Savanarola or a Macchiavelli, not a Jefferson..."
"Now there's a complex personality!"
"Yes, I'd agree. He wanted to set all the slaves free, but some of the other signers did not agree. Or he would have written it into the American Declaration."
Jenifer spoke up. "I like old Tom. He must have had a little "jungle fever" going on. What a different society we'd have had...."
"If Thomas Jefferson had been a tripster!" Garconteaux smiled, pleased with himself to have completed the sentence for her.
The table broke up into laughter. Everyone by now were clearing their plates. Garconteaux wiped his plate with a piece of the bread from the basket.
"So yes. Please let's approve the deal. Roget, you send me the estimate of how many Akhenatens you want to order, that you will need for the project to succeed on your terms. I'll sign off. We'll get ahold of you by YakMail, Lord Kwyldyr, and you can go ahead and arrange things on your end."
"I'm sure that Caperbaum Associates, and the Syznic factory in Chico, California will be happy to take the order. We can do it for a thirtyfive percent discount. I'll get them to estimate your shipping cost. We can get them to you within five to six weeks, if all goes well."
Roget now spoke up. His silence had been reflective, and a courtesy to his two guests.
"That is certainly a most welcome development! I'd love to incorporate them. And the whole city will get OtherNet capability. I don't see the government being quite as willing and noncompliant as they are with the Third Eye Patch..."
"I'll also make sure that You, Monsieur Garconteaux, receive a lifetime supply of Patches delivered to you personally. We have our ways!"
Desiree, who had been even more silent than Roget through the whole meal, was now hoping the waitress would return, but as soon as she thought it, the woman appeared climbing the stairs. She brought a platter with a number of pastry desserts.
"And the coffee, too?" reminded Garconteaux.
"Oui, Monsieur," she nodded, sounding rushed. "I can only carry so much at once!"
She turned and was gone, back down the stairway.
"And for you and Desiree," Guru continued, turning his attention to Roget, sitting at the head of the table, with his spoon making initial dips into a lemon custard tart, "I will also make available a lifetime supply.  I'll start by leaving each of you a week's worth from my own pockets. I know that it will help you at the very least to make an initial effort. Like I said, it's mainly in the mind. The body does not enjoy the insult of the smoke but the brain loves the nicotine. And the best part of quitting of course, is when you have been quit for a decade, and your lungs are replenishing cells with less probability of cancer and mutation..."
"Thank you, Monsieur Average. I will look forward to all that."
Jenifer had chosen a kiwi and strawberry tart, and Desiree took the three madeleines. Guru began working on a small piece of pineapple upside-down cake. The waitress soon returned with a new platter full of cups and saucers, and a hot pot of coffee. 
"Now," Guru began speaking again, "Now we get to some of the interesting ideas that Dr. Dreyer postulates are some of the "side effects" of the Patch. One of these is, of course, that those who are drug users of the "recreational" sort tend to slough off their recreation and get involved actively in meditation and yoga groups. Perhaps it is the supportive nature of the group, but more probably it is because they suddenly find themselves dissatisfied with the life they are leading, and see they are going noplace with it. Even that sage old American acidhead Ken Kesey tried to warn people off early in the game- he spoke of going "beyond acid." I think that this is one of the things which the Patch is doing- it is actually shrinking the population of drugs-minded individuals. Not to say that the psychedelic experience is not valid– I think, indeed it is. But the Patch is helping to place it in a more normal, sacred perspective– and people are taking less trips, but learning more."
"That's interesting, Guru," said Garconteaux. "I should look into that as well. I wonder though about some individuals- are they not "strangers to themselves" after all is said and done? Can the Patch really help them find their rootedness, and actually ground them?"
"Doctor Dreyer says that the Patch, indeed, helps in the awareness (or creation) of a more socially conscious ego manifestation. The more one lives in the community of Patchlings, the more one draws on its support, and is supported. Quite the opposite of the addicted community, in which it becomes all too often 'every man for themselves.'"
"One then could also conclude that the Patch perhaps ought to be mandatory for those in civil service and politics!"
"So far, however, Monsieur Garconteaux, we have seen nothing but resistance, or at the finest, a condescending indifference to such ideas. Boffin gave away hundreds of them to the United States Congress. Most of those wound up on the capitol steps, used as frisbees."
Garconteaux stopped, and pondered.
"Well, since the Foundation are still, more or less, yet intact, are there more plans, more projects lined up?"
"I'm neither at liberty to discuss those things nor am I in the loop as to what they are all doing. I came back to the continent to focus on my place in Wales. I could give you several of the Foundation members' YakMail addresses, and a short introduction might get you further along. But I wonder..."
"I wonder, how long can you call it a start-up before it’s a run-down?”

They all laughed. It was clear dinner was done, and after another refill on the wine, all were ready to take to the streets. Garconteaux motored away, his pocket full of a strip of Third Eye Patches, his tummy full of that wonderful channel seafood, his head a little lighter for the carafe of wine he'd downed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Life As A Cop

     Yeh, that’s right, me and Jensen, we worked the south end of town seventeen years together, mostly narcotics. Either the freaks know us by now and stay the hell away, or the punk gang kids know us too, and we do business wit’ them. Jensen gave out five sets of brass knuckles and seven switchblades last week in return for the Sureno’s he’s in with painting ('redesigning') the barrio walls on the side of one of the [racial epithet] markets down there. Jensen says they are all afraid of him, but I have my doubts... I heard one or two are actually gunnin’ for him - bad. I tell him sleep with his service heater under the pillow, but you think that dumbshit listens to me? All he’s good for is a cheese burrito and free cup of coffee at Spammin' Sammy’s. Me, I get in on the good side with the gang leaders, cause, one day, I figger, they’ll be in here, workin’ on the force. 
      "AW man that was AWESOME!"
     I picked up this one hippie couple, right? The drake, he was this fairy looking dude with a bigass buck knife. I took that off him.
     Then I says, “Hey punk, show me what’s in the backpack.”
I had him pull EVERYTHING out right there on the highway- all his stupid granola, his evaporated milk, his little camping stroganoff and shit.
     He even had a can of sterno with him.
     “You drink that shit, hippie?” I asked.
Then we got into the compartment with his clothes. I made him lay all his underwear out in a big long line against the rock facing, you know, them nets Caltrans puts up. I made him stick every pair of bluejeans he had on top of the little highway reflectors. His chick was gettin' antsy, so I swaggered over to her and gave her a little “first degree search,” you know, right up under the blouse? Got me a good feel. She had some firm ones. Then I told her to sit there and shut the fuck up and went back to work on the drake. Yeh, he looked like a fuckin’ duck.  
     I said “What’s the matter, duck, no white Levis?” hah, hah, hah. Then he starts lookin' at me real weird and like he’s swallowing something- maybe like a balloon of smack, or a sheet of LSD, or something. I made him cough it out of his esophagus, with a big old whack on the back with my baton, right. And damn! if a whole plastic bag full of that marijoowanna come flyin' out on the pavement all covered in puke and spit and snot and fell out all on the pavement. 
     I was thinking about writing him a ticket, damn, I couldn’t run him in for it no more, thanks to that fucker Jerry Moone, but I made him pick every little speck of it up off our Pure Pacific Coast California Highway while all the cars flew past and some was slowing down to see what was happening. Damn freaks.
     Anyway I took his card, and phoned it in. Central said this kid was maybe harboring a runaway- that’s the girl, right?
     And so I went over and I tried to get a card, but, she don’t have none, so now I know she really IS a runaway and I gotta separate them, right? I let the drake go, and sent him off up to about six miles out of town where he could catch a ride “just not in my town” and I get her to Central after a big fucking sob story about how she is a good girl and she never been in trouble and gee Mr. Policeman don't rape me or nothing, ok?
     Well I knew better than to pull any of that shit, and I figger, her mommy and daddy don’t even know she’s out here in California hitchhiking around and shit so we booked her as a suspicious vagrant and sent her prints in and FBI sends us back a confirmation it's this same runaway we are s'pozed to be out looking for, they had her prints for shoplifting a Safeway a few years back, she had been in juvy, so I know the bitch is lyin', then, about never being in trouble.
     Me and Jensen we took her into the quiet room, cause she seemed to be a little odd, like, maybe she was stoned on that LSD crap, and she sang. O man she sang beautiful. She says that her boyfriend was going up to Frisco to join a rock and roll band (I’ve heard THAT before!) and she’s really not a runaway, she’s actually nineteen (a lie- we knew that already) and a big girl and please just let her go.
     Jensen though he wants some fun, right, so I just walked out.
     I come back in a round a half hour, the girl is cryin' and Jensen is pullin' up his belt and buckling it, you know, I never saw NOTHIN’, and it’s just another day here on the force, right? And the Mommy and Daddy get called and have to fly out on a special plane from Iowa and won’t be there til 6 AM so we put that little chick in the quiet room all night long. Jensen and Walthers, they put up with that crying blubbering all night. I was lucky, I got off early that night and went out to KFC. Man, I love my work. Community Service! 

[Some folks  have asked me to clarify a bit more of this hitherto unknown (even to myself!) portion of my life known as "the lost years." The information which led to this story was provided by who maintain sole responsibility for any such ideas that I was ever employed by the Santa Clarita CA Police Department. I thought I'd "fill in some gaps" for them.]  
"The names have been changed to protect the innocent"- Joe Friday, LAPD

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Excerpt from Bus of Fools (2)

Dale sat at the table at the Lapin Rouge. His day was already beginning all wrong, the morning after. First, last night he had laid his passport on the dresser near the bed in his hotel room, and covered it up later with a napkin, so that he panicked and thought it missing after reading the newspaper and placing THAT over the napkin already hiding the passport and when he was done with his coffee he had put the saucer and coffee cup on top of that and so, he ended up searching for his passport an extra ten minutes instead of keeping it in the side pocket of his laptop bag like usual. Then there had been the hassle with the pipe. He still needed a proper one. And moments ago, someone had walked away with that laptop bag.
Trixeme walked up from the east side of the Avenue Gobelins and when he saw Dale sitting at his table, his eyes lit up, he gave a heads-up nod, and walked over to him.
"Ah, my American friend, how’s it going today?”
“Lousy! Someone just fucking ripped off my laptop, passport, everything is gone!” The look on Dale’s face told Trixeme that things had gone well.
“I will get your computer back for you.” Trixeme had well accomplished technique. Indeed, Dale would get his laptop back, but he would pay a dear price for it as well. Such was how Trix worked, on a good day.
“I happen to know a few of these… these parasites who prey on good people like you.
I will spend a few hours running one or two of them down. I am pretty sure I have a good idea of who it was.” Trix certainly did, indeed. Maybe when he has sweated it out for a couple hours, I will return it to him. For a price. First he must be made to be bankable.
By bankable, Trixeme meant, he must be on his toes and willing to use his ATM card to draw down at least a couple of hundred dollars which Trix could then bring back to Claudine.
"You will need to offer a reward, you know? I think if you offer a few hundred dollars that the thieves would turn out very happy to return your computer. They don’t really want it either, you see, to be caught in possession of stolen property would put them in bad state with the flics, who know all of them, anyway.”
“How much do you think I should offer?” asked Dale, biting his nails and grabbing for a cigarette from the pack jammed into his front shirt pocket.
‘Say €300.00”
“I think I can do that.”
Dale had enough on hand to swing it, €250 in cash from the foreign exchange, of which he had used about €45 already, and he could take out a couple hundred at an ATM. He did not like having to do that, but, while Dale was not a millionaire like Guru, he did have enough funds to cover, theoretically, his entire trip (or stay, rather) here in France. This would set him back a night in the hotel and a few days worth of food, but he had more. Not an unlimited supply, you understand, but he need not freak out. What he was freaked out about was someone walking around with all his computer information, his personal connections, his online art and all the rest…
His entire creative world resided inside the little black metal and plastic machine. You could think yourself into anything, but thinking your way back out of a strange foreign city without your interior roadmaps, would be like losing Ariadne’s thread in the escape from the Labyrinth.
“That sounds OK, not to worry. I will return. Meantime why don’t you go have a drink, go to the Moulin, or go back to that place went went last night? I won’t take all day.”
Trixeme then was out of Dale’s face faster than Dale could take time to think about what should he do next, when two of the street folk Dale had met while scoring his hash came walking down the avenue and spotted Dale in his café seat. Swaggeringly approaching from the café fence was Jacques, his bandana lending him the air of a phantom engineer. Jacques was not Parisian but Canadian, and only in Paris to collect some money which would reset his life in Montreal. The bright lights were fine, but he was in the street due to a desire to keep within the counterculture. The evening life for Jacques, then, was all about going to raves, scoring dope and pills and redistributing them with a little markup on the side, plus the ability to beg a high off the buyer. He looked at Dale as if another mark, and yet, could see Dale was two steps away from being stranded in the street as any one of Jacques' daily associates.
“I am trying to get to you to help you,” said Jacques. Whether it was a dope score or his laptop, Dale wasn’t sure, but Jacques had been the friendliest and kindest of the several he had approached at the Notre Dame stoner hangout.
“I hope you can. Somebody’s gotta help me – my laptop is stolen and I’m really not in the mood to discuss getting high at this point.” Dale flipped back his hair from his forehead, a gesture he often used when trying to keep a distance for himself from someone.
“What can I do for you though? I can keep my eyes out for you, if I see someone who looks like he could know, I will ask about a laptop. Meanwhile, Hollow-A, I would just care to sit and have a coffee for myself, as well.” Jacques’ companions had slithered off along the avenue, and he was alone with Dale. Watching a pigeon grab crusts from a sidewalk sweeping, Dale seemed to stare right through Jacques into the traffic on the street behind him.

Revoke the Nobel Prize

     Welcome to the neo-United States of America, where murder is legal, all citizens are suspicious, and self-righteous immorality flows from the top down. President Barack Obama, elsewhere described often on this blog as "Hif Majeftie" and privately as "that hypocrite jiveass punk" was awarded the Nobel Prize soon after taking office- for God knows what, as even he himself admitted. Subsequently, this president went on to launch more cruise missile-drone strikes than any previous president (including his predecessor, George Bush) which have killed, on average, only one terrorist target for every five innocent victims they have claimed. All this, they would like to say (as well as the uber-omniscient monstrosity, the NSA Prism program), is in the name of the security and liberty of the people of America. And yet, while saying so never makes something so, this administration continues its war on the American public (if it can be conceived, it can be believed) and most especially its most articulate critics.
     To protest against all this is seemingly futile, yet, deep reading of the work of the founders of this nation demands that those who are responsible for the new despotism must somehow be brought out into the light. The "transparent" presidency of secret rulings in secret courts to protect secret programs of top secret organizations is tantamount to the existence of a new Cheka, GeStaPo, Stasi, and NKVD. Only with red, white and blue splashed all over it and waving the flag; singing the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America, maybe with a cherry-flavored crucifix planted on top for good measure. Hard to tell. This supposedly "Christian" president thinks it perfectly fine to target people across the world on a Tuesday and pray for repentance on Sunday. Whatever.
     It's also perfectly fine for him to make mincemeat of US Citizens who have been charged with no crime, to prosecute reporters who are only acting within well-precedented tradition, to make stateless those who would wish to bring out to the light of day the Leviathan secret police state that the founders warned us long ago against our becoming, indeed, that our republic was founded to prevent. Doesn't matter now. Jefferson and Franklin are rolling in their graves. I'm not sure what can be done to get our Constitution back from these criminals- in both parties- who have stolen it away from us, but something needs to be done, lest the voice of the innocent and the common person seeking only to earn an honest living and live unmolested be lost in the mad crush toward an authoritarian super-state. This administration is both an economic miasma AND a civil liberties train wreck. But one thing can be done, and that is for the Nobel Committee to take back their "hasty and ill advised" award to the man who won it solely for the "miraculous" achievement of having been elected in the first place. I think that's only justice, and only fair.
Being President of the United States of America means never having to say you're sorry:
Here's a few very, very relevant links of which concerned Earthlings ought to take note:
AND of course, essential viewing!

Friday, July 19, 2013

In Memoria Keith Godchaux (1948-1980)

        Keith Godchaux,  pianist of the Grateful Dead from 1971 through early 1979, would have been 65 years old today. I never had the pleasure of meeting him -although I came very close to it- met his wife, and had many occasions to be in close proximity during concerts by both the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band. But then there are some people you never meet in the flesh whom you know you have known in the spirit, (of whom it might be said "you travel the same beam")-and for me, he was one of those. On an actual level, he was also something of a mutual friend- either of others in the band I had met or of friends I made early on in my thirty year residence in San Francisco.
     Keith was a pianist with exceptional skills. Joining the band at a point when original keyboardist Ron ("PigPen") McKernan had begun having health issues, his ragtime and honky-tonk inspired playing gave a new fire and spark to the Dead's musical texture. The jazzy approach he brought matched that of the other members. Coupled with the recent departure of second drummer Mickey Hart, the music performed while Keith was in the band from the years 1971 through 1974 in my opinion encompasses some of the most freeform, inspired space-jazz ever played. With the re-addition of Mickey in 1975, the music began what I felt was a decline- over-emphasizing the drums and percussion ("find a beat and fill it!")- in opposition to the light, breezy, often cerebrally lofty places the band could go when just five pieces.
    It was said by Buddy Cage, pedal steel pioneer extraordinaire, that what Keith brought to the Dead was akin to "what Nicky Hopkins brought to the Rolling Stones." I agree completely with that. What I told someone once was that "Keith brought class, which they did not quite have before"- not meant so much as a slur to Pigpen and their lowlife biker fan set, as it was a nod to the new textural component of the grand piano. And I challenge Dead Heads, who and wherever you are- to try and find a sour note ever played by Keith. (I did, in fact, find one, and only one, but just to be ornery, I'm not going to tell you where I found it- and that was after listening to literally hundreds of tapes.) His playing was always perfect for the situation- in many cases understated, in some cases, extraordinarily extroverted.
     I came and went with Keith and Donna during their tenure with the band. I had an interesting night in Palo Alto where I not only met Jerry and Donna personally, but had quite a gas hanging near the right of the stage and Keith's piano, actually at some points, harmonizing with him, singing along wih the band. (A later event where I caught the Robert Hunter/Comfort band in Berkeley nearly resulted in my being hauled onstage to sing along with their backup vocalists... not having a guitar in hand at either event, I graciously demurred- probably best for all concerned, anyway)... I kept going to Dead concerts intermittently, in the Mydland years, for one reason or another, but primarily for me, the focus in retrospect was that the Godchaux years were both more enjoyable personally because my personal life was more satisfactory and that the Dead's music seemed more truly a liberating force. Everything that came later seemed to be a trip down, down the dark ladder- as Joni Mitchell put it.
     Among rumors that had been flying about on the street in '78-'80 was that Garcia was getting further and further into smoking Persian heroin. This was something, it turned out, to have been a shared temptation with John Kahn and Keith as well, in their time playing in Jerry's solo band. John Kahn is on record as saying that the reason Jerry fired Keith (from the Garcia Band) was that he caught him with his hand in his briefcase, going after Jerry's stash. Given the propensity of smack users to forego all thoughts of conscience when they need their fix, I wasn't surprised to read that. However, I also understood the mindset that would have led such enormously talented individuals to begin using this drug to begin with. [It's not as if anyone sets out to get hooked on it. Everyone thinks they "can handle it." But the body begins to make demands on the mind, and then the mind begins to make excuses for how "wonderful" it all is.] I also had some sympathy toward Jerry- with no place else to turn but inside himself when the pressures of being "artist, guru, and idol" to thousands were too much, he needed some way to slam the door on the world once in a while and recover his artist self. It didn't seem to hurt his playing any, at least not for a very, very long time- even as it cost him his relationship with his wife and family. But that's a downside to the drug that most people can reasonably say is a risk they would rather not take to begin with. Selfish reptilian self-centeredness sort of comes with the territory. And I'm one of those types who could have never been so inclined to head in that direction.
    All the same. Heroin, I felt, was such an "un-Grateful Dead" sort of drug to begin with.
If they were going to be so shallow as to try to run Pigpen off for alcohol abuse, they could have been a bit more compelled to stick it to Garcia as well. But like his daughter Annabelle said- if you made any to do about it with him in those years, at the least, you were walking on eggs. And that discretion was the better part of the valor, I think, which allowed me the ability to come and go from the GD/JGB scene with as much leave as I had. I would not trade off that for anything in life, since it was always such a great experience musically and emotionally. DeadHeads, however can seem downright hypocritical in their condemnation of Keith for the very human frailties they'd willingly grant to Jerry- and even if both these guys were strung out, my reasoning always was- they aren't ripping off people's guitars to get it, and it's their dough & health to waste -- if they so choose. It really didn't ultimately make either of them evil people in the least, and I think that's one of the things I want to drive home in saying this.
     I made friends with several Dead freaks who lived in the Haight when I moved into San Francisco via "crash landing" in late Summer 1978. These were people who made a to-do (amongst themselves) as to being part of "the Family"- a rather odd assemblage of hangers-on around the GD who prided themselves on the ability to get in to shows free, hang out backstage, party & etc, on the good graces of the band members. This group in particular were especially fond of Keith and Donna (as was I) and we hung out a bit together, on the street, and at a local bar, and they'd often pass on gossip to me there about what Keith was doing after he and Donna left the band.
     One of the stories they passed on to me was that "Keith is going to be playing with Dylan soon!" This was about one or two months before the car accident that claimed his life. (More about that in a minute). I always thought "that would be perfect for him"- since I had really dug the work that Keith, Jerry, Bill Kreutzmann and Phil Lesh had done in session on David Bromberg's "Demon in Disguise" LP. I also thought that it might well fit Dylan's new trend toward gospel. Keith and Jerry (Donna too) had always had something of a preference for either gospel tunes, or a gospel feeling, in the work they did with both the Keith & Donna Band and the Jerry Garcia Band. In fact at one point there was something in one of the Dead Head newsletters about them describing what they played as "neo-gospel". So I thought with Dylan's new turn toward being a "born again" it would be a good turn. Sadly, however  it was not to be.
     Several weeks after this barroom conversation with my friends John and Kevin (never knew them by any last names, they more often used the handles "Red" and "Peacock") I picked up a Chronicle one morning and on the obituary pages was "Keith R. Godchaux" along with a picture, a short bio, and an article describing his recent death in an auto accident.
      It's a serious mistake for people to think that Keith was driving this car at that time- although I know Rolling Stone "the music press authority" just said so in a recent special edition on the GD, nothing could have been further from the truth. The truth, my friend Red told me- was that Keith and an artist well-connected within the Dead community (whom I will not name, but indeed, is rather well-connected) were out celebrating Keith's birthday at Mickey Hart's ranch. Keith had decided not to drive on the trip back, and was actually a passenger, and not in command of the car. The driver, apparently had been consuming many of the same intoxicants, and at some point near Ross on Sir Francis Drake Road the car crossed over the yellow line and smashed into a parked SUV. I have seen a photo of the crash site- it would have been unlikely anyone survived this head-on collision, but apparently (for the moment) both did. They were rushed off as soon as ambulances could arrive, and Keith lingered- unconscious, in a coma- for four more days until succumbing to his wounds. The artist driver survived. But it irks me no end to hear Rolling Stone describe Keith as the driver, when that was just not the case at all. It adds to the miserable legacy of some who would wish to speak no good of him. They should be and ought to be a bit more investigative and factual about their reportage.
    During that time, Donna never left his side, and my friends (John, Kevin & perhaps one or two others) went up to the hospital and sat with her for a time.
     "It was very sad..." he told me, as we sat together, two weeks after the death, in a bar across the street from our earlier hangout, and clinked bottles of beer together in a toast to our departed friend, and an era now turned.
     Now in my musical coterie and gang of runabouts, I've ended up defending Mrs. Godchaux on one level or another, against all and any argumentors (including some of my most cherished friends,) for a number of years. "All she does is scream," they invariably say. But I knew that not to be the whole story in the least. I had known she was a Muscle Shoals background singer, had worked with the likes of Elvis, Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Boz Scaggs and others. And that was all before she had even met Keith.
     Additionally, the Godchaux's period of life pre-GD, as active Dead Heads, and my own concert attendance, were pretty much concurrrent as well- I did not begin seeing them until the spring of 1971. And the story of how Keith got hooked up with Jerry has been told too many times for me to need account, but from October of 1971 on, until late in 1977, you really couldn't touch them, musically, or critically- they were an element of the music which was essential and so far as I was concerned, Donna's stage presence lent a more sexually egalitarian bent to the entire experience... er... trip. Even if five times from ten her background vocals on Playing in the Band were... often... dubious. (What she may have lacked at times in tunefulness was well made up for in enthusiasm, but that is another of those things that do not translate well onto recording tape, and would require having been there, perhaps, to appreciate). And I'm sure it must come as news to many "tapers", but the purpose of Dead music was never simply to serve tape recorders, but warm living bodies.
     One of the experiences a friend and I shared, on consecutive nights, when the GD played their "retirement" shows at Winterland (filmed for the Grateful Dead Movie) was our noticing how annoyed Keith constantly was by the dolly camera, that had been set up just to his rear and just above him, and the dolly swooping low- narrowly missing the top of his head by inches, repeatedly, through all five concerts. In the film he's seen to give a sour frown to the camera- although there's no explanation why.  Well, that was more than likely exactly why. I've read of him referred to by one writer as "taciturn" although, obviously, that guy never hung out frequently enough (if at all) around him, to have seen him smile. Which wasn't all that hard to get from him. But his introversion and moodiness were belied by the quality of the music made, and most often, as another good friend stated it- "He plays so much better when [Donna] is up there with him." And the music itself, for me, anyway, I often envisioned as "a spaceship, for escaping to the 21st Century." Of course back then, nobody could see, just how much the 21st C. would be as much a bummer and lame as the 20th, (or so it looks thirteen years into it) but it was a big part of at least making the last part of the 20th C. a bit more livable.
     Keith 's death then, actually really shook me- here was someone who I had had some proximity to, (close as that might have been without an actual meeting, perhaps) and who was in any case, a big part of my world. I think the shock of learning it hurt me worse than the death of my own mother since I had had a number of months to psychologically prepare for that. But this was a bolt from the blue. And as a player, the reality that- I'd never get the chance to play with him, now- that probably hurt as much as the feeling that a kind, gentle soul (Well I, for one, had never been told a thing about Keith and Donna's "famous" fights, at that point) had been wiped from the earth. Gone, but by no means forgotten.

Perhaps my favorite picture of the 70's GD- a clean-shaven Garcia, Keith at far right.  Zoo World 1-13-74

     In the midst of the actual "Dead Family"- a myth I know a good many persist in believing- in part from the Dead's own propaganda about its existence-[Status in which seems most appointed by the number of dollars and hours one has invested in the band over x years- membership determined by "who has the money to come"(kind of like the hippie version of Opening Night at the Opera)- a willingness to "suck up" apparently helps, as well- I think it's a rather polite little fiction to think strangers are going to care more for you than your own kin.*] there had developed something of an "anti-Keith" faction. This faction (and they know who they are) took great pride in their attempts to break the couple up, and despite all the fighting, they did remain a couple up to the end. I felt I had more in common with both of them than one over the other, and also, that I had more in common with both of them than anyone else remaining in the band (other than Jerry.) So they (both the Godchauxs) were a big reason the GD were what they were, for me. Everything after they left felt more like devolution, and less and less like something of a scene that I wanted to hang out with. Donna put it best once when she said (I'm paraphrasing here, and not quite exact) that "the Grateful Dead is not always benign, there are a lot of ways people can get sucked into it that end up hurting them," and I could see, perhaps, writing on the wall in that regard. Life as a Dead fan cost me at least one serious relationship (not that it was perhaps the best thing in the world for me, either, but it was a choice I felt I was forced to make which would have been a false one- one of several I was being asked to make at the time) and sometimes, felt like something I needed to defend. Well, it only took the world twenty years (plus!) to catch on, but I feel my young appreciation of the band was eventually vindicated. NOW they have (rightfully) become American icons- and yet the tale of how much their music really means in terms of the musicological progress of American arts is, much as Kerouac is yet barely appreciated as a man of American letters- perhaps still decades into the future in the long perspective.
     Like that song Jerry used to sing ("Catfish John")- "I was proud to be his friend."
*[ However there have been recent reports as to a young man who left his family to "go off and see the GD" who was possibly killed in a road accident, and whose mother only recently- twenty years later!- reported him missing. Suffice to say this is actually very atypical parental behavior.]

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Excerpt (from Bus of Fools)

Hugh was sitting on a bench outside the Cafe Lapin Rouge. Andrew Dempster, in an affable mood, decided to give him a little friendly American cameraderie, and ask how he and Ramona were enjoying the tour.
Hugh grunted."Well I guess it's been alright."
"It's turning out to be a real interesting one for Fern and I, too."
"You don't miss the States none?"
"Not at all." Andrew slapped his knee, and brushed his hand down his thigh, like he was cleaning off some overlying lint.
"Well, I miss it, actually. I'd like to eat some real food for a change instead of this petty-nouveau-cuisine crap."
"Same old same old, old boy. When in Rome..."
"Be more Roman than the natives!" Hugh roared. He put down a high five. Andrew weakly slapped it. "No, I can't wait til we get back home. Turns out I gotta cousin on the run from the Mex War. They're bringing in the heat- last thing I heard, they was sending men in hazmat suits to spread killer bees colonies! Can you believe how low and slimy that is? My cousin's kid, he's allergic to bees. That'll be certain death for him, he runs afoul of one of them. Not only that, but they're using napalm on Americans down there too!"
Andrew gasped audibly.
"That's right! Same old Agent Orange crap, & they're shootin' it out of flamethrowers!'
"The same stuff that the MonteCrisco Corporation makes?"
"Hell yeah!" said Hugh.
"Excuse me a bit, Mr. Baggs. I need some coffee."
"Sure thing."
Andrew went into the cafe and emerged in five minutes with a large whipped cream-topped cup of coffee.
"Well," smirked Hugh, "looks like you're falling for the native color yourself!"
Now it was Andrew's turn to grunt and shrug.
"I don't know about the States anymore. Fern and I were talking the other night, we might not even go back again. Hammer and Lasher basically have wrecked our vision of it."
"Hell, they wrecked it for me years ago. But I'm goin' back there to die, of course, when I go. Ain't noplace in the world an American can really call home, 'cept America, even when they're one of your crybaby liberal types."
Taking it personally, since Andrew had a feed on Hugh's mental narrative all along, and knowing it was meant to be taken personally, Andrew took a different tack.
"One of the things I hate about the States is the way the press manipulates everything. Sure, there's honest journalists, but more often than not, they're just toadies licking the self-licking ice cream cone for the establishment. The establishment feeds a story line. Say "Huge spy operation uncovered in government agency." (Let's say just for argument's sake it's the EPA or something harmless like that.) The press will feed the story- just off the word of some nameless insider at the EPA, who refuses to be identified because he's too chickenshit to get fired if they find out just who. Only, that, he won't get fired, because the EPA is actually using the paper to feed the line to begin with! One hand washing the other, so to speak. And say, there's candidate Moe Stooge. Maybe he is the Biggest Guilty of the two Major Candidates running this year (the opposing party is Guilty #2, only a runner up. That's Larry Stooge) Let's mention also we have a third candidate. No matter who they are, they are supposed to play the part of the clown- Curly Joe, or Shemp, if you would.  So- you have three candidates running for office. Paper X runs a headline poll- and express the results like this- "Poll Shows 33% Want Moe for President. 33 % Want Larry for P. 33% Want Curly Joe for President. But their headline reads "66% OF PUBLIC DESPISE MOE!"
You see what I mean?"
Hugh had been nodding. Seeming to be deep in thought a moment, he added─
"And it could just as easily be said that, "66% of the Public Depise Larry!" or "66% Think Curly Joe is Too Dumb to Be President"- which, by the way, is exactly how the lib'rul media think third party candidates rank. And so, of course, Larry wins, the "lesser of the two Guilties" even though he has not really even got a real platform other than keeping himself in a fed job for another four years! Cushy benefits!"
"Damn, Baggs, you do get it. I was all ready to have a fight with you again but you are making some sense. Shit, I should buy you a coffee!"
"Ah naw, now don't, Dempster. Ramona hates me suckin' down all that sugar and crap. I was thinking about punching you out, since you're another leftwing douchebag doormat, after all, but maybe you're OK, Dempster. I guess I am really only a big windbag."
Hugh looked a little lost, sitting on the bench in his penny loafers, white socks, and polyester slacks.
Andrew took a long sip of the coffee and set the cup back on the saucer, on a table beside the bench. He tied his shoes. When he looked up, Hugh Baggs had left the bench and had begun walking off in the direction of his hotel.
"Gotta go, Dempster! I don't wanna miss none of today's tour!"

Andrew followed him, shaking his head incredulously, and had another long sip of the cooling coffee.

Read the complete story of Bus of Fools available at

The Gettysburg Duckspeak

By ABELINCOLN, 16th Supreme Leader of UniStat America
Being President of the United States of America means never having to say you're sorry: