Friday, August 31, 2007

Vito Says: Happy Sacco and Vanzetti Day

“I am suffering because I am a radical, and indeed I am a radical; I have suffered because I was Italian, and indeed I am Italian; I have suffered more for my family and for my beloved than for myself; but I am so convinced to be right that you could execute me two times, and if I could be reborn two other times I would live again to do what I have done already.”

Bartolomeo Vanzetti (upon being sentenced to death)

highwayscribery asks you to remember Sacco and Vanzetti as you head out to your beaches and barbecues this Labor Day weekend.

Wikipedia informs that “Today, Labor Day is often regarded simply as a day of rest and, compared to May 1 Labor Day celebrations in most countries, parades, speeches or political demonstrations are more low-key...”

Indeed, but we rarely do “low-key” at highwayscribery and so chose this edition of Labor Day to note that last week, Aug. 23 to be exact, marked the 80th anniversary of Sacco and Vanzetti’s (at top) deaths in the electric chair.

A long-time ago, Vito Marcantonio (below), highwayscribery’s sainted left-wing congressman from the American Labor Party, wrote “Labor’s Martyrs,” which you can access thanks to the Guttenberg Project.

The opening quote was actually chosen by Vito to begin his essay on the two anarchists.

He traced the lineage of men, which was similar to his own: “For I am an Italian, and proud to be of the same people that produced such a great spirit as Vanzetti, the descendant of Garibaldi, the forerunner of those heroic anti-fascist brothers who are today fighting Fascism and Mussolini in Italy and Spain.”

Marcantonio noted that Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco were poor workers who came to the United States seeking peace and work, but found something else.

Sacco was a shoe worker, Vanzetti worked at many trades before his incessant anarcho-syndicalist (read: organizing) efforts got him blacklisted so that no factory would employ him and thereafter, “had to make a living peddling fish to his Italian neighbors in the little town known as the cradle of liberty.”

There was at the time a tremendous “red scare” going on in the U.S., and Attorney General Mitchell Palmer was conducting pernicious raids on all things progressive that would leave a black mark on the nation’s history.

In the Massachusetts of Sacco and Vanzetti, a wave of payroll robberies was unfolding at the same time as the infamous “Palmer Raids” and the two men were arrested as suspects in the deal of a man murdered during one of those armed thefts.

“What happened after that, though it lasted seven long and torturous years, is fairly familiar to the American people.”

Not so much anymore.

Elsewhere in the world, however, is still known and remembered, at least according to a translated article that ran last week in, lo and behold, the Gray Lady herself,
“The New York Times.”

Written by Andrea Camilleri, Italian author of “The Patience of the Spider,” the gist of “Italy’s American Baggage,” is that there is something about the murder of these two innocent men that won’t leave the world alone, that won’t fade away like so many events in the endless stream of “news” that tell the story of what passes for civilization.

She wrote that even in Mussolini’s Italy, where anarchists were being actively persecuted, the newspaper “Corriere de la Sera” ran, “a six-column headline. Standing out glaringly among the subheads was the assertion: ‘They were innocent’.”

Here’s Camilleri: “There is probably not a single Italian newspaper that has not devoted an article to the case every Aug. 23 from 1945 to the present. In 1977, much prominence was given to the news that Michael Dukakis, then the governor of Massachusetts, officially recognized the miscarriage of justice and rehabilitated the memory of Sacco and Vanzetti.”

But the former is an Italian thing, the latter a Massachusetts/Italian-American thing, because for the rest of the nation, Sacco & Vanzetti might as well be a maker of mass-produced pasta noodles.

And so we remember them here, ask you to remember them, and close with Vito, who says:

“The tragedy of their untimely and cruel death is still an open wound in the hearts of many of us who remember them as shining spirits, as truly great men such as only the lowly off the earth can produce.”

Happy Labor Day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

King by Caveat

The Bush administration, rudderless and without support in Congress, is doing what it can to govern by King’s caveat.

And that’s not too hard for a group which issues executive orders that skirt the boundaries of legality and challenge activist groups to sue them if they want a change.

What they’ve cooked up now, with connivance from the recently appointed director for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is a “final rule,” permitting that entity to implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) a new way.

NEPA, by the way, is a crucial law that almost always comes up when the government decides it wants to do something on public lands.

Typically, the public comment process required under the law reveals negative impacts of a proposed project on the environment or on federally listed endangered species.

And that, in turn, leads to a number of years’ delay while environmental impact statements are drafted and the lawsuits by environmentalists challenging those studies are sorted out.

It’s a pain in the neck for business people, but it tends to work for the trees and the birds, bugs, and gray wolves, which is what the act’s drafters had in mind. It’s a kind of “look before you leap” law.

Of course, governments in the era of globalization exist to serve the globalizers, as opposed to the globalized and so these laws are considered troublesome and expensive to business precisely because THEY WORK.

In China, the government doesn’t protect its people or environment, which is why it has become both the world’s factory and dumping ground.

Read the special report by the “New York Times” called “Choking on Growth,” to learn how that’s working out.

Here at home, in the soft dictatorship, the “final rule” permits the administration to green light projects, “without conducting environmental assessments or environmental impact statements,” according to the Society of Environmental Journalists (of which the scribe is a proud member).

There are a number of projects that could now be given a free environmental pass including those involving grazing on federal lands, oil, gas, and geothermal industry vehicles rooting around for new resources, crushing desert tortoises or the habitat of the Least Bell’s Vireo (a bird) in their greedy rumblings.

Above is a photo (by Kevin Walker) of what the scribe is talking about. And here are some more images of industry destruction, compliments of The Wilderness Society, on land that belongs to all of us.

Logging, whereby corporations go in and make big money on behalf of the few by harvesting what belongs to the many, is going to be a winner.

That industry has fought tooth and nail, sometimes successfully, and other times not (the cases we’re concerned with here) to build roads accessing old growth and virgin forests.

Now that won’t be so hard because the new rule will limit challenges to proposed pathways and because, get this, BLM will not be required to notify the public when “an exclusion” is granted.

the highway scribe has to tread carefully and ensure the contents of this blog don't compromise his paying work, which is often in the environmental area. So let's be clear, the issue here is not environmentalists and corporations and the battles they wage.

Often enough, the scribe sees the industry side on a specific issue and that's easy to do when all the evidence on all sides is spread out and on view.

Environmentalists are an unbending lot and oft-times would like to return the world to a time it is no longer possible to recall. Some corporations exploit while others are stewards and good citizens.

But we're talking about limiting the process for generating evidence and limiting the ability of reporters to get what they must in drafting knowledgeable pieces for the public to consume.

The point here is that, clearly, this is not your daddy’s democracy.

Four More

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Pasadena Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Rogelio A. Ramirez, of Pasadena, CA:

"Lance Corporal Rogelio Ramirez committed himself to protecting the United States and the freedoms our country was founded on. Maria and I are deeply saddened by the loss of this brave Marine and we will keep his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers during this painful time. We are greatly indebted to Rogelio for his unwavering commitment to our nation; his service will not be forgotten."

Ramirez, 21, died Aug. 26 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Ramirez was assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Ramirez, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Matthew S. Medlicott, of Houston, TX:

"The men and women of our armed forces epitomize courage and bravery, putting their lives on the line everyday to defend our country. The citizens of this great nation owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Lance Corporal Matthew Medlicott for selflessly undertaking this duty and making the ultimate sacrifice to protect his fellow Americans. Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to Matthew's family and friends as they mourn the loss of a valiant hero."

Medlicott, 21, died Aug. 25 as a result of wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Medlicott was assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Medlicott, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Clovis Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Nathan C. Hubbard, of Clovis, CA:

"Corporal Nathan Hubbard's sacrifice is a somber reminder of the high price of freedom and his honorable legacy will not be forgotten. Nathan's patriotism and dedication as a member of the armed forces is an inspiration to us all. Our hearts and sympathies go out to Nathan's family, friends and loved ones and we will continue to pray for their solace during this difficult time."

Hubbard, 21, died Aug. 22 as a result of injuries suffered when his helicopter crashed in Multaka, Iraq. Hubbard was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, United States Army, Schofield Barracks, HI. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

In honor of Cpl. Hubbard, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Groveland Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Matthew L. Tallman, of Groveland, CA:

"Maria and I are deeply saddened by the loss of Sergeant Matthew Tallman who bravely served our country in the armed forces. In honoring his service and sacrifice, we are reminded of the significance of protecting our nation and our values. We extend our sympathies and prayers to Matthew's family and friends during this time of grief."

Tallman, 30, died Aug. 22 as a result of injuries suffered when his helicopter crashed in Multaka, Iraq. Tallman was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 6th U.S. Air Cavalry Regiment, United States Army, Fort Lewis, WA. The cause of the incident is under investigation.

In honor of Sgt. Tallman, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (Installment thirty-five)


At the giant annual art splash there was a spot in the corner, away from other things, for Cortez. I hadn’t seen him for a while. His paintings were still great and completely unsaleable.

He’d been in Peru, he said. His recent iconography of mass murderers was beyond the pale, beyond the domain of proper visual discourse– meriting approval in closed hearings only. The killing of a chicken in a film short snapped the community’s back and the state came and shut his loft for numerous health and safety violations.

He reported from the front to me: “If they stop you, they’ll find a law you’re breaking. And they have a lot of them.”

In need of assistance yet another bourgeois acquaintance from his happy school days, invited him to Lima and threw in a show to boot.

Cortez said he was having a great time until he got a call that some Mexicans had hot-wired his car and driven it through the fence in a desperate search from some joy. They came up empty-handed and joyless, but the car didn’t come up at all.

“I hated to do it, but everything came apart and I had to tell those guys I couldn’t stay anymore,” he informed.

“Your Peruvian friends?”

“No, Elendele and Saturn,” he clubbed me.

“You went with Elendele and Saturn? You bastard,” I double-pumped him, “you went to Peru with them?”

“No, I went with Cassius and Elendele.”

I suggested he start laying some track and so he explained that when Elendele went to get Cassius at the airport, after the famous phone call, she found a yellow ghost of the fancyman that had left her behind. He had caught hepatitis surfing a river mouth in El Salvador. Elendele accused him of sleeping with dirty guerilla girls that flourish on the volcanoes there and then told him that was alright. A good thing.

It took Cassius a long time to get well.

“The worst thing for Elendele,” Cortez distilled, “was that Cassius took the doctor at his word and gave up drinking cold turkey.

“So Elendele talked me into letting them come down with me,” he recounted. “She devised a plan to do a story on the kooky Indian revolt the people in the mountains there are all blind on. That or the coca leaf. It’s hard to tell. I wasn’t sure I wanted them to come. You know, we never really got over that disagreement about my plan to colorize, ‘Ballet Mechanìque’.”

“Yeah, I remember. She said you sold out. Saturn defended you.”

“She said I sold out every time I made money...anyway she really wants to go. She says she has no hope for the future and doesn’t think she’s going to outlive the ravages of global warming. She wants to travel before the world shrinks any further. Her answer to every question of where she’s going is, ‘far’.

“You know what that’s like when she has a philosophy reason for doing something. So Cassius couldn’t hold her back, and off we all went.

“As soon as we got there Cassius got sick from the water and it reminded him off El Salvador and hepatitis and he got really scared and wanted to go home. He said he was going to move to Tennessee when he got back He told me he no longer needed to seek out the thrill. That it was in the air, in surviving, in drinking too much tequila.

“So after Cassius left, Saturnina came down for a visit.”

I got down to the important stuff.

“How does she look?”

“She’s a mom now.”

“Oh, right, I forgot.”

“She only stayed for a week. She finished her running. She’s perfectly happy being maternal and glows when she walks around in the dark. Cassius sends a check when he can, but her new boyfriend does the heavy lifting.”

I was falling of mountains of inner motion.

He rendered on that Saturnina’s aspiration man, one of the Direct Actionists, had been arrested for blowing children up in airports. She convinced the French Radical Party to run him as a candidate for European parliament, as middle-fingering to society as a whole. But he won and got himself some immunity from prosecution.

“Now they live in Nicosia.”

After Saturnina left, he stormed on, Elendele was picked up by the Federales when she was taking a mountain trip and she got thrown in jail. Something, of course, to do with cocoa leaves. Cassius came back to bail her out and he got sick again. The only people he could get to work for her release were the missionaries and Catholics working in that country who gave him cards with her picture and a note to the government requesting her release. He returned home, distributed the cards in the local churches. In two-week’s time the government quietly released her.

“The help of the cleric class, from what I can figure, only served to further mess up her inner framework for dealing with the world,” the painter opined.

“Cassius tried to coddle her, but always ran into her iron fist and the day before they left for home Elendele insisted on a walk in the park. There she fell into a fountain and dislocated her knee, in pursuit of some unobtainable black swan.”

To fix it cost Elendele everything she was worth and something more. The actors union health plan paid for a good portion of it, but even the little part left was more than she could conjure up through her system of schemes and fly-by-night projects. At least according to what Cortez was saying. It was a difficult thing to overcome. Gina Night’s father wasn’t around anymore. Whitey McEntee had styled out, retired, and taken to wearing gangster hats at a place called “Jass” he learned about from Elendele.

She called him, but he couldn’t do for her. He told Elendele, “I’m sorry doll. Retirement is kind of a mellow backwater.”

“Somehow it paid off,” Cortez continued retelling her torrid story. “Somehow she managed to keep a credit rating. She protected it like her little cub because she still wants to blow it on making a film when the moment or the script are right.”

But in the end, what she was, was out of money and out of luck. And there is nothing more dangerous for a woman like Elendele. Her future had already arrived. Earlier than anticipated. And long before the flooding lowlands by the newly melted seas.

“She said she was going to stay and ride the apocalypse out in the city,” Cortez brushed his final stroke.

But that was because she didn’t have any kids.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Spies Like Them

“The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time."
George Orwell, “1984”

It was hoped that with the restoration of a liberal opposition party to power in both houses of Congress, that the Bush administration’s assault on our civil liberties would finally be put to rest.

But hope dies last.

“New York Times” reported last week that Congress may have actually given the administration broader powers to snoop on us than it asked for in “updating” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“Updating,” by the way, is right-wing talk for encroaching on democratic principles to the benefit of authority.

The Democrats know this and were not really interested in updating FISA, but terrorism is the new communism and the (r)epublicans were threatening to call them soft; something Democrats can’t screw up the courage to confront, ever.

Bush threatened to take away their vacations, god forbid, and they caved...worse than even expected (or suspected).

It was, in the words of “Times” reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau “in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble,” that Democrats agreed to “allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include -- without court approval -- certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records.”

Instead of rushing home, they should have stayed working, because as former congressman
Lionel Van Deerlin (D-Calif.) points out, that’s the only time Bush is able to staff government positions. The president, who loathes the idea of checks-and-balances, has made a habit of granting “recess appointments” for people Congress doesn’t like.

Van Deerlin’s article is about a man named Stickler who, as an executive in the mining industry, used to give federal safety regulators the run-around on a regular basis. When Bush nominated him to be the top mine safety cop, Congress naturally balked and he waited until they were, yep, ON VACATION, to slip Stickler into the job.

Van Deerlin’s point is that the recent rash of mine-related deaths is no coincidence with this industry lackey at the wheel and he’s probably right.

It’s not just the administration. As the wonderful author B. Traven once noted, when you have a dictator at the top, you find them at every other level, and so it goes in America these days.

The “San Diego Union-Tribune” recently reported the
American Civil Liberties Union’s concern over the widening use of cameras to monitor our behavior and movements.

It was actually the San Diego Imperial Counties ACLU, which produced a report entitled,
“Under the Watchful Eye,” which, according to author Jeff McDonald, “concludes that public surveillance programs should be stopped until they are thoroughly evaluated.”

Not surprisingly, that sainted organization finds the use of surveillance cameras to be in violation of our constitutional rights to privacy and against unlawful search and seizure without probable cause.

highwayscribery wonders how many candidates, Republican or Democratic, will go to bat for that in one of the endless pending debates.

We ourselves promise to read the report in short order and provide a summation, as much was we are against doing your thinking for you.

This arrangement, naturally, travels a one-way street with the administration.

Long ago a gentle fellow named Jimmy Carter signed the Freedom of Information Act, which created a process for looking into what those who govern us are looking into when it comes to our own lives.

It said if they’re snooping on you, if they’re keeping files on you, you have a right to see them, and other peoples' files too. The long battle to get the FBI dossier on Beatle John Lennon comes to mind.

And guess what. The “Washington Post” reports that the administration has decided that the
Freedom of Information of Act doesn’t apply to them because, as we know by now, they answer to no one.

And so on and so on. Congress cannot
subpoena them and Vice President Cheney belongs neither to Congress or the executive branch, and the Republican judges they have stacked the federal judiciary with are wont to rule that they have no right of review over surveillance programs since they are a murky backwater of security secrets.

And, as Orwell would probably note at this late stage,




Thursday, August 23, 2007

As The World Churns

The "San Diego Union-Tribune" reported that the Socialist government in Spain has done away with prime-time broadcasts of the bullfight.

We suppose that is a blow in the battle, as Bobby Kennedy put it, “to make gentler the life of the world,” but highwayscribery remains ambiguous about the move.

First, since there is no such thing as socialism in Spain, or anywhere else, left parties cling to these symbolic, cultural gestures in an effort at differentiating themselves from their conservative antagonists.

And that’s fine as far as it goes.

The government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which highwayscribery wholeheartedly supports, has said the impetus is the protection of children from visual violence.

The loathsome right-wing Partido Popular said that parents, not the government, should decide if their kids can handle the ancient dance of death, and we are loathe to agree.

the highway scribe saw his first bullfight at eight years old. The corrida included the artful Damaso Gonzalez, the workman-like Paco Camino, and Paquirri, who would go on to legend and then death in the ring.

At 20 he snuck into the ring at Pamplona after running with the bulls to see the surging “Espartaco” and the fading “Niño de la Capea.”

Eight years later, on a cold October afternoon in Seville, he sampled the great Curro Romero and a guy from Jerez de la Frontera named Rafael de Paula (inspiration for a character of the same name in his novel “Vedette”) and struggled to endure the blood and pain.

Romero triumphed and the people of Seville literally cried for joy in the streets. It was something of a shock and stuck with the scribe.

In ensuing trips to Iberia, and during a four-year residence in Andalusia, the scribe went to at least 30 bullfights, alternately fascinated and repulsed by the color, the grace, the blood and death.

That’s the scribe at far right in the photo with the young bullfighter Antonio Torres and his handlers. the scribe was managing editor of a newspaper in Seville that year (1996) called “La Otra Orilla,” which had taken the young man from its home barrio of Triana and given him as much ink as the tabloid would hold.

In “Vedette,” the scribe went with his better angels and made the young flamenca a rabid anti-bullfight activist in the true anarcho-syndicalist tradition. In one sequence, during the short-lived revolution in Cueva del Rio, Vedette reluctantly signs a manifesto against a bullfight, given by her lover Paula, to benefit the revolution of which she is the primary symbol:

“Republicans of Cueva del Rio:

“We the undersigned members of the Iberian Syndical Federation wish to register our disapproval of the corrida de toros to be held day 173, in the name of forging a grand coalition against the sun. We find it undeniable that this event represents a rollback of gains established by the revolution. The animals of this district benefit from a tolerance by humans they receive nowhere else in the world. And that is what we mean by revolutionary.

We know what it means to need land, so we know something of the things they feel. If we could listen to them they might tell us that to call the corralling of an outnumbered animal - for the purpose of slow death by torture - a fiesta, is an insult to life. We are moved in our actions by love and see no reason to stop when the being drops to four feet when walking. The presence of the decadent artist, Espla de Paula, serves to render the spectacle more pathetic still, for we have never represented what the aging torero represents. We urge you to boycott the ritual of agony and join us in protest against the eternal, petrified values of slaughter and sacrifice.”

The second paragraph is drawn mostly from an anarchist poster the scribe read while drinking a manzanilla, Vedette’s favorite sherry, at one of the countless ferias or fairs that spangle summertime Andalusia. These folkloric affairs enjoy a high rate of attendance and are structured around enclosed casetas or tents typically harboring a bar serving booze and food, seats and tables, and a bandstand from which flamenco is played for enthusiastic dancers of the sevillanas form.

Typically, well-heeled families post casetas, but in years after the dictator Francisco Franco died, left-wing parties and unions opened their own so that those lacking contacts in the bourgeois and aristocracy could dance and drink, too.

It was in the caseta of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist union Confederación Nacional de Trabajo (CNT), in the coastal town of Fuengirola, that the scribe saw the poster and wrote down its contents on a napkin. And which is how you live in another culture and graft its truths and essences onto your novel.

So why the ambiguity?

The “Union-Trib” article notes that, “While bullfighters may have been national icons decades ago, young Spaniards now tend to idolize stars like singer Beyoncé Knowles or soccer great David Beckham.”

That should be ‘nuff said.

That Spain slowly says goodbye to the bullfight with the passing of generations is probably good karma for the country and its people. That a spectacle dating back to the rituals of Mithras during the Roman colonization of Iberia be replaced with the middle-brow warbling of Ms. Knowles, is another story.

There is something ancient about the bullfight. Its rules cannot be primed to meet the modern impatience. You can attend corridas for years and see naught but gore.

One rainy day in Seville, after what had been a disastrous feria for bullfight aficionados, an ebullient brown bull named “Garabato” rushed from the chiquero and slid to a stop in the slop, drawing a raucous olé. A bullfighter named “Chamaco” kicked off his shoes for surer footing to yet another olé.

The orchestra (the only sport that boasts one) sensed the magic and cranked out a spine-tingling pasodoble. And for 20 minutes 12,000 people were held spellbound in a ballet whose beauty not even the bull could deny.

Or maybe he could, which is why the socialists there are doing what they’re doing, and are mostly right.

What’s sad is making the whole world bounce to Beyoncé while simultaneously passing on the pasodoble. The leveling of all things everywhere to the same monotone gray.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Peace Walker

The “San Diego Union-Tribune” reported August 21, that Bill McDannell (hat and beard) had finished his 3,185-mile walk from Lakeside, Calif., to Washington D.C.

The purpose of the walk was to draw attention to that hellhole in the Middle East created by our president, which he now would like to compare with Viet Nam (to what end nobody but the White House is quite sure.

Michael Stetz wrote that, “No reporters met him at the end of his quest. No TV cameras were there. Other than the occasional local TV reports and newspaper articles in mostly small town America, he was unable to attract much media attention.”

That’s okay. Small town America is mostly fighting this ghastly affair. In the big cities we oppose wars, police actions and the rest straight away and get into time-honored brawls with the police.

Said McDannell of his tearful, unremarked arrival on the U.S. Capitol, “I didn’t talk like a freak. I didn’t act like a freak. I offered no entertainment value.”

Bill McDannell is a pretty smart guy.

Anwway, highwayscribery is media (of a sort) too, and no one ever visited this Web log for the entertainment value so we’re fanfaring away, beating the drum, yelling out the window and telling the highwayscribery nation, “Bravo for Bill McDannell. He cared when others didn’t. He got off his ass and told thousands of people along the way that the war is wrong, immoral, and cruel. That he led by example.

And for McDannell himself we publish this heartfelt, “Thanks Bill. We don’t deserve you.”

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sargeants Fisher and Tayaotao

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Santee Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Sean P. Fisher, of Santee , CA :

"Losing a member of our nation's armed forces weighs heavily on the hearts of all Americans. Staff Sergeant Sean Fisher's commitment to duty and his effort to preserve our freedom is an inspiration. Maria and I will keep Sean's loved ones in our prayers as they mourn his loss."

Fisher, 29, died Aug. 14 as a result of injuries suffered when his helicopter crashed in Al Taqqadum, Iraq . Fisher was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, Task Force 49, United States Army, Fort Wainwright , AK . This incident is under investigation.

In honor of Staff Sgt. Fisher, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Sunnyvale Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Michael E. Tayaotao, of Sunnyvale, CA:

"Sergeant Michael Tayaotao's courage is an example of the extraordinary commitment that is displayed every day by our nation's servicemembers. Each time we lose a member of our armed forces, we are painfully reminded of the cost of freedom and democracy. Maria and I extend our condolences and prayers to Michael's family and friends and honor his service in defense of our country."

Tayaotao, 27, died Aug. 9 as a result of wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Tayaotao was assigned to 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Sgt. Tayaotao, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Liquid Life (installment thirty-four)


After she was gone there were some calls, but no openings to tender red insides. And they were abrupt and dagger-like and I hung up on her and hung up on her always waiting for it to ring again and then it stopped.

Trevor predicts that love will live forever, but her drug had truly worn off. I had ripped the little black beret off her head and found nothing but clouds there. All that tossing over her was simply a case of not wanting to let go.

“Like a crutch,” posits Cortez, “because you know what you got and you don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s crazy out there. So many wounded people. So many poorly formed people.”

I went on with my life, which got better. I stopped considering churches and their value to the urban landscape. I stopped smoking too much Maria.

I decided I could go for a more calm thing and night-timed it with a liver specialist I met at work. A doctor. Someone with her head on. Someone who wasn’t going to play the kind of games the pretty queen of caprices played.

But she knew so much about livers, I couldn’t get her to tip even some champagne with me. She was so focused, so accomplished, she never relented in anything. We traveled just a short one-way street together and then were done.

“What you need to do,” Trevor chimes over a distraughtful dinner, “is to meet somebody through somebody.”

So he takes me out to a place called the Kremlin and I meet a sweet she boxed and wrapped for me by himself. A tight thing with an Irishness to her smile, a quietness to all her noise. She buys me a couple of drinks, and then invites me to a play unfolding at her house evening next.

I’m doing my preparation ritual, shaving, looking at the front view and side profile, finding everything well fashion-formed.

But when I got there, they’re all on something called adam&eve and looking at me as if I were crazy for being me. Miss Irish suddenly doesn’t know me, and after two hours of pure ignoring, my sweetness leaves with a 49-year old beard on a screaming cycle, as the sun begins to rise over the city’s endless palm tree luck charms.

Next up, a nice-looking bartender girl. Two dates. On the second one we stop after a movie for chili cheese dog because I’m hungry. She doesn’t want one, but says she wouldn’t mind a bite of mine. I say sure, but forget to give her one after waiting too long for the order to be filled. Through a friend I learned the truth: the error was fatal.

“You’re looking for love in the wrong places,” directs Trever, but I’m not heeding his creed any longer. I go back to the Kremlin where I run into Gina Night’s friend, Eufemia in her Easter hat and her gummy sunglasses, which she even wears inside the club.

“Want to go out with me?” I cast away, a now fearless flayer, up-to-date and lady slayer.

“Sure,”sings Eufemia, “give me a pen.”

“Eufemia?” I query into the phone at the number she wrote out for me a few days later. “Who?”comes the live-wire transmission.

“Is Eufemia there?” flies my doubtful reconfirmation.

“I’m sorry. You must have the wrong number,”she spurts before the big uphanging.

I wanted to cry. Not for myself, but for all the homely girls there had ever been.

For all their lovesickness, whish is a terrible thing. Blessed things. In what fold of the soul could such enormities be sequestered?

But that’s me. I’m a bit of an anachronism.

I finally give up on forever loves and settle for scratching simple itches. I go on a trip to the Virgin Islands with the young and lavish wife of a producer who will no longer make love to her. The problems of people. She props me up and spruces my sagging kingdom.

Civility was proving difficult on the emotional tundra and was turning out to be expensive, too. After all, I had begun lifting weights, buying cologne in department stores. She takes me out to eat in restaurants on the tops of buildings.

I think of what’s-her-name only once in a while, and less after a year passes. I work well, stick to a regular schedule, exercise, read books and enter the lands of dream and sleep easily.

I ride no waves, take no spills...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Transgenic marijuana

Technology, be it violent or otherwise, accrues first to the benefit of the powerful, and then permeates lower layers of society.

So while agricultural consortiums and biology labs have reaped the benefits of jigging around DNA in everything from corn to cauliflower, an article in Mexico’s “La Jornada” would suggest the frontier of marijuana has been crossed, by less, shall we say, “respectable” lights.

The article, written by one Javier Flores, actually ran back in February and the scribe has kept it laying around for a hot summer day such as this when writing about the Bush administration seemed just too distasteful.

According to Flores, a strain of “transgenic marijuana,” the genetic information for which has been artificially manipulated, was uncovered in a two-ton shipment uncovered by Brazilian police.

“El Observador” a newspaper out of Montevideo, Uruguay, claims the new weed can be smoked in public because it does not emit the blue grass scent normally associated with maryjane.

Of course, that won’t help us here in the world’s freest country because smoking anything at all is about to be made illegal.

Read the scribe’s literary dramatization of this trend in

“The Sidewalk Smokers Club,” a fine novel if ever one were written.

But enough scribe-promotion. Among other characteristics associated with the new strain are that it possessed nine times the amount of delta-9-tetrahidrocanibinol - known colloquially as THC - than the normal stuff, making it five times as potent.

It, reportedly, is grown in Paraquay and then exported to the delight of stoners in Argentina, Uruguay, and obviously, Brazil where that big bust went down.

Flores goes on to magnify an otherwise suppressed report by a Mexican general named Manuel García who came across the genetically altered cannabis during a military eradication effort in Michoacán.

General Garcia claims the plant is resistant to herbicides or as Flores puts it, “the spraying of plants with poison from the air.”

Furthermore, it sprouts lower to the ground - making it harder to detect - requires less land area to grow, possesses a shorter planting-to-harvest cycle, and kicks ass like the stuff they discovered in the Brazil bust.

There may be no connection between the Mexican variety and that generated on the Latin continent, but if there were it would, “reveal a relationship between drug cartels in the area of science.”

Flores said he uses the expression “transgenic marijuana” guardedly since there is no scientific evidence to back any of the claims currently circulating beneath the radar. He meditates on what the actual genetic tampering of drugs would mean, points to an increase in research and development on the part of the cultivators, strains of further potency and resistance, and an overall modernization of narcotrafficking.

He noted that, given the illegal status of the substance in question, it remains doubtful that establishment scientists and laboratories will do any work to confirm the fact of a genetic reordering for the happy grass.

“To confirm it would be to confirm a contribution by the illegal drug business of new tools for investigation,” Flores wrote. “We need only think of all the treatment possiblities with THC for numerous infirmities.”

Because he writes in a country that is not free, Flores is free to conclude that, in order to determine what effects such new marijuana strains might have on the human body, “the solution would be the legalization of drugs, through which we’d simultaneously end narcotraffic and regularize the production and distribution of substances that guarantee the protection of our health and environment.”

Haven’t heard that one from Mitt Romney yet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Rebel and A Gentleman

highwayscribery hates to indulge in cliché, but they don’t make them like Moe Fishman anymore.

Fishman, one of some 3,000 Americans (and 40,000 worldwide) who snuck into Spain to take up arms in favor of the Spanish Republic and against international Fascism, died August 6. He was 92.

Here is an obituary by Douglas Martin of the “New York Times,” a slightly different one from “Chelsea Now,” distributed in the Manhattan neighborhood of the same name, and yet one more (for those who read Spanish) from “La Republica” out of Spain, dedicated to restoring the Republic for which Moe Fishman and so many others put their lives on the line.

“These men reached our country as crusaders for freedom. They gave up everything: their country, home, and fortune, fathers, mothers, wives, brothers, sisters, and children. And they came and told us, ‘We are here! Your cause, Spain’s cause is ours. It is the cause of all advanced and progressive mankind’.”

Those were the words of La Pasionaria, a communist parliamentary deputy from Asturias and prominent party leader, in saying goodbye to the International Brigades upon their departure from Barcelona.

The Spanish government hoped this gesture would lead to the withdrawal of troops by Mussolini and Hitler that had done so much damage, but it did not.

The following narrative has been taken from the obituaries linked above and from Fishman’s own words to a video project of Jim Fernandez and Katie Halper, whom interviewed surviving New Yorkers about their memories of the noble struggle that was Spain in the 1930s.

Fishman was born in Astoria, Queens (NYC), joined the Young Communist League as a young man and helped organize a union at the laundry where he worked. He joined the party, according to “The Times” obit, “to meet like-minded women at dances the organization sponsored.”

You go Moe!

But he clearly had a serious bent to his mind and a yen for justice; his justice and that of others.

Here is Fishman, from the aforementioned video report, “Facing Fascism: New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War,” on how he ended up crossing the Atlantic in a boat and fighting for the liberty of a people not his own:

“In the morning I was going to work and I took my stuff and half way down the stairs I realized I didn’t have my toothbrush so I went upstairs, got my toothbrush, broke it in half and put it in my pocket. And when I came home that was the only thing that I brought across from the United States that I came back with was that half toothbrush. And I made my way downtown; we were sailing on a ship from docks in the Hudson. I think it was the Paris, and I called my father and he answered the phone in the laundry and I told him, ‘Pop they’ve accepted me as a truck driver and I’m going. There’s no way you can stop me. I’m taking a train and then we’re going to report in the South and that’s where I’m going from.’ So he said, ‘Wait a minute,’ and he hung up and called my mother. And she yelled and she screamed and I said, ‘Goodbye Mom,’ and I took off. When I came home my mother told me, when he [his father] hung up the phone, he put his head on his shoulder and he cried and it was the first time in her life and the last time in her life she saw him cry. And so, I went across at that point.”

He told “The Times” in a 2000 interview that he himself did not cry because, “When you’re 21, there’s no bullet meant for you.”

He was wrong.

Although he was hired as a driver, Fishman trained as a foot soldier in what was known as the George Washington Battalion. On July 5, 1937, at the battle of Brunete, a sniper got him good in the thigh. He spent a year in Spanish hospitals and two more in U.S. infirmaries for his troubles.

He limped the rest of his life.

It was a permanent reminder of the short yet definitive chapter in a life he spent supporting, organizing, and speaking on behalf of Lincoln Brigadiers, never losing his antipathy for a son-of-a-bitch named Francisco Franco who had crushed the will of an entire people.

Along with fellow (and surviving) veteran Milton Wolff, he took on the Subversive Activities Control Board in 1954, prevailing in court some 20 years later.

You go Moe.

These are not ordinary undertakings, which is somewhat the point here. And this piece is written mostly for those who did not know of him, because he was otherwise well-known.

In May 2006, when the highway scribe and Omar Torrez were playing “Vedette Does La Danza” in New York City, they sat in on a lecture by Catalan artist Francesc Torres that led to a post entitled, “An Enduring Civil Peace,” and which was part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive’s (ALBA) Bill Sussman Lecture Series.

During the question-and-answer session, the subject of this post got up, grabbed the microphone and started with an introduction: “I’m Moe Fishman.”

“I know,” said Torres, a man from another country and different generation; only too aware of Fishman’s contribution to his own story.

ALBA Board Chairman Peter Carroll, wrote of Fishman upon his sad passing: “Lean, well-dressed in suit and tie, dark eyebrows and brown mustache offset by a full gray head of hair, he carried the vitality of a young man’s cause into his old age. Each year at the annual reunion, it was his voice that announced recent deaths and called the roll of the surviving veterans in attendance.

His silence brings an end of an era.”

Don’t go Moe!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Liquid Life (installment thirty-three)


She says she and Cassius are going to find an old ballroom and convert it into a small studio for their collaborations.

All I have to say is, “Elendele, if you hadn’t come to me when you did, you’d be the queen of a 976 sexaphone line now you little slut,” which, of course, wasn’t true and to which she answered anyway, “Dominique, I have always been concerned with life beyond Bloomindales.”

Then I began to beg. “Elendele, please baby, these things you think are all wrong. These nights in front of the Honeymooners smoking your sweet Maria, they have to keep on. I helped you. At your times of confusion I helped you. The abortion. The union happenings with Whitey. We picked up the bricks from your broken-up pile and built a little thing for us.”

“Men,” she swashbuckled me, swooshing her custard scarf, “there are simply too many of you. I couldn’t possibly throw my whole life at just one.”

“And that’s not counting the girls,” I threw in, pushing her, remorsing her. “I’m not going to let go that easy. I can get even, too. You know I had you one night in Mexico and after that you cried and I asked you why and you said it was because you were sure that you loved me.”

Then she bounced her way to the door and trilled with no malice, and delicate wrist flicking, “But I’m doing different things now Dominique. I’m doing different things.”


Zazou. That’s what they all were.

In one of Trevor’s English magazines full of ridiculous fashions that nobody wore their hair full and rich on top, but never over the eyes or the ears, in a style that was known as Anthony Eden after the British foreign secretary Elendele so despised. Even the ugliest of them was not. Their manifesto, which remained unwritten, urged them to lead lives dedicated, first and foremost, to fun and fashion. Any of Elendele’s army could have qualified for their corps.

Zazou. The invading Nazis despised them for a dearth of discipline and a maple syrup morality. The French and their blessed resistance despised Zazou for lightheartedness, cynical song-singing, during that particular trial of humanity.

The new Zazou. Now there were no invading armies. No one hated Elendele and company for anything they did. They were having fun in downtime, in a repeating sunset only over me. Elendele had promised that we would write the unwritten manifesto of Zazou together, but she’d given that up for acting’s daily auditions. Or maybe she’d forgotten. Maybe she’d been to busy living out and reviving that strange philosophy through her action.

Maybe she felt I just wasn’t the guy for the job. And I could live with that. My feeling was good riddance to all of them. I told myself I was better. Finished with all that scripted wildness. Oddly stationed earrings, nose rings, exaggerated bustiers, oceanswell hairstylings, expensive second-hand fashions, overblown credit accounts at the hot shops, the mapping out and following of every rise and fall in the hemline deigned necessary by the scions of a world I would never understand.

If everyone was a rebel, than what was the status of rebellion? With this question I had clearly found my moment in history and seized it with the flame of my dull eight-month rage. Let those paper doll revolutionaries chase themselves in a blind alley search for outrageousness, I told myself over a bottle of Bombay, alone and drawing up some kind of new map. A map that made me a rebel against rebellion and which came easy, too, as it grew out of the tramp’s endless unloadings of me.

It was decided then. I would dedicate myself to the re-creation of the gentleman. I would rid myself of slangs I had worked too hard to acquire, update, and maintain. I would scoff at the whims of the tout hip in favor of the timeless classics. I would steep myself, not in the relative terms of the older free thinkers, of the syndicalists Elendele had tried so hard to enliven for me. The revolutionary perception of these things was draped in some notion that they had failed. But they had not. See Elendele. Everywhere had their tenets been invited. Rebellion was the tool even of advertising, and it worked.

In the gentleman, and his gentle lady, if one might be found, lay the future of rebellion. And I would be its chief propagator, its Tom Paine-in-the-ass. Its soul and salesman. How different would my classic provocateurs seem in their uniform insanity; steeped as they would be in the crumbling truths of a once-great Western civilization. Long sleeping in the burned hulk of the Alexandria library, would they relearn Plato and reapply the principles of his Republic before the stylized and seductive vagaries of the modern language splicer. In the revery or Rousseau would we base our revery. In theories of franchise and freedom of the True Levelers, in the enlightened landed gentry of a departed world, where discourse and reason were pagan tools of worship, would my stock be invested.

Haywire democracy. Flat equality. Where did they leave one but with a broken heart by a woman whose free-ness left her floating and unaccountable to anything but age or the inevitable lines on her face? Two things certain to halt ever her circle meander.

I would represent that return of the linen suit, the deft expression, the refined observation in a world of raw poetic explosion thought and blatant world-spurtings.

I would put a break on humanity; reject the world of free verse with my own perfection in the iambic pentamenter, declaring the rehabilitation, the return of the well-formed and manner chevalier.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Vedette, Omar and the scribe on TV

Maybe during your day off there will be time to watch the scribe and guitar God Omar Torrez rip through a session of "Vedette Does La Danza" for Calabasas (California) television. An verbal, musical, and visual presentation.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Coalinga Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Cristian Vasquez, of Coalinga, CA:

"Maria and I have tremendous respect for the members of our armed forces who risk their lives to protect the rights we have as Americans. We join all Californians in grieving the loss of Lance Corporal Cristian Vasquez and are forever grateful for the sacrifice that he made to ensure our freedoms. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cristian's family and friends as they mourn the loss of a dedicated and brave Marine."

Vasquez, 20, died Aug. 2 as a result of wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Vasquez was assigned to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Vasquez, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Diego Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Daniel F. Reyes, of San Diego, CA:

"Our hearts go out to the family of Specialist Daniel Reyes as they mourn the extraordinary loss of their loved one. Serving in the armed forces is a noble calling with grave risks. Daniel bravely undertook these risks and we honor his courage and commitment to our country. Maria and I offer our prayers to his family and friends during this difficult time.

Reyes, 24, died July 31 as a result of wounds suffered from enemy indirect fire in Tunis, Iraq. Reyes was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, United States Army, Fort Richardson, AK.

In honor of Spc. Reyes, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On the Road: 50 Years

Posted by Hello

“the highway scribe is BACK; triumphant over a series of computer problems he started out not knowing how to fix. Don't ask.

Of course, now anything that was black is now blue and to hell with it.

The “New York Times” has a blog called “Paper Cuts” that is “about books” and today’s topic is the 50th anniversary of “On the Road,” or, more specifically, its publication.

Read the comments and click on the links to a few different viewpoints on the importance, or the non importance, of the book and highwayscribery saint Jack Kerouac.

Here is a link to an article and neat little video from “Newsweek.” and here is one of our favorite letters from Jack to Allen Ginsberg:

October 8, 1952

This is to notify you and the rest of the whole lot what I think of you. Can you tell me even for instance...with all this talk about pocket book styles and the new trend in writing about drugs and sex why my "On the Road" written in 1951 wasn’t ever published? – why they publish [John Clellon] Holmes’s book ["Go"] which stinks and don’t publish mine because it’s not as good as some of the other things I’ve done? Is this the fate of an idiot who can’t handle his own business or is it the general fartsmell of New York in general...And you who I thought was my friend – you sit there and look me in the eye and tell me the "On the Road" I wrote at Neal’s [Cassady] is "imperfect" as though anything you ever did or anybody was perfect?...and don’t lift a finger or say a word for it...Do you think I don’t realize how jealous you are and how you and Holmes and [Carl] Solomon all would give your right arm to be able to write like the writing in "On the Road"...And leaving me no alternative but to write stupid letters like this when if instead you were men I could at least get the satisfaction of belting you all on the kisser – too many glasses to take off. Why you goddamn cheap little shits are all the same and always were and why did I ever listen and fawn and fart with you – 15 years of my life wasted among the cruds of New York, from the millionaire jews of Horace Mann who’d kissed my ass for football and now would hesitate to introduce their wives to me, to the likes of you...poets indeed...distant small-sized variants of same...baroque neat-packaged acceptable (small print in the middle of neat page of poetrybook) page...Not only have you grieved me now by your statement that there is nothing in "On the Road" you didn’t know about (which is a lie because at just one glance I can see that you never knew the slightest beginning detail of even something so simple as Neal’s worklife and what he does) – & Solomon pretending to be an interesting saint, claims he doesn’t understand contracts, why in ten years I’ll be lucky to have the right to look into his window on Xmas eve...he’ll be so rich and fat and so endowed with the skinny horrors of other men into one great puffball of satisfied suckup...Parasites every one of you, just like Edie said. And now even John Holmes, who as everybody knows lives in complete illusion about everything, writes about things he doesn’t know about, and with hostility at that (it comes out in hairy skinny legs of Stofsky and "awkward" grace of Pasternak, the sonofabitch jealous of his own flirtatious wife, I didn’t ask for Marian’s attentions...awkwardness indeed, I imagine anybody who walks on ordinary legs would look awkward around effeminate flip-hips & swish like him) – And the smell of his work is the smell of death...Everybody knows he has no talent...and so what right has he, who knows nothing, to pass any kind of judgment on my book – he doesn’t even have the right to surl in silence about it – His book stinks, and your book is only mediocre, and you all know it, and my book is great and will never be published. Beware of meeting me on the street in New York. Beware also of giving any leads as to my whereabouts. I’ll come up to New York and trace down the lead. You’re all a bunch of insignificant literary can’t even leave New York you’re so stultified...Even [Gregory] Corso with his Tannhauser chariots running down everyone else has already begun to pick up...Tell him to go away...tell him to find himself in his own grave...My heart bleeds every time I look at "On the Road"...I see it now, why it is great and why you hate it and what the world is...specifically what you are...and what you, Allen Ginsberg, are...a disbeliever, a hater, your giggles dont fool me, I see the snarl under it...Go ahead and do what you like, I want peace with myself...I shall certainly never find peace till I wash my hands completely of the dirty brush and stain of New York and everything that you and the city stand for...And everybody knows it...And Chase knew it long ago...that is because he was an old man from the start...And now I am an old man too...I realize that I am no longer attractive to you queers...Go blow your Corsos...I hope he sinks a knife in you...Go on and hate each other and sneer and get jealous and...My whole record in NY is one long almost humorous chronicle of a real dumb lil abner getting taken in by fat pigjaws...I realize the humour of it...and laugh just as much as you...But here on in I’m not laughing...Paranoia me no paranoias either...Because of people like you and Giroux...even with G. you fucked me up from making money because he hated you...and came in with Neal that night and Neal right away wanted to steal a book from the office, sure, what would you say if I went in your N O R C and stole things and made fun of it...and Lucien with his shity little ego trying to make me cry over Sarah and then telling me at the lowest ebb of my life that I would be awful easy to forget...He must know by now unless be-sotted and stupid with drink that it is so about easily one may disappear...and be forgotten completely...and make dark corruption spot in dirt...well alright. And all of you, even Sarah I don’t even care to know any more or who will ever hear of this insane letter...all of you fucked me up...with the exception of Tony Manochhio and a few other angels...and so I say to you, never speak to me again or try to write or have anything to do with me... besides you will never probably see me again...and that is good...the time has come for all you frivolous fools to realize what the subject of poetry die...and die like men...and shut up...and above all...leave me alone...& don’t ever darken me again.
Jack Kerouac

Sunday, August 05, 2007

"The Liquid Life" (installment thirty-two)


Every Tuesday there were readings in the big salon. Elendele started off each affair with a piece of hers and finished with the wineworks of Li Po; sensitive never to dominate the proceedings. Out of it grew a small review in which Cortez assaulted the populace with disgusting collages that everyone made faces at, but studied more closely when left alone.

She would run off more and send Saturn a copy, too. Then Saturnina would distribute them in her neighborhood, a stronghold of the French Radical Party, send back contributions from herself, and also bloody pieces of rage from the members of Direct Action (with whom she was intimately involved).

The transcontinental intellectual grouping had come to be known by critical observers as The elegant Mob after the conflicting and magnetic tendencies it typified in matters of substance and the insubstantial. Their incursion into a history of 20 editions, two short movies, and twenty readings in a bar redecorated to the specifications of our salon, and elsewhere, remain milestones in the lives of those yet untouched by it; those unfettered by the ripple effect of other worlds beyond the consuming public eye.

They were so positively negative. Those mobsters knew they could do it all. And they weren’t even afraid of themselves, not anymore. They consolidated, solidified, and consummated all their loves, and other less positive passions they expressed so well. They started their candle to burning at both ends. They knew they were already part of a little history. They were happy because they knew they were home in that small effort, that making a little difference was better than staying home and watching what Elendele called “writerless television shows.”

The espresso maker may have been broken but the impish band weren’t letting token obstacles like that stand in their way anymore than they did the attacks to the core of their incoherent and dangerous philosophies.

I wondered. Would there be time? Was the world ready for their kindness?

“Sure!” Elendele would answer my unspoken thought. Undisturbed by the brutal reality of the economics of the thing, the elegant ones made the grim something to smile about – twisted it before it twisted them. Pretentious? Indeed. So full of their own self-import. So rose-clasped-in-hand. So off-the-cuff in their drug-addled diatribes.

To suggest that what they thought was worth listening to assumed pretense, which the intra-realist band wore like a tattoo on the inside lining of their collective soul.

Their parents, uncles, and leaders of the community could only wave a white flag and shrug. “Do people really think these things?” they thought amongst themselves, and with a certain sense of relief, gave over what was left of the future and beyond to The elegant Mob, so that it might do with it what it may.

But the invigorating soup of egos ended up when people left like leaves off an artichoke. Pretty soon there was only a core of me, Cortez, and Elendele. Then Cortez ended it all out of spite; out of a cheap and overweening need to exercise some power, the power we’d give him.

Elendele was, as usual, very disappointed in him. “I started out with an aspiring God and ended up with a petty bureaucrat,” she condemned the Cuban, in his presence and absence alike.

All the shining intellectuals began to fall away, unable to dream of an ideal not strictly of their own making and direction. Elendele was strongly downtrodden at the failure of communal art on even so small a scale.

“I was a fool to think anything in this country might be motivated by some notion other than self-gain,” she sighed at a sloe gin fizz affair, one Tuesday at Café L’Orange. Woozy we three, Elendele, Cortez, and me in the tarragon and hard-leather scents of a deep diamond November night.

“That’s why it works so well, Elendele.”

“Ugh. You’re impossible.”

No. She was impossible and her defeat led to new languor spells and layabouts and it was clear just how much glamour Saturnina had packed in her sack upon leaving. So, time was passing and we had gotten the habit of getting money, but something was missing for the menace who shook her leg in frantic frustration for weeks and months.

She had worn the bored face of the beautiful and the gilding hand failed to fill her up. Being the object of so many unfulfilled desires was not turning out to be what she’d expected.

“I don’t think anything ends up being any better than anything else,” she trilled in utter confusion. “And there is no such thing as ‘the best,’ either.”

There were new records and cassettes, and once, we fell under a two lazy week spell cast upon us by Ravel’s Rhapsody Español during which the phone was off-hooked, the clocks unplugged, and the shades drawn in the mourning of death for yet another school-born idea. An endless arctic summer broken up only when Louisa came and took Lydia away for good. With her went Elendele’s grandmother’s aquamarine.

One Tuesday I came down from the roof, where I had been contemplating the true importance of Man Ray in Hollywood, and walked in on Elendele who was pouting and cooing softly into the phone: “....Yes! Yes?...I thought you...but how could? When?...that’s not true...not true...I only had to...Oh, baby...If I could jes...if...okay...maybe it’s not...Oh baby...I just can’t believe it’s you.”


Their bodies coming together in their minds, choking on each other all over again

Saturday, August 04, 2007

"Book Report" '68 by Paco Ignacio Taibo II

One of the advantages to surviving and getting older (take if from the highway scribe) is that your not-so-distant experiences of youth become worthy of recounting to those whose perspective holds them to be quite distant.

the highway scribe, fortunate enough to still be chugging along, has strong memories of the 1960s and 1970s and, unlike most everything else he thinks about, people are wont to probe that particular set of recollections.

The reason is clear, regardless of your position on the virtue of same. The generation was - and it cannot be contested - a vibrant and revolutionary one that changed many small worlds it touched and many countries, too.

Today’s book covers the version that went down in Mexico and is simply entitled: "68" by Paco Ignacio Taibo II

Taibo II, is a scribe and historian who has apparently made a career of writing detective novels and an award-winning biography of Che Guevara.

By the by, “’68” was obtained through the Web site at Labyrinth Books for the grand total of $2.98 along with the gripping “Life of An Anarchist: The Alexander Berkman Reader,” about which a patented highwayscribery “book report” will be produced in short order.

The total cost was about $12 with most being attributed to postage, which, you know, is-oh-so -digital. Both were put out by Seven Stories Press, a charming generator of radical texts that also cranked out “Targeted” by highwayscribery friend Deepa Fernandes.

Anyway, this book is short and thin, picked from Taibo’s diaries and other scribbled observations from the student rebellion of that distant year in Mexico City.

There could be more, or should be more, but there isn’t. The author confesses to having many, many pages of remembrances on what was obviously the critical chapter of his life, unfolding at the tender age of 18, but has never been able to write the novel he thought the whole thing deserved.

So here we have a disparate collection of vignettes still useful, because we know so little about all of this. In fact, we still don’t know much, because this book is written in Spanish.

Now where would you be without the highway scribe?

Today the term “globalization” conjures thoughts of an unstoppable flow of capital (even the French capitulate), tainted Chinese food, and a monoculture spread like lumpy peanut butter across every outdated boundary marking the old nation states, binding us together in a nonbinding agreement of commercial flux.

But Taibo claims that the student movements of the ’60s, and certainly that of Mexico, were forged in a new environment of shared music, news, and politics...of globalized information.

For all their left politics and social concerns, he is quick to point out that the students never really succeeded in connecting with the workers and the “people” so much as forced a despotic government into crushing them with demands it could not, by its very nature, assent to.

While the 123 days of rebellion drew up to 500,000 students and hangers-on in Mexico City to some of its demonstrations, the nucleus was perhaps 8,000 students from the education department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, “constructed in the stew of political/cultural cultivation that had a global virtue. That integral madness surrounded us at every turn of our lives. It had to do with readings, heroes, myths, rejections, cinema, theater, love, and information.”

At the center of it all was El Che whose mini-skirted adherents were a source of constant sexual agitation to Taibo and his compañeros.

“His death in ’67 left us with an enormous void not even his ‘Diaries from Bolivia’ could fill. He was the number one ghost. He who was there, and who was not, moving through our lives, the voice, the personality, the command from above to throw everything aside and get moving, the mocking dialogue, the project, the photo that looked out at you from every corner, the anecdote that grew and grew accumulating knowledge that seemed to have no end, through whom expressions worthy of boleros such as ‘total commitment’ did not seem laughable.

"But more than anything, El Che was the guy who was everywhere even in death. Our dead.”

Mixed-in with Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and other American exports were France’s Charles Aznavour and somebody named Cuco Sánchez. The rebels were also hooked on poetry, specifically anthologies from the Cuban revolution and the anti-Franco resistance in Spain.

There was, towards the end on October 2, when the government lost patience and cared not that the world saw it for the vicious, heartless entity it was, a massacre in a square called Tlatelolco.

“Radio Rumor,” the system of street level communications, mimeographed flyers, and roving “brigades” so crucial to the amorphous and adaptive rebellion, said 200 students were killed, that their bodies were taken out over the Gulf of Mexico in airplanes and disposed of.

Shades of Pinochet in Chile five years later.

Tlatleloco became the symbol for whole thing so that semi-aware observers of Latin American history like the highway scribe are often left with the impression that was all there was; that one night some students got crazy, started marching through the streets and got shot.

Taibo’s book is valuable for the way it divests a degree of importance from the graveyard that was Tatlelolco and restores it to many other positive events in which the students’ genius for organization shines, and to smaller clashes no less important to those shot, captured or tortured for their participation.

It went on for months, the kids hunkering down in the universities, the question of whether to continue striking the university in the face of fear and increasing repression always reaffirmed by the many student councils organized around their particular fields and schools of study.

Taibo’s book gives names and faces to the players of Mexico ’68; some who went on to star in the a growing democratic intelligentsia, and some who died, disappeared in ensuing urban and jungle insurrections, or just kind of faded in the duller lights of later years.


There was David “el ruso” or the Russian who, many years before Tiananmen Square, in the absence of photographers, “grabbed a pipe and moved toward an armored car entering [Mexico City’s main square]. Eye to eye he remained stuck on the fucking machine as it advanced growling. The soldier who manned the machine gun was locked into a stare with David, who, suddenly, lurched forward and unleashed a flurry of blows against the tank, denting it in numerous places. The machine halted. We pulled him out of there, dragging him, the soldier fixed upon him. Later, David said he had no memory of the occurrence.”

And one more, Arlette, the daughter of a stationery store owner who’d helped the rebels rob 150,000 sheets of paper from her father and for the cause. Her pseudonym was La Quinta, a brand of cigarettes, and she was remarkable for her capacity to unleash a string of epithets unmatched by other comrades.

Taibo and a clandestine group of which he and La Quinta were a part, had set a date to meet in a park, Parque Hundido. As were a lot of public places, Hundido was occupied by two companies of grenadiers; the government’s tool of choice in combating the future of the country-- the students.

Anyway, Taibo recounts, “The very irresponsible one came dressed in a suit made of a short cut white vest and mini-skirt, quite content eating a mango on a stick.” Walking right past rows of armed men, La Quinta was suddenly accosted by one, who grabbed her booty. “She turned and slapped him with the sloppy mango in the face. The grenadier fell back shocked. I closed my eyes. It was far enough away so that I could not hear anything. I counted to ten. She crossed the street looking for me. I did not dare raise my hand in recognition. When she reached me, La Quinta apologized for being ten minutes late, cleaning herself with a tissue of the sticky mango. We didn’t even talk about the incident. Each of us utilized a specific brand of lunacy in those days and if anything was the source of respect it was that, that personal lunacy.”

It was serious business. The school was cordoned off. The public transportation system, once painted in the black and red of the strike, strewn with slogans, was off-limits. The kids were hiding in anonymous homes and living in fear of kidnap by government agents and certain physical abuse.

The kids knew that the wick on a Molotov cocktail must be cut short to work, not because it was cool and exciting, rather a matter of self-preservation and a sign of recalcitrance.

The mass media joined with the government spreading lies and fear about the students that even the organic flight of Radio Rumor could not combat completely. But the people were with them; in Mexico City and in a little town called Topilejo.

Mexicans for the first time since the revolution were demanding accountability from their government.

Taibo’s story is about what they got instead.

You can probably guess, but read it anyway.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Democrats Cave

The Democrats in the Senate caved-in to the president's plan for eavesdropping on us without court approval which they usually get anyway. It is shameful. This continual betrayal will lead to a loss of energy and belief in 2008. When will they get it? There has to be a difference.

The president threatened to keep them in Washington over their vacation. Pathetic.

Here is the Senate Roll Call. See where your senator stood. Chances are, on the wrong side of this thing.

Here's the Senate Building's number (202)224-3121. Call and voice your anger. It's up to Nancy Pelosi now. Don't assume the same thing won't happen. Here's her e-mail:

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Casualties of War

The upbeat news is that that July was the least deadliest of the past eight months. It's hard to tell from here.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Fair Oaks Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Ronald L. Coffelt, of Fair Oaks, CA:

"The loss of Sergeant Ronald Coffelt reminds us of the tremendous sacrifices that members of our armed forces make to protect our freedom. Maria and I thank him for his dedication and love for his country; his bravery will forever remain an inspiration to all Californians. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends and will pray for their comfort during this difficult time."

Coffelt, 36, died July 19 as a result of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device in Baghdad, Iraq. Coffelt was assigned to the 503rd Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade (Airborne), XVIII Airborne Corps, United States Army, Fort Bragg, NC.

In honor of Sgt. Coffelt, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Diego Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Joshua P. Mattero, of San Diego, CA:

"Today, we honor Staff Sergeant Joshua Mattero's brave service to our country. He committed himself to protect the United States and our ideals and we must never forget the sacrifices made by Joshua and others serving in uniform. Maria and I offer our deepest sympathies and extend our prayers to his family."

Mattero, 29, died July 24 as a result of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device in Baqubah, Iraq. Mattero was assigned to the 749th Ordnance Company, 63rd Explosive Ordnance Battalion, United States Army, Andrews Air Force Base, MD.

In honor of Staff Sgt. Mattero, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Palmdale Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Travon T. Johnson, of Palmdale, CA:

"Maria and I are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our nation's brave soldiers, Sergeant Travon Johnson. He fulfilled a tremendous duty to our country and made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of liberty. Maria and I honor Travon and will keep his family and friends in our prayers."

Johnson, 29, died July 23 as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Sarobi District, Afghanistan. Johnson was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, United States Army, Vicenza, Italy.

In honor of Sgt. Johnson, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Whittier Sailor

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Hospitalman Daniel S. Noble, of Whittier, CA:

"Maria and I join all Californians in mourning the loss of Hospitalman Daniel Noble and we extend our sincerest thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. We owe a debt of gratitude to Daniel and his family, and all other service personnel and their loved ones for the sacrifices they make to defend our country. Daniel will be remembered for his courage and bravery in protecting his fellow citizens."

Noble, 21, died July 24 as a result of enemy action while conducting security operations in the Dilaya Province, Iraq. Noble was permanently assigned to 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, United States Navy, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Hospitalman Noble, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Matthew R. Zindars of Watertown, WI:

"Maria and I have the strongest admiration for the men and women of our armed forces who put their lives on the line every day while protecting our country. Corporal Matthew Zindars committed himself to protecting our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. Our thoughts and prayers are with Matthew's loved ones and fellow Marines during this difficult time."

Zindars, 21, died July 24 while conducting combat operations in Diyala Province, Iraq. Zindars was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Cpl. Zindars, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Oxnard Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Jaime Rodriguez, Jr., of Oxnard, CA.

"Specialist Jaime Rodriguez's commitment to duty and his efforts to preserve our freedom is an inspiration to all Californians. He joins a proud legacy of heroes who fought for their country and gave their lives to protect their fellow Americans. Maria and I express our greatest sympathies to Jaime's family and friends during this difficult time."

Rodriguez, 19, died July 26 as a result of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Saqlawiyah, Iraq. Rodriguez was assigned to the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Army, Fort Stewart, GA.

In honor of Spc. Rodriguez, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Auburn Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Sean A. Stokes, of Auburn, CA:

"Risking his life to protect fellow citizens was a duty Corporal Sean Stokes undertook with pride and honor. Sean's death is a painful reminder of the dangers inherent in protecting our country and his dedicated service will not be forgotten. Maria and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and fellow Marines and we will continue to pray for them."

Stokes, 24, died July 30 as a result of wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Stokes was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Cpl. Stokes, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.