December 6, 2007

we should be whispering all the time

Max Protetch, Winter, 2003

* Long, excellent article on How America Lost the War on Drugs concludes:

"The drug war, in the end, has been undone in no small part by the sweeping and inflexible nature of its own metaphor. At the beginning...the campaign was a war as seen from the situation room, a complicated assault that spanned multiple fronts, but one which had identifiable enemies and a goal. Today, the government's anti-drug effort resembles a war as seen from the trenches, an eternal slog, where victory seems not only unattainable but somehow beside the point. For the drug agents and veterans who busted Escobar, the last decade and a half have been a slow, agonizing history of defeat after defeat, the enemy shifting but never retreating. 'You get frustrated,' Joe Toft, a former DEA country attache in Colombia, tells me. 'We've never had a true effort where the U.S. as a whole says, 'We're never going to crack this problem without a real demand-reduction program.' That's something that's just never happened.'

"Toft, now a private security consultant, thinks back to the heady days after the fall of Escobar, the days when winning the War on Drugs seemed only a matter of dispatching more American helicopters to the Andes. 'The first couple years, I had this very naive idea that I was really going to make a huge impact,' he says. 'But after a while, you start realizing that without a concerted effort to reduce demand, it's not going to happen. Over the years, I came to see my job as basically keeping the lid on the garbage can trying to sit on that lid and prevent that garbage can from overflowing. If you talk to a hundred agents, that's what almost all of them would say. We're just being realistic.'"

* From a 1996 interview of Patti Smith by Thurston Moore. excerpt:

THURSTON MOORE: How would Lester Bangs have conducted this interview?

PATTI SMITH: Lester wrote a really nice article about us a long time ago called "Stagger Lee Was A Woman." But then he turned against us because he felt we sold out with Radio Ethiopia. Everybody thought we sold out. They thought we had turned heavy metal. They found lyrics like "pissing in a river" offensive, they found experimentation offensive, definitely too sonic.

TM: It was for its time. It seemed like a very MC5 influenced record. There was nothing like it at the time.

PS: Lenny introduced me to their music. I had never heard of the MC5. Radio Ethiopia was influenced by "Black To Comm." When Lenny introduced me to Fred, it was March 9, 1976, almost twenty years ago. Fred was standing in front of a white elevator in a navy blue coat -- the coat which appears in Godspeed. "Walking in your blue coat, weeping admiral," that's Fred.
TM: What's the first record you ever bought?

PS: Shrimp Boats by Harry Belafonte, Patience and Prudence doing The Money Tree, and, embarrassingly enough, Neil Sedaka's Climb Up. My mother bought me a box set of Madame Butterfly when I was sick. I got Coltrane's My Favorite Things. My mother was a counter waitress in a drugstore where they had a bargain bin of used records. One day she brought this record home and said, "I never heard of the fellow but he looks like somebody you'd like," and it was Another Side of Bob Dylan. I loved him. You see, I had devoted so much of my girlish daydreams to Rimbaud. Rimbaud was like my boyfriend. If you're 15 or 16 and you can't get the boy you want, and you have to daydream about him all the time, what's the difference if he's a dead poet or a senior? At least Bob Dylan... it was a relief to daydream about somebody who was alive.

TM: Did you ever see John Coltrane?

PS: Yes. Once in Philly in '63 when My Favorite Things came out. There were two jazz clubs right next to each other, Pep's and the Showboat. You had to be eighteen, so these people helped me get dressed up, trying to look older. I was basically a pigtails and sweatshirt kind of kid. So I got in for fifteen minutes and saw him and then they carded me and kicked me out. He did "Nature Boy." I was in such heaven seeing them, Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner, that I wasn't even disturbed that I got thrown out.
TM: When did you first meet Bob Dylan?

PS: Backstage at the Bitter End. We didn't have a drummer yet. It was just the four of us, we hadn't been signed yet.

TM: Did you see him in the audience?

PS: No. Somebody told us he was there. My heart was pounding. I got instantly rebellious. I made a couple of references, a couple of oblique things to show I knew he was there. And then he came backstage which was really quite gentlemanly of him. He came over to me and I kept moving around. We were like two pitbulls circling. I was a snotnose. I had a very high concentration of adrenaline. He said to me, "Any poets around here?" And I said, "I don't like poetry anymore. Poetry sucks!" I really acted like a jerk. I thought, that guy will never talk to me again. And the day after there was this picture on the cover of the Village Voice. The photographer had Dylan put his arms around me. It was a really cool picture. It was a dream come true, but it reminded me of how I had acted like a jerk. And then a few days later I was walking down 4th Street by the Bottom Line and I saw him coming. He put his hand in his jacket -- he was still wearing the same clothes he had on in the picture, which I liked -- and he takes out the Village Voice picture and says, "Who are these two people? You know who these people are?" Then he smiled at me and I knew it was alright. The first time I ever heard him was way back in 1964. I went to see Joan Baez. She had this fellow with her, Bobby Dylan. His voice was like a motorcycle through a cornfield...

* Short bios of various 20th century Heroes and Killers.

* The Evens playing Cut From the Cloth in Chile.

* "Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." --
Mark Twain


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