I go for a score: male-bonding gambit #502. “I understand” — dig this — “we’ve got something in common. Both of us were 4-F during the Vietnam War.”
What?! Can this be right? Actual, literal Q & A with R * O * G * E * R H * E * D * G * E * C * O * C * K, who you thought would rather lose his dingus than submit to another, ulp, ordeal by newsprint??? Yup, that’s right: not a bluff, nor ploy, nor “yellow journalistic” slight of copy. Your eyes, and this newssheet, deceive you not. The real “thing,” daddy-o!
"My wife's a terrific mom, meanwhile, to the boys ... but no, she’s no mere housewife, no Stepford Wife, no lobotomy case...”
So get settled, get comfy, crack open a beer, an ale, fix yourself a whiskey (or vodka) (or gin) (or etcet.) and mixer, or a freshly squeezed citrus beverage or hot steamy mug of your favorite caffeinated poison, fetch that pretzel box or cookie tin you’ve been hiding or hoarding for uninvited creepos or children, shoes off, socks, feet up, phone disconnected ... some mighty good reading ahead! But first, please, well don’t skip directly to the voluminous Q’s, the voluminous A’s, the clearly labeled “Rog,’ Verbatim” section beginning on page 17, not just yet. As readers it is certainly your prerogative — shucks — your good ol’ American freedom, but please, um, let a good ol’ author call the shots for a change, the readerly shots, let’s wind this thing out in sequence....
"In ’62, ’62 or ’63, he brought in a new group from L.A. called Ike and Tina Turner and their Revue. Well, it knocked my socks off."
Next to God, people are what life is all about.
— Paul Johnson, liner notes to the Belairs’ The Origins of Surf Music 1960-63
There’s this not uninteresting person, see, a semi not uninteresting guy who for lunch one day goes to this trendy restaurant, where upon entering he tells the hostess “No smoking” and she says “There’ll be a five-minute wait, may I please have your name?” and he’s so pissed that she doesn’t RECOGNIZE HIM he coldly snaps ''We’ll take smoking’’ — boy is he peed off!
A self-involved guy, an occasionally interesting self-involved guy who in fact on occasion can be mildly entertaining, the party in question is also capable of keeping an incredibly straight face, revealing little except by design, allowing few stray gestures (even when talking on the phone), smiling principally to indicate nail-on-the- head “glee” and nothing more subtle (or casual) than that, and is thus hardly, in spite of a longstanding partytime rep, the most damn fun in the world.
“Self-involved guy?” I’m a self-involved guy. Takes one to know one? Possibly. This other self-involved guy, meantime, was once your mayor. Not mine, though. I’m from elsewhere.
From elsewhere to your town by rail and motorcar. Travel time: three hours.
An out-of-town hit man? An out-of-town patsy? Dunno. (I’m still figuring.)
And why me? Why have I been chosen? Again, dunno, not exactly, but I do know by whom I’ve been chosen. I’ve been chosen by Thomas K. Arnold.
Tom Arnold — “T.K.” to his friends — that wildcrazyyoungprolific musicwriter (politicswriter) (anythingwriter) from your midst; give him a dime, he’ll write about... anything. The young are like that. (Was young once, twice myself and can relate.) Fast food, Barry Manilow recitals, the price of 90-watt bulbs in Pacific Beach — you name it, dangle a token three-or-four-figure carrot, and this boy will write it. It takes a few carrots to service the BMW. Hey, only kidding — his stuff is good. Good stuff and plenty of it, on all subjects but one, make that two. He’s never written on the life and times of Hosiah Famputter (1819-1904), inventor of the first mass-market pork laxative (“Hoglax”), not a word on the s.o.b. And he’s never written, not to my knowledge, ’bout the soul, the psyche, the life behind the eyes of his partytime cohort, musical collaborator, and close personal friend, Roger Hedgecock.
You don’t write about close personal friends. Well I do, I’ve done it — yeah, ha, it’s tricky/sticky — but T.K. Arnold, no. Not this one. For this one he wants me. Me, I’m guessing, because Lester Bangs has been a pile of dust since ’82. You couldn’t be deader. Once, howe’er, he lived, swallowed like candy the cotton strips inside Benzedrex and Vicks inhalers, prolifically wrote, was prolifically published, and served as role model number one (first; foremost) for an even wilderyoungercrazier Thomas K. Arnold. When one is dust, you go for two (second; secondary). Two in this case was/is me.
To live ... that I, less than Lester, might write up some young gaga’s drinking pal. It was not initially appealing. “You’ll love Roger,” the gaga’s AT&T crackle assured me. Love, huh? I could hear my crackly mind-voice retorting. I hear it's a many- splendored thing. Somebody once 'assured' me Id love golf. “Every reporter,” the phone voice continued, “has gotten him wrong. A bunch of total wimps. I really think you’re the one who can do it right.” Well, gee, thanks, us #2 ’s aim to please.
And what he told Roger, let’s assume, was “You’ll love Richard. He’s my favorite all-time pulp scribbler after this other one who’s dead .” That and the fact that I wasn't one of these prick reporters, one of these vested-interest poison-pen you knows who were at least X-percent responsible for his fabled Undoing. An undoing ’bout which, detail wise, I knew dick. Less than dick. I hardly knew Roger from Shinola, his “saga” from that of the Grand Coulee Dam. And that other dam, Oroville, no, Glen Canyon, no. Hoover, um, Nancy — I can’t say I knew her from, dunno, my ass. That Italian fellow, Gary something, Jerry? Didn’t know him from a bucket of Viennese phlegm. A bunch of names, you read the paper, some of them carry across town lines, county lines, mid to back pages, if you’re lucky you see ’em.
I was lucky at the time of Tom-boy’s offer to even recognize the name Hedgecock. But I didn’t know his face; nor those of the “others.” If you don’t know the eyes, ears, and noses that go with the names, if you don’t know the words, the deeds, that accompany these names, these features, in their local “permanent records,” it’s kind of hard to imagine getting it up for a round of “Why’d you do it?” — "Did you do it?” — any of that, especially when you’re not even terribly sure what it, as either historical datum or point of regional relevance, happens to, y’know, be. I didn’t know such shit, nor did I care. With no axe to grind — not even a pen knife! — I was a shoo-in. Roger said yes to Tom-boy, yes to me. But would I say yes to these two fuggaloonies?
Well, obviously I did, right? I did because Roger Hedgecock meant zip to me. Same reason I was acceptable to him, he’s acceptable to me. What “intrigued” me was he was just another bloke in a town I was barely aware of. A guy who might conceivably be that town’s superduperstar of the moment, or one among a select few superdupers, but in any event a superduper beyond my realm of ultimate, or even topical, concern. The scale of his “significance” was at best silly to my alien sensors, strictly funnybone city, and at worst ponderous — though hardly a ponderous that could crack an egg if I carried one. (However the wind blew, it wouldn’t kill me.)
I could try it on as a character study, say; a little third-person warmup, workout; a final stretching exercise before switching (forever) to fiction. The heart of darkness (or temple of light) (or suburban pastiche) behind the Hedgecock “persona.” If it reads like reportage, fine, but ’tain’t my priority, my intention. “Getting it right”? — I haven’t gotten, or cared about getting, anything right since the sixties. No, that’s a lie, I care passionately for such biz, but if I miss, so what — I’m not a reporter. Besides, I owe nothing to Roger, nothing to Tom. Okay, I’ll do it. Yes, Tom. Yes, Roger, sir, your honor.
No, wait, do I have to hang out with these muhfuhs, er, gentlemen? Hmmm ... okay. I’ll bring along some aspirin, some Alka-Seltzer.
A DATE WITH URINE AND KISMET — So okay. I’ve been chosen, I’ve been pre-approved, and not only that, I’ve been scheduled. Penciled in. Roger has said, we've spoken by phone and he’s told me: “Just come down.” Come down, for starters, to his morning talk show. “It’s fairly central to what I’m doing now. Starting there is a good place to start.” We’ll start on a Monday, at KSDO. And return there, on top of whatever else we fit in, on Tuesday or Wednesday or, better yet, Thursday. Or Friday. “I don’t wanna sound narcissistic, but it might be fun, it might be interesting, to have you come in, take the fresh look you’ll be taking, and describe to my listeners what you’ve seen, what my week has been like.” But first, Monday. The Monday after a week of on-location broadcasts from Puerto Vallarta, just before Thanksgiving.
“You won’t need more time,” I ask, mulling the scenario, “to recover from Mexico?”
“No. I’ve been there so often that my state of mind slips easily in and back out again, like the space shuttle coming in from its, ha ha, moon landing.”
“Will there be any problem with security?”
“I’ll leave your name with Rachel, the receptionist.”
“Should I call a day before for confirmation?”
"This is confirmation. See you then.” Okay, then. I come down, I show up, I present myself to Rachel, she says whuh and hands me to Gayle Falkenthal, Roger's producer, who says: “He didn’t tell me anything about this.” Great, wunnerful, and remembering why I stopped writing personal pieces — real, especially superstar, person pieces — in 1976, I fumble to explain myself.
“Well, heh, he even had this idea of having me on the show to kind of y’know catalogue, from left field, what he’s done all week.”
“That’s peculiar. All guests are approved through me, and this week is completely booked.” So I sit on my hands ’til a newsbreak.
Listening, for the first and conceivably last time, to Roger Hedgecock, talk-show host. And some caller, some old guy on the P.A., claiming, “Every time I urinate, it’s bright yellow.” A pause, no laughter, he continues: “And my regular doctor. Dr. Lindt, won’t see me.” Tragic, certainly poignant, in any event a problem. “What should I do?”
“Have you tried to contact [etcetera, blah blah]?” asks Roger. He does not — ’scuse me but he doesn’t — sound too “sincere.” Or, I dunno, sympathetic. Kind of dry, drony, impersonal. How could he be “personal” with the urinater? Dunno, and he ain’t. Tells him, with supreme generic finality, “Call your congressman.” Way to go!
The next caller, a younger male dope, is more concerned with the color, the form, of local things-o-beauty than with hues and tints of personal weewee. “I don’t care about these so-called artists and their reputations" — talking ’bout those muralists, sculptors, and the like who’ve been granted the chore of spiffing up allotted eyefuls of San Diego — “I just want this town to look good.” A worthy concern — bravo! bravo! — so this time Rog’ waxes specific. Tells him, with a sudden cheeriness you could make a sandwich with, to call some bigwig, an artso bureaucrat (name; number) who can set him, perhaps, on the goody two-shoed path of civic voluntarism w/ a visual twang. (Maybe he’ll get to prune some trees.)
Next bozo, er, citizen, an irate female between 25 and 60, has a bone to pick with the things they show in commercials. “There’s this one, I can’t remember what it’s for, where the pot is boiling over and they have a child standing there! Tell me, Roger, what does this teach our kids about safety?”
“Don’t look to me" — he’s as irate as she — “for a testimonial on the virtues of commercial television. At home when I’m watching, I hit the mute button the second a commercial comes on. Watch enough commercials and your minds turns to....” Then he does a commercial.
Three calls, three topics, three distinct flavors of Hedgecock. I squirm in my modular seat, brace myself for four, five, and more, when a door swings open and, hand extended, the man himself strides forth, call-it-a-smile on his mug, six inches taller than I expected. Reminds me — you don’t know him — of Eric Morris, Long Island veterinarian. Light tweedy jacket, v light blue cotton shirt, darkish striped tie, tan (brushed twill?) slacks, Bio-Glide shoes the color of Campbell’s cream of mushroom.
Shake. Shake. He’s sorry if there’s been [blah blah, etcetera]. “Didn’t I tell you,” he begins asking, then switches to declarative, “I’m sure I did, to call first so we could arrange a schedule.” Well, no, asamatteroffact, and I shrug and he shrugs and not much is said and I follow him into the broadcast booth. Roger my dream match — thankyou, Tom Arnold! — what a shitty, shitty way to start a dream date.
DOUBLE-SPEAK AT THE KSDO CORRAL — Headphones on. A set for Roger and a set for me. “My role on this show as I see it” — I can hear him, barely, in spite of the ’phones — “is primarily educational. My job is to make people think.” Thinking of something myself, I wonder what I might otherwise ordinarily be doing at this hour, 11-plus A.M., on a nothing autumn Monday such as this. Probably taking a healthy morning b.m.
“ The Murph’!” intones the hour’s first potential thinker. “I can’t understand why certain employees of your station insist on calling Jack Murphy Stadium The Murph.’ ”
“Personally I agree with you,” replies Roger, private citizen, “it’s a very stupid name. But,” offers Roger, public pedagogue, “that’s what we have here — freedom of speech. If you object that strongly, write the station manager,” i.e., you do it (I’ll lead you to water, but you drink).
Next: “What about the homeless?” — a heart-on-sleeve senior would like t’ know.
“We have this problem,” recites Roger, pushing freedom this time like a take-it-or-leave-it theologian trumpeting free will, “because of freedom of choice.”
Food for thought, then food for bellies: two calls about lobster. “Roger,” says one, then (quite identically) the other, “I just took my family to [such & such formerly fabulous lobster joint] in Puerto Nuevo and lemme tell you the price has gone up. Up up up! So I was wondering, um, where do you take your family these days, y’know, for lobster at a reasonable, affordable price?” To which he hems, haws, protecting (it seems) a favored secret crustacean pit... why can’t he just tell ’em, do your own lobster thinking?
Next dialer, maybe the day’s biggest dummy, wants nothing from Roger, nothing more, that is, than more of same. “I just wanna compliment you on the great job you’ve been doing of enlightening the people. You’re doing an excellent, excellent, a very great job.” I study Roger’s face as he takes this horseshit in. He’s not smirking or grinning; he’s not even smiling. A smile could mean he’s genuinely touched by such crap, but it might also suggest irony, sarcasm, contempt. Which he doesn’t seem to wanna chance tipping off, not facially, not even to someone on the other end of the line. If a camera were on him, okay, such stolidness might make sense, but there’s no camera, and he can’t be playing just to me (can he?), so this must be the way he normally behaves. (Political-arena habits die hard?) Poor baby.
It goes on like this — calls and more calls you would have to be paid extremely well not to hang up on, or you’d have to be starving for as weird anonymous tokens of pop affection — this plus some Smalltalk, me and him, during commercials. Stuff like, hmm, can’t remember what... (is it “fun” yet?) (will this hour ever end?)... basic nothin’.
The broadcast over, enough of this nothin’, I go for a score: male-bonding gambit #502. “I understand” — dig this — “we’ve got something in common. Both of us were 4-F during the Vietnam War.” A little something I’ve been saving for an ex- mayor, ha, and this ex-mayor does not miss a beat. Presto, micro-instantaneously, with no discernible shift in physiognomy (deadpan) or intonation (flat): “Well, first I was 1-Y. They had me come back. My skin was so bad on my neck, my back, and my shoulders that my doctor told them I could only wear 100% cotton, and tropical climates were out.” Swell, neat, beside which my alibi must ring a tad conventional (my gift to Roger): "I convinced ’em I was nuts.” He, snickering: “I wonder how difficult that was!” Me ... he ... me ... he: dialogue (well, almost) — but does this make us buddies? Not yet. He hands me some junk from his desk.
Gone a week so there’s all this mail, opened and un-. Shows me an opened that’s a home-made comic book — pencil and ballpoint on typing paper, folded, stapled — drawings of male/female genitalia and of marijuana, both living and rolled. “One listener’s fantasy of our stay in P.V.,” chuckles Rog’, “the product of a very fertile imagination.” Above the desk, in bright red “blood drip” lettering, a bumper sticker: “Trust the Soviets? Ask the Afghans.”
A silence, mighty and weighty. Then, apropos of nothing I’m aware of (though he is in fact holding a hand writ missive): “I think Americans should study Latin and Greek, I really do. If they don’t know the roots of their language, you know what they’re stuck with? Orwellian doublespeak.” Sounds feasible, yes, and I nod so. “To lunch?” I nod again, and we split as airless and anti-life a studio, office, waiting room — as any in the town where my own mail is delivered, a town justly famous for such biz.
In my rented and dented Dodge Colt, I follow your ex-mayor’s purple-black Caddy to the freeway. At which point he tries, or could be construed as trying, to lose me. Zoom, whiz, lane changes, in & out, fast — with apparent calculation to be done w/ me. To merely keep eye contact, I’m forced to slam throttle to the floor, and after two-three hairy minutes, lacking binocs, I lose sight of him. Of course he ain’t said where we’re going.
Then an accident or something snarls up traffic and I see, catch, and follow him. We park somewhere. I express dismay, incredulity. “You should see me when I drive all-out,” he tells me. “This was pretty restrained. I learned how to drive in Tijuana.”
or break open
our veins solely
— Charles Olson, “Maximus, from Dogtown — !”
THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ROGER HEDGECOCK — The Corvette, in Hillcrest — you been there? Heard of? A lighter, brighter, more forcibly “fifties” version of the Greezy Follicle (Phoenix), P.J. Ike’s (Chicago), the Bar-&-Grill Diner (Minneapolis) or, in the town, the city, where I hang my hat, the Hard Rock Cafe. “Fifties”? Well, a larger-than-life Connie Francis, two-dimensional, framed, hangs not far from our table in (though neither of us smokes) the designated cancer section. We don’t smoke but we drink. “Order me a Bohemia,” says Roger as he splits for a whiz. “If they don’t have it, Corona.” Corona it is.
When he comes back, they start comin’ over, one at a time, two at a time: respect-payers aplenty. The whole room, ’cept for the name-taker at the door, the bimbo who failed to recognize him, knows the face, the man, wants to shake the man’s hand or talk shop with him. The shakers/talkers have names as well: losing city council candidate Neil Good; gray-flattopped county supervisor George Bailey; various fish, beef, and fowl, major/minor/local. Roger’s take on the non-recog has quasi-endeared him to me (y’know: “humanized” him), and seeing a fatso I ask: “Is that whatsisname, the fat guy you ran against, that loser?” “No, you mean Dick Carlson” — his eyes light up — “and he was a loser. That guy, ha, I had 17 some odd felony counts hanging over my head, and he couldn’t beat me! Now that's a loser.”
Peering at Connie’s pic, thinking rock-a-rock-roll, I then ask: “What’s your next single gonna be?” Yes, I’ve heard the Amold-Hedgecock Experience’s “Louie, Louie" b/w “Wild Thing” — an especially fine “horrible” Hedgecock vocal on the latter — and find it no worse, and probably less carcinogenic, than anything by Sting, Aerosmith, or Madonna. (Honest!)
“Well, this time we’re gonna do a classic that should have enough muscle to stand up to our interpretation, ‘Summertime Blues,' and back it with another all-time great, ‘Born to Be Wild.’ If we can’t sell records with those two, we may retire.” As if on cue, the other half of Arnold-Hedgecock arrives, selects meatloaf, and I ask ’em both: “Which version of ‘Summertime Blues’?” T.K., in black-and-silver Judas Priest tee-shirt, says, “Blue Cheer, of course,” meaning the late-sixties acid version, but Roger stands firm for the (somewhat tepid, and certainly overrated) Eddie Cochran fifties original. There are no votes for the Who.
Our waitress comes, shakes her mock-fifties waitress booty, roleplays antediluvian waitress coquetry, and Roger, a naturally flirty guy, flirts back. One-liners are traded, they’re both good at this, back, forth, bawdy, bawdier, then Roger says: “Tell me — do blacks blush?” She’s black, gosh golly, and she now turns metaphoric chartreuse.
“Well, Massa” — trying hard to be cool — “the sun affects our coloration, don’t know if you were aware of that, and —”
“The only reason I ask is I lived with a black woman in college, and I never saw her blush. I also never got around to asking her, and if you don’t ask, you don’t learn.” Ah! the knower! ... the known! ... the nature and grounds of knowing! Roger Hedgecock, epistemologist!
Which is to say — hey! I sincerely believe this! — Roger’s remark is not racist. No way. Only a cheeseball journalist would call it that (I puke on such creatures). No, I’m an epistemologist myself, and my own gut reaction at this point is simply who the hell is Roger?? Or: Which Roger is Roger?? Is Roger “knowable”?? Stuff like that.
And I’m not talking standard operational doubt, that suspension of belief it pays to invest when you’re sitting ’cross tables from self-involved public figures. All such figfoiks are “slippery ”; they keep things “hidden,” "submerged.”
But this one here is something more, something else. A truly complex mo-fucker — or so I’m guessing, so I wanna guess.
When T.K. follows up on the blush biz by asking, waitress out of earshot, “What color are their clitorises?” and Roger replies, deadpan, “The usual — pink, brown, you know,” who the heck is the singer of “Wild Thing” playing to, which of us (both?) is the performance tailored for? Because, don’t get me wrong, the performance is good; I admit I “enjoy” it. He’s beginning to remind me more of Kim Fowley or Paul Krassner than Eric Morris, hound doctor, but I need to know — want to know — what it is I’m being given to know ... what the knowledge serving suggestions are.
By my third beer I’m swimming in imponderables. Just how much is Roger “revealing”? What does he think he’s revealing? Have I witnessed, in fact, any “unguarded moments”? Is the hidden, the submerged, substantially “different” from the willfully tendered? Is he choreographing surface elements of my presumed story (any more intentionally than he’s choreographing surface aspects of his own life)? Would I be seeing more (less) of the choreographed (“real”) Roger if Arnold weren’t around? Are his smiles ever ingenuous? On a performance (qua performance) level, is he always this “on”?
Is it knowledge yet? With Roger, I’m beginning to suspect it never is.
RUMINATIONS ON ROGER -- Rumination #3: He’s a lonely man the way I’m a lonely man. How am I a lonely man? None of your business.
You Are Being Watched
So reads a sign not 30 yards from the Hedgecock manse: three first downs. Wary enough already, it’s a good thing I’m not a burglar. “Naw,” I can say as they snap on the cuffs, “I’m here for Monday Nile Football.” Boys’ nite out.
At the manse, though, it’s boys’ nite in. Jamie Hedgecock, 10, undaunted by the presence or manner of the bearded stranger, greets me and leads me to a kitchen where his old man, in red-striped knit shirt, is just now completing his substitute feedbag chore. Dirty dishes are dealt with. Paintings of food line the upper walls. “My dad did them. They’re oils,” states Roger proudly. They’re good. The younger of two latest-generation Hedgecocks, Christopher, offers me an ice cream pop. Mrs. H, Cindy, is out getting her MBA.
For his recent 7th birthday Chris got a Garfield tee-shirt, a Garfield birthday card, and a battery-powered dune buggy with some oomph to it. “It can go 20 miles an hour,” he boasts. “Some go 100, but they use gas.” He and his brother have set up a rug as a dune and, with dad on the phone, they invite me to join them. For 5-10 minutes we take turns on the remote without squabble or hint of competitiveness. Not between each other, not between them and me. Relating to me as less a goofy but willing adult than a slightly larger mammal-at-play than themselves, they’re the most eerily non-neurotic children I’ve ever met.
From the dune room you can see airplanes. Lights. It’s nice to live near, and discreetly above, a smalltown airport; scenic but not too loud. This close to LAX or JFK you’d wanna blow your brains out. Also in the room, blueprints. “Align retaining wall w/ edge of column.” Neither homeowner nor architect, I dunno what that means.
Game time nigh, the four of us ascend a staircase. At the first landing: a painting of Roger. Life-size, standing. Executed with a good deal more linseed than the still lifes downstairs, it glistens. Also: framed photos of the kids, together and separate, a photo of Roger with the kids, and a line drawing of Cindy.
Chicago vs. Denver — who will win? In the ultimate scheme of things, who cares? “I really want Chicago to win,” says Roger. “A Bronco loss enhances San Diego’s playoff position.” The Chargers’ 8-1 record looking nearly unassailable (who’s to guess they’re about to go 0-6 the rest of the way as the Broncos go 6-1 and into the frigging Super Bowl?), I scoff. “You’re a real scoffer,” I’m then told.
“Say — isn’t the Super Bowl in San Diego this year?” — suddenly recalling a semi-significant NFL datum.
“You bet it is, and I’m the one who brought it here.”
“Well, me and Gene Klein, when I was mayor. He got the other owners, enough of them, to pay up for past debts, ha — he’d got them their TV contract. But I arranged the meeting.”
“No shit.” (I’m impressed.)
“In fact, well, at the time you don’t expect these things, but the assumption then was it would bring so much money into the area. Now if the Chargers make it to the Super Bowl, still a big if, there’ll be less coming in, fewer out-of-towners at hotels, partying, consuming, spending big bucks locally, etc.”
“So whudda you prefer. Chargers or a few extra bucks for local capitalists?” “Oh, I’m a Charger fan!” Then in walks Charger fan Thomas Kirk Arnold with chips, Cheetos, and many 6-packs of Bohemia.
No mugs — who needs ’em? — but coasters are everywhere. No, actually just on wood. On glass tops, no coasters. No bowls for the Cheetos, which Roger declines (“No junk food for me tonight”), or chips. No napkins. The upstairs toilet, which we soon begin needing, has the quietest flush in America.
Game’s on, Broncos down by 14, it looks pretty safe for the Chargers. I recite (by rote) a nasty rumor ’bout announcer Frank Gifford’s first divorce. They laugh, the grownups not the kids, and begin discussing their next Experience gig, three weeks hence at some biker rally. “Outlaw bikers or the goody-goodies?” Goody-goodies. Clothing is discussed — what to wear for these fine, good chaps in their clean jeans and leathers? Jacketwise, T.K. has got (and is wearing) one of your basic off-rack New Age narrow-lapel jobs, off-white, and Roger’s got similar, but what about trousers? “What size pants you wear?” asks Tom of his partner. “Oh, I don’t know, 34, 35.”
“35?” muses Jamie. “When we went shopping with Mom, you were 36.” “That’s not true!” Dad protests. Then, noticing me frantically scribble: “You’re not gonna write this, are you?” Hey, this is where the LITERATURE is.
The kids, restless, start wrestling with T.K. — hammerlocks, headlocks — which eventually permutes to T.K. versus Roger for 30-40 seconds; a draw. Then, as John Elway shakes belated life into the Denver troops, the kids are urged off to sleep, and we escalate the smut level, verbal. Following a surprisingly easy Bronco score. Spuds McKenzie shows his snout for the King of Beers, forcing Roger to comment on the, um, mixed-metaphoricality of it all. “Spuds is a female, you know.”
“No fucking shit?” (A well-read guy — weller than I — again I’m impressed).
“Right. A female impersonating a male in a fucking bestiality commercial! Now I think anyone who isn’t perverted in some way by the ’90s will be very lonely, but this really is sick. ’'
Big yuks all around. The chips gone, I reach for a handful of Cheetos. Denver scores again; Roger grimaces, grins, launches a monologue. “My wife should be home soon ... I’m very happy she’s continuing to grow ... did I tell you she’s at school?... learning the ropes of small business... really great with computers ... a terrific mom, meanwhile, to the boys ... but no, she’s no mere housewife, no Stepford Wife, no lobotomy case... ” — and what th-?! Can this be? At the top of the stairs, what incredible (ho) timing: Cin-n-n-ndy Hedgecock!
Who reminds me of the highly pleasant Nancy Nuttall. “Oh boy!” — spotting Cheetos — “Junk food!” Hubby doesn’t grin.
Denver 31, Chicago 29. Fug-a-duck. Time expires. The talk turns to ... cars. So happens I’m in the market for. “You owe it to yourself to buy American,” says Roger. "Get a Ford Taurus.”
“Well, I was thinking of another Honda. My current one’s lasted me 11 years. I can’t really imagine any kind of Ford is gonna —”
“The reports on the Taurus have been excellent. Why encourage Japanese technology?"
Which leads, somewhat willy-nilly, to chit-chat on the Japanese getting a certain kind of bomb dropped on them; on a certain country that has not once but twice dropped non-test versions of that same kinda bomb; on bombs in general; countries in general; and finally those terrible, horrible, loathsome, disgusting Soviets. Whoa — I interrupt — “You actually believe that crap?’’ Crap about the terrible Soviets; ’bout how in the not too distant future even Republican administrations will begin “surrendering’’ to ’em.
“Oh yes. Yes I do. Definitely.’’
I look at T.K. Arnold. This is what he gets me into? Sipping beers and trading quips with Wally George? I want irony from some corner of the room, goddamit. (T.K. is wearing a smile face.)
“You don’t think'’ — me again — “our own shithouse is as loathsome as theirs?’’ (Too drunk to, y’know, specifically, non-poetically articulate.)
“No” — and he’s not too much sharper on his drinkfeet than me, and on and on it goes, then he throws in a lulu. The Kennedy assass, John Kennedy, was pulled off — sez Rog’ — by yup, right... the Soviets! (A conspiracy theory you prob’ly ain’t heard since, oh, the day they shot Lee Harvey Oswald.)
On this lulu I exit, yowling, to my rented mixed-parented shitty Lee Iacoccamobile.
The object of oratory is not truth, but persuasion.
— aphorism in fortune cookie. Panda Inn, Horton Plaza
THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH — Hotelsville, double-digit Tuesday A.M.: what to do? How ’bout this: same as yesterday this hour, but without the drive or having to actually be in the same room with a non-ironically rightwing tanktown celeb? Er, ’scuse me, did I say tanktown? Sorry, I only meant — you know what I meant. Scaled down just a tad from my own. But yes, that sounds groovy: tuning my radio dial to eleven point whatever...
"Roger Hedgecock talks with you-u-u ” — there. I’ve got it. And let’s see who the you’s are today. (And the Rogers.)
— A frustrated panda fancier. Took his kids to the zoo. Waited ... waited ... the panda situation was intolerable. “Is it really fair for them not to tell you in advance how awfully long you will have to wait?’’ “You’re right — they should certainly warn you about the wait.” Give 'em hell, Roger!
— A homophobe. “AIDS, Roger, AIDS AIDS AIDS [and these, ugh, people’s vile unnatural etc.) in San Diego!” Roger: “And it’s getting worse. Irresponsible gays are moving here in alarming numbers — to take advantage of our looser bathhouse laws.” Lance, what an idea, let's move to SAN DIEGO so we can fuck & be fucked anally w/out condoms in BATHHOUSES and get and spread AIDS!
— A childabuserophobe. “What can be done? How can we stop these animals from touching and killing our kids?” “It’s clearcut — child abusers should be murdered.” Well, at least (for once) it's not a euphemism like "executed."
Okay. It wouldn’t be stretching things to dub the morning’s “subtext” (as the French would call it) the Fundamental Wretchedness of Life, or shall we say of Postmodern (i.e., postlife) Life, yet neither callers nor callee come close to frontally addressing it. They spit out a topical cum “controversial” XY, Rogers spits back YX, or YX plus a sidebar or disclaimer, and not only does the mere utterance of a reshuffled X and Y make all the official diff in the world — these are, amazingly enough, satisfied customers! — it effectively blots out the wretched root content of all conceivable (and conceivably wretched) X-Y variations. (There’s never a Z.) A symptomatic root canal, as it were, done with neither hypnosis nor mirrors (and certainly not an act of aural surgery!) (nor a decent painkiller), its not especially conscious means are the reduction of linguistic volition to truism, tautology; its end, the dressing of scattergun pathos as popgun bathos...
— A responsible gay San Diegan, so-called, calls: “I agree about the bathhouses. I’ve stopped going. They should be closed.” Roger: “You’ve made the wise choice. It’s a shame your community has to suffer because of the decline in gay leadership.”
Leadership, shmeadership. The people who yell for it most are leaders themselves. It’s like supply-side (“trickle down”) economics — who wants to be trickled on? If you let people lead you, you get, well, you get to be led. All this “take me to your leader” bullcrap. Just once I’d like to see a visiting saucerperson demand: “Take me to your easily led.”
(ROGER RUMINATION #9: Jeff Daniels of Something Wild as a Hedgecock cipher. A makebelieve square-one square who can be “led” to some good times, some hottimes, to and through certain strong and/or dangerous currents easily avoided by actual squares. Taken a step further: Roger as self-generated, self-led Jeff Daniels; a dude in need of little outside prodding for crosscurrent by-the-numbers U-name-it.)
— A Maureen O’Connor skeptic (last call before I’m led to drink): “Can you believe the things our current mayor has been doing [vis-á-vis etc., etc., etcetera)?” Former mayor H.: “I won’t comment on the political issue. It would only sound like sour grapes." Geez what a grim lost-once-&-the-tears-are-endless type of guy! Which leads me to reexamine my own loss history ...
RUMINATION 9 — I once ran for what was it, um, yeah, junior class prez or rep and lost by six lousy votes, a real teenage heartbreak backbreak jeez and all those times and these times and all the goddam things I’ve had that mattered, things in my grasp that mattered and were taken away, away away by creeps by jerks by azzholes — books! jobs! shows! fellowships! girlfriends! — kicked outta Yale for scribbling brilliant rock-crit ahead of its time, a promising academic etc. down the New Haven sewer! — 400-page masterpiece autobio snatched from the printers with minutes to go, sole manuscript subsequently lost forever lost — Judy love of my life to age 25 (Judy!!) runs off and marries her math prof (I’ve been dyin' ever since!) — fired by THIS scumbait station for exercising my “freedom" of speech on the air, rejected by THAT scumbag mag for giving ’em belles-lettres instead of pulp, 4 billion unpublished pages, mildew on the master-works, mother didn’t love me, father didn’t love me, turned down for a Sears charge card, loss loss where’s my next rent check coming from? and I’m supposed to feel um sympathy for Roger Hedgepecker’s once-now-never-before sudden forced take on the universal (ask Buddha!) phenomenon of LOSS, loss of the ooh aah merry m * a * y * o * r * a * l * i * t * y Cal-Pacific Squodunk, er, Greater/Lesser Tattooparlorville, no, c’mon, North Tijuana (South West Anaheim!) f’rchristchristfugsuckingsake shit dammit???! Well I don’t! Do not! No sympathy! Nyaah. nyaah! (You can’t make me!)
OK, got that out of my system.
ROG', VERBATIM -- Back at the manse for some one-on-one. No T.K. Arnold this time. I’ve brought my recorder and some tapes. I’ve also, heh, done some Roger reading — so much for the “total stranger” angle. Don’t wanna feel like an unprepared geek.
We begin by conversing on rock-roll Then and Now, as appropriate an entry point as any, as common a ground as our age. (Him: 41. Me: 42.) No partytime tack tonight; let’s keep it... intellectual. A single pint of Cuervo Gold between us for the duration. He slices some limes, gets some glasses and salt, we slump in matching chairs in the downstairs, I guess you’d call it the living room. All other downstairs rooms are dark.
As we start talkin', I notice, for the first time since initially laying ears on him, that Roger's voice is not vibrating with that — whatcha call it? — radio resonance. Which, it’s about time, puts me at relative ease. If I seem so eased out I occasionally ham things up from my end, tune me out (I’m the Q, he’s the A). Roger Hedgecock's talk with ME I share with YOU...
Q: ... rock and roll, which goes to the root of who you are ...
A: I think it’s at least an expression of who I am.
Q: ... was once a so-called liberating music for the mind, body, and spirit.
A: It was for me in that respect, uh, because it was the music of black people expressing a frustration, uh, expressing a whole way of looking at the world that I couldn't imagine.
Q: And hepcat whiteboys too.
A: Yeah, I guess so, but I wasn’t even aware of that. And I felt that it was so natural to listen to the blues for me in the '50s, and feel that this had much more to do with me than Rosemary Clooney.
Q: Yeah. I remember seeing Elvis on TV, 1956, and I had just seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the original version with Kevin McCarthy with this lunatic look at the end. And Elvis had that same look...
Q: ... plus something else. And after that my parents could never pick my clothing for me, and never again would they tell me what haircut to get. And I was just a little creep of 11, and I found so much power in that, y’know, that I can’t imagine today’s kids can derive from the pablum that they listen to.
A: Well, there’s no reason for the break anymore.
Q: But it’s more than that, I think it’s also like what was once this liberating music is now, more than anything, the absolute voice of the status quo.
A: No question. And the voice of commercial exploitation as well.
Q: Do you listen to current stuff at all?
A: No. What I do listen to, and I don’t listen to any of the so-called New-Age stuff either, which I think is the ultimate in computopian lobotomy, but I do listen to what is happening with, again, going back to what I like to think of as Third World music — the kind of hybrids that are coming out of the Jamaican experience and the whole Caribbean thing, and then the urban blacks and what they’re doing with jazz, fusing with that, a lot of stuff that’s coming out of, uh, what we have here is 92.5, it’s a black-run station that has moved beyond Sam and Dave semi-lightyears into lots of new stuff. And not just rap music, which is kind of the ultimate verbalization, but really the kind of interesting rhythm where Hispanic rhythms are merging with black rhythms. That’s what I listen to now.
Q: No Springsteen or Michael Jackson?
A: Nah. I never could listen to Springsteen, I never did understand beyond, for instance, if you’re gonna listen to Springsteen, you should listen to George Thorogood. I mean, listen to something which has some real roots to it, you know what I mean?
Q: Well, Springsteen is a guy who for one thing is operating for an audience that doesn’t know the difference between the ’50s and the '60s — both decades are before their time.
A: Exactly. He’s synthesizing it in a way for them.
Q: In a way that honors neither the ’50s nor the ’60s.
A: That's exactly right.
Q: Like how did you, you started promoting this stuff, when was that, ’67?
A: No, actually the first thing I got involved in was with a local promoter, a friend of mine named Jim Pagni, while I was still in high school, I told you the story of the Cadillac limo [which I, the author, have forgotten]. Well, in ’62, ’62 or ’63, he brought in a new group from L.A. called Ike and Tina Turner and their Revue. Well, it knocked my socks off. I think he paid them about $1100, the first dance they came down here. I still have their album from those days, the first one they put out. And then we took Dobie Gray and the Drifters out to El Centro and Yuma, to the county fairgrounds in those two places, in ’63 and ’64.
Q: It didn’t at the time strike you as something you wanted to play? You didn’t want to be a musician?
A: Uh no. I had 6 months of piano lessons when I was a kid. And I could read music, to this day I can read music, but it didn’t feel like I had a natural affinity for it. What I had an affinity for was, in those days, was really trying to get these guys organized enough to get the gigs, ha, and to take care of the money side of it and to — because they were musicians and artists and I wasn’t. My art was to provide an infrastructure of organization so that the artists could be where they should be, all at once, with their equipment, ha ha.
Q: Did you ever get in on the studio end of it?
A: Yeah. I produced a record in ’63 or ’64, for Little Ron and the Esquires. We went up and bought studio time and we did a record, put it out on our own and it got on, local black radio stations played it.
Q: They were black?
A: Little Ron was black, the rest of the guys were white. And it was like this integrated band, a very unusual thing for San Diego in those days — as in totally unique! We had the only integrated band. The others, the Executives were all white, Sandy and the Accents were all white, the group that had “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain’’....
Q: The Cascades?
A: The Cascades. Who at the same time were playing a little bowling alley over here on 54th, they were all white. And they were all trying to cover black music but not really incorporating black musicians. So we really made a conscious effort to integrate and to play rhythm and blues, what we called it, and it was a harder-core, uh, it was to the Sandy and the Accents and Cascades-type bands as the Stones were to the Beatles. We would play Ray Charles, “What’d I Say,’’ in addition to playing the current hits, “Louie Louie’’ and that sort of thing.
Q: Well, “Louie Louie’’ and a lot of that stuff, y’know the pre-British Invasion, early British Invasion days, was basically music made by innocents that could occasionally be really good and vulgar. Like you could always depend on there being a “Wooly Bully” or one of these tunes on AM radio a few times a year, and there isn’t even that anymore, right? There’s no more vulgar.
A: Because there’s no more innocence!
Q: Heavy metal is too pompous to be vulgar.
A: There’s no more innocence. And people have been reminded again and again that there may not be any more time for either vulgarity or innocence because they may have to worry where their next meal is coming from. And this has a chastening effect!
Q: Meaning, for bands, they’d better study the demographics of their audience, uh, and get regular gigs ... that if they’re gonna be musicians, it has to be for profit at an early stage.
A: It’s become like politics. The candidate is coiffed in and educated in the program to the fine tuning of what the polls tell the candidate's handlers the public wants to hear and see. And the rock group is packaged in the same way.
Q: Yeah, which is half of why it’s all over. Anyway, in the late ’60s, when you were doing shows at the time you were going to law school, that was at a point where finally American white bands were, uh, they were making a more vital music than the Cascades and whatnot had been making.
A: No question. In 1966, uh, ’66 or ’67, I was at Santa Barbara, a junior in college, and I got appointed as the head of all social programs of, like guest speakers, the concerts, the dances and the whole thing, the social program put on by the associated student body. And that year we spent about 175 thousand, which was about six times more than anybody’d spent on that campus to that point, real money in those days. And we did Ray Charles, the Doors, we did a concert with Cream right after their Fresh Cream album came out, we did the San Francisco bands the first time they’d been that far south. When Janis Joplin was with Big Brother, for instance, we had them together, we had Quicksilver Messenger Service, their first out-of-Bay gig was at Santa Barbara in ’68, ’67. And a whole list of ’em ... as well as some things I thought were interesting, Dave Brubeck and some other things like that, but I basically, after Monterey, after the Bop Festival where I got introduced to all those people, most of whom are now dead, I basically became the entrepreneur who was willing to take these people out of their local successful contexts — the Doors in L.A., the Airplane in San Francisco — and of course they were really starting to jump. 1 took them on these college tours where we, and Jim Pagni helped at the beginning, and then I got off on my own. And in ’68, when I moved to San Francisco, we had about 85 colleges that we had done business with in terms of packaging groups and dances and concerts. Sometimes we’d do them on our own in terms of promoting, other times we just sold them to the student bodies there, and it was a hectic, incredible business with tremendous ups and downs, uh, tremendous stress, and here I was going to law school, trying to do this, and I’m glad I was young when I, ha ha, there was tremendous energy involved.
Q: And at the same time there was an anti-war movement intersecting the music scene. To what extent did that enter your life?
A: Well, of course I was right in the middle of it at the time, I was right in that generation that was going off to war, and I was in the middle of a city that was having the, I think, the biggest impact on defining the opposition to that war — mostly from the left. The opposition being you shouldn’t be involved in the first place, what the hell are we doing in the middle of a civil war, and the agrarian reformers like Ho Chi Minh were just simply nationalists and this communist bugaboo was nonsense. And I kind of was coming to it from the right, ha, I felt at the time that Ho Chi Minh was clearly just a puppet of Soviet colonialism and was going to be allowed to take over all of Vietnam as a colony of Russia, that if we were going to defeat that, we were gonna have to be a lot more hard-core about it than we were prepared to be. And if we were just in the war to fight out some Korea-type stalemate. I wanted no part of it.
Q: You didn’t have any sense of the opposition basically being people who refused to be asked to die?
A: Oh yeah, oh sure, there were lots of people for whom there was really nothing worth dying for. And I felt that was the ultimate bankruptcy of the human spirit. If you have nothing in your mind that’s worth dying for, then you might as well die yourself.
Q: Well, essentially they didn’t wanna die on the dotted line.
Q: So you had some sympathy for that root of opposition?
A: Yeah I did. I knew all those people, I was involved of course in the law school, we shut down the law school in the Cambodian bombing. I was president of the third-year class when that happened, we chanted, “Give peace a chance!’’ on the steps of, it was the first time the school had been shut down since it started, it was the oldest law school west of the Mississippi. And I had a great feeling that merged, I mean the left and right merged by 1970, but the feeling that whether you were opposed to the war because you thought we shouldn’t have been there in the first place or you were opposed to it because you were pissed off at the fact that we were in it, that an American president was having American boys die in a war that he was unprepared to win for the first time in our history, whichever angle you were coming at it from, you were arriving at the same logical conclusion: This war is not worth fighting in, it’s not worth dying for.
Q: You didn’t think that Johnson in sending hundreds of thousands over there wanted to win? Or just didn’t know tactically how?
A: Oh, he clearly did not want to win. In my view. I could be historically wrong. I’m just stating what my view was at the time. That it was clear to me that he had lost his nerve, he didn’t know what winning meant, and he wasn’t prepared tactically to achieve it. But I’m really a student of history and there’s no, and as Clausen would say, there’s no small wars. If you’re gonna get into a war, and of course that’s the big question of whether Jack Kennedy would’ve gotten us into the war, but I think he’d have won it. If you’re gonna get into a war, you don’t get into a war for a stalemate or a loss. Because the problem is not that war, that’s not the issue. The issue is then the adversary you have to face in the next ten wars, because the Soviet Union was nothing but emboldened and, uh, and certainly enriched by the experience of taking on the United States of America and its troops directly through proxy forces and beating us.
Q [too slow on the draw to notice the contradiction between “directly’’ and “proxy,” and too possum-playing polite to observe that he must mean Clausewirz (Karl von; 1780-1831; author of Vom Kriege)]: But did you have these specific, uh, did your politics have this specific shape that early?
A: Yeah, it did.
Q: ’Cause to some extent I’m guessing that you have an emotional tenor which — you’re a macho guy — and that to some extent a lot of this can be seen as an extension of your feelings. More than your reading of history and letters. Is this possible?
A: Well, it’s possible. I mean, let others do the psychoanalysis. But I’ve been a student of history.
Q: I’m wondering, though, if your reading since then, if your intellect has caught up with your hormones and heart — or if you’re saying that they were already neck and neck at the time.
A: Well, I think they were neck and neck. I was as emotional as any other person of age 20, y’know, vitally committed and idealistic and youthful in every sense of the word. And if we could have a. I’m completely in sympathy with the notion that if we could have a world without war, for instance through the application of a real understanding of the ecology, of the planet, it seemed to me that was a higher plane to get all the human race onto than the plane we had been on for several hundreds of thousands of years. And then what I really got caught up in, rather than the war movement one way or the other, although I subsequently worked for Pete McCloskey, who was trying to unhorse Nixon in ’72 ... but before that, in ’69, I got caught up in the environmental movement. And this was really my great passion, because I felt that an understanding of the natural environment, the ecology of the planet, would inevitably lead to a much more sophisticated vision of the role of the human race, the role of the planet itself within the greater universe, than the kind of silliness, when it came right down to it, of different kinds of human beings fighting each other, ha! There were a lotta larger truths involved.
Q: Was this at the time of the first Earth Day, or maybe the only Earth Day?
A: Right, the only Earth Day, yeah. And it triggered, got triggered by something that happened very close to home. Right after I’d left Santa Barbara and I went back to see it, there was the big blowout of the oil platform in Santa Barbara. And that, because I'd known the beaches so intimately, I'd surfed all the beaches, I dove in the channel, I was out to the Channel Islands, I knew the area like the back of my hand and loved it because of its natural beauty. And to see the oil companies have the gall to say it was their right, and to search for oil so we could run our stupid cars, to destroy that, a priceless resource that had taken millions and millions of years to evolve, just seemed to me to be absolute nonsense, and I went on the warpath. I was a, an activist, truly an activist in the environmental movement. I joined a bunch of organizations, I was in on meetings, I spent a great deal of time on it, and I got appointed by Wally Hickel, who was Secretary of the Interior under Nixon in the first administration, to the Student Council on Pollution and the Environment — SCOPE — which was kind of an advisory group on this whole new activism. And I became an intern to the president of the Sierra Club in 1970 and worked on lawsuits, the first environmental lawsuits in the state. I helped marginally, very marginally, in the drafting of some of the language that went into the 1972 Coastal Initiative and got involved in the political expression of these environmental values, and that’s really what dominated my own thinking at that point. It still has a tremendous role in my thinking now. If you’re gonna get beyond war, the way to do it, it seems to me, is a greater recognition of the futility and stupidity of it — ha ha! — in the context of ecology.
Q: And looking back, do you think that any corners have really, significantly been turned to reverse the way the environment has been treated in the larger scheme?
A: Unfortunately no, there’s probably a J-curve at work here, as the economists would say. As we discover the first part of our predicament, we get even worse news, because we discover the rest of it. I think from the standpoint of what we felt happened to the birds because oil was covering their feathers in 1969, we now know that ozone is being depleted from the atmosphere. The level of threat that we’re talking about has increased so much that I think we’re only beginning to realize the seriousness of the impact on man, and the probable self-extinction if we don't do something much more drastic than we’ve been doing. I think our turn to an information society in the use of computers and away from the gross waste of natural resources to produce industrial products is probably the first inkling of a trend to survival which I think obviously mankind will turn to. I mean, we will not allow ourselves to become extinct. So I think there’s — this is too Marxist perhaps! — but there’s an inevitability about that.
Q: See, like my view is that, uh, the poem I write about all this stuff is that the world has probably been over for some time now, that too many men have become machines — speaking of computers — and are no longer men, that their “survival” will just be a function of the nature of the mechanism as it changes, uh, to which they plug themselves, or are forced to plug themselves, in.
Q: I think people have been terminally dehumanized, certainly “denaturized,” and don’t quite know it.
A: Well, but there’s no survival value in that philosophy.
Q: But all I’m saying is it just makes different the types of necessities, the requirements for altering its course. It’s different from dealing with people qua mammals. I think that people are no longer guided by their own nervous systems, uh, nearly as much as they used to be.
A: Oh, no question about that.
Q: I mean the days when rock and roll could work to be a liberating factor, because it worked directly on the central nervous system, I don’t know that enough people have central nervous systems anymore.
A: Well, that’s right, they’ve been augmented. Perhaps supplanted in your view. Well... I guess there’s always two ways of looking at things. You can look at the world in a pessimistic way or you can look at it in an optimistic way. And, uh, if you think everything that happens is good, not in a Pollyannaish way, just in the sense that it’s another way that you can reach out and expand your understanding and knowledge and so forth, then things are gonna work out, I really think. On the other hand, going back to the ’60s left, doomsayers like Michael Harrington for instance, Michael Harrington’s work would seem to indicate that by this time the world would be starving, there would be terminal warfare in all, if not, if nuclear annihilation had not already taken place, because of the intentions of the superpowers, and that socialism was the road to prosperity. Well, all three of those, that were commonly held assumptions of the ’60s, are absolute hogwash in the 1980s, all three of them are absolutely wrong.
Q: Well, I think in fact that all three of them, certainly the first two, have been used by superpowers as scare contexts so that people swallow anything short of their own annihilation, their own impoverishment. If people are afraid of being nuked, afraid of starving, of another Depression, they’ll accept a lotta shit, don’t you think? That in fact every administration I can think of since these terms became currency has used them as universal scare tools...
A: No question about it.
Q: ... to the point where a lot of environmental, a lot of industrial complicity in the destruction of the environment is based on industrialists assuming they’re gonna be nuked so let’s profit now, right? It works on the whole clientele.
A: It certainly happens. But on the other hand, I think if you look at the kinds of, for instance the way chemicals were produced in the 1960s, and the sorts of things that were dumped in streams, it’s not done anymore. Not in the United States.
Q: Really? That’s news to me.
A: Well, the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969. You go back and look at the Cuyahoga River today, they’re just not dumping there.
Q: That’s the Cuyahoga River. What about all these toxic dumpsites leaking into water, into the gene pool?
A: No question. And that’s the heritage of all the stupidity of those generations, but I mean are people still putting things in 55-gallon drums and dumping them in a landfill? They are not. Now, y’know the fact is that those kinds of chemical processes are resulting in a lot more recycling. The stuff that was put in 55-gallon drums we’re now sophisticated enough to take out and put into new products ...
Q: Like into food?
A: We put it into food, for instance. Ha! Chickens, you know what a chicken is these days? Incredible, they never touch the ground anymore. I go to Mexico just to eat chicken, ’cause chickens that touch the ground impress me!
Next week: Thousands more wds. from Roger's lips! From the hip! A real trip!