Traveling to Chicago in the winter you expect snow, ice, and bitter gray skies. We had mild temperatures and lots of sunshine! One day at Half Price Books, I picked up the UK Granta edition of Elif Batuman’s The Possessed, and also a copy of Franz Kafka’s Paradoxes and Parables, in the 1961 Shocken paperback edition. I noticed an old card and folded piece of paper in the Kafka, which I thought deserved further research. To my amazement, I found tucked into the Kafka book two bits of New York beatnik history! First, there was a folded flyer for a performance at Caffe Cino, the famous alternate theatre run by Joe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street. Caffe Cino Flyer - May 20th 1962 Joe Cino (1931-1967), originally from Buffalo, New York, opened the cafe theatre in 1958, creating what is now considered to be the first off off Broadway theatre in New York. The venue, which had no real license to be used as a theatre, was always in trouble with the law, and somehow survived by running impromptu events with no publicized schedule. Finding this actual flyer for a performance at Caffe Cino, was intriguing. The director of the two Ionesco pieces was Roberta Sklar, who apparently was the co-director of Jean-Claude Van Italie’s 1968 production of “THE SERPENT.” There is a video documentary about this play on Youtube in three parts: 1 2 3 The performers at Caffe Cino that night were Rob Reigler and A. J. Reigler, and the lighting was by Louis Torrey. Was that Louis Torrey any relation to John Torrey, Joe Cino’s lover, who some suspect was responsible for the 1965 fire that nearly destroyed the theatre? Well, a lot of these details are no doubt lost to history, but it is still amusing to find tid-bits like this floating up from the memory well. The other amazing find in this copy of Kafka’s Parables and Paradoxes, was an original “discount card” from Limelight Bookshop!
Reading Clay Shirky’s latest thought-piece on the demise of newspapers poses for all of us the interesting question: what sort of social / professional / technological model will we develop to replace print newspapers when they all go belly up? Shirky makes a pretty solid demonstration of the facts regarding the transition from those inky presses (thrashing out miles of newsprint every morning) to a new paradigm, but he is careful not to speculate too precisely about what form that future paradigm will take. Indeed, the whole point he is making is that we are now living through a revolution in which print media is being overthrown. During these last five hundred years, the cost of print production and the profits made on the distribution of printed objects was tightly bound up with dissemination of knowledge, art, technology, and of information of all kinds. Now, with the advent of the Internet and the speedy exchange of digital objects of all kinds, the flawless reproduction of information-laden media objects is no longer bound to the burdens of physical products that must be moved through space. The near-frictionless pathways that our digital infrastructure provides, has creatively destroyed the entire centuries-old paradigm of manufacturing, selling, and regulating the rights for commerce for media such as books, recordings, images, at least in the material manifestions that we have come to know and love.
Reading Famous Long Ago, My Life and Hard Times with Liberation News Service brings to mind the fact that struggle is never finished. Yes, we need to have some hope, we need to stand up and cheer every day when another decent, humanizing, and reasonable executive order is delivered by the Obama White House… and yet, we also have to remember that there is a reason why we still need change in the first place. The memoir by the unlikely hero, Raymond Mungo, and the ghost of his alter-ego, Marshall Bloom, is riddled with the brazen and ridiculous posturing of green college grads and their acid-dropping cohorts who are hell-bent on saving the world. And yet, it is also true to itself, to its own ingenuity, self-deceptions, and aspirations. In a way, their self-determination to create the alternate news service, the non-lapdog, non-suckup, non-yesMan, non-corporate shill news service; where independent bylines gathered together under a loose umbrella called freedom of speech and freedom of the press, was noble indeed.
Only by chance did I notice that Lloyd Dangle, cartoonist and creator of Troubletown, is currently tramping across America on a 20th Anniversary Book Tour, celebrating two decades of ceaseless trouble! How can it be that most people know Dangle only because of his Airborne packages, and not for his amazing comics?
Having searched high and low for my fine friend, John C. Pray, aka Sanjuro, I’ve just about given up hope of finding him. Repeated scourings of the net turn up no hits, so I’ve decided to provide some of my own in the hopes that _he_ might find _me_ one of these days. Sanjuro was a real one-of-a-kind. Surrealist, Haiku poet, social critic, Japanophile, former alcoholic and all-around gonzo journalist of the dust-blasted Albuquerque desert. We met as mutual wage slaves of the Dayton-Hudson Corporation, which owned B. Dalton Booksellers, the Albuquerque branch being New Mexico’s largest bookstore back in 1983. Our co-workers were a bunch of practically (if not verifiably) insane people, including Hugh Callens, Rachel “Moonbat” Dixon, Miss Piggy, Charles Vane, Ben Porter, Walt Carpenter & Marty Dusty Rose Snapless Bird. We all lived on the nervous edge of the 70s, which had not quite been extinguished down in New Mexico, apprehensive about the technology that seemed to be creeping in from the periphery. B. Dalton installed modems to send all the sales information to HQ up in Minneapolis every night, which seemed pretty futuristic to me back then. Charles Vane was given a primordial beta testing version of the original Macintosh computer, something like a bastard cross between a toaster and mini-tv set. I drew a doodle on it using MacPaint. Sanjuro and I frequented the happy hour at Japanese Kitchen which was barely fifty meters from the bookstore. We swapped tales of motorcycling, writing, psychedelic experiences and journalistic feats of derring-do. Sanjuro’s famous incident was the statewide media scoop of Patty Hearst’s capture in 1975 on KUNM radio. “Out of my way!” he shouted, thrashing the DJ onto the floor and sweeping the needle across the turntable with a fistful of teletype paper. “Breaking News! Patty Hearst, captive of, or conspirator with, the Symbionese Liberation Army, has been captured in Los Angeles.” What a moment! And how many gin fizzes, tequila sunrises, and straight up shots of Wild Turkey followed… as the years rolled by and the realization sank in: nobody gives a damn about politics, about revolution, about savage covert operations taking place in forsaken backwaters of Central America or in the fetid jungle swamps of American corporate boardrooms. Another round of bourbon whiskey and let it all ride on the twitching pony with the green nostrils and pupils as big as bowling balls! Because, damn it, if this flea-bitten horse can’t win a race at the State Fair in New Mexico, then it will have to be beer at Okie’s and green chile pizza at Jack’s for the rest of our stinking lives! What a treasure it is to have a political junkie, poet, and Master of Art History as a drinking buddy! Of course the alcohol nearly did him in and he had to kick it, but not until he had filtered a decade of hard stuff through his kidneys. And no thanks to the Hawaiian bartender at Japanese Kitchen who was always giving him freebies! For reasons of my own I had as much of a drinking problem as the next guy, but then again, I was already a haggard minimum wage-earning father by the age of 22, whereas John C. Pray was a single guy who managed to invent his own kind of drunken bushido.