Street, 35-year-old Hells Angel, Chocolate George, died in a collision with a car right in the middle of the block and in front of the very people who really liked him for his Cossack general's appearance, his Russian fur hat, and his overall fearless, friendly attitude toward everyone, except would-be tough guys or bullies whom he crushed. His funeral-parlor wake was attended by truckloads of street people, and he was buried with an impressive honor guard of two hundred of his Angel brothers from all over the state on their bikes, and with two quarts of chocolate milk in his coffin, so he wouldn't get thirsty wherever he went. Afterwards, the people had a party in Golden Gate Park where ten thousand gathered to wail Chocolate George goodbye, and a memorial band composed of members of all the rock groups played "Didn't He Ramble!" Emmett arrived with the Free Food pickup truck full of a half ton of shaved snow ice covering a thousand cans of beer. The beer was drunk and the ice used for a snowball fight in August. Then it was over, and he was gone, and it wasn't ever gonna be the same again.
Soon after that, another important Haight Street figure and friend of Emmett's was reported missing until his body was found in a sleeping bag beneath a cliff by the Point Reyes lighthouse where it was thrown by the person or persons who murdered him with a 9mm., P-38, automatic pistol for the rnoney in his pocket. Super Spade was known to carry a lot of bread around, and that night he supposedly was holding onto $so,ooo to pay for a load of grass. But the simple armed-robbery-murder theory wasn't the way most people who knew him thought Super Spade died. They preferred to think he'd been snuffed by Eastern Mafia hit men who were sent out by the syndicate to get rid of anybody who could be an obstacle to their eventual takeover of the Haight-Ashbury territory. The only thing wrong with that bit of speculation was that the Mafia doesn't sell marijuana, and that's all Super Spade ever did. His murder, however, and the subsequent rumors of imminent mob control of the Haight caused a whole, new emigration of older hipsters to the countryside in search of some utopian dream that wasn't there.
There followed a whole string of senseless murders which usually involved some form of torture or bodily mutilation. The first of these was naturally headlined in the press as the "Psychedelic Murder," and the killer was caught driving a car with the cleanly severed, trimly stitched arm of the victim Iying in the luggage area behind the back seat. Another was described by the papers as a Sadistic Orgy Killing," and it was. A nineteen-year-old girl was
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dragged from her Haight-Ashbury apartment by seven men and three women who stripped and stomped her, scrawling obscene graffiti-slogans all over her nude body with lipstick, before they kicked her head in.
Then the news of the "First Longhaired Hippie Bank Robber" was headlined on the front pages and had everyone laughing, but also bitching that ". . . if the guy had to be the first, why the hell didn't he really impress the motherfuckers, instead of only getting away with twelve hundred and ninety-five dollars? Shit!" Beneath smaller headlines on the back pages there were stories about how the Haight was changing from a place of smiles and the "comfortably poor," to a normal, tension-filled, terror-stricken ghetto in which the peaceful "flower children" were no longer safe in the wake of increasing violence and simmering hostility.
The Summer of Love ended on the thumbs of thousands hitchhiking someplace else, like Charles Manson, or on the welfare rolls for those who wanted to stay in Frisco and stretch their adventures in poverty as far as they could take it. The David Smith Medical Clinic closed again for lack of funds and want of publicity, and the truth of the Haight-Ashbury seemed to be making itself known now that the "flower children" had gone back to school. It just wasn't what it used to be, "the old Hashbury," one columnist noted, and the cops knew it. More than anyone, they created the overall harder reality of what was left of the "Psychedelic Community" with their harassing "haul-ins" and "sweep-ups," and they were going to get exactly what they deserved. The police commissioner screamed that it had become "a cesspool," right before the first bomb exploded near the park police station and the "law and order" candidate, Alioto, was elected mayor of the city.
The Hun, picking up on an opportunity to produce some good guerrilla theater, organized an appropriate street event for the strangling Haight, entitled the Death of Hippie. There was an orderly funeral procession of pallbearers carrying a coffin filled with hippie paraphernalia such as beads, flowers, hair, and so on, and followed by a large crowd of veiled mourners. The wooden coffin draped in black crepe paper was placed on top of a pyre and set aflame while a bugler played taps and ushers handed out black-bordered remembrance cards to the assembled which read:
Once upon a time, a man put on beads and became a hippie--Today
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the hippie takes off his beads and becomes a man--a freeman! Leaving behind the final remains of "Hippie--the devoted son of Mass media and the boundaries are down. San Francisco is free! Now free! The truth is OUT, OUT, OUT!
A full description of the Death of Hippie production was carried on the front pages of most newspapers nationwide, and even the underground press couldn't resist calling "Freeman," a "Freebie." But the Hun's event did accomplish something of no small import. It influenced the two brothers and co-owners of the Psychedelic Shop to close it up forever, leaving a sign in their front window advising whoever that "Nebraska needs you more."
Soon after the "hippie" street population thinned out a bit, gangs of young, diddy-boppin', black bloods from all over the city began vamping through Haight-Ashbury seeking out "flower children" as prey. But most of them had already gone, making the women of the community the only easy marks for the black youths' blind reactionary acts of rape and robbery against anyone white. Their targets were always the weak, helpless and harmless girls who still thought of flowers as lovely and were attacked simply because they were accessible in the low-income neighborhood. This made the men of the community plenty fucking angry, and there was a series of fights, stabbings and shootings, until it looked like the whole goddamn thing was going to erupt into a race war with the "longhaired, shaggie honkies" led by the Frisco Hells Angels on one side against the "back-stabbin', women-killin' niggers" led by some cats from the Fillmore who identified themselves as "Black Panthers." The cops intended to stand on the sidelines and wait for everyone to beat everyone else to death or at least into exhaustion, before they moved themselves in for the overkill of both sides.
Emmett could see the righteousness of a massive assault on the bloods who were prowling the neighborhood, but he was confused as to who the Fillmore "Panthers" really were. So he called the party's Oakland headquarters and talked about what was going down with Bobby Seale and David Hilliard who put everything in perspective by revealing that those Fillmore dudes weren't Panthers at all, but just some paper cats running around, trying to mau-mau some loose chan~e from the bearded, white, liberal, beaded mer
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chants and rip off whatever else they could from the hip community.They promised to make everything clear to their black brothers and sisters in the next publication of their well-read newspaper, and also issue a warning to those young blacks who were causing all the trouble. The Panther party did this because they wanted to avoid a racist confrontation between their people and the longhairs, not because they were protecting the "hippies" who were perfectly capable of defending themselves by now.
The Black Panther party's statement was printed the following week and picked up and republished on the front pages of the city's newspapers. It was the only reason that open warfare between the two peoples didn't occur. The phony Panthers who were strutting around the Haight stopped after they read this: "Warning to socalled Paper Panthers--stop vamping on the hippies. They are not your enemy, black brothers. Leave them alone or the Black Panther Party will deal with you!"
It was around the same time that the inevitable happened to the man who'd originated and maintained the Black Panthers and who became a dynamic heroic figure to the young people of his community as soon as he began standing up to the intimidation of the Oakland police department. To those black youngsters, Huey P. wasn't just another "bad" brother off the block--he was a "bad" brother who not only was unafraid of the cops, but openly defiant of them. Every time the kids saw him, they asked him one question over and over, again and again: "When you gonna off a pig, Huey P.?l" "Yea, Huey P., when you goin' blow one o' them oinks away?! When you goin' to snuff one o' them motherfuckers, huh, Huey P.? When? When? When, Huey P.? When?"
The kids were a chorus, chanting the same refrain whenever he appeared anywhere. A refrain from a song that was burning with rage inside of him, ever since he realized that men who brutalized other men weren't men, they were animals. They were pigs! And one night, two members of that species appeared behind the car he was riding in and began to harass him, using the power of their uniforms as a badge, a license to insult the humanity of a human being, just because they felt like it and just because he was the uppityist black nigger they or the country had seen since Malcolm X.
When they pulled the car over and told him to get out, he did. They had guns in their hands. Huey P. had a book in his, a bound copy of the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. One of them shot Huey P. in the stomach, and then Huey P. some
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how killed one of them and wounded the other. At least that's what they said happened and what most people believed, because of the way Huey P. had sung his song and the way the young black people's chorus had chanted that one phrase, "Kill the pig! Kill the pig!" until there was practically no one who wanted to believe that he hadn't actually done what they said he'd done in the manner they insisted he had. Almost no one; and possibly even including Huey P. Newton himself.
By then, everyone who was into anything in the streets of the Haight-Ashbury was packing some sort of heavy caliber weapon; either a blade like a machete, or a sawed-off rifle, or simply a pistol. Everyone! Emmett drove around with a piece beneath the dashboard of the Free Food pickup truck. He'd fixed up a tight little rack under the glove compartment to hold his .38, and it fit perfectly and was always there, firmly braced, but forever ready to be put to use in the defense of his life, liberty or pursuit of happiness.
One day a strange thing happened which afforded Emmett a golden opportunity to scare the living shit out of a man who might have been and still may be elected President of the United States. It was late in the afternoon, and he had just finished delivering most of the Free Food with only a few more stops to make before he completed his rounds, when he turned south of Buena Vista Park and drove down to Broderick Street, where there was a giant crowd gathered in front of Huckleberry House, the referral center for runaways. The street being blocked by the throng, he pulled over to have a look at what was taking place.
As soon as he stepped from the pickup, he heard someone calling to him from atop the front stairs of Huckleberry House, insisting, "Emmett! Emmett Grogan! Come on up here! Come on!" It was one of the ministers and leading officials of Glide Church which administered the referral center, and Emmett did what he was told and went up the stairs and inside where he was introduced, with the usual reference to his being a "legendary myth," to none other than the then Governor of Michigan, George Romney, and his pert, little wife Lenore, both of whom were touring the country to test the water for his upcoming campaign as a candidate in the Republican primary elections for President of the whole goddamn country~
Emmett was impressed when George Romney told him that he'd been hearing about his fine charitable work among the poor and misguided youth who found themselves alone and hungry and away from home on the streets of Haight-Ashbury, and he had the utmost
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respect for the alms-giving services that Emmett and his fellow "What do you call them? Oh, yes, Diggers!" were doing for the young people of the nation who strayed to San Francisco.
A coincidence popped into Emmett's mind, and he couldn't pass up the chance to see if he could pull off a fabulous score--the kidnapping of the governor and his wife. In the most sincere and charming tone of voice he could muster, Emmett informed George and Lenore Romney that coincidentally, at that very moment, there were more than one hundred Indians from his home state of Michigan eating in the park with the "hippies," and it would be wonderful and extremely thoughtful of the governor and first lady to stop by and visit with the people from home. He didn't have to say anything about what good publicity it would be for the folks back in the Midwest. The good governor had already weighed its value, and Emmett watched as it registered with a click of his eyes and a cluck of his tongue.
What happened next, Emmett didn't exactly expect, but immediately picked up on it. The governor threw his arms around him and said with a smile, "Emmett, suppose you take me and my wife over there to meet with your people and the Indians from our state. What about it?"
"My truck's right out front, Governor, and I'd be more than happy to oblige. In fact, sir, it'd be an honor."
The three of them moved quickly outside, and George Romney helped his wife, Lenore, into the cab of Emmett's Free Food pickup, just like a midwestern farmer would've helped his wife into a pickup truck, all dressed up for Sunday and on their way to church. Maybe that's when Emmett decided not to do what he didn't, and then again, maybe not.
Besides the three of them, everybody else was confused; the state troopers, the city cops, the FBI, the reporters, the Methodist ministers, everyone, and the only thing they all could think of doing was to go along with the three, in the flatbed open back of the pickup truck. They all started climbing onto the rear of the truck at once. There were over a hundred of them, all fighting for a place to stand, with the reporters pushing and shoving each other but remaining very careful to avoid nudging any of the FBI men, who were already standing up straight in each of the four corners of the truck's rear. They had everything covered.
The half-ton pickup was just about to collapse under the weight of the maddening crowd, when Emmett yelled to the governor to
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"please tell all them suckers to get off o' the truck, Governor, sir, 'cause it's the only one still running good 'nough to deliver the Free Food, 'n they're gonna break it down for keeps!" George Romney didn't hesitate for a moment. He stood right out up there on the running board and told all them guys to "get down out of this man's truck, immediately! Can't you see what you're doing to it? He needs this pickup more than any of you need a ride, so get off, 'n get off now! You hear me?" Then he waited until every last one of them got out of the vehicle, including the heat, before he sat back down in the front seat, slammed the door closed, and put his arm 'round his wife, Lenore. And maybe that was when Emmett decided not to do it.
A man in a blue suit and sunglasses popped his face into the window on the driver's side and asked where they were going. Emmett looked at the governor, and the governor looked back at him, asking, "Where are we going?" Emmett answered, 'Golden Gate Park. We'll meet them there!"
Emmett must have been at least two or three blocks away when the security man realized that Golden Gate Park was a very, very big place and turned back to ask "Where in Golden Gate Park?" only to find that they had already gone with no one following them or anyone knowing where they went except him, and all he knew was that they were going to Golden Gate Park which is thousands and thousands of acres square and extremely easy to get lost in, and practically impossible to find someone in if you have no idea in what direction they're headed. The guy got sick, and hysterically hurried the Greyhound coach carrying the governor's entourage of reporters to Golden Gate Park where he dispersed the cops on motorcycles and in squadrols throughout the huge area, ordering them to search every goddamn inch, "But find the governor!'~
Emmett had purposely not specified where in Golden Gate Park, because they didn't drive to Golden Gate Park. At least, not what was considered by most to be the Park proper, but was known as its Panhandle. It was to that long strip of green ground that extends about a dozen blocks from the park's entrance between the two main avenues in and out of town, that Emmett brought George Romney and his wife to meet not a hundred Indians from Michigan, but one Indian, who was or claimed to be a hundred years old, and about five hundred stone-street-freaks and crazies who didn't like the governor very much.
It was only a short, ten-block drive from Huckleberry House to
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that place in the Panhandle where the Free Food had been eaten every day at 4:oo P.M. for over a year by then. But Emmett didn't go directly there. Instead, he swung around in the opposite direction to make sure none of the cops or the Greyhound would find or catch up to his '~6 green Chevy pickup truck, because he wanted to be alone with Governor George Romney and his petite wife for a while or maybe even longer than that, but definitely for as long as it took him to display what he knew about power.
It only took Emmett a couple of sentences to stop the governor's enthusiastic attempt to appear sincerely concerned about the plague he considered Haight-Ashbury to be and to halt the stream of hollow questions that were sure to follow.
"Governor, do you always take these kinds of risks?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you don't know me. Nobody knows me. And yet here you are with your wife, being driven in a pickup truck by me without even knowin' where you're goin' and with no one following us to make sure we ever get there. You see what I mean?"
The governor abruptly turned his head around to look through the cab's rear window back along Oak Street to see if what he just heard was true. And it was. There was no Greyhound bus and no cops anywhere behind them or even within sight.
"Technically speaking, Governor 'n Mrs. Romney, I've just kidnapped both of you. Don't worry about it, though. I ain't gonna do nothin' but talk to you for a minute 'n try to explain something that I think I ought to. Then we'll go eat some corn on the cob with your home folks, okay? Good. Now listen careful, 'cause we only got a minute or two, 'n don't interrupt me until I finish, because I want to say it to you."
Emmett shot a look at the two of them and saw that they were no longer smiling, and the way both of their faces were set told him that they knew whatever happened next was entirely up to him-- which was the thing Emmett wanted to show the governor about power.
He talked plain and clear for two solid minutes and one red light about how there will sooner or later no longer be any need for politicians like Governor Romney, because the people, meaning those people who didn't already know and needed to know more than anyone, were going to realize, understand, be educated to the truth, the fact that politics wasn't supposed to be the business of just a few who claimed to be representing the many. It wasn't supposed
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to be a business! "Politics is life! All our lives, 'n not no profession like you guys make it out to be, 'n want to keep it, so you won't lose your jobs!" And he went on to explain how and why the professional politicians' days were numbered and the games they played in every country in the world, except maybe one, were going to be phased into extinction.
"You see, what you got sitting next to you here ain't just a man, a plain old homo sapiens; he's a political animal. And a political animal is anyone who knows whatever the score is and still refuses to submit to someone else's rule. Anyone who wants to live his own life, and be the only one to control the way he wants to live without messin' over anyone else's right to live the way they damn well want, and vice versa. Now in order to become a political animal, you gotta understand that politics isn't just everyone's business, it's every one of our lives, and it's never been anyone's vote!
"After learnin' that, then you have to figure out how you can get hold of enough power to live your life the way you want. And you can't get that kind of power by making a whole lotta money, or by stealing a whole lotta money, or by joining a club that allows you to transcend your blues once a week, or by getting yourself into public office where you can exercise control over the way others live their lives. No, that's all make-believe. It does satisfy quite a few people, but it's never gonna be able to satisfy a whole lotta young people who are just now growing up, and a whole bunch more whose fathers and mothers haven't even met yet. And that goes for all the races, all over the world.
"We're gonna get the power to live our lives the way we want through revolution. And not the same kind of revolution like it's always been, where the few rich people are killed and their property taken away and redistributed among the ones who get there first. Ours is going to be a revolt against power and against leaders and against property. We want it to be free, autonomous, and classlessly equal! All of it! And how we achieve that will be entirely up to you and those like you, because we only believe in defending ourselves when attacked, and we don't want anything from you, except to be left alone! We meaning those people sitting on the grass out your window, over there."
Emmett pulled the truck into a space alongside the Panhandle and told Governor George Romney and his wife, Lenore, that they were now where they should be, and he had nothing more to say, except "Let's go 'n eat some corn!" The man and his wife stepped
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out onto the grass and began walking towards the seated crowd, but before Emmett himself got out of the truck, he tugged his revolver from its brackets and called for the governor to return to the pickup for a second. When he did, Emmett pointed to the .38 Iying on the seat inside the cab and asked Governor Romney if he'd forgotten something.
"No . . .
"Well someone did, and it sure looks like they're not fooling," Emmett said, as he led the governor back to his wife and toward the hundred-year-old Indian from Michigan and the five hundred or so people who were going to keep the governor and his wife in the state of near panic that Emmett had induced. He decided, however, not to exaggerate their panic by holding them, say, for the exchange of unquestionably political prisoners like John Sinclair, a Detroit poet sentenced to ten years for one marijuana cigarette and his radical, political leadership, and many, many others, too numerous to list. Emmett didn't feel like it.
As soon as Emmett moved the governor and his wife into the center of the still-seated circle of a thousand faces, he introduced them, got someone to get each of them a cob of hot, buttered corn, and left them standing there, all alone, to be terrified by the intense sincerity of the contempt that each of those young, surrounding faces had for him, Governor George Romney, and for her, his wife Lenore. The two of them were forced to stand there for twenty minutes heavy with abuse and accusations regarding "his" and "her" roles in the continuing Vietnam genocidal war, and in the police riot in Detroit, and in the Algiers Motel executions, and everything else that the political animality of those young people told them the governor and his first lady were responsible for, or had participated in.
A squad car noticed the scene and radioed to the others that they'd found Governor Romney. The Michigan state police with their siren blaring led the Greyhound bus down Oak Street to the spot in the Panhandle where the shouting and waving of clenched fists had reached the point where it looked like there was going to be a hanging with somebody having already gone to get the rope. The governor's aides arrived none too soon and whisked him away without so much as a goodbye, but with about a dozen joints that kids shoved in his coat pockets, hoping for god-knows-what to happen.
Emmett hadn't seen any of that go down, but heard about it later from Slim Minnaux whose photo was in all the papers during that
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week, standing tall above the seated crowd pointing his long outstretched arm and a stern finger at Governor George Romney, his face all on fire and his mouth shouting, "J'accuse! J'accuse!"
Emmett hadn't seen any of that because he drove away after leading the good governor and his first lady into the eye of the storm. He left them there alone because he felt he did all he could by delivering them to the Panhandle and, more important, because he had to complete the rest of his rounds to the customers of the Free Food Home Delivery Service.
The pressure that Emmett placed himself under as the Free Food delivery man remained constant, the agony growing more painful whenever his loneliness became almost unbearable and he had to face the fact that all of the psychological and physical punishment he suffered was self-inflicted. He knew it was going to be a hand of solitaire as soon as he picked up the cards and began dealing them to himself. But he never figured on the deck being stacked against him like it was.
There were moments of relief, but they were brief and few and far between. Natural Suzanne came back from El Rito, New Mexico, and set up a place for the both of them in the rear of a vacant storefront in the Mission district. It was good for Emmett to have someone to return to after a full day, driving through the streets of the entire city usually alone. Before Natural Suzanne had made it back to San Francisco, Emmett had been sleeping wherever he ended up on any given night. Those nights were sometimes almost as tiring as the days he spent on the road. So when she arrived, Emmett was very glad to see her and welcomed the chance to pick up where they left off.
The one other significant respite that occurred happened a few months later. Emmett was asked to come East by some people who were connected with San Francisco's Glide Church and some New York foundations who wanted to steer money into the Lower East Side and East Village communities. They wanted Emmett and the Free City Collective's advice on how such a project should be set up and what directions it should take.
Emmett leaped at the chance to get away from picking up, stealing, and delivering Free Food for a while. The women and one or two of the men, like Slim Minnaux, Butcher Brooks and Golden Gloves Davey came through and said that they would keep things going while he was gone. Nobody particularly cared to go East with him, though, because of the same, old, prevailin~ attitude among his
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brothers that Emmett was on a "star trip," and he would cop all the glory for himself once they got to New York. This conclusion of his brothers was legitimate in terms of Emmett's powerful monster ego, but it had no validity at all in point of fact. He had completely honored his vow of anonymity. That wasn't what bothered them, however. What had them always on edge about Emmett was that he had the power to make himself a public hero any time he wanted to, and they just didn't want to believe that he wouldn't.
Apparently, Tumble thought seriously about those same things which were torturing Emmett's mind to insanity, and he decided to go to New York with him. The deal was that they would both watch each other's back and share the burden of doing what had to be done there. The only mistake they made was in bringing along a gun. They should've brought two.
Jerome Rubin, the Cleveland sportswriter turned Berkeley radical, had already joined up with Abbot Hoffman in New York to form the fabulous duo that was going to get them both top billing on the radical vaudeville circuit. About the same time Rubin arrived in the East, Hoffman received a phone call from Emmett telling him to stop using the name "Diggers" as the title of his act and advising him to find another one, which he did with Rubin, Krassner and their wives, and with the help of a camp, memory lane, Eddie Cantor-Busby Berkeley film called Making Whoopee!
The decision to telephone wasn't Emmett's alone, but was reached by most of the people in the Free City Collective. It was based on an outrageously selfish, thirty-page pamphlet that Hoffman had written while he was employed as one of Mayor Lindsay's aides. The pamphlet was entitled Fuck the System, and Abbot was enormously proud of himself for having tricked the city into printing it.
The contents listed the various places where and how adventurers in poverty could have gotten anything from free vegetables and meat to free buffaloes, if the pamphlet hadn't been written. You see, instead of actually doing any of these things to get something for nothing, which he heard about like anyone else who lives in a poor district, Hoffman wrote them down on paper for his own self-aggrandizement as a "Oh, look how hip he is!" hipster. He wrote down the addresses of all the places that poor people in New York City had been hitting for food and other stuff, ever since they existed, and he made it all into a joke. He made a joke out of the way people who didn't choose to be poor got what they needed once in a while to
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make their lives a little easier. He made a joke out of what Emmett and his brothers and sisters took seriously and actually did sixteen hours a day, every day for two years, working to serve the people, of whom they were a part. He made a joke, and those who didn't need any of the things he listed thought it was all very funny, and they laughed and gave Abbot the applause he was searching for. But if he had written a pamphlet like that about where and how people in San Francisco got what they needed for free, the joke would have been on Abbot Hoffman, and he would have been killed just like any other snitch.
Since they were given some money to cover their expenses by those people who wanted their advice, Tumble and Emmett decided to get a large double room at the Chelsea Hotel instead of flopping at someone's pad. They no sooner checked in and entered their room, when the phone rang. The voice on the other end told them that there was a meeting scheduled for later that afternoon in a loft on the Lower East Side, and that everyone whose names the two of them had previously suggested to the man would be there, as well as a few others. After they hung up, Emmett and Tumble went to sleep. It was only eight o'clock in the morning, and they had been up all night on the plane, discussing what would be the best solution for the problem of directing financial energy into the East Village.
At 3 P.M. they arrived at the Second Avenue loft and were greeted by a Methodist minister from San Francisco's Glide Church who showed them upstairs and into a very big room filled with many men and a few women, most of whom didn't like the idea of the two of them coming from the West Coast to tell them how to take care of their business at all. Others remembered Emmett from his last visit East and didn't like him very much. And he didn't like them a whole lot either.
Emmett spoke first and flatly stated that whatever money eventually came into the hip community should be used for "popular," rather than "public," events. "The money should be thought of as energy, and used to create popular alternatives, such as changing the slum environment by getting it cleaned up and painting visuals on the vacant sides of buildings. Now, the point of a popular alternative is that, if there are enough of them around, they will turn the people of the neighborhood on to their own power, and they'll begin to fight for the right to live, instead of quietly dying!"
Tumble said that the money, however it's put to use by the hip
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community, should only be used within the area of the Lower East Side and never outside the neighborhood, "to, say, protest the war or anything else for that matter. Let someone else put up the money for those kinds of events. Let them that own all of it pay for the marches to go exorcise the Pentagon. You keep whatever money you get from these foundations at home, here on the East Side, and use it to produce changes. Changes, not in newsreel footage, but in the way people have been made to live around here! Changes for the better! It's already for the worse!"
Then Emmett took the proposal that he and Tumble had drawn up on the plane, and laid it out for everyone in the room, including those whom they excluded from what they called the "Ten to Fifteen Group." It was a list of fifteen names of men and women who Tumble and Emmett knew were considered, by their East Village peers, capable of handling the kind of energy that sums of money would bring to the area. Emmett read off all fifteen names and explained how the money would flow through the tax-deductible front of the New York City Mission Society before it came around to them and was placed inside whatever type of free money structure they chose to develop among themselves.
When he finished and was satisfied that he had covered everything, Emmett tacked up the paper outlining all that he just said and walked out of the meet with Tumble. As far as the two of them were concerned, all was said and done. The realization of the proposal was entirely up to those people who were sitting in that Second Avenue loft and considered themselves leading members of the community. Apparently, those community "leaders" didn't feel much like doing any leading, because they never took any individual or collective action on the proposed free money structure. Even though there were half a dozen men with signed checks in the inside pockets of their vested suits standing against one of the side walls representing the foundations that wanted to hand the bread over with no strings attached.
Maybe these "leaders" are still sitting around on their asses up in that loft, bullshitting about how "unhip" it is to take money from establishment funds. They could afford to do that. Of course, they never thought of tipping off those who don't have any qualms about taking money from strangers so that someone could have used it.
That night Emmett and Tumble had a heavy falling-out because Emmett borrowed Tumble's gun when he went for a walk alone. At least that was what ticked off the almost violent argument between
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the two men who came on like brothers to everyone else but themselves. What it finally came down to, though, was the old "star trip" number. Both their strong, powerful egos clashed because a team of groupies who hung around the Chelsea slighted Tumble to get next to Emmett. The two of them played "dozens" for a good fucking thirty minutes. It was incredible, but real, and Tumble was right and he split to the airport, catching the next flight back to Frisco, and Emmett, once again, was alone. He got loaded, and around dawn there was a knock on the door to his room. He opened it, half hoping to see Tumble, but it was the pair of groupies who recognized him from the couple of months they spent on the West Coast, they said, before he punched both of them in their faces, just hard enough to keep them from ever saying hello to him again.
The next evening Emmett was still upset about Tumble's leaving. They had both acted like mugs. He turned on the television set to listen to the six o'clock newscast, while he washed and shaved. He was drying himself off when he heard it. The 4:30 movie of that gray New York afternoon was still on the T~,' screen, and he heard a corny line of dialogue he was going to remember. "The only reason friends pat you on the back is to find a place to break it."
Emmett left the tube on to play to an empty room and rode the Chelsea Hotel's slow-poking elevator to the lobby, where he bumped into a woman he knew, and they went into the adjacent El Quixote bar for a drink. They had two, and before he finished his second Southern Comfort, the woman had him red-hot mad with the news of a book that Abbot Hoffman was compiling for publication. According to her, it was all about how Abbot and his Costello friends were everything and did everything that Emmett and his once Digger, now Free City Collective, brothers and sisters were and did and were still doing.
Emmett was stewing with steam over his drink like an out-of-town mark who'd just been taken for all he had. Then he got a flash. He remembered that giant stack of papers he gave to Abbot almost a year before. The pile of papers that Emmett, Coyote, Tumble and, most important, the Hun had written--that were published by the Communication Company in San Francisco and given away free throughout that city.
It was that pile of papers which supplied Abbot Hoffman with all the superficial information and hipster phrases that enabled him to act like he was one of the died-in-the-wool originals. The Hun's pieces were particularly valuable to Hoffman because they gave him
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the key to explaining how everything he did was theater--brilliant, guerrilla theater in the streets.
Emmett hopped into a cab and was knocking on the door of Hoffman's ground-floor apartment at St. Mark's Place within ten minutes. His wife, Anita, answered and was glad to see Emmett, but told him Abbot was in Boston giving a lecture and trying his best to get himself arrested for some misdemeanor or another. Emmett decided to play it cool and try to find the papers that had to be somewhere in the railroad flat. He rapped for a moment with Anita whom he didn't dislike in the least, when the phone rang. It was her husband.
When she finished talking, Emmett took the receiver and asked Abbot how everything was going and listened to the childish enthusiasm of a lightweight who could hardly wait to get himself arrested for jumping over the turnstile in the subway or something.
Emmett was seething, but didn't let on to Abbot. "Oh, by the way, man. You remember those papers I gave you early last spring? Well, I want to give them to Carol what's-her-name, so she can reprint them for the Angry Arts folks. You still got them. Where are they?"
The reply he heard he half expected. Abbot told him that he didn't have them anymore. Somebody took them home to read one night and never brought them back, and he couldn't remember who it was. He went on to say that Emmett could look around the pad if he wanted, but they really weren't there any longer.
Then Emmett blew it and laid it on the line. "Listen, Hoffman, I've been hearin' that you're writing some sort of a book, and I wanna tell you, if you print or paraphrase any of those pieces, especially the Hun's stuff on theater, without saying that you didn't write those words, we're gonna make you answer for it plenty, unnerstand. And we're not going to consider it a misdemeanor either!"
Hoffman came back with words to the effect that it was all "free", wasn't it? So how could he or anyone else steal "free"? Emmett explained as calmly as he could that guys like Abbot could steal "free" and had been doing that ever since he was given those papers, because he made believe that he was what they represented, and what the people who wrote them worked at all the time--"Free!" Abbot answered by saying that he was "free" and that everything he had was "free" and nobody could steal anything from him, because it was all free!
Emmett knew by now that the papers were safely tucked away someplace else and that he wasn't going to get them away from
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Hoffman. So he decided to demonstrate to Abbot how something that's "free" can be stolen and how it feels to have something that's "free" taken.
He asked Abbot whether he was sure that he was "free" and whether everything he had was really "free." Then Emmett mentioned some things around the apartment, like the typewriter that was in front of him and the record player, and Abbot replied that it was all "free," further remarking that Emmett could take anything he wanted. "It's free, because it's yours!" he said.
Emmett hung up and walked to the front room where Abbot Hoffman's wife, Anita, was sitting on a large, cloth-covered mattress that doubled as couch and guest bed. She was watching a movie on television and hadn't heard the telephone dialogue between Emmett and her husband which was good, because she would've thought it was ugly, and it would've upset her. That's the way she was at the time.
Emmett got himself a can of something from the refrigerator and watched the movie and talked with Anita for a while, before he took what he had to take, to show Abbot Hoffman how something "free" could be stolen and how it felt to have it taken.
The next morning Emmett made a reservation on an evening flight back to San Francisco and took his last walk around the Lower East Side for what he knew would probably be a while. He loved the city of New York and all its different neighborhoods, particularly the section of the Lower East Side south of the Houston Street dividing line, because it still contained the Old World flavor, hundreds of tongues flapping in a hundred different languages. He didn't like the northern section of the neighborhood since it was renamed the East Village.
He was walking along what used to be called the Yiddish Broadway, but was now only Second Avenue, looking at the refreshing arbor in the tiny park fronting St. Mark's-on-the-Bowery Church, when he bumped into one of them. There were five of them, and Emmett could see by the way they were all decked out in funky denims with the lame colors of their club stitched on their cut-away jackets that they were sidewalk bikers: guys who stomp around like they belong to an outlaw motorcycle gang, but don't have any bikes and more than likely never had. They just make believe.
The one he bumped into stepped back and stared at Emmett for a moment, saying, "Hey, man, I know you!" The guy also looked
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familiar to Emmett, who decided something that made him reply, "Yea, I seem t' know you, too. But I ain't gonna brag about it!"
"Hey, fellas, you know who this cat is? He's Emmett Grogan! The big, bad motherfucker himself! The Emmett Grogan--the fastest gun in San Francisco 'n probably in the whole wild West! Ain't that right? You supposed to be the baddest, ain't ya?!"
Emmett knew that it was Billy the Kid showdown time and that he was gonna get got anyway, so he grabbed the punk who was doing all the jawing and ran him backwards, bashed his skull open against the cast-iron fence and threw a punch at the one coming up on his left side. It never landed. The piece of lead pipe landed, though, on the top right side of his forehead, and Emmett went down, but not completely out, leaving him with enough sense to cover up his head and face with his arms to block the engineer boots that were kicking at his skull, fast and hard from every which way. One of the round steel toes rammed clean into his balls, taking all the mickey out of him and also any chance his body might have had to scramble up and get him away from the trouble he was now hopelessly in.
He was just about to go under when the pounding of the kicks stopped, and he heard a lot of shuffling noise. He didn't look up until his hearing told him they had all run away. The dude whose head he cracked was still slumped against the fence, but a pair of black shoes suddenly blocked his view, and the blue pants bent down at the knee and a voice he didn't look at asked him how bad he was hurt and what were they after.
"I'm okay, just a little sore, officer. They were after my money, I guess."
"All right, the ambulance'll be here in a moment to take you to the hospital where they'll fix you up. You wait here, understand? I'm going after my partner who's chasin' 'em down Ninth Street."
The cop handcuffed the guy who started it all to the cast-iron fence and ran back to his squad car, burning rubber up Ninth Street after everybody else. Emmett heard other sirens coming from a long way off, and he figured he'd better get the fuck up and out of there before they got to him and he ended up staying in New York City for a very long time. The way the dude was slumped against the fence over there told him that it might be more than just a hassle he was in for if he stayed. So he pulled himself up to his feet and hailed a cab going crosstown to the West Side.
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The driver dropped Emmett off in the vicinity of the Chelsea. If the prick Iying against the fence was really serious, the cabbie could only tell the cops the address of an Eighth Avenue IND subway station which was what his trip sheet read.
He made sure the cab continued uptown before walking the block to the midmorning-empty bar connected to the Chelsea, slipping through it to the hotel's staircase unnoticed, and on up to the room. He turned off the television and phoned a doctor friend who came by within twenty minutes. The double lacerations on the top right side of his head took quite a few stitches to close, and his face was turning all black and blue and was already swollen, but it wasn't all that bad. After all, he hadn't been stabbed, and he considered himself lucky.
It was his friend's off day, so Emmett picked up the phone and asked Pernnell, the Chelsea's bellman, if he'd get them a bag of ice cubes, a bottle of Comfort and a couple of glasses. They drank away the afternoon with reminiscences, and Emmett's friend drove him to the airport where he caught his flight back to San Francisco, sleeping all the way home.
Tumble's return alone had opened a permanent chasm that was going to keep Emmett firmly divided from his once-were brothers, probably forever. Natural Suzanne was waiting, though, and she told him all the nitpicking gossip that went down after Tumble came back by himself. After a while Emmett didn't want to hear any more of it and stopped her with a "Fuck it! Fuck all of it!"
He picked up where he left off with the Free Food the next day, and it was the first time he didn't really want to do it anymore. He was sick and tired and wasted by the rift between him and the other men, as well as some of their old ladies in the Free City Collective. Sure, a lot of it was his own damn fault! Emmett knew he had a monster ego, but he always kept his vanity personal, never letting it get beyond the private bounds of the Collective. What the fuck did they want from him? Couldn't he be crazy? Wasn't he allowed? He never blew the covers off any secrets by making himself public like they did. He was just popular, and that's what probably got them all twisted about him. Everything he did was popular! He had the most popular act going in the invisible circus of the Free City Collective, and they were scared he was going to make his popularity public and cop all the chips! So they begrudged him even the pleasure of
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their company and left him alone, like only other men can leave another man alone.
Then one day the devil came to see Emmett in the form of a recently returned Chicano soldier from Vietnam who brought a gift with him. The present was just a small part of what he said he brought back to the States and had already sold for a whole lot of money that he sort of felt guilty about and wanted to remedy somehow. The only way he could think of doing that was "Here!" and he gave Emmett almost half an ounce of go percent pure heroin. The last thing he said before he split forever was, "It's free!"
Emmett stood in the thin hallway that led to the side doorway of his storefront crib, looking at the tiny, aluminum-foiled package in his hands. When he raised his eyes, there was no one standing in the doorway, and the vacuum that remained made it seem almost as if no one had been there at all. He closed the door and went into the kitchen where he opened up the aluminum package, and as soon as he laid his eyes on the flat mound of dull white powder, he knew he was going to use every grain of it all by his lonesome. Alone, just like he'd been doing practically everything else for what, all of a sudden, was much too long.
For the first few weeks, everything went along all right. He got out of bed at dawn, took his wake-up fix in the bathroom and coasted through the day, making his Free Food deliveries and returning back to his Mission district storefront pad at dusk where he headed directly for the john to get high again. Natural Suzanne noticed that something was wrong with Emmett immediately. He stopped drinking the usual two or three nightly quarts of Ballantine Ale to get the sweat back in him; he hardly ever ate; he was always unusually tired, often nodding right out and sleeping till morning; he lost his sense of humor, and never smiled; and he no longer made love with her as he used to each night before they fell asleep and each morning when they woke up.
"Emmett, Emmett, what's the matter?"
"What's the matter? I got syphilis! That's what the matter. Leave me alone!"
It went on like that for a while longer, until the morning finally arrived when Emmett couldn't get out of bed to make his rounds. Natural Suzanne was already up in the kitchen making the coffee he seldom drank anymore, and he called to her. She came and knelt down on the floor-mattress bed and listened to her man talk about
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how tired he was and how she was the only one. He gave her the keys to the truck and the list of names and addresses with the number of people in each of the families written in a circle alongside every name.
"It's Tuesday, so today's vegetables. You've done it with me, 'n you know how it's all supposed to go. Get a couple of sisters to help you, 'n maybe even one of our brothers who's not too busy doin' his own goddamn thing! You don't have to do everyone on the list, just those with the asterisks next to their addresses. They need it the most, and our Collective. Okay?! Hurry up, 'cause if you don't get to the Produce and Farmers market quick, Synanon 'n them nuns'll beat you 'n cop everything. Thanks, sweetheart. Thank you."
For the rest of the week and from then on until the city and state governments put a stop to it, most of the women like Natural Suzanne, Lacey Pines, Fyllis, Nana Nina, Vicki Sparks, House Jane, Almond Judith, to name a few, and some of the Free City men, Slim Minnaux, Little Robert, Clearwater, Coyote, Butcher Brooks, House-Be-Nimble, G. G. Davey, Tumble, Strong Vinnie, to name a few, took over the Free Food Home Delivery Service and kept it happening for as many as they could. After a while, however, it became impossible for them to complete the entire route for a whole lot of obvious reasons, such as their lack of familiarity with it, and they condensed it to those families who were part of the Free City Collective or close to the work they were doing. At least some of the people were still eating. But even that ended in the spring, when most of the Free City Collective, in an attempt to stretch the long, dull winter out of their systems and to demand that the city and state do what they had been doing, began to perform a daily guerrilla theater production of poetry readings, agit-prop skits and song singing at lunch hour on the front steps of City Hall.
It went on every day for weeks and was called "City Hall Noon Forever!"--thoroughly entertaining the civil servants who came out to spend their lunch hours in the sunshine of the adjacent park. It ended abruptly however when the Hun and several others demanded to read a not unreasonable proposal to Mayor Alioto or his assistant, Michael McCone. The cops moved in, clubs swinging, and arrested forty of the male and female participants in the joyous Free City Collective event on the insistence of Municipal Judge Albert Axelrod who accused one of the Thelin brothers, owners of the thenclosed Psychedelic Shop, of violating California Penal Code 650-A,
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which means committing the offense of appearing in public with one's face partially covered with a bandana. The nineteenth-century law had been enacted against those who had intent to conceal their identity, like members of the Ku Klux Klan. Thelin was only anticipating the cops' use of tear gas.
The arrest was banner-headlined, "The Poetry Bust!" and the newspapers printed the Free City Collective's sensible proposal in its entiretv:
San Franciscans, in the interest of eternity, and out of respect for their Mayor, will recommend the following course of action to that office this afternoon.
1. That city-owned buildings remaining empty be restored to the people for reconstruction, embellishment and refurbishment, so that those people might live there freely.
4. That the city provide resources for autonomous neighborhood celebrations of the city, the planet and their own free beings.
5. That parks and other public spaces be returned to the people of San Francisco. The Mayor's office is invited to share in that vision. City-wide celebration of Summer Solstice will mark the entrance of FREE SAN FRANCISCO into eternity.
Emmett was totally against the City Hall Noon Forever event, arguing with the Hun that the only productive result would be the reprinting of the proposal in the newspapers, and that wasn't worth the violation of the Free City Collective's never-ask-or-protest-foranything rule. Furthermore, Emmett argued, the establishment powers were bound to retaliate for making such "popular" ideas public. "
No one was listening to Emmett after he stopped delivering the Free Food to the people and folded in his hand before playing out all the cards he dealt to himself. So, even though they knew he was probably right, the members of the Free City Collective opted for
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the guerrilla theater event, if for no other reason than it was more fun than actually assuming the freedom to do the real thing. The authorities did retaliate by ordering the Produce and Farmers' markets to stop supplying the collective with fruit and vegetables and also legislating all sorts of new regulations on the distribution of Free Food which were impossible to comply with. The only free food they could scrounge up after the city hall deal went down forever was just enough to feed themselves and seldom anyone else. And that was that.
The amount of scag Emmett used each day increased along with his tolerance for the drug, and it wasn't long before someone pinned him nodding in public and the word rapidly spread throughout the city, and eventually from coast to coast, about what everyone began to call "Emmett's problem." He was a junkie, and everybody he knew wrote him off like a bad check. It was as if he betrayed them all, and in a way he had, but no more than he betrayed himself.
The stuff from Nam was gone before he knew it, and Emmett found himself with a motherfucker of a jones! After using up that pure horse, nothing he could cop on the street could get him straight. It just took his sick off, and it was costing him eighty to a hundred dollars a day simply to do that. He got the money in the same way all down junkies get the bread they need: any way he could. Soon he was being blamed for every rip-oflf that occurred in the Haight Community, and all at once, all the people he had known and who loved and admired him, but never told him, didn't like him anymore. In fact, most hated him, and some were so angry at what he was doing to them and to himself that they tried to physically hurt him. A few of them actually did. The only person who showed pity to him was Shig at the City Lights Bookstore in North Beach who lent him money once in a while, until it got to be too much even for him, and all Emmett could ever say was, "Thanks, Shig. Be seein' you."
Finally it got to be too much for Emmett, and he checked himself into Mendocino Hospital where they said they would detoxify him with methadone. It would have worked, except that they only gave him a small amount of the synthetic opiate for four days--a very short way to come down, very fast, especially for a man with a monster, gorilla habit like the one Emmett had on his back. It didn't work, and on the morning of the fifth day, Emmett's nervous system was rattling itself to death in a vicious Saint Vitus's Dance all its own. He called Natural Suzanne who had been for months
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cheated out of all the love Emmett could have been giving her, because of some white powder and the pinning of his eyes. But she was one of the few still willing to stand by him, so she came when he phoned and drove him back into the city where he scored a fix at the Ellis Hotel in the Fillmore district, paying for two twenty-dollar balloons with a batch of James Brown stamps that Natural Suzanne had been saving.
Emmett knew he would never be able to satisfy the hunger of his addiction with more and more dope, and the quantity of methadone he needed to detoxify himself wasn't available on the streets of California at the time. There seemed to be no way out, when Emmett got a flash. He went to the pharmacology section of the main public library and copied exactly what he wanted out of a book. Then he drove to Berkeley and the house of a doctor of chemistry who made LSD and methedrine in a laboratory in his basement. They were casual friends, and Emmett talked to him for a while, testing his water, before telling him what he came there to ask him to do, and giving him the piece of paper with this written on it: Dolophine, a synthetic opiate invented by German scientists at the insistence of morphine addict Herman Goering and named after Adolf Hitler and usually known as methadone.
[diagram of Methadone molecular structure]
The doctor of chemistry said it would take awhile, but he could make it, and would, and as much as he could, for "free." The cat even had a machine that would turn the product out in pill form-- the same tab-making machine he regularly used to stamp his acid out. After a while, Emmett returned to Berkeley and picked up thousands of methadone pills. He kept enough himself and stashed the rest for distribution later among the junk population of San Francisco.
Then he went out to a ranch near Point Reyes, California, where
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Coyote had taken over a fifty-dollar per month house with his blondhaired Louisiana woman, Sam, and a whole lot of other people. Emmett drove there alone because Natural Suzanne had finally become sick and tired of their loveless relationship and was making up for what her old man had been unable to give her. The last thing he said to her when she was forced to split to save the youth and vitality of her less than nineteen years was, "Have a nice life, Natural Suzanne. Have a nice life." And he meant it with all the sincerity he could ever mean about anything.
Coyote's ranch was a stone heavy spread where only heavyweight men and women came from the city to do nothing that wasn't them. Some rode in on choppers, others in cars and trucks. A few walked the mile from the front gate to the house. Nobody ever tiptoed, and no one was a stranger. Everything was always going on, and it was a free-for-all. A man silhouetted against the falling sun, churning up the earth on the side of a hill with the rat-tat-tat 4s-caliber bursts from his Thompson submachine gun. A woman giving birth in the green, high grass reflected in a hundred watching eyes and in the sound of a child's first liberated cry. Musicians who made millions playing for ears that paid to hear, and musicians who never made anything at all, jammed their hard, mellow souls together and filled the place with the sound of whatever points they were trying to get across in the music that never stopped.
The ranch was a bayou of heartaches and good times, where people overworked each other in a devil dance that made their bones beg for another chance before they gave in. It was a sunup-tosundown refusal to guard the truth and a shifting center where no one's imagination would leave them alone. A place where anyone who knew the address could come to live or die, get married, find each other or themselves, or, like Emmett, kick a habit and return to finish what he started out to do. It was called Olema, and it's not there anymore, and Richard Brautigan didn't have to mention it in the poem he wrote about how Emmett Grogan left his habit there.
DEATH IS A BEAUTIFUL CAR PARKED ONLY
Death is a beautiful car parked only to be stolen on a street lined with trees whose branches are like the intestines of an emerald.
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You hotwire death, get in, and drive away like a flag made from a thousand burning funeral parlors.
You have stolen death because you're bored. There's nothing good playing at the movies in San Francisco.
You joyride around for a while listening to the radio, and then abandon death, walk away, and leave death for the police to find.
Still weak and in a sag of wondering which way his body was going to go next, Emmett decided it was time to document what they had all tried to accomplish together as the Free City Collective. They held what turned out to be their last formal meeting as a family and planned the one-shot review magazine for which a young, stand-up Los Angeles man handed Emmett forty-hundreddollar-bills-cash energy to help get it compiled. The collective chose a slick detective-magazine format to say what they had to say, but since the cost of such a glossy, highly stylized review was beyond their limits, they had to settle for simple newsprint and go along with seeing it distributed and sold for thirty-five cents in exchange for forty thousand "Free" copies which were theirs to give away.
The cover of the document was titled "The Digger Papers," and none of the contents therein were copyrighted, so that anyone might reprint anything without permission. On the outside back cover was what many people who knew him thought was the Hun's most brilliant and poignant statement in art. It was a black-and-white reproduction of a six-by-three-foot, blue-and-white poster of two Tong assassins, calmly biding their time, leaning against the corner of a brick building. Above them hung a sign with the Chinese character from the I Ching that spelled revolution, and written below their feet in black letters was the slogan I/~ FREE. The Hun designed the original poster with a friend called Red-Cock Don and with several others posted them on walls throughout Chinatown and all over the city, to the consternation of the Chinese and the wonderment of everyone.
Most of the information and news that was broadcast between the front and back covers of the Digger Papers was written in poetry, except for what became the most important piece of the collection
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for those who really wanted to know how to organize and maintain a Free City. That was written in straight prose by Emmett.
THE POST-COMPETITIVE, COMPARATIVE CAME OF A FREE CITY
Our state of awareness demands that we uplift our efforts from competitive game playing in the underground to the comparative roles of free families in free cities.
We must pool our resources and interact our energies to provide the freedom for our individual activities.
In each city of the world there is a loose competitive underground composed of groups whose aims overlap, conflict, and generally enervate the desired goal of autonomy. By now we all have guns, know how to use them, know our enemy, and are ready to defend. We know that we ain't gonna take no more shit. So it's about time we carried ourselves a little heavier and got down to the business of creating free cities within the urban environments of the western world.
Free Cities are composed of Free Families (e.g., in San Francisco: Diggers, Black Panthers, Red Guards, Mission Rebels and various revolutionist gangs and communes) who establish and maintain services that provide a base of freedom for autonomous groups to carry out their programs without having to hassle for food, printing facilities, transportation, mechanics, money, housing, working space, clothes, machinery, trucks, etc.
At this point in our revolution it is demanded that the families, communes, black organizations and gangs of every city in America coordinate and develop Free Cities where everything that is necessary can be obtained for free by those involved in the various activities of the individual clans.
Every brother and sister should have what they need to do whatever needs to be done.
An outline . . . a beginning
Each service should be performed by a tight gang of brothers and sisters whose commitment should enable them to handle an overload of work with ability and enthusiasm. "Tripsters" soon get bored, hopefully before they cause an economic strain.
Free City Switchboard/lnformation Center should coordinate all services, activities, and aid and direct assistance where it is most needed. Also provide a reference point for legal aid, housing, machinery, etc.; act as a mailing address for dislocated groups or individuals and guide random energies where they are most needed. (The work load usually prevents or should prevent the handling of
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messages from parents to their runaway children . . . that should be left up to the churches of the community.)
Free Food Storage and Distribution Center should hit every available source of free food--produce markets, farmers' markets, meat-packing plants, farms, dairies, sheep and cattle ranches, agricultural colleges, and giant institutions (for the uneaten vats of food)--and fill up their trucks with the surplus by begging, borrowing, stealing, forming liaisons and communications with delivery drivers for the leftovers from their routes . . . best method is to work in two shifts: morning group picks up the foodstuffs and the afternoon shift delivers it to the list of Free Families and the poor peoples of the ghettos everyday. hard work.
This gang should help people pool their welfare food stamps and get their old ladies or a group to open a free restaurant for people on the move and those who live on the streets. Giant scores should be stored in a garage-type warehouse equipped with freezers and its whereabouts known only to the Free Food Gang. This group should also set up and provide help for canning, preserving, bread baking, and feasts and anything and everything else that has to do with food.
Free City Garage and Mechanics to repair and maintain all vehicles used in the various services, the responsibility for the necessary tools and parts needed in their work is entirely theirs and usually available by maintaining friendly relations with junkyards, giant automotive schools, and generally scrounging around those areas where auto equipment is easily obtained. The garage should be large enough and free of tripsters who only create more work for the earnest mechanics.
Free City Bank and Treasury this group should be responsible for raising money, making free money, paying rents, for gasoline, and any other necessary expenses of the Free City Families. They should also organize and create small rackets (cookie sales, etc.) for the poor kids of the ghettos and aid in the repair and maintenance of the machinery required in the performance of the varlous servlces.
Free City Legal Assistance high-style, hard-nosed, top-class lawyers who are willing to defend the rights of the Free City and its seryices . . . no honky, liberal, bleeding-heart, guilt-ridden advocates of justice, but first-class case-winners . . . turn on the best lawyers who can set up airtight receivership for free money and property, and beat down the police harassment and brutality of your areas.
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Free City Housing and Work Space rent or work deals with the urban gov't to take over spaces that have been abandoned for use as carpentry shops, garages, theaters, etc., rent whole houses, but don't let them turn into crash pads. Set up hotels for new arrivals or transients by working out deals with small hotel owners for free rooms in exchange for light housework, porter duties, etc. Big warehouses can be worked on by environmental artists and turned into giant free dance-fiesta-feast palaces.
A strong trio of serious business-oriented cats should develop this liberation of space within the cities and be able to work with the lawyers to make deals and outmaneuver urban bureaucracies and slum landlords . . . one of the main targets for space are the churches who are the holders of most real estate and they should be approached with a no-bullshit hard line.
Free City Stores and Workshops nothing in these stores should be throwaway items . . . space should be available for chicks to sew dresses, make pants to order, recut garments to fit, etc. The management should all be life-actors capable of turning bullshitters into mud. Important that these places are first class environments with no trace of salvation army/st. vinnie de paul charity rot. Everything groovy. Everything with style . . . must be first class. It's all free because it's yours!
Free Medical Thing should be established in all poverty areas and run by private physicians and free from any bureaucratic support. The Free City Bank should try to cover the expenses, and pharmaceutical houses should be hit for medical supplies, etc. Important that the doctors are brothers and do not ask to be salaried or are not out to make careers for themselves (witness Dr. David Smith of the Hippie Free Clinic in San Francisco who is far from a brother . . . very far).
Free Clty Hospital should be a house converted into bed space and preferably with a garden and used for convalescence and people whose minds have been blown or who have just been released from a state institution and who need the comfort and solace of their own people rather than the cold alienated wallc ~ n llrh~n incfifllfi~n
Free City Environmental and Design Gang gangs of artists from universities and art institutes should be turned on and helped in attacking the dank squalor of the slums and most of the Free City Family dwellings . . . paint landscapes on the sides of tenements . . . fiberglass stairwells . . . make crazy. Tight groups of good painters, sculptors, designers who comfortably construct environments
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for the community. Materials and equipment can be hustled from university projects and manufacturers, etc.
Free City Schools schools designed and run by different groups according to the consciousness of their Free Families (e.g., Black Man's Free School, Anarchist's Creative Arts School, etc.). The schools should utilize the space liberated for them by the Free City Space Gang.
Free City News and Communication Company providers of a daily newspaper, monthly magazine, free Gestetner and printing notices for other groups and any special bulletins and propaganda for the various families of the Free City. The machinery should be kept in top condition and supplied by any of the various services. Paper can be scavenged at large mills and cut down to proper working size.
Free City Events . . . Festival Planning Committees usually involves several Families interacting to sponsor tours for the kids . . . Balls, Happenings, Theatre, Dance, and spontaneous experiments in joy . . . Park Events usually are best set up by hiring a 20-foot flatbed truck for the rock band to use as a stage and to transport their equipment; people should be advised by leaflets to bring food to exchange with their neighbors; banners, props, balloons, kites etc., should be handled by a committee; an electrician should be around to run the generator and make sure that the PA systems work; hard work made easy by giving responsible people the tough jobs.
Cooperative Farms and Campsites the farms should be run by experienced hands and the Free Land settled on by cottage industrial people who will send their wares into the Free City. The farms must produce vital food for the families . . . some free land that is no good for farming should be used as campsites andjor cabin areas for Free citizens who are in need of country leisure, as well as kids who could use a summer in the woods.
Scavenger Corps and Transport Gang is responsible for garbage collection and the picking up and delivery of items to the various services, as well as liberating anything they think useful for one project or another. They are to be responsible for the truck fleet and especially aware of the economic strain if trucks are rr.isused by tripsters.
Free City Tinkers and Gunsmiths, Etc. will repair and keep things going in the houses . . . experienced repairmen of all sorts, electricians, and carpenters. They should maintain a warehouse or working space for their outfit.
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Free City Radio, TV and Computer Stations demand Free time on radio and TV stations; demand a Free City frequency to set up your own stations; rent computers to call the punches for the revolution or use them in any constructive way possible.
On April 6, 1968, two days after Martin Luther King was assassinated standing on a Memphis motel balcony, Lil' Bobby Hutton, the first rank-and-file member to join the Black Panther party, was shot down dead with his hands on top his head, essentially because he refused to strip himself naked like Eldridge Cleaver and his other Panther brothers did before they walked out of that basement and into the mercilessness of the Oakland Police. The insurrections that swept through the ghettos of America that spring weekend were in response to the cowardly way in which both men were killed while unarmed, symbolizing for the nation how most men who are both poor and black usually die in a "gun battle" with the police. Later on, some of the students at Columbia University were to take over that institution for five days in a revolt that promised to change the manner in which things were run around there, and demanded employment for minority workers on all construction jobs that took place on school-owned property.
Only superficial changes occurred in the ghettos and at Columbia on account of the so-called "riots," except that all of the construction crews at the university are now made up of minority workers who are very busy tearing down housing that the people of the Morningside Heights and Harlem communities desperately need and replacing it with university buildings. Emmett knew that nothing but a few good news stories was going to come out of all the "rioting," but he wished all those involved "luck" just the same. especially a Columbia student named Mark Rudd who looked lik~ he needed something real bad, because he sure didn't have no brains.
Around the same time Emmett went over to Oakland to speak with Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale, and Chief of Staff David Hilliard, giving them a couple thousand copies of the Digger Papers which had a "Free Huey!" advertisement collage by Natural Suzanne on the inside back cover. The Papers were later distributed among Panther party members and throughout the black community. The conversation among the three men was crisp and to the point. Emmett outlined what he did and asked the two party leaders what they needed, besides money, that he could possibly get for
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them. They began discussing a plan they had to start a Free Breakfast for Children program that would put some nourishment into the normally empty bellies of black kids before they went to school. It was a good idea, and Emmett was glad to hear that the Panthers were seriously intending to serve the people in other ways besides providing political education--the only thing Eldridge Cleaver ever considered important.
Without letting on to the Panthers, Emmett accumulated within a few days enough powdered milk, cereal, eggs, etc., from those same sources he tapped when he operated the Free Food Home Delivery Service. Just after dawn he arrived at the Black Panther party headquarters in Oakland and unloaded the breakfast food, stacking it along the wall in the driveway next to the Panthers' storefront premises. He left without anyone seeing him, except the police surveillance squad in the building across the street. Dave Hilliard arrived a bit later that morning, to do the type of organizational work that few men are capable of doing well, he found the stuff and the Breakfast for Children Program that was never going to end was begun shortly afterwards by the Black Panther party.
Emmett spent the next few weeks carefully distributing the lo mg. methadone pills he had stashed throughout a good deal of the addict population in San Francisco, by using a complicated system of dead-letter drops to protect himself from arrest and prosecution. Each packet contained fifty pills, and all of them were stashed in different "drop" locations, and only one packet was allotted to each addict he contacted. It was a one-to-a-customer policy, except none of it was for sale, it was all, like the man said, "for free!"
The junkies are probably the only minority group in the United States that doesn't have its own "Liberation Front" to fight for their human and constitutional rights to be treated by the medical profession as diseased patients, instead of by police agencies as fiendish criminals. Emmett wasn't particularly concerned with how the free methadone was used by the addicts who connected for it. He knew some of them would sell it for heroin or simply use it to reduce their level of tolerance for scag, enabling them to get high again for a while, or use it when there was no dope available on the streets, or to supplement their habits. But he also knew that others would use the medication to kick--and that, plus the knowledge that, for a brief moment at least, the absurd, unnecessary desperation of addiction would be gone for a handful of strung-out men and women, was well worth the insane effort and dangerously diffi
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cult skullduggery he put himself through to make it happen forwhat was really only a second.
It was immediately after Emmett completed that Free chore that William Bendix was replaced in the leading role of America's favorite pastime of "Kill the Umpire" by Sirhan Sirhan, who fired a bullet into the brain of Robert Kennedy with almost exactly the same demeanor and in much the same way as Saigon's police chief fired a round from his revolver into the temple of a Viet Cong suspect and commented afterwards on television that "Buddha will understand." Sirhan Sirhan had Allah on his side.
The chicken also came home to roost in the cold hype and media scam of the Haight-Ashbury, when it became the only truly racially integrated neighborhood in America to riot in July, '68. It all began with the cops, of course, who tried to arrest two brothers on suspicion of selling LSD, and it ended three nights later after what the newspapers headlined as a "Fiery Riot." The truth of the matter was that there were about two thousand people in the streets, most of whom were either just watching the five or six guys who were doing all the rock-, bottle-, and fire-bomb throwing, or trying to stop them with such sophistical statements as, "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent!" But three nights of that large a crowd, and that small a group of violent activists, was enough to smash every shopwindow on Haight Street and burn out the Bank of America building, before the squad of tactical cops got wise and launched a sweep in two directions, quelling all the action and emerging from the contest victorious.
After that, most of the Haight Independent Proprietors threw in the towel and boarded up their stores for good. As it turned out, many of the Head shops and hippie boutiques that closed had been owned by a corporation with a Nob Hill dentist for chairman, which only used the bearded longhairs as managers for their storefront.
Another result of the "Fiery Riot" was that the media began to include explosives as a part of the terms of hipsterism, while also looking back longingly to when the district was the home of the flower generation. The epilogue to the Haight "riot" came from a group calling itself the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Development Corporation, which proposed a hundred million dollar plan to resuscitate the district with an ambitious face-lift to make it the most attractive business area in the city, hoping to hide all the ugliness with the paint of success.
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Bonnie and Clyde was big at the movies, and Hoffman and Rubin were making Yippie! on radio and TV, trying to get the young and foolish to go to Chicago that August to play "Crowd" in a piece entitled Law and Order. Those two geriatric longhairs were raising the underground to the height of its alternative shuck with a makeup title for a make-believe number that was to be the Yippie Festival of Life Convention in Chicago. Even though Emmett was in New York while the YIP propaganda was manipulating lame middle-class kids into its pseudo-street culture, he simply refused to believe that anyone real was going to fall for their obvious scam, and he went up to Woodstock to visit with the man who invited him there.
Bob Dylan was exactly unlike what Emmett Grogan expected him to be.
Emmett was in Europe during those first years that Bob talked the music and played the news to his starving generation, and broke the hearts of every American poet with his singing of the song. Of course, he heard the records overseas, but it wasn't like listening to those same albums in the country where they were cut. By the time, Emmett finally came home and settled into things, it was already "Blonde on Blonde," and he just temporarily didn't know. He found out later without having to tramp through the green, hardsell, crystal swamp of positively Fourth Street, image-persona, media hustle.
Now Emmett was sitting on the second step of a warped wooden flight of four front stairs that led up and into the funky, screened porch of a pine-walled cabin where a film editor, who used the name Al Gable whenever he seldom took a credit, lived with his wife, six hound dogs and two dozen cats. Bob was sitting on the same step, and in him Emmett saw a man who somehow made it through that swamp and settled down alive on the other side. A man who had a wife and five kids and simply played music for a living. A plain and easy-dressed man, complicated only by the hearsay. A physically small man who was strong for his size and not fat at all, but wiry with coached stringy muscle and shoulders that stuck out wider than you'd think. A man with a lot of friends, but afraid of those who weren't, just the same. A man who kept a matchstick in his mouth to keep from smoking and who was sliding with the knowledge of growing older and leaving the brassy, punk snide of his younger-than-that now behind him. Dylan was clean.
They talked soft and casual for as long as it took them both to find
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where the other was at. Then Bob told Emmett about a place he'd been to, not too long before, and about what he saw there and how it looked. What impressed him most was the gravestones planted all around on top of this old-time, boot-hill cemetery. It wasn't the shape or age of the headstones or the way they were carved. It was the words that were chipped into their rough, flat surfaces that impressed him; not on account of their particular wisdom or peculiar wit, but because they were there at all. Bob wondered whether they were the last words of the persons buried beneath them.
Probably not, but it got them both talking about last lines they'd heard of some people saying--just before the little dirt road exploded into dust, and roaring up it and pulling onto and across the crabgrass toward the two of them was a pink Lincoln Continental convertible with the top down, two passengers, and Gregory Corso driving. The pink-lemonade topless limo skidded to a stop along the slick, dew grass, and America's number one "Gasoline" poet leaped out of the driver's seat and over the front door with a nearly empty pint of Swiss Colony wine splashing in his left hand and sticking forth his right to shake hello, saying, "How ya doin', Robere? Heard you were here, Emmett, 'n came down from the farm t' see you! This is my woman, Bel, 'n you both know Julius Orlovsky, right? What's happenin'?"
Bob was silent. Emmett mentioned that they'd been comparing famous last lines, when Gregory halted him. "Last lines, heh! Well I don' know about what anybody else has to say but me, see. An' I'm gonna tell you somethin'. I already got my last line stashed for when the time comes to use it! How's that for being prepared, huh?! An' I went to jail instead o' the Boy Scouts! You wanna know the way I want it to be? I'll tell you!
"I wanna be layin' in a bed, see, with all my friends around me. An' when I got just a little more time left, hardly none at all, I want one of my friends to lean over 'n ask me, 'Gregory, you lived your whole life, 'n now that it's almost over, Gregory, tell us. Tell us what it was like, Gregory.'
"That's when I props myself up on my elbows 'n look at all o' them waitin' to hear what I got to say, 'n that's when I tell 'em what it was like, boy. I tell 'em! I tell 'em! It was nowhere!"
Emmett enjoyed the country pleasures of Woodstock until the leaves began to turn and the air became crisp with autumn. He spent the kind of time with Bob that they both needed to get to know each other better. They went to listen to music together and
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did some walking and talking. There was a screening of the very funny, personal film Bob made about one of the last times he took to the road, touring England as Dylan, the on-the-make kid in a mysterious, Hitchcockian train where nothing happened and no one was allowed more than a taste of anything. It was entitled Eat the Document, and Emmett laughed at what he felt had to be one of the most honestly hilarious movies any man ever had that special sense of humor to make, about whatever he once had been.
Then there was the Band, and listening to them play together and their "Big Pink" debut album, which was going to let everyone in on the well-kept secret that they were the best. Their music taught Emmett that if anything was ever going to be really good, it was going to be a long time coming; and that San Francisco was, by far, not the only place where something was happening.
Afterwards Al Grossman said, "Anytime," and he doesn't talk that way to many people. So Emmett answered, "Thanks," before he said, "Be seein' you," and ran to catch the plane that would take him to Chicago and another man from whom he would learn a few more things he had to know.
Fred Hampton was waiting for him at the Illinois Chapter headquarters of the Black Panther party on West Madison Street. The Panthers had just come above ground in Chicago, opening their office only a few days before, and Emmett was the first man who wasn't black or a Panther to walk up the steep, narrow staircase and into the long, barren room which the dozen sober faces who watched him move were willing to defend with their lives.
After Linda Fitzpatrick and Groovy were murdered in New York, a "hippie" detective squad had been assigned to circulate through the Lower East Side area in hippie clothes in an effort to protect the "East Village flower people" from the niggers and spics. This knowledge was just as common among Chicago's low-money people as it was among those in New York. That, plus his middle-of-theback-length hair and the stone-corny, fraudulent activity of the Yippies who had just made fools and suckers out of most of Chicago's hipsters, were more than enough reasons for the black men and women in that office to be cold-eyed wary of Emmett Grogan, no matter what sort of references the Party's Central Committee phoned in about him from Oakland.
So Emmett stood in the middle of the empty room alone, conscious of the glare of the surrounding eyes, but understanding why they felt that way toward him. He was waiting to meet the man he
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came there for, who was now busy taking care of some other business in a small cubicle of a side room.
Emmett had money in his pocket. Money that film editor Al Gable arranged, during his negotiations with an Illinois movie company about making a film to show why the hard-poor and heavy people of America stayed away from all the protests of the '68 Democratic National Convention. Emmett insisted the money was necessary to insure the cooperation of the southwest black neighborhood that was the Panthers' turf in the making of the film. The money wasn't really necessary for that purpose, but it was badly needed by the Panthers to function, now that they were above ground and out in the open, and Emmett thought they would be able to put it to good use. The film that was eventually going to come from this initial meeting would be American Revolution II, and Fred Hampton would use the making of it as a medium for forming the Rainbow Coalition, a political alliance among the Black Panthers, the Puerto Rican Young Lords, the group of Appalachian whites known as the Young Patriots, and the unaffiliated, young, white street radicals who considered the singular newspaper, RISING UP ANGRY, their speaking organ. Fred's ability to overcome each of these groups' prejudices towards the others and his successful formation of the enormously strong Rainbow Coalition would prove how very powerful and, finally, dangerous a man he really was to the Illinois status quo. And they would kill him.
A muscular young blood who introduced himself as Odignga, chief of security, escorted Emmett into the tiny side office and left him, closing the door from the outside. Emmett then found himself being offered a chair by the solid, two-hundred-pound, bulk-muscled black man sitting on the opposite side of an old, battered, flat-top desk piled high with papers. He sat down and immediately felt at ease in the presence of this totally joyful and obviously fearless man.
Fred Hampton had the large, big-boned face of a plain, young, hard worker who only used one simple tool to do what it was he needed to do. The clarity in his bright eyes and the sharp definition of the muscular dimples in his thick-skinned cheeks told you right away that the tool he used was his brain. Emmett liked Fred because he had none of that East-Coast-West-Coast, mau-mau, noble savage, nickle-dime, nigger-flip jive about him. He was straight goods all the way, and he had just turned twenty years old around the time Em
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mett met him, and he already seemed to know that he was going tobe dead when he was twenty-one.
Emmett handed the money oYer to Fred and told him what kind of a deal was going down with the film group. Then they got to talking about how you could really smell the way the money is made in Chicago, from the pungent odor from the back-of-the-yards district where the animals are slaughtered for their meat. The scent is always hovering over the entire city, keeping the people in line and walking the straight and narrow for the wages they earn, but are made to believe they're being given.
Suddenly there was some hollering and a noise that made both men look up just in time to see the door fling open and a giant, bigbosomed, black woman come crashing inside the tiny office. She stopped in front of the desk and without even giving Emmett a glance asked, "Is you Fred Hampton?
"Yes, ma'am . . ."
"Is you chairman o' these here Black ~anthers~
"Yes, I . . ."
"Is you for the people, all the black people?
"Is you ready t' serve the people?"
"Yes'm ! "
"Well, we ain't got no goddamn heat! It-s gonna t)e ten oelow after it's dark, 'n we ain't got no heat 'n no hot water! Now, what I wanna know is, you sittin' there tellin' me you fo' the people, tellin' me you ready t' serve the people! Well, I' one o' the people 'n ain't none o' us gots no steam heat, never mind water in our buildin'! Now, if you all those things you say you is, 'n we the people, what you gonna do 'bout gettin' us some heat, brother? What?"
"What's the address of the building, ma'am?"
"What you gonna do, call the health department ' send an inspector 'round or sumptin'?!"
"No, ma'am, me 'n my brothers are goin' to get you the heat you need t' live through these cold, wintry nights. An' never you mind how, but t'morrow mornin' you gonna hear the steam whistlin' inside your pipes, 'n your radiators is all gonna be sizzlin'. When the people in the buildin' start askin' who done got the heat turned on, you be sure t' tell 'em all, mama, that it was the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther party that done did it! 'Cause we here t' serve the people 'n not just talk 'bout how nice it'd be if we did."
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That night around twelve or one o'clock, Chairman Fred was in the basement of the thirty-unit slum tenement building where the superintendent was doing his job, saving the landlord a little extra money by letting about three hundred people nearly freeze to death in the dead-of-winter cold of their apartments. One of his Panther brothers knocked on the door of the cellar flat, and when it opened they could see the red-hot, potbellied stove warming the super's place like a piece of toast. The man who opened the door was just standing still, his eyes frozen on the gaping barrel of the enforcer Chairman Fred was holding against his nose. The superintendent was just waiting to obey the orders that Chairman Fred gave him. "Stoke up the boilers, nigger! It's cold outside."
As soon as the people in that building heard and felt the heat steaming up, there was no way for that super or any other superintendent to shut it off for the rest of that winter of '68-'69, and no way those tenants were ever going to quietly acquiesce to the cold during any other winter thereafter. That's how Fred Hampton served the people, and that's why Fred Hampton died for the people. 1 le was a teacher but he only made speeches on weekends.
John Huggins and Bunchy Carter had been shot dead in the lunchroom of U.C.L.A., and the spring was trying to break apart the solid wall of winter when Emmett returned to San Francisco, only to find out too late that he made a mistake in ever leaving Chicago. Everybody in Frisco still had a heavy attitude towards him, and nobody would believe he wasn't still using horse. So he resigned himself to the fact that it was all going to stay that way and even tried pushing it further beyond his reach by hanging as loose and as bad as he could without becoming corny.
He hustled a man he didn't need to hustle out of more than a thousand dollars cash, and a wise man named Pete, who was going to teach Emmett almost more than anyone had about himself, helped him buy a Harley-Davidson '74 and chop it down into a low-slung, extended-front-wheel, quality scooter.
Emmett rode that scooter up and down California's coastline and back and forth to San Francisco no matter what the weather. He came to love that bike of his, like a man could only love his horse. Most times he rode that red fandango along the open road alone with the air burning against his face and pushing him to jack the throttle and weave the bike in and out, between the square, eightcylindered machines bought on time spent in thrall. Sometimes he would ride with a buddy or two, and they would get ripped with
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wine the chicks were always made to pay for, and roll in the laughing blood they caused themselves or anyone else to lose. A few times --too few--he was invited on runs with the club, which made him understand that he really hadn't seen all there was to see in being "1% FREE," once more.
Emmett went to Los Angeles for the umpteenth time, but he didn't go alone. He was with a slender, soft, milk-skinned blond of an always-by-your-side-when-you-want-me, good woman named Blanche who wore a mink coat and hardly anything else at all. The moment he decided to stay in that town awhile, he already stayed too long. Two years to the hour of the day that George Jackson was going to go down in the San Quentin prison yard with a bullet in his back, Emmett was arrested driving a car. The cops charged him with having kidnapped and robbed a man at gunpoint, someplace else. It didn't matter to them that there was no gun or money in the car or that the guy who actually pulled the caper only a few minutes before was described as being short with black hair. Nothing seemed to matter to them, except getting Emmett booked and locked up in the Hollywood police station where a few of them used him for exercise.
Early the next morning, he was cuffed to a chain around his waist, shackled, and brought downtown for arraignment on the nonbailable kidnapping and other charges. Then he was transferred with many other prisoners to the Los Angeles County jail where he was separated from them and taken upstairs to a tier of six-by-ten-foot cells, each occupied by a single inmate. Although the rest of the jail was comprised of larger cells which usually held four or five prisoners and more on weekends, this section only had cells built for one person. Emmett recognized it immediately as the high power module of the L.A. County jail. There were no low riders in this section, just alleged capital offenders, four-time losers, and those considered violently dangerous. As a guard escorted him to his cell, shaving mirrors began popping out from between the bars of each cell so the inmates could see who was coming down the freeway.
Emmett lay on his bunk and thought about the word "module," remembering he had heard it repeated often a month before, when Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module and onto the moon, but failed to claim it as territory, thus voiding the concept behind every national boundary in the world, and theoretically making imperialism obsolete. "Module?" Emmett thought. "Mod
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ule?" over and over, before he picked up a five-day-old newspaper lying on the floor and looked it over to pass a bit of time, reading the headlined story about the peace and harmony of the Woodstock Festival and how there'd been over four hundred thousand people there who still believed in the flower children's philosophy and practiced what they preached, making it into a beautiful event for everyone.
"Flower children, my motherfuckin' ass! If it hadn't been rainin' so goddamn hard all of those three days, somethin' more than mud pies would of been made there! Who the fuck they think they're kiddin'?"
Emmett didn't know that the cops had found the address of the house in Los Angeles where he was staying. They got it off the back of an envelope where he wrote it along with his new telephone number. He also had no idea that the coppers invaded the place, arresting Blanche, her three young daughters, and a friend of hers who just happened by to visit, charging them all with possession of marijuana. He discovered all this a couple of days later when Brownie, a good, stand-up, Colorado woman who moved to L.A. from San Francisco with her old man to get into the film industry, told him about Blanche and her kids. It was thanks to Brownie and her husband that Blanche finally got cut loose on bail along with her friend and got her children released into the legal custody of her parents. Both of them also did all they could for Emmett, even though they, as most San Franciscans he knew way back when, didn't particularly like him very much anymore.
Emmett took the news about Blanche and the kids getting popped really bad, and it made him sick because no matter how you looked at it, he brought it down on all of them, and now the children were taken away from their mother which was disgustingly wrong and made him sick. A short time after, there was more news --this time it was good, but not good enough to offset the bad that had already taken place.
The United States Supreme Court decreed that the merely technical kidnapping law for which Caryl Chessman had been smothered in the gas chamber nearly a decade before was unconstitutional. Therefore, that charge against Emmett was dropped and bail subsequently set. The bail money was raised by Natural Suzanne, Lacey Pines, and Fyllis, who came to southern California to help Blanche get Emmett out. The money came from people whose names were in Emmett's little phone book. Since no bondsman would ac
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cept even a one-hundred-thousand-dollar house as collateral because their insurance companies were told that Emmett was a bad risk, the total bail had to be posted in cash, and it was by people scattered throughout the country and for reasons of their own for which Emmett was grateful.
It was definitely the wrong time to be in Los Angeles with the heat running all around, looking for the Sharon Tate-La Bianca killers. Yet it wasn't that kind of heat that had Emmett sweating out his stay. After he was released on bail, Emmett was arrested at his house and on the street on several different occasions on suspicion of practically anything. Several police agencies were now beginning to combine their efforts to piece together the jigsaw puzzle which Emmett Grogan had purposely created of himself. They knew they were onto something, but whatever it was they really didn't know. They just had a hunch. So they kept picking him up for questioning in an attempt to uncover the picture hidden within the folds of paper they gathered from all over the world which they knew was bound to become clear sooner or later. Fortunately for Emmett, it came later.
The preliminary hearing in the case of State v. Grogan occurred during the same week the Chicago Conspiracy Trial began in Chicago. Emmett's brilliant young defense counsel, Mr. Barry Nakell, considered that fact, and they both decided to keep all the proceedings of his case quiet and private, not even notifying the L.A. Free Press. They thought it best to approach and attack the entire matter as a straight beef, leaving all the political implications untouched, unless the prosecution brought them up, in which event Attorney Nakell assured his client, "We'll bury them!"
At the preliminary hearing, Attorney Nakell thoroughly impeached each of the so-called witnesses who identified Emmett only after he was pointed out to them in the courtroom. The final capper came when Emmett's good friend Max, who taught black adults in Watts how to read and write and had never been arrested for anything, testified on the stand that one of the so-called witnesses had, earlier in the day, talked amicably with the defendant about courtrooms in general, asked him where he came by his leather Cardin jacket, and accepted several cigarettes, obviously not recognizing Emmett as anyone he ever saw before, until he returned from having lunch with the prosecutor and arresting officers with whom he discussed a forgery case he had pending against him.
The judge still bound Emmett over for trial, but it didn't matter.
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Nakell surprised the prosecution by waiving a jury trial and simply giving the youngest black judge sitting on a California bench the manuscript of the preliminary hearing along with a brilliantly comprehensive brief he wrote about the lack of any evidence and the thorough weakness of the case which he insinuated the state had fabricated against his client. The district attorney's office was caught with their pants down, and they demanded more time and all kinds of continuances to counter the slick, tactical defense. The judge replied that they had had enough time and adjourned for the day.
A week later, the newspapers were full of stories about Charles Manson and his family's arrest and the Weathermen's so-called "days of rage" in Chicago where they trashed a few windows of downtown stores, and lots of windows of poor, elderly pensioners living out their last years in boardinghouses that just happened to be scattered throughout the wealthy Gold Coast neighborhood.
At ten o'clock one morning of that same week, Emmett went into an empty courtroom to refuse a motion of dismissal of his case from the district attorney, before accepting the judgment of his honor who found him "not guilty" of anything.
A few hours later, after sincerely saying "Thanks, be seein' you," to twenty-nine-year old Barry Nakell, Emmett was riding his bike along the California coast highway back to San Francisco alone and into Altamont for which he had laid the groundwork with the Rolling Stones, their road management and the Grateful Dead, while he was awaiting the conclusion of his case.
Emmett rode to Altamont on his chopped red Harley fandango '74. He went there knowing what might happen to the rock concert lumpen, simply because the weather was good. He also went there knowing which side he would be on. He jumped his scooter up and over a dry, brown hill and into the giant crowd that had gathered for the last of the best "Free for Alls!"
Fred Hampton had been murdered in his bed while he slept two days before, and something he once said was rolling around inside Emmett's brain ever since he heard the news. It was the kind of phrase that wasn't easy to shake, and Emmett kept hearing it to himself all that day--"I'm too proletarianly intoxicated to be astronomically intimidated!" And the weather was too good for things not to turn bad, especially since they were for "free."
A long while later, Emmett was going to explain to the New York Post columnist, Alfred G. Aronowitz, just why and how and what he was responsible for, at that last California festival ever to be "free":
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"In 1890, fifteen years after Custer's mistake, the Ghost Dance was introduced to the Sioux by the Paiute seer Wovaka. It was a religion which promised the return of the buffalo and the disappearance of the white man. The Sioux were enthusiastic advocates. With equal vigor, however, their dream was destroyed by the massacre at Wounded Knee where thousands of Indian men, women and children fell at the hands of the United States artillery. Since that disaster, the Sioux have never recovered. And the straight goods is that the Altamont Festival of December 6, 1969, remains the only workable criterion for uprooting the Ghost Dance. Nobody wants to save what's best left dead." This is a quote from a heavy article that has been appearing in the American and European underground press during the last ten months. No one knows much about the guy who put the piece together and he likes it that way. His name is Emmett Grogan and last night I sat and talked with him and this is what he had to say:
"It was my fault. It was my fault because in October '69 I poorly represented the people of the Bay Area Community when I invited the Stones to a party which we were planning to throw in Golden Gate Park. My right to represent anyone had been negated by the lying, cheating, scheming, rip-off-artist reputation that I was tagged with in certain circles of professional musical swells, as well as a few other places.
"It was my fault that during the pre-concert discussions, I was egoblind to the fact that Jagger and Company had no intention of fulfilling our agreement that the people of the community construct and control the free festival while the Stones simply show up on one of the planned multiple stages whenever they felt like it and play just like any of the other 'name' bands that were going to be there.
"It was my fault that they not only didn't take me seriously but that they also didn't take the people seriously or even think that we were capable of getting it together by ourselves like we llad done thirty times before.
"It was my fault because I returned to San Francisco from Los Angeles and pumped everyone up about the wailing, 'free because it's yours!' party we were gonna have. A party which I said was gonna knock the despair and depression of the winter of '69 right on its ass.
"It was my fault that I didn't contact Allen Klein and advise him to tell his nephew and his friends to back off, when I realized that Ronnie Schneider was doing a 'trick the tricker' on us by saying that Golden Gate Park was too small (meaning that it was too big for a star-stonedMick-showcase) and the issuance of the permit for the use of the park was blocked.
"It was my fault that I didn't tear the lower lip off the punk who was leaking information to a San Francisco reporter who galloped around on a white horse and wrote inciting columns prior to the event
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which, more or less, demanded a disastrous chaos to salve his Wild West bruise and which inadvertently predicted Jann Wenner's Rolling Stone rag's yellow-journalistic smear of the people instead of the business.
"It was my fault because I didn't try to stop in any way that I could, the four hundred thousand people who were specifically convened to appear as extras in someone's idea of a home movie, promising that a percentage of the take from the film's profits would go toward a permissiveloony-bin-of-a-playground for the adventurers-in-poverty freaks, instead of toward reality which is Haight Street and Hunters Point in San Francisco and Uptown in Chicago and the Lower East Side in New York.
"It was my fault that the California Hells Angels who came to drink beer, have a good time and party with the community like they've been doing for years, ended up hassling to protect a trembling stage for a pussy who loves to provoke audiences into childhood hysteria and who thought that he was appearing before a flock of teenyboppers and flower children, rather than before a crowd of four hundred thousand men and women who discovered a long time ago that flowers die too easy. Even if they have thorns.
"It was my fault that several groups in the Bay Area came to distrust me because my silence duped them into thinking that the Altamont affair was sanctioned, when actually I should have blown the covers off of the fiasco weeks before it was allowed to take place and make suckers of us all.
"It was my fault because I permitted hip San Francisco chauvinism to dictate my silence into a belief that a good time would be had by all, even after the adequate Sears Point site had been vetoed when the professional sharks of the Filmways Corporation demonstrated that the business acumen of Schneider was that of a minnow and forced him to play out his dead hand of solitaire at a barren racetrack in the town of Livermore which no one even knew was in California.
"It was my fault that the Workable Lie which was the Rolling Stone Concert at Altamont wasn't seen clearly until, as Sweet William says, 'Everything it ever was, is all being sold.'
"And to the people to whom I was totally irresponsible, all I can say is mea culpa.
"And to all those false-bottomed-hipsters and the short-change-artists who like to deal dead hands and who like to think that they run things around here, un bacio d'morte.
"And Meredith Hunter dying like a sniveling maniac instead of like a determined man--that was his fault."
It was the first month of the 70s, and just about thirty days after Altamont went down forever, replacing Woodstock in the hip lexicon of expresssions, when Emmett Grogan began to feel he had
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done all he ever would in California with its people, at least for "Free!" anyway. He had been running free up and down and back and forth across the entire tapestry of the state and it all remained just as unknown to him as when he started back in '66. Now, every instinct he depended on told him it was time to split and leave it all behind, before it did just that to him.
He was anxious, but not fearful, of the future, and he wanted to get hold of the soundest, most truthful information, so he could devise himself a plan for that next unavoidable step he knew he was going to have to take into the unknown. There was no way for him to stay where it had become familiar, because all those old ways had proven themselves to be deadly. The West had become his home, and he pushed it as far as it could take him without dying. He understood that there was a time to die, but also that his time hadn't come as yet. He decided to head back to where it all began, when he was supposed to have been a boy. He decided to return to New York and Brooklyn, and he was going to walk all the way because he wanted to listen carefully to whatever sounds America was making. Everything he ever heard anybody say about America was true. This time around, he wanted to hear what America had to say, and the only real way for him to do that was by walking through it alone.
He left not a moment too soon. The various police agencies finally fitted the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together, and they came up with a picture of a man named "Emmett Grogan." It wasn't all that clear, so they badly wanted to find and talk with him. FBI agents questioned some of his friends, and those who put up some of his bail money in Los Angeles. Plainclothesmen in San Francisco picked up his sister who had been in that city for almost a year, interrogating her with their hands about the whereabouts of her brother. In Chicago, they asked around, but kept coming up with the empty-handed "nonexistence" line. In New York City, agents steadily harassed his parents, dropping hints about how Scotland Yard wanted some answers from their son, but always assuring them that it was just routine, until his exasperated mother asked "Which routine? Which routine?" One FBI man even left a note for his father which read, "Sorry I missed you. Please call my office tomorrow. Best time 8:30 A.M. to lo:oo A.M., or 4:30 to s:oo P.M. AGENT JOSEPH WALSH, FBI.
Emmett didn't know any of this when he walked away from San Francisco, leaving it all behind. He just had a feeling, a feeling that it would be better for him to be hanging sheetrock in Davenport,
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Iowa, and thinning out trees in the thick, overgrown forests that skirt the Canadian border, than to be nailed to the chauvinism of San Francisco with someone constantly explaining that "the best is always yet to come, so just do your thing, and you'll be king!"
The moment he took that first step out of what no longer was his home, Emmett knew he'd made a righteous move and that he was on his way to making it real once more, compared to not.
His legs carried him through the absurd wave of do-nothing terrorism that began and ended with the explosion of the bomb factory in the wealthy Greenwich Village townhouse. They took him past Eldridge Cleaver's threat of "race war," if white radicals failed to rally to the defense of Bobby Seale, and on by the subsequent May Day weekend held to protest the chairman's "railroad" trial in a town where some Broadway shows close before they get to open in the Big Apple. He didn't even stop to take a look at those shot at Kent and Jackson State or the ones missing in the jungles of Cambodia. He did, however, pause for a moment in bewilderment at Huey P.'s release, just to figure what it might mean, now that Fred Hampton was long dead. Finally his legs brought him back to "Go" and a humid, hot summer that was lightened up a bit by a blond mouthful of a woman who was simply another day in another week.
Then Pearl died, and Emmett watched Nixon squash the prosperity that spawned the country's counterculture, causing the hardhat, blue-collar guys to beat on marching students, in hope that the President would grant some grace to labor in the economic wageprice freeze. He didn't, though, and neither did they have to stomp down the college kids who already reconsidered and subdued themselves to the yoke now that jobs were scarce.
And so, Emmett saw it all come down to money once again. On the street he heard that it had cost twenty-five thousand to bust out Leary from the San Luis Obispo minimum security farm, and that Cleaver put him under house arrest in Algiers because he didn't come through with the ten grand he promised him. Later, after three of the twenty-one Panther defendants had jumped bail from their trial in New York, two of them allegedly returned to liberate money by taking the wages from some of their black brothers and sisters, humiliating them by forcing them to strip naked in a Harlem after-hours social club where they were trying to forget their jobs as chauffeurs and domestics.
After the split became forever in the Black Panther Party, Cleaver really showed himself to be nothing more than crazy by threatening
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to kill all and anyone, no matter who, and finally offing one of his own brothers in Algeria who, he boasted, ". . . was only the first to be buried in the Panther graveyard, leavin' plenty room for more!" Just another low-riding mug who, like all mugs, started knifing his brothers in the back when he got himself in a jam by leaving the country he couldn't handle--in the same way he couldn't handle women.
Cleaver finally parodied himself by holding an absurd press conference in Algiers to announce his imminent return to America where, he said, he was going to organize "urban guerrilla units" patterned after those in Latin America, Quebec and Northern Ireland. Their deeds would include political kidnappings "of such a nature that they will receive nationwide and worldwide coverage, as well as other exploits that we will openly and proudly admit throughout the Pigs' news media!"
Later that same day, H. Rap Brown was shot, apparently, in a gun duel with some New York cops after he and three St. Louis black men allegedly stuck up the Red Carpet Lounge, robbing all the nonwhite patrons and some kids who were having a penny-ante dice game outside the bar. Some people would say that sticking up saloons was a revolutionary act. It wasn't, and probably no one knew that better than H. Rap Brown. Apparently, Cleaver doesn't know it, even though the conviction of his Black Panthers, Richard Moore and Eddie Josephs, who pleaded guilty to the robbery of the after hours club, gave proof to the lie of his announced "threat" of organized urban guerrilla warfare in America.
Emmett listened to the black, brown and white people on the streets of New York that day, as they reacted to Cleaver's statements with angry contempt for his false-bottomed threat against the "Pigs!" In the end, they all seemed to know that whenever the deal finally went down for Eldridge Cleaver, he would prey on his "own people" and, just like the other two brothers of his Panther faction, would call it a "political act" instead of simply another street crime committed against the poor. The low-money people didn't like it very much, and neither, Emmett suspected, did such legitimate, stand-up, serious organizations as the FLQ, the IRA and the Tumpamaros.
Huey P., Bobby Seale and David Hilliard, however, stood in front of the men and women who chose their side, and that major faction of the Panther party finally began to get down to what it was all about by serving the people through fulfilling their needs, rather
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than filling their ears with words. Emmett watched the change and was glad that it happened the way it did, heightening the contradictions to the point of no return.
The money theme kept beating its rhythm into Emmett's mind, forming a pattern that became a medley of riotous melodies from the ghetto insurrections to the student uprisings to the prison rebellions which for him became the most important--the Attica massacre spelling it out for those who, until then, just didn't understand.
He thought about the word Attica, which was the name for that part of Greece which encircled the ancient city of Athens. He saw the analogy between the city and state of New York. Most inmates in that Attica state penitentiary were city slickers being guarded by hokey, upstate appleknockers in the same way the lawabiding citizens of the city of New York are legislated against by country-boy "representatives" who have no real idea about the problems of running an urban environment.
Emmett decided to concern himself with what was once known as urban blight, now as urban abandonment. He knew that in New York City thirty thousand to forty thousand dwellings were abandoned each year, in Philadelphia twenty thousand, and much the same, in St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland and San Francisco. There was a section of Brooklyn called Brownsville which he chose as a plausible spot to maybe do it. To send out a general alarm to all those wandering, heavy hipsters who learned the trade of how to live their lives, and invite them all to converge on Brownsville, occupy it, reconstruct it as a community and try to do what most of them had sought to do in other places without making all the same mistakes. This time as a really postcompetitive, comparative collective community.
Emmett knew who they were by now, and he thought of them as eagles: "Individuals, families, communes, gangs, who are bound together by the blues life. The ones that throw it all away. They're everything anyone wants to be. They're the cream of the streets and their frame of reference is a style of life and death that has been censored from history and condemned to hearsay since man learned to read and write. They are the ones to survive the plagues, the ones in this country who are not in an illusory bag and the ones who get more than the oakey-doke without askin'.
"The best music--the best of everything that is expressive of all this country's got to give is by and about them.
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"The blues are finally a people who are going to take care of business."
Emmett knew it would work and that something like that had to work if the cities were to be saved. To be saved in an ideological age where ideas lived a greater life than man and words were juggled in a gigantic hoax and where he needed more than the skeleton to make the vision walk. He needed to lift off something that was neither beauty nor truth, but only a plaster false face, if he was to be one of the only ones to discover the grin of the skeleton.
The only ones were those that had reached their own rock bottom and got up. They always got up. They searched for brothers and sisters, not friends. They did not play the role of crowd in remakes of the Law & Order vs. Riot movie. They didn't sell their vision-- to sell their vision would have been to pretend it was theirs. They didn't put themselves on, fall guy. They were wise to the educated fools who look to confront fake situations where pretensions can be made to self-defense. They killed who had to be killed. They were sick and tired of being sick and tired. They dug that the goin' up better be worth the comin' down. They deceived deception with truth. They were spreading the cheeks and kissing the little brown asshole of democracy. They dealt with all real things in all moments of agony and joy. They didn't waste their efforts in games which kill time, deaden awareness and brutalize feeling. They did not let themselves be suicided by a Judas-goat society. They were no longer lonesome for their heroes. They took care of business. They did not nickle-dime bomb make-believe numbers. They did what was necessary (not unnecessary) to end the desperation of illness, hunger, nakedness, addiction, poverty, eviction, jail, oppression and the money conspiracy which decimated the streets and backwoods. They were all innocent. They were felons. They were good at it. They did not intend to spend any more time in penitentiaries. They did not use the courts for redress. They were silent about almost everything. They remembered Michael Collins and what his comrades had done to him. They did not own it. They loved. They were the offspring of mid-twentieth-century broken consciousness. They were beyond the possibility of defeat. "They, that unnamed, 'they.' Well, nothing moves a mountain but itself. And they-- I've long ago named them me."
Then Emmett Grogan sat down to write a book for all the heartbroke lovers he left behind awaiting release. And for Kenny Wisdom and his suntan.
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