- Storm System
- Gina Aliases
- Joe Scaramella
- Our Only Hope
- Hip Replacement
- Save 100%
- Yesterday's Catch
- FAIR Insurance
- Never Give Up
- Without Solidarity
- Love Child
- Horowitz Report
- Macron Statement
- Favorite Books
- Prison Bad
- Economic Price
- Buy Nothing
- Influence Peddler
- My Beating
- People's Movement
- Donahue Firing
- Found Object
A STORM SYSTEM will yield periods of rain, heavy mountain snow, and strong southeast winds this afternoon and evening. Additional rain is expected Sunday and Monday before drier conditions develop by mid next week. Wet and unsettled weather will likely return late next week. (National Weather Service)
COMING TO MENDOCINO
by Joe Scaramella (as told to Mark Scaramella in 1994)
People sometimes ask me if I remember the 1906 Earthquake. Not only do I remember the the Big One, but, Hell, I brought it on!
After leaving Northern Italy, crossing France, getting on a steamship and crossing the Atlantic in steerage and processed through Ellis Island, my younger brother John and I and my mother arrived in San Francisco by cross-country train the night before the big San Francisco earthquake. It was April 17, 1906. I was 8. Early in the morning, on April 18 things shook up. They couldn't stand our presence so they shook the hell out of us, I guess. Our father met us the night before the earthquake as planned. The morning of the earthquake we were scheduled to board the steamer Seafoam and go up the Coast. In those days there were all kinds of schooners that plied the coast mostly in lumber. They also carried some passengers. We were supposed to board the schooner for Point Arena. But the horrible thing shook everything up and a large part of the city was on fire. Of course our trip was canceled, no boat or anything.
John and I got the measles. So we were quarantined in a chicken coop in the East Bay harbor area for several days. After we recovered we were taken in by another Oakland family. My father finally tracked us down after a month of desperate searching. He hadn't seen his family for six years.
So we eventually did get here. We had to come around by Greenwood Road. There was a stage that came out of Cloverdale, Ledford's Stage Line — came out of Cloverdale over the Greenwood Road and down to Greenwood.
My mother never recovered from the trauma of the whole trip. In the first place, she didn't want to leave. Her home and her relatives were back in Italy. She was a simple peasant lady. She didn't want to leave home, but, of course, when the call came from her husband in California, she had to obey. So we came out here. She had a trunk — all her most treasured possessions were in it. There were some linen sheets, and linen pillowcases and family heirlooms and so forth and she treasured them. The trunk disappeared. It was burned up or stolen, we don't know what really happened to it. So, that reinforced the trauma she already had.
When we finally got up to Point Arena, my father had purchased a small lot over here. He thought it would be a money making idea to go into the saloon business. And I'll be damned if that winter — because of the quake, the following winter was a heavy rain year — all the streambeds were plugged up because the earth had been shaken loose and water was going all kinds of places. So it came over here into town, and just after my father had finished building the saloon, a big slide came down and washed it out. Mother was there. Just as she was starting to get settled when that happened. She was even more convinced that leaving home was a big mistake. One catastrophe after the next. She never learned to speak English because she was so upset about it. We may laugh about it now, I guess, but it was really bad at that time.
After the saloon washed out, my father built that structure that's still standing over there. He still thought the saloon business was the way to make some money. So he went into partnership with a young man. This young man was interested in some girls across the street. And he was attracting some business over there, instead of bringing business home to father’s saloon. It didn’t matter much in the long run though, my father never really got anywhere in the saloon business. As a businessman my dad just never had it.
He was definitely an influential man in his own way. The establishment here used him to deal with problems that came up with the Italian workers. The workers would go to him too because it was clear to them that he did know some things. He’d been here longer than most of them having arrived in 1898 and waiting until 1905 to send for his wife and my brother and I.
He did have some schoolin', he could read and write. Many of the immigrants and workers could not. So they would go to him for help. He thought that was fine because all you needed to do to talk to him was go down to the cellar and open the spigot on the wine barrel and sit down at the table to visit and endeavor to tell him, by God, he was a smart man.
Scheming adults would take advantage of that though. He would enter into agreements and bargains that would condemn him and his family forever to get the short end of the stick. One time he told me, "You eat polenta, not words." In other words, once you give your word, you're bound. I always felt that way too. Once you give your word, your obliged. If you don't want to commit yourself, don't give the word. If you give the word, then abide by it. That's the way we operated. He was a good man. But, you'd have to say that he simply liked wine.
When we came to Point Arena, Eli White Lumber Company was the only big employer. Eli White Lumber Company owned most of the entire Greenwood timber tract and down to Point Arena. There was a wooden flume that traveled down the south side of the Garcia River way up into the hills about six or seven miles. There used to be a saw mill up there. They would saw the lumber. Then, to get it down to load on the boat, they'd have a flume of water. They were like the flumes up in the motherlode with the mountain sluices where they would run water. They'd just put the lumber in the flume and shoot it down.
Then the mill closed down, and making ties took over. It was a 26-inch or 30-inch wide flume. They would staple three 8-inch wide ties together, set 'em in the water and they'd come down. At the foot of the hill there was huge water wheel. Water spilling from the flume was geared to some rollers. The rollers would run the ties up to the top of the hill. There were some fellas there who would take the ties off and put them on small gauge rail cars which would take the ties out to the dock where they were loaded onto the awaiting steamships. It was a hell of an engineering feat.
My brother John and I used to walk along the side of the flume. Sometimes we would run along. If they saw us now, they'd think we were trying to commit suicide.
We were nomads around this area. There would be a layout, tie-making for example. We started out here by the Garcia River, we moved across the river and went up to Brush Creek, finished that up and went down to Valley Crossing. That's down there by Sea Ranch near the road to Annapolis right over the hill there. That was the last layout we had. After that we bought the ranch out here near Alder Creek north of Manchester and went into the dairy business. That's where our father lived and our younger brothers who were born here grew up. That situation was really made to order to do something in business. My father didn't like the notion of just taking orders from someone else. He wanted to work but he wanted to be the boss too. My father came up ahead and rented the place first. Then he later bought it after some success in the dairy business.
Italians weren't accepted very well at that time. The Dagos were something that the area could do without, but they were here.
I’m not sure what was behind that prevailing opinion among the original coast settlers. It intrigues me because my father was anti-clerical in Italy. At that time there was a progressive movement and a lot of socialism in Northern Italy. And he tended to rebel against the existing order. He felt the church was largely responsible for the condition of the peasants and everything like that. He had that attitude. It was prevalent in northern Italy at the time. He brought some of it here. He later realized that faith in something is essential to human beings, so he moderated his tone and let it go. Mother was a devout Catholic. She had an uncle who was a parish priest. But I never got in the habit of going to church. We were way out in the woods and there was no way to get to church. So I never got heavily involved in religion. I accept it and in fact I encourage it as a moderating process in life, but I don't necessarily like the forms and rituals and everything they have to do to be devout. But my father was definitely anti-clerical.
My father was a peasant. That's why he felt he had to leave. Some went to Switzerland for the summer. Some would go to South America. Most came to America. A lot came to California. The region in northern Italy where we come from -- we were from the small town of Delibio -- most of them came to California. Most of the southern Italians -- the Sicilians, the Neopolitans — stopped on the east coast — Boston, New York, Philadelphia.
We were country people when we came through Ellis Island and we were used to accepting people in authority. We were told what to do and we did it. I do remember seeing people crying, people who must have had something wrong with them or their papers.
A few were sent back, or to a holding camp. Luckily, we went through. We had an advantage. We had a man who had been here before to kind of chaperone us. He could speak some English and he could communicate for us. Many others couldn't speak a word of English. I suppose some of the government agents could speak some Italian, I don't know. We did exactly what we were told to do. That was all we knew to do — do what you're told.
In the Bay Area when the Italians started arriving they did then what they do now — they would congregate together. North Beach was the Italian Quarter. Oh! So you'd go to North Beach and you had all the culture and language. That was there, that's what brought us together.
At 14 years of age, instead of going to high school I was packing seven by eight ties from down the hill up there up to the top all day long. No pay — it was a family operation. The old man would get these jobs and contracts and he had to make good. So I had to help him make good packing the ties. Ten to twelve hours a day. All day long. Like a human donkey.
There was one brothel in this Point Arena at the time. Most communities around here had at least one. There was one in Navarro. There was one in Ukiah, a famous one. I was a kid, what the hell did I know about any of this? I don’t think it was regulated, if it was it would have been very minimal.
I always had a high regard for the inhabitants of the brothels as a kid because they were right next door to us. One of them had a weeping willow tree outside. They'd put a parrot out on it, squawking, squawking. All of a sudden the parrot disappeared. Gone. So the lady was frantic trying to find it. We were there, so she got us to try to help her. So when we brought back the parrot she gave us five dollars. Wow! That was great! I went to my father and said, "Look what I just made!" He said, "Give that to me." (Laughs) So I thought they were pretty good people. They gave me five dollars for catching the bird.
I used to go to school at Brush Creek. We had to go across the river on a boat, so I learned to scull a boat across the creek. Then across the Indian reservation and then up the road to Brush Creek. That's the only way my brother John and I could get to school in those days.
There wasn’t much big game then. There might have been a few bears around when I was a kid, I didn't take much notice of it then. But by the time I was old enough to be aware, there wasn't any.
I didn’t hunt or fish much myself, but a lot of the workers did. I used to trap for hides. The fishing was fine and we did it as a kid. You'd have a goddamn willow stick and a line and it was no trouble catching fish. But that early fishing was the only fishing I've done. I bought a hunting license once. I did it to validate an illegal deer. A man I knew wanted to claim I killed a deer that he had killed so that it would be legal. I had a valid hunting license that once but I didn't kill the deer. I thought I might get some deer steak out of it, but I didn't. But no more hunting after that.
On the Fourth of July there were horse races right up through town here. Later they went over the the flats and had horse races over there. The Fourth of July was an occasion for oratory and all this. They ran the horses right up the main street! Fred Bishop and some of the other high-falutin’ young bucks made a big production of it at the time. They had a good time prancing their horses. It was a part of the Fourth of July celebration after the oratory. They would get a court judge or a legislator to deliver a pot-boiler, enthusiastic, patriotic speech.
As I began to grow up I would look around and I thought I'd hit the old man up for a dollar or so for my work. Christ, he'd sternly admonish me. I was totally out of order. Finally, it got to be more than I could take and I left home at about age 18 and went to North Beach and didn’t come back until my mid-20s when I started the Point Arena Garage.
(Joe Scaramella went on to run for Fifth District Supervisor starting in the 30s, losing four consecutive times, a County record, before being elected in a special election in 1952 and serving for 18 years until 1970.)
by Paul Modic
When you have a major life event planned, a complicated one like hip-replacement surgery, you pretty much know the outline of your near future: an invasive operation followed by decreased mobility using a walker and painful recovery for weeks or months.
I raced down to Willits to beat the first big storm of the season due to arrive Tuesday and was an hour early for my first appointment. I found the hospital, drove out into Little Lake valley to check out the new bypass, then wrote down my questions about the operation and recovery in the parking lot.
I took a seat in the waiting room with my Anderson Valley Advertiser where there was the usual assortment of sick-looking people all overweight and pasty-faced. Fabi called out my name, lead me to the examination room, and took my vitals. “You've got the best blood pressure so far today,” she said.
“Yup, I was the prettiest girl in the waiting room,” I said.
The doctor came in, a young guy in his mid-thirties, reminding me of my new young dentist in Eureka. He took the CD of my X-rays and disappeared. When he got back he asked what was going on. “I'm limping around on this bad hip,” I said.” I can't reach my toenails to cut them and it's harder to get up off the toilet.”
“How about your pain?” he said.
“Well, I probably cry out about once or twice a day. When I get up from a chair I often can't walk for a few seconds,” I said.
“Sometimes you'll feel it in other places too,” he said.
“Yeah when I drove to Tacoma last spring my ass got so sore I had to stop every forty minutes and walk around. Then when I was in Mexico I discovered Ibuprofen and took that three times a day when I drove back from Texas.”
“We can give you something stronger too.”
“Well, I don't take the Ibuprofen at home, just on car trips so I don't think I need that.”
He took ahold of my leg, tested it for flexibility, and found little. “I've been limping around for five or ten years but I can still walk forty minutes in the park but I'm not very motivated, probably because of the discomfort. I only go when someone invites me,” I said.
“So you can't rate your pain level?” he asked.
“Well, when I walk I feel something with every step so I'm used to it. My friends said I was worse last year so I was finally convinced to see a doctor and get the X-rays.”
“Yes, you have arthritis but you're not using a cane.”
“I can still dance wildly on the dance floor. When I'm doing that I wonder why I would need a hip replacement. I just want to be able to cut my toenails. I could cut them last May.”
He explained the process of the hip replacement, replacing the natural ball with a smaller one. “When we have the leg open we test it out checking the flexibility in various directions. They don't want you to bend over too much so the ball doesn't slip from the socket. Cutting your nails may still be an issue.”
Then he told me something completely unexpected. “I don't think it's time for this. Come back in three months. You'll need one someday, maybe three months, maybe three years.”
“Does it make a difference that my X-rays are almost a year old?” I asked.
“Maybe. Examining you here might tell me more than the X-rays. You have arthritis, not the…” and he named some more serious condition others have, which I forgot.
“I interviewed three people extensively who've had the hip replacement and a few more casually, and all of them were worse off than I am, such as having difficulty sleeping. I sleep pain-free.”
“See you in three months,” the wunderkind said and shook my hand again. “You can get new X-rays then.”
I had a reprieve! I drove out of there with a smile on my face planning the celebration: a high class cupcake from Amellias with ice cream on top. The storm was just starting as I drove through the beautiful and harmless snow flurries on the Laytonville grade, passing those shabby little cabins and trailer courts along the way. (It reminded me of the hitchhiking trip I took when I was twenty-two looking for a Plymouth Valiant station wagon and the teenage girl who also got picked up that night. The driver had put us up in one of those little cabins in his backyard and we were quickly all over each other. No condoms, no worries—it was the seventies. Maybe someday I'll get a knock on my door…but it'll probably just be the cops.)
So what to do? The cupcake and ice cream has been eaten, I don't have to prepare for surgery, and so I have no excuse for what to make of my life for the next half year or longer. I have been madly preparing for the hip replacement the last couple months: I killed thirteen rats then cleaned out the shed, ordered the new washer/dryer combo, got the last load of stuff from the place I sold in Whale Gulch, and just spent a week escaping squalor by cleaning my house.
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 29, 2019
CHRISTOPHER DOYLE, Hopland. Stolen vehicle.
LEILA DOYLE, Hopland. Stolen vehicle.
JOAQUINA JOAQUIN, Covelo. DUI, parole violation.
MICHAEL PERRY, Ukiah. Criminal threats, disobeying court order, probation revocation.
MARVIN RABANOES, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
STEVEN RICH, Clearlake/Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
TERESA RINCON, Vallejo/Willits. Domestic battery.
JULIAN SALAZAR, Rio Linda/Redwood Valley. County parole violation.
ANTHONY SILVA, North San Juan/Hopland. Grand theft.
TASHINA TILLMAN, Willits. Paraphernalia, failure to appear.
WALTER VANSANT, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
MALISSA WARNER, Ukiah. Parole violation.
For the insurance-challenged: The Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan, which is referred to as the home insurance plan of last resort, is quickly becoming the only resort for many California homeowners due to devastating wildfires statewide. This plan costs significantly more than a traditional plan and only covers fire damage. Homeowners then have to get a second plan to cover things such as water damage, theft, falling objects and liability.
On Nov. 14, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara ordered the FAIR Plan to begin selling comprehensive insurance policies. In addition, he said the plan must double its homeowners’ coverage limits, from $1.5 million currently, to $3 million by April 1, 2020.
Policyholders also will be able to pay monthly using credit cards or electronic transfers without being charged additional fees.
Lara said he’d heard from thousands of California homeowners who were being denied insurance because they live in fire prone areas. This already has affected home sales and home prices.
The FAIR Plan isn’t tax funded. Instead, all property and casualty insurance companies doing business in California are required to pay into it. The Plan is governed by a board of directors appointed by various government officials, but Lara has the authority to override their decisions. His Nov. 14 order included a directive that the Fair Plan Association come up with a new plan within 30 days that includes the comprehensive policy option.
The California FAIR Plan Association President Anneliese Jivan has called Lara’s order “a misguided approach.”
In a prepared statement, Jivan said, “Implementing such a fundamental change in our mission and operations would involve a massive scale up of personnel with expertise in different types of insurance. Not only would this take significant time and divert resources from core activities focused on improving service to existing and new FAIR Plan policyholders, but it will also result in increased operating costs that will be passed along in the form of higher rates for all policyholders.”
FAIR Plan policies have been limited, historically, because the insurance industry hasn’t wanted the state-mandated plans to compete with their private insurance plans.
But Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a nonprofit that advocates for insurance consumers, says that insurance companies can’t have it both ways. “If [insurance companies] don’t like it, the solution really is to start doing their job and selling insurance again,” she said. “This is an untenable situation.”
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Nobody wants to talk about declining resources and adjusting our way of life. To do so people would have to admit there are problems to be solved and dangers on our horizon. That is not going to happen.
Denial rules. Monuments of stone in the public square are carved to worship denial and the political system in America is constructed to facilitate the earning of great riches, and not the solution of social ills or a rational system that could endure.
Yet a bigger bigger problem than denial prevents Americans from stepping up to reality.
America is built on exploitation and the worship of inequality. Consequently America is a land without SOLIDARITY which leaves everyone isolated. Justice and a fair shake become impossible in a land of isolation and now with digital enforcement impossible becomes hopeless. Everybody gets picked off one smart phone screen at a time now. Our rulers know their Sun Tzu very well. The American dream is to ‘make it’ and leave everyone else behind. It is a dream without SOLIDARITY which makes all vulnerable.
Any philosophy which expresses a social consciousness is suppressed, and if need be by the deep state violence in America. Socialism in America has the social cache as being publicly outed as a pervert or pedophile.
This will not end well.
by James Kunstler
At yesterday’s Thanksgiving table, fifteen adults present, there was not one word uttered about impeachment, Russia, Ukraine, and, most notably, a certain Golden Golem of Greatness, whose arrival at the center of American life three years ago kicked off a political hysteria not witnessed across this land since southern “fire eaters” lay siege to Fort Sumter.
I wonder if some great fatigue of the mind has set in among the class of people who follow the news and especially the tortured antics of Rep. Adam Schiff’s goat rodeo in the House intel Committee the past month. I wonder what the rest of congress is detecting among its constituents back home during this holiday hiatus. I suspect it is that same eerie absence of chatter I noticed, and what it may portend about the nation’s disposition toward reality.
The dead white man Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) famously observed that “all truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident.” America has been stuck in stage two lo these thirty-six months since Mr. Trump shocked the system with his electoral victory over She-Whose-Turn-Was-Undoubted, inciting a paroxysm of rage, disbelief, and retribution that has made the Left side of the political transect ridiculous, and repeatedly, ignominiously so, as their fantasies about Russian “collusion” and sequential chimeras dissolve in official proceedings.
The astounding failure of Mr. Mueller’s report did nothing to dampen the violent derangement. There was no rethinking whatsoever about the terms-of-engagement in the Left’s war against the populist hobgoblin. The solidarity of delusion remained locked in place, leading to Mr. Schiff’s recent antics over his false “whistleblower” and the enfilade of diplomatic flak-catchers tasked to ward off any truthful inquiry into events in Ukraine.
But then, with the Thanksgiving shut-down, something began to turn. It was signaled especially in the Left’s chief disinformation organ, The New York Times, with a week-long salvo of lame stories aimed at defusing the Horowitz report, forthcoming on December 9. The Times stories were surely based on leaks from individuals cited in the IG’s report, who were given the opportunity to “review” the briefs against them prior to the coming release. The stories gave off an odor of panic and desperation that signaled a crumbling loss of conviction in the three-year narrative assault on the truth — namely, that the US Intel Community organized a coup to overthrow the improbable President Trump.
From this point forward, the facts of the actual story — many of them already in the public record, one way or another, and sedulously ignored by the news media — will be officially detailed by federal authorities outside the orbit of the coupsters, and finally beyond the coupsters’ control. The facts may include the uncomfortable truth that Mr. Mueller and his helpers were major players in the bad-faith exercises of the Intel Community against the occupant of the White House.
I’m not so sure that the Resistance can keep up the fight, since their enemy is reality as much as reality’s mere personification in Mr. Trump. The violent opposition Schopenhauer spoke of in his three-stage model was just procedural in this case, moving through the courts and committees and other organs of the state. I don’t think the Left can bring the fight to the streets. They don’t have it in them, not even the ANTIFA corps. The hard truths of perfidy and treachery in the upper ranks of government will rain down in the weeks ahead, and when they do, there’s an excellent chance that they will be greeted as self-evident. The Times, the WashPo and the cable news networks will have no choice but to report it all. My guess is that they will display a kind of breathlessly naïve wonder that such things are so. Most remarkably, they might just assert that they knew it all along — a final twitch of bad faith as the new paradigm locks into place.
I expect that we will see something else happen along with that: a loud repudiation of the Democratic Party itself, a recognition that it betrayed the mental health of the nation in its lawless and demented inquisitions. I expect that sentiment will extend to the party’s current crop of candidates for the White House, to the delusional proposals they push, and perhaps even to the larger ethos of the Wokester religion that has programmatically tried to destroy the common culture of this country — especially the idea that we have a duty to be on the side of truth.
(Support Kunstler’s writing by visiting his Patreon Page.)
DUTCH ARTISTS PAINT GIANT BOOKCASE ON AN APARTMENT BUILDING FEATURING RESIDENTS’ FAVORITE BOOKS
PRISON IS HELL ON EARTH, only hell couldn’t be this bad. I can tell you this on a stack of Bibles: prisons are archaic, brutal, unregenerative, overcrowded hell holes where the inmates are treated like animals with absolutely not one humane thought given to what they are going to do once they are released. You’re an animal in a cage and you’re treated like one.
— Jimmy Hoffa
FORGET BLACK FRIDAY, Celebrate Buy Nothing Day instead.
STREET FIGHTING MAN: The Night New York City Cops Beat Me Bloody
by Jonah Raskin
I know your eyes are glued to the circus in D.C. and the slaughter that’s taking place in Afghanistan and half-a-dozen other places in a world that’s on fire. I’m paying close attention, too. I’m also paying attention to my strangely electrifying memories of the night I was arrested and beaten by a dozen or so New York City cops until I was black and black, my skull cracked open and bones broken. There have been worse beating since then, but at the time the ACLU said it was the worst beating in NYC history. Fifty years later, some of my bones haven’t healed; several fingers are crooked and a near-constant reminder of the occasion when my pal, Robert Reilly, and I were detained for hours in two precincts in Manhattan and worked over, so to speak, at the behest of John Finnegan, known informally as “Captain Jack,” the head of the infamous Red Squad, which was the subject, decades ago, of a documentary by Joel Sucher (of Pacific Street Films).
Sucher tracked Finnegan to Hawaii, where he had retired and then turned the tables on the man whose job it was to keep track of protesters and tell cops who to beat. Finnegan, who always looked impeccably Ivy League, fingered me and Reilly and other demonstrators who were in the streets of midtown Manhattan on the night of December 9, 1969, and ready for bloodshed.
There were more than three thousand of us armed with rocks, bottles and clubs. We were protesting two things: the assassinations of two Chicago Black Panthers, Mark Clark and Fred Hampton, five days earlier while they were asleep; and the fact that Nixon was in the Waldorf Astoria where he received the National Football Foundation’s Gold Medal. Nixon delivered a speech, which I read days later, in which he said he believed “in telling the truth about football and everything” and that “our great assets are not our military strength or our economic wealth, but that America’s young people produce the kind of men that we have in American football today.”
By the time that December 1969 rolled along, I had been protesting for a decade, on the campus of Columbia, where I was a student, and on the streets of New York, which I knew almost as well as I knew the campus. I was arrested and jailed twice by December 1969. Over the course of the 1960s, I protested against segregation and for integration, against nuclear testing and for peace, against the House Committee of Un-American Activities and against the Vietnam War. There were a lot of reasons to protest.
On one occasion in 1963, I protested, all by myself, the arrival on the Columbia campus of the notorious Madame Nhu, known from 1955 to 1963 as “the First Lady of Vietnam.” What especially irked me was that she mocked the Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, after he set fire to himself on a Saigon street to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. Madam Nhu labeled Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation a “barbecue” and stated, “Let them burn and we shall clap our hands.” I struck the window of the limousine in which she was seated and watched her flinch.
By 1969, I had signed petitions, sent telegrams, written letters to several presidents, marched in front of the White House, and joined picket lines in Manhattan. On December 9th, I wanted to do something I had never done before: put my body on the line (wasn’t that what Mario Savio suggested we do?) and damage property as a way to make a statement that words on the page seemed inadequate to convey.
After I was arrested and beaten and charged with criminal anarchy and attempted murder of a police officer, a college friend came to visit me in my apartment. “You were crazy to do what you did,” he told me. Perhaps I was. To smash six huge plate glass windows at Sax Fifth Ave, the posh department store, took a certain degree of madness, though smashing windows, or “trashing” as it was known, had become a frequent form of protest and even a way of life by the end of the decade, at least for protesters known as “militants.”
Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones had popularized the idea of rioting when they sang, “Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet/the time is right for fighting in the street.” A few years later, Nick Lowe would sing, “I love the sound of breaking glass/I need the noises of destruction.” Those apocalyptic songs didn’t cause me to trash. I can’t blame Jagger and Lowe. I had plenty of pent-up motives, some personal and some overtly political, without their lyrics to goad me. Still, their hit songs reflected my own feelings and the collective experience that was expressed in the streets of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago where the Weathermen staged their “Days of Rage.” With the Yippies, the Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers and other left wing groups, it was cool to trash.
I started the evening’s festivities on December 9th by hurling a few rocks, which I had brought with me for the occasion. I aimed them at the window outside the office of TAP, the Portuguese Airline, which cracked and then shattered into a thousand pieces. A kid with an aerosol can spray painted the words “off the pig” on the wall of a near-by building. Mounted cops drove their horses into the crowd, and, though we retreated briefly, we also regrouped. Christmas lights twinkled in the darkness. I made my way from Fifth Avenue to 50th Street, admired St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then looked with a kind of longing at the seductive windows at Sax Fifth Avenue.
I picked up a club that happened to be lying in the street and held it in my hand. Suddenly, a window cracked and a mannequin in an evening gown collapsed. Someone shouted, “The pigs are coming.” No matter, I thought. After I heard the lovely sounds of breaking glass, I wanted to hear them again. I smashed a total of six windows and ran east toward Madison Avenue.
Several men, one of them wearing a tie-dyed shirt, and fringe jacket, came toward. I barreled my way ahead, but they began to club me. I raised my hands over my head to protect myself, and then fell to the sidewalk. One of the men had a gun. Another wore a badge. I looked down and saw that I was handcuffed, and so was Bob Reilly, a 40-year old New York high school teacher, who had tried to protect me, and who was rewarded by being beaten and arrested.
At some point we were both taken to Roosevelt Hospital. My battered head took about eighteen or so stitches. I thought the worst was over and so did Bob’s wife, Barbara, my mother-in-law, Annie Stein, and my dear friend, Dana Biberman, who stood outside the entrance to the hospital and watched as we were taken away in a squad car. That night and well into the next morning, the police moved us from one precinct to another. At the 18th, an ACLU lawyer named Paul Chevigny, who specialized in cases of police brutality, tried to talk to us and was prevented from doing so. At about midnight, we were taken to the 17, pushed down a flight of stairs and careened off the walls.
Two cops, one Irish and the other Italian, both Vietnam veterans and the ringleaders of the beating, moved Reilly and I quickly past the desk sergeant and hurled us into a back room, where a dozen or so men took turns kicking, hitting, and verbally abusing us while we were handcuffed, facing the wall so we couldn’t see anyone clearly, or know when a blow was coming. It didn’t help matters that my glasses were removed and crushed. One cop who had been watching the assault, approached me and said, “You’re getting off easy. They ought to kill you.”
I lost track of time and felt like I was losing consciousness. “Don’t fall down, Reilly told me. “If you do they’ll kick you in your face and your balls.” I forced myself to stay awake. One cop held my outstretched hand and said, “Wanna see a neat trick?” He struck a match and placed it under the palm of my left hand. Yeah, it hurt. It was a neat trick. Another cop filled a bucket with cold water and emptied it over my head. Then we were taken in a squad car to the 4th precinct, along with a hippie kid who rapped nonstop about his commune on the Lower East Side and how he felt about Nixon and the War in Vietnam. “You sound like a Communist,” one of the cops said. The hippie kid brazenly replied, “I don’t want no government and no cops in my country.”
In court the next day bail was set at $30,000. My father and my mother-in-law put up $3,000 cash. Reilly and I walked. The Village Voice published my photo on page one, along with a story by Jack Newfield that provided me with a degree of notoriety. The New York Times ran a story that said, “2 Arrested at Anti-Nixon Protest Say They Were Beaten by Police.” A few days after the beating, a photographer from Youth Against War and Fascism, a boisterous Marxist-Leninist organization, took pictures of my battered and bruised body, and gave them to Chevigy at the ACLU. His office was burgled and the photos robbed. Nothing else was taken.
I remember that when I returned to my apartment the day after the beating, I looked into the bathroom mirror and didn’t recognize myself. My hair was matted and bloody, my skin blue and purple and one eye was partially closed. I swallowed a couple of Demerol and went to bed. The next morning when a longtime friend came to console me, I pretended that nothing bad had really happened. I opened a volume with Che’s essays and read aloud, “Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that our battle cry has reached a receptive ear, and another hand has reached out to take up our weapons.”
The decade of the 1960s was ending and the Sixties were busy being born. I was never arrested again, though I went into the streets to protest for another decade or so. I learned to act clandestinely, and when I needed to, to run very fast from the cops and elude capture and a beating.
(Jonah Raskin is the author of For The Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman and American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.)
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