"'One of the things I've always wanted to do,' said Lou Reed when I interviewed him for CREEM last spring, 'was introduce people to certain other people they wouldn't normally meet, or if they did meet 'em would wanna get very safely away. People you'd hate to get trapped at a party with.'
"In Berlin, Lou has finally realised his ambitions totally: this is the most disgustingly brilliant record of the year. There has always been a literary instinct behind Lou's best writing--classics like "Sweet Jane" were four minute short stories with recognizable characters acting out their roles, manipulated for Lou's amusement in a way he certainly considers Warholian. In Berlin, his first feature length presentation, the silhouettes have been filled in till they're living, breathing monsters." [From Lester's review of Lou Reed's Berlin in the December 1973 CREEM.]
I'm readin' that and I'm thinkin', damn, Lester was a damn good writer. A writer who had to write, like Lester says Lou Reed has a literary instinct, certainly that's what Lester had. That's not taught writing, that review; nope, that's writing from an untrained goofball high on Romilar but with a fast, speedy, witty brain, the reason for the Romilar or whatever other drugs were around, the brain going so fast it's like a huge highway chain of collisions fixing to happen, you are on that writing highway and the clever calls and responses are echoing around your brain like pinging bullets sounds in Hollywood action movies, PING! POP!--and we are, I just realized, the first teevee freak children, television advanced from seed to full-grown colorful bloom in Lester's and my time--I mean the tribes were getting their information suddenly not from books, newspapers, and magazines but from this little tiny movie theater, a portable movie theater that was also a visible radio broadcast, like the news and shit like that, those had before been on radio, but now you could see them, see? And television had an affect on music and musicians as it developed its various variety shows and amateur hours--yeah, they had American Idol on early television, Ted Mack and the Amateur Hour later taken over by Arthur Godfrey ("and all the little Godfreys") and Lipton Tea, and I can to this day remember listening to the old Major Bowes Amateur Hour on the radio--I remember a guy named Dick Contino and another guy named Pierce Brooks who played the vibes and went nowhere that I know of--Contino on the other hand went on to become a world-renown accordion player--that's right, and he played "Lady of Spain," the boring old saw that every kid who wanted to become a great accordion player strove to be able to handle like Siegfried and Roy handled those white Siberian tigers--whoops, I forgot, poor Roy, he got a little too "gay" with one of those beasts who almost feasted on old Roy's head--it could have been messy, like Gallagher smashing a watermelon, had that wild cat bitten down a little meanly harder--CRUNCH! SPLAT! SWOOSH!--and there goes Roy's brains and full sinuses squeezed out across the "oooohhhing" and "ahhhhhhing" fans, so ardent and adoring of these two Vegas clowns, they thought it was part of the act--hell, you know, anything can happen in Vegas.
And the more I read Lester the more I understand how fine a writer and thinker he is, starting from when he was 14 and got his first piece of writing published in his high school literary mag. And Lester had trouble in high school, too, and then he tried to go to San Diego State and take writing courses but that didn't last, that didn't satisfy his whizzing brain, clicking so cooly, burning midnight oils reading writers like Celine, or reading Poe even, or then reading Rolling Stone, which was founded in San Francisco at about the time Lester was lethargic about college but still having to write and soon Lester was thinking, "Hell, I can write as good as those freaks at Rolling Stone" and he submitted some writing and Jan Weiner liked it and there begins Lester Bangs's writing career.
Do I feel parallel to Lester? Hell yes I do--and in reading back in Jim DeRogatis's book [Let It Blurt] I suddenly see that Norma Belle Clifton Catchings Bangs was born September 14, 1906 in Pecos County, Texas--Holy Cow! Here we go again--coincidence--and as an animal who can write I dearly love coincidence (without coercion)--so now I discover both Lester's parents were born in Texas--Lester's father near Dallas and his mother--guess where Pecos is? in West Texas, where I was born, about halfway between Dallas and Pecos--and my mother, though she was born in South Texas, was born in 1906--both were Virgos--Virgins--and Lester's mother acted like a virgin as she got older and devoted her whole life to being a Russelite, a Jehovah's Witness, and haunted poor Lester, and my mother acted like a virgin the whole time I knew her--though of course I was proof my mother wasn't a virgin but I never thought of it that way--I simply thought of it as my dad not getting any that I remember--unless my mother's screams in the middle of the night that I thought were her losing her mind were actually screams of extreme ejaculation--yes, women ejaculate--why I could tell you a story of an experience I had on Cape Cod one fall--but, see, see why writers drink and take drugs--our minds just shoot new projects at us constantly, alluring tangents of thought that lead to other stories other tales other adventures other books other posts other blogs other coincidences and never connecting parallel lines--and I mean connecting in the sense why didn't Lester and I recognize each other when we had a chance? See what I mean? That's just god-damn thrilling to me--to write out these comparisons as I find out these coincidences and to make conclusions out of whether they are orbiting around my writing like Sputnik or just plain stuck on planet earth, to paraphrase Matty Quick.
Changing channels again, there's an ancient and sagging-face teevee show, from the 80s or 90s, on our early morning PBS station--they run the stupidest shows all night long--like shows aimed at classroom teachers and shit and documentaries they've shown so many times over you know every scene and most of the dialog after a while, but I catch myself watching this one program they have on "creative writing" hosted by this sophisticated babe wearing a business suit--she's trying to look like a college prof, which she is, a college literature professor--rather asexual, which I guess women college profs prefer to be, though down deep we guys of the world know sometimes women school teachers make great lovers--especially women elementary school teachers, who I've found have the same fascination with young boys and their perpetual hards-on the same as male teachers have the same fascination for both sexes--males love that they can be bisexual--there may be a fascination with some men from f-ing a dude in his ass but, hell, how can I condemn it? and the answer is, I can't, though I can realize it could be very sexually exciting and enjoyable if your pheromones led you that way or you were a sex maniac and any hole will do--besides, I admit I've known some women sexually who would whisper in my ear how if I wasn't turned off they'd prefer I did it in their asses.... My God, I'll never be asked by the NYTimes Review of Books to write a book review for them, will I?--especially since the NYTimes Review of Books is being cut back, weeded out, reduced by 10 or more pages; the Yahoos just aren't reading books anymore--only us old-fashioned people still read--and I'm so old-fashioned I still don't have a cell phone--but I'll tell you this little coincidental aside, the first wireless phone I ever saw was one Matty Quick brought into the Ear Inn one afternoon--he was using it and talking loud over it and he let me use it and I called my babe and told her I was in the Ear Inn, except it had an antennae on it and you'd lose the signal a lot and had to run out onto the Ear Inn sidewalk to really get through--"It has a twenty-five mile signal, man; I can call David up in Westchester."
As long as David Merrill's name has popped into the story again, I may as well stick with him. I always had a leaning toward David simply because he was nice and respectful of me--though he'd probably not remember my ass if I were to suddenly pop up in front of him and say, "Hey, Davido, you remember me, don't cha?" "Fuck no, get outta my face." But, David got a job at Electric Lady, Jimi's obsession-ridden recording studio--I mean, I know I've met a friend of Rick's and Matty's who ran Electric Lady--but then maybe he was introduced to them by David, but anyway, David worked at Electric Lady and he made a deal with them where Birdland could make a record there--and that was the recording they were rehearsing the band for--this recording coming in the spring of 1979, just after the rehearsal and gigging fall and winter of 1978--sparkling years in my memories--sparkling like a thousand stars as seen through drunken eyes while you're laying on your back in a ditch or something gazing up into the celestial. While serving time with the U.S. Army as a pot-belied 2nd looey morale officer attached to a unit of the Texas National Guard that reopened WWII-built Fort Polk at Leesville, Louisiana, as a training center for poor nerds taking artillery training in case their young asses were needed in Vietnam--and which a lot of them found out they were needed in Vietnam, too; a lot of those poor jerks ended up with their names carved into that Vietnam wall down their in Washington, District of Corruption, I'm quite sure, though I've never wanted to go to that wall--I'm afraid to-- and I really don't want to know if any of the crackpot, crazy, knucklehead, beautiful friends I had during my time in the Army were killed in that senseless unnecessary war. But at Polk one of the sergeants that worked the elevation and azimuths on his company's Howitzers in a Battery they made me Battery officer of for a couple'a trips to the firing range and I got to philosophizing one hot F-ing August afternoon--and in Leesville, Louisiana, a woods and thicket and briary and half-swampy part of the world where when it gets hot it gets allegorically hot, you know, like the heat in a Bosch painting of Hell or one of Dante's hottest descriptions of the Lowest Level of Hell, where the heads of famous folk of Dante's time are just sticking up out of the Lake of Fire enough to cry out in a begging whine for just a drop of water--as a writer Dante can look down his nose at these sinners--some of whom he was good friends with when they were kicking. I mean a hot August afternoon spent in the desiccating sun that hangs over that part of Louisiana is an extreme sport that only the most crackpot of daredevil would dare--to sit under that sun with a big bottle of rum and a six-pack of Pepsi-Colas was not a bright idea, but that's what we did, this gunnery sergeant and I. Yep, the sarge produced the bottle of Bacardi from his tent and we dragged a big box out into the middle of the drill area, went to the Pepsi machine in the officer's tent, punched out six cans, popped open a couple'a of them and the bottle of rum, sat down on the big box and began our extreme philosophizing binge--by 4 pm we were pretty much not only barbecued to a brilliant red but also so sloshed we were brainwashed against feeling any pain or understanding anything we were philosophizing about. I passed out--rum always knocks my ass out--and when I woke all I saw were stars. The stars above me--way up above me--as I lay on the ground of that drill area right where I'd fallen off that box flat on my back and then awakened like by a lullaby, or was it a ringing in my head from the rum? and then awake I viewed a wide-angled screen of universal starburst panoramaed over me like a huge black-blue bubble studded with pinholes letting the stars ping through to twinkle just like the kiddie song said all the while I was advancing toward adolescence--and I looked up into the heavens and in trying to pick out constellations I was familiar with I suddenly saw a cluster of stars that I swear formed a perfect silhouette of Mickey Mouse, ears and all, including the little white gloves--and that evening I wrote in my notebook after I'd sobered up--or did I? I drank a hell of a lot in the Army; most Army career dudes are alcoholics--it's a tough life talking kill or be killed every friggin' day of your friggin' life--drilled until you are routine--with no personal feelings, only Army feelings--so you need a slug or three or four of a good strong liquor every night before you can hit the rack in order to rise and shine at 4 am to get dolled up following military dress codes and do it all over again; deal with little pissant jerks, raw fools, dumbasses who look yokel-eyed and show how easily they can be manipulated--military routine--it makes you need a drink--and I wrote in that notebook all about discovering the Mickey Mouse constellation--even giving its coordinates through cryptic drawings--the notebook long ago destroyed, the coordinates lost forever, except I do remember this constellation I discovered was in the southern sky 'cause I was lying on my back with my head headed north and my feet down south, so, yes, the Mickey Mouse constellation is somewhere empuzzled in the southern sky, left to be discovered by some other dude down in that part of the world who might be on a parallel line with me in terms of training at Fort Polk and getting ready to go to Iraq, another senseless and god-almighty-awful-illegal-as-hell war, based on lies, but then all wars are based on lies--that's a given. In fact, everything we're taught in our early lives is a lie--I mean, do kids today really believe or even give a shit if Columbus "discovered" America? or whether George Washington couldn't tell a lie or not? or that Old Tom "Red" Jefferson was kind to his slaves? or that the white man is superior to all other so-called races? or that Western history is the only history worth studying and Western writers are the only writers worth reading--ah wilderness, I keep crying. For in the wilderness (Nature), as we know instinctually, we can be Savages with impunity. God I love that quote; I got it from a book called Heathens written by a professor named William Howells, a fascinating look at man as an animal, as a "heathen," as an uncivilized animal, or a culturally devolved animal as Freud would put it.
The fun thing about this "creative writing" teevee show I sometimes take a gander at in the early morns of New York City is how serious these posers are about how anybody can be taught how to write. I mean this sweet lady prof goes into serious diatribe about how you have to understand direction in writing, progression of a core idea, and then you have to learn to arrange your ideas in paragraphs--and you have to know when you have a good paragraph--and you have to know how to lead your reader on in the way you want them to get involved in it--and I'm going holy shit, shut the fuck up and write yourself, write a book about how you are gonna teach me how to write--F-you--and then she brings on these successful writers that I never heard of any of them but then I'm so far behind the times in my reading--I'm just now reading Lester Bangs for Christ's sake--so I haven't heard of any contemporary writers except for Alice Munro (I've never read her), Stephen King (I tried to read him one time--couldn't get past the first paragraph), the Brit babe who writes those pathetic Harry Potter books, which I've never read--but anyway these writers trot out and start talking about how they write--oh what a great life--and then they start babbling about their characters and their themes and I'm going, shit that's like a painter writing about his art--rambling bullshit that only praises the self and is a promotion for the self, because you can't explain to me why it is some people can just start writing and its good writing and it continues on to be good writing good piece of writing after good piece of writing until--and this is every writer's nightmare--you can't write any more--you're drained--oh if you pump hard enough you can still get water out of the well, like Hemingway was able to write his very vicious little gossip book A Moveable Feast while he was hallucinatin' like a manic depressive and seeing the FBI and the IRS following him everywhere he went, even when he was out in those wild Idaho hills bird shooting--and finally he knew it was over so he blew his brains out--same with Doctor Hunter S. Thompson--blewy and his life was no longer dull and boring--and one of the funniest god-damn books ever written was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Even if it's ever over for me, I'll not blow my brains out--I'm a wolf and can easily adapt at being a lone wolf--and wolves don't blow their heads off with weapons--nope, they just accept facts and go off lone wolf to live out their final days away from the pack, though constantly staying within the pack's vicinity--watching them from the hills, the hills have wolf eyes.
And on this "creative" writing show the other morning they trotted out this little half-bald twerpy looking bundle of unbound disaster and he started babbling about how he'd never wanted to be a writer or a poet but he'd always wanted to be A CRITIC, and he was he said, A ROCK CRITIC...holy shit, Lester, I howled, check this dude out--he's a rock critic--where the hell are his eight bottles of Romilar?--I mean Romilar would send this lightweight goon off the planet earth and whap him face down in El Cajon with him getting his ass beat to shit by Lester Bangs. And oh to hear this little pipsqueak talking about how he writes his criticism, "You must be fair," fair hell, the recording business is about as unfair a place as there is on earth--I'm gagging on my own disrespect of critics--as Hemingway said how critics reminded him of the smell that comes from a prostitute after she has peddled her wares for a 1000 nights of fornication and fakery. But Lester was a writer who found rock criticism as a way to be a writer--see the difference? Lester really thought of himself as a poet, as a lyricist, and as a writer of books. Near the end of his life he thought he wanted to go off into the wilds of Mexico away from everybody and his dog to write books, tons of books, and that's what runs through a natural writer's blood, words and ideas enough to fill libraries of books. As Hemingway also said, he wrote to try and knock Mr. Shakespeare out with one punch, a feat he hadn't accomplished in his years of writing, though he thought he came closest with The Old Man and the Sea, a book which started as a long story in Life magazine. And Lester and I are like that Old Man in that boat, that Cuban Cap'n Ahab, going out into the middle of the sea after the biggest fish you've ever seen in your life, a tunney that if you could get it back ashore in one piece would pay your way through life for several years without having to work--but of course as with all stories of this sort, the old man loses to the sea--oh, he gets his prize tunney, but it's so big by the time he can get it tied to his boat and headed back to port the sharks have seen the tunney from their lurking places and then they attack the tunney and bite huge gulp-holes in its side which makes it bleed and the blood attracts other sharks and no matter how deliberately the old man fights off the sharks with everything he's got, he loses, by the time he gets to shore there's nothing left but a tunney skeleton, but it's a huge skeleton and proves the old man did capture the largest tunney in the sea except he didn't get to keep it whole--proof of winning though losing really.
To be continued as is always continued as a continuing unraveling as unspun in a continuing way--probably with the coming of next Monday, though one never knows do one?
for The Daily Growler
A Sports Word From The Daily Growler Sports Desk
Hi, folks, this is marvelousmarvbackbiter. I just want to put in my two centavos about the way the stupid-dick richass voidoids who own the New York Yankees really F-ed up this season and then capped it off by making a big mistake, dissing Joe Torre, the second-winningest-ever Yankee manager, just under Joe McCarthy and just above Casey Stengel, blaming Joe for the team's failure to win only one game against the Cleveland Chief Wahoos in a stupid five-game playoff (note, Cleveland has gone on to lead the Red Sox 3 games to 2 as they go back to Boston for game 6--but what I'm sayin' Boston hasn't looked as tough as Cleveland, which means Cleveland's a pretty good ball team--certainly a better pitching staff than either the Yankees or the Red Sox)--a five-game playoff when the second-best pitcher in the American League could only go 1 1/3 an inning, giving up runs and hits and walking batters--and that's Joe Torre's fault--the son of a bitch doesn't speak a lick of English so how the hell's Joe suppose to pep this guy up--he's a bum, that's all; and then the rest of those jackass wunderkind pitchers, like Jabo who let a bunch of gnats knock him off his clock though the gnats didn't bother the Red Sox pitcher--and A-Rod, the mighty A-Rod was useless in the playoffs, striking out more than he hit--he did hit one F-ing home run, a son of a gun who hit 54 home runs during the season. Shit. And Jeter couldn't hit. And Posada couldn't hit. The Yankees couldn't pitch or hit and Joe Torre, the best manager in baseball, had to take the blame for it all, and he did with grace. He quit the Yanks and I don't blame him. F the Yankees. He was pissed, too, especially at that jerk Levine who's pres. of the Yankees--and Joe packed Yankee Stadium this year--over 4 1/2 million fans this year--the MLB record--and think of the millions upon millions of dollars that scumbag natural-born loser Steinbrenner made this year and then he has the jive to say Joe Torre made too much money--that rotten natural-born loser, and he is, too--his father was an Olympic medalist--in swimming maybe--but anyway George has excelled at nothing except getting everything done his way as owner of the Yankees--you know how much the Yankees are worth today compared to what George paid for them after Mike Burke and CBS almost drove the Yanks into ground with such poor management.
So Joe Torre is no longer Yankee manager. He'll end up some where else that's for sure; I say the Saint Louis Cardinals when they let hard-drinkin'-and-drivin' Tony LaRusso go in order for him to come to the Yankees. I can't see them giving the Yanks to Donnie Baseball or Joe Gerardi--maybe temporarily, but George is too vain to not get some big name as Yanks manager--if he could talk Willie Randolph into leaving the Mets--but no, Willie has more sense than that.
for The Daily Growler
Joe thought Steinbrenner was joking--