Archive for October, 2010

For Alan. And belatedly, Liz. And ultimately, a bunch of us.

October 12, 2010

 (A much earlier version of this appeared in Oui magazine not long after the events depicted herein more-or-less took place.  It is quite possible that this post is in violation of certain Oui copyrights, which I only mention because Alan would especially like that aspect.)

The month was right about now, and the year was 1972, and I had recently moved into a self-described anarchist collective, into one of two neighboring, and doddering, two-story houses on Parker Street below Shattuck in Berkeley. 

Previously, the houses had been occupied by a clutch of diehard, left-of-left political radicals devoted to the principles embodied by Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno, a widely unrecognized agitator who stirred up the  Eastern European masses circa 1919.  But now, however, the Parker St. collectives were inhabited by residually committed anarchists who increasingly found that more and more of their waking hours were devoted not so much to smashing the state as to an appreciation for and the distribution of coca-based stimulants.  

The previous occupants and the current crowd were in fact the same people, mind you, just with pharmacologically and economically altered agendas.  Why I had recently moved there is neither particularly material to this anecdote, nor any of your business.

Notwithstanding their blatant sociopathology — an actual electric sign in the front yard of one house did actually flash the message Smash The State over and over  — the houses were never raided by any law enforcement agency, thanks largely to the fact that at that time in Berkeley, anarchist collectives were both more at home and more numerous than gas stations.  When the anarchists at the Parker St. collective were not churning out leaflets urging that all the  banks be burned, or that people write in Daffy Duck for President, or that everyone loot the nearest Tower Records, they played poker and music.  Specifically, Harlem Globetrotter poker and Rolling Stones music.  

They played the Stones about nine hours during your average day, and if the amplifier was set below eight, it was only because someone was trying to sleep off a hangover in the next room.  They played “Street Fighting Man” so loudly that the Berkeley police decided that, especially in light of the flashing Smash The State sign, it was probably more prudent to just shine them on than to stir them up.  When they jacked up “Hip Shake” from Exile on Main Street all the way, older patients at the hospital two blocks away thought they were having cardiac spasms and put new batteries in their pacemakers.  

The anarchists were to the Stones what Norman Mailer was to Norman Mailer.  That was partly due to the de facto head Parker St. anarchist, who in fact believed in his heart that he seriously resembled Mick Jagger.  In reality, he more closely resembled a stocky white Jimi Hendrix, or perhaps three or four Jaggers all pressed together.

In any case–one day a young man we will call Howie Kaplan came to the anarchists’ door.  This door was seldom closed and hardly ever locked.  Such is the way of anarchists.  Howie Kaplan stuck his head in the door.  He said that a friend had sent him.  He asked if the anarchists wanted to make a fast $250 and a quarter ounce of cocaine.

“Come right on in, Howie Kaplan,” said the anarchists.

Howie Kaplan said that he could spell out the plan with more clarity if he were stoned.  The anarchists rolled up a whole lunchpail of joints and everyone smoked dope until their crab lice dropped off.  Howie Kaplan spelled out the plan.  The plan involved the anarchists fronting him a car, $900, and free telephone use.

“It was nice to know you, Howie Kaplan,” said the anarchists.

Howie Kaplan left, but he was to return.  Frequently.  And each time with plans whereby the anarchists would make a lot of money and acquire some soft narcotics by giving Howie Kaplan a whole lot of money and getting him off on their dope.  Howie Kaplan told the anarchists a number of tales, concerning Howie Kaplan working for NBC, Howie Kaplan working for the Kennedys, Howie Kaplan working for Phil Spector, Howie Kaplan discovering penicillin.

Things grew edgy around the anarchist collective.  Somebody would happen to mention the name Howie Kaplan and the anarchists would begin breaking the furniture, for example.

Now–on another day, it was announced that the Rolling Stones were coming to play four concerts in San Francisco.  The anarchists went absolutely boing.  They ran right out, enthusiastically loopy with hedonistic, anticapitalist vim, and stole 800 blank Ticketron ticket forms.  Ticketron was the official agency used by Bill Graham, who booked the Stones in San Francisco and elsewhere around the hemisphere.

The Parker St. anarchists had a printing press in their basement.  Naturally.  In those days, the printing press could best be described as the anarchist’s electric train.  They borrowed a legitimate Stones ticket from a friend.  They studied and analyzed it.  They set up a typeface identical to that used by Ticketron, set it up for both evening performance dates.  Then they subjected their sample ticket to an entire promenade of tests, for hidden validity checks, the subtle little tricks Graham would pull with the tickets to weed out counterfeits.  They found the trick: the word STONES stamped in large letters on the back of the ticket, in invisible ink.  They carved a stamp, stole some invisible ink, and stamped the back of their tickets.

They ran off 500 bogus Stones tickets.

Some of these they used themselves or gave to friends.  Others were given away in the line outside the concert to aimless, whey-colored narcotonics, the more disheveled-looking the better, who wandered around smiling moronically and mumbling, “Spare Stones ticket?”  

The rest of the tickets they sold to people roving around trying to buy Rolling Stones tickets.  They priced the tickets based on individual buyer’s appearance, sincerity, deportment, and sexual potential.  As far as anyone knows, every one of the tickets worked perfectly, even when the guards flashed the backs with the garish ultraviolet light.

And oh yeah.  They also gave a ticket to Howie Kaplan.  But it was not quite like the other tickets in every respect.  For example, on the back, where the other tickets said STONES, Howie’s ticket said:


Nobody knows whether or not Howie’s ticket worked, because nobody saw any more of Howie Kaplan after the line began moving in.