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1983-2015
tearing the rag off the bush again
Mike Golden's Memphis PDF E-mail

1


In Memory of Wild Billy Hicks

“There’s something about Memphis. . .” Wild Billy Hicks often said to Stein. “Something…after spending over half my life here, I understand, but have never been able to figure out how to explain.  I mean, what can you say about a city that refuses to take the confession of the man who claims he hired someone other than James Earl Ray to kill MLK, because – and They say this with a straight face -- They don’t want to give him credibility! ”

Paranoia bubbling, the two middle-aged men cautiously moved one step at a time across the unstable tar paper roof of the fabled rooming house that Ray supposedly shot Dr. King from 30-years earlier. A friend of Hicks had a store above the new addition to The Civil Rights Museum – a space that was once Jim’s Grill, the low rent dive where the assassination plot had been hatched -- so they climbed up a shaky handmade ladder through a homemade opening he had cut in his ceiling, and the next thing they knew they were looking down on the Lorraine Motel from a hundred times better angle than the alleged-assassin would've had from the bathroom two floors below them.

Hicks took a deep breath and looked at his old friend like he was trying to summon up explanations of their spent youth, then blurted, "What would you say, Jake, if I told you a reliable source claims Jack Ruby didn't die of cancer in 1967, like the government told us, and that he recently contacted her?”

“Sure he did!” Stein grinned, flashing back on Wild Billy 30-years earlier, a Colt 45 twirling on his finger, as he talked him into diving with him from the roof of a building, down through the trees, crashing through the closed window of the apartment of the so-called shooter, two stories below them.

“C’mon, Jake, don’t look at me like I’m some kind of conspiracy freak!” Hicks snapped. “You know who killed MLK as well as I do!  And so does Jack Ruby!  But unlike us, that old spook has the goddamn goods on the fuckers, goods so goddamn damning their hideous lies not even the polluted mainstream media’s complicity can block the truth from getting out there.  Ruby was in the CIA so long before he was in the mob it was called the SIA when he signed on.”

From up on that rotting tar paper foundation, Stein could not only see through the high brush sprouting out over a path to the Lorraine, but could see downtown Memphis itself, less than a mile to the north, rising out of dozens of empty pockets surrounding the skyline of the city. Memphis had become a city of huge holes by the spring of 1998. But none of those holes were nearly large enough to accommodate the swirl of conspiracy theories going head-to-head against the government anti-conspiracy propaganda; the contradictory crescendo of dichotomies exploding as they collided against each other inside Stein’s head! Up until Jack Ruby’s name had been mentioned he was sure he had heard, researched and digested every piece of evidence, be it fact, fake, confession, juicy rumor, crank theory or counter intelligence designed to erase any possibility the truth might one day get out. It was a case he knew that the rat prick good German Hall Monitor gate keeper shills of government, corporate controlled media and public opinion would never officially validate even if actual films of the assassinations suddenly turned up one day and proved without a shadow of doubt that the “official” lame cover stories were lies, by simply showing which unheralded professional scumbags of record pulled the triggers and killed Cock Robin. 

Cock Robin, indeed. . .For the first time in his life Stein felt incapable of expressing in words what his blood pressure was feeling about the lying-backstabbing-traitorous-thieving-diarrhea-breath-turds-in-power who every lowly Jack & Jill in the country who wasn’t already brain dead or a closet fascist, nursing The American Dream of one day growing up to be the very same oppressors who were crushing everything about themselves but their precious fucking greed, knew were not only responsible for the cowardly murders of MLK and RFK, but for blowing President Kennedy’s brains out of his head five years earlier in Dallas.

The evil bubbling puss filled malignant cocksucking homophobic hallucinogenic-image-boil of the not-dead-long-enough J. Edgar Hoover sanctimoniously appeared in front of Stein’s line of vision, suddenly dropping down on its knees to blow him, even as the G-man prepared to have him blown away before he could even unzip what was left of his mind, like the ratprick had done to all the others who got in his way or questioned his ugly criminal authority. Goddamn official America; when you stopped to think about it, he thought, there was nothing less American.

Reason rose up in Stein’s head then, telling him to drop the hyperbole and be objective. Objective was the word. The goal. The only fucking thing that counted when you were flushing out a story.  And no matter how over-the-top conspiracy theories got there was no fucking room for Jack fucking Ruby in them doing anymore than spontaneously blowing fucking Oswald away. For one thing, he told himself, there was the whole unexplained alibi of Ruby’s dog in the car.  Dog lover Ruby would never have left his beloved Sheba locked in the car if he had known he was going to do what he did in advance.  Was that a piece of intelligence, or was it counter intelligence? You couldn’t have it both ways; though when you got right down to it, neither way made any fucking sense in the whole picture! Intuitively, none of it made any fucking sense when you were trying to put it all together!

Stein dropped to his knees and leaned his head out over the edge of the roof and began puking his guts out, blowing his woofed-down-too-fast-Rendezvous rib plate all over the city he grew up in-love with. . .


Wild Billy was right about one thing for sure, there was something about Memphis. . .But even after betting what was left of his going-nowhere-fast-career to get the assignment to reinvestigate the King assassination – based on the pitch that he was the journalist who blew the big story the first time, and now was coming back for redemption 30 years later -- Stein couldn't pinpoint exactly what that something was any better than Hicks could. It could have been something tragic, something funny, something corrupt, something soulful, could’ve been something lazy, something bitter, something fiercely independent, but no matter how deeply he thought about all those somethings, he didn't know how to describe that something at all. 

Memphis was a place, that if he stepped back and looked closely at his old stomping grounds, he could see the intellectual arrogance of the natives reveling in the illogical superiority of the inferiority they felt was their true lot in the bigger picture of a prosperous outside world that had left them behind, despite the Bluff City being birthplace and home to both the Holiday Inn and Federal Express. 

On a holier-than-thou-level, Memphis carried an even heavier weight. And it wasn't just that it was “the immortal place where black music collided with white musicians and,” as Lonzo Pike often testified, “gave birth to rock'r'roll.”  It wasn't just that it was the international Mecca pilgrims from all over the world annually descended on to mourn the death of their two Kings. And it wasn't the musical influence of W.C. Handy, or the never-ending lore of political patronage left behind by Boss Crump.

It wasn't even the world's best bar-b-que, which was a hard thing to deny with the memory of scarfing up on the sacred sliced Boston out at Brady & Lil's permanently embedded in his taste buds, or the rush from the opiated pulled pig at Po Boy’s living in his DNA, or tearing off a slab of Rendezvous ribs, while rising up from that first rush of Mistah Cha’ley’s musta’d slaw like "the Killer" himself, still rocking out after all these years from the top of his piano.

No matter how much it moved him every time he harmonized with them, he knew it wasn't all those sweet Stax soul sounds of Booker T., Issac Hayes, Al Green or Sam & Dave either. It wasn't even the sadness he felt watching the last of the old Delta bluesmen fade into the oblivion of memoir.

There was a weirdness in Memphis, that long after Stein had left, brought the survivors of Jonestown straight from the jungle to shake and hideout there until they could go back to the so-called "real world". It was that same weirdness, that same arrogance, that brought Captain Crunch, the blind 16-year-old Puerto Rican inventor of the Blue Box to get busted for his criminal genius at a midtown phone booth; and it was that same fiercely independent spirit that lifted one Sputnik Monroe to Olympian Godlike status when he proclaimed, "I'll jump in the air and shit in your hair," after he refused to wrestle in the Armory unless the huge crowd of blacks and whites flowing through the turnstiles to watch him were allowed to sit together side-by-side at the wrestling matches, thus doing more for integration in Memphis than all the laws of the land would ever do. And it was the flip side of that same mystical energy, for lack of a better word to describe the gestalt of that old Egyptian hex that years later hypnotized the high prince of postmodern dada, Andy Kaufman, to give up his weirdo genius comedy career for an even more bizarre intergender wrestling career in Memphis. . .Put all these contradictions together, Stein thought, and you found out that the real fucking truth about that indescribable something was it had no baring at all on the facts. 


Thirty years earlier, Popeye, the counterboy-bartender at Loyd Jowers' infamous low rent dive, Jim's Grill, had tried to tell him something like that, less than an hour before Dr. King had been assassinated less than a hundred yards outside the back door, but being a half-blind young reporter looking for the BIG story to make his bones, Stein couldn't see the forest for the trees that day. Sitting down at the bar, Stein had tried to formulate the question he wanted to ask Jowers in his still-hungover-from-the-night-before mind, but could find neither the words nor the proprietor.

"Where's Loyd, Popeye?"

"Don't know.  Went out back to take a shit.  Ain't seen him since.  Maybe the hogs ate him."

Before Stein could put his thoughts together into a coherent question, Popeye leered over his shoulder at Betty Spates' luscious butt, and cackled, "There ain't but two kind of pussy, good ole big and big ole good." Then reluctantly prying his eyes off the 16-year-old black waitress, turned his attention towards Stein, and asked, "What can I do for ya, newsjock?"

"You notice anything strange goin' on around here, Popeye?"

"Strange?  Popeye looked around the half empty dive. "Outside of you askin' me that question, the only time I notice somethin' strange goin' on in Memphis is when nothin' strange is goin' on.  What can I get ya?"

"A beer," Stein mumbled. "What about anything abnormal?"

"You just don't get it, do ya?"

"Get what? Whatta you mean, man?"

"How long you been hangin' out around here?"

"Since the end of last summer. About nine months now.  Why?"

"Why? 'Cause you been hangin' out here long enough to know everything's abnormal around here! Why you askin' me all these silly questions? UPI finally gonna give Loyd a restaurant review?"  Popeye grinned.

"Yeah, sure!"

"Is it true you interviewed Adolph Rupp when you was only 12?"

"Oh man," Stein groaned, "I really must'a been drunk the other night if I was mouthin' off about playin' for Kentucky."

"It depends what you call drunk.  Loyd probably had ten times as much to drink as you did, even before you took out your glass eye and started showin' us what it was like to be buggerin' all them goats in Vietnam."

"Cambodia," Stein laughed.  "We only fucked chickens in Nam."

"Ain't that Little Weasel's line?" Popeye grinned. "Hey, you still lookin' for that Yogi?"

"Naw, I finally found him."

"The ole niggers think he's from up Uranus way, ya know."

"Wouldn't surprise me if he was. Blind Dog and Little Weasel claim they were sleepin' off a bad one down on Beale Street the night he showed up in town, when all of a sudden they look up and see a collision of lights erupt in the sky like, like. . . like a cosmic orgasm.”

Years later, Stein remembered picturing the light show the old bluesmen described in the heavens, then thought about what he'd said to Popeye as he looked back on the last nine months of his life, and realized he’d gotten the old bluesmen’s words wrong. If he'd had more time to ruminate, he might have been able to come up with the right words, but everything was happening so fast that the only thing he could grasp, in fact, was that Popeye was right; it was only normal that something strange was happening in Memphis. Usually, when nothing out-of-the-ordinary was going on, that was the time to worry in the Bluff City. 

The Yogi's arrival had changed those patterns, of course. He'd been arrested the first time even before he stepped off the plane. When asked by the police who he was, and why he was there, the Yogi claimed he was Harry Bucher, a White Russian who had come from Bulgaria to help Elvis and Priscilla with the impending birth of their first and only child.

Although the accident purged a lot of what went down in this life from his mind, Lonzo never forgot the Yogi predicted the murder, along with about a hundred other prophesies that nobody believed at the time.  What the old bluesmen believed was that the Yogi was from another galaxy, which may have been why the police thought he was dangerous and had to be put away.

Lonzo, though he did not personally know the King, witnessed the exchange around 3:30, on the morning of August 16, 1967, at Montezzi's, which at the time was the world's largest all night supermarket.  It was a place so big and so empty outside of the square block of food bargains lining the aisles, it could have fit Lonzo's Mississippi hometown in the middle of the produce section. It was a place Elvis liked to come in the middle of the night when there was nowhere else to go, and he could wander freely down the aisles and aisles of cookies, pickles, olives and piles of Goo-Goo Clusters stacked almost to the ceiling at the back of number 23. 

Though he was there to use the coffee machine to grind a sack of dried peyote buttons that his mutant drummer had brought back from Taos, New Mexico, Lonzo swears to this day he was not high that night.  In fact, when the wigged out piano player saw Elvis wandering down the aisles leafing through a dog-eared copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead as he munched on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he left the magic buttons in the machine and trailed along behind the King like a young lemming in heat. 

It was an expensive mistake.  Because when he got back to the coffee machine after witnessing and overhearing the extraordinary conversation between Elvis and the Yogi, the peyote had been replaced with coffee beans (though he didn't find that out until he got back to the house and whipped up an old Indian shaman's magical bonding brew for his troubled band, which unfortunately turned out to be nothing more than a mild tip-of-the-Andes-rush, and pissed everybody off so bad that Lonzo had fucked up again, Swamproot split up that night -- Bo Dean and Putter taking their lead and bass guitars west across the Great River, all the way to Los Angeles, where they reformed the band without Lonzo, as Justice, and immediately got the record deal that had been eluding Swamproot for five years, and the rest as they say high in the Hollywood Hills, was history, baby, history...).


Bo Dean and Putter passed Gregor, Stein's mutated shit brown '57 VW bug on the yellow brick road to Cal-i-forn-i-a, somewhere in the middle of Kansas, but of course the three 'sippi boys never recognized each other as they tore ass through the night in opposite directions. 

Feeling the urge to look back as they passed him, but scared somebody back there might be gaining on him, Stein, still shaking from a tire blowing out on him 50 miles back, had had too many unexplained accidents recently to take his eye of the road. He was on his way to Memphis, the Great American Novel he'd spent the last year writing in Colorado, sitting shotgun next to him. Of course, just like the Yogi predicted, America was not quite ready to read about what was really going on in Vietnam yet.

Though he had a suicidal streak buried deep inside him, conversely Stein was paranoid They were out to get him, so in the pit of his deepest despair, he felt lucky to be alive at the same time he wanted to die. First he'd gotten out of Mississippi, then out of Nam without getting killed or even busted for some entrepreneurial endeavors that didn't quite make him rich and famous. When he got out of the hospital without being court martialed for witnessing Calloway's bloody "Mexican Divorce", he went to the mountains of Colorado to write, then came back to Memphis. Though the Bluff City had hardly ever been lucky for anybody, it felt lucky to him. Or if not lucky, at least familiar enough to spot outside forces out to do him in before they did. 

Or as Lonzo put it 12 hours later, watching his former guitar player duckwalk drunk across his vomit stained hardwood livingroom floor with the 540 page tome balanced on top of his pugnacious, but grinning head:  "I don't know if it's lucky, but no doubt none of us can go back to Bumfuck again, though at least here we can get close enough to the source at the same time we distance the familiarity, so it don't breed contempt on us."

Lonzo had always been known for talking trash.  Ever since he popped his first beret on top of his four-eyed melon shaped head at the State Fair when he was six years old, he'd been the one that knew, and told everybody else what he knew.  Stein started listening to him the first day of the first grade, and hadn't stopped until the day he went away to college up at Memphis State, and broke up Swamproot for the first, but hardly the last time.

Now he was back in Memphis, and Lonzo was finally there himself.  Leaving his mama's rundown baitshack back in Mississippi and moving up to the city to make himself a name.  It was almost like old times, but better.  They were sitting in "the grand ballroom of The Grand Panwazeer's even grander castle," a regal three bedroom adobe guest house fronting the second garage in back of the splendidly unkempt lawn of Dr. Pinky Lee Santini's over the hill 23 room mansion, on the corner of Peabody & Pissant, as Lonzo liked to call the crossroads, when giving directions on how to find his new digs. And The Grand Panwazeer, a title Lonzo had bestowed on him by his mother Daisy the first time he threatened to leave home, was apparently recruiting him to play in the band again.

Stein was about to say No way when the rap started rat-tat-tatting on his frontal lobe. "This time is different than last time," Lonzo crooned. "We're not in Bumfuck, Mississippi anymore, and we are not in Memphis."

"We're not in Memphis?"

"Oh I know it looks like Memphis all right, it smells like Memphis all right, but we are not in Memphis. We're in Paris, Jake, at the turn of the century, and it's all happenin' here! Elvis, The Killer, Sun, Stax, the last of the old bluesmen. . . This is the Renaissance we've been waitin' for all our lives!"  Paris at the turn of the century, the 19th century to be exact, was Lonzo Pike's Mogo on the Gogo.  He believed in his previous incarnation he had been a young painter, a buddy of Lautrec & Jarry, Gaugan & Miro, Cocteau & Picasso and that whole gang of wild dogs & Spaniards, 'pataphysicians and ditty-wa-dadas who changed the way we see the world.

"I don't know," Stein hedged between desire and instinct. "I wanna play again, sure, but on the other hand, Zo, I don't wanna be that visible right now. Besides, the truth about my playin' is, I got no muscle; it's been such a long time since I had any, if you wanna be honest, we both know I was never that hot. You probably would'a fired me if I hadn't quit."

"No way! You're the old hot licker himself, Bubba!  Bo Dean couldn't pick his nose if it was in the middle of his face.  Besides, Jake, this is a different layer than it was in Paris." 

Slowly, taking first one word, then one thought at a time, Lonzo told Stein about the conversation he had overheard between Elvis and the Yogi, and how he knew this was the time for Swamproot to finally make it.
 

"That may be," Stein nodded.  But no way you can convince me it's gonna happen with me playin' lead."  
 

"You just got no confidence in your chops, Bubba!" Lonzo exploded.  "No confidence!  How many times I gotta explain we're not supposed to be doin' the same thing this time, we're supposed to be layerin' what we did last time in a different dimension. That's why we -- and I mean you and me -- we're players this time, layin' down the sounds instead of the colors."

"Uh-huh," Stein nodded, sucking dry the last Tall Boy from the two six packs he had brought with him.  "Did anybody ever tell you you were a fuckin' beatnik, man?  A fuckin' unrepentant beatnik!"

This old refrain drew a cackle of joy from Lonzo's throat.  "I'm not the fuckin' beatnik, man.  You're the fuckin' beatnik!"



As if on cue they threw their arms around each other and started singing, "Pull my daisy, tip my cup, all my doors are open. . . Cut my thoughts for coconuts, all my eggs are broken. . . "

Lonzo laughed and stepped back. "Look, I don't mean to be puttin' no rush on ya. True, I'm in deep shit for a guitar player right now, and I'm stretchin' not to blow the next gig so I can afford to bring Melinda up here before I destroy my fingers pullin' what's left of my pud, but all things bein' equal, you can hack it Bubba Jake. And even if you can't, I'm just glad you're back. Real glad you're back in one piece; well sorta one piece." 

Though direct confrontations were almost against his religion, Lonzo stood up and looked at Stein closely for the first time all night.  "After all that shit that went down between you and Murphy -- who by the way if you didn't know it is livin' here himself now -- I of course can never forgive the big goon for backin' out and leavin' you to take the weight alone. . ."

Stein held up his hand to stop the onslaught.  "It's cool, Lonzo, don't go into it again.  Everybody fucks up some time."
 

"Yeah, right.  Murphy's got the patent on all-the-time though.  But we don't need to jump into that shit now.  Relax, take your time.  Unwind your ass, and tell me about Vietnam.  What was it really like over there, Bubba? Why'd your buddy Starks quit sendin' me Christmas presents?"

"Jesus, Lonzo, what kinda fuckin' hippie-dippie question is that, man!" Stein glared at his old friend, his body involuntarily contracting, until a little voice he remembered from the other side reminded him to ‘breathe.’



"Obviously," Stein exhaled, "if I'd had a fuckin' choice we both know I wouldn'tve gone, but since Canada never occurred to me as an option, and the only jail Steins seem to be allowed into is graduate school, I decided to embrace all that good John Wayne shit they've hammered into us since the day we were born! You didn't see the transformation, so you may not believe it, but I psyched myself into buyin' it too! By the time I got there I probably had the same soundtrack for glory in my head that that asshole Custer had at Little Big Horn. That's how much I knew about Nam before I got there. Hell, when I first got on the bus to leave Bumfuck," Stein laughed, "I didn't know where it was, much less what we were doin' there."

Softening up a chunk of hash from the secret stash of primo Cambodian red Stein had been sending him once a month, for 16 months, until the day his partner Starks bought the farm, Lonzo filled up a bowl and offered the pipe to Stein. "I still don't know," Stein sucked the smoke deep into his lungs, then reached under the table and pulled Bloodroots out of his bag, opened it up to the appropriate page and handed it to Lonzo. "Here's why Starks quit sendin' you Christmas presents, man."

 BLOODROOTS
     One foot in front of the other, if you want to learn how to dance, they say.  Starks was a natural, boy really had his moves down pat. But his yoyo was walkin' the wrong dog at Khe Sanh; when it snapped the feets went forward, they did, like a chicken duckwalking for the first time, but the body went straight for the back door, like it was tryin' to escape the explosion before it went off.  The trademark shit eating grin that had been on Starks babyface a moment earlier as he sucked the opiated stuff into his brain pan whipped across the floor like it knew how to pick up that immortal 7-10 split of yonder yore. And true, though nobody out there wants the truth, when all was said & done, none of his pins were standing!
     Singing along with the anthem on the radio, Stein moaned, “WE’VE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE, IF IT’S THE LAST THING WE EVER DOOOOO,” and flushed the fear out of his body as he bopped through the door just in time to see Starks on the other side of the warehouse, closing down their business for good. Their customers, he realized, were not going to be very happy. But just for the record, in the last fucking bleeding moment in his shitty useless body, John Starks celebrated, dancing across the hard packed dirt floor like the great Nijinsky; he lept, he twirled, he pirouetted, then swooned and swaned and licked the lake coming out the top of his head like he was taking a shower in a ruby waterfall, until he drowned himself in the glory of the glory of his own precious bodily fluids.
     It was a hard poem to follow.  But there wasn't much choice.
     Stein bent down and picked his partner's free hand out of the rubble.  Lifted it and shook it for the last fucking time in the history of the growth of history, then started to shake himself. He had never been very good at goodbyes, and thought back to poor Murphy hiding from the world on the funny farm back in Mississippi. He spent a tear he couldn't afford on the past then, and growled like hell at the future! He'd always been too fucking romantic for his own fucking good! Parting was always such a sweet-painful delicacy it cut off his defenses before he could create a recipe for his next manifestation. But this time, he told himself, this time would be different. 
     The acid started cranking his antennae up then, and instantly he knew they were on the way there to nail him too. He could hear them no more than a mile away coming through the slaughter outside, and almost count the minutes before they'd come crashing through what-was-left-of-the-door to bag him, and scrape what was left of Starks' body off the floor. As the little death he'd dropped an hour earlier suddenly knotted up his stomach, he realized it was the last of the fucking ninth, two down, bases loaded, full count, runners running for all their crippled limbs are worth, and he decides to surprise them and go with the fucking grain for once in his life, and execute the squeeze play. Drop one down the line and catch them back on their heels before they can shove a proctoscope up his dick, and maybe, just maybe, if he's lucky, get himself a cheap ride home; it seemed like a good idea, the only one he had at the time, in fact. So he lifted up his revolver, looked down at his feet, and started to rock, started to roll, started to "Ommmmmm. . .
see me naked
paranoia burning
visions of hell
visions of truth
in the land of a thousand chances
thru my eyes
i found peace
outside this world
but i had to come back
i was out there
all alone
like death (don't take pictures)
this is very private -- between me & God
just a speck
in the Universe
burning
falling thru the sky
like solid ego
in an elevator shaft. . ."


"Fuck!" Lonzo dropped the manuscript. "Holy fucking shit!"

"Yeah, holy shit," Stein mumbled back. "I sorta figured out it's like bein' stuck in the middle of somebody else's real estate deal, except They don't cop to the deal.  They want you to believe you're puttin' your ass on the line to protect freedom. But all I know for sure about freedom is that when anybody in any position of authority starts talkin' about it, you can bet me They're about to cop yours and sell it down the river.  That's what it was like over there. That frog you like, Jean Paul Sartre, said it best: 'Freedom's what you do with what's been done to you.'"

"Well, I'll tell ya, Bubba, this hashish ya'll sent me sure did buy my ass some freedom. I never could've made it up here without this stash to sell."

"Well, you're lucky you didn't get busted for it, man."

Lonzo's face suddenly filled with fear.  "You're not serious?"

"I don’t know for sure, but I think They've been on my tail ever since I left Ft. SAM, 14 months ago. So They could be watchin' you too. I'm pretty sure They were about to close us out before our own contact boobie trapped Starksy first. Luckily -- if you call gettin' your eye shot out luck -- I got shipped back to San Antonio before they could bust me, or I could finish the job for 'em.  In a weird way, it was even heavier in the hospital. I'm sure They were watchin' me like a hawk. And if that wadn't bad enough, Calloway, that crazy fuckin' spook I told ya about, was screamin' bloody murder at the top of his lungs every night. I'm certain They didn't believe that any of us who were with him when he offed himself didn't know all the bad shit the little turd did for ‘em in Nam. But to Court Martial us might've brought all his dirty laundry out on the carpet.  So I got lucky again on that one. Though there’s somethin’, really important about Vietnam I don’t understand yet, I do know that this is a war that has no more chance of ever ending than the Civil War. The lines have been drawn, and anybody who says they do know what's happenin' over there either don't know shit from shineola, or is flat out sellin' the party line for ‘em.

"But hey," Stein swiped at a tear he still refused to recognize, "you don't wanna hear about all this shit I don’t understand right now. And I don't wanna talk about it either." And then he picked up Lonzo's guitar, and his fingers took over for his mouth, and started diddling with an old Blind Dog Johnny (Be Good) riff he'd learned in high school. "Let's play some blues, Zo. Play some badass motherfuckin' Memphis blues again,” he moaned. Then laughed, “Knick-knack paddy-whack, ain’t it ‘bout time to throw us poor dogs a bone. . . "


...................this is an excerpt from a novel by Mike Golden

The editor-publisher of Smoke Signals (http://www.smokesignalsmag.com ) and the now dormant “countervoid” SoHo Arts Weekly, Mike Golden was a rookie UPI staffer in 1968, regularly going back and forth between Nashville and Memphis during the Sanitation Workers’ Strike. He interviewed Senator Robert F. Kennedy in Nashville, the day he officially announced his candidacy for the Presidency at Vanderbilt, and on April 4, 1968, was a first hand witness to the 30-45 minute “phantom white Mustang chase”, a pre-recorded running gun battle between police and the alleged assassin (going in the opposite direction as the real assassins) which was broadcast over every police radio in the Mid-South moments after Dr. King was shot. Over the last several years of the 20th century, he got re-involved in the case, working on assignment covering the King family’s attempt to reopen the MLK assassination investigation (http://www.smokesignalsmag.com/1/mlk1.htm ).  He did the last face-to-face interview with James Earl Ray before he died, as well as serving as a commentator on Court TV’s coverage of the 1999 King v Jowers “unlawful death” Memphis conspiracy trial.  And he has just finished Memphis, a novel set in the Bluff City right before, during, and 30 years after, the MLK assassination. His book The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle (http://www.sevenstories.com/Book/index.cfm?GCOI=58322100707970 ), on the art-poetry and mysterious death of the last poet in America to be put on trial for his language, Cleveland artist-poet-publisher d.a. levy, is now being developed as a feature film for, among others, Rhino Films.
 
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