Discussions Under Construction
We are in the process of creating a new discussion area for Elephant on Main Street. We'll probably use Yahoo Groups as I've found it's easy to use and maintain, but I welcome suggestions.
Our former ISP, which was flaky from the very beginning, abruptly dropped Elephant on Main Street without warning or explanation earlier this month, wiping out all of the past discussions. I do have copies of the posts in my email program, and may someday restore them to the site.
Thanks for your patience. --Thom Forbes
I was speaking yesterday to a Russian woman who was ecstatic, having just been sworn in as a U.S. citizen in the morning. It had not been an easy process. Her fingerprints were lost by the FBI years ago, and she was subjected to some bureaucratic snafus that, in many other countries, are more indicative of malevolence than incompetence (as is usually the case here).
The woman admitted that at times she was pessimistic about ever having a passport to travel with. She feared she'd never again see her son, who remains in Latvia. Being a pessimist is not such a bad thing, she told me.
"You know what a pessimist is?" she said with an accent as rich as the pastry she'd given me to eat. "An informed optimist."
"Saving Carrick" can be viewed for free on the Web on Microsoft Windows operating systems using Internet Explorer 6 and MSNVideo.
You can read a synopsis of the MSNBC report by clicking here.
Videotapes ($29.95) and transcripts of "Saving Carrick" can be ordered from a vendor for Dateline NBC at 1-866-NBC-TAPE.
Chaos, according to Bullfinch's Mythology, is the “original confusion in which earth, sea and air were mixed up together. It was personified by the Greeks as the most ancient of the Gods. "
In Mythology, Edith Hamilton writes:
"First there was Chaos, the vast immeasurable abyss,
Outrageous as a sea, dark, wasteful, wild.
At last, but how nobody ever tried to explain, two children were born to this shapeless nothingness. Night was the child of Chaos and so was Erebus, which is the unfathomable depth where death dwells. In the whole universe there was nothing else; all was black, empty, silent, endless. And then…a marvel of marvels:
…Black winged night
Into the bosom of Erebus dark and deep
Laid a wind-borne elf, and as the seasons rolled
Forth sprang Love, the longed-for, shining, with
Wings of gold.
From darkness and from death, Love was born," Hamilton says, "and with it birth, order and beauty began to banish blind confusion. Love created Light with its companion, radiant Day.”
Yin Yang, in other words.
Who were "the extraditables" and what was their strategy?
The extraditables were all of us who are asked for in extradition. . . . That's who the extraditables were. But the group called "the extraditables" was a nickname that Pablo gave himself, so that he could direct all his violence and his terrorist actions towards the extradition. It wouldn't point to him personally, but "the extraditables" terrorist group was Pablo Escobar.
Next to the two young women sat a group of older black women. One of them was animating about a friend of hers who got caught in some gunplay and had obviously handled it badly by running in the wrong direction instead of taking cover. The woman, who was in her thirties, spoke in such a rapid patois that I often did not understand her. What I took away from the conversation, though, was the sense that she had seen plenty of gunfire herself, as had her companions, and they knew exactly how to react when it occurred.
That got me thinking about the recent attack at the World Trade Center, and my quest to put the deaths that occurred within the ken of Maple Avenue, into context. Hard as it sounds, perhaps these deaths were not so extraordinary, after all. Other locales have even more gruesome stories to tell.
In At the Corner of East and Now, Frederica Mathewes-Green writes about a dark quality — “a sinister miasma” or “loathsome fog” — that seems to emanate not only from certain people but also from particular places. I identified with what she said. I can still feel the chill, musty wave of evil that overwhelmed me when I stepped inside the gates of Dachau concentration camp more than thirty years ago.
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx tells a tale that made me wonder how anyone who grows up in a neighborhood not far from Yankee Stadium stands a chance of breaking the cycle of violence, sexual abuse and chemical dependancy that permeates its streets and living rooms. An undertow of resilience carries the survivors, and the reader, through the saga, though.
LeBlanc says, "My decision to write about Coco's daily struggle baffled her neighbors, family and friends. 'Why Coco?' I was asked again and again. 'Coco's just regular,' people said. 'Plenty of girls is worse off.' Certainly, I have found this to be true. The hardships of these young people and their families are not unusual in their neighborhoods. Neither are their gifts.'"
This is not a recent phenomenon, of course.
In the nineteenth century in New York City, one tenement building alone in an area known as Five Points was said to have seen a murder a night. The building, an old brewery that was converted into a rooming house when it became too dilapidated for business, “swarmed with thieves, murderers, pickpockets, beggars, harlots, and degenerates of every type,” according to one historian. When it was demolished in 1853, workers reportedly carried out several sacks of human bones that had been stashed in crannies. Only one of the five streets that converged at Five Points still bears the same name today as it did then: Mulberry. Anthony has become Worth; Cross is Mosco; Orange is Baxter and Little Water - “a dark and dismal alley which was generally filled with filth above the shoe tops” -- is gone altogether.
Five Points was swampy land abutting a lake that in colonial days was called Fresh Water Pond. It teemed with fish. Over time, it became a rank cesspool, and became known as the Collect. It was filled in during the early nineteenth century, and now supports the New York City Civil and Criminal Courts buildings. It once was home to the notorious prison called The Tombs. Imagine the tales those buildings could tell.
An island used to stand in the middle of the Collect. Public executions took place there. in 1741, a score of slaves rebelled against the consummate injustice to which they were subjected, They were hanged, burned, or broken at the wheel at this very place where New York City still dispenses justice. Bad karma, I'd say.
Walk about four blocks west and a dozen blocks south and you'd be at ground zero of the September 11 attack, which at the time I was thinking about all this was still festering. Every locale has its story if you dig for it. We are mostly inclined to build new structures in the name of forward progress and moving on, however, and leave the digging to archeologists interested in times not so close to our own zeitgeist. We want to get on with our "normal, everyday lives," just as our leaders urge us to do.
Didn't I take a pledge to never use this word in public? Oh well, I've probably misused it anyway.
Pop Is Dying
A crow perches
on a Do Not Enter
in the twilight shadows
outside the window
where my father lays dying.
He seems to wait Pop out,
just as stubborn,
with nowhere to go,
his tail facing us
as if he were just passing though
and stopped at the bar
for a toot or two.
San Antonio, 1/18/03
There is a long-standing traditional of caroling in our small neighborhood, which is known as Tower Ridge, the Sunday before Christmas. Then there's a pot-luck party at someone's house. It's a non-denominational affair — Christian, Jew, agnostic, mystic, Unitarian, it doesn't matter. People who lived here years ago come back and invariably mention how they wished they'd never moved. It's just a feel-good evening.
One of Carrick's classmates, Vicky, was home from college and visiting another classmate, Alex, who lived in Tower Ridge the night we went caroling in 2001. Vicky lived in a neighborhood across Broadway, just a three-minute walk away, but she was enthralled by the good will she was experiencing in Tower Ridge that night.
Vicky asked about Carrick and I held back nothing. Vicky talked about staying clean, and how bad the drug scene was — not just in Hastings, but all over. She said that kids were drinking in the bathrooms in the morning between classes. She had even overheard some freshmen talking about going to the woods, she said, which was the traditional domain of upper classmen
She was particularly aghast that one set of parents she knew felt it would be hypocritical for them to prevent their child from doing what they did themselves. She said the parents had a right to tell their children to not drink or do drugs. I said, “a responsibility.” She agreed. She mentioned how easy it is for things to go wrong - a car accident, in particular.
The conversation left me thinking, of course, about how divergent the paths of two girls growing up in similar circumstances could be.
Francis T. Hunter
Francis (Frank) T. Hunter later ran 21 Brands, which grew out of the 21 Club (at 21 E. 51 St.) , perhaps the most famous speakeasy for swells in the Prohibition era.
I'll have more to say about Mr. Hunter and 21 in the future, but from what I've can gather, he was "a helluva guy." If you know more about him, please let me know.
"Our children are growing up in a toxic cultural environment, one made more toxic by advertising," Jean Kilbourne writes in Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. "There is no question that parents have a great deal of responsibility and that many parents today abdicate that responsibility. However, putting all the responsibility on parents is like making us responsible for the poisoned air our children breathe. The parents on Love Canal no doubt loved their children, but they couldn't protect them. Their children were poisoned by the water they drank, by their mother's milk."
Run Out of Town
"All right, kid, but don't let them hear you say that; they might run you out of town" is an interesting comment, if Cohan really made it to my grandfather. It appears that T. Harold's own father, George Morris, actually had been run out of town.
In 1879 George launched The Investigator, the first newspaper in Mamaroneck, N.Y., a settlement a few miles to the north of New Rochelle. He wrote in his first editorial:
For those whom we long had the pleasure of writing for, in New Rochelle, while connected with The Pioneer, we extend our ernest thanks for their kindness, and regret that some slips of the pen produced ill feelings which we trust are now at an end. All men are liable to err; why not then, youth? and though "what is writ, is writ," still there has been nothing done which a true man will not overlook and forever forget, and trusting it may be [indecipherable] of the subject, never to be referred to, more.
Unfortunately, I have no idea what George wrote in The Pioneer. But if an article in The Investigator about an unruly crowd attending a performance of Shakespeare by one "Count Joannes" and his consort is any indication, he pulled no punches.
We regret to animadvert upon the disturbance and disorderly conduct exhibited in the Town Hall of New Rochelle upon Thursday evening, the 16th.
The spectacle of a gentle and lady, so far as externals go, vociferating and gesticulating upon the platform to a crowd of noisy, ill bred men and boys was not at all calculated to exhibit favorably either the good manners or the sense of decency which is supposed to characterize a New Rochelle audience.
George's apology to the New Rochelle's burghers was no doubt sincere but, in the spirit of his Scottish forebears, it was practical, too. He'd already established in the editorial that in the "advertising columns ... will be found some of the cards of the representative men of Mamaroneck, Rye Neck, and New Rochelle."
But isn't this just some of like the Forbes I know and love deeply — this desire to "forever forget" an unfortunate incident, as if its memory could be obliterated and its repercussions could be stanched?
Slights — major and minor — often weren't talked about, bad blood roiled under the surface, and brothers and cousins went their separate ways. We've tried to reconcile somewhat in this generation, but it's like putting the genie back in the bottle.
Walter Cronkite's DPA Pitch
Why I Support DPA, and So Should You
Dear Fellow Reformer,
As anchorman of the CBS Evening News, I signed off my nightly broadcasts for nearly two decades with a simple statement: "And that’s the way it is."
To me, that encapsulates the newsman’s highest ideal: to report the facts as he sees them, without regard for the consequences or controversy that may ensue.
Sadly, that is not an ethic to which all politicians aspire - least of all in a time of war.
I remember. I covered the Vietnam War. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost - and the shock when, twenty years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.
Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens.
I am speaking of the war on drugs.
And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the war on drugs is a failure.
While the politicians stutter and stall - while they chase their losses by claiming we could win this war if only we committed more resources, jailed more people and knocked down more doors - the Drug Policy Alliance continues to tell the American people the truth - "the way it is."
I'm sure that's why you support DPA's mission to end the drug war. And why I strongly urge you to support their work by giving a generous donation today.
Make a Donation Now
You see, I’ve learned first hand that the stakes just couldn’t be higher.
When I wanted to understand the truth about the war on drugs, I took the same approach I did to the war in Vietnam: I hit the streets and reported the story myself. I sought out the people whose lives this war has affected.
Allow me to introduce you to some of them.
Nicole Richardson was 18-years-old when her boyfriend, Jeff, sold nine grams of LSD to undercover federal agents. She had nothing to do with the sale. There was no reason to believe she was involved in drug dealing in any way.
But then an agent posing as another dealer called and asked to speak with Jeff. Nicole replied that he wasn’t home, but gave the man a number where she thought Jeff could be reached.
An innocent gesture? It sounds that way to me. But to federal prosecutors, simply giving out a phone number made Nicole Richardson part of a drug dealing conspiracy. Under draconian mandatory minimum sentences, she was sent to federal prison for ten years without possibility of parole.
To pile irony on top of injustice, her boyfriend - who actually knew something about dealing drugs - was able to trade information for a reduced sentence of five years. Precisely because she knew nothing, Nicole had nothing with which to barter.
Then there was Jan Warren, a single mother who lived in New Jersey with her teenage daughter. Pregnant, poor and desperate, Jan agreed to transport eight ounces of cocaine to a cousin in upstate New York. Police officers were waiting at the drop-off point, and Jan - five months pregnant and feeling ill - was cuffed and taken in.
Did she commit a crime? Sure. But what awaited Jan Warren defies common sense and compassion alike. Under New York’s infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws, Jan - who miscarried soon after the arrest - was sentenced to 15 years to life. Her teenage daughter was sent away, and Jan was sent to an eight-by-eight cell.
In Tulia, Texas, an investigator fabricated evidence that sent more than one out of every ten of the town’s African American residents to jail on trumped-up drug charges in one of the most despicable travesties of justice this reporter has ever seen.
The federal government has fought terminally ill patients whose doctors say medical marijuana could provide a modicum of relief from their suffering - as though a cancer patient who uses marijuana to relieve the wrenching nausea caused by chemotherapy is somehow a criminal who threatens the public.
People who do genuinely have a problem with drugs, meanwhile, are being imprisoned when what they really need is treatment.
And what is the impact of this policy?
It surely hasn’t made our streets safer. Instead, we have locked up literally millions of people...disproportionately people of color...who have caused little or no harm to others - wasting resources that could be used for counter-terrorism, reducing violent crime, or catching white-collar criminals.
With police wielding unprecedented powers to invade privacy, tap phones and conduct searches seemingly at random, our civil liberties are in a very precarious condition.
Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on this effort - with no one held accountable for its failure.
Amid the clichés of the drug war, our country has lost sight of the scientific facts. Amid the frantic rhetoric of our leaders, we’ve become blind to reality: The war on drugs, as it is currently fought, is too expensive, and too inhumane.
But nothing will change until someone has the courage to stand up and say what so many politicians privately know: The war on drugs has failed.
That’s where the Drug Policy Alliance comes in.
From Capitol Hill to statehouses to the media, DPA counters the hysteria of the drug war with thoughtful, accurate analysis about the true dangers of drugs, and by fighting for desperately needed on-the-ground reforms.
They are the ones who’ve played the lead role in making marijuana legally available for medical purposes in states across the country.
California’s Proposition 36, the single biggest piece of sentencing reform in the United States since the repeal of Prohibition, is the result of their good work. The initiative is now in its fifth year, having diverted more than 125,000 people from prison and into treatment since its inception.
They oppose mandatory-minimum laws that force judges to send people like Nicole Richardson and Jan Warren to prison for years, with no regard for their character or the circumstances of their lives. And their work gets results: thanks in large part to DPA, New York has taken the first steps towards reforming the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws under which Jan was sentenced.
In these and so many other ways, DPA is working to end the war on drugs and replace it with a new drug policy based on science, compassion, health and human rights.
DPA is a leading, mainstream, respected and effective organization that gets real results.
But they can’t do it alone.
That’s why I urge you to send as generous a contribution as you possibly can to the Drug Policy Alliance.
Make a Donation Now
Americans are paying too high a price in lives and liberty for a failing war on drugs about which our leaders have lost all sense of proportion. The Drug Policy Alliance is the one organization telling the truth. They need you with them every step of the way.
And that’s the way it is.
P.S. Why does this reporter support the Drug Policy Alliance? Because they perform a service I value highly: When no one else will, they tell it the way it is, and they do so on one of the most important but least discussed issues in America today.
Just as they did in Vietnam three decades ago, politicians know the War on Drugs is a failure that is ruining lives. Please help the Drug Policy Alliance tell the truth about the war on drugs - and get our nation on the path toward a sensible drug policy.
To Contact or Make a Donation by Mail to the Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Policy Alliance
70 West 36th Street, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10018
Tim Leary's parties
Alan Merrill is the son of Helen Merrill, the legendary jazz singer. He teamed up with two other Hastings residents, Bucky Hall and drummer Carl Peachman, in Watertower West. The bassist who replaced Riley in the band, Jake Hooker, was not from Hastings, nor was Merrill. Merrill and Hooker later formed The Arrows, which starred in a British TV show for a couple of years in the Seventies. They also co-wrote "I Love Rock 'n Roll," which became a No. 1 hit for Joan Jett in 1982.
This tidbit from one of Merrill's emails to me is an interesting insight into the emerging ethos of the Sixties:
Peachman, who became an architect, died of lung cancer in 2002.
The Elephant on Main Street © 2005, 2006, 2007 Thom Forbes