Fate and Friends
Bob Fass of WBAI New York City, Radio Unnameable
"...The presence of danger bestows genius upon the man of reason; it raises him, so to speak, above himself; in the man of imagination it inspires romantic notions, bold it is true, but frequently absurd."
--The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal
My craggy old spirit stared at the words above and recognized Self...romantic-minded cowboy-movie-nurtured...Roy Rogers...John Wayne...Superman...the Marines Build Men the whole bit...Save the world!...ha, ha!...don't get me started on "progress"...Save yourself first...please...and now my Chief informs me through an angel that I complain too much...to be "pro-active" and all that...listen more...whew...I send word via primitive computer that I'm exhausted...I'm relieved to see I'm not as romantic as I feared...I don't want to be romantic...don't want to be a hero or an antihero either...my magic books the secret words the key a sword in a stone a hand in the lake the mysterious well...assassins in pursuit...the recurring childhood dream of a stable with seven mighty stallions...each a different color for days of the week...the glass mountain the princess in white waiting patiently at the top...men riding hell-for-leather uphill horses hooves slipping on the glass...only I made it to the top each time...awoke when I reached the top never got the princess though...I dreamed this dream seven days in a row at age 12...who's a romantic?...at this point I'd settle for a dock on the bay...I want to be a realist like Paul Krassner who never loses his cool...not that I ever saw anyway...to see the world the way it is and satirize it to entertain & enlighten...what a talent Paul Krassner...I crack up everytime I hear him speak...the other night I was on the radio with Bob Fass and Jerelle Kraus former art editor Op-ed page NY Times thirteen years...went to Nicaragua with her on Abbie Hoffman's tour 1985...smart lady and only Bohemian on that old complicated newspaper...she's got a book...All the Art That's Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn't) in The New York Times... free blog ad Jerelle...great-looking book!
Jerelle Kraus, 13 years Op-Ed art editor for the NY Times, and a helluva good dancer.
Bill Propp, longtime radio engineer at WBAI who always engineers Bob's program; an affable and knowledgeable guy.
Live musicians often play on Bob's program. Live music once played on most stations in America, and Bob's show is one of the last formats for it.
And now the news: I was nearly homeless in this merciless city last week...one night broke on the street no place to lay my weary head...walked by many old haunts...coffeeshops restaurants bars I used to eat and drink in regularly...my old apartment at 112 Macdougal Street...they close the parks at 10...took down streetside benches so no place for homeless to rest...stopping on stoops to write by streetlight...cops cruising past looking twice...lucky I'm clean & old with short white hair or they'd have me at Riker's Island...Welcome to Hell...walked till dawn when they opened parks...collapsed on grass by Hudson River but couldn't sleep...68 years old and walking the streets of New York dead broke...feeling like a sorry piece of shit...waiting I'm always waiting...finally I have a glimpse into how to write and how many days left to me?...hurt lower back causing me to walk tilted to the right...ha, ha!...I swear to God I don't know why I'm laughing but I am...I see myself tragi-comic old clown with head detached floating tilted painfully in seamless reality all of a piece...absolutely nothing accomplished worth noting in all this time...fate do you believe in fate?...I do.
Finally a nephew-by-marriage bailed me out of my own stupidity...now I'm trying to get a hack license again after 22 years not-driving taxi here...everything different...haven't seen a white driver yet...credit card machines in cabs now...they've tightened the rules made the damned thing more expensive and complicated...nearly $500 to get one!...drug test...medical exam...school!...imagine that...school...six years I drove and now I need to go to school!...$175 for that...went to change my Florida license for NY chauffer's license...suddenly a word PROHIBITED comes up on screen...what's this?...clerk doesn't get it...makes a call...says it will be cleared up Monday..."an overnighter" she said...Friday to Monday really...maybe I signed too many petitions attended too many demonstrations...somebody had to do it...Homeland Insecurity probably...if I get it tomorrow I hope to be driving again in little more than a week...back to it...have to refresh memory of streets and neighborhoods...buy a good map...Taxi Driver Guide...had to change Social Security card to read same as driver's license...met a lady in SS office who tells me she worked 40 years and can't find job...can't pay rent...overqualified for everything...jobs falling away like leaves to a fire...I felt sorry for her...walking the streets would kill her...and these rich bastards don't care...she is only a statistic to them.
I want to live in Brooklyn this time..."liberated territory" Bob said...okay I'm liberated now all I need is an apartment or a room a job and a better income...does this sound like griping?...it's not...I am so grateful for friends...grateful to God for my life...for every breath I ever took for everything that ever went wrong...or I wouldn't be right here nine stories above First Avenue...drinking coffee letting back muscles relax...watching stream of traffic descending slowly from upper level of Queensboro Bridge like I did a thousand times...seeing my old self driving one of those yellow taxis...I actually used to look up and see this window from there...hoping I can do it again...not going back to New Orleans except for the play in October...I love New Orleans but love New York more...happy to be back here...I have a son in New Jersey...he's a lot like me which doesn't make me glad...a hermit who lives in his head...how people manage to live better I haven't a clue...Fate yes I believe in Fate...what else can I think?...even I couldn't have written this scenario...but thanks for good friends and Fate too.
Bob Fass, originator of Free Speech radio and the 10-person conference call-in; founder with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin & Paul Krassner of the Yippies; 50-years on WBAI-FM in New York, 99.5 FM; and my very good old friend.