Happy New Year's
Trip Start Dec 19, 2006
24Trip End Feb 22, 2007
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(New York City, Friday, January 5, 2007)-Dr. Dorothy and I started the New Year with a private wedding ceremony, just the two of us in our bed at Jerry Poynton's place in New York City, pledging our love into the future just like Two Virgins. I married my wife Penny in a beautiful ceremony conducted by Genie Parker at the Broadway Gallery in Detroit on New Year's Day 1989, but that marriage ended in the middle of 2005.
Now it's 2007, and D and I have consecrated our connubial bliss in a way that means everything to us and nothing at all really to anyone else. Our first public appearance of the new year takes place at St. Mark's Church where we joined the cast of hundreds for the annual New Year's Day Poetry Marathon, following Philip Glass and then my old friend Eliot Katz at the podium.
The next night we join Ryan Sawyer and Eye Contact at the fabulous Zebulon club in Brooklyn, where Ryan, Matt Heyner and the cats are celebrating the release of their new CD. The great Daniel Carter is on the stand, Professor Arturo is down from Stamford CT, and Eliott Levin is up from Philadelphia for the set. Brother Dimitri and Jerry Poynton are backing us up in the crowd, and the music is really sailing with Dr. Dorothy wailing and a Haitian ceremonial ritual screening on the wall behind the band lighting up the frantic proceedings when WHAM! Dr D is flat on her back on the floor and struggles to her feet with her left arm dangling all crooked at her side.
Dimitri the Healer takes charge at once, hustling Dorothy out to the Professor's car and pressing Arturo into service as the driver, tearing off to find a hospital that will treat the doctor late at night. The band shakes off the shock of physical dysfunction and climbs back into musical action while our missing comrades are clustered in the trauma unit at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn waiting for Dorothy to get her dislocated arm straightened out and wrapped in a cast.
I waited around well after closing time for her return and then took a ride back to Manhattan with Daniel Carter and a friend with a car, greeting my battered sweetheart when she finally limped through the door of Jerry's apartment around 6:00 am. This was a hell of a way to start a new year together, but the Dr has taken her injury in stride and keeps her suffering to herself while going about her business with one wing strapped down.
She's also whacked her face and leg, chipped some teeth and generally taken a painful beating in the service of our art. Serious bed rest is required, and I have to carry on with our commitments without the benefit of her companionship and support while she begins to recuperate. But I've never seen anyone maintain such high spirits in the face of such painful physical injury.
"The music was so high," she says, "and I just got carried away with it while it was happening. Then I felt some kind of a push against me, and my feet got tangled up in the mike cords and I fell backwards. I stuck out my arm to break the fall and the pressure was too great and it got dislocated when I hit the floor."
So Dr D stayed at the pad to rest while I began my three-night residency at the Yippie Museum Café, a new installation on the ground floor of the infamous Dana Beal Building at 9 Bleecker Street. The Yippie Museum itself is still an embryonic concept, but the Café is a splendid little coffeehouse and performance venue that looked so good to me when I saw it that I wanted to spend some time in there and utilize the compact stage and working sound system to do something interesting and fun.
As it turned out, I had Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night open before I would go down to Philadelphia Saturday to do a show with Elliott Levin and his peoples at a place called Johnny Brenda's, so I suggested to Dana that we could start off the Café's 2007 programming with a brief residency under the rubric "An Evening with John Sinclair & Friends."
I thought the spirit of Yippie might best be served by throwing a sign up outside, inviting poet & musician friends to come down on different nights and then see what happened. Further in the spirit of Yippie, there would be no money involved at the door and maybe I might sell some books & CDs over the three nights to cover my meals & carfare & whatnot. At least me & Dimitri & Jerry and our friends would have a chance to get together & have some laughs while I was in town.
I also had a DVD with Don Letts' Sun Ra and George Clinton documentaries on it, and I thought I could throw those out there if things were really dull. But a small crowd gathered in the space on Wednesday evening and I got Dimitri and Don Lawton and the great Edgar Oliver to offer performances from the stage and followed with a poetry reading of my own, so it turned out to be a pretty good program. There was quite a bit of warm and friendly discussion and a great feeling of camaraderie in the cherished Yippie tradition.
I've known Dana Beal for years and years. I think he was still a college student at Madison, Wisconsin when we first met in the '60s, and then after I got out of prison at the end of 1971 Dana was pretty closely associated with the enigmatic Thomas King Forcade. Their cadre of revolutionary insurgents got into some kind of ugly confrontation with Youth International Party founding members like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Ed Sanders, whose concerns about impacting positively on the 1972 electoral campaign and trying to oust Nixon seemed to be no longer revolutionary enough for this second wave of flipped-out activists.
I didn't pay too much attention at the time because I thought the whole concept at attacking time-tested revolutionary activists was really lame, and our own outfit, the Rainbow People's Party, had determined to think globally and work locally in our base area, Ann Arbor Michigan, to effect political change and win over the broad masses of the people to revolutionary change through exemplary action in our immediate community. We helped elect two Human Rights Party members to the Ann Arbor City Council; they became the deciding factor in enacting city business of every sort for a couple of years until the HRP disintegrated from left-wing in-fighting and infantile political bickering of the same sort that splintered and rendered useless the Yippies.
I always considered myself a Yippie from Detroit and followed closely the ideas, actions, propaganda and guerrilla media strategies of the Youth International Party. I worked with Ed Sanders and Abe Peck to effect the appearance of the MC-5 at the Festival of Life in Chicago, where we were the only one of the legion of announced bands to actually show up to play at Lincoln Park on the appointed day. At one point while I was in prison-I think in connection with the Chicago Conspiracy Trial-I pushed hard on the Central Committee of the White Panther Party to merge our outfit into the YIP, but it turned out there was really no structure to merge with.
So one day in recent years-many years after the WPP, RPP, YIP, and our comrade organizations of the time had ceased to exist except in the memories of those who were there-I got a message from Dana Beal inviting me to participate as a Board member in the non-profit New York State organization to be called the Yippie Museum. I thought this was a good thing, whatever might result from it, and agreed to be part of the Museum organization along with Beal, A.J. Webberman, Aaron "Pie Man" Kaye, and others who had once had some sort of association with the YIP. Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin are no longer with us, Ed Sanders has moved on and continues to compose his 9-volume History of the United States in verse, Abe Peck is Distinguished Medill professor of Journalism at Northwestern University, etc.
Me, I'm just happy to hear the name Yippie in the 21st century and applaud any efforts to establish a repository for the historical artifacts and whatever else remains of this glorious attempt to smash the state and make a new social order. I'm proud to have been part of the Yippie movement and continue to hold fast to the concepts and principles of that movement as I have all of my adult life.
The great thing about the days of Yippie is that someone would come up with a good idea for striking at the government or making some kind of creative action to advance our program for freedom and liberation, and then people would come together to try to make it happen. We all hated the way things were, and we would do anything we could think of to make things change, whether it made conventional sense or not. We wanted to DO something and we were not afraid to act, whatever the consequences might be.
Anyway, I thought it would be kicks to initiate something new at the Yippie Museum to start off the new year, and it was! The second night was Thursday, and Dimitri arranged for his pal, the great Adam Nodelmann, to bring Phil Franklin and Eddie Campbell with him to make some music and back me up for a performance. Dr. Dorothy came off her sickbed to make the scene and sing along with us, Edgar Oliver returned to perform another thrilling piece, there were a few more characters in the audience as well, and a good time was had by all.
By Friday night enough people had caught the word of mouth about our presentation to make for quite a substantial audience, and there was a stellar blues band from the immediate neighborhood, with James "T" Tillson on guitar, Max Johnson on bass and Glenn Johnson at the drums to provide the required music. The excellent saxophonist Ras Moshe came down and joined us, there was inspired poetry from David Lawton, and I got to do a set with the full band. An added treat was an inspired set by the vocalist who calls herself Nabila.
I thought all in all that we opened up the Yippie Museum Café as a first-rate performance space and gathering place, and I'm going to wish the Café the utmost success in all its endeavors. One day, who knows, there might even be an actual Yippie Museum established there at 9 Bleecker Street.
On the sad side of things, I got the bad news from Al Kennedy in New Orleans and Mary Katherine Aldin in Los Angeles that our mutual friend Tad Jones had passed away on New Year's Eve as the result of an accident at his home when he fell and struck his head. He was found by the police in the pool of his apartment building about 2:00 pm on New Year's Day. The time of death was estimated to have been approximately 12 hours earlier.
A native of New Orleans, Tad Jones was a jazz historian and researcher best known for discovering Louis Armstrong's correct birthdate, August 4, 1901. I knew Tad when we were active in the Professor Longhair Foundation in the 1990s and enjoyed his passion and enthusiasm for the music and culture of the Crescent City.
Tad Jones was co-author (with Jason Berry and Jonathan Foose) of Up from the Cradle of Jazz: Music in New Orleans Since World War II, an essential reference work for music lovers. Al Kennedy says, "Tad was involved with many interesting and historically significant projects. He was kind, passionate about our great culture, and an important resource for our city and our people."
Wikipedia has some good information about Tad:
TAD JONES is a scholar who has accumulated over three decades of interviews, oral histories and primary source research into the complexities of musical New Orleans. An early and enthusiastic supporter of New Orleans rhythm and blues, he captured musical legends Allen Toussaint, Henry Byrd (a.k.a. "Professor Longhair"), Irma Thomas and Earl King in oral histories and interviews as early as the mid-1970s.
As Executive Director of Oral History Project Inc., he worked since 1995 with a team of fellow jazz historians to complete interviews with Alvin Alcorn, Milton Batiste, Walter Lewis, Frank Mitchell and other New Orleans jazz legends.
He has served as consultant to numerous film, radio and print projects on the history of American music, including the widely acclaimed Stevenson Palfi documentary Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together. He contributed interviews to the PBS series Satchmo: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong and authored the biographical essay on Professor Longhair for American National Biography.
His most recent project was a book titled Louis Armstrong: His Life, Times and New Orleans 1901-1922, which examines the backdrop of young Louis' life.
Finally, R.J. Spangler sent me this url for YouTube where he's posted an excerpt from our performance at the Buzz Bar in Detroit last August 12, 2006:
"Ain't Nobody's Bizness" @ the Buzz Bar, Detroit, August 12, 2006
Note: As usual while traveling in the United States I've fallen considerably behind in my reports from On The Road and now my trip here is almost over, but I'm going to try to catch up as much as I can before Mardi Gras Day and our departure for Amsterdam next Thursday. Thanks for your patience and please wish me luck in this nutty endeavor.
-Stamford CT, January 10, 2007 >
New Orleans, February 15, 2007