Archive for the ‘In the Black’ Category

In the Black — Cameo by J. Edgar Hoover

June 18, 2014 Leave a comment


For J. Edgar Hoover there was only one stage of bureaucratic grief: Anger. And, in the Director’s opinion, when it came to grief, it was far better to give than to receive, so his anger flowed like a lava field down from the top, scorching those in the organization who were not prescient enough to have covered their ass or nimble enough to deflect the molten flow of blame to others. As he read the field reports delivered to his desk on the first Monday morning of the new year, a volcanic pressure built beneath the dome of his high forehead. If J. Edgar Hoover had been a cartoon character, Clyde Tolson surely would have seen steam venting from his ears.

The Director read that on the very first day of 1969, his agents came up empty handed when they went to serve search and arrest warrants on the subjects of at least twenty pounds of file folders filled with twenty pound weight paper filled with nearly four years of Bureau observations collected at a great expense funded by the taxpayers of the United States of America. In a mere two weeks, a new President would be inaugurated — and Dick Nixon was no slouch. He could play hardball with the best of them and J. Edgar Hoover was certain his new boss would not be impressed by the fact that his Bureau had let a terrorist bomber, a would-be presidential assassin and the two kingpins of the illicit hallucinogenic drug trade in California — which was destroying the moral fiber of the youth of the greatest nation on earth — slip through their hands in one fell swoop. Somehow, The Triumvirate had triumphed — at least for the moment. But, J. Edgar Hoover had not stayed Director for nearly a half a century by letting others triumph.


“Justice is incidental to law and order.”

~J. Edgar Hoover


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Categories: In the Black

In the Black: 1965-1969

ITB140306 - In the Black - Novel Cover - VW w180

My novel, In the Black, is being released today, May Day — and, yeah, that’s kind of a friendly poke in the ribs to some of my pinker or even red friends.

The story of this story is that I was blessed to have a very special relationship with my father. He was my dad, always, but we also worked together, so he was a mentor, a boss and a colleague. Some of his friends became my friends. We all agree he was a great guy. He was an enabler for many of my passions: music, flying and telling tales. He helped me learn lessons in life and business that I later discovered myself trying to pass on to others. It is no accident that In the Black is dedicated to my dad.

I regret that he never got a chance to read this story, as he died two years ago. Even though I started writing this book in the last century — way back in the Eighties, in fact — it became clear as I raced to finish that the story would have been incomplete without the events of the intervening years between then and now. The more things change, the more they stay the same:

The United States faces existential threats from outside and within
Unpopular wars drag on
Journalism prostitutes itself
A paranoid government spies on its citizens
Technology advances at a frightening pace
Partisan acrimony paralyzes our political system
Communist revolutionaries fill American streets with violent demonstrations
Families, friends and society itself are overwhelmed and torn apart by events

But maybe things aren’t so grim, if you know anything about business and accounting . . . .

Anyway, I’ve been asked if In the Black is autobiographical (especially by siblings). I find if you pay attention and sometimes step back and spectate, life happening all around you can be quite entertaining, if not always rational and coherent. While certainly some of the characters, scenes and lunacy have been inspired by real people, real events and real lunacy, it is a work of fiction. But, remember, while victors may get to write history, novelists get to write reality.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. And to show my appreciation, please use this coupon code at Smashwords for a free download of the completed book, which will be good for the next couple of days:  UQ47L

In the Black is also available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, the iBookstore, Kobo and Scribd via the links to the right under “My Stuff.”  (but the coupon is only good at Smashwords).

I wish everyone could have met my dad, so I hope you enjoy my story.

Thank you.

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Categories: In the Black

In the Black: 1968 – Arthur Needleman

March 5, 2014 Leave a comment

ITB140213 - In the Black 1968 w180

Y.T., Sr. knew exactly where to find Arthur Needleman: at the shoe shine stand. It was where he had first met his West Coast sales manager seven years earlier, clear across the country at the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco. Arthur Needleman was drawn to hot dog carts, coffee shops, news stands, bakeries, barber shops and, of course, shoe shine stands, like bees are drawn to nectar, craving the human interaction and banter with proprietors and personal service providers and feeding off of those interactions, absorbing energy like a psychological flywheel to propel his manic pace through the day.

Arthur Needleman was the son of one of the most respected and revered men in the cloistered world of Madison Avenue. His father was the man who single-handedly doubled Proctor and Gamble shampoo sales with a solitary word: Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Wilfred Gustave Needleman was an avid student of the human herd and the most effective methodologies for corralling their disposable income into the coffers of corporations who paid handsomely for his propaganda wrangling. Throughout his career, “W.G.” prided himself on taking a strict scientific approach to the understanding of human behavior, but despaired at the disdainful whispers, both real and imagined, for his profession — in spite of the millions upon millions of dollars of tangible results his “pseudo-science” produced. The overt lack of respect from all but his peers and his clients pierced the adman’s pride deeply, the wounds of which he sought to heal by sending his son to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become a “real” scientist.

Arthur Needleman was enrolled in the Aeronautical Engineering program with a minor in Astronomy, which interested him immensely more than his major. Although he excelled in his studies, his heart was not in becoming a scientist or an engineer. He saw the undergraduate program through, though, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree magnum cum laude only for his father’s sake. While W.G.’s approach to his fellow human beings, including his family, was coldly clinical and remotely statistical, his son preferred to deal with folks belly-to-belly, on an equal footing, learning from them and enjoying their company, rather than analyzing how to make them jump through hoops or chase through mazes towards some dubious reward, like a B.F. Skinner experiment. After graduation, Arthur Needleman sought to get as far away as possible from the laboratory-like sterility of the Needleman household in New York City as soon as possible. His escape path led to a drafting board at the Lockheed Advanced Development Division in Burbank, California, where he spend long days drawing excruciatingly intricate details of the landing gears of top secret aircraft. The unbroken hours in the company of templates, t-squares and mechanical pencils quickly began killing his spirit. He literally felt his soul slowly drowning in the increasing quantities of alcohol he was consuming after work in the company of fellow “Skunk Works” worker bees, until one Tuesday afternoon he walked over to his supervisor’s desk under the watchful eye of forty disbelieving engineers in his section and tendered his resignation. Due to the classified nature of the work done there for Kelly Johnson, Arthur Needleman was escorted out of the Lockheed facility immediately by security and collected his last paycheck that Friday.

On the way home from his last day at work, Arthur Needleman stopped at a bookstore and stocked up on fiction, verse, history and philosophy tomes, which he consumed voraciously on Venice Beach, until the day he finished Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, after which he impulsively jumped into the gift he received from his father upon graduating from M.I.T., a Porsche Spyder, and headed north up California Highway 1, stopping at every coffee shop, diner, bowling alley, driving range and tavern between Los Angeles and San Francisco, until he crossed paths with Y.T., Sr. at the St. Francis Hotel. After a wide ranging conversation, ricocheting from sports cars to the “Buttoned-Down Mind” of Bob Newhart to the validity of Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth’s record of sixty home runs in a 162 game season to Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night to Fred McMurray’s invention of Flubber in The Absent Minded Professor to Eisenhower’s dire warnings about the “Military-Industrial Complex” to Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to journey into outer space, Y.T., Sr. told Arthur Needleman to call him after he got home from his Pacific coastal odyssey to go to work for Erp Industries, Inc.

Y.T., Sr. climbed up on the shoe shine stand in the lobby of the Parker House Hotel in downtown Boston. Arthur Needleman was already sitting there, scanning The Boston Globe obituaries and analyzing the upcoming World Series pitching matchup between Tiger Denny McClain and the Cardinal Bob Gibson with Aldo as he buffed Arthur Needleman’s Florsheims to a high gloss. Without looking, he handed Y.T., Sr. the Lifestyle section of the paper.

“I have to go with St. Louis, of course,” said Y.T., Sr., pulling out his pen to work the crossword puzzle.

“I hate to break this to you, but it’s going to be Detroit,” answered Arthur Needleman. “I hope you don’t have a lot riding on the Series.”

“Hmmm.” Y.T., Sr. filled in six down. “Aldo, your thoughts?”

“This is Boston,” said the shoe shine man as he dabbed polish on Y.T., Sr.’s Oxfords. “I gotta go American League, so I agree with Artie on this.”

“We’ll see. We’ll see,” said Y.T., Sr. “So, anyone we know kick off?”

“Looks like Patrick O’Hurley crossed the bar.”

“We know him?”

“No, but he’ll do.”

“How’s our buddy, Peckerfelt, making out these days?”

“He’s dealing with it. That Leon Debs guy is a real piece of work, though.”

“Anyone listening to him?”

“Oh, there are always a few malcontents who are just looking for any excuse to make trouble and stir the pot.”

“I don’t need any union problems in the shop.”

“Nothing to fear, my good man, but fear itself. Orley’s pitching in, too. Boy, he sure hates Debs’s guts.”

“We’re at a critical juncture with negotiations right now. Let me know what I can do to help.”

“Oh, I think everything is good-to-go right now. You won’t need to worry about manufacturing.”

“Okay.” Y.T., Sr. filled in twenty-three across. “And how are he and Prunella getting on?”

“Never seen him happier.”

“Good. Good for him.”

“Front desk,” Arthur Needleman whispered as he nudged Y.T., Sr.’s arm with his elbow. Without lifting their heads from their newspapers, both men caught a glimpse of Vasili Ivanovich pacing near the front desk, alternating between checking his wrist watch, then furtively glancing in their direction, then contemplating the scuffed condition of his cheap brown shoes, then rubbing the center of his forehead, then repeating the ritual again and again.

They would be late if they didn’t get going, Vasili Ivanovich fretted to himself, Y.T., Sr.’s long ago lesson in tardiness ever fresh in his mind. What was taking so long?

“You gentlemen are all set,” said Aldo.

“I shall retrieve our carriage,” said Arthur Needleman hopping down from the stand and heading toward the front entrance under the watchful eye of Vasili Ivanovich.

Y.T., Sr. paid Aldo and tipped him generously. “Tigers, huh? You Red Sox fans are all alike.”

Aldo shrugged. “Thank you, sir.”

Vasili Ivanovich met Y.T., Sr. halfway and walked with him to the hotel entrance. “I’ve checked and double checked everything — absolutely everything and — and the design is good. It is good. I swear it.”

“I’m sure it is,” said Y.T., Sr.

“But you’ve read the memos. They are all blaming us — Grumman, Raytheon, Bell, Marquardt, Rocketdyne, the government, Von Braun.” Delays in getting the Lunar Excursion Module flight ready had forced NASA to completely change the mission profile for Apollo 8, which was originally planned as a second Lunar Module/Command Module test in an elliptical medium Earth orbit in early 1969. “And this Raytheon fellow, Mc-Mc-Mc–“


Vasili Ivanovich shuddered at the mere mention of the surname of the Senator from Wisconsin whose subcommittee hearings had precipitated his relocation from Washington D.C. to Kansas City so many years ago.

A porter held the door for them. They stepped to the curb to wait for Arthur Needleman.

“Everything is going to be just fine,” Y.T., Sr. said, putting his hand on Vasili Ivanovich’s shoulder. “Trust me.”

Vasili Ivanovich bowed his head and shook it slowly. He had seen it all before: the finger pointing, the accusations, the burying of facts and the inevitable purging of the innocents.

Arthur Needleman pulled up in a red four-door Ford Torino from Hertz and rolled down the window. “Need a lift?”

Y.T., Sr. read the question in Vasili Ivanovich’s painfully pinched expression at the sight of Arthur Needleman. “You know, he went to school here in Boston.”

Vasili Ivanovich just shook his head dejectedly and acquiesced to Y.T., Sr.’s gestures to get in the front seat, wondering if he might have the Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol with him and what it would feel like against the back of his head.

“A clean windshield. Powerful gasoline. And a shoe shine,” said Arthur Needleman as he squealed the tires pulling away from the Parker House Hotel and raced his way out of downtown Boston in a way that only compounded Vasili Ivanovich’s anxiety and terror.

In the back seat, Y.T., Sr. worked on the Boston Globe crossword puzzle.

“So, I hear old “Fuzzy” McCarthy has done pretty good for himself at Raytheon,” said Arthur Needleman.

“Assistant Chief Engineer,” said Y.T., Sr., from the back seat.

“You know, Vasya,” Arthur Needleman said, winking at Vasili Ivanovich, “Fuzzy and I were classmates back at M.I.T.”

Vasili Ivanovich’s worry-furrowed brow suddenly smoothed out. He looked back at Y.T., Sr. who was filling in the answer for forty-six down and finally understood.

Arthur Needleman arrived at St. Anthony Catholic Church just as Patrick O’Hurley’s funeral procession was departing for Westview Cemetery. He turned on the Torino’s headlights and fell in at the end of the long line of cars. Y.T., Sr. finished the crossword puzzle as they drove non-stop to Raytheon headquarters in Lexington, arriving on time for their meeting, after which the rabid hounds of bureaucratic reprisal turned their hunt to find others to blame besides Erp Industries, Inc.

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Categories: In the Black

In the Black: 1967 – Marty Keegan

September 5, 2013 Leave a comment

ITB130725a - In the Black 1967 Cover - 180w

The cream-colored Cadillac De Ville convertible with Illinois license plates cruised south down Interstate 95 with the top down, long strands of hair dancing like crazed Salvador Dali puppets in the slip stream above the heads of the occupants. Marty Keegan rode the hump in the back seat, flanked by two pretty, yet clueless coeds along for the adventure that a weekend in Washington D.C. promised. Mark drove the borrowed luxury sedan, courtesy of Bill’s father, courtesy of the handsome salary paid him by Commonwealth Edison. Mark and Bill were having a loud and animated debate, followed like a tennis match by Diana, who sat between them in the front seat, but which Marty Keegan could not hear in back over Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton blasting I Feel Free out of the rear stereo speakers.

“Cadillac!” Marty Keegan yelled at passing vehicles, pointing to the occupants in his own car. “CAD-DIL-LAC!”

The coeds blew kisses to passing motorists, flashed the peace sign and smothered Marty Keegan in hugs and kisses. He fondled their breasts openly and winked teasingly at commuters imprisoned in their daily routines. The coeds were from his Poli-Sci class. Being a revolutionary had its upside — and Marty Keegan was looking forward to the prospect of getting laid in the nation’s capitol.

Marty Keegan’s freshman year at Columbia University had been a text book case study in the carnage that results when youthful dreams crash head-on into institutional granite and cultural concrete. His naive vision of emerging from the Ivy League’s only journalism school a crusading reporter, then following in his grandfather’s footsteps, battling to change the world for the better of all mankind, was threshed and winnowed by the undergraduate Core Curriculum and course pre-requisites, until the grains of his aspirations were laid bare for the millstone of the American education system to grind them into flour ready for proper societal leavening. But the same hormonally supercharged hubris, the universally youthful aura of immortality, and an embedded sense of familial destiny that propelled his recklessness on the Fighting Eagles gridiron and sustained his rebellion in the halls of Harry S. Truman High School could not be contained by the Morningside campus and it wasn’t long before his restlessness spilled over the dikes of academia.

After a thoroughly unsatisfying Lion’s football season that involved far more running, bench pressing and bench sitting than gridiron playing, Marty Keegan sought quiet refuge at what he called “Butler Beach” — the library stacks where he spent free afternoons and evenings on the fourth floor paging through the bound copies of TIME, Life, Newsweek and The New York Times, digging back through the decades to wander through the great watershed events of the Twentieth Century captured first hand by the idols of his craft — absorbing the heat of amazing photo journalism and heroic reporting of the ferocious battles of World War II exploding off glossy magazine pages; then back to feel the despair and desperation of that economic dust bowl known as the Great Depression rising from musty newsprint like an Oklahoma dirt devil; and then back again further into the “Roaring” decade that led to that very Black Tuesday in October, 1929, when Y.T., Jr.’s grandfather plummeted to his death at the other end of Manhattan Island. The “Crazy Years” of Jazz, Flappers, Art Deco, Prohibition, amazing technological advances and seemingly plentiful material excesses gave Marty Keegan a creepy, yet uncomprehended feeling of deja ju as he sat there forty years downstream in American history.

Seeking inspiration and, perhaps, redemption and validation from the acolytes of Walter Lippman and John Dewey, it seemed the more free time Marty Keegan spent at “The Beach” the more doubt gnawed at his faith in journalism like termites feasting on the foundations of a home. How could those reporters and editors of those times have missed a monster like the 1938 TIME Magazine “Man of the Year,” Adolf Hitler, and the horrors he unleashed on the world? How could they have not seen and understood what would happen? It was all right there in Mein Kampf, in Hitler’s own words, for crying out loud. How could they have not stopped him? Instead of wasting ink and paper on the “outpouring of birthday greetings” and praise for Benito Mussolini and all he had accomplished “for the good of Italy and humanity” why did they not stop these madmen, stop the suffering, stop the violence and stop the death they reeked on humanity? Who really cares if he and Hitler made the trains run on time, if those trains ended up running to Auschwitz and Treblinka? As Marty Keegan jogged through Morningside park or around the Central Park Reservoir, he tried, but could not fathom how the supposed watchdogs of the Fourth Estate had so badly missed the realities staring them straight in the face that would later spawn some of the darkest years of modern history. And so he reached back further, back into his own family’s past.

Marty Keegan’s grandfather spent his entire bright, but short newspaper career at the Kansas City Star. A.B. Keegan was a fourteen year old paperboy who, family legend had it, followed cub reporter Ernest Hemingway around the office during the six months of his tenure there before he left to drive ambulances in Italy during World War I. Twelve years later, the elder Keegan, by then a reporter for the Star, went to Amarillo, Texas, to look into the suspicious death of a lawyer’s wife, who was blown to smithereens in the family car six blocks from home. After just two days of investigation, he somehow learned what authorities could not or would not: that the husband was having an affair with his secretary. His intrepid investigative reporting resulted in a fifty-four page confession and a newspaper story that won a Pulitzer Prize. Unfortunately, the stellar journalistic career launched by that prize was aborted only a few short years later when he was fatally injured covering the 1935 Metal Workers strike violently raging through Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. His own father not having the grit or stomach for the kind of danger men like Ernest Hemingway and A.B. Keegan faced in their work became a school teacher, and so it was on an annuity funded by his grandfather’s prize money and death benefits that Marty Keegan attended Columbia University. Marty Keegan searched for and found A.B. Keegan’s story on microfiche. He read and reread his ancestor’s prize winning prose. Somewhere in the intervening years, journalism seemed to have lost the fire that burned in the bellies of Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, Ernest Hemingway and A.B. Keegan. The Columbia freshman felt a heavy ancestral obligation in living up to his grandfather’s prize winning legacy, but, here, at the journalistic mecca founded and funded by Joseph Pulitzer, himself, which had recognized and honored a bud in Keegan family tree, he had become uncharacteristically unmoored and adrift from his own ancestry and ambitions.

Strangely, the thirty year old story of murder in a high plains cattle town by his grandfather resonated in Marty Keegan, softly at first, then louder and louder still. For a long while he was not sure why, until one day jogging up East Park Drive, out of the blue he recalled a series in The New Yorker about murder in Kansas by Truman Capote. Returning to Butler Beach he found the first article in the September, 1965 issue, and then the three following installments. It was a different kind of reporting, a different kind of story telling: a style that seemed to break away from the rigid Who-What-Where-When-How of the journalism of the past that had so obviously failed mankind by missing Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin and their terrible meanings for civilization, even as those monsters worked their wills right before the supposedly unblinking and objective eyes of the Fourth Estate. He reread the Capote magazine series. He sought out a copy of In Cold Blood and wolfed down the novelization of true crime and yet hungered for more of this so-called “New Journalism.”

Somehow, moving back and away from a strict factual, photographic rendition of space and time, with a feel more of fiction than current events, these New Journalists had, like verbal Dalis, Piccasos or Pollocks, captured the essential truths and a more primal reality of the crimes, sports, politics, cars, celebrities and music they wrote about. The chasm between facts and reality, between objective observation and subjectively divining truth, between passive recording of sensory input and journalism as a verb — as a call to action and change — opened before him. In his mind, Marty Keegan had always equated a reporter’s job with just seeking the truth and faithfully documenting it. He had always understood that was enough. But this new and improved novelized presentation of reality demonstrated that his role was to be more than a simple gatherer and sower of grains of truth. From his own winter of independent research at Butler Beach, Marty Keegan saw that the “Johnny Appleseed” model of journalism, spreading seeds called facts, had obviously failed in the past to move and protect society. The more that establishment publications, editors and reporters attacked what they called “parajournalists” the more Marty Keegan sought them out and embraced them. Weren’t the very giants of Journalism, like Hearst and Pulitzer — the very founder of the Columbia School of Journalism, no less — derided as purveyors of so-called “yellow journalism” by the same kind of establishment types of their era? Didn’t his own grandfather do more than just report? Didn’t he solve a crime? Didn’t he bring a murderer to justice? Didn’t he change things for the better? He believed if his grandfather had been alive, he would have changed the arc of history far beyond the city limits of Amarillo in the decades that followed. Marty Keegan, too, heard the siren calling to change the world through his words.

And so, Marty Keegan turned away from news locked in history and neatly stacked up in Butler Beach. He turned away from the staid and stale academic hot house vision of journalism and began seeking new news and new news telling and new news to be made. He lost interest in the Lions and their endless workouts. He would not return to the team in his sophomore year. Eventually, he went AWOL from The Columbia Spectator as well. His jogging ventured further north from Central Park to the upper reaches of West Riverside Park and St. Nicholas Park. The time he spent on the fourth floor at Butler Beach dwindled and he drifted further and further afield from Morningside Heights, mainly northerly towards 125th Street and easterly towards Lenox Avenue, seeking out and exploring new and sometimes unconventional reading rooms — bars, coffee shops, diners, parks — to escape the soft oppression of the Columbia Cabal of students, faculty and administrators, and their worship of establishment values.

By energy or inertia he eventually gravitated to Stella’s Diner, a quiet family establishment on the outer fringes of Harlem, where he devoured home-style southern cooking, gallons of coffee, The Village Voice articles and anything he could find authored by Truman Capote, Gay Talese, George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, Terry Southern, Thomas Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson. Shunned at first by the regulars, his persistent, yet quiet presence eroded away the novelty and resentment of having an obvious college student intruder in their midst and in time, he became an accepted fixture to be mostly ignored, except by Stella’s daughter, Yolanda, who closed the restaurant with her sister, serving customers while Bernice cooked. Polite, functional exchanges between Yolanda and Marty Keegan rooted and grew, until late at night, after all the other patrons had gone, she would sit with him to share a cup of coffee and conversation, usually under the heat lamp glare of Bernice through the server’s window to the kitchen. Woven into talk of themselves, their families, their homes, their futures, and their friends, Marty Keegan first learned how the hunger of Columbia University for real estate to expand hurt people and families Yolanda knew in Harlem and Washington Heights, forcing them out of their homes like refugees by swallowing up block after block of rental properties in their quest for campus lebensraum. Yolanda doubted the diner could long survive Columbia’s academic imperialism as the college was actually Stella’s landlord, owning the building where Yolanda’s mother founded her business shortly after World War II — any more than Austria and Czechoslovakia had survived Hitler’s ambitions, Marty Keegan thought to himself. He perceived a malevolence in the University’s actions that he laid at the feet of its “Fearless Leader”, President Grayson Kirk, and he felt an obligation to do what the journalists of the Twenties and Thirties had not done: stop the evil there before his own eyes.

Marty Keegan asked if Yolanda would help him to help the friends, family and neighbors wronged by Grayson Kirk. She agreed, so they began to meet sometimes before her shift, sometimes after closing, when she would lead him deeper and deeper into Harlem to tenement buildings, to small family businesses, to minister’s offices, to Well’s Restaurant to meet with the economic exiles created by Columbia University, seeing and hearing first hand their plight, their frustrations and their pains. Affecting his best Capote-Wolf-Thompson voice, Marty Keegan strove to capture the cultural clash between the Haves and the Have-Nots in New Journalism-style stories, profiles and vignettes that he sent to the editors of every alternative press publication he could find. With Yolanda’s by-line, some of the stories were published in neighborhood newsletters, church bulletins and civil rights organization pamphlets. When their narrative turned its focus from past individual injustices to the future impact of the new gymnasium to be built in Morningside Park on the whole city, an issue that was merely simmering began to boil and others began to join Yolanda and Marty Keegan’s chorus of protest.

Marty Keegan also brought those stories back to the activists that gathered at the West End Bar on campus, which stoked the fires of their outrage at “The System” and its obviously inherent injustices, helping them to feel a little less self-centered in their resistance to the War in Vietnam which had a rather self-serving purpose in advancing an avoidance of undesirable encounters with the local Selective Service Board. There he was embraced by a group of middle-management radicals who yearned for action and were growing increasingly bored and impatient with the slow and plodding “praxis-axis” leadership of the Columbia chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society, which saw educating and organizing as their role in fundamentally transforming society. Marty Keegan had broken the gravitational pull of academia and smashed the paradigm they strained against in their endless hops-sodden debates by crossing campus boundaries and dealing with real people with real problems. He did not talk. He did not debate. He had gone off on his own to figuratively set a bomb and light the fuse that blew the Columbia gymnasium project off its racist rails.

As the radicals rallied to the cause of an oppressed minority in America, Marty Keegan found himself awash with timid whispers and prodded with inconspicuous nudges from less intrepid and more fearful peers that sent him into the stacks of Columbia’s International Law Library on the trail of Grayson Kirk evils that were not merely local to the Eden of academia there on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but were playing out on the world stage. As war raged in Southeast Asia, Grayson Kirk and his minions were collecting millions upon millions of dollars from the Institute for Defense Analysis to research and develop new and improved weapons to more efficiently and effectively kill foreign citizens and subjugate their sovereign nations for exploitation by the corrupt and immoral American capitalist system. Marty Keegan painted Grayson Kirk’s hands red with blood in a series of exposes detailing Columbia University’s complicity with the Military-Industrial Complex in a conspiracy of international death and destruction. Marty Keegan felt his dogged reporting would have made his grandfather proud. The administration of the University which had once honored A.B. Keegan took a much less favorable view of his role as one of the “IDA Six” radicals and called upon the Pentagon to call upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation to quell what was quickly becoming a public relations nightmare. Instead of a Pulitzer Prize, he was rewarded with an official government investigative file of his very own.

And so, Marty Keegan found himself sandwiched between two coeds in the back seat of the cream-colored Cadillac De Ville convertible with Illinois license plates — an automobile that reeked of the very essence of free market economics and American industrial muscle — which was transporting the vanguard of American student radicalism southbound to the nation’s capitol to participate in a national Moratorium against the War in Vietnam. With thoughts of getting laid — and maybe ending a war, too — dancing in his head, Marty Keegan had no idea that a Craftsman tool box in the trunk held dynamite, blasting caps and timers.

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Categories: In the Black

In the Black: 1967

July 31, 2013 Leave a comment

ITB130725a - In the Black 1967 Cover - 180w

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The Sixties — The decade you love to hate or hate to love. Hippies & War; Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n Roll; Free love and a man on the moon. Yada-yada-yada.

In In the Black:  1967 (Episode 4), the avalanche of history bears down as war rages in Vietnam, protests rock the home front, and personal agendas, inside of government and out, threaten the lives of Y.T., Jr., his friends, his lovers and his family.

As you read, please be advised that the lawyers for Comedy Central and Owl Works neither condone nor encourage this behavior. Enjoy.

Categories: In the Black

In the Black: 1966 – Penelope Xing

May 29, 2013 Leave a comment

ITB130429a - In the Black 1966 Cover - w180

“I am the wind!” Penelope Xing would shriek as she and Y.T., Jr. raced down the Pacific Coast Highway every Sunday morning at dawn after he had returned from his nomadic Saturday night wanderings in the Haight and Filmore Districts to make love to her, then take her away from Fu Loin’s.

Penelope Xing had never ridden on a motorcycle and had no desire nor intention whatsoever to do so. In her mind, motorcycles were barbaric metal steeds of death for brutal gangs like the Hell’s Angels, those modern day furies of anarchy who pursued their own unique brand of apparently nihilistic revenge on the highways and byways of California. So, when Y.T., Jr. brought his Harley-Davidson back to Berkeley on the Erp Industries, Inc., Learjet for the new school year, Penelope Xing confronted a direct threat to her primordial, a priori sense of order and to civilization as she knew it. She wanted nothing to do with Y.T., Jr.’s vehicular demon and she told him so.

“What if it rains?” she asked, trying to be polite at first, but Y.T., Jr. just stared at the ground and shook his head.

“But my hair will get mussed and my clothes will get all wind blown,” she whined. Y.T., Jr. rolled his eyes back and lit another Marlboro.

“I am not going to sit on top of a raw, unhoused engine with thousands and thousands of angry little gasoline explosions going off between my thighs,” she insisted. This excuse was Y.T., Jr.’s favorite. It was original. He laughed out loud.

“Look, you don’t even have any helmets. If we fell off, we would be hurt. We could get killed,” she explained rationally, prophetically.

Y.T., Jr. listened patiently, then called her bluff with his morphinically persuasive smile. Penelope Xing folded like a bad poker hand and reluctantly got on the Harley behind Y.T., Jr.

At first, it was worse than she or even Alfred Hitchcock could have ever imagined. Penelope Xing was terrified to near excretion by Y.T., Jr.’s bizarre and perverted twist on running the bulls at Pamplona through downtown San Francisco rush hour traffic. Whenever her right leg twitched with the life-preserving urge to save herself by slamming on the brakes, Y.T., Jr. inevitably twisted the throttle up a notch or two until the city was a blur of concrete, metal, brick and asphalt reaching out to grab her and flay her skin off as they banked to pass each car or truck and to whip around each corner. The forces of acceleration, deceleration and the centrifugal force of each turn groped and clawed at her body like the bad lovers who came to Fu Loin’s every weekend with crumpled twenty dollar bills in their fists and anger in their eyes. The queasy feeling of motion haunted her intestines even while stopped at traffic lights. She did not know if her tears were more from fear or from the wind relentlessly whipping her face.

Then, a funny thing happened. Traffic thinned out. The tunnel-like streets of downtown San Francisco emerged on bright, sunny, open road, and instead of enduring the blender-like blur of the city, with a little squinting, Penelope Xing’s eyes were able to focus again–on far away hilltops, on freely floating puffs of cumulus, on ocean white caps driving relentlessly towards the shore. Carbon monoxide no longer burned her throat. The salted ocean air cleared her mind like breathing pure oxygen. The speed didn’t seem to bother her any more, except when she looked over Y.T., Jr.’s shoulder at the speedometer or when a pickup truck towing a fish-tailing Airstream trailer suddenly blossomed out from around the next corner. But after a moment or two, the fear rippling her bodily fluids calmed again and the balance of the Harley no longer felt so precarious, so that her mind passed on to thoughts other than her imminent and medievally painful death.

Penelope Xing first imagined, then began to see the sharply drawn line on each curve of the Pacific Coast Highway, beyond which lay uncontrolled flight over a cliff into the ocean or a point blank kiss with the face of a rock wall at eighty miles per hour. At first, she thought Y.T., Jr. to be flirting with that line, but soon realized it was more than just a playful teasing. Y.T., Jr. chased that line and Penelope Xing began to feel its nearness like wind blowing across a high Sierra lake, imagining how the plunge beyond it might be like the bracing chill of a dive into mountain waters. There was no retreat, only victory, then the next battle, the next chance to lay your life on the line or beyond it. She held tight to Y.T., Jr.’s rib cage as he hunted that line, chewing on the Pacific Coast Highway like she had learned from assigned history texts how Patton and Rommel had chewed on Africa and Europe with their armies–only to Penelope Xing, this was not academic history, this was real.

Penelope Xing closed her eyes. She listened to the Harley’s deep throated engine respond to every twist of the throttle and shift of the gears. She felt the pistons beating through her flesh, her blood, her soul. The slip stream no longer raped her, but caressed and embraced every inch of her body all at once. It was like being on the peak of the highest mountain on earth, with no place to run, no where to hide, breathless from the climb and exposed to the splendorous wrath of some Zeus blowing against her soul. Suddenly, the walls of her claustrophobic, four-cornered life–the peeling plaster of her tiny apartment in the Haight, the dusty chalkboards of San Francisco State classrooms, the cramped study desk buried in the musty stacks of the library, and dingy, depressing room number five-sixteen at Fu Loin’s establishment–crumbled and fell away from about her.

“I am the wind!” Penelope Xing would shriek, suddenly feeling completely untethered.

“So blow me,” Y.T., Jr. would reply back over his shoulder. And when they stopped at Monterey or Carmel or Big Sur or just some secluded spot along the coast for their Sunday afternoon picnic, she did so with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. Penelope Xing was falling in love.

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Categories: In the Black

In the Black: 1966

May 15, 2013 Leave a comment

ITB130429a - In the Black 1966 Cover - w180

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The Sixties — The decade you love to hate or hate to love. Hippies & War; Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n Roll; Free love and a man on the moon. Yada-yada-yada.

In In the Black:  1966 (Episode 3), As Erp Industries becomes involved in helping America land a man on the moon, a scandal involving the head of manufacturing threatens the company’s future, but is overshadowed when Y.T., Jr. “eats a peach” and the accident threatens the Cassidy Beef Packing dynasty’s future, causing Wilson Cassidy to take rash actions which ultimately backfire.

As you read, please be advised that the lawyers for Comedy Central and Owl Works neither condone nor encourage this behavior. Enjoy.

Categories: In the Black
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