Paul Kantner's Nicaragua Diary or How I Spent My Summer Vacation
or I Was A Commie Dupe for the SANDINISTAS
Excerpt #1
Excerpt #2

PERRO  (The first few installments)
[Note to Starshippers: this is an excerpt from my mini-book,

"Paul Kantner's Nicaragua Diary
                    or
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
                    or
I Was A Commie Dupe for the SANDINISTAS"

 


 
It's meant for your enjoyment and perhaps mini-education of a time, now long past. Available in hard copy in the near upcoming...with an accompanying CD of the songs and poems that were a part of my 1987 'trip' as well as songs that I wrote later and poems that I discovered as a result of "The Glorious Adventure," to borrow a title from one of Richard Halliburton's books.

Enjoy >>>

photo by Scott Wallace

           My daughter, China, was the hot, new VJ on MTV this summer. My five-year-old son, Alexander, was studying dinosaurs, giants, elves, computers and learned to swim. And my twenty-three year old son, Gareth, just moved into his first apartment, got a job with an artistic construction firm, and was trying to get his freaking VW running.

           Me...I was in Managua, Nicaragua, playing “America” and “Volunteers” on Sandinista Television (STV)!

 

          What was I doing there, you might ask?  “Another commie dupe, off to Nicaragua,” the ever conservative Young Republican might answer. Now, I’ve been called a dupe for drugs, Black Panthers, Vietnam, even for Satan (this, on Jim and Tammy’s PTL Club, about five years ago, during the backward masking, devil talk craze that swept through the religious right, like a fire in dry grass...more on Jim & Tammy later).

 

          Well, ‘el dupo’ is back from Nicaragua with a story to tell.

 

[insert graphic here: My invitation to the 8th Anniversary of the Revolution celebration in Matagalpa]

 

RENO       1:00 a.m.

Saturday  18 July, 1987

 

          Our band, The Kantner Balin Casady Band had just finished playing outdoors at the Sand Harbor Music Festival at Lake Tahoe...in light snow flurries!...in July!!. I wasn’t sure whether to take the snow as a bad omen or a pleasant sendoff to what promised to be a hot weekend in Nicaragua. I am a San Franciscan, born in the Sunset District fog, and anything over seventy degrees sends me into a panic.

          “What do I do if I faint?”: I asked my doctor, thinking of salt tablets or something.

          “Fall down,” he laughed, telling me to stay in the shade and to take a hat. Nonetheless, here I am in the Reno airport, off to Dallas-Mexico City-Managua, in just under fifteen hours of stop and go flying.

          I get an amazing variation of looks and stares when people find out I’m going to Nicaragua...the eyes-wide-open stare, wondering if I was crazy...the quick eye scan like I was a Communist or something...the earnest, interested look -- “Oh wow,” the ticket agent exclaimed, “Aren’t you Paul Kantner?”-- fan stuff and the like. “I always loved you guys. What are you doing in Nicaragua?”

Cynthia Bowman, the mother of my son, Alexander, even sent me a post card saying, “Please don’t go. Love, CB.,” worrying that her son would have no father after Saturday. I gave them all the ‘Party’ line -- big celebration of the Revolution, big International Book Fair (you don’t think that Reagan would bomb Norman Mailer, do you?...hmmm!?!), big 19 July ... a lot of truth to that.

          So there I am in the Reno airport. I’m wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Augusto Cesar Sandino, the namesake of the Sandinista revolution, on it. A conservatively dressed, Young Republican type came up to me and, seeming to recognize Sandino’s picture, sneered, “Who’s that on your shirt?”

          “Tom Mix,” I countered immediately.

          “Oh,” he said, immediately deflated.

          “Yeah, I always liked him,” I smiled affably, “...still do.”

          Sandino’s hat is drawn like an infinity sign, with the body of the hat symbolizing a volcano, of which there are many, active, in Nicaragua.

 

[insert hat graphic]

 

          It all started with the Clash, the English new wave semi-punk band. I didn’t really take to them as much as so many others did. I didn’t think that they sang very well (people used to say that about Jefferson Airplane). Their reputation as junkies, shamelessly exploiting everything from Brixton to Sandinista left me wary and suspicious of everything they espoused. (Curiously enough, the Clash’s Mick Jones has a new band - Big Audio Dynamite - that is right now my favorite band on the planet.) And, I must admit, they were far ahead of me in paying attention to what was going on in Nicaragua.

           Also, the Sandinistas themselves seemed on the verge of betrayal of their revolution. Eden Pastora, the charismatic and fearless ‘Commander Zero,’ had abandoned them. He had been largely responsible for developing the urban front of the revolution. In 1978, a Sandinista commando unit, with a woman as one of its leaders, and Pastora, captured the National Palace and held the entire Somoza National Assembly for ransom, demonstrating the power of the Sandinistas to roam even downtown Managua at will. They got half a million dollars, obtained the release of political prisoners, including Tomas Borge, the current Minister of the Interior, and they forced Somoza to publish the Sandinista manifestos in his own newspaper. This humiliated Somoza and caused many of the urban middle class who were sitting on the fence, or who were afraid to act or speak out, to support the Sandinistas. After the revolution, Pastora came to oppose the ruling body and took to the southern jungles to fight them.

          The closing of La Prensa, the opposition newspaper, was also a dark sign. Tales of civil rights abuses, as they were reported here, in America, painted the Sandinistas as revolutionaries who took over and became the very thing that they had been fighting so fiercely.

 

          And so I wrote, in 1981,

           “If I was Sandinista

          I would assassinate

          Somebody who abused, abused, abused

          His mighty, mighty privilege

          But then somebody

          Would assassinate me

          For abusing...my mighty, mighty privilege!”

 

                              ____ Jefferson Starship, 1982

 

          The song was called, “I Came Back From The Jaws Of The Dragon.” Perhaps, in full circle, I am returning to the jaws of another dragon...I always tempt fate. Someday, it may catch up to me, but I have always been able to sense true danger (stupid danger) and back away fast. This time feels no different, but even with the cat, there are only so many lives. Let’s see, how many have I used up? How many do I have left?

 

[insert graphic: Nora Astorga photo/AP note]

 

NORA 

          I first learned of Nora Astorga in 1983. She was my first true, inspirational connection to the Sandinista revolution. She has since been referred to as ‘that Sandinista assassin’ by those who would paint her as a ‘commie,’ a guerrilla, a Sandinista! Her story filtered to me like this:

          She had been a corporate lawyer in Managua during the Somoza regime...like Montgomery Street, but in Managua. She was, and is, bright, beautiful, and the mother of five children. She was also a Sandinista, working secretly in the city. One of Somoza’s generals, General Reynaldo Perez Vega, kept pestering her for a date. He was the stereotypical South American general -- fat, ugly, big cigar and medals down to his cojones. And, he was a brutal tool of the regime.

          One day, she appeared to give in to his fervent pleas, and invited him to her apartment. Four Sandinista soldiers, however, were waiting, hidden inside her bedroom closet. They intended to take him prisoner and hold him hostage in return for the release of many Sandinistas who were being held in Somoza’s jails by the National Guard.. When they burst out of the closet, the general got very macho and they ended up killing him. At that point, Nora had to hide her children away and flee into the mountains until July 19, 1979 -- the ‘Time of the Triumph,’ as the Sandinista victory is called.

           When Daniel Ortega consolidated the government, he appointed Nora as ambassador to the United States (the Sandinistas are very supportive of women as equal in the workplace. Today, women work as soldiers, helicopter pilots, TV camerawomen, government officials, taxi drivers, and plantation managers; then, thirty percent of the Sandinista fighters were women! They fought alongside the men and feel they have earned their independence ... Women Alive!).

          Reagan turned down the appointment. It seems that the dead general was a CIA contact and the State Department didn’t take too kindly to his death. So what does the FSLN (Frente Sandinista del Liberation Nacional) do? They appoint her as the Nicaraguan representative to the United Nations, an appointment over which Reagan had no direct control. And it was that story that inspired me to write the song, “Mariel” on our first KBC album.. “Mariel” included the dedication, “Then she turned her eyes toward Earth / And remembered ancient war songs / Let the battle for Earth begin / Let the struggle for Love begin.” I wrote the song as a tribute to her struggle and to the spirit that courses through the hearts of many Chileans and Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Costa Ricans at this very moment. That spirit is growing in Honduras as it did in Argentina. The streets of Panama burn as I write.

 

          And it’s not just Communists from Russia who are causing it, as we’re being led to believe. It’s not just wild-eyed terrorists and it’s not only Cuban military advisers. It is grinding poverty and a brutal U.S. foreign policy that has supported dictators like Somoza and Batista (of Cuba) then, Pinochet (in Chile) and Noriega (in Panama) now...the Marcoses and Shahs and Bothas and Duvaliers of the world...the list seems to go on forever. The U.S. seems to be on the wrong side whenever the issues of democracy and civil rights come into conflict with U.S. security needs vis-à-vis  communism...time after time after time and time again. The spirit, this fight, this need to become their own country is alive in Nicaragua. Reagan can’t stop it. Jesus hasn’t healed it. Islam is a buffoon-like bully, and Buddha doesn’t seem to care very much at all. It is up to us -- WE THE PEOPLE! __ to help and to shed the light of day on this situation.

 

          In March of this year, I noticed in the Chronicle that Nora was coming to speak at Glide Memorial Church (Cecil Williams does it again). I immediately called our office to arrange an invitation. This is one of the fringe benefits of being in this rock and roll band -- access!

          I send our record over to Vivian Hallinan, who is helping to sponsor the speech, and I get invited to a pre-speech cocktail party at the Lawyer’s Guild (more commie dupes ?!?). Nora arrives and we are introduced. She had heard the song and receives me warmly.

          “I want to play in your country,” I say.

          “Oh, please come. It would be delightful.”

          ‘ That was easy,’ I think. I smile at her exuberance.

          “You can come on July 19th, the anniversary of our revolution. It will be a very exciting time. Your band can play for our people at the celebration.”

          “It would be our pleasure.” I beamed.

          She moved on and I left to get something to eat before the speech.

 

          When I got back to Glide, the street was swarming with contra supporters of all colors, held back behind well-manned police barricades. Some were chanting, some were screaming unintelligibly. I walked up to some of them and asked amiably, “Why do you protest this?”

          Sandinista murderers! Communista! Jesus save us!” came various  screams from the crowd.

          “What about contras murdering children. They are cowards,” I challenge. It was like they didn’t hear me.

          “Kill the communists!” -- more screaming, fists in the air. So I walked across the street toward Glide.

          “Contras are killers, cowards,” I yelled back (smart, Kantner!). The screaming rose to a fever pitch and I entered the church giving them the one-finger salute with just the slightest apprehension at the developing scene. One cop smiled as I crossed the empty street. I smiled back. Thank god for the San Francisco Police!

          Nora delivered a passionate speech with just a hint of shyness and I was given over to a slight welling of tears at the spirit she conveyed. I left quickly as she finished, to avoid the crush. The streets were empty now and the fog had freshened the night as it can only do I San Francisco. Viva!

 

          As time goes by, Benjamin Linder becomes the first American sympathizer to be killed in Nicaragua. Many say he was executed, on orders from the U.S. government, in order to discourage Americans from traveling to Nicaragua. While the contras insist he was killed by shrapnel or crossfire in a firefight, nothing has yet explained the powder burns around the point-blank bullet hole in the side of his head!

 

MARIEL     

 

Woman moves like lightning

Her eyes glow like radium

She moves like lightning

Her face could fill a stadium

 

Her body moves like lightning

Her words strike like thunder

Is she a rock star?

In search of wonder ... in search of

 

LIGHT! ... in everything she does

LIGHT! ... in all the ways she moves me

LIGHT! ... in all of her body   got

 

LIGHT!   She got LIGHT    the light of >>

 

LOVE   MAKES THE LIGHT SHINE BRIGHTER

LOVE   MAKES THE WOLF GO AWAY

LOVE   MAKES THE PEOPLE STRONGER

THE PEOPLE CHASE THE WOLF AWAY

 

Love is irrational               Love is madness

Love is not sensible                  Delicious madness

Her body moves like lightning   Her eyes glow like radium

She moves like lightning    Her words could fill a stadium

 

A stadium like in Chile    Her words cause pandemonium

Poor people rounded up   Murder in the stadium


She could rouse the population   With her words of freedom

Her words strike like thunder    Disturb the nation

 

FEAR    MAKES THE WOLF LOOK STRONGER

FEAR    MAKES THE LOVE GO AWAY

LIGHT   MAKES THE LOVE LAST LONGER

LOVE    MAKES THE WOLF GO AWAY

 

And then I saw this woman she was moving in light

          Her words could fill the stadium

                    Move the people

                              Pandemonium!

 

If we don’t care now

Chile could happen here

And if we don’t treasure love now

Darkness could happen here

 

But if we care right now

Chile won’t happen here

And if we treasure love now

Darkness won’t happen here

 

And Darkness Will Turn To Light

 

                              ___ The Kantner Balin Casady Band

                                        © 1986   Little Dragon Music  BMI

                                                       Great Pyramid Music  BMI

                                                        Super Ride music  BMI

 

[insert graphic: Guitarra Armada - FSLN soldier sitting with rifle and guitar]

 

          Well...my band gets understandably itchy about my proposal to play in Nicaragua. We had started our tour at the Daytona Spring Break, an MTV promotion, and I was calling this our ‘Daytona to Managua’ Tour’ -- an exercise in extremes, black to white, alpha to omega, party to PARTY! I can imagine some of the band members’ wives saying to them, “You’re going where with Paul?”

          When I first brought this up, the band was a little hesitant, but I encouraged them to go. Some agreed, some remained silent. Then, in late April, Benjamin Linder was blown away in Nicaragua. After the story broke, the tide subtly turned regarding our band’s interest in the trip...but I decided not to push it. I announced, “Well, I’ll go myself,” still not quite sure of what I was getting into. And I did ... and herein lies the tale.

 

          (Just before I left, the contras had attacked another village, San Jose de Bocay, killing a woman and two children in the process.)

 

MANAGUA   18 JULY

AERO PUERTO SANDINO

5:30 P.M.

          I arrived in Managua at dusk. I had arranged to be met by a government representative who would guide me through customs, get me a place to sleep, and help with translation. So I didn’t change any money. I just walked through confidently. Except we didn’t cross paths, and there I was, alone in the airport, with no money for even a phone call, and only a smattering of high school Spanish (“No habla Español / ¿Habla Inglés?”) at my command. I must have looked forlorn in the heat and humidity because a little five-year-old girl approached me timidly and smiled. I smiled back and she spoke a few words in Spanish to me.

          “No habla Español,” I returned. She laughed gently and looked back at her mother.

          “¿Habla Inglés?” I asked her mother.

          “No,” she shrugged. A young soldier approached me with a machine gun slung over his shoulder.

          “You are lost, señor?” He, too, had the nicest smile and the demeanor of a helpful English bobby. I barely took notice of the machine gun.

          “No,” I sighed, “but someone from the ASTC (the Sandinista Cultural Workers Association) was supposed to meet me and I don’t seem to have connected with them.”

          The airport was alive with people arriving for the International Book Fair, returning Sandinista soldiers, newsmen, artists and volunteer workers from the U.S., there to work for the  on their two week vacation; like my seatmate on the flight down, Charlie Ballard, an electrical lineman from San Diego, who told me he had come because he was disgusted with what Reagan was trying to do in Nicaragua. He had volunteered to come down here and help in whatever work was needed. He was headed for Matagalpa, along with fifty others from LA and San Diego, to work in the fields. We promised to try and find each other at the celebration the next day. (We never did though, it was too crazy.)

          A roughly debonair, independent news correspondent, Scott Wallace, came up and asked me if he could help. I told him my story and he directed me to a hotel across the street where the Book Fair people were being housed. He also gave me his phone number and said I could stay at his place if I failed to make my connections.

          It was at the airport hotel that I found my ‘guide,’ a very sweet and attractive young woman, Alexandra Escudero. She was very apologetic about missing me  so I tried to ease her anxieties and told her I was fine and not to worry. As we walked to our car, we were joined by an older Chinese man who spoke no English. He was introduced as the director of the visiting Fujian Ballet company from the People’s Republic of China. His interpreter joined up with us and we all piled into our car and drove into the darkness of the countryside. The adventure had begun.

          Alexandra spoke fervently of The Revolution and of life in Nicaragua. She was half-American, half-Nicaraguan. We exchanged our histories and she told me that she had worked for the A.S.T.C. for two years. She hadn’t been back to the United states for seven months, and her mother, who lived in Washington D.C., constantly feared for her safety; but Alexandra had resolved not to return home, so her mother would have to come down to Nicaragua to see her the next time. The Chinese interpreter spoke of life in China, ballet, and of how he hadn’t been home for fifteen months, because of his work. He said that he had yet to see his thirteen-month old daughter and I thought back to my own children. I could not conceive of not seeing them for that many months.

          I offered them some doughnuts and cookies that I had carried from Lake Tahoe. “God, I haven’t had a doughnut for seven months,” Alexandra enthused, It was a white powdered-sugar doughnut, and she delicately consumed the entire thing, bite by bite.

          The highway from Managua was heavily patrolled in order to protect against contra attacks on the roads leading to Matagalpa, the site of the celebration. At one point, as we came around a bend in the road, I came face to face with the leveled barrel of an immense anti-aircraft cannon. Every ten miles or so, we were stopped by groups of soldiers gathered around small, bright fires in the coal-black night. They would ask for our papers and waved us on cheerily when they saw our ASTC credentials.

          People danced around burning tires in the small towns along the way. The revolutionary celebration was beginning in earnest. Everywhere there were pictures of Sandino and Carlos Fonseca (the number two hero of the country after Sandino...like our Thomas Jefferson; he was killed during the revolution). They were painted, daubed and charcoaled on shanty walls, public buildings, private houses, even on cars. There were hundreds of red and black eights emblazoned everywhere, commemorating the eighth anniversary of the 19 July revolutionary victory, the Time of the Triumph. And I also saw many nines, in hopeful anticipation that they would, indeed, live another year. I even spotted a few tens! FSLN flags and banners were everywhere.

          At one point, as I looked west, beyond the hills, I saw faint flashes of light that reminded me of artillery barrages in old, black and white war movies. It was not until the drive back the next night that I learned that it was heat lightning. I was relieved.

TO BE CONTINUED

Part Two - The Black Forest / La Selva Negra

postscript: the picture of the young boy with the rifle at the beginning of these excerpts was taken by Scott Wallace, mentioned herein. All usages are with his permission...

I call it “Carbine Eyes”.

 

postscript>>> the song, “Carlos Fonseca”

 

 

POSSESSED  BY  THE  GOD  OF  FURY       

AND  THE  DEVIL  OF  KINDNESS

MY  WORDS  GO  OUT  OF  THIS  JAIL  CELL 

TOWARD  THE  RAIN  AND THIRSTY  FOR  LIGHT

     I  NAME  YOU  MY  BROTHERS       

     IN  MY  HOURS  OF  ISOLATION          

     YOU  COME TEARING  DOWN 

                  THE  WALLS  OF  THE  NIGHT               

     BRINGING  LIGHT  INTO  THE  DARKNESS                                           

 

CH:   COMANDANTE

          CARLOS,   CARLOS   FONSECA            

          EDUCAN   VENCEDOR   DE   LA   MUERTE

          NOVIO   DE   LA   PATRIA   ROJA  Y  NEGRA         

          NICARAGUANTERA   TE   GRITE   PRESENTE !

 

I  REMEMBER  THE  DAY  THAT  WE   MET  YOU      

WITH  YOUR   BLUE - EYED  NEARSIGHTED  STARE     

WITH  A  STUBBORN  ETERNAL  DETERMINATION     

FOR  US  YOU'RE ALWAYS   THERE

 

     THE  NEXT  DAY  AFTER   WE  MET  YOU          

     YOU  WERE   TYPING  OUT  WORDS  LIKE  A  HAMMER               AND  YOUR POSTERS  BLOSSOMED  LIKE  FLOWERS            ON  THE  WALLS  OF  OUR  TOWN

 

CH:

 

IN  THE  JUNGLES  DOWN  IN  ZINICA    

A  BULLET  TORE  THROUGH  YOUR  HEART          

AND  YOUR BLOOD  EXPLODED  AMONG  US          

 INTO  OUR EVERYDAY  LIVES

 

     AND  OUR  FUTURE  CHILDREN  WILL  SEE

     A  NICARAGUA  GLOWING  AND  FREE

     AND  REMEMBER  YOU  ALWAYS 

           WITH  YOUR  CARBINE  EYES       

      AIMING FIRMLY  TOWARD  THE  DAWN

 

         [ LOS  GENERACIONES  VENIDERES         VERAN 

           NICARAGUA  LIBRE  Y  LUMINOSA

           VAN  A  RECORDARTE  ETERNAMENTE        CON  TU

           CARABINA  DISPARANDO  AURORAS ]

 

CH:

Vaya con pasion

PK
SF

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excerpt #2 

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR TELEVISION SET
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CONTROL THE PICTURE
WE ARE CONTROLLING TRANSMISSION
FOR THE NEXT HOUR
WE WILL CONTROL
 ALL
THAT YOU SEE AND HEAR
YOU ARE ABOUT TO EXPERIENCE
THE AWE
AND MYSTERY
OF
T  A  M  M  Y  R  A  M  A

___________________________________

[In the  actual book there is a picture/caricature of  an overblown Tammy inside a television screen, drawn by Grace. It can't be reproduced here, as yet. Patience, children...]

 

    I promised you I'd get back to Jim and Tammy. Do you remember, about five years ago, 1981 or 82, when the religious right was consumed with finding messages from the devil, recorded backward on rock albums? ... and 'send us your money now so we can stop Satan in his tracks'? -- like your dollar is going to crush the Prince of Darkness. When I heard about all this stuff -- weird sounds on records, backward talking, I thought, 'Heyyyyyy! Right up to date here!' I wondered if these people had ever heard of the Beatles. So I immediately sprinkled my second solo album, "The Planet Earth Rock And Roll Orchestra", then in the making, with a liberal dose of all sorts of "devilled ham", "devil's food cake" and "devilled eggs", all backwards.
    All these people from Orange County and surrounding environs, like Debbie Reynold's son, Todd Fisher, and Paul Crouch Jr. (the son of the Praise The Lord Show's Paul Crouch Sr. -- the white haired guy with the giddy, tearful, curly-blonde, barefoot wife who plays tambourine); and the Reverend Gary Greenwald from the Eagles' Nest Christian Fellowship in Santa Ana, California -- these people had apparently spent countless hours in church basements, listening to every rock record ever made ............ BACKWARDS!!!
    Now, that alone would be justifiable cause for commitment to most normal humans, but these mostly well-meaning Christian folk had come up with "Satan is Lord", backwards, on Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" (big surprise there, right? Wait till they hear Jefferson Starship's "Stairway To Cleveland"). They also noted the Eagles' "Hotel California". These were the headlining offenders on their Satan's Top Ten. Other bands, like ELO, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, KISS (Kids In Satan's Service) and an endless array of other heavy metal groups followed on the list. I think Tipper Gore was also watching this show.
    So, there I am, watching Jim and Tammy at 6:00 A.M. (You tend to get up early when you have young children. You even get to love it.); and I hear Pastor Gary going on about the band Queen, whose song, "Another One Bites The Dust", contains the backward words, 'it's fun to smoke marijuana, it's fun to smoke marijuana'. "Here's an example where I don't believe the artist put it in", Gary says "...like I think ELO put their's in...but I believe that Satan put the message in this one because the artist didn't put it in..." ("Well, isn't that special," as the Church Lady might intone).
    Pastor Gary continues, "There's many, many cuts we use in our message, and it gets really insidious. It gets into the places where you live with Satan. There's one by the Jefferson Starship, which is called 'Blows Against The Empire' (my first solo album in 1969-70) ... and I'm convinced it's the empire of God, and in it, it says, 'A child is coming, a child is coming. Everything is gonna get better, it's gonna be brighter.' And you  play it backwards and you find out who child is. Over and over it says, 'Son of Satan, son of Satan,' very very clear. That's what's happening!"
    OHHHHHH, MY GAAAAHD!" Tammy Faye burst forth.
    Jim just grunted unintelligibly.
    Well, I almost fell off of my bed laughing. This was truly a major highlight of my career!

    Go ahead in time a few months now. Gary's on the show again. This time he says, "...and I've talked to Paul about it. He said he watches the Jim and Tammy Show every day. He claims that he never put that on the record    "...dramatic pause..."but I told him that Satan could have put that in there without him knowing it. That's how the devil operates, you know." ...applause, applause...
    "That's how we got Efrem Zimbalist Jr.," Jim chuckled. "He used to get drunk and watch us every day to make fun of us. And then, one day, while he was watching, 'It' clicked. The Lord spoke to him and he got born again in a flash. That's how God does it!"   ...applause, applause... "Praise the Lord!" (not to be judgmental, but I'd just bet that' somebody!' was a victim of some kind of substance abuse that day...)

    Yes, Gary had spoken to me. When I heard my name on the show, I immediately called up the phone number on the screen. A proper sounding, Christian lady answered, "PraisetheLordHowmayIhelpyou?" Fast, but sweet. I explained who I was, and asked to speak to Reverend Gary.
    She gets a little hesitant, not quite sure of what to say, and I interject, "Look, I'm a good guy. I try to do the right thing. I think that the ten commandments are a pretty good way to live, most of them, anyway. And if you were able to boycott our band out of business, all of the benefits that we do--the Red Cross, children's homes, drug clinics, The Vietnam Vets--all of them would lose out."

    She listened, to her credit, and sort of believed me. She gave me Gary's L.A. phone number at the Eagles' Nest. I call him up with the same rap and we arrange to meet for dinner at Musso and Frank's restaurant, right in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. It's a weekend night, geeks and freaks everywhere. We have a great dinner and cordially exchange our histories and such. He invites me down to one of his services. I counter with an invitation to our upcoming show at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater.

    The next night, I go down to Santa Ana and find the Eagles' Nest in a nicely converted warehouse in an industrial complex. After their service (a little bland for my religious tastes, but with a pleasantly beguiling approach and some very clean, young and attractive women), all the preachers invite me into their back offices and offer to 'lay hands on me' in order to drive out Satan. I feel safe and let them. Five or six of them gather around me and lay their hands on various parts of my body (all decently), close their eyes, and start "speaking in tongues".

    It sounds like,"San-ah-ramalik-a-lika-key-ay-looga-foka-mana-(breath)-sana-luca- luca-hey-zoo-mo-mo..." I keep my eyes open, watching them curiously, perhaps even hopefully. I mean, I'm always open to a supreme, all-knowing being who does everything right -- you follow all the rules and you get into heaven. Simple! How easy. It would simplify life greatly.

    Well, finally, they take a deep breath and withdraw their hands and look at me inquiringly. But, as usual...nothing! No warm, liquid feeling, no spirits, no extra. They're a little disappointed light bouncing around the room,ugh they concede that I'm a pretty good guy. But they still think I'm a dupe of Satan and they say that they will pray for me. I thank them politely and drive back to Hollywood.

    I didn't have the heart to tell them that Adolf Hitler had called his mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden, the "Eagles' Nest". I'd bet that a couple of them knew it, though.

    The next night, Reverend Gary brought about a dozen of his Christian friends to our concert at Irvine Meadows, a large fifteen thousand seat, combination Lion Safari-Performing Arts Center south of L.A....sort of like Bill Graham's Shoreline Amphitheater without the lions. There was an ominous, smoky fire burning in the faraway mountains. A finger of smoke, like fog, drifted across the distant freeway. Lions roared and elephants trumpeted in the background. So there they sat, in suits and ties and proper dresses, about twenty rows back, smack dab in the middle of fifteen thousand L.A. rockers.
    All is going well and they're even enjoying the show. Then we go into a comedy song I wrote called "Stairway To Cleveland". The song talks about everybody bugging you and bugging you -- "I don't like your shoes! Your manager's an asshole! You can't sing! Your new drummer's crazy! I don't like your guitar player!"--then the music comes to an abrupt halt and we yell, real loud, along with most of the audience, who know the song well,"FUCK YOU!!! WE DO WHAT WE WANT!!!!!" ...thunderous, fifteen thousand L.A. rockers, fists raised in the air...like a Beastie Boys concert! Well, these Christians nearly have a heart attack, en masse. They're looking around, fearfully expecting god or satan knows what! A gem of an L.A. moment.
    To their credit, Pastor Gary and his friends came backstage after the show and say, nicely, that they enjoyed most of the show - "You did some nice love songs, and you're very good musicians, but when you did that song...whew!"...eyes raised to the heavens. We laughed, and they did, too--nothing had 'happened' to them (just like me at their laying on of hands show) and we parted most cordially.

    Similar groups of well-meaning Christians (Pat Robertson's 700 Club, for example) are said to be sending much of their own church funds to aid the contras! Another situation requiring the bright light of day shining on it through the clouds. I wish that these Christians would do more constructive work more often...like rebuilding the L.A. ghettoes, a la Jimmy Carter in his reconstruction projects. Keep their hands on that plow and out of the till...hold on...lord, lord.

    I talked to Gary as I was writing this piece and told him of my trip (to Nicaragua). He said he had just been to a lecture in Orange County that detailed, with photos, all sorts of Sandinista atrocities and abuses of the people, imprisonment of political prisoners and the like.
    I asked him if he had been down there.
    "No," he answered
    "Let me offer to take you there with me," I said. "Our band may play for the coffee harvest festivals and I could introduce you to the highest levels of government."
    How could you do that?" he asked, sounding surprised.
    I proceeded to tell him this story [detailed in this book] in quick, darting sketches -- politicians, artists, musicians ... and the priests! ... "What with your religious background, you'd love the priests! Padre Miguel D'Escoto is the sweetest, kindest talking man that you'd ever want to meet...Father Flanagan, Bing Crosby style, with a concern for his country that shone from his eyes like the true light of Jesus. "Come with me Gary," I urged...and you introduce me to these Contra atrocities. I'm not a Republican or a Democrat or a Marxist or a Sandinista," I quoted myself, "but I think it's time we all stop funding any more of anybody's atrocities and inject a bit of Christian love and compassion here. Give them a chance. They are a caring, devoted people and they deserve your taking a look at what is really going on there," I went on, swirling, enthusiastic...
        "If you go, let me know," Gary said.
        "I'll be going to Nicaragua many times and I'd love to take you with me. Here's one for you Gary... Tomas Borge, the only surviving, founding member of the FSLN...", and I told him the story of Borge confronting his torturer (again, elsewhere in my book) ..."and he said to his torturer--how's this for 'Christian' Gary --, 'I forgive you. And my personal vengeance upon you will be that you will shake my hand, that once you so mistreated, when I meet you in the streets. And I will feed your children, clothe them, and house them, and give them back their country.'"
 
[ NOTE: I just ran across the some of the text of Borge's famous statement, one even memorialized in a Nicaraguan song entitled "My Personal Vengeance". The words go like this:
 
    "My personal vengeance will be the right of our children to the schools and the gardens.
    My personal vengeance will be to give you the song which has flourished without panic.
    My personal vengeance will be to show you the kindness in the eyes of the people
    Who have always fought relentlessly in battle and been generous and firm in victory
    My personal vengeance will be to tell you good morning on a street without beggars or  
            homeless
    When instead of jailing you, I suggest:
    You shake away the sadness there that blinds you
    And when you who have applied your hands in torture
    And are unable to look up at what surrounds you
    My personal vengeance will be to give you
    These hands that once you so mistreated
    But have failed to take away their tenderness.
    It was the people who hated you the most
    When rage became the language of their song
    And underneath the skin of this town today
    Its heart has been scarred forever..."

    [...at this point the bottom of the page is torn so I will have to look far and yon to someday find the remainder of the poetry...]

back to the end of my Tammyrama>>> 

    Gary started teetering here. "Whew! Well, you certainly seem well-informed, Paul..."
    "So come with me, Gary. It would be an unusual pairing and might serve as an example to all of our countrymen that a meeting of minds can be achieved.
    "...and I'm encouraged that you have such an open mind," Gary continued.
    "I'll call you tomorrow. Let's have lunch again...You owe me a dinner, Gary. And I'll send you a manuscript as soon as I can get one out of the damned word processor..."
    "God bless you, Paul."
    "You, too, Gary. Go with God...Vaya con Dios. I'll pray for you, Pastor!"

 

WE NOW RETURN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE TO YOU

UNTIL NEXT WEEK AT THIS SAME TIME

WHEN THE CONTROL VOICE
WILL TAKE YOU TO...
- THE SECRET CONTEST-

 

 Life is a Test
If This Had Been a Real Life
 You Would Have Been Told
 What To Do
And
 Where To Go

Over & Out for now

Paul Kantner
San Francisco