Monday, February 28, 2005

Last Crumbs Of February

Just a couple of things to note here. The first is a rather nasty little send-off to Hunter Thompson by the San Francisco Chronicle's executive foreign and national editor, A.S. Ross. Thing is, much of what he says is right, and it got a lot of people on the Well all upset today because they felt it wasn't respectful. I don't think that's the problem at all. Like Sidney Zion's piece in the New York Daily News, it's a sort of knee-jerk dismissal of Thompson made from a carefully-crafted one-sided view of him. Zion just maunders, and his piece is easily dismissed. Ross', on the other hand, backs up his case with evidence, and damning evidence it is, too: Thompson at his most self-parodic.

He's also got quotes from a veteran of the times: John Burks, now head of San Francisco State University's journalism department, was the managing editor of Rolling Stone when I worked there. He was at least as responsible for hiring me as Jann Wenner was. He managed the fine pack of journalists he'd helped assemble, and turned them into a crack news team; I've always thought of John as my journalism school. One thing many of the people on this team (not me: I was in charge of record reviews and some industry news, for the most part) did was assemble a number of articles for which the magazine won the Columbia Journalism Award in 1971. Not one member of that group of journalists, including Burks, was still employed by Rolling Stone on the day Wenner accepted the award. As far as I know, he was never thanked or acknowledged. This may or may not figure into the quotes Burks gave Ross.

But finally, what's most glaringly missing from Ross's sour eulogy is compassion. I've joked that the only thing that's kept me from killing myself is the sure knowledge that my obit in the New York Times would be headed "Ed Ward, Rock Critic," and that's a fate worse than death. In other words, I know what it's like to get trapped by a situation you've created, whether inadvertently (as in my case) or not (as in Thompson's). I still have some control over this: I'm pretty obscure, so I may yet be able to write some things I'll be proud of. Thompson, on the other hand, created a monster. Sometimes we just don't have as much control over these things as we'd like, and the bigger the monster, the harder it is to wrestle it to the ground and make it cry uncle.

Ross probably has never had this problem. Maybe he never will. But that shouldn't make him dismissive of those who've struggled with it and lost.


On a much lighter note, the Pope of mope sends along an article about burritos in Berlin. I've walked past this place numerous times, but the thing that's kept me from going in is that they don't use refried beans in the burritos! That's inconceivable to me. As someone who's been eating the things since discovering Burrito King (2109 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles) in the 1970s and then seeing them perfected at San Francisco taquerias like Taqueria La Cumbre (Valencia between 15th and 16th) this is complete heresy. On the other hand, the lack of Mexican food in this town is severe (never mind the "Mexican" or "Tex Mex" places whose idea of "Mexican" food runs from Buffalo wings to paella to the abomination the Germans call "Chile Con Carne" with nary a taco nor an enchilada, let alone a chille relleno or tamale, in sight), and I'm sure I'm going to be pulled in some day on nostalgia alone. Will I then echo the Pope's judgement? "I ate at Dolores once," he writes. "You could taste the earnestness. But not the hot sauce."

Big surprise, that.


And in closing, let me say how shocked I was to learn that Billy Idol had put in an appearance at White Trash Fast Food. I'm well aware that my neighborhood contains drug addicts, alcoholics (lotsa them), probably more than a few wife-beaters, sexual deviants, and psychos. But Billy Idol??


No comments: