Monday, February 24, 2014


Letter to the Editor

I have quite simply had enough. Stephanie Robins hit it spot on in her letter last week. I refuse to live in a country that glorifies and adulates the empty head. Ban smoking in public places? Wow. Those on the Manhattan Beach City Council are doing God’s work. Meanwhile, we are heading toward a total surveillance state, akin to what George Orwell warned us about in 1948. Hermosa Beach is all in on the idea. And all these fools, these supposed betters, can summon the courage to do is ban smoking? Also, they are including e-cigarettes in the bill, which means they are not really against second-hand smoke, but rather restricting our freedoms. Empty heads. Just empty heads, masquerading as real human beings with actual thoughts.
It is for this reason, and others, that I am officially declaring my candidacy for Redondo Beach City Council District 3, as of this moment. I encourage Stephanie to run as well. It’s time to knock these criminals out of office. Don’t hate the media, be the media.
Eric Coleman
Redondo Beach
(Published in the February 20th edition of the Beach Reporter)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Vhy Kill Them?

Airport bars are surreal places, everyone's in transit, dashing from one place to the next, jetlagged, undernourished, and anonymous. Just next to my gate, at LAX, I found a pub, ordered a pint and struck up a conversation with a middle aged man named Curby, who was on his way to Australia. It was a pleasant chat and it was only after half an hour of discourse did the tedious question of "what do you do?" come up. Later in the trip I answered the question with, " it's what I don't do that's interesting." Something about people finding their limits I suppose. 

I explained that I had been a graphic designer and had been sacked a week before making this trip.

"To where?" He slipped before a sip.

"India. Now I want to teach."

Several soups down the line I waltzed out of the airport bar to check on my gate. The sign read Air India, which was great, but my airline was Air Malaysia. Had the plane left? Had I botched this trip before it even got started? I was filled with the fear and rushed to the first person who looked official. 

"Did the plane leave?" I asked an underpaid LAX employee with beaten eyes.

"Yep." He replied.

Sweat pissed out of me. My God what had I done? I ran the length of the terminal searching for the arrival/departure board. The plane had been moved to a different gate. I could almost hear him snickering in a dark corner of the airport. I thought of going back and saying something to him, but I let him have his quiet victory. 

The flight was something like 30 hours, however I was content in the notion that a hundred years ago the same trip would have taken months on ship.

My friend the Great Shakun Batra met me at the airport with a hug.

I opened with, “Dr. Batra’s son, I presume.”

Driving back to his place I noticed the abundance of stray animals.

"So they just let the dogs run around?"

"Vhy kill them." Shakun countered.

Later, upon closer inspection, I saw the animals of India to have an ancient sort of wisdom in their eyes and they interacted with each other in a rather civilized way. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only reason dogs chase cats in the western world is because they're leashed. 

Days passed and I was put on a sleeper train to Goa.

Sitting on floor mats at Curly’s bar Neal, an Australian, skinned spliff after spliff as we knocked back round after round. 

The tide had come in as the six of us trudged up the beach in the direction of our hotel rooms when a hand emerged from the darkness grabbing hold of a straggling Josh from Kentucky.

“Smoke, smoke, you have smoke,” a voice said behind us.

I turned around offering a cigarette. We realized from the flat top caps of the police they were speaking of the illegal variety. I had heard several times that if you were in a dodgy spot a two hundred rupee bribe to the cops would get you out of it. 

“What is in your pockets?” they asked before motioning for us to turn them out. Like usual I had a superhero’s utility belt full of miscellaneous junk and I dropped it all onto the sand. A bag of pot in his pocket Neal pulled a runner into the yards of the beach cottages. One of the two cops went off after him while the other lingered a moment.

“Who is he, what is his name?” the cop exclaimed.

“We don’t know who that guy is, he was just following us from the bar” one of us said.

“Stay right here or you’ll be in big trouble,” he said before running off.

We waited for all of thirty seconds before issuing a collective fuck this. We had been searched and had nothing on us. Fifteen minutes later, strolling along, we were within a stone’s throw of the trail leading off the beach. We were softly laughing when we heard their yells. Turning around Josh pretended to stub his toe in a performance that should have won his an award for best choreographed dance routine in Bollywood. 

“Oh now you’re in big trouble. We’ll have to call our superiors,” the cops echoed back and forth.

What does that mean? We’ll have to pay them off four hundred rupees, I thought.

They kept us there making threats of big trouble when Tim, a Brit, said,” I’m going back to my hotel room,” and walked off.

“No, wait, don’t do it!” We pleaded.

But the cops did not chase him. Now there were three of us, me and the two Londoners Mark and Ross. We looked at each other quizzically and made a move. Walking up the beach we looked back and saw no sign of cops. The next day we met Neal at the usual spot, the sunset bar for sunset. He had gotten away with the runner and we told him not to get any ideas about the bill. 

In Delhi I stayed with Rishi and Darshana, Shakun’s dad and mom. .One day Rishi described to me his take on meditation.

“When you take in food, the body absorbs vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and dispels the rest, why should the mind not work the same way?” Rishi said, gesturing with his enormous hands.

“Ah ha,” I said slapping my forehead, “the sound of one hand clapping!”

“What do we think about throughout the day, huh? We think, oh look at that car, I would like to drive that car, we think how do I get more money, we think of fucking and sucking, huh? These thoughts are no good; the mind is always asking questions and answering those questions. Question, answer, question, answer. Most of these questions, the mind already knows the answer to. So watch this…”

“Right, and focusing on deep breathing stops this.”

“No, don’t try to control these thoughts. Just watch them, watch what your mind is doing. Deep breathing is good, the heart only has so many beats. Three, four months of meditation will slow this and maybe you live longer. The inhale is life and the exhale is death. And what is your prayer you say… Amean, or Ahem?

“Oh, Amen, but nobody really says-”

Rishi only heard the first part, and said, “Okay, Ahmen. I think we will meditate for one half hour.”

We exited the dinning room and entered the bedroom, where I tried to adopt the lotus posture. Rishi told me to sit comfortably, that I was a beginner, and when I got used to it I could attempt more complex poses. He dimmed the lights and pointed out the clock on the wall.

“One half hour, try not to open your eyes, but if you do no problem,” Rishi said before going into a trance.

The power of suggestion had put fucking/sucking into my head and after entertaining a lurid fantasy for a few moments I slipped into relaxation. I saw some flickering images of soaring above the mountains. Twenty minutes into the meditation I opened my eyes and looked at the clock, then again at thirty five past. Looking over at Rishi I saw he was still deep into it and I didn’t want to disturb his enlightenment with time’s up, so I closed my eyes and awakened to Rishi chanting.


“Ooommm,” I joined in the chorus.

Upon a glance of the clock another half an hour had gone by in what seemed like less than five minutes. Once I had removed the notion of time from my mind it worked. I went upstairs to my room and felt a bit groggy but with a clear head. And that had always been my problem with meditation; how can I think about nothing, that’s still something. And I’ve always fancied thinking more as opposed to less; however, what I learned is that with a clear head the correct answer comes, not stuck in gridlock traffic with other more feeble thoughts.  

Next I was on a bus to Rishikesh. I met Eva, a beautiful oval faced girl from the Czech Republic and Bruce from Scotland. 

We were swapping Russian vodka that tasted like axel fluid as the bus went screaming down the road, overtaking cars, and honking like a banshee.  

Bruce was on a roll and I had my audio recorder ready. “In Indian you have to live for the moment, because everything comes at ya, there’s no time for self-reflection. We’ve tried so hard to protect ourselves from reality that we’ve actually become almost disabled  in a way. Here people don’t think about things like that, they just think this is life. They don’t even think, they just live it. They just do.”

No suspension, the bus bounced over bumps. 

Bruce made another point. “The idea that if you have enough sex and as vigorously as possible, it’s going to somehow cure you of your problems, it’s not going to do anything, I think it’ll just make ya worse. I think you have to look at things with a calm mind. Saying that, it’s good sometimes to let the anger out, I think you have to let it out. I’ve found that in India, I been shouting at bloody people in the shop that have tried to short change me for money, fucking shouting at people in cars who nearly tried to kill me. Afterwards you feel so calm, it’s amazing, you feel well that’s it, it’s dealt with, it’s finished, but where as in the Western society it’s bottled up and it starts to tear you apart from the inside.”

The rest of the trip of the trip was a blur and I found myself back in Mumbai’s BOM airport waiting at my departure gate when I got a phone call. It was Suraj. I had met Suraj in Kadayala and spent a night with him and his friends in Delhi telling jokes and listening to their rendition of ‘Hotel California’. He was calling to wish me goodbye.

“I’ll see you again,” I said confidently.

“I will be waiting here, for you” he said cooing.

“If I don’t leave I can’t come back,” I said voice quivering.

And then he said those words delivered with such authenticity I thought about letting the plane go on without me. I started to cry right in the middle of that airport, and I thought I might continue crying for forty days and forty nights, enough to wash away all the pain, suffering, and lies from this world.

He said, “Ma tombsay pierre carta om.”

Hindi for I love you.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Long Live the Social Revolution

On May 4, 1886, a bomb exploded at a Chicago labor rally, wounding dozens of policemen, seven of whom eventually died. A wave of mass hysteria swept the country, leading to a sensational trial that culminated in four controversial executions, and dealing a blow to the labor movement from which it would take decades to recover. Here is what Louis Lingg, one of the damned, said in Court between the conviction and Sentencing. His fate was grim. Days before his execution he lit a cigar in his jail cell. The cigar had a dynamite cap lodged inside. He blew off his head. It is still unclear if this most heinous end was a defiant suicide by a man who refused to be taken at the gallows or something far more sinister. The guards often gave him gifts.

Court of Justice! With the same irony with which you have regarded my efforts to win in this “free land of America,” a livelihood such as humankind is worthy to enjoy, do you now, after condemning me to death, concede me the liberty of making a final speech. I accept your concession; but it is only for the purpose of exposing the injustice, the calumnies and the outrages which have been heaped upon me.
You have accused me of murder, and convicted me: What proof have you brought that I am guilty?

In the first place, you have brought this fellow Seliger to testify against me. Him I have helped to make bombs, and you have further proven that with the assistance of another, I took those bombs to No. 58 Clybourn avenue, but what you have not proven—even with the assistance of your bought “squealer,” Seliger, who would appear to have acted such a prominent part in the affair—is that any of those bombs were taken to the haymarket.

A couple of chemists also, have been brought here as specialists, yet they could only state that the metal of which the haymarket bomb was made bore a certain resemblance to those bombs of mine, and your Mr. Ingham has vainly endeavored to deny that the bombs were quite different. He had to admit that there was a difference of a full half inch in their diameters, although he suppressed the fact that there was also a difference of a quarter of an inch in the thickness of the shell. This is the kind of evidence upon which you have convicted me.

It is not murder, however, of which you have convicted me. The judge has stated that much only this morning in his resume of the case, and Grinnell has repeatedly asserted that we were being tried not for murder, but for anarchy, so the condemnation is—that I am an anarchist!

What is anarchy? This is a subject which my comrades have explained with sufficient clearness, and it is unnecessary for me to go over it again. They have told you plainly enough what our aims are. The state’s attorney, however, has not given you that information. He has merely criticized and condemned, not the doctrines of anarchy, but our methods of giving them practical effect, and even here he has maintained a discreet silence as to the fact that those methods were forced upon us by the brutality of the police. Grinnell’s own proffered remedy for our grievances is the ballot and combination of trades unions, and Ingham has even avowed the desirability of a six-hour movement! But the fact is, that at every attempt to wield the ballot, at every endeavor to combine the efforts of workingmen, you have displayed the brutal violence of the police club, and this is why I have recommended rude force, to combat the ruder force of the police.

You have charged me with despising “law and order.”What does your “law and order” amount to? Its representatives are the police, and they have thieves in their ranks. Here sits Captain Schaack. He has himself admitted to me that my hat and books have been stolen from him in his office—stolen by policemen. These are your defenders of property rights! The detectives again, who arrested me, forced their way into my room like housebreakers, under false pretenses, giving the name of a carpenter, Lorenz, of Burlington street. They have sworn that I was alone in my room, therein perjuring themselves. You have not subpoenaed this lady, Mrs. Klein, who was present, and could have sworn that the aforesaid detectives broke into my room under false pretenses, and that their testimonies are perjured
But let us go further. In Schaack we have a captain of the police, and he also has perjured himself. He has sworn that I admitted to him being present at the Monday night meeting, whereas I distinctly informed him that I was at a carpenters' meeting at Zepf’s Hall. He has sworn again that I told him that I also learned to make bombs from Herr Most’s book. That also is a perjury.

Let us go still a step higher among these representatives of law and order. Grinnell and his associates have permitted perjury, and I say that they have done it knowingly. The proof has been adduced by my counsel, and with my own eyes I have seen Grinnell point out to Gilmer, eight days before he came upon the stand, the persons of the men whom he was to swear against.

While I, as I have stated above, believe in force for the sake of winning for myself and fellow-workmen a livelihood such as men ought to have, Grinnell, on the other hand, through his police and other rogues, has suborned perjury in order to murder seven men, of whom I am one. Grinnell had the pitiful courage here in the courtroom, where I could not defend myself, to call me a coward! The scoundrel! A fellow who has leagued himself with a parcel of base, hireling knaves, to bring me to the gallows. 

Why? For no earthly reason save a contemptible selfishness—a desire to 'rise in the world“—to ”make money," forsooth.
This wretch—who, by means of the perjuries of other wretches is going to murder seven men—is the fellow who calls me “coward”! And yet you blame me for despising such “defenders of the law” such unspeakable hypocrites!

Anarchy means no domination or authority of one man over another, yet you call that “disorder.” A system which advocates no such “order” as shall require the services of rogues and thieves to defend it you call “disorder.”

The Judge himself was forced to admit that the state’s attorney had not been able to connect me with the bombthrowing. The latter knows how to get around it, however. He charges me with being a “conspirator.” How does he prove it? Simply by declaring the International Working People’s Association to be a “conspiracy.” I was a member of that body, so he has the charge securely fastened on me. Excellent! Nothing is too difficult for the genius of a state’s attorney!

It is hardly incumbent upon me to review the relations which I occupy to my companions in misfortune. I can say truly and openly that I am not as intimate with my fellow prisoners as I am with Captain Schaack.

The universal misery, the ravages of the capitalistic hyena have brought us together in our agitation, not as persons, but as workers in the same cause. Such is the “conspiracy” of which you have convicted me.

I protest against the conviction, against the decision of the court. I do not recognize
your law, jumbled together as it is by the nobodies of bygone centuries, and I do not recognize the decision of the court. My own counsel have conclusively proven from the decisions of equally high courts that a new trial must be granted us. The state’s attorney quotes three times as many decisions from perhaps still higher courts to prove the opposite, and I am convinced that if, in another trial, these decisions should be supported by twenty-one volumes, they will adduce one hundred in support of the contrary, if it is anarchists who are to be tried. And not even under such a law—a law that a schoolboy must despise—not even by such methods have they been able to “legally” convict us.

They have suborned perjury to boot.

I tell you frankly and openly, I am for force. I have already told Captain Schaack, “if they use cannons against us, we shall use dynamite against them.” I repeat that I am the enemy of the “order”of today, and I repeat that, with all my powers, so long as breath remains in me, I shall combat it. I declare again, frankly and openly, that I am in favor of using force. I have told Captain Schaack, and I stand by it,“if you cannonade us, we shall dynamite you.” You laugh! Perhaps you think,“you’ll throw no more bombs”; but let me assure you I die happy on the gallows, so confident am I that the hundreds and thousands to whom I have spoken will remember my words; and when you shall have hanged us, then—mark my words—they will do the bombthrowing! In this hope do I say to you: I despise you. I despise your order, your laws, your force-propped authority. Hang me for it!

Source: Louis Ling, Address to the Court, Famous Speeches of the Chicago Anarchists (Chicago: 1912). Reprinted in Dave Roediger and Franklin Rosemont, eds., Haymarket Scrapbook (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1986), 46–47.