Sometimes, a line from a book or a film just sounds to good to resist. It sticks in your head and you tend to quote it – and eventually you change the words while you’re at it. (“Play it again, Sam” – anyone?) When this happens, not only does the quote get mangled – and taken out of context – but the original author is soon forgotten, and his or her original meaning is lost. This is what happened when I latched onto Larry McMurtry’s epigraph in The Last kind Words Saloon:

“I had the great director John Ford in mind when I wrote this book; he famously said that when you had to choose between history and legend, print the legend. And so I’ve done.”

This sentence (underlined) was in a film, a song, a play, and a short story. But where did it actually come from? And what was it, originally?

McMurtry not only recalled the line differently, but also gave it a different meaning by writing “choose between”, implying a choice between two related concepts. However, his version fits what he did in the novel – which was to depict, and print, the legend of Wyatt Earp, not the real-life Wyatt Earp. Also, it was not John Ford who said it. It was the screenplay writers who wrote the lines for the actor who played the part of the reporter, “Maxwell Scott”, in the 1962 film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which was directed by John Ford. There’s a mouthful – but that’s not all of it.

1. First there was the screenplay…

Screenplay writers James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck have to be credited with those words. Ford, having become famous, is often credited with it, and not those guys of whom I’ve never heard. In the film, the characters say this:

“Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

In other words, when fiction becomes fact, print the fiction. A legend is folklore – or an old, made-up story – that people eventually believe took place in history and is true, because it sounds so convincing and humanistic. In the film, Maxwell Scott firmly chose legend over fact because legends sold more newspapers in the Wild West.

The film poster of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, starring James (Jimmy) Stewart and John Wayne, and directed by John Ford.

They created a great exit line for the context that they had created in the film. The reporter, Maxwell Scott (played by Carleton Young), gets the facts about the celebrated career of “Ransom Stoddard” (played by James Stewart ) a senator who, in his youth, became famous for killing an outlaw, “Liberty Valance”.  Having listened to the roll-call of the senator’s achievements in politics and the law, which is much duller than the public gossip doing the rounds, Scott realizes that Stoddard’s entire reputation is based on the myth that he killed Valance. And  he rips up his notes and says the famous line.

It is ironic that one of the most quoted lines in the film is spoken by a minor character, right at the end. It is a line that reflects the state of journalism on the American Frontier, in the second half of the 19th century to about 1890, the period in which the film is set. (Clues in the film indicate that it takes place after 1876.)

Newspapers of the time contained sensationalist stories with blaring headlines. This sort of “Yellow Journalism” – the forerunner of today’s tabloids – was backed up by exaggerated and frankly fantastical “dime novels” about the “Wild West” that became hugely popular after 1859. What the public demanded, the public got. And what they got, they believed.

It also reflects the cynicism of the writers and their belief that in news publishing, the legend (a juicy bit of fiction that the public believes) is more acceptable than history (or the facts.) It was certainly true about Hollywood in those days, where the PR machines of the big movie studios churned out endless lies and legends about movie stars.

Their famous line has often been misquoted, for instance by film critic Richard Schickel in the New York Times, who not only attributed to the quote to John Ford, but also mangled it. He wrote:

”When the truth becomes legend, print the legend.”

When he wrote it like that – when fact becomes fiction, print the fiction – he got it backwards. It’s the opposite of the meaning of the original line.



The winning poem from the Tricycle Haiku Challenge surveys the political landscape of America in 2022.

By Clark Strand


Poems of Protest and Political Conscience
Illustration by Matthew Richardson

frost on the pastures
in rural America
adding to the white

—Dana Clark-Millar

Although haiku poetry is governed by certain time-honored conventions, there is no universally agreed-upon rule about what subject matter can or cannot be addressed within the form. Poets are always testing the limits of haiku, pushing it in new directions to see what can be said using just seventeen syllables.

Japanese haiku took a political turn during the lead-up to World War II. In 1937, the most influential magazine of the day, Hototogisu (“little cuckoo”), created a special section devoted to patriotic haiku—poems that became increasingly militant after 1939. But Japanese fascism was not without its critics. Some poets wrote haiku that opposed the war, and many of these poems are considered masterpieces today.

Saito Sanki (1900–1962) was the nominal leader of the antiwar haiku movement. Here are two famous poems of his:

Machine gun bullets:
right between the eyes a red
blossom blossoming

At Hiroshima,
to swallow a hard-boiled egg
the mouth opens wide

The first haiku is shocking in its nontraditional use of the season word hana, for “cherry blossom.” About the second, written in Hiroshima on a dark night one year after the bombing, it is best to let Sanki speak for himself:

Sitting on a stone by the side of the road, I took out a boiled egg and slowly peeled the shell, unexpectedly shocked by its smooth surface. With a flash of searing incandescence, the skins of human beings had as easily slipped off all over this city. To eat a boiled egg in the wind of that black night, I was forced to open my mouth. In that moment, this haiku came to me.

The Kobe Hotel, trans. Saito Masaya

Sanki was imprisoned by Japan’s Special Higher Police for writing haiku like the first one. The second was published in a magazine but was omitted from Sanki’s second collection for fear that the book would be censored by American Occupation officials, who suppressed information about the atomic bomb.

Political protest haiku have been written in English, too, but they have rarely succeeded as well as this season’s winning poem. The first two lines offer a panoramic landscape of rural America, its pastures covered with frost. The scope is national, not local, as we would ordinarily expect in a haiku. Only in the last line do we understand the significance of that choice. We are being shown not just a visual landscape but a political one.

A good haiku works through the subtle nuances of spoken language, and this one is no exception. Expressions like “killing frost,” “hard frost,” and “frosty reception” inevitably influence our reading of the final line, making it clear that the spread of white nationalism through the American heartland is the real subject of the poem.

A poem like this is unlikely to be met with censorship in 2022 America. But it still takes courage to write it. The chill I felt when I first read it gets deeper with every day.

The Tricycle Haiku Challenge asks readers to submit original works inspired by a season word. Moderator Clark Strand selects the top poems to be published in Tricycle with his commentary. To see past winners and submit your haiku, visit To read additional poems of merit from recent months, visit our Tricycle Haiku Challenge group on Facebook.

Jorge Luis Borges ~ The New Yorker


Photograph by Gilles Bouquillon / Getty

It’s no mistake that one of Jorge Luis Borges’s books is titled “Labyrinths.” His metaphysical stories lead the reader through an intricate maze of ideas, images, history, philosophy, and fantasy from which there are either many possible exits or none. More than two dozen stories by Borges, who died in 1986, at age eighty-six, were published in The New Yorker, most of them in the decade from 1967 to 1977.

Selected Stories

The view of a forest landscape seen through a fisheye lens

Three Stories

“He understood that one destiny is no better than another but that every man should revere the destiny he bears within him.”

A photo of an old fashioned phone with an image of a Renaissanceera man and woman kissing.

Shakespeare’s Memory

“A man’s memory is not a summation; it is a chaos of vague possibilities.”

Study for figure of Christ in Leonardos “The Last Supper.”

The Gospel According to Mark

“Espinosa understood what awaited him on the other side of the door.”

Mohsin Hamid Reads Jorge Luis Borges

Sandra Cisneros ~ Tricycle interview

Ringing the Bell

An interview with poet and author Sandra Cisneros on writing, sexuality, and “Buddhalupe”

By Daisy Hernández with Nathaniel Gallant


Ringing the Bell
Sandra Cisneros | Photograph by Eric McNatt

Since its 1984 publication, Sandra Cisneros’s book The House on Mango Street has been read in more than 20 languages by millions of readers around the world, and in the United States it has been studied by students at every level, from elementary school to graduate college seminars. Today, Cisneros’s oeuvre includes poetry books, a short story collection, a volume of essays, and the novel Caramelo. She has received a MacArthur “Genius Grant” and the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, and in 2016, President Barack Obama honored her with the 2015 National Medal of Arts.

Before I knew any of this, however, I knew the girls on Mango Street. I had never read a book narrated by a young Latina like myself from a working-class immigrant home. I had also never read a book that was poetry, short story, and novella all at once and that wove political commentary into the magic of its sentences. I began reading Cisneros’s other works too. Day after day, I boarded the New Jersey Transit bus to my first publishing job with a Cisneros book in my hands, and while an old man next to me snored and a middle-aged woman across the aisle stared wistfully out the window, I dove into prose and poetry so stunning and alive it made me cry.

I discovered Cisneros’s creative work at the same time that I found Buddhism, and in a way both broke me open. Both invited me to look at myself and the world as it was in the present moment. I could listen to my mother scrubbing her rage into another pan and the sirens of ambulances careening around the corner, and while Buddhism taught me that I could sit with all of this, Cisneros taught me that I could write about it.

Years later, when I attended Macondo, a writer’s workshop Cisneros started in 1995 in San Antonio, Texas, the organizers handed me the “Compassionate Code of Conduct.” A little longer than a page in length, the text underscores the spiritual dimensions of the creative community Cisneros was creating with other writers: “Mindfulness is a spiritual cornerstone derived from Macondo’s Buddhist, Feminist, communal, and activist roots. It is a practice motivated by having witnessed marginalization in our communities, and it is a compassion applied with the resolve to treat each other better.”

I almost yelped: Sandra’s a Buddhist?! But I tucked away my astonishment and even acted like I had known it all along—and maybe in a way I had. Cisneros’s books created art from the lives of ordinary people and did so with compassion. She had marvelous images in her books, yes, but she also had a voice that said: I see you. I love you.

Cisneros calls herself a “Buddhalupista,” a term for her spiritual life that honors both the Buddha and Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas and a powerful symbol of Mexican identity on both sides of the border. A tattoo on her left arm depicts the Virgin in the lotus position, her right hand pointed toward the sky in the mudra of blessing and protection.

A Chicago native and longtime resident of San Antonio, Cisneros now makes her home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where the Covid pandemic returned her to poetry in life and on the page, resulting in her newest book, Woman Without Shame. Many of the poems in this collection speak to love—loves made, loves lost, loves turned away, loves witnessed. And yet there are poems here that also address the brutal realities of people’s lives in the United States and Mexico, offering verses as spiritual balm. The poem “El Hombre” creates a chorus from the lines “Mándanos luz. Send us all light.” After several stanzas, I found myself repeating these words as a prayer, a mantra, a hope.

Daisy Hernández,
Contributing Editor


How did you first encounter Buddhism? It came to me by way of a friend who I think of as a spiritual sister, Jasna, from Bosnia. She was visiting me when I was living in Berkeley, and one day we went to Old Wives Tales [a feminist bookstore in San Francisco] on Valencia Street. We would always buy each other little gifts, so she had this little bag and she goes, “Here, this is for you.” And it was Being Peace [by Thich Nhat Hanh]. I thought, Oh, no, she’s getting me a religious book. So I didn’t crack it open. This was 1988, and then I didn’t open the book till she was lost in the Bosnian War, maybe four or five years later, when I was asked to give a speech for International Women’s Day. I thought I was going to write something just sweet and tender about my friendship, but what came out was an essay called “Who Wants Stories Now,” motivated by reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, which literally fell off the shelf when I was looking for something to inspire my speech. It was the first time I read it, the day before the speech, and I was transformed. My way of battling was changed. I realized that I could speak, that I had the power to speak and I had the power of words.

After the speech, I organized a peace demonstration, an hour of peace, in San Antonio in front of the San Fernando Cathedral. I had women who usually showed up, but that day no one showed up but me. I was holding signs about what was happening in faraway Bosnia—a country most Texans couldn’t place on a map—but it’s difficult to demonstrate when you’re all by yourself. I went home dispirited and sad, and I dug my hand in the mailbox, and there was a letter from my friend who had been incommunicada for years! It had been handed from one journalist to another and sent to me. So I believe in that power of shifting from nonaction to making action. It’s how I found that my friend was alive.

What was so empowering about reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book?  I think what happened for me was that I was waiting for other people to do something, and one of the things that book taught me was that, no, maybe I couldn’t go in there [into the war in Bosnia] with a helicopter or an AK-47 and rescue my friend like Rambo. But I could talk. And I could make peace with people in my town, people in my family. And I could be peace. Instead of talking about peace and holding up a sign for peace, I had to be peace, which is really hard.

You grew up visiting the basilica in Mexico devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Talk with us about your relationship with Guadalupe and about “Buddhalupe,” this fusion of the Buddha and the Virgin. I grew up in the shadow of that basilica. That was my playground. When I was a little kid, my grandmother, who was very devout, would take my brothers and me along. While she was in the church, she’d say, Go over there and play. And we would run up and down the little hill where the Virgin had appeared. I had no idea that was going to play such a central part in my life. I feel very fortunate that she is an icon that’s so personally relevant to me, not only as a Mexican, a woman with Mexican roots, but especially with my mother’s indigenous roots. I really don’t see Guadalupe as being a diosa [goddess] or a Catholic mother. She’s more like an energy.

“Instead of talking about peace and holding up a sign for peace, I had to be peace.”

Thich Nhat Hanh said in one of his retreats that we had to return to whatever our spiritual roots were and incorporate that into our Buddhism. So that’s what I did. I have the Buddhalupe [a tattoo] right here on my arm. I wanted this so that I could tell people, “This is my spirituality,” and it’s a blend of all the goddesses, and Coatlicue [the Aztec earth goddess] is there, and Guanyin.

You’ve also written that your interest in Guadalupe was very tied with the silences that Latinas have about sexuality, and your new book of poems embraces our bodies and our sexiness across the years. How do you understand the relationship between spirituality and sexuality? People think we don’t have sexual desires in our sixties. I still feel sexy. And I still want to look sexy, and I still have sexual desires. Our society tends to view us as being invisible, especially as women. I don’t like that you’re supposed to look a certain age, you’re supposed to dress a certain way. You’ve got to cut your hair and, like, defeminize yourself and look neutered. There are some weird things about aging that I don’t agree with.

I always felt like sex took me to a spiritual door. I always thought sex and spirituality were super connected in the sense that you discover parts of yourself and you discover vulnerabilities and strengths about yourself. To me, it was a cosmic door. I was just really freaked out and thought, This is so powerful! They don’t want women to have this. There is a reason why men are controlling it, because it’s really powerful. I think if more women were not ashamed of their sexuality and their sexual needs, we probably would be less likely to have to look for Mr. Right. We would realize, I’m here! I don’t have to find another human being necessarily.

A number of people come to Western Buddhism because they are grappling with some form of nonacceptance. Your new book is titled Woman Without Shame. What did working on this book teach you about shame? I learned that it’s an every-day practice. Even though I might release some shame, there’s a new one that comes up. So maybe I got rid of a shame of being poor, having ugly shoes, or being the only Latina in the room, or shame about sex, and now I have other things that I’m ashamed about—now that I’m 67! Now, I eat any old thing and I’ve got to run to the bathroom because it upsets me. That’s shameful, that your digestive system is not like it used to be fifty years ago. [Laughs] Everything’s changing, and you think, Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?

Your body is aging, and it’s reacting to things it didn’t react to before. Or like your neck suddenly gets this drapery. Remember Nora Ephron, who wrote about hating her neck? I don’t want to be ashamed about my neck. I want to show it off and say “This is what 67 looks like.” I feel like I’m a role model for other women. I don’t want to get plastic surgery. I don’t want other women to get plastic surgery. I want to be a role model in saying, “You know what? My body is transforming itself.” I want to watch this transformation with as much fascination as when I watched myself morphing into the woman-body.

Photograph by Eric McNatt

In a conversation with the novelist and scholar Ruth Behar, you said that you advise writers to open their hearts for the writing to come, and you spoke about this as the process of getting “very empty.” How do you empty yourself for the writing? We have this idea when we write, akin to I want to drive to Cincinnati, but what if your writing takes you to Taipei instead? I think we have to get out of the way, and the way to do that for me is to put the intention of honoring my ancestors with my writing and writing something that makes them proud. If I honor my mother and father in the work I’m doing, then Cincinnati’s not that important. I repeatedly say this: Just do it on behalf of those you love con puro amor and amor puro, and it will always turn out better—better than what we could plan. And that flushes out your ego. It takes you to a higher intention. That’s what I’ve found.

Are there works of literature or poetry that you feel are Buddhist that you find yourself turning to?  The Japanese poets—Matsuo Basho and Kobayashi Issa. And Joy Harjo, who is not Buddhist, but her writing is very Buddhist, don’t you think? I go to Joy Harjo when I’m a little bit lost. I think that those are the writers who are the most nourishing when I’m feeling impotent and just a little discombobulated. They’re the ones that help get me back on course.

You’ve written about people who want to ban your books, and you’re even interested in your books being banned. Why is that? I have a chapter in [A House of My Own]—it’s a letter to a woman who wanted to ban The House on Mango Street. I did something very Buddhist there, and that is I spent an entire week writing and rewriting a letter to someone who doesn’t believe what I believe. I knew that she was getting frightened and not understanding my book. So I wrote it as if I was writing it to someone I disagreed with but whom I love: my father. I imagined that my father was this woman wanting to ban my book. And it allowed me to write with so much respect and gentleness. And I was able to convince her and make her understand that she didn’t need to ban the book.

I wish we would have conversations with people we don’t agree with. We haven’t had conversations. We’ve just had conflagrations. And this is a time in history when people are so polarized. I don’t think that we’re always going to agree. In fact, it’s very unlikely that we will agree. But I think the problem is we haven’t been able to hear one another.

“Poetry is about a moment for me. It’s about time standing still and examining something very deeply.”

There’s this practice in Tibetan Buddhism of imagining your relationship with your mother as this ultimate creation of gratitude within yourself. Your meditation was a letter to your father. I often disagreed with him, but I loved him. And I knew ultimately that he had unconditional love for me. And vice versa. So to me it’s a way that I hope to talk to people who don’t understand me or who are at odds with me, and to come to them from some loving place. I’m not always ready to do that right away. It takes a little time and work. That’s why I say I’m a baby Buddhist, because I think if I lived 150 years, I would still be a baby Buddhist. I’ve got a long way to go.

What does your spiritual community look like now? I just am so exhausted from the public work I do as an author that when I come home, I don’t want to be part of community. I have to detox from people overdose—“people overexposure” is what I call it. But I think I have a community of ants and hummingbirds and trees and dogs and clouds that I’ve been very much in touch with, especially since the pandemic. They’ve been my teachers, and I write about and post photos of them a lot. And then I think of my writing and the hours and hours of work I do as a very intense sitting meditation.

Since writing is a spiritual practice and home for you, how was poetry helpful to you during these first years of the Covid pandemic? Poetry is about a moment for me. It’s about time standing still and examining something very deeply. And poetry did that for me. During that time, it made me wake up to all the gurus that I had around me. The ants who evicted me from the shower, who were very proud. But you know, I learned a lot about their character. Another time I put my nose to a beautiful peach rose, and then a very, very striking chartreuse green spider came out, like: “What are you doing?” I wondered if he chose that home because he looks so beautiful against the peach. It was just things like that, that I wouldn’t have noticed, that made me think, How extraordinary and how lucky that I got to see that green spider come out of that peach rose!

I think of poems as being like bells, like the Buddha bell [the temple bell that summons monks to prayer]! It rings, and it just resonates and leaves this very deep vibration in your being. Attending to that vibration and paying attention and transforming that vibration is the poet’s job.

Calendar in the Season of the Pandemic 

the ants have
my shower
for the garden

at long last


At Fifty I Am Startled to Find I Am in My Splendor

These days I admit
I am wide as a tule tree.
My underwear protests.
And yet,

I like myself best
without clothes when
I can admire myself
as God made me, still
divine as a maja.
Wide as a fertile goddess,
though infertile. I am,
as they say,
in decline. Teeth
worn down, eyes burning
yellow. Of belly
bountiful and flesh
beneficent I am. I am
silvering in crags
of crotch and brow.

I am a spectator at my own sport.
I am Venetian, decaying splendidly.
Am magnificent beyond measure.
Lady Pompadour roses exploding
before death. Not old.
Correction, aged.
Passé? I am but vintage.

I am a woman of a delightful season.
El Cantarito, little brown jug of la
Solid, stout, bottom planted
firmly and without a doubt,
filled to the brim I am.
I said the brim.

From Woman Without Shame: Poems by Sandra Cisneros, © 2022. Reprinted by permission of Knopf.Daisy Hernández is the author of The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease, coming June 2021 from Tin House Books. She is also the author of A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoirand coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. She is an assistant professor at Miami University in Ohio.


A brave new collection of poems from Sandra Cisneros, the best-selling author of The House on Mango Street.

It has been twenty-eight years since Sandra Cisneros published a book of poetry. With dozens of never-before-seen poems, Woman Without Shame is a moving collection of songs, elegies, and declarations that chronicle her pilgrimage toward rebirth and the recognition of her prerogative as a woman artist. These bluntly honest and often humorous meditations on memory, desire, and the essential nature of love blaze a path toward self-awareness. For Cisneros, Woman Without Shame is the culmination of her search for homein the Mexico of her ancestors and in her own heart.


October 28, 2022


NEW YORK — Decades ago, as communists and suspected communists were being blacklisted and debates spread over the future of American democracy, John Steinbeck — a resident of Paris at the time — often found himself asked about the headlines from his native country.

The question he kept hearing: “What about McCarthyism?”

The future Nobel Laureate wrote that the practice embodied by U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin was “simply a new name for something that has existed from the moment when popular government emerged.”

“It is the attempt to substitute government by men for government by law,” Steinbeck continued in a 1954 column for Le Figaro that had rarely been seen until it was reprinted this week in the literary quarterly The Strand Magazine. “We have always had this latent thing. All democracies have it. It cannot be wiped out because, by destroying it, democracy would destroy itself.”

Steinbeck was closely associated with his native California, the setting for all or most of “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Of Mice and Men” and other fiction. But he lived briefly in Paris in the mid-1950s and wrote a series of short pieces for Le Figaro that were translated into French.

Most of his observations were humorous reflections on his adopted city, but at times he couldn’t help commenting on larger matters.

“Anyone even remotely familiar with Steinbeck’s works knows that he never shied away from taking on controversial topics,” Andrew F. Gulli, managing editor of The Strand, writes in a brief introduction. The Strand has unearthed obscure works by Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many others. Gulli calls Steinbeck’s column in the French publication a timely work for current concerns about democracy.

The Grapes of Wrath” was a defining work of the Great Depression. Steinbeck held to an idealistic liberalism that was formed in part in the 1930s by Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, deepened by the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II and eventually tested by the Vietnam War. He despised both McCarthyism and communism, opposing what he called “any interference with the creative mind” — whether censorship in the U.S. or the persecution of writers in the Soviet Union.

“He stated in the 1960s that the role of an artist was to critique his country,” says Susan Shillinglaw, who directs the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.

Steinbeck believed that the United States was a force for good and fortunate in its ability to correct itself. He advocated a version of tough love hard to defend now, likening democracy to a child who “must be hurt constantly” to endure and regarding McCarthyism as a passing threat that would strengthen the country in the long run.

“In resisting, we keep our democracy hard and tough and alive, its machinery intact. An organism untested soon goes flabby and weak,” he wrote.

McCarthyism was peaking around the time of Steinbeck’s column and McCarthy himself would be censured by his Senate peers within months and dead by 1957. Political historian Julian Zelizer says that Steinbeck was not alone in recognizing the dangers of anti-communist hysteria, while maintaining an “unyielding optimism” that “the constitutional separation of powers and pluralism would keep these forces on the margins.”

Lucan Way, whose books include “Pluralism by Default: Weak Autocrats and the Rise of Competitive Politics,” tells The Associated Press that “in principle the clear and unambiguous defeat of anti-democratic actors” such as McCarthy might have a positive effect.

But he does not think Steinbeck’s column can be applied to contemporary politics.

“What is going on now is not an example of this phenomenon (the fall of McCarthyism),” Way says. “Trumpism has not been clearly defeated but has instead helped to normalize anti-democratic behavior that was previously considered out of bounds.”

Louis Armstrong Wisdom

Langston Hughes asked Louis Armstrong, “Can you read music?”  Armstrong replied, “not enough to spoil my playing.”


The gripping ‘Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues’ confronts the artist’s complexities ~ NPR

A new film depicts the jazz pioneer’s multifaceted Black American experience

October 28, 2022


Louis Armstrong was a titan who never forgot his humble upbringings, and also a public figure who carefully assessed his own weight in the world.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Louis Armstrong made his first transatlantic voyage in July of 1932, sailing from New York City to Plymouth, England, aboard the ocean liner RMS Majestic. This was a triumphant visit for Armstrong, whose bravura feats as a trumpeter and rugged ebullience as a singer had already made him a sensation on both sides of the pond. But while the British tour is one of many pivotal events in Louis Armstrong’s Black & Bluesa revelatory new documentary out Friday on Apple TV+, its inclusion is most striking for the glimpse we get behind the curtain, where Satchmo allows his famous grin to constrict into a scowl.

His manager at the time was a potbellied white gangster named Johnny Collins, who wasted little on social niceties. The exploitative tilt of their working relationship was never a matter of public record — but the film, drawing extensively from Armstrong’s private recordings, shares audio of Armstrong recalling a furious confrontation on the ship, with language that’s jarring to hear in his iconic gravel-drawl. “I said, ‘Listen, c*********. You might be my manager, and you might be the biggest s***, and book me in the biggest places in the world,’ ” he says. ” ‘But when I get out on that f***** stage with that horn and get in trouble, you can’t save me.’ ” When Collins retorts by invoking the N-word, Armstrong fights the urge to break a wine bottle over his head, in order to kill him. “But the first thing I thought,” he says, “[was] all them Black c********** in Harlem who’d say: I knew he would blow his top someday.”

~~~ CONTINUE ~~~


 by jerry roberts, posted in art ~ film ~ pop cultureliterature ~ poetrymountain ~ desert ~ ocean ~ news & stories ~


Hunter S. Thompson›, circa 1990. Chris Felver/Getty


Part I: Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Sexual Harassment Then and Now… The Ghost of Long Dong Thomas… The Road Full of Forks

Dear Jann, God damn, I wish you were here to enjoy this beautiful weather with me. It is autumn, as you know, and things are beginning to die. It is so wonderful to be out in the crisp fall air, with the leaves turning gold and the grass turning brown, and the warmth going out of the sunlight and big hot fires in the fireplace while Buddy rakes the lawn. We see a lot of bombs on TV because we watch it a lot more, now that the days get shorter and shorter, and darkness comes so soon, and all the flowers die from freezing.

Oh, God! You should have been with me yesterday when I finished my ham and eggs and knocked back some whiskey and picked up my Weatherby Mark V .300 Magnum and a ball of black Opium for dessert and went outside with a fierce kind of joy in my heart because I was Proud to be an American on a day like this. It felt like a goddamn Football Game, Jann — it was like Paradise…. You remember that blissyou felt when we powered down to the Farm and whipped Stanford? Well, it felt like that.

I digress. My fits of Joy are soiled by relentless flashbacks and ghosts too foul to name…. Oh, no, don’t ask Why. You could have been president, Jann, but your road was full of forks, and I think of this when I see the forked horns of these wild animals who dash back and forth on the hillsides while rifles crack in the distance and fine swarthy young men with blood on their hands drive back and forth in the dusk and mournfully call our names….

O Ghost, O Lost, Lost and Gone, O Ghost, come back again.

Right. And so much for autumn. The trees are diseased and the animals get in your way and the President is usually guilty and most days are too long, anyway…. So never mind my poem. It was wrong from the start. I plagiarized it from an early work of Coleridge and then tried to put my own crude stamp on it, but I failed. So what? I didn’t want to talk about fucking autumn, anyway. I was just sitting here at dawn on a crisp Sunday morning, waiting for the football games to start and taking a goddamn very brief break from this blizzard of Character Actors and Personal Biographers and sickly Paparazzithat hovers around me these days (they are sleeping now, thank Christ — some even in my own bed). I was sitting here all alone, thinking, for good or ill, about the Good Old Days.

We were Poor, Jann. But we were Happy. Because we knew Tricks. We were Smart. Not Crazy, like they said. (No. They never called us late for dinner, eh?)

Ho, ho. Laughs don’t come cheap these days, do they? The only guy who seems to have any fun in public is Prince Cromwell, my shrewd and humorless neighbor — the one who steals sheep and beats up women, like Mike Tyson.

Who knows why, Jann. Some people are too weird to figure.

You have come a long way from the Bloodthirsty, Beady-eyed news Hawk that you were in days of yore. Maybe you should try reading something besides those goddamn motorcycle magazines — or one of these days you’ll find hair growing in your palms.

Take my word for it. You can only spend so much time “on the throttle,” as it were…. Then the Forces of Evil will take over. Beware….

Ah, but that is a different question, for now. Who gives a fuck? We are, after all, Professionals…. But our Problem is not. No. It is the Problem of Everyman. It is Everywhere. The Question is our Wa; the Answer is our Fate… and the story I am about to tell you is horrible, Jann.

I came suddenly awake, weeping and jabbering and laughing like a loon at the ghost on my TV set…. Judge Clarence Thomas … Yes, I knew him. But that was a long time ago. Many years, in fact, but I still remember it vividly…. Indeed, it has haunted me like a Golem, day and night, for many years.

It seemed normal enough, at the time, just another weird rainy night out there on the high desert…. What the hell? We were younger, then. Me and the Judge. And all the others, for that matter…. It was a Different Time. People were Friendly. We trusted each other. Hell, you could afford to get mixed up with wild strangers in those days — without fearing for your life, or your eyes, or your organs, or all of your money or even getting locked up in prison forever. There was a sense of possibility. People were not so afraid, as they are now. You could run around naked without getting shot. You could check into a roadside motel on the outskirts of Ely or Winnemucca or Elko when you were lost in a midnight rainstorm — and nobody called the police on you, just to check out your credit and your employment history and your medical records and how many parking tickets you owed in California.

There were Laws, but they were not feared.

There were Rules, but they were not worshiped … like Laws and Rules and Cops and Informants are feared and worshiped today.

Like I said: It was a different time. And I know the Judge would tell you the same thing, tonight, if he wanted to tell you the Truth, like I do.

The first time I actually met the Judge was a long time ago, for strange reasons, on a dark and rainy night in Elko, Nevada, when we both ended up in the same sleazy roadside Motel, for no good reason at all…. Good God! What a night!

I almost forgot about it, until I saw him last week on TV… and then I saw it all over again. The horror! The horror! That night when the road washed out and we all got stuck out there — somewhere near Elko in a place just off the highway, called Endicott’s Motel — and we almost went really Crazy.


P.S. And, speaking of crazy, take a look at this riff on the Judge and Sexual Harassment that I received yesterday from that brute who runs the Sports Desk. He must have been drunk when he wrote it — but whiskey is no excuse for this kind of brainless, atavistic gibberish.

I want that screwhead fired! He was harmless once, but ever since Judge Thomas got confirmed for the High Court, he has been mauling women shamelessly. Last week he pinned my secretary against a hot wall in the mainframe room and almost twisted her nipples off. Then he laughed and said it was legal now, and if I didn’t like it, I could take him to court [see enclosed memo, below]. It was addressed to me, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing it soon, taped up on the wall of the Men’s Room — and probably the Women’s Room too.

Special Advisory From the Sports Desk
From: Raoul Duke, Ed.

I need your help, Doc. They’re trying to bust me on Sex charges. The snake has come out of the bag, and soon they’ll be after you. Your phone will be ringing all night with obscene calls from Radical Lesbian Separatists.

You know how I feel about Victims, Doc, and also how I worship the First Amendment — along with the Fourth, of course….

And all of the others, including our God-given Right to praise the President when he pulls off a Great Victory and rips the nuts off the Enemy. It was wonderful, Doc. We beat them like shit-eating dogs. They came, they failed, and now we will gnaw on their skulls. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, eh? Right! Fuck those people! Death to the Weird! We will march on a road of bones! Sieg Heil!


 by jerry roberts, posted in art ~ film ~ pop cultureenvironment & scienceliterature ~ poetrymountain ~ desert ~ ocean ~ news & stories ~tall tales & stories of the san juans

Crédito total, rŌbert

Tim Lane relaxing in the Official INSTAAR Car (Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research) & also known as The Golden Calf, on Red Mountain Pass, December 18, 1980.  Not enough snow for skiing so we drove the passes recklessly in the Dodge Coronet 440 stolen from Richard & Betsy Armstrong during the drought winter of 1980-81. …. note the bald tires.

“The photo of the INSTAAR Dodge is
truely priceless !!   Alpine Scientific Bohemianism
from the road. Japhy Ryder weeps !” Burnie Arndt 

How sneaky of you & Tim to have taken the project vehicle without permission.. Betsy Armstrong

Betsy, Mark Udall.

A few years later I didn’t give Jerry and Tim permission to take/borrow an Outward Bound van for a night in Leadville. Somehow the van ended up in a snow bank in the middle of a lodgepole forest near the OB base camp…I reluctantly had to place Jerry and Tim on the “No Hire list”(eg i fired them) for awhile. We have laughed about it a number of times since. And early on in my OB when I wasn’t The Man (in the OB management team), I committed my share of possible No Hire offenses. Oh, youth. Happy Holidays. And I love that Jerry Roberts. Mark Udall 

Great photo.  Throughout the west the driest winter on record was 76-77.  Chris George called  me and said “Don’t cancel the course on RMP.  There is collapsing everywhere.”  The second driest year was 80-81.  Rod Newcomb

Jerry, that car should be gilded and put on display in Silverton’s town square.   Great photo!  Peter Lev


The early ’70’s were the Age of Enlightenment for a certain crowd of seekers and pilgrims.

Stir in a shot of Chogyam Trungpa  Rinpoche’s  Tibetan  Pisco and stand back ……!

Abuelo Wells wrote of another Right of Passage; Frank Buckley’s Eskimo Ski Club 

Winter Park Ski train….”sex, crime, fun, psychic trauma, it was all there”!

There were many paths taken back then.  All lead to Mountains…

Who said “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” ?


The Golden Calf is forever patrolling the grades and curves of Red Mountain Pass in my mind.

Whoever wrote “Phantom 309” for Red Sovine and Tom Waits should have written a “Golden Calf” song as well….

Wally Berg