My take on the generation gap

Hey, Steve, I see you have a lot of books out and that’s really cool. But there’s so much material, where’s the best place to start?” —Longtime Fan

Depends on what you want to read about. My best book right now is probably the one on the Kennedy assassination, and after that the one on the Lincoln assassination. But if you like Hip Hop, then the best book is my complete archives on that subject, and the paperback costs under $12. But if you want to delve deeply into my development as an author, the best place to start is with 1966, which contains my earliest work as a writer. It’s all fiction and a wonderful introduction to the real story of the 1960s. From there, I’d suggest reading Magic, Religion & Cannabis, which contains my autobiography from that period and will explain a lot about where my head was at the time. My first short story was titled East Village, and written at age 17. It takes place in New York’s East Village in 1966, a very important year in counterculture history. That’s when thousands of male teenagers began pressing their parents to discontinue the ritual of visiting a barbershop once a month, so they could display locks like their rock role-models. For many parents, however, having a well-shorn male child was just as important as having a well-trimmed lawn. The biggest battles may have taken place in the fall— many could escape haircuts during the summer, but not when school started.

My friends Bugsy and Maarten pulled off a daring escape for a few weeks, landing in a crash-pad in the East Village, which was experiencing an explosion of teenage runaways, and celebrating up a storm, all of which came to a sudden halt when a society teen was found murdered in a speed-freak shooting-gallery. Their adventures inspired me to write my first short story.

Next, came The Steam Tunnels, which takes place in 1966 and involves my climactic confrontation with my parents. After this day, I’d never be forced to get another haircut. I soon moved down into the basement and transformed it into a psychedelic play-land. It became the rehearsal studio for my band, The Knight Riders, my art studio, and a clubhouse for all my friends. My mom called it “The Den of Iniquity,” so I painted a sign on the entrance: “Are you sure a nice person like you belongs in this Den of Iniquity?” I was exploring the steam tunnels at the same time, and actually did consider moving down there permanently for a second. One night we thought we’d been caught by the University police when the lights came on unexpectedly. It turned out to be Guy Maynard, lead singer of the Seeds of Doubt, and a friend of his. I had to run away from home twice before I could negotiate a livable arrangement with my parents, one that afforded me the freedom that I needed. I was branded “emotionally immature,” because I wanted to be in charge of my life’s trajectory. The threat of reform school, military academy, and/or the dreaded “electro-shock therapy” was always hanging over my head. I wrote The Steam Tunnels at age 20, five years after it happened. Wesly Pinter is a composite of Bugsy and John Hayes, founder of the Knight Riders.

Then came the The Stockholm Manifesto, written while living in Sweden trying to evade the Vietnam War, which is free to download in any format.

I’d eventually get kicked out of Sweden and flunked my physical thanks to a sympathetic psychologist. I just told him I didn’t fit in the Army and they wouldn’t want me. He asked how I knew that and I told him I’d gone to Valpo University and been put in a dorm, and ended up in a huge conflict with a lot of people in the dorm who didn’t like my style. Then I began to shed a few tears. Hey, I was on the chopping block—an impeccably-groomed master-sergeant had escorted me to the psychologist’s office. Very few potential inductees even saw the psychologist. You had to demand to see him! I’d already been identified as a flight risk. You had to sign an oath right off and I refused, saying I was sympathetic to the Vietcong, and considered the USA the aggressor nation and refused to fight. After that, they kept a eye on me. What I was counting on was my weight. After days of fasting, I was probably around 125. I had some magic number in my head that if I was under that, I would be 4-F. The weighing-in however, was extremely fast and sloppy and they were taking everybody they could get by 1971, so my fasting was of no avail. The sergeant guarding me was already letting me know I was going downstairs in ten minutes and getting on that bus to boot-camp! Just as soon as you get out of that office, hahaha, you dirty hippie! He didn’t say that, but I knew he was thinking it. It was a spider looks at the fly moment. But that sergeant was positively crushed when the psychologist branded me 4-F and his little fly flew out the front door, back to freedom! It was one of my peak ecstasy moments and it had all been a lot easier than I’d thought. I sure could tell that sergeant was pissed this little fly got away and the Army never got their claws into my brain.