The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Drug Books

A couple short reviews.

My friend Chris recently lent me a couple of addiction memoirs to read. You would think I would have had my fill of such testimonials, having heard hundreds if not thousands of them at Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. Yet everybody's trip down the rabbit hole is a bit unique from anybody else's and I find there's always an angle in everybody's story from which I can learn.

The granddaddy of these stoneylogs is the classic by David Crosby Long Time Gone. I read that book years ago and it was very good.

Unfortunately, Crosby's bestseller unleashed a deluge of such memoirs, many of which were far less interesting or insightful. Just because you've been to hell and back on drugs doesn't necessarily mean you returned with any real wisdom. Frankly, sometimes you just can't remember enough to learn anything.

I suspect that's the case with rocker Nikki Sixx of the aptly named but oddly spelled Motley Crue.

I was never much of a fan of the Crue. To me their music sounds too similar, like variations on the same song. However, they have always been at least mildly amusing as a cartoon of rockstar excess, and the scandal sheet antics of Crue drummer Tommy Lee and his ex-wife Pamela Lee had some entertainment value.

But as for guitarist Sixx, he apparently spent an awful lot of the money the legions of teenage boys spent on Motley Crue records to do little more than get very high all the time. Eventually it all caught up with him, as drugs are wont to do, but he managed to stop before his money and career were completely lost.

Unfortunately, Sixx doesn't offer much in the way of useful insights into his experiences. Basically the book is just a series of stories, told mostly by Sixx but sometimes by others, about the outrageous things that occurred during the years when Sixx was too stoned to be of much use to himself or anyone else. The book would be much shorter than it is if not for all the artwork and photos. In fact, strip the book of its graphics and there really isn't much more to the book than a string of overblown journal entries and interview quotes. Because of the band's notorious reputation, most of the stories here have been recounted before and told better. However, I guess if you are a hardcore Crue fan or just like unusual graphics then you might find Sixx's book worth owning. Personally I'm glad I borrowed the book rather than bought it.

A much better memoir is Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Kiedis is in some ways as clueless as Sixx about the consequences of his drug abuse, but Kiedis has a very likable personality that comes through the pages despite the stupidity and self-centeredness that all but oozes off the pages. But of course you would expect nothing less from one of the lovable knuckleheads from the Chili Peppers, a band that first drew attention to itself by performing in nothing but socks over their privates, if they performed wearing anything at all.

It was a cute and sexy gimmick but an unnecessary one, as the band is much more talented and their lyrics more sophisticated than their goofy image would suggest. This book reveals Kiedis as both sensible and aware of his past despite years of heavy drug use. Today he is apparently sincere in his determination to stay sober after having given up drugs four years ago.

While the Sixx book is dark and decadent, Kiedis remains mostly positive and upbeat despite long battles with crippling addictions. Kiedis and his bandmates managed to somehow to laugh their way through good times and bad, successfully coming out of it all miraculously healthy and sane. There's a solid but not preachy anti-drug message throughout the book, and if I were a parent I would be pleased to catch my kids reading it. The book might encourage them to get naked, but they will also be warned away from getting stoned.

This is the first year that Kendrick Park in Amherst is free of all of the houses that once occupied the land.

In November the last house on the property was moved elsewhere in town, as shown in this Mary Carey photo.

Why were all the houses removed or torn down? George Kendrick was a wealthy Amherst banker who when he died in 1930 left money in his will to slowly acquire all of the property now comprising the park and to tear down the houses in order to eventually create a public space. Interestingly, Kendrick himself didn't even live in the neighborhood. So why did he do such a thing? According to the website InAmherst:

One might assume that Kendrick’s Trust began with his own property and then bought up all his neighbors, but that is not the case. The Kendrick family never lived on the land in question. George and his wife Matilda lived on the east side of downtown at the corner of what are now Seelye and Spring Streets. His parents and his sister Jenny lived on Northampton Road, an area later to become Kendrick Place. So what was Kendrick’s interest in this property?

George Kendrick was a banker, and several of his fellow bankers and colleagues lived on this land. It is said that he and they were most disturbed by a very visible and poorly-maintained tenement at the southern tip of the property, and believed it reflected badly on the town. Before he died, he drew up the Trust that would acquire this and the other parcels, as well as provide for the needs of his sister Jenny. His intentions for the Trust were conveyed only verbally to his chosen trustees.

“As properties came on the market, the Trust was to buy them secretly, hold them a while and then demolish the houses,” said Tucker, explaining that Kendrick was concerned that if his intentions were known, it would drive up the prices of the properties. It wasn’t until 1964, with the previously-mentioned combination of George and Jenny’s trusts, that his original verbal instructions were formalized and put into writing.

But why take down all the houses in addition to the objectionable one? Sounds like the banker Kendrick went a little batty from counting all his money. The last house was moved to a new location in town last Fall. Now that winter is over, little remains to indicate the existence of the former residence. Here the tar of the former driveway can be seen against this tree.

Some perennials planted by past owners have come up, but the house they decorated is no longer there.

The new park is already being used. During the winter attendance at a skating rink the town created on the site surpassed expectations. The other day I caught these students having a pizza picnic.

So at last the wishes of the eccentric banker George Kendrick to create a park have finally come true, although it took nearly eighty years to complete it.

This is the last week of classes at UMass, with finals to follow next week. Yikes, where did the semester go? Registration is already underway for summer classes, as shown by this poster plastered all over the campus for what looks like might be an interesting course.


Anonymous said...

Try Cains Book by Alexander Trocchi:

a bit hard to find but well worth reading....

Anonymous said...

Also check out the book list on Forbes Library website

Tommy said...

Thanks Anon for those good tips. The one's you recommend seem more like serious books than the ones I reviewed, which derive a lot of their interest from the author's celebrity status.