Some of us grew up in a different Pittsburgh. There was an enchanting indifference to polluted air, bicycle concussions, and sugar butter white bread sandwiches. Autumn always brought leaf burning. Our fathers would outdo each other assembling their backyard bonfires. I can still hear the crackling of parachuting flames rising high on uncalculated windy days. The sounds of my fall were racing fire engines and the desperate, muffled whimpers of men trying to beat down the brush fires they had earlier deliberately dosed with gasoline. Always with light wooden rakes. Every year some idiot would burn down his neighbor’s house. We would run to watch and stay all day.
I knew Harvey Weinstein. He was an emergent live show promoter in Buffalo, New York. I would pass through this market over and over again with Genesis, who would barely sell a ticket. He would always lose money. His parents and grandparents would cook the band dinner after a show. We both started out in high school gymnasiums and old movie theaters. A decade later we were doing stadium shows with The Who and the Stones. He made money then. Harvey was one of the promoters I trusted. I think it was because he was playing the broader game of building a sound reputation. He may have deceived me about who he was, though I doubt it. I am not typically unaware of my surroundings. I ran into him long after his success was apparent in the movie industry. He offered to help me, to come work for him. He told me that I should call him. Would I have slept with him? I guess we will never know.
Pigs are convincing evidence that humans do not care about the feelings of food if it tastes good. What follows is a joke that is more than it seems. I first heard it when I was maybe nine or ten years old. I have never heard it told again by anyone but me for sixty years. I memorized it and have used it at dinner parties to woo bright women who occasionally possessed a sense of humor. When I was young, it did not matter so much that they did. That took time. The joke. A guy is walking on a country road and comes to a farmhouse. On the porch sits a farmer, and next to him, relaxed a pig. The farmer was reading to it from a book. The pig snuggled tightly into him. The pig had a wooden leg. Curious, with reason, the traveler asked the farmer how this pig came by such a leg. The tenant recounted to him that this pig had saved his life twice, pointing while he spoke to a burned section of the home. “My wife and I got trapped while asleep in our bedroom as flames from the kitchen headed upstairs. This pig, ( he hugs the creature as he speaks), rushed through the fire and led us out. The traveler, let it be reliably said, was astonished and wanted to understand more clearly, of course, so he asked, “How was this pig able to run to you on such a mangled leg?” “No, no,” the farmer insisted, “he didn’t hurt his leg at all.” The storyteller now warmed to his tale, “ But you know the damnedest thing happened after that. I was fishing in my boat, and this terrible rain and wind knocked me right off and into the water. Now I ain’t never been much a swimmer, and I was making a ruckus, when this pig arrived at the shore, jumped into the water, and swam back with me, my collar in his mouth. He saved my life once again.” The farmer sat silently for an emotional minute like country people are often moved to do. Respecting his country contemplation for as long as he could, the traveler finally could not restrain his prying. He said, maybe louder than he should have, “You know you never told me how this pig got that wooden leg.” The farmer looked at him with an odd and amused condescension. He answered, “Son, you just can’t eat a pig like this all at once.”
I wandered through my friends’ list on Facebook this afternoon. I found seven dead rock stars, John Entwistle and Moon, were still both begging for money. John was claiming the deep sea fishing in Heaven was expensive, and Keith needed to buy his way into the hooker section of hell. There was a load of Italian Genesis fans from some show in Turin in 1974. They all wanted backstage passes. I noticed six girls from grade school who I had given dirty Valentine Day’s cards to in the early fifties. There were eight rock promoters, including Harvey Weinstein and Bill Graham, all of whom claimed I stole money from them. There were 12 dogs and two cats. And one girl who keeps asking me to send money to her so she can get a flight out of Turkey. The rest are people I have no recollection of at all.
Nations thrive only when the most exciting people, the sexual deviants, are free to sin without anxiety or worry of reprisals. Ancient Greece and Rome, the Roaring Twenties and every day in France are examples of this. History will show that this decade in America will outdo them all. Our fantastically liberated commonwealth is so diverse right now that we need to employ the alphabet to identify our gender and sexual federations. Say no more. Oh, happy days! But I sense dark clouds forming on our open-source bi-coastal orgy. In my experience, sex does not long remain pleasant unless others hold that what you are doing is lewd, immoral, or scandalous. I fear we are draining our population unduly of prejudice. We are persecuting anyone not engaged in the study of elegance based solely on sex. I dread that Oscar Wilde may have been describing us when he said, “Only the great masters of style ever succeed in being obscure.”