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Flatbush Flashback

Personal Faves: Volume II

This week I've been celebrating the third anniversary of The Daily Beaver with a look back at the ten most popular posts and a selection of some of my personal favorites. As I was putting together Volume II of my personal faves this morning, it reminded me that anniversaries also serve a practical purpose: They are a time to take stock, evaluate, put things in perspective--to see what's come out of this three year frenzy of writing, promotion, and travel. So, once again, here's a random selection of blog posts that caught my eye.

The Business of Smut: Critique #2 (June 15, 2011)
A review of "Hard Core," by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, one of the articles Slate selected as an example of great writing about the porn industry.

The Real Life of a Beaver Street Character (July 15, 2011)
Izzy Singer steps out of Beaver Street to publish a shocking pornographic e-book.

Still on the Bus (Aug. 4, 2011)
A review of Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Cool Place, and a tribute to my friend John Babbs, who passed away last year. I ran this photo essay on my other blog, Maiscott & Rosen, because you can't run multiple photos on The Daily Beaver.

Yossarian Taught Here (Aug. 18, 2011)
A memoir by Joseph Heller’s daughter, Erica, prompted me to jot down some of my own memories of Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22, and one of my creative writing professors at City College.

The Trials of Traci Lords (Jan. 10, 2013)
A further exploration of one of the main subjects of Beaver Street: At age 44, the once underage porn superstar seems to have stopped complaining about being “exploited.” Instead, Lords complains that people won’t let her forget her X-rated teenage exploits.

Tomorrow, Volume III Read More 

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I found out this weekend that my friend John Babbs died on April 12. I’d been out of touch with him for a number of years, but we’d reconnected last summer after I saw a screening of the film Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place. John, an original Merry Prankster, was in this documentary about the momentous cross-country, LSD-fueled journey the Pranksters took, in 1964, in a customized school bus driven by Neal Cassady, who served as the model for Dean Moriarty, the main character in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The film motivated me to write to John. That’s when I learned that he had pancreatic cancer and the prognosis was terminal.

My friendship with John—whom I referred to as Babbs to distinguish him from other Johns in my life—dates back to the mid-1980s, when I was editing men’s magazines and buying, on a regular basis, his hilarious and often psychedelic-flavored erotic fiction. John would occasionally visit me in New York and I’d occasionally visit him in Springfield, Oregon, where he was living an idyllic post-Prankster life that mostly consisted of trout fishing and playing basketball.

Unfortunately, when I stopped working for the magazines in 1999, we had less reason to communicate, and aside from an exchange of Christmas cards or an occasional letter—yes, John still wrote letters—we began to lose touch.

I don’t know why, exactly, I Googled John yesterday, but I did, and what came up was his obituary.

I will miss John. I will regret not having made more of an effort to keep in touch with him the past several years. I will treasure his two books, Yellow Leaves and Prankster Memoirs. And I will always look wistfully upon the watercolors he began painting in his later years, which adorn a shelf in my apartment. Read More 
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Still on the Bus

John Babbs was a freelance writer I worked with when I was editing porn magazines. If his name rings a bell it's because Babbs, aka Sometimes Missing, was a Merry Prankster, one of the psychedelic adventurers who, in 1964, rode across America with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Ken Kesey, in a bus driven by Neal Cassady.

The Pranksters documented their LSD-fueled journey on 40 hours of film and audiotape. Now, some 47 years later, directors Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood have assembled this footage in a coherent form. The result is a home movie, Magic Trip, which opens today in New York and San Francisco.

Click here to read my photo essay, “Still on the Bus,” about the film and my relationship with Babbs. Read More 
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