Wednesday, July 02, 2008

White Punk on Dope

I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World by Mike Edison. Faber and Faber. 338 pages. $25.00

As a writer and editor for the past 20-odd years, Mike Edison has taken the road less traveled and, as someone should have said, that's where all the action is.

He has forged his path by dint of hard work and low standards, whether it's churning out pornographic novels, editing pro wrestling magazines like The Main Event or the venerable doper journal High Times or, when nothing else is happening, touring the world playing drums for a variety of obscure punk bands, hanging out with lunatics ranging from deranged rocker G.G. Allin to alcoholic daredevil Evel Knievel, and getting his ass kicked on a regular basis.

Through it all, he smokes enough reefer to exhaust every farm in Jamaica and, by his own funny if self-serving account, somehow manages to keep his head when all about him are zoning out. He spills all this and so much more in this score-settling shaggy-dog memoir of a life lived not wisely but too well, which doubles as a rather instructive and informative guide to life in the sleaze racket.

As a recent NYU dropout in need of a few bucks, he tackles the porn trade, where he finds that the key to success is a solid plot with a premise (young virgin), a conflict (she doesn't want to give it up) and happy ending (gives it up and "turns into a raging slut on a full-time quest for summer sausage.") This formula turns Edison into a regular Somerset Maugham of filth, and leads to jobs at Penthouse, Cheri, Hustler and Screw. He's on his way.

After several detours, which he takes at every opportunity, he arrives at High Times, where he did everything but roll the joints (basically a group activity). This is the bulk of Edison's story, and he offers insights that are both unique -- like the difficulty of polywrapping rolling papers into a special edition, or how ads for fake weed helped keep the magazine solvent -- and ones which are so common that anyone who has ever been involved with publishing can relate to them. Even stoners, for example, don't like people screwing with their copy, and having Ozzy Osbourne on the cover "holding a big pile of green buds" presents some interesting color separation challenges.

As an editor, Edison proves as stone cold as Steve Austin about the nuts and bolts of putting out a magazine on time and at a profit, making him something of an anomaly in the ganja-enhanced orbit of High Times. Of one editor he writes: "I think he assumed that the magazine ran on good vibes and fairy dust and was delivered to newsstands by our team of magical unicorns and dancing bears." Punctuality is a constant problem: "The magazine was never on time -- it was like watching one of those Discovery Channel wildlife shows where they slow down the film so you can see how the animals' legs work."

Edison takes the magazine to new heights but fails to rally the troops: "My management style was inappropriate for this kind of team. That I had a management style was inappropriate for this team."

Of course, you have to wonder about a guy who ultimately loses one job after the next and blames everyone but himself. Is that the nature of the business, or has all that TCH given him delusions of grandeur? He also tends to milk a few stories for more than they're worth, and never seems to realize that he's in no position to lecture anyone about taste (which he occasionally does.)

Still, it's hard not to feel a certain affection for his joyous work ethic and his overall highballing enthusiasm. He's the Horatio Alger of trash, and if he doesn't actually have fun everywhere he goes, he does always learn something, and he reveals it it lively, vivid detail.

1 comment:

JAbel said...

I didn't know this guy was still alive let alone writing a book.Sounds great.I just mailed the book info to about fifteen friends.Many thanks for the news