pulp (2005-37)

Modern Hippie Lit

by Lloyd Babbit

In 1970, social and political activist Abbie Hoffman wrote Steal This Book. The incendiary work was a manual for living freely by taking advantage of the system. Hoffman’s guerrilla guidebook covered everything from growing your own marijuana and obtaining free food to starting a pirate radio station and receiving a free buffalo from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Most people today are unfamiliar with Hoffman’s writings, much less his theatrical brand of protest (anyone born after 1980 or so will know him as the American flag-shirted hippie from Forrest Gump who “liked to say the F-word—a lot”). And though much of Steal This Book is now irrelevant and outdated, Hoffman’s spirit of giving the finger to the system lives on. So do his attempts at getting as much stuff as possible for free.

Take Camper English’s Party Like a Rock Star: Even When You’re Poor as Dirt (Alyson Publications, $12.95). English was a computer programmer who found himself laid off and working as a freelance writer to get by. Because freelance writing is often only slightly more lucrative than panhandling, English thought that meant the end of his social life. Instead, he found himself living it up and barely spending a thing.

That’s really about all he has to offer. Camper is witty and knows his stuff. And you will find a few good ideas here. But most of this material is either common sense or a good way to get your butt kicked. Camper sounds like a club staple one moment and more like a feisty grandmother who hasn’t taken her meds the next. One moment you’re learning how to screw people over for free booze; the next he’s telling you what you should have figured out for yourself long ago.

Seriously, does anyone not know that you should present your student ID at the movie theater (even if you graduated 10 years ago)? Or that hiding in the theater means being able to watch as many films as you want? Or that you can score free loot by being on your favorite band’s street team? The only people who don’t know most of this stuff are the ones who aren’t part of the scene in the first place.

But cheap clubbing isn’t the only good advice making the rounds in book form at the moment. For some heady knowledge that might actually come in handy, pick up Chris Fabricant’s Busted!: Drug War Survival Skills (HarperCollins, $13.95). Fabricant, a George Washington University Law School graduate and Manhattan trial lawyer, has written what may be quickly become the stoner’s Bible. Busted! is a highly readable, informative look at what currently passes for drug law in America.

Busted!, also, tells us much of what we already know. Like the war on terror, the drug war’s moody younger sibling, the battle to eradicate illicit substances is an unwinnable farce. It’s a battle in which an addicted rich white man (Rush Limbaugh anyone?) can get away with popping pills obtained through multiple prescriptions, but in which an experimenting college student can throw away her entire life by showing up at a party and taking a few hits. It’s a battle in which perception is reality and in which being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lose you your college scholarship or net you some serious jail time. And it’s a battle in which you should really, really ignore what you learned about drugs while watching Law & Order reruns.

Fabricant uses his own experience as a lawyer, combined with the real experiences of celebrities and people just like you, to teach you everything you’ll ever need to know about navigating the system. Like any good teacher, he starts at the beginning and answers your questions before you’ve even asked them. You’ll learn the ins and outs of possession, search and seizure, getting busted, fighting the bust, and even your trial. You’ll learn that you really have no right to have your rights read to you, that wooden pipes don’t harbor finger prints, and that the Fourth Amendment is about as fragile as Eminem’s ego.

This is hardly a book for only the drug user. If you have friends or family who use drugs, no matter how casually, Busted! should be required reading. It just might save one of you the joys of a cavity search later on.

© 2005 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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