Black Bart Brigade

Issue #2 - January 1972

The Background

The second issue was out in two months -- another 50+ pager, and essentially a solo job, yet I apologized in it for the delay, an unaware testimonial to how deeply I was yet entrenched in the 'right way' of doing things: the schedule-and-deadline way of work. It also resounds with the editorial 'we,' an affectation that I would soon enough drop. But the enthusiasm for what I was doing is clearly evident in its excited opening, where I quoted a portion of the reader response that was coming in, from the first issue.

Reader response was, indeed, the payoff, for it told me I was not alone in this lonely venture, and not at all wasting my time or energy. In fact, the high point of every issue came during the following few weeks, with reader mail arriving in daily batches that quite astounded me. It continued to reach me through the tiny Canyon Post Office (housed in a trailer, in those days), for I wisely maintained the PO Box address, instead of shifting it with my many moves. And each week's greatest excitement was going out there for as much as a double handful of mail that awaited me. It brought my survival cash, of course; but far more meaningful to me were the notes of friendship and support.

The exact sequence of my frequent moves, in those early productive days, is just a bit vague after 30 years, but it included locations of momentary convenience in San Francisco, Berkeley and Palo Alto (I think in that order), all within the span of about six months. I do recall that this second issue was produced in Berkeley, where I was house-sitting for a friend named Bill Grant, a newly met fellow dropout who was my main co-conspirator, as Black Bart found its shore legs after the Canyon days. He contributed material to this issue, as well as others, but the layout and design work remained my own.

For some unrecalled reason, the issue is slightly larger in its flat dimensions than all the rest that came out; it had no cover style as yet, and no colored, heavier-stock cover, as the one before and those afterward, but simply the same newsprint. I was aiming for a style, but hadn't yet reached it. I had it on the masthead page, however: a 4-part division of the layout that never varied through the seven primary issues, with the contents on the upper left and an icon cartoon by Mal, in the lower right, that fully encapsulated what Black Bart was all about. A small figure is being squeezed beyond recognition (let alone any ease of movement) in a kind of vise-press, and a simple statement from him issues forth: "The way I look at it, for what I lose in freedom, I gain in security."

I bless Mal -- whoever and wherever he is -- for that contribution (and a few others, along the way) to Black Bart's dedicated mission of trying to help people 'find their way out' of a system that did, indeed -- and still does -- demand a tradeoff of freedom for security. In using his material, and that of any cartoonist or writer that pleased my fancy, I committed the high act of piracy on the literary seas, for I was in no position to pay for what my work required. But I figured it was okay, since I made no real profit from it, ever, and used it for a fine and moral purpose (by my lights). Only once was this conviction ever challenged, and I shall talk about that when we come to issue #5.

It left me with a great deal of freedom, to bring into the pages of Black Bart some of the most appropriate, and often outrageous, material that came my way. Issue #2 had several personal experience tales contributed by readers, as well as articles on positive and constructive alternatives to the standard way of doing things. But nothing that ranged very far from the essentially social and political, which measured the breadth of my alternative vision up to this time. Of what the issue carried, I am bringing to the site Bill Grant's effort, in recognition of the moral support he gave me, at the time, and one from a long-forgotten rebellious little journal published from inside Standard Oil, called The Stranded Oiler. My own work in this issue included not only the Black Bart Philosophy, but the first segment of a two-part reprinting of the extensive piece I did for an early issue of Mother Earth News, called "How to Retire 6 Months Every Year." I'll bring that onto the site at some future date.

As an index, once more, of where my head was (still) at, I used a photo of an attractive young woman to brighten an article on an organization called The Involvement Corps, and then I inset, right alongside of it, a Jules Feiffer image of a man bound hand and foot and blindfolded, adding the words -- as if spoken by him -- "Now, in the old days, before Women's Lib..." It was just my irrepressable sense of humor at work, but not very politically correct, as I was sharply given to understand by one of my former Canyon housemates. But I was mainly, and totally, focused on my own agenda of Dropping Out, and had a lot yet to learn, of the wider spectrum of the world I was moving into.

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