Wednesday, February 01, 2006
STEW ALBERT 1939-2006
Stew Albert was one of those guys who made the 60's the sixties. He wrote the following on January 28th, just two days before taking off for points unknown.
Draining fast food
Gotcha going nowhere
It's still the sea around us
So award tells me
Don't move it tonight
I prefer it clean
Day in the Life: My politics have not changed.
Stew was the answer to all those who claimed "we" all became something else as we grew "older."
In fact, of course, Stew simply never became "older." He grew, but not older.
Stew Albert was all about life. Death itself could not take that from him.
I met Stew a couple of times years ago and I corresponded with him off and on over the past few years. He'd send ideas to me for the OD from time to time...and comments about this and that.
Stew died January 30, 2003 at 3:20 a.m, age 66. Peacefully, in his sleep, surrounded by Judy, Jessica and his many friends. Funeral services this Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Havurah Shalom in Portland.
Judy writes, "Stew will be buried tomorrow in Jones Pioneer Vmetery in Portland. He will be wrapped in a tallis (Jewish prayer shaw), holding a stuffed flower from the Haight and wearing his kick-ass Frye boots and our wedding ring."
This little personal story tells you something about Stew. Three years ago I lamented in the Oread Daily about the "end" of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Stew understood my grief, as it were. He sent me the following poem (which I printed at the time) in hopes that it would help me and other Buffy "followers" feel a little better.
POWER TO THE SISTERS
by Stew Albert
Buffy stopped slaying vampires last night.
She had quite a run
on a show that broke rules.
Her closest sidekick
a Jewish lesbian witch
who didn't let her tastes
You never knew what you were going to see
one week the show was silent
everyone lost the gift of speech
and mime ruled.
And then it might be
an all singing
And Buffy's tastes in men
ran from vampires to vampires
with a soldier of misfortune
How would the series end
in an age
when the Empire is striking back
and violent greed is its oily energy
It ended in happy benevolence.
a heroic vampire and a fun demon died
but original evil got its ass kicked
Buffy's slaying power
her world winning potential
to women of all ages.
A ton of light and hope is bequeathed
to our hapless existence.
Best of all
Buffy didn't die.
when last seen
she had a big smile on her face.
she hasn't' smiled that way
Buffy doesn't have to slay vampires anymore
it's nothing special
your kid sister can do it.
For lots more Stew and lots more of Stew's times go to Stew Albert's Yippie! Reading Room.
I'm printing below something "Counterpunch" wrote following his departure from this existance.
Revolutionary for the Hell of It
The Good Life of Stew Albert
By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
As one of the creative directors of the Yippies, Stew Albert helped to script the 60s. Stew's life is a joyous rebuttal to the slurs of mean-spirited bigots such as David Horowitz and Newt Gingrich that the 60s counterculture unleashed a moral rot at core of American society.
Of course, Stew was the true moralist. And the prime moral virtue was to live honestly. He had seen his own government spy on him and his family for no justifiable cause, politicians betray their constituents, cops beat and gas demonstrators on the streets of Chicago, university presidents summon National Guard troops onto campuses to abuse and kill students, and generals repeatedly lie about the war in Vietnam, where 54,000 young Americans and 2 million Vietnamese died.
The Yippies thrived on the exposure of moral hypocrisy. Their creative mischief made radical politics fun. The Yippies proved to be more effective than the dour pronouncements of Tom Hayden or the trustfund bombers in the Weather Underground.
The Yippies didn't need George Lakoff to tell them how to "reframe" an issue. They learned from the Situationists as well as vaudeville acts and Borscht Belt comedy routines, from the Marx cousins, Karl and Groucho. And because of that their legacy lives in Earth First and Greenpeace. The chaotic carnival of protest that overswept the streets of Seattle during the WTO meetings owed much to the Yippie brain trust of Albert, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.
Stew outlived his colleagues in mayhem, Rubin and Hoffman, by 20 years, spending most of that time in Portland. But he didn't retreat from the world. Unlike the repulsive Gingrich, who divorced his wife while she was on a hospital bed being treated for cancer, Stew and his wife Judy lived together for 40 years. Their's was the fullest of unions, as lovers, political partners, parents of their beautiful and brilliant daughter Jessica, political partners and citizens in Tom Paine's full-fleshed sense of the word.
Stew was Jewish and his encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish history and holy texts rivaled any Talmudic scholar. But Stew was never soft on the Israeli government. He opposed its seizure of the Occupied Territories and savage treatment of the Palestinian people.
Although he and Judy had been treated cruelly by the US government, Stew genuinely loved America: its people, its landscapes, its zaniness. He viewed the nation as an ongoing work-in-progress, a work that social activists could helped to write.
Shortly after CounterPunch went online, Stew began sending us batches of poems every Friday. We were delighted to run them. The poems were topical, wry and wildly popular with the dedicated readers of our "Poets Basement". Most of Stew's poems were political, though towards the end he began writing more and more about the cruel twist of fate he was confronting with his medical treatment, where he was being pricked with needles and drugs every day in a battle to suppress a disease that is most often acquired through the use of needles and drugs. My favorites though were his casual observances of the mercurial weather here in Oregon, where the sky can display a thousand shades of gray. They are funny and vivid poems that remind me of Frank O'Hara's lunch poems.
You can catch a glimpse of Stew and Judy in the Hollywood film about Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Movie. But to get the real story of his life you need to pick up a copy (it would be hard to shoplift one since so few bookstores carry it) of his memoir Who the Hell is Stew Albert? The title is courtesy of Howard Stern, no less. It's more than an account of Stew's life, it's one of the best chronicles of the 60s and the ongoing cultural and political fallout from that strange, creative decade.
I don't think Stew ever told me how he contracted Hep C. I got a call from him a couple of years ago inviting me to a party at his house the week before he was going to start the cruel regimen of chemotherapy for a long run of months. Hep C is a nasty and remorseless disease that ungratefully targets the most altruistic among us. Nurses are particularly vulnerable to this neglected disease.
Then came good news. The disease had been beaten into remission. That spring he and Judy went on a roadtrip across the southwest to celebrate his triumph over the Reaper. Before they left, Stew asked me if there were any places they should visit. I jotted down some of my favorite desert haunts: Marble Canyon, the Vermilion Cliffs, Arches, Zion, the Coral Pink sand dunes.
He came back animated by the surreal landscape. We also talked about the places that he and Judy stopped to eat along the way. We discussed the secret pleasures of Basque cuisine that can only be sampled in dusty dives on the lonely backroads of Nevada and Idaho, places where a lot of liberals would never dare to venture. Stew loved food. Not just the taste, but the alchemy of the kitchen, the smells, textures and secret methods of making meals. I went to three or four parties as Stew and Judy's house. Each was a festival of food, with enough dishes to have sated Fellini. Of course, chemo kills the palate and Hep C often imposes a bland and restricted diet on its victims. Getting well meant being able to enjoy those simple but essential pleasures.
So 2005 was a good year. Then around Christmastime Stew told me that the disease had come roaring back, this time as Stage 4 liver cancer for which there was only palliative treatment and the comfort of family and friends. Stew described the excruciating pain he was in toward the end. But he never whined about it. Never sounded bitter, though he had every right to be. Never wished the fatal affliction on his enemies, as much as they have deserved his fate.
At 66, Stew wasn't about change the tenor of his life and let such thoughts eclipse his optimistic spirit, his utopian vision, his humaneness. A few hours before he died, Stew declared: "My politics haven't changed."
Stew Albert engaged the world head on, as if there was no other possible way to live.