Free Speech

In his famous book of essays, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, Lester Bangs recounts a period in his life and work in which he was obsessed with John Coltrane and free jazz.

It’s been 20 years or so since I read Psychotic Reactions, but I remember pieces of this essay.  One afternoon, drunk and home alone with a saxophone, Bangs lets loose with the horn, and ultimately lands in jail for disturbing the peace.  Down at the station, he’s placed in holding with another man.  Bangs asks him why he’s in, and the man replies for Being ahead of my time.  Bangs response, Me too, man, me too.

The other night, I was out photographing on the streets of Ithaca.  I had my headphones on, lost in my visual experience, and I was caught by surprise when a flashlight came from behind.  I turned around, and was confronted and questioned by a cop.  He asked me what I was doing and why.

Surprised and annoyed, I answer curtly:  Practicing my right to free speech.

He didn’t offer any argument in return, and I finished making my pictures.

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