SECTION FIVE

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COLUMN FORTY-NINE, SEPTEMBER 1, 1999
(Copyright 1999 Al Aronowitz)

CULTURAL EQUATIONS

Paul McKinnon is a 42-year-old Canadian living in the southwest corner of his country. From 1984 to 1994, he lived in Victoria, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Banff National Park, Tokyo and The Yukon. During that time he also visited the U.S. (Hawaii, Alaska, Seattle, San Francisco, The Grand Canyon, Los Vegas), Mexico and parts of Europe (England, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Spain and Portual).

During that time he worked as a dishwasher, a waiter, a cook, an English teacher, a groundskeeper, a courier, a hotdog salesman, a chauffeur and, of course, a writer.

In 1995 he became a father, cut his hair, and got a real job. He continues to write, and is currently the co-editor of THE NEPENTHE JOURNAL
, an online 'zine that features travel stories, short fiction and pop culture analysis. NEPENTHE can be found at http://www.freespeech.org/tumbleweed.


JACK RABBIT PAROLE DENIED

"There's a hole in Daddy's arm where the money goes."--- John Prine

As far as mid-life crises go this one was a bit extreme. You may have heard about it on the news. After 12 years of "straight time" Semi-Famous-Bank-Robber-Turned-Writer Stephen Reid went haywire and pulled another armed robbery.

Apparently Reid was a little out of practice---this one didn't go as smoothly as some of his earlier heists---after a car chase and shootout with the police---Reid and another man were captured.

Reid now faces 10 criminal charges including robbery, unlawful confinement, and four counts of attempted murder.

It's a strange story indeed.

What makes it even stranger is that some of Reid's fellow writers are raising funds for his legal defense.

They've got to be kidding!

Or perhaps they're simply delusional. Self-delusional.

Writers are a funny lot.

And West Coast Writers are a VERY funny lot.

I know- I live here.

I think these folks view "The Stephen Reid Story" as a Romance instead of a Tragedy.

A little background:

Back in the '70s Reid was a member of "The Stopwatch Gang"---three guys who robbed dozens of banks and were eventually caught and incarcerated.

While in jail in the early '80s Reid wrote his novel, Jack Rabbit Parole. He also began corresponding with Susan Musgrave, one of the Canadian West Coast's favorite poets.

I bet you've heard or can guess the rest---Steven & Susan get married, he gets out of jail, they have a child and write happily ever after.

Well not quite.

Recently it seems that while working on a play entitled Heroin Elvis Stephen Reid did a little bit too much "research"- and I'm not talking about his Elvis impersonations.

What was going through Stephen Reid's mind when he figured out he needed to return to his life of crime is anyone's guess, but chances are good he was pretty out of it at the time.

We can always blame the drugs I suppose, but I can't help thinking that with this reckless spree Reid not only put people's lives in danger (and I have friends living in the area where the police chase & gunfire took place, and often take my daughter to the same park these armed men used as part of their unsuccessful escape route), he also betrayed his family, his friends, and the West Coast Writing Community.

You see, Stephen Reid was, until recently, the hope many people have that "art" (in this case "writing") can redeem a man. He had "paid his debt to society," "put the past behind him" and all those other cliches.

Writing had "saved" Stephen Reid.

But it hadn't, really. Not in the long run.

And so I can understand why many of the people who believed that writing could save someone from rather nasty habits (many of them Stephen Reid's friends and contemporaries in the art-lit scene) want to help him now. But I think their loyalty is more than a little misguided.

And they're not getting a penny from me.

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