A People’s History of United States by Howard Zinn has always been a book I’ve picked up and read in pieces but for the first time since college I’m reading chronologically beginning with the 20th century [This is because I grabbed the audible version off one of those free credit deals that seems to be on every podcast and YouTube channel lately.]. The recording begins with an introduction by Zinn which all but gave me an erection. The rest of the 1900s are narrated by Matt Damon.

While I was reading A People’s History for the first time I was having a lot of conversations with my friend Andy about the book (as well as about Chomsky both of whom he introduced me to) and as a result whenever I read Zinn, I hear his voice.

Here’s where it gets weird for me. Listening to the opening chapter on the place of black Americans in the wake of reconstruction and Jim Crow etc at the turn of the last century as I’m cleaning my kitchen and putting away my laundry, I see Andy like the ghost of Hamlet appear in my dining room. He follows me out so the back porch while I am taking out the trash and tells me something about voter registration in the south, he recites Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred?

 

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

 

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

 

      Or does it explode?

But though I can see his lips moving what is coming out is said in Matt Damon’s voice.

I listen to the recording up until around the Vietnam War; Kennedy is sending in more troops and I have to turn it off because it’s freaking me out. The hologram in my den vanishes. I sit down on the sofa for a minute and try to hear the words in Andy’s voice. It doesn’t work. All I can hear is Matt fucking Damon.

An hour or so later the house is clean and so are my ears after I’ve smoked a little grass and listened to Bob Dylan’s 115th dream a few times. I run my fingers over the book-case on my way to open the windows, grab a copy of Chomsky essays, sit on the bed back against the corner at the foot between the two windows, and I begin to flip the pages reading the odd quote but mostly going over my own marginalia.

On one of the pages there is paragraph done up in highlighter, which is strange because I mark my books usually with a black pen. There is a line of black ink leading to words written in my hand. I realize the ink is me quoting Andy as we were sitting in his office, a strange little two room in the basement with unfinished pipes sticking out of the center of the floor (which I had drunkenly tried to piss in one night), the baby-shit green carpeting genetically closer to Astroturf than shag, the walls covered in pictures of old productions of his. Andy opened the book, thumbed the pages until he reached the highlighted paragraph and read aloud.

When he was finished with Chomsky’s words he added his own
– See, that’s cool man, that’s real cool.

And shut the book. He lent me the book later that year and when I came upon the highlighted passage I wrote in my own quoting of Andy.

Sitting in my bedroom, I can finally hear his voice again. Saying -See, that’s cool man, real cool.

I’m watching the dogs in the backyard, I yell at them to stop doing something. Kuma is trying to eat a pigeon. Princess is sleeping on the back porch.

I will never return this book.

 

 

Oh, fuck. Andy is dead. I forget to say that? Shit. Probably should’ve led with that.

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