route66 cover - 2 - final“Dogging Steinbeck,” in case you are among the 318,543,866 Americans who  haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, is a new genre I’m trying to popularize called “True Nonfiction.”

Half literary expose and half American road book, “Dogging Steinbeck” is the honest and accurate account of my long journey with the great John Steinbeck and his beloved work of BS, “Travels With Charley.”

It details how I discovered the truth about Steinbeck’s iconic 1960 road trip with his dog Charley and how I exposed the fraudulent nature of the allegedly nonfiction book Steinbeck wrote about his journey.

As I explain and prove at length, “Charley” is not very true or honest. It’s mostly fiction and a few lies. For every true thing you want to know about Steinbeck’s trip, my trip and his book without having to fork over a lousy $5.99 for “Dogging Steinbeck,” I’d advise going to TruthAboutCharley.com.

My book, which I swear is 103 percent true, is a literary detective story, a traditional American road book and a primer in drive-by journalism and how the media work. All from a libertarian point of view.

It’s also part history lesson of 1960 America, part book review, part Steinbeck bio and part indictment of the negligence of Steinbeck scholars who failed to discover Steinbeck’s literary deceit for 50 years and then blithely excused it as inconsequential or irrelevant after I told them about it.

Guess I should have included footnotes.

The liberals manning the New York Times editorial page liked what I learned. So did the leftward boys at “On the Media” on NPR. So did Paul Theroux, Brian Lamb and my 96-year-old Mom.

But a lot of people — especially young and/or romantic diehard “Charley” fans — don’t appreciate me for ruining the romance of Steinbeck’s flawed book. Just look at the dumb 1-star reviews on Amazon.

But sorry, Steinbeckies, what I did with my humble work of journalism has changed the way “Travels With Charley” will be read forevermore.

In the fall of 2012 the book’s publisher, Penguin Group, issued a 50th anniversary edition of “Travels With Charley” that admitted that what I had learned and exposed was correct — as in “the truth.”

“Charley’s” introduction, first written by Steinbeck biographer Jay Parini in 1997, from now on will contain a major disclaimer warning gullible readers that the famous book they are about to read is so full of fiction and fictional techniques that it should not be taken literally or considered to be a work of nonfiction. In layman’s terms, it should be considered a work of bullshit.

Parini’s disclaimer includes this stark sentence: “It should be kept in mind, when reading this travelogue, that Steinbeck took liberties with the facts, inventing freely when it served his purposes, using everything in the arsenal of the novelist to make this book a readable, vivid narrative.”

I wasn’t given credit for this discovery of this ugly truth. I was identified only as a former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter who did some light “fact-checking” (and made lazy fools of the Steinbeck scholars).

But at least from now on no 14-year-old who reads Steinbeck’s classic road book will ever be tricked into thinking it’s a true story. I hope.

Tony Dungy is homophobe of the week.

He’s spending time in the national media’s barrel because, when asked about Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, he said he would not have drafted him if he were still an NFL head coach.

Dungy was a wildly successful and universally admired player and coach in the NFL for more than 30 years and is now an analyst on NBC’s Football Night in America, the number one rated TV show in the United States. He gave an honest answer and said that Sam would be a distraction and that, ” It’s not going to be totally smooth…things will happen.”

He teed himself up for the self-righteous national media and they knocked him out of the park.
But Dungy knows things that very few in the media know.

He knows what it’s like to be in an NFL locker room, not as an interloper, but as a member of the team. And here’s something else he knows that all but a microscopic sliver of the media critics don’t know: He knows what it’s like to be black. He knows that gay black men have it much tougher than gay white men. Everybody knows that two-thirds of the players in an NFL locker room are black.
The white media stars who got on their high horses and lectured Dungy on his hypocritical lack of tolerance could have done a 10 second Google search and found plenty of references to the unique hardships endured by gay black men.

They could have found this quote from openly gay CNN anchor Don Lemon: “It’s quite different for an African-American male. It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.”

They might have found the study done by Rutgers journalism professor Michael LaSala last year for the Journal of GLBT Studies that found that being a gay black man presents unique challenges.One challenge, according to LaSala is “The rigid expectations of exaggerated masculinity” held by many in the black community.

LaSala says, it was a common theme among relatives of gay black men that, “They carry a special stigma that some straight black males may find particularly disturbing. The world already sees you as less than others. By being gay, you’re further hurting the image of African-American men.”

Tony Dungy was in the NFL for over 30 years. He’s been black all his life. Could it be that he knows that, despite what black players say in front of the cameras, many, if not most of them, may not be as tolerant of gay black men as the mostly white media would like to think that they are?

If acceptance of gay men is already a problem among African-Americans, would it be surprising to find even less tolerance in the typical hyper-masculine NFL locker room?

Should it be shocking that Dungy believes, “Things will happen,” and that those things would make it less likely that he could do what he’s paid millions of dollars to do –win a championship?
Of course, Dungy could never say it out loud.

Do you know why?

The mostly white, holier than thou, national media wouldn’t tolerate it for a second.

- The Steelers go into training camp coming off a 6-2 finish last season and, based on their schedule in the first half, they should be at least that good in their next eight games.

They play the Browns, Buccaneers and Texans at home and the Ravens, Panthers, Jaguars and Browns on the road in the first seven weeks. They will be favored in five of those games. Game 8 is against the Colts at home, a tough one but very winnable. If they aren’t at least 5-3 at the halfway point, they’ll have a tough time winning 10 games because the second half schedule is much harder than the first half and much tougher than the last half of 2013.

They have the Saints, Chiefs, Falcons and the Bengals twice in the last five weeks.
It says here that they will go 10-6.

- Ben Roethlisberger has been told not to expect a contract extension this year. He has two years left on the eight-year, $108 million contract he signed before the 2008 season.

Roethlisberger should be forever grateful to the Steelers for not cutting him after his second sexual assault accusation in 2010. Prior to that he had stupidly injured himself while riding a motorcycle without a helmet, been seen riding the motorcycle without a helmet again after recovering from surgery to reconstruct his face and acquired a reputation around town as one of the biggest jerks in Pittsburgh sports history.

His teammates despised him.

The fact that he’s still a Steeler is proof of two things. He is a great player and there is no longer any such thing as “The Steeler Way.”

A libertarian panel hosted by Lucy Steigerwald, where ranting is encouraged, and smashing the state is mandatory.

-Lucy Steigerwald: Columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog; @lucystag

-Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude; @steigerwaldino

-Michelle Montalvo: Perpetual intern, sci-fi enthusiast, technical failure; @michellePHL

-Adam Berkeley: libertarian-sympathetic friend who knows foreign policy and hates DC.

-M.K. Lords; editor at Bitcoin Not Bombs, writer for various bitcoin and anarchists sites, firedancer, poet; @mklords

Our cranky, liberty-loving panel discussed warmongers, necons, Israel, and other depressing news of the day, then wrapped it up with a comic chat about the impending death of Archie, and the new female status of Thor.

The author Curt Gentry was a big Steinbeck fan and he went out of his way to kindly help me with my book “Dogging Steinbeck.”  Here’s the beginning of his obit from the San Francisco Chronicle today:

Curt Gentry, a San Francisco author who wrote or co-wrote 13 books including best-sellers “Helter Skelter” about the Charles Manson case and a harshly critical biography of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, died July 10 in a San Francisco hospital.

Gentry was incredibly kind to me when I met him in the spring of 2010 while doing research for what became “Dogging Steinbeck.” He bought me lunch twice and gave me his notes and the draft of his Chronicle article (see below) from his encounter/interview with Steinbeck in the fall of 1960, when Steinbeck and wife Elaine stopped at the St. Francis Hotel on Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” trip.

Gentry was one of the first to read my book and he wrote a wonderful blurb about it. When I read it at my book store/library appearances, I can hardly keep from choking up.

He was a great guy with great stories. I’ll always be sorry he was too sick to meet with me the last time I was in San Francisco.

The article the late, great Curt Gentry wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle about his encounter with John Steinbeck in 1960.

The article the late, great Curt Gentry wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle about his encounter with  Steinbeck in 1960.

The blurb Gentry wrote for my book, which was perfect and fair:

I still believe John Steinbeck is one of America’s greatest writers and I still love “Travels With Charley,” be it fact or fiction or, as Bill Steigerwald doggedly proved, both.  While I disagree with a number of Steigerwald’s conclusions, I don’t dispute his facts. He greatly broadened my understanding of Steinbeck the man and the author, particularly during his last years. And, whether Steigerwald intended it or not, in tracking down the original draft of “Travels With Charley” he made a significant contribution to Steinbeck’s legacy. “Dogging Steinbeck” is a good honest book.

– Curt Gentry

Author of “Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders” (with Vincent Bugliosi)

John Steigerwald column for 7.19/20.14

Isn’t college football wonderful?

Within the next week or two, student-athletes from all over the country will be gathering on college campuses to prepare for another football season.

At least one of them will have a big, fat insurance policy paid for out of the Student Assistance Fund. That’s the fund that schools use to help kids who may need money to fly home for a funeral or to visit a sick relative. You would think that an organization like the NCAA, which, until this year actually had rules against giving football players cream cheese for their bagels, would have a big problem with that.

Texas A&M’s problem was that its All-Everything offensive tackle, Cedric Ogbuehi, was thinking about declaring for the NFL draft after it was presumed that he would be a number one draft pick.

How do you prevent a kid from signing up for the multi-million dollar signing bonuses that number one picks get?

You insure him for a few million dollars against a career ending injury. The associate AD for football, Justin Moore, told Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports that it’s a loophole in the NCAA rules that, “I don’t think many schools know about it. It’s a game changer.”

Keep in mind that it’s the NCAA and its member institutions of higher learning that recoil at any mention of paying athletes anymore than tuition, room and board. How is giving a kid a $60,000 insurance policy any different from giving him $60, 000 in cash?

There were lots of coaches’ ears perking up when they heard that news. Expect lots of highly insured football players in the future and a lot more players sticking around for that extra year.

Not for anything related to academics, of course, but to enhance their draft status.

The NCAA is a corrupt, bloated, obsolete, useless bureaucracy that needs to go away. And, it just may be going before too long.

The Ed O’Bannon class action lawsuit just wrapped up last week and if O’Bannon wins, the NCAA will never be the same. He sued on behalf of players who, among other things, had their likenesses used to sell billions of dollars worth of video games without being compensated.

An attorney who has worked in the highest levels of professional sports (who spoke on condition of anonymity) said this about the lawsuit:

“I haven’t followed the testimony closely enough to predict the outcome, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. (NCAA President Mark) Emmert and his cohorts are like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the final scene where they think they fought off their pursuers, not realizing there are scores more awaiting them. The NCAA as we know it is dead. It’s just a matter of who and what, individually or collectively delivers the kill shot.”

“The five big conferences will have complete authority and the NCAA will be figuring out how to fund the millions of dollars of judgments against it that await.”

He had told me before the trial that I should expect “A crater in Indianapolis where the NCAA sits.”

The judge is expected to rule next month.

Can’t wait to see the crater and the chaos that will follow.

The chaos will ultimately make more sense than the NCAA has made in the last 40 years.

The great travel writer Paul Theroux is done with the continents of Asia, Africa and South America and is now working on North America.

He’s written a long article in Smithsonian magazine, “the Soul of the South,” that will be part of the book he’s writing about the American South.

He was also interviewed by NPR’s midday news program “Here and Now,” so you can listen to him. Here’s a previous interview with him from NPR, before he took off on his Southern trip.

Here are some pull quotes taken from WBUR’s interview:

 

Interview Highlights: Paul Theroux

On reactions to being a Northerner traveling through the American South

“I stuck to the rural areas. And rural America has its deep roots, and, I think, great values. I said to a man in Aiken, South Carolina, ‘I’m a stranger.’ He said, ‘You’re not a stranger, there ain’t no strangers here.’ And a woman said the same thing to me in Tuscaloosa [Alabama]. ‘I’m a stranger.’ She said ‘You’re not a stranger, there are no strangers here.’”

On visiting the infamous Bryant’s Grocery in Money, Miss.

“Bryant’s Store where Emmett Till met his doom, is still standing. It’s on a crossroads. Money, Mississippi, is a back road, there’s a railway running through it. Train doesn’t stop. The walls are crumbling, there are vines and roots sort of holding it together. They don’t know whether it’s a monument, a horror — it’s a haunted building. And Money, Mississippi, is a very tiny place. I doubt there are two dozen people who live there.”

On unexpected encounters in the Delta

“I was in the Delta, in the town of Greenville [Mississippi] in the Delta. And I must say, the Delta is a very poor place — poor in money, great in spirit. I was asking a lady about the B.B. King Museum and this woman’s colleague said, ‘Should we tell him?’And she said, ‘I don’t know.’ And the [colleague] said, ‘This is B.B. King’s ex-wife.’ His last wife! Most recent wife. So we talked about B.B. King.”

 

And here’s quote from Theroux about how helpful people are when you travel — alone.

 

THEROUX: When you’re traveling in the South, you get a warm welcome. I mean you, I go from New England, rather chilly and, you know, people barely say hello to each other in the post office. They kind of stare and think, you know, you look – they look at you as though you might be asking them not to pay their taxes or something. And, you know, in the South, I mean one of my earlier experiences was I was stuck.

I was looking in a map in my car and the woman in the car next to me said: You lost, baby? I said, yeah, I’m looking for this church. And she said: Well, I can tell you – I told her the church – she said I can take you there. Follow me. She drove three miles out of her way. I mean, we had been in a parking lot and she was going to church that morning too but not there and took me to the church. And I thought, this is wonderful, I like this.

And afterwards, I thanked her profusely. And she said: Be blessed. And I thought that’s the South: Be blessed.

I had a handful of encounters during my road trip in 2010. A guy in Minnesota drove across town to lead me to a diner and the women of New England took great pity on me, as I recount in this excerpt from “Dogging Steinbeck”:

 

I had my first face-to-face encounter with a human on state Route 11 when I drove through the sad little burg of Patten.

I had doubled back to photograph a bush-choked old house on Main Street that was obviously inhabited when Steinbeck hurried by 50 years ago. As I got out of my car, a young woman stopped, rolled her passenger window down and asked if I needed any help. She thought I was lost, which it looked like I was. But I was just driving as if traffic laws didn’t apply to journalists. When I told her I was chasing Steinbeck, she gave me a quick history of her town of 1,200 mid-Mainers.

The future didn’t sound too promising for Patten. It owed its existence to the lumber boom of the 1800s and still relied on forestry, hunting, fishing and the wood products industries for a disproportionate share of its jobs. Before the woman drove off she suggested I take a picture of the Patten General Store down the road. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s going to be torn down tomorrow.”

She wasn’t the first woman in timeless/spaceless/changeless Maine to think I was a helpless man in distress. She was the fourth in less than 24 hours. The first time was in Calais. After I left Karen’s Main Street diner and the Calais Book Shop, I stopped by the side of the road on my way out of town to write what I thought would be a quick blog item.

It was a pleasant spot by the St. Croix River, but mainly I wanted to take advantage of the sudden surge in Verizon’s cell phone signal. (Three weeks later, when my wife got our bill, I’d learn the strong signal had been coming from across the river in Canada. Two days of cross-border roaming charges in upper Maine would cost $900. In Billings, Montana, I’d waste an afternoon at a Verizon store getting the charges reduced to zero.) I wrote a blog entry about Calais and its people while sitting in the driver’s position, but because my laptop was on my “bed” in the back I had to twist around between the front seats to type. Because I am journalism’s slowest writer, the blog, which was really more like a long newspaper feature story, took almost two hours to write.

The first visitor was a U.S. Customs and Border Control officer, who pulled up behind me in her patrol car.  She had passed me three times and seen me in the same strange position, so she naturally thought I had a heart attack or had been the victim of a Canadian mob hit. Apologizing as abjectly as possible, I assured her I was fine and explained what I was doing. She was as sweet as any police person could legally be and with a smile left me to my pathetic, contorted typing.

Ten minutes later, I looked up from my keyboard to see two cars parked behind my RAV4 and a pair of women with worried faces hurrying toward me. They too thought I was dead or dying and were genuinely relieved, and not the least bit annoyed, to be told I was physically fine, just mentally challenged. I finally drove across the road to a parking lot, feeling like a jerk.

Maine people – Mainers? Manians? Mainsters? – of both sexes couldn’t have been more pleasant and they obviously had been brought up to be kind to strangers. But it was comforting to know the good women of The Pine/Potato State were looking out for me.  I’d meet dozens of other women on my trip who were unnecessarily sweet or went out of their way to help me – waitresses, motel managers, county government officials, mothers at home. Whether they were just doing their job or answering my fool questions when I appeared unannounced at their front door, not a one was sour or unfriendly or even wary. When you are old and scraggly and alone, as I was, you’re an object of pity and a threat to no one.

“Hydrogen Bomb”

By Al Rex

Not to mention, “When You see Those Flying Saucers”

By the Buchanan Brothers