(Part of ongoing digitizing Vietnam Legacy Project)
NY TIMES TALKING REPERTORIAL BLUES
September 1, 1971
Note: In a departure from the usual preoccupation with prose, this column today takes the form of a song. To be performed in talking blues style in the manner of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard etc. Jimmy Rodgers-type yodeling is optional. The characters are fictitious, but everything else is purely intentional.
THE ORIGINAL TALKING NEW YORK TIMES REPERTORIAL BLUES
Heard so much about the Vietnam War
I decided to find out what they were fighting for.
So I went and said goodbye to Sabina,
Bought a ticket for a jet to Indochina.
(Friend John said I sure had guts. Sabina said, what was I, nuts?)
Well, soon I was writin' "Hi, John,
"Wish you were here in sunny Saigon,"
And "Dear Sabina, don't worry 'bout me,
"I'm on Tu Do Street drinkin' that Saigon Tea."
('Course, the bargirl was drinkin' the tea, I was
payin' the fee...funny tea...champagne must be
Now I wasn't a tourist and not a G.I.
Money runnin' low, hotel bills runnin' high.
No offers from the Army, Navy or Air Force
So I decided to join the press corps(e)
(Couldn't fight about it....Might as well
write about it....)
Found a newsman in a bar downtown
He was friendly enough to show me around.
I said, "Buddy, I'm down to nickles an' dimes,
"An' I want to write for the New York Times."
So he looked at me funny, like a mama-san
Selling matches on the corner in Saigon.
He said, "Friend, you don't stand the chance of a ghost.
"Why don't you try the Saigon Post"?
Well, I thanked him for his kind advice
And ordered us some shrimp friend rice.
I said, "When you want a spoon you don't try a fork.
"I still want the Times of New York."
Next day I went to cough all this
Up at the Times office.
Said I'd even do the jungle on coconuts an' limes
If they turned me loose in the New York Times
(Duck a .105 mortar, just to be a good reporter.)
Well, it was very soon---two days at the most
I was workin; for the Saigon Post.
The Times said come back in a year or three.
I think they meant in a century.
So traveled around to practice an 'ism,'
Known by the name of 'Journalism'
And I saw a lot of Vietnam capers
That ain't written down in those Pentagon Papers.
I've seen barbed wire and huts on fire
White phosphorus skies and bleeding G.I's
The brave jokes of poor country folks
And I've heard the songs of the many wrongs.
And if you ask what are they fighting for
And when will there be an end to this war
There's one thing that I know is true
Man wants to be free--or some men do.
And if I ever get back from Indochina
I'll have some news for John and Sabina
Good things and bad things, mercy and mines,
Things that didn't make the NY Times