Wild Bill Blackolive has been an outlaw folk writer since the sixties. His memoir, The Emeryville War, chronicles his life “on the fringe of Berkeley in the 1980’s…Wild Bill, who lives in a backyard in his broke-down car with his barbells and a litter of pit bulls.” (ULA)
I crossed paths with Bill and his daughter Madrea through the Guild Of Outsider Writers, and after reading Emeryville, I knew he was somebody I needed to interview!-Lynn Alexander
L.A. What are you interested in doing these days? What are you involved with? Plans?
B.B. I look after my 89 year old mother from one pm till seven thirty am when the good helper woman, Janet, comes.
Firstly after coffee and silly Corpus Christi newspaper then stretches, I take the two dogs I have currently out for an hour, bike or walking, depending on injuries, have an old bad back (visit a chiropractor lately but once in five weeks) and a few months ago I cracked my left kneecap which has caused complication. I next soon had cracked my left big toe with a fifty pound dumbbell, when the knee had suddenly buckled more complications for months now, and lately I am using a bicycle. We live just out of little Aransas Pass, a lot of trailers, some crank labs and maniacs driving insanely in the night but this is an easy enough environment for me and the dogs, and my mother’s yard is fenced. With dogs, I wave at all motorists, be they hostile or what, and thus it is for years here and the motorists just about all wave now, friendly or not, many very friendly.After dog trip I workout with weights or resistance exercise, with much sitting down to re-gather, about a half hour. Then I drink a little bit and mess with computer adventure or writing. Example, I am obsessed with the 9-11 cover up. I have to be here now. I am the sibling who did not work and somebody has to be here.
I had SSI for crazy, year or two when my father died. I am not sure what I would have been doing otherwise, really, had been living in neighboring Port Aransas, had a room for me and young Medicine Dog, pitbull, cooked for these couple oldest friends who are drugged out Vietnam vets, etc. I had always expected to be supporting myself from writing, decades earlier. Had expected to own property in New Mexico far out enough to have horses and pitbull wolf crosses, be traveling mountains and the cosmos.
Oh I would have a woman, super woman, or 2 or 3 women and more kids and so on, not too much expense, semi living off the land.
Well, now I can use the advantage of gaining perspective on personal flaw and craziness. One thing I deduce, I have been stupid about women. Really some sap, this has been my larger problem. Heh, outside of not making a living, and the two merge, but anyway. I have no plans. I could still make a living, before I am too crippled, and though I’ll turn 69 in September I am a phsyical mutant at minimum, hardly middle aged, just banged up. And maybe I will never make a living, but maybe my stuff will sell eventually to give grubstake to the grandkids.
L.A. Could you explain a little bit about the history of the Texas Gang?
B.B. The history of the Texas Gang is but my second acid trip, my attempting to write on acid, in Berkeley, about 1966, and the splattered letter, to old Texas friends, settled into ‘Way It Was” which a few years later was the second chapter of “Tales From The Texas Gang”, a novel.
The “Way it Was” piece was never edited. The Texas compadres finally had liked something I had written. I had been writing half a dozen years then. Couple years from there I was eating peyote in Mexico and believed that the “Way It Was” was a true story. Year or so later I began to put it together for the novel. The TG main work took a decade. An autobiographic novel “Wild Bill In Berkeley In The Sixties” happened in that meantime.
L.A. How did you end up working with the ULA, and having them publish you? What appealed to you about them?
B.B. I had been doing my rough zine, Last Laugh, nothing pretty but just stapling the pages of typing. A friend turned me on to a good zine, “Diary of a Fatman” (Doug Holland) maybe it was called, also he sent a Zine Review, showed me others were doing this- “zines”. LL could not get decent reviews, but King Wenclas who was putting out a cheapo zine of criticism of zines and getting bad reviews at ZR too, enjoyed my arrogance with the Zine Review crowd and he and I began to get along.
Couple years more and Wenclas had organized the Underground Literary Alliance. I was invited to their first read, in Manhattan, and I and Jack Saunders who is actually two years older than I am and had been doing his type of zine thing for years were the main eventers. Lyla, my mother, had surprised me by paying for my plane fare. Couple years later was it, the ULA had me flown into Detroit to read at the one there. They have had monetary difficulties since, and what has appealed to me about them is of course they disagree with fart blown officialdom, what is literature, lasting literature.
L.A. Do you define yourself as an “outsider writer” and if so, why? What do you think it means to be an outsider these days?
B.B. Yeah, I am an outside as a writer. Re, LL, I took on questions in my youth whether I am strictly human. The literate sasquatch, high school dropout, ho hum.
Sure, then I further picked up on anthropology, 200,000 years at last known minimum homo sapiens lived without authority.
Present technological civilization being purely egocentric, we have indeed had advanced technology before this shit pile, but nevertheless most of the time there is no authority. Disagree with the chief or peyote princess or who the hell ever, then move up river. Bring friends certainly, as strangers could come across the rover, but point being there was nobody to imprison others, till city states, and the city states will come and go infrequently. So I don’t have to be weird, I am just earthy. I cannot tolerate authority. Yeh, LSD and peyote helped, but I was coming along anyway.
L.A. What kinds of things do you like to read? Who is out there in the literary underground that you admire?
B.B. I get snobbish in age, regarding music, literature. Am not a visual sort, stay less trenchant to visual arts. “Huckleberry Finn”, “Heart of Darkness” and “Moby Dick” have been my favorite books, I re-read them. My favorite living author is Charles Bowden. He has done autobiographical novels like Miller, Kerouac, Bukowski. Oh I can re-read any of these guys too, also Faulkner. Bowden chances to have this piece in the latest Mother Jones magazine, telling how El Presidente of Mexico is not in charge, the Mexican army is in charge, and incremental blood of US citizens coming.
I appreciate the ULA and OW, but am too bothered and busy already to notice others, I am published by Jeff Potter. Indeed, as I said to King Wenclas, how can we bother with fiction when this present 9-11 cover up and hell to come beats any kind of fiction ever?
L.A. In “The Emeryville War”, you described strong bonds and relationships with dogs, and you seemed to understand aspects of their nature. You took care of dogs even when it was difficult. Do you still feel this way? About animals in general?
B.B. I am metaphysically akin to wolf. I will accept a half coyote, have one now. The pitbull terrier, built to fight, has more instincts than average dogs, a fact few civilized humans have any sense to see. I am more comfortable and feel safer having those dogs, and which come to me. Being sometimes homeless and broke and so on, I have not yet sought out a dog. Certain wilder types will come to me and I have kept them. I have enabled feeding them, which is no more difficult than feeding me. I have owned packs, though laws in the US get more dangerous.
L.A. Thinking about your book, I wonder if you think people are too limited by their financial and material obligations these days to live their lives as they truly want or need to? Do you think we CREATE these obligations? Why?
B.B. I see people are bamboozled by authority, starting with their sad parents in schizoid nation.
L.A. Madrea, your daughter, has been very active these days in the zine world, working on a number of projects like Gestalt and Pepper and MUST. You have a long history with zines as well.
Are you happy that she is following in the spirit and independence of zines and small press?
What does it mean to you, to create and share zines?
B.B. Madrea and I go way back in incarnations. She does what she wants to do. I said this to her early. Any other kids I could have had would have been told the same. I am happy she has taken so much in common with me, but she never was pressed in any direction.