The Long Reach of the Law


Back in the 80s Brion Gysin was living his last days in Paris. I was working at the Bains-Douches. I fought a lot at the door. Brion liked rough trade. We were associated through a mutual friend, Jeffery Kime. Dinners, drinks, parties. The collage artist/poet was a gentleman in pursuit of the frontiers of humor. He once sneaked a recipe for marijuana into a cookbook by Alice B Toklas. Every head in America knows her name thanks to Brion’s deceit. By 1985 his health was failing and an arms dealer suggested that I work for him in order to secure Brion a steady flow of income.

The man was renown for his dealing with 3rd world insurrections. No one ever said his name in public. My job was to be his right-hand man.

“Don’t start any cars,” Brion coughed through his oxygen mask. “Just joking. I don’t need the money. remember this is France and bad health is free. It’s only good health that costs something.”

Brion passed away in July 1986. The arms dealer prospered during the final stages of the Cold War. I was sitting on the rocks of Cap d’Antibes later that autumn. A gigantic black ship was streaming east toward Cannes. I mentioned aloud to my companion, a fashion model from South Africa, now known as the ex-model from Paris, that it looked like a sleath warship.

“No, your friend’s friend’s yacht.”

The biggest in the world.

“Why didn’t you work for him?” The model from South Africa was married with a French fascist. He had one time thrown grenades into an Algerian mosque packed with women and children. The massacre never made the LE SOIR.

“I like waking up in the morning without thinking someone is getting ready to kill me or that I’ve killed hundreds of people to make enough money for my Ferrari.”

“You’d rather make a little money for being a thug.”

“It suits my temperament.”

The life of an arm dealer is not easy and this week Viktor Bout, the merchant of death was extradited from Thailand to the USA. He had been arrested last year by DEA agents pretending to be left-wing Colombian rebels seeking ground-to-air missiles. The story sounded funny to me after reading about it in the newspaper.

Arms dealers are savvy people. They normally only trafficked with kindred spirits. Viktor Bout probably knew the pseudo-FARC guerrillas were DEA agents, who were trying to link the rebel movement to cocaine trafficking, and figured that their business is their business. He was only in it for the money.

No arms or money ever passed hands.

It was all talk.

Until the Russian national said he didn’t mind if the weapons were used to kill DEA pilots.

The doors were busted down and Viktor Bout was remanded to Thai custody. His extradition angered the Russian authorities, but they said that the 43 year-old knows nothing about nothing. Facing 25 to life Mr. Bout pleaded not guilty in a NY federal court. I would have done the same in his shoes, which are now government issue.

Another mouth to feed on the teat of the American tax payer.

Unless he snitches up and that’s the only way to go when the Man is saying decades of hard time.

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