Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Mechanics of Alex Cockburn

Alex Cockburn and I became close friends in the mid-1980s, when my family and I were living in Riverside, CA and I was teaching at UC-Riverside.  The location is important, because one of the main reasons I got to know Alex so well was because he loved coming to Riverside, and staying for long stretches.  This was because Riverside—then as now—was decidedly un-hip, the opposite of, say, West Los Angeles or the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

There has never been a houseguest like Alex.  We always welcomed his visits, even though it was never clear that we had invited him in the first place.  He would arrive invariably in a beautiful old 1950s American car, including, for a while, a spectacular red Chrysler Imperial convertible, that he then kept in our garage for about a year.  A measure of Alex’s fundamental inner tranquility was that, the one and only time we took the Imperial for a drive in Alex’s absence, we parked it in the K-Mart parking lot near our house.  Sure enough when we came out of K-Mart, the car had been scratched.  I was prepared to receive Alex’s wrath, but instead he took the news in stride, asking whether we had enjoyed our spin in this amazing chariot of a vehicle.

This was well before the Internet era, so Alex would bring large bags full of newspapers, magazines, studies, his typewriter and fax machine, and just camp out for days.  The only way we knew for sure Alex was coming was that a day or two before his arrival, we would start getting calls on our home phone—since this was also before cell phones—often from the likes of Abbie Hoffman, Perry Anderson, Noam Chomsky, Jean Stein, Ralph Nader, Jesse Jackson, and Michael Moore.  Alex would work the phone hard with such people at our house, but he always seemed more interested in spending time talking with local Riversiders he had come to know, such as our car mechanic George.  George and Alex became good friends.  I’m quite sure George knew absolutely nothing about Alex as the world renown leftist journalist, and if he had known, wouldn’t have cared.

Alexander Cockburn and Percy. Photo: Cristina Nehring.

Alex also became good friends with our two daughters, Emma and Hannah, when they were about 9 and 6 years old.   Emma once had a school assignment to write an essay on the person she most admired in the world.  Without asking or telling anyone beforehand, she wrote it about Alex.   After I had sent the essay to Alex, he told Emma how honored he felt.  He said that nobody had ever captured him so well in words.  I think he really meant it.

The true measure as to how much Alex respected my daughters occurred after he had written something very nasty in one of his columns about, of all things, Sesame Street.  I told Alex that he had written many great columns about, say, Reaganomics or U.S. imperialism and Nicaragua, but that he had totally missed the boat on Sesame Street, which my kids, along with zillions of others, loved.   After Alex heard confirmation on this directly from Emma, he published a lengthy retraction and apology.  Since Alex died on Friday, I have seen many descriptions of him as a fierce and relentless critic who would never, ever back down.  But my family and I knew otherwise.

Robert Pollin’s latest book is Back to Full Employment (MIT Press).

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
Samantha Krop
Questioning Our Declaration on Human Rights
Morna McDermott
Classrooms, Not Computers: Stop Educating for Profit
Patrick Walker
Today’s Poor People’s Campaign: Too Important Not to Criticize
Julia Stein
Wrestling With Zionism
Clark T. Scott
The Exceptional President
Barry Barnett
The Family of Nations Needs to Stand Up to the US  
Robert Koehler
Two Prongs of a Pitchfork
Bruce Raynor
In an Age of Fake News, Journalists Should be Activists for Truth
Max Parry
The U.S. Won’t Say ‘Genocide’ But Cares About Armenian Democracy?
William Gudal
The History of Israel on One Page
Robert Jensen
Neither cis nor TERF
Louis Proyect
Faith or Action in a World Hurtling Toward Oblivion?
David Yearsley
The Ubiquitous Mr. Desplat
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail