Flashback Friday: Dean Latimer Presents the Vibrant Story, Night of the Serbian Sweep

Straight from the desk of the High Times Sordid Affairs Editor, Dean Latimer.
Flashback Friday: Dean Latimer Presents the Vibrant Story, Night of the Serbian Sweep
Ned Sonntag

From the February, 1982 issue of High Times comes a story by Dean Latimer about… well, we’re not exactly sure what it’s about, but it’s an entertaining read nonetheless.

Night of the Serbian Sweep by Dean Latimer

The junkies, if they were junkies, had a whole three-day weekend to clean the place out, but when we came back to work on Tuesday and found the fire-escape door ajar, what was missing? Why, one electric typewriter—one typewriter out of a dozen—and the executive secretary’s Rolodex. How much blue-tape doogie is a Rolodex worth, pray? It looked funny.

Not funny ha-ha—funny weird: “The FBI took over the DEA, y’know, and they’re both full of CIA goons, who are real chummy with the NCLC, who know we’re doing a story on their links to the Teamsters. Christ! Did they filch the secret file on the NFL washing dope money through sports betting ever since JFK was rubbed out by the KGB—or was that the SDECE? But personally, I think all you gotta do is match up the last two initials of the guy who killed Lennon with…”

This from the receptionist in lieu of her daily “How’s it hangin’, Deano.” Clearly, everyone was spooked. People were even saying, very loudly, things like: “You know, I campaigned very heavily for Ronald Reagan and Jeremiah Denton last year, and voted for each one, three times apiece! That’s me, Larry Sloman!”

So Andy Kowl brings in a sanitation squad late one night: one of our most cherished advertisers, Communication Control Systems, an international corporation that markets everything from infrared viewers to bulletproof vests and cars. And boy, what a romantic crew of badmashes they were— swarthy, beetle-browed, young, burly chaps, the dozen or so of them.

After quietly consulting among themselves in some Serbo-Croatian pinko babble (“Oh my God,” blurted George Barkin when he heard them palaver, “Rooshkies, we got goddamn Rooshkies debugging our offices”), they sandwiched their heads between sets of giant earphones that were linked through black portfolio consoles to long antenna-type wands. Then round and round they went, from room to room, genuflecting those things through every nook and cranny in the joint.

Or they sat motionless in pitch-dark office cubicles, hunched over dreadful humming consoles that spat out bright-colored pinlights on the walls, and intermittently vocalized in eerie beeps, whines, keenings, rumbles, rushings, rustles, quacks, whirs, whistles, and general tinnitis—exactly the sort of noises crazy people hear in their heads all the time, with no aid from technology.

It was straight out of James Bond, the big briefcase the sweep chief opened on the publicity director’s desk; inside there were enough metal switches and colored indicator lights, in serried ranks and terraces, to operate all Amtrak. And the guy, after consulting the trilingual operator’s manual—English, Italian and Arabic—lifts up the desk phone and commences punching numbers.

Punch punch punch punch punch… Paaaaauuuusssse. Punchpunchpunch punch punch. “Somebody is on the phone,” he intoned, amazed. “All the time.” Then Laurence Cherniak showed him how you have to punch 9 to get a dial tone.

Amazing, though, into what microscopically tiny fragments a phone can be disassembled down. Anywhere in South America these days a phone costs over a thousand dollars, and Ma Bell is cranking up to make them just as precious here at home. It’s a simple way of cutting off poor people—those likeliest to be discontented, and make trouble when they get together—from basic communications technology.

But if you ever saw a real sweep wizard lovingly and lingeringly vivisecting a live telephone down into its most delicatest innards, you’d realize that those wonderful gimmicks are really worth a thousand bucks a unit.

And that’s just a damn telephone! “When you write this up,” said Kowl, “be sure to go down to the countersurveillance-technology trade show at the Statler Hilton. Find out what kind of gimmicks these guys are using, how they work, what they do.” Then he split, with Cherniak, Barkin and all the others, and I was there in the night with the sweep team and all these semiintelligent machines.

Learn about them and describe them? That’s a job for Carl Sagan, my man: “Immeasurably more exquisite, complex and receptive than the semicircular chambers of the human middle ear, the Communications Control System’s resonance stimulator literally reaches out to any nearby eavesdropping device which may work on the same principle. It sort of physically thrills pulses of electromagnetic seduction through the ether, seeking its mate. If a spy device is present, the two machines irresistibly mesh, on an invisible plane, in a positively sexual synergy, drawn unto like—a technological reprise, as it were, of the grand medieval long-distance romance of Heloise and Abelard. Peter Abelard, well remember, brilliantly foresaw the development of—”

Machines fucking. Fucking machines. Machines accosting, seducing and raping each other. Machines betraying each other’s innermost confidences to humans, as they betray humans’ confidences to other humans. How long, I wonder, are these magnificent, gleaming, immortal entities going to put up with us rudimentary vessels of flesh, who are considered “efficient” if we last out threescore and five years per unit with just minimal residual operating function.

If we set these austere metal-and-wire entities into impolitely prying up each other’s assholes like this, with our tawdry internecine political squabbles, they may very reasonably become displeased with us, even impatient (a most violently disagreeable emotion, impatience, for a semi-intelligent machine), and drop the hammer on us once and for all.

You know what I like? I like a nice sloppy little nervous system that works by dumb old sodium-calcium ion exchange. ‘Cause it’s so easy to fuck it all up with simple organic-plant drugs when it starts going haywire from overmuch feedback, like after a few hours with a sweep team and their weird machines in the middle of the night.

Yeah, fuck technology shows at the Hilton and Carl Sagan. Yeah, I went out and got drunk on scotch, and even broke out my Bangkok sinsemilla stash in an effort to seduce a likely barmaid—who, alas, was too damn human to screw anybody who was in my state of mind that night.

Did the System’s sweep team find anything? Frankly, I never asked, and do not now wish to be advised whether they did or not. And even if I were so advised, I wouldn’t put it here in writing. Because if I did that, see—stated here on the page whether they found taps and bugs on the premises, or found them not—how would you-all know I wasn’t lying? Dig that?

I leave you with all this on which to meditate. Give you a taste of what it’s like.

We couldn’t find much information about Dean Latimer. We do know, however, that a man named Dean Latimer existed at one point or another, and that during this period of existence, Dean Latimer was the High Times “sordid affairs” editor and was also associated with East Village Other. We will continue to search high and low for more information about the fascinating Dean Latimer.

1 comment
  1. What the hell happened to Latimer? One of the best writers for HTs in the 70s and 80s, he has dropped from the face of the earth. Even the Internet has little info on him! Latimer, please report to the HT office, now!

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