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'Positively 4th Street' by David Hajdu

EXCERPT:
Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña


Richard Fariña was born at sea. He spent his childhood traveling the world with his parents, his father a Cuban inventor, his mother an Irish mystic, and he was educated by tutors throughout Europe and Africa. As a teenager in the early 1950s, he lived among the barbudas in the hills of Cuba and ran guns for Fidel Castro. Fariña returned to the United States to study at Cornell but was expelled for leading a campus riot. He fled to Ireland and joined the Irish Republican Army. Among other missions, he once swam the Irish Sea with timed plastic explosives strapped to his back and sank a British submarine. He had a child in Ireland with a woman whose name can never be revealed. Like his idol and mentor, Ernest Hemingway, a friend from their days together in Cuba, Fariña loved to hunt; a rabid bear would surely have devoured him once, had he not inserted the barrel of his shotgun in the animal's rectum and pulled the trigger. He slept with a loaded .45 under his pillow, to protect himself from a jealous husband who vowed to kill him someday. Fariña had a metal plate in his head.

So he said, among innumerable other fantasies, partial truths, exaggerations, and appropriations from people he had met or had read about. "I think he rather self-consciously cultivated an aura of mystery," said C. Michael Curtis, one of his roommates in college. "He was... a fantasist. There was something so boyish and irrepressible about his fantasies, and he wasn't aggressive about pushing them. He would sort of drop a lot of vague hints that would encourage you to think things, and he would say, 'I can't talk about it,' and he would give you a quizzical smile, and then he would go on to change the subject. There were times when I thought that he really considered himself as someone who had done all these things and whose life might actually hve been in danger. And there were times when he seemed to want to let everybody in on the fact that everything he said was a grand joke."