What’s up with ‘Weed’

Hoboken author talks publishing, politics, pen names

Speaking with Hoboken resident Dale Walker today, one would hardly believe he is the T. Weed of editorial hype and myth. The author of “Natural Enemies,” a 1993 novel set in Hoboken, he recently took time from playing tennis and shopping during his winter break in Miami to talk by phone about the mystery of the notorious T. Weed.
A self-proclaimed hippie, Walker became the center of Hoboken controversy in the 1980s for his divisive letters to the editor under the pen name T. Weed, writing about topics ranging from dog droppings to the United States’ support of Israel.
Inspired by a real life incident that he heard on the radio, Walker wrote and self published “Natural Enemies” in 1993 during a transformative time in Hoboken’s history, in which long-time residents were being forced out of their apartments when they were turned into expensive condos. The novel concerns a Hoboken landlord named Justin who ends up being taken advantage of by his tenants.


“If Americans begin to suffer, they will begin to make changes. Life is good for most Americans so there is no reason for them to change.” – Dale Walker

Recently, Walker, who sold nearly 100 copies the original publication at the now-defunct Black Water Books on Washington Street, decided to publish a second round of copies. “Natural Enemies” is available for purchase at Symposia Books, 510 Washington St., at the original 1993 price of $5 a copy.

Getting published

In the early 1990s, publishing a book where the landlord is a hero was a tough sell, especially in the New York City metro area.
“Because T. Weed was a known name, I thought maybe I could get some sales,” said Walker. “That’s why I published it myself.”
At home, Walker has kept a box full of old rejection letters from publishers with essentially the same response: “We love this, but it’s politically incorrect and we just can’t do it.”
Walker doesn’t deny that he meant the book to be politically incorrect. The man who marched against the Vietnam War and more recently protested the war in Iraq with his daughter and ex-wife came to be defined not only by his actions but also by his inflammatory words.
During the same time that Walker was writing “Natural Enemies” he was also penning many other works, including a series of letters to the local newspaper. “The letters were all they knew,” said Walker. “They didn’t know who I was. Everyone came out trying to attack me, so I was defending myself constantly.”
As part of that defense, Walker would race to get his letters to the newspaper on time, literally running to hand-deliver them on many occasions. His true identity was eventually revealed in other people’s letters, ushering in a series of threatening phone calls from opponents. But by 1995, the last remaining embers burnt out.
“There was general fatigue on both sides,” said Walker last week.

Growing weeds

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Dale Walker left home at 18 to join the Army and see the world. He traveled to Germany, returned to the U.S. to venture on a 10-year cross-country trip.
Working in various bookstores in New York City for about 75 cents an hour, he made just enough to pay the mortgage, buy food, and have a beer now and then.
“I was always writing,” said Walker. “I would work enough to get laid off [and go on unemployment] and then take six months off to write.”
He spent those six months in El Paso, Texas, where the living was cheap and mariachi bands could be heard across the river.
After completing three contracts as an English teacher in Saudi Arabia, he saved enough money to buy the house in Hoboken where he lives today. He was, and is still, a landlord. He is currently a silent partner in a group that owns several buildings in town.
Somewhere in the midst of the bookstores and mariachi bands of the 1990s, Dale began writing letters to The Hoboken Reporter, igniting a fire that would continue for nearly a decade.
He actually picked the pen name T. Weed without much reason at all. “It just came to be as a catchy kind of thing, out of the blue,” said Walker. “And it has been all this time.”
Considered an anti-Semite conservative by many of his opponents, he says he only equates himself with conservatism in that he’s trying to “conserve our great country.”
“I’m a radical,” said Walker. “I don’t have much faith in any of them [politicians].”
Rather, he believes the impetus for change will not come from politicians at all. “It’s terrible to say this,” Walker said. “But if Americans begin to suffer, they will begin to make changes. Life is good for most Americans so there is no reason for them to change.”
As for his current feelings on Israel, the major topic of controversy from Walker’s letters, his stance that America should not support the country remains the same. “There’s a lot of Jews who also feel the same way I do,” he said. “They’re not anti-Semites. People are so scared of being called anti-Semites that they don’t say a word. It’s shameless, but it works.”

Writing for longevity

A collection of T. Weed’s letters to the editor and their responses, titled “Enough Rope,” pays homage to the saying that if you give people enough rope they just might hang themselves, which Walker feels that many of his challengers metaphorically did.
While the collection can be found in the Hoboken Public Library catalog as a reference book, they do not carry a copy of “Natural Enemies.” Walker recently resolved to send them a copy.
Walker is currently preparing to self publish a chapbook of 60-70 poems. “They are small, rhyming poems,” said Walker. “Two to three stanzas that make a point.” He is also considering publishing other collections of letters to the editor from 1995 to the present day.
“I try to make my writing as universal as possible,” said Walker. “So that anybody can read them at any time.” Nearly 20 years after the book was written, “Natural Enemies” still translates to Hoboken with its lively characters and fast-moving story.
Symposia Books in Hoboken also carries “Sketches of a Texas Boyhood” by T. Weed, also self-published through Free Radical Press, and Fool’s Paradise, published by Random House in 1980.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at ldiaz@hudsonreporter.com.


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