Sunday, December 09, 2012

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- Out In The Seals Rock Inn Night –Ah, Old ‘Frisco, Take One

Tugboat Annie, not her real name, real name unknown for the simple fact that what she had to say was heard by Adam Evans in passing (actually attempting to pass but stopped, stop momentarily, by Annie’s words, or a certain few of them anyway, and then hooked by the rest), heard in passing down at the edge of ‘Frisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, you know down by the faux, now faux, cannery row shopping stores, old day real cans, fish, seven kinds of eventually canned fish, filling the air with high fish albacore, red scupper, who the hell knows all the names of all the fishes, of the fish guts barely fit for leftover mongrel cats(not be-bop daddy cats blowing high white notes, no, that comes later), stink, and low wages with the braceros, Flip braceros, doing the stoop labor, fruits, seven kinds of fruits from the islands, ditto on the stoop labor, signed, sealed and delivered by Mr. Del Monte and kin, ditto on the six kinds of vegetables, down the end where for a few bucks you can pick up the thrill of riding an old time ding-a-ling open air trolley car watching them turnabout on the roundabout like in the old days over on Powell or Market, tourist stuff, not the faux trolley cars, doubled- up, in need of now roundabout meant for everyday work-a-day ‘Frisco business.
He knew the type though, the type of woman, the had been queen of the waterfront gin mills (Kake’s, where the Flip drunks hung out between ships, or crops, Katy’s, strictly for the Irishtown crowd , Jimmy the Greek’s, where Jean Genet the tough ass fag author spent some time with the rough trade, Red’s, the Harry Bridges longshoremen hang-out if for no other reason than it was called Red’s before the cold war red scare made them persona non grata, and tavern X, Y, Z where a man, any man, could get a drink, some company, name your flavor, and maybe his lights knocked out, for a dollar and some change), maybe a certain beauty (now certainly not beautiful, not stately seventy- something beautiful although despite the ravages of time a wisp of that ancient beauty in the eyes), a certain rough raw beauty in her time, her flowering (and deflowered, ancient word making you think of Walter Scott medieval romance novels with their quaint sex talk, their indirection missed by ignorant schoolboys, but maybe not schoolgirls who knew the code)1950s time, that old Okie/Arkie heartland prairie beauty one generation removed from the dust bowl, grandparents old dust bowl farmers, parents too, except when Mr. Morgan came for the mortgage they hightailed it out the back door and left no tracks, or only westward trek tracks and those soon disappeared when the dust howled up once too often.

That one generation removed and parents shoved the dust from their feet and took up city trades, maybe Pa went to night school on the G.I. Bill after some hard fighting in funny- named Pacific Islands and done. That not from hunger (unlike gaunt grandmother always looking underfed in the father and children first pecking order ) corn-fed wheat-fed (ironic, right) look that gave the 1950s beauties that ample bosom, those curved hips and firm thighs that said no way back to that plains goodnight. And their daughters their twice-removed daughters, oh, their daughters turned into those wholesome (although don’t ask any members of the football teams about wholesome) cheerleader try-out girls (also second generation amply busted, nicely curved and even more firmly thighed) who led the crowds in crowded Saturday afternoon golden sun stadia at UCLA, UCal, and Southern Cal, or watched, teeny- weeny bikini (and hence maybe a little less corn- fed shaped , reflecting steady groceries coming in steady houses and choices) golden tan beach watched their golden-haired surfer boys hanging that perfect five wave (or ten or fifteen, or whatever, nirvana number it took and how long) and then headed to that Adventure Car-Hop Drive just up the road surf board dragging out the back of de riguer woodie, or same thing, didn’t watch on the beach but waited, waited impatiently by the midnight phone for some simple-minded Johnnie to call so they could cruise in his father’s hand-me-down car in the Modesto night (shape, female shape indeterminate),or, or, and here is where Tugboat Annie, if she had a daughter, and she probably did although perhaps she did not know the present whereabouts of said daughter fit on the pendulum, some slightly overweight (ample, ample from too many twinkles and wise old potato chips), rowdy back-seat riding mama for some Oakland hell’s angel (yah, this story is filled with all kinds of angels, including angel Tugboat Annie).
So she had had enough beauty, certainly enough anyway for some whiskey-soaked sailor to nuzzle up to after she “enticed” him with that “what are you lookin’ for fella,” and “see what you like baby doll,” maybe not a whore, not a pro anyway, but always sexed-up, juiced up to pass the time of day, when the beat daddies hit town (black and white hipsters, from places like cajun Louisiana, no place Okies, tired out New York cities, with a train of fags from everywhere and nowhere looking pretty or looking for pretty boys to twirl with, like always at sea-change feeding times, and a few old sailor girls like Annie to spice things up) and the be-bop jazz(hell, Lester Young blew some very high notes without even trying, high as a kite on some mad dash mex weed and golden gate bridge sunsets at uptown Red Top, Hi-Hat, Kit Kat Clubs, and blew the white notes after hours, free time after hours when the music, the booze, the dope, the sex (or promise of sex, okay), blended together over at Jake’s Barbary Shore next to Pier 39), came to hang around the town and put sailors in old time tar snug harbor graveyards RIP, she was on to every hipster from old North Beach to the breakers,

Yah, he knew, he knew no hipster ever went within a mile of the breakers but it sounded kind of nautical, kind of fit in when describing Ms. Tugboat- yah, he knew her from ten thousand ‘Frisco nights, fifty years ago, forty years ago, thirty years ago, twenty years ago, hell, maybe yesterday, knew her hard luck story, now, of too many men, too much booze and drugs, and too much of never getting out of ‘Frisco hellhole dives where the sailors probably gave her that name themselves. She might have been a piece at one time. A piece worth going for, rum brave going for, if some old tar didn’t beat you to her, or her to him, if she had her wanting habits on. Yah, that name fit, that name fit with what she had to say, simple as it was, said to no one in particular, although there were a couple of “gentleman friends” nearby within hearing distance, “I ain’t seen ‘Frisco so dead for fifty years as it is now.”
Well, we all, in our cups (although while she was smoking, smoking cigarettes incessantly, some unfiltered things, not rolled, not Bull Durham rolled to save dough or just to inhale cheap tobacco, so she might have had a couple of bucks around, she did not have the apple annie swagger of someone on a toot, or just coming off one), say stuff, say cut up old torches stuff, to pass the time away and Adam Evans though nothing particular of it at the time. Later, middle of the night later, serious sea storm lashing waves across the street from the Seals Rock Inn, in ocean edge‘Frisco, tossing and turning a little from being overheated after earlier having half-consciously turned the thermostat too high to take an early morning chill off startled himself awake with the thought that, damn, sweet angel Tugboat Annie had been exactly right, and he said to himself that had to make sure that the next day he threw her a dollar or two for her wisdom . And here is why Tugboat Annie was wise, and why back in the day she might have been a ‘Frisco belle, hell the queen of the ‘Frisco (native- born division) 1950s beat night, and godmother when the trampled, besotted, bedazzled youth hit the coast from wherever they were fleeing (non-native division fleeing) in sometime summer of love 1960s (with or without flowers in their hair).

What know young, very young, middle young, hell, old young quaint 2012 San Francisco, what know they of anytime but earthquake rebuilt times in wharfish cleansed ‘Frisco, what do they know of the times when lions roared out their be-bop beat in holy hell break-out North Beach (locale today unknown to even those who live, Christ, live right on Chestnut or Bay Streets, he checked, jesus) and flower children spread their seed in just names now Haight Street and blasted the night away at Fillmore concert halls , ah ‘Frisco. What know they that Jeanbon (Jack ) Kerouac pidder-pattered down Columbus filled with love (big sky angelic love but maybe a little short, okay very short on earthly woman love , except, except strange old mere love ), lust (just like those old time sailors, tars all, that he shipped out with in 1942, big tidal wave ocean angers (angers derived from small men beat down, beat around , small men injustices, unspoken, and Lowell mill town boys benighted triple-decker economies) , immense hole-up speaks to a blasphemous world, patron saint of the beat down, beat around, beatitude beat (always close etched to mere and mere church clinging old country ways) be-bop singsong breaking his heart or his head over some negro, negress(when such a word was proper, okay, before black devoured the negro night, although still even now possessing, damn those damn negro streets), a waif a misfit in the hell broth ‘Frisco miss-mash.
What know they (except in chisel-etched commemorative stones, or sticks in the ground, or fiftieth anniversary City Lights bookstore editions stitched in fine leathers )that sainted Allen Ginsberg, robed, disrobed, bare-ass naked , maybe, howled against the winds, the mad cold war red scare atomic bomb winds and how we got there, up in some north beach garage, howled against his own madnesses (and singing kaddish over mother madnesses), and howled out in those negro streets(those kindred negro streets talk of alienation, jesus), those brethren streets, howled hoarse against the machine day, against the quaint faux Tudor buildings (and using that word with no approbation but mere fact, mere can’t go home again fact), against the quaint faux Victorian, against the faux cheeky Spanish fandango that founded the place before the injuns ruined it for every gringo, against the faux, hell against the faux California modern even, calling all to live in hovels, and live well, and loving mankind (and men, okay, before that was okay, when they were queer, hell, when in old Jack Lowell talk and Adam Evans Olde Saco talk, they were fags to be put to the faggots).

What know they that master zen wheelman of the world (of the four –dimensional world) Neal Cassady sky high benny-bennied, cheap wine on his hip, maybe Thunderbird or whatever three quarters would buy, drove studebaker chariots through the streets of ‘Frisco bringing refugees from the burnt- over east, to feat before the red golden gate sun, before the high priest ocean swirls, and the place of no turning back, land’s end America, making it or leave. What know they too of word gun-slingers, of desperado machine gun words, by the master gunsmith Gregory Corso, drunk, drunk as a skunk on wines, and Chestnut Street old wino leavings. And what know they of legend followers, of stinking tenements and rooming houses, and mattresses on floors, brother and sister cockroach, stinking shared urinals and bleached shower stalls stinking of three days, well, stink, and of tea freely smoked and passed and Tokay bottles (cheap okay, maybe cheaper that Thunderbird on the downward spiral) thrown every which way and a new brotherhood, okay, brotherhood formed, and women hanging on to be around that scene when some cool as a cucumber jazzman, black as night, black as the starless night, blessed, big lungs blessed, blew that very, very high white note in some dinge (as in dingy, okay) cabaret cellar. Yah, what know they of that old ‘Frisco, the ‘Frisco when Tugboat Annie knew to her core, or some of her ilk knew (and had the burned- out cigarette scars, the pimp daddies slashes, and the needle marks to prove it) that a new wind had blown in from the Japans, or somewhere and, that she (they) had better ride it, ride it as far as the currents would take her (them).
And what know they of break-out joys, Tugboat Annie (although then transformation calling herself as was the fashion, the new beginning new day fuck the bourgeois world plain name game fashion, the tabula rasa fashion ocean frontier found just like in those ancestor Okie plains days, Sister Sabbath, sister of the righteous, sister of the downtrodden, sister of the junkie hipped night, complete with kindly godhead heart tattoo on the back of her right shoulder really just a masterly re-do job by Max, Max from the tattoo shop over in hell’s angel Oakland who did all the low-rider biker work around, of her beat devil’s heart when she rode, minute rode before things got rough, the be-bop beat night with Whip-Saw Larry), she a godmother now and long lost mother of beat-ness once the old gang broke up, split for Oregon, Times Square (or other New Jack City locales), split for Buddha, Hari Krishna, hell, some god. And she, native-born division beat, she couldn’t find herself out of some Larkin Street dump, winos howling to some festering moon then not beat poets proclaiming the new world before the glittering golden sun and wine bottles smashing against back alley doors when the 1960s caravans came.

Volkswagen mini-bus caravans came of course or old beat up, beat down , beatitude beat yellow brick road merry pranksters-styled school buses turned into affordable living (and let breath) spaces, complete with seven sweat-stained mattresses, six unadorned half-empty shelves , five amped-up stereos, four tin- plated tins bent , three forks likewise, two pieces of bread (bread , bread not slang-bang for dough moola , kale but mother earth bread, those Kansas wheat fields left behind made bread) came like some unacknowledged homage to those be-bop daddies that stirred old Tugboat Annie.
Caravans (and one, twos and threes , hitchhiking on those same roads making the coast in a week with good luck and some angel long haul trucker’s loneliness kindness), crossing desperate fugitive pioneer plains playing that same move on game since the republic’s creation after the soil gave out in one spot except now instead of desiccated soils desiccated lives drains of life, crossing wheat field oceans until one was sick unto death of wheat and made solemn promises to not cross back that way, if outlaw crossing back became necessary, crossing sad-eyed injun deserts (taking time out in some flame-flecked campfire splashed canyon to ghost dance , high on peyote, maybe, high on something surely, the ancient ten thousand year war dance of the angel bravos before kill battles), treks to find refuge against world hurts, bombs away, jail hurts, and a tryst as some lifer’s honey, wall street hurts , and death to angelic trust funds, mother and father hurts, she doling out the father-earned dough dispassionately and un-motherly, he sneaking, or maybe not sneaking, up to daughter bedrooms, and she, daughter, had to split, or else, machine hurts, just take a number, hurt hurts, immense hurts to be assuaged in golden gate sun, and swept out on some misbegotten current.

And like old beat times Tugboat Annie, uh, Sister Sabbath, feasted, that time dispensing Owsley’s magic sugars out of side streets near Post ,taking tickets at the Fillmore where Grace Slick and the Airplane (no need to say Jefferson Airplane, not to this crowd) held forth needing someone to love (world love, humankind love ,boy and girl love, boy and boy love, girl and girl love, did he miss anybody), shamanic Jim Morrison calling one and all, ghost dancing like out in the canyons preparing his warrior trance, to get west, get west is the best, rolling over a couple of times for some young stud gurus in loincloth from Topeka or Ann Arbor who liked the idea of an older woman (hell, she wasn’t even thirty yet, not when that first way came through, the one right after Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters held forth on Russian Hill at the time when he, Adam Evans he, had made his first trip westward and maybe he had crossed paths with her, angel sister her although he still had pain memories of sweet mama love Butterfly Swirl, in that strobe- lighted night), and available, and not hung up and not worried about forever, and damn, not worried about finding herself, whatever that meant unlike the girls they had headed west with.

Yah, before the ebb she had a hell of a time, sleeping for free here and there on beloved Haight Street (ten million miles away from nasty old wino Larkin Street smashed down once the beat daddy hipsters blew town), smoking dope (and truth, selling a little on the side, good stuff too, Acapulco gold, mex weed, not that oregano-laced stuff the punks were passing off as weed once the hippie-clad tourists hit town about late 1968), standing on the stage when Jerry and the Dead gave their free, yah, free concerts in Golden Gate Park (funny she had never been there before even though it was maybe only twenty blocks from the wharves), and she even donned a buckskin jacket ,real, torn jeans, torn as style, wearing off-meshed color tie-dye tee shirts, and tied her hair in braids, wasn’t that a time. Yah, wasn’t that a time when for just a minute, just a hip, hipper minute the world could have turned on its axis a different way and she would not had to have been standing, chain-smoking some old unfiltered cigarettes, speaking to no one in particular about ancient times when lions roared and flowers were strewn on the free-booting streets of old‘Frisco town.

He went back to Cannery Row that next day, went back a couple of times, dollars at the ready, but no luck, no luck like you would kind of expect from rolling stones moving from place to place, maybe a Sally’s here (Salvation Army), a sailor’s flop house there, maybe in some rooming house over back of the wharves near Third Street, but here’s to you Tugboat Annie, the angel who was around when the lions and flowers ruled the old ‘Frisco night. Ah ‘Frisco.

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