Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ramblin' Boy- Tom Paxton And Friends

CD REVIEW

Best Of Friends, Tom Paxton, Anne Hill, Bob Gibson, Appleseed Records, 2004

The following paragraphs are from a review of Tom Paxton’s Greatest Hits CD that I reviewed in this space last year and that is germane to a review of this album- at least to Tom Paxton’s role in it.


“If I were to ask someone, in the year 2008, to name a male folk singer from the 1960’s I would assume that if I were to get an answer to that question that the name would be Bob Dylan. And that would be a good and appropriate choice. One can endlessly dispute whether or not Dylan was (or wanted to be) the voice of the Generation of ’68 but in terms of longevity and productivity he fits the bill as a known quality. However, there were a slew of other male folk singers who tried to find their niche in the folk milieu and who, like Dylan, today continue to produce work and to perform. The artist under review Tom Paxton is one such singer/songwriter.

The following is a question that I have been posing in reviewing the work of a number of male folk singers from the 1960’s and it is certainly an appropriate question to ask of Tom Paxton as well. I do not know if Tom Paxton, like his contemporary Bob Dylan, started out wanting to be the king of the hill among male folk singers but he certainly had some things going for him. A decent acoustic guitar but a very interesting (and strong) voice to fit the lyrics of love, hope, longing and sometimes just sheer whimsy, as in the children’s songs, that he was singing about at the time. I would venture however, given what I know of his politics and the probably influence that his good friend the late folksinger and historian Dave Van Ronk had on him, that the answer above is probably no.”

Well, those points made above apply to him here as well. Except that instead of just posing the question to Tom Paxton it is also a question that one can ask of the late Bob Gibson who, arguably, was as influential as anyone in the early 1960’s folk revival. I will, when I can find some of his material, do a separate review on his work. Added here as well is the very fine voice of Anne Hall whom I was very unfamiliar with prior to listening to this CD. I will also make up for that lack at a later time. For now though, this is a very fine CD based on collective work that this trio did for a short time on the Chicago folk circuit in the mid-1980s. Most of the material was written by Paxton, including works containing his funny political slant, but the real treat is the almost seamless harmony done on the songs.

Outstanding here are “The Death Of Stephen Biko (a black activist murdered while in custody in South Africa in the 1970’s); “And Loving You”; “She Sits On The Table” (a gripping and compelling tale of domestic abuse and the sometimes no way out dead end that women find themselves in with abusive men); and, Tom’s classic “Ramblin’ Boy”. Nice stuff, and you will be seeing more about all of these artists in this space this year.

A View From The Left(And Not Just The Left On This One)- Prison Health Care Nightmare-Mumia’s Life Still in Danger

Workers Vanguard No. 1081
15 January 2016
 
Prison Health Care Nightmare-Mumia’s Life Still in Danger
 

Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s foremost class-war prisoner, is once again fighting for his life against Pennsylvania prison authorities. Mumia is demanding treatment for hepatitis C and a ravaging hepatitis C-associated skin condition that has plagued him for over a year. He is demanding damages for the deliberate indifference to his high blood sugar that caused him to be admitted to intensive care last March on the verge of a diabetic coma, and he is protesting that his family and lawyers were later prevented from visiting him in the hospital. In September, a magistrate judge recommended dismissing his case, stating that Mumia would not be “irreparably harmed” by the withholding of hepatitis C treatment!

In fact, Mumia nearly died last year and his life remains in danger.
This past December, federal district judge Robert Mariani decided to hear Mumia’s case over the objections of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). The hearing shined a spotlight on the state’s callous disregard and negligence for the prisoners in their “care.” Mumia himself captured what is at stake when he told the court that with hepatitis C medication “I can live; without it I may die.”
 
The punitive treatment of Mumia Abu-Jamal is part of a decades-long vendetta by the capitalist state against this former Black Panther who became known as “the voice of the voiceless” for his searing journalism in the 1970s. He exposed the racist Philadelphia police campaign against the MOVE organization, the largely black back-to-nature group he came to support. Mumia was framed up for the 1981 killing of Philly police officer Daniel Faulkner. Police and prosecutors manufactured evidence to convict him, including by terrorizing witnesses and concocting a fake confession two months after his arrest. Following a 1982 trial, Mumia was sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. In 1995, a warrant was signed for his execution, but protests around the world helped make his name known internationally and the execution was stayed.
The courts have time and again refused to consider evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot Faulkner. Mumia was on death row for nearly 30 years until his death sentence was set aside, and in 2011 the Philadelphia district attorney’s office dropped its longstanding effort to legally lynch him. He is now serving life without parole, and the state is intent on seeing him die in prison. At his December hearing, the DOC counsel sneeringly asked Mumia why he did not get a hepatitis C test earlier than 2012. Mumia replied: “I never agreed to blood tests while I was on death row, because I didn’t trust the doctors.” We have long championed freedom for Mumia, a demand that is even more urgent now given his dire prognosis. Free Mumia Now!
 
The same is true for other class-war prisoners locked up in America’s dungeons. Leonard Peltier has been incarcerated for nearly 40 years for his activism in the American Indian Movement. He has long had severe health problems, including diabetes and a heart condition, which have been exacerbated by prison conditions. After suffering months of excruciating abdominal pain, Peltier now needs emergency surgery for a potentially fatal abdominal aortic aneurysm. Peltier and Mumia are two of the 14 class-war prisoners who are supported by the Partisan Defense Committee’s stipend program and annual Holiday Appeal.
 
Medical neglect of those incarcerated in America is pervasive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three prisoners is infected with hepatitis C, which can lead to deadly liver disease. New antiviral pills cure over 90 percent of patients in as little as 12 weeks with few side effects. Price-gouging pharmaceutical companies charge nearly $100,000 per treatment, which the prison authorities and politicians are determined not to cough up. Prisoners in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Massachusetts have filed class-action suits demanding hepatitis C treatment. During Mumia’s hearing, the head of Pennsylvania DOC medical services admitted that only five men are being treated for hepatitis C—out of an estimated 10,000 infected men in the state prison population!
 
Prisons are the concentrated expression of the depravity of capitalist society. Those the ruling class sees as the useless residue of a system rooted in exploitation and racial oppression are locked up, brutalized and tortured. Thanks to the decades-long crusade for mass incarceration, promoted by both the Democrats and Republicans under the guise of the racist “war on crime” and “war on drugs,” the U.S. now has more than two million people behind bars, the highest proportion in the world, the majority of them black and Latino. Not only have greater numbers of people been locked up, but their sentences are longer and their treatment more barbaric—all in the name of “punishment.”
 
Along with the cops, courts and military, the prisons are a core component of the capitalist state, which exists to defend the rule of the bourgeoisie against the working class and oppressed and to suppress labor struggle. It is in the vital interest of the multiracial working class to fight against the brutal conditions of prison life. Many workers, especially black workers, are directly affected by mass incarceration, either themselves having served time or having family and friends who are entangled in the capitalist injustice system.
 
The purpose of the Spartacist League is to build the multiracial revolutionary workers party that can unite the power of the working class with the anger of the ghettos in the fight for workers power. It will take proletarian socialist revolution to destroy the capitalist prison system and to sweep away all the barbaric institutions of the bourgeois state.
 
Cruel, but not Unusual
 
In racist capitalist America, the apparatus of punishment is based on religious precepts of retribution and penitence. All the basics for good health—decent food, clothing and shelter—are rationed so as to cause physical and mental distress, destroy dignity and reduce the prisoner to a subhuman condition. Tens of thousands, including teenagers, are locked in solitary confinement that makes and keeps people insane, while others suffer overcrowding, which aids the spread of infections. Brutal beatings by sadistic guards happen every day.
 
A 2013 public health study calculated that the conditions in U.S. state prisons are so deadly that life expectancy drops two years for every year incarcerated and begins to recover as soon as inmates are released. Even a court-appointed medical monitor of the California prisons said in 2006: “Needless deaths occur weekly in our prisons, either from lack of access to care, or worse, from access to it.”
 
The Department of Justice’s own figures show that strokes, diabetes and issues relating to heart and kidney problems are all significantly more prevalent in prison than in the general population. High blood pressure is the most common chronic condition in prison. Infectious diseases are rife, from hepatitis C to outbreaks of flu and tuberculosis. The HIV rate in prisons is more than three times that of the general population.
 
While the prison population is slightly shrinking, the number of women in prison is increasing. Incarcerated women face particular medical cruelties. Prisons ration pads, tampons and pain medication, making daily life, even for healthy women, an exercise in degradation. About one in 30 women who enter prison are pregnant. They are often forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term as part of their punishment. The Hyde Amendment, enacted in 1977 under Democrat Jimmy Carter, requires that federal prisoners cover the total cost of abortion. Even if they have the money, women are subject to extra delays and stigmatizing rules that make getting an abortion nearly impossible. Furthermore, prenatal care is commonly denied, and many women are shackled during labor. Those wanting to have a child suffer the cruelty of separation, as their babies are ripped from them soon after birth.
 
The denial of adequate health care for prisoners is not a question of money; it reflects the ideology of punishment that goes hand in hand with the puritanical crusade that criminalizes addiction to drugs and alcohol. An article on the Al Jazeera America website (26 October 2015) reports that cities and counties across the country have shelled out tens of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits over jail inmate deaths from drug or alcohol withdrawal, even though the treatments cost pennies. Those prisoners who manage to receive treatment have to overcome enormous obstacles to keep getting their medication; those who complain of side effects risk being labeled uncooperative and removed from treatment altogether.
 
The unspeakable horrors of America’s prisons were highlighted by the September 1971 Attica prison uprising in upstate New York. The courageous prisoners declared: “WE are MEN! We are not beasts,” and raised demands including for a healthy diet and decent medical care. New York governor Nelson Rockefeller responded by ordering a massacre that crushed the uprising and killed 39. After the slaughter, hundreds of naked, overwhelmingly black prisoners were lined up in the yard like slaves at auction. Here was a searing image of the reality of black oppression in the U.S. where it endures as a fundamental prop of capitalist class rule.
 
The uprising brought attention to the conditions of prisoners, not least their health care. In the following years, many states were found to be providing health care so poor that it was deemed unconstitutional in federal courts. But rather than providing medical care, prison authorities contracted out prison health care to private companies—a trend that accelerated with the explosive growth of the prison population in the 1980s and ’90s. States have privatized some services or whole prisons, allowing ghoulish entrepreneurs to rob prisoners and their families blind for phone calls, visits and medical fees.
 
As a result of the tough sentencing laws of the 1990s and harsh parole revocation policies, the prison population is aging, with one in six prisoners now over 50 years old. These prisoners make up a large portion of those with chronic health conditions. The private “health care” companies have responded by further curtailing necessary tests and medications. Corizon, the largest prison health care company, recently lost several contracts with state prisons and with Rikers Island jail in New York City. At Rikers, medical failures by the company have been linked to up to a dozen deaths, including that of Bradley Ballard, who died in 2013 after being deprived of insulin and left in a cell with no food or running water for six days. Nationwide, more than 1,300 legal suits have been filed against Corizon in the last five years. Showing their utter contempt for the well-being of prisoners, the Pennsylvania DOC brought in Corizon’s medical director at Rikers as an “expert witness” at Mumia’s recent hearing!
 
The Pennsylvania class-action suit for hepatitis C treatment points out that denying prisoners medicine because of financial considerations is unconstitutional. In November 1976, the Supreme Court ruled in Estelle v. Gamble that prisoners have a constitutional right to health care under the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. (A few months before, this same Court reinstated the death penalty, ruling that execution was not cruel and unusual punishment!) Whatever recourse the Estelle ruling gave prisoners to fight medical negligence and malpractice was dealt a hefty blow with the 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).
The Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, further curtailed the rights of prisoners to fight against all kinds of abuse, requiring them to exhaust local grievance procedures before filing suit in court. The burden of proving compliance with the whims and technicalities of prison bureaucracy can be truly Sisyphean—the goalposts keep being moved further away. As a lawyer for the Southern Center for Human Rights explained: “We lost numerous prisoners who died because of the PLRA. These issues should have been in front of the court long ago, but we were forced to wait and watch our clients die” (quoted in Benjamin Fleury-Steiner, Dying Inside [2011]).
 
Even prisoners with terminal illnesses are not spared the indignities of America’s prison system. Compassionate release for those facing death, allowing them to spend their last days with their loved ones, is routinely denied. The federal prison system, in which over 200,000 people are locked up, grants on average less than two dozen compassionate releases each year. Among those few who have been released is former class-war prisoner and leftist lawyer Lynne Stewart, who was framed up in a “war on terror” show trial. Suffering from stage IV breast cancer, Stewart was finally released in December 2013, after a months-long fight for compassionate release, a demand supported by more than 40,000 petitioners worldwide, including the PDC. The fact that Stewart was released has allowed her to get proper medical care, which has arrested the spread of the cancer for now.
 
Marxism vs. Crime and Punishment
 
The vast, historically ingrained system of racist state repression cannot be fundamentally changed through tinkering here and there. It has to be overturned through a workers revolution that erects in its place a workers state to defend the revolution against capitalist restoration. When the workers internationally take political power and put the wealth now appropriated by the tiny class of exploiters to the service of humanity, they will lay the material basis for achieving an egalitarian communist society, ultimately doing away with any need for a state apparatus of repression.
 
As Marxists, our attitude toward crime and punishment is that we are against it. Much of the theft, fraud and violence in society is a result of the material scarcity inherent in capitalism and is bolstered by reactionary ideologies like racism and bigotry. We do not proceed from the standpoint of punishing the offender. A humane and rational society may well find a need to separate certain dangerous individuals—for the protection of others, as well as of the offenders themselves. This separation would be done without the brutality and deprivation that define the American prison system, but rather with education, medical care, rehabilitation and the goal of reintegration as productive members of society.
Such was the approach of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky that led the October 1917 Russian socialist revolution. Their determination that the legal apparatus of a workers state would not be based on retribution found its fullest expression in the 1919 party program, which advocated “a fundamental alteration in the character of punishment, introducing conditional sentences on an extensive scale, applying public censure as a means of punishment, replacing imprisonment by compulsory labour with retention of freedom, and prisons by institutions for training” (quoted in E.H. Carr, Socialism in One Country, Vol. 2 [1959]).
There can be no fair or “humane” system of justice for the working class and oppressed in a society based on exploitation. Our perspective is that of Lenin and Trotsky—for socialist revolutions to overturn capitalism worldwide and the repressive state machinery that defends it. With its central position in production, the working class has both the social power and the material interest to shatter the capitalist order. To bring that consciousness to the proletariat requires forging a revolutionary workers party of the Bolshevik type.

Black Lives Matter-Drop Charges Against Black Labor Activist Mike Elliott!

Workers Vanguard No. 1081
15 January 2016
 
Drop Charges Against Black Labor Activist Mike Elliott!
 
We print below a January 7 letter of protest to the Cook County prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, from the Partisan Defense Committee, a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League.
 
The Partisan Defense Committee condemns the arrest of Michael Siviwe Elliott, a retired member of United Auto Workers Local 551 and former Chairman of its Education Committee, well known for his activism in the union and against racism and police brutality. He is also the Labor Committee Chair of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
On December 29th, while riding on a Metra commuter rail line, Michael Elliott was arrested and then falsely charged with battery on a Metra police officer and reckless conduct in retaliation for using his cellphone to record the cop’s manhandling of a woman passenger. The Metra police also outrageously seized Elliott’s phone and turned it over to the Chicago cops infamous for both the destruction of evidence and spying on blacks, labor and leftists. This blatant act of retaliation comes after the brutal killing of black youth Laquan McDonald by the Chicago Police and the subsequent cover-up, particularly the suppression of a video recording of the police killing.
We demand that the charges be dropped against Michael Siviwe Elliott and that his cellphone be immediately returned.

Words Of Wisdom From The Guys And Gals Who Know- Veterans For Peace


Words Of Wisdom From The Guys And Gals Who Know- Veterans For Peace


 

*****Victory To The Fast-Food Workers The Vanguard Of The Fight For $15......

*****Victory To The Fast-Food Workers The Vanguard Of The Fight For $15......Fight For $15 Is Just A Beginning-All Labor Must Support Our Sisters And Brothers

 
 
 
 
From The Pen Of Sam Lowell

Frank Jackman had always ever since he was a kid down in Carver, a working class town formerly a shoe factory mecca about thirty miles south of Boston and later dotted with assorted small shops related to the shipbuilding trade, a very strong supporters of anything involving organized labor and organizing labor, anything that might push working people ahead. While it had taken it a long time, and some serious military service during the Vietnam War, his generation’s war, to get on the right side of the angels on the war issue and even more painfully and slowly on the woman’s liberation and gay rights issues, and he was still having a tough time with the transgender thing although the plight of heroic Wikileaks whistle-blower Army soldier Chelsea Manning had made it easier to express solidarity, he had always been a stand-up guy for unions and for working people. Maybe it was because his late father, Lawrence Jackman, had been born and raised in coal country down in Harlan County, Kentucky where knowing which side you were on, knowing that picket lines mean don’t cross, knowing that every scrap given by the bosses had been paid for in blood and so it was in his blood. Maybe though it was closer to the nub, closer to home, that the closing of the heavily unionized shoe factories which either headed down south or off-shore left slim leaving for those who did not follow them south, slim pickings for an uneducated man like his father trying to raise four daughters and son on hopes and dreams and not much else. Those hopes and dreams leaving his mother to work in the “mother’s don’t work” 1950s at a local donut shop filling donuts for chrissakes to help make ends meet so his was always aware of how close the different between work and no work was, and decent pay for decent work too. How ever he got “religion” on the question as a kid, and he suspected the answer was in the DNA, Frank was always at the ready when the latest labor struggles erupted, the latest recently being the sporadic uprisings amount fast-food workers and lowly-paid Walmart workers to earn a living wage.        

One day in the late summer of 2014 he had picked up a leaflet from a young guy, a young guy who later identified himself as a field organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a union filled to the brim with low-end workers like janitors, nurses assistants, salespeople, and the like, passing them out at an anti-war rally (against the American escalations in Syria and Iraq) in downtown Boston. The leaflet after giving some useful information about how poorly fast-food worker were paid and how paltry the benefits, especially the lack of health insurance announced an upcoming “Fight for $15” action in Downtown Boston on September 4, 2014 at noon as part of a national struggle for economic justice and dignity for the our hard working sisters and brothers. He told the young organizer after expressing solidarity with the upcoming efforts that he would try to bring others to the event although being held during a workday would be hard for some to make the time.

In the event Frank brought about a dozen others with him. They and maybe fifty to one hundred others during the course of the event stood in solidarity for a couple of hours while a cohort of fast-food workers told their stories. And while another cohort of fast-food workers were sitting on the ground in protest prepared to commit civil disobedience by blocking the street to make their point. Several of them would eventually be arrested and taken away by the police later to be fined and released.

Frank, when he reflected on the day’s events later, was pretty elated as he told his old friend Josh Breslin whom he had called up in Maine to tell him what had happened that day. Josh had also grown up in a factory town, a textile town, Olde Saco, and had been to many such support events himself and before he retired had as a free-lance writer written up lots of labor stories. The key ingredient that impressed Josh in Frank’s description had been how many young serious black and Latino workers had participated in the actions. Later than night when Frank reflected further on the situation he broke out in a smile as he was writing up his summary of his take on the events. There would be people pass off the torch to when guys like him and Josh were no longer around. He had been afraid that would not happen after the long drought doldrums in the class struggle of the previous few decades. Here is what else he had to say:            

No question in this wicked old world that those at the bottom are “the forgotten ones,” “los olvidados,” those who a writer who had worked among them had long ago correctly described as the world fellahin, the ones who never get ahead. This day we are talking about working people, people working and working hard for eight, nine, ten dollars an hour. Maybe working two jobs to make ends meet since a lot of times these McJobs, these Wal-Mart jobs do not come with forty hours of work attached but whatever some cost-cutting manager deems right to keep them on a string and keep them from qualifying for certain benefits that do not kick in with “part-time” work. And lately taking advantage of cover from Obamacare keeping the hours below the threshold necessary to kick in health insurance and other benefits. Yes, the forgotten people.

But let’s do the math here figuring on forty hours and figuring on say ten dollars an hour. That‘s four hundred a week times fifty weeks (okay so I am rounding off for estimate purposes here too since most of these jobs do not have vacation time figured in).That’s twenty thousand a year. Okay so just figure any kind of decent apartment in the Boston area where I am writing this-say one thousand a month. That’s twelve thousand a year. So the other eight thousand is for everything else. No way can that be done. And if you had listened to the young and not so young fast-food workers, the working mothers, the working older brothers taking care of younger siblings, workers trying to go to school to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty you would understand the truth of that statement. And the stories went on and on along that line all during the action. 

Confession: it has been a very long time since I have had to scrimp and scrim to make ends meet, to get the rent in, to keep those damn bill-collectors away from my door, to beg the utility companies to not shut off those necessary services. But I have been there, no question. Growing up working class town poor, the only difference on the economic question was that it was all poor whites unlike today’s crowd. Also for many years living from hand to mouth before things got steady. I did not like it then and I do not like the idea of it now.  I am here to say even the “Fight for $15” is not enough, but it is a start. And I whole-heartedly support the struggle of my sisters and brothers for a little economic justice in this wicked old world. And any reader who might read this-would you work for these slave wages? I think not. So show your solidarity and get out and support the fast-food and Wal-Mart workers in their just struggles. 

Organize Wal-Mart! Organize the fast food workers! Union! Union!  
       http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/09/04/boston-fast-food-workers-rally-for-wages-unions/bc1ZqZIgwsVcOw0QHIV74M/story.html         

*****John Brown’s Body Lies A Moldering In The Grave-With The Massachusetts 54th Black Volunteer Regiment In Mind.

*****John Brown’s Body Lies A Moldering In The Grave-With The Massachusetts 54th Black Volunteer Regiment In Mind.



 



Every time I pass the frieze honoring the heroic Massachusetts 54th Black Volunteer Regiment across from the State House on Beacon Street in Boston, a unit that fought in the American Civil War, a war which we have just finished commemorating the 150th anniversary of its formal ending (April 1865) I am struck by one figure who I will discuss in a minute. For those who do not know the 54th Regiment the unit had been recruited and made up of all volunteers, former slaves, freedmen, maybe a current fugitive slave snuck in there, those were such times for such unheralded personal valor, the recruitment a task that the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, himself an ex-slave had been central in promoting (including two of his sons). All knew, or soon became aware that if they did not fight to the finish they would not be treated as prisoners of war but captured chattel subject to re-enslavement or death.  The regiment fought with ferocious valor before Fort Wagner down in South Carolina and other hot spots where an armed black man, in uniform or out, brought red flashes of deep venom, if venom is red, but hellfire hatred in any case to the Southern plantation owners and their hangers-on (that armed black men acting in self-defense of themselves and theirs still bringing hellfire hatred among some whites to this day, no question).

I almost automatically focus in on that old hard-bitten grizzled erect bearded soldier who is just beneath the head of the horse being ridden by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the white commander of the regiment who from a family of ardent abolitionists fell with his men before Fort Wagner and was buried with them, an honor. (See above) I do not know the details of the model Saint-Gauden’s used when he worked that section (I am sure that specific information can be found although it is not necessary to this sketch) but as I grow older I appreciate that old man soldier even more, as old men are supposed to leave the arduous duty of fighting for just causes, arms in hand, to the young.

I like to think that that old grizzled brother who aside from color looks like me when he heard the call from Massachusetts wherever he was, maybe had read about the plea in some abolitionist newspaper, had maybe even gotten the message from Frederick Douglass himself through his newspaper, The North Star, calling Sable Brother to Arms or on out the stump once Lincoln unleashed him to recruit his black brothers for whatever reason although depleting Union ranks reduced by bloody fight after bloody fight as is the nature of civil war when the societal norms are broken  as was at least one cause, he picked up stakes leaving some small farm or trade and family behind and volunteered forthwith. Maybe he had been born, like Douglass, in slavery and somehow, manumission, flight, something, following the Northern Star, got to the North. Maybe learned a skill, a useful skill, got a little education to be able to read and write and advance himself and had in his own way prospered.

But something was gnawing at him, something about the times, something about tow-headed white farm boys, all awkward and ignorant from the heartland of the Midwest, sullen Irish and other ethnic immigrants from the cities where it turned out the streets were not paved with gold and so took the bounty for Army duty, took some draft-dodger’s place for pay, hell, even high-blown Harvard boys were being armed to defend the Union (and the endless names of the fallen and endless battles sites on Memorial Hall at Harvard a graphic testament to that solemn sense of duty then). And more frequently as the days and months passed about the increasing number of white folk who hated, hated with a red-hot passion, slavery and if that passion meant anything what was he a strong black man going to do about it, do about breaking the hundreds of years chains. Maybe he still had kindred under the yolk down South in some sweated plantation, poorly fed, ill-treated, left to fester and die when not productive anymore, the women, young and old subject to Mister’s lustful appetites and he had to do something.
Then the call came, Governor Andrews of Massachusetts was raising a “sable” armed regiment (Douglass’ word) to be headed by a volunteer Harvard boy urged on by his high abolitionist parents, Colonel Shaw, the question of black military leadership of their own to be left to another day, another day long in the future as it turned out but what was he to know of that, and he shut down his small shop or farm, said good-bye to kin and neighbors and went to Boston to join freedom’s fight. I wonder if my old bearded soldier fell before Fort Wagner fight down in heated rebel country, or maybe fell in some other engagement less famous but just as important to the concept of disciplined armed black men fighting freedom’s fight. I like to think though that the grizzled old man used every bit of wit and skill he had and survived to march into Charleston, South Carolina, the fire-breathing heart of the Confederacy, then subdued at the end of war with his fellows in the 54th stepping off to the tune of John Brown’s Body Lies A-Moldering In The Grave. A fitting tribute to Captain Brown and his band of brother, black and white, at Harper’s Ferry fight and to an old grizzled bearded soldier’s honor.             

*****Once Again On The 1960s Folk Minute-The Cambridge Club 47 Scene

*****Once Again On The 1960s Folk Minute-The Cambridge Club 47 Scene

 
 

From The Pen Of Zack James

Joshua Breslin, Carver down in the wilds of Southeastern Massachusetts cranberry bog country born, had certainly not been the only one who had recently taken a nose-dive turn back in time to that unique moment beginning in the very late 1950s, say 1958, 1959 when be-bop jazz (you know Dizzy, the late Bird, the mad man Monk the guys who bopped swing-a-ling for “cool” high white note searches on the instruments) “beatnik” complete with beret and bop-a-long banter and everybody from suburb land was clad in black, guys in black chinos and flannel shirts, gals in black dresses, black stockings, black shoes, who knows maybe black underwear which in Victoria's Secret time is not hard to image but then something the corner boys in front of Jimmy Jack’s Diner salaciously contemplated about the female side of that "beat" scene (what King Kerouac termed beatitude, the search for holiness or wholeness), was giving way to earnest “folkie” time. And no alluring black-dressed gals but unisex flannel shirts, or sometimes once somebody had been to Mexico peasant blouses, unisex blue jeans and unisex sandals leaving nothing in particular to the fervent corner boy imagination) in the clubs that mattered around the Village (the Gaslight, Geddes Folk City, half the joints on Bleecker Street), Harvard Square (Club Blue, the place for serious cheap dates since for the price of coffees and pastries for two you could linger on, CafĂ© Blanc, the place for serious dates since they had a five dollar minimum, Club 47, the latter a place where serious folkies and serious folk musicians hung out) and North Beach (Club Ernie’s, The Hungry Eye, all a step behind the folk surge since you would still find a jazz-poetry mix longer than in the Eastern towns). That scene would go on in earnest to the mid-1960s when folk music had its minute as a popular genre and faded a bit. Even guys like Sam Eaton, Sam Lowell, Jack Callahan and Bart Webber, who only abided the music back in the day, now too, because the other guys droned on and on about it under the influence of Pete Markin a guy Josh had met  in the summer of love, 1967 were diving in too. Diving into the music which beside first love rock and roll got them through the teenage night.

The best way to describe that turn from be-bop beat to earnest folkie, is by way of a short comment by the late folk historian Dave Von Ronk which summed up the turn nicely. Earlier in that period, especially the period after Allen Ginsburg’s Howl out in the Frisco poetry slam blew the roof off modernist poetry with his talk of melted modern minds, hipsters, negro streets, the fight against Moloch, the allure of homosexuality, and Jack Kerouac’s On The Road in a fruitless search for the father he and Neal Cassady never knew had the Army-Navy surplus stores cleaning out their rucksack inventories, when “beat poets” held sway and folkies were hired to clear the room between readings Dave would have been thrown in the streets to beg for his supper if his graven voice and quirky folk songs did not empty the place, and he did (any serious look at some of his earliest compositions will tell in a moment why, and why the cross-over from beat to folkie by the former crowd never really happened). But then the sea-change happened, tastes changed and the search for roots was on, and Von Ronk would be doing three full sets a night and checking every folk anthology he could lay his hands on (including naturally Harry Smith’s legendary efforts and the Lomaxes and Seegers too) and misty musty record store recordings to get enough material.

People may dispute the end-point of that folk minute like they do about the question of when the "turn the world upside down" counter-cultural 1960s ended as a “youth nation” phenomenon but clearly with the advent of acid-etched rock (acid as in LSD, blotter, electric kool aid acid test not some battery stuff ) by 1967-68 the searching for and reviving of the folk roots that had driven many aficionados to the obscure archives like Harry Smith’s anthology, the recording of the Lomaxes, Seegers and that crowd had passed.

As an anecdote, one that Josh would use whenever the subject of his own sea-change back to rock and roll came up, in support of that acid-etched dateline that is the period when Josh stopped taking his “dates” to the formerly ubiquitous home away from home coffeehouses which had sustained him through many a dark home life night in high school and later when he escaped home during college, cheap poor boy college student dates to the Harvard Square coffeehouses where for the price of a couple of cups of coffee, expresso then a favorite since you could sip it slowly and make it last for the duration and rather exotic since it was percolated in a strange copper-plated coffee-maker, a shared pastry of unknown quality, and maybe a couple of dollars admission charge or for the “basket” that was the life-support of the performers you could hear up and coming talent working out their kinks, and took those "dates" instead to the open-air fashion statement rock concerts that were abounding around the town.

The shift also entailed a certain change in fashion from those earnest flannel shirts, denims, lacy blouses and sandals to day-glo tie-dye shirts, bell-bottomed denims, granny dresses, and mountain boots or Chuck Taylor sneakers. Oh yeah, and the decibel level of the music got higher, much higher and the lyrics talked not of ancient mountain sorrows, thwarted triangle love, or down-hearted blues over something that was on your mind but to alice-in-wonderland and white rabbit dreams, carnal nightmares, yellow submarines, satanic majesties, and wooden ships on the water.             

Some fifty years out others in Josh-like fits of nostalgia and maybe to sum up a life’s work there have been two recent documentaries concerning the most famous Harvard Square coffeehouse of them all, the Club 47 (which still exists under the name of the non-profit Club Passim which traces its genealogy to that legendary Mount Auburn Street spot in a similar small venue near the Harvard Co-Op Bookstore off of Church Street).

One of the documentaries put out a few years ago (see above) traces the general evolution of that club in its prime when the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Rush, Eric Von Schmidt, the members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band (the forming of jug bands, a popular musical form including a seemingly infinite number of bands with the name Sheik in them, going back to the early 20th century itself a part of the roots revival guys like Josh were in thrall to), and many others sharpened up their acts there. The other documentary, No Regrets (title taken from one of his most famous songs) which Josh reviewed for one of the blogs, The American Folk Minute, to which he has contributed to over the years is a biopic centered on the fifty plus years in folk music of Tom Rush. Both those visual references got Josh thinking about how that folk scene, or better, the Harvard Square coffeehouse scene kept Josh from going off the rails, although that was a close thing.        

Like about a billion kids before and after Josh in his coming of age in the early 1960s went through the usual bouts of teenage angst and alienation aided and abetted by growing up “from hunger” among the very lowest rung of the working poor with all the pathologies associated with survival down at the base of society where the bonds of human solidarity are often times very attenuated. All of this “wisdom” complete with appropriate “learned” jargon, of course figured out, told about, made many mistakes to gain, came later, much later because at the time Josh was just feeling rotten about his life and how the hell he got placed in a world which he had not created (re-enforced when questioned by one Delores Breslin with Prescott Breslin as a behind-the scenes back-up about his various doings) and no likely possibilities of having a say what with the world stacked against him, his place in the sun (and not that “safe” white collar civil service job that Delores saw as the epitome of upward mobility for her brood), and how he didn’t have a say in what was going on. Then through one source or another mainly by the accident of tuning in his life-saver transistor radio, which for once he successfully badgered to get from Delores and Prescott one Christmas by threatening murder and mayhem if he didn’t when all his corner boys at Jimmy Jack’s Diner had them, on one Sunday night to listen to a favorite rock and roll DJ that he could receive on that night from Chicago he found a folk music program that sounded interesting (it turned out to be the Dick Summer show on WBZ, a DJ who is featured in the Tom Rush documentary) and he was hooked by the different songs played, some mountain music, some jug, some country blues, some protest songs.

Each week Dick Summer would announce who was playing where for the week and he kept mentioning various locations, including the Club 47, in Harvard Square. Josh was intrigued, wanted to go if only he could find a kindred for a date and if he could scratch up some dough. Neither easy tasks for a guy in high teen alienation mode.           

One Saturday afternoon Josh made connections to get to a Red Line subway stop which was the quickest way for him to get to Harvard Square (and was also the last stop on that line then) and walked around the Square looking into the various clubs and coffeehouses that had been mentioned by Summer and a few more as well. You could hardly walk a block without running into one or the other. Of course during the day all people were doing was sitting around drinking coffee and reading, maybe playing chess, or as he found out later huddled in small group corners working on their music (or poetry which also still had some sway as a tail end of the “beat” scene) so he didn’t that day get the full sense of what was going on. A few weeks later, having been “hipped” to the way things worked, meaning that as long as you had coffee or something in front of you in most places you were cool Josh always chronically low on funds took a date, a cheap date naturally, to the Club Blue where you did not pay admission but where Eric Von Schmidt was to play. Josh had heard his Joshua Gone Barbados covered by Tom Rush on Dick Summer’s show and he had flipped out so he was eager to hear him. So for the price of, Josh thought, two coffees each, a stretched-out shared brownie and two subway fares they had a good time, an excellent time (although that particular young woman and Josh would not go on much beyond that first date since she was looking for a guy who had more dough to spend on her, and maybe a “boss” car too).

Josh would go over to Harvard Square many weekend nights in those days, including sneaking out of the house a few time late at night and heading over since in those days the Red Line subway ran all night. That was his home away from home not only for cheap date nights depending on the girl he was interested in but when the storms gathered at the house about his doing, or not doing, this or that, stuff like that when his mother pulled the hammer down. If Josh had a few dollars make by caddying for the Mayfair swells at the Carver Country Club, a private club a few miles from his house he would pony up the admission, or two admissions if he was lucky, to hear Joan Baez or her sister Mimi with her husband Richard Farina, maybe Eric Von Schmidt, Tom Paxton when he was in town at the 47. If he was broke he would do his alternative, take the subway but rather than go to a club he would hang out all night at the famous Harvard Square Hayes-Bickford just up the steps from the subway stop exit. That was a wild scene made up of winos, grifters, con men, guys and gals working off barroom drunks, crazies, and… almost every time out there would be folk-singers or poets, some known to him, others from cheap street who soon faded into the dust, in little clusters, coffee mugs filled, singing or speaking low, keeping the folk tradition alive, keeping the faith that a new wind was coming across the land and they, Josh, wanted to catch it. Wasn’t that a time.          


 

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By- The Doors- "The Unknown Soldier"



In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

The Unknown Soldier Lyrics
The Doors


Wait until the war is over
And we're both a little older
The unknown soldier

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living, dead
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And it's all over
For the unknown soldier
It's all over
For the unknown soldier

Hut
Hut
Hut ho hee up
Hut
Hut
Hut ho hee up
Hut
Hut
Hut ho hee up
Comp'nee
Halt
Preeee-zent!
Arms!

Make a grave for the unknown soldier
Nestled in your hollow shoulder
The unknown soldier

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And, it's all over
The war is over
It's all over
The war is over
Well, all over, baby
All over, baby
Oh, over, yeah
All over, baby
Wooooo, hah-hah
All over
All over, baby
Oh, woa-yeah
All over
All over
Heeeeyyyy

Friday, January 22, 2016

Veterans For Peace Statement-Free Bowe Bergdahl!

December 22, 2015
30
Veterans For Peace is dismayed by the Army’s decision to charge Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and endangering troops, for which, if convicted, he could potentially face life in prison.  We believe that Sgt. Bergdahl should be freed from the Army with an Honorable Discharge.

Bowe Bergdahl is a prisoner of war, three times over.  First the U.S. government sent him on Mission Impossible, to salvage its illegal, immoral and unwinnable war in Afghanistan.  Then he was captured by the Taliban, who held him prisoner under brutal conditions for five years.  Now Sgt. Bergdahl is prisoner to an orgy of militaristic politics in the most fear-mongering election year in memory.  Republican front runner Donald Trump has publicly called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” and suggested he should be executed.

Did Sgt. Bergdahl walk away from his post in Afghanistan?  Yes, by his own account he did so, in order to bring attention to poor leadership which he believed was endangering his fellow soldiers.  Resistance to Mission Impossible takes many forms.  Bowe Bergdahl may not have been explicitly protesting against the war in Afghanistan, but by taking drastic action he sent a distress signal.

Bergdahl is charged with Desertion to Avoid Hazardous Duty, and Misbehavior Before the Enemy, which respectively, carry maximum sentences of five years and life in prison. Charging him with serious crimes in a General Court Martial appears to be a political decision.  It overrides the recommendation of the Army’s own investigating officer, who said that Bergdahl’s actions did not warrant either jail time or a punitive discharge.  The investigating officer recommended, at most, a Special Court Martial which can mete out a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Bowe Bergdahl is clearly not guilty of desertion.  It cannot be proven that he was attempting to avoid hazardous duty or to remain away from his unit indefinitely.  The Misbehavior Before the Enemy Charge asserts that Bowe Bergdahl’s actions put his fellow soldiers at risk.  It has even been said that soldiers died looking for him.  However, no evidence has been provided to back up this claim.

It was the U.S. government that put our soldiers at risk by sending them to invade Afghanistan and to occupy it for going on 15 years.  Nearly 2,200 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, including six who were killed just this week by a suicide bomber at Bagram Air Force Base.  None of these soldiers died as a result of Sgt. Bergdahl’s actions.

Bowe Bergdahl is being made the scapegoat for the failed policies for the disastrous U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, which has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghan men, women and children.

Bowe Bergdahl remains a Prisoner of War.  Veterans For Peace demands that Sgt. Bergdahl be freed immediately with an Honorable Discharge.

Veterans For Peace is also concerned about the 9,800 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan, hostages to a failed policy, with targets on their backs.  The U.S. government should withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan immediately and finally bring that long U.S. war to an end.

FREE BOWE BERGDAHL!     U.S. OUT OF AFGHANISTAN!
30

*****Present At The Creation-The Penguins’ Earth Angel (1955)

*****Present At The Creation-The Penguins’ Earth Angel (1955)



From The Pen Of Bart Webber

Deep in the dark red scare Cold War night, still brewing then even after Uncle Joe fell down in his Red Square drunken stupor spilling potato-etched Vodka all over the Central Committee, the Politburo, or his raggedy-ass cronies who were to pick up the pieces after he breathed his last, one night and never came back, so yeah still brewing after Uncle Joe kissed off in his vast red earth, still brewing as a child remembered in dark back of school dreams about Soviet nightmares, worried about the whether those heathens (later to find out that Miss Todd who first made him and his classmates aware of the scorched red earth menace had been wrong that they were atheists not heathen, a very different thing, but she wanted to make us think they were in need of some high Catholic missionary work and so heathen)under Uncle Joe wondering how the Russkie kids got through it, and still brewing too when Miss Winot in her pristine glory told each and every one of her fourth grade charges, us, that come that Russkie madness, come the Apocalypse, come the big bad ass mega-bombs that each and every one of her charges shall come that thundering god-awful air raid siren call duck, quickly and quietly, under his or her desk and then place his or his hands, also quickly and quietly, one over the other on the top of his or her head, a small breeze was coming to the land (of course being pristine and proper she did not dig down deep to titillate us with such terms as “big bad ass” but let’s face it that is what she meant, and maybe in the teachers' room or some night out in the moonless moors she sued such terms you never know).

Maybe nobody saw it coming although the more I think about the matter somebody, some bodies knew something, not those supposedly in the know about such times, those who are supposed to catch the breezes before they move beyond their power to curtail them, guys in the government who keep an eagle eye on such things, or professors endlessly prattling on about some idea about what the muck of society has turned into due to their not catching that breeze that was coming across their faces like some North wind. 

No those guys, no way they are usually good at the wrap-up. The what it all meant par after the furies were over. Here is what I am talking about when I talk about guys who know what to know, and how to play it to their advantages. Take guys like my older brother Franklin and his friends, Benny, sometimes called "the Knife" and Jimmy, who was called just Jimmy, who were playing some be-bop  stuff up in his room. Ma refused to let Franklin play his songs on the family record player down center stage in the living room or flip the dial on the kitchen radio away from her tunes of the roaring 1940s, her and my father’s coming of age time, so up his room like some mad monk doing who knows what because I was busy worrying about riding bicycles or something. Not girls or dances stuff like that no way. Here’s the real tip-off though he and his boys would go out Friday nights to Jack Slack’s bowling alleys not to bowl, although that was the cover story to questioning mothers, but to hang around Freddie O’Toole’s car complete with turned on amped up radio (station unknown then by me but later identified as WMEX out of Boston and stull in existence the last I heard, including a few hour segment on Saturday replaying the old Arnie "Woo-Woo" Ginsberg shows that drove us wild and drive us to learn about the social customs around drive-in movies and drive-in restaurants when thinking about girls time did come) and dance, dance with girls, get it, to stuff like Ike Turner’s Rocket 88 (a great song tribute to a great automobile which nobody in our neighborhood could come close to affording so hard-working but poorly paid fathers' were reduced to cheapjack Fords and Plymouths, not cool), and guys who even today I don’t know the names of even with YouTube giving everybody with every kind of musical inclination a blast to the past ticket.

Here's something outside the neighborhood just to show it was hard-ass Franklin Webber who was hip to all things rock. So how about the times we, the family, would go up to Boston for some Catholic thing filled with incense and high Latin everybody mumbling prayers for forgiveness, when they did nothing to be forgiven for, into the South End at Holy Cross Cathedral and smack across from the church was the later famous Red Hat Club where guys were blasting away at pianos, on guitars and on big ass sexy saxes and it was not the big band sound my folks listened to or cool, cool be-bop jazz either that drove the "beat" night but music from jump street, etched in the back of my brain because remember I’m still fussing over bikes and stuff like that and not worrying about guys hitting the high white note. Or how about every time we went down Massachusetts Avenue in Boston as the sun went down, the “Negro” part before you hit Huntington Avenue at Symphony Hall (an area that Malcolm X knew well a decade before when he was nothing but a cat hustling the midnight creep with some white girls into kicks and larcenies) and we stopped at the ten billion lights on Mass Ave and all you would hear is this bouncing beat coming from taverns, from the old time townhouse apartments and black guys dressed “to the nines,” all flash dancing on the streets with dressed “to the nines” good-looking black girls. Memory bank.           

So some guys knew, gals too don’t forget after all they had to dig the beat, dig the guys who dug the beat, the beat of  out of some Africa breeze mixed with forbidden sweated Southern lusts if the thing was going to work out. And it wasn’t all dead-ass “white negro” hipsters either eulogized by Norman Mailer (or maybe mocked you never knew with him but he sensed something was in the breeze even if he was tied more closely to an earlier sensibility) or break-out “beats” tired of the cool cold jazz that was turning in on itself, getting too technical and losing the search for the high white note or lumpens of all descriptions who whiled away the nights searching their radio dials for something that they while away the nights searching their radio dials for something that they could swing to while reefer high or codeine low.

If you, via hail YouTube, look at the Jacks and Jills dancing up a storm in the 1950s say on American Bandstand they mostly look like very proper well-dressed middle class kids who are trying to break out of the cookie-cutter existence they found themselves in but they still looked  pretty well-fed and well-heeled so yeah, some guys and gals and it wasn’t always who you might suspect like Franklin, white hipsters, black saints, and sexy sax players that got hip, got that back-beat and those piano riffs etched into their brains.

Maybe though the guys in the White House were too busy worrying about what Uncle Joe’s progeny were doing out in the missile silos of Minsk, maybe the professional television talkers on Meet The Press wanted to discuss the latest turn in national and international politics for a candid world to hear and missed what was happening out in the cookie-cutter neighborhoods, and maybe the academic sociologists and professional criminologists were too wrapped up in figuring out why Marlon Brando was sulking in his corner boy kingdom (and wreaking havoc on a fearful small town world when he and the boys broke out), why  Johnny Spain had that “shiv” ready to do murder and mayhem to the next midnight passer-by, and why well-groomed and fed James Dean was brooding in the “golden age” land of plenty but the breeze was coming.

(And you could add in the same brother Franklin who as I was worrying about bikes, not the two pedal kid powered but some bad ass Vincent Black Lightning kind, getting “from hunger” to get a Brando bike, a varoom bike, so this girl, Wendy, from school, would take his bait, a girl that my mother fretted was from the wrong side of town, her way of saying Wendy was a tramp and maybe she was although she was nice to me when Franklin brought her around still she was as smart as hell once I found out about her school and home life a few years later after she, they, Wendy and Franklin, had left town on some big ass Norton but that is after the creation so I will let it go for now.)               
And then it came, came to us in our turn, came like some Kansas whirlwind, came like the ocean churning up the big waves crashing to a defenseless shoreline, came if the truth be known like the “second coming” long predicted and not just by mad man poet Yeats and his Easter, 1916 mind proclaiming a terrible beauty is born, and the brethren, us,  were waiting, waiting like we had been waiting all our short spell lives. Came in a funny form, or rather ironically funny forms, as it turned out.

Came one time, came big as 1954 turned to 1955 and a guy, get this, dressed not in sackcloth or hair-shirt but in a sport’s jacket, a Robert Hall sport’s jacket from the "off the rack" look of it when he and the boys were “from hunger,” playing for coffee and crullers before on the low life circuit, a little on the heavy side with a little boy’s regular curl in his hair and blasted the whole blessed world to smithereens. Blasted every living breathing teenager, boy or girl, out of his or her lethargy, got the blood flowing. The guy Bill Haley, goddam an old lounge lizard band guy who decided to move the beat forward from cool ass be-bop jazz and sweet romance popular music and make everybody, every kid jump, yeah Big Bill Haley and his Comets, the song Rock Around The Clock.         

Came as things turned to a little more hep cat too, came all duck walk and sex moves, feet moving faster than Bill could ever do, came out of Saint Loo, came out with a crazy beat. Came out in suit and tie all swagger. Came out with a big baby girl guitar that twisted up the chords something fierce and declared to the candid world, us, that Maybelline was his woman. But get this, because what did we know of “color” back then when we lived in an all-white Irish Catholic neighborhoods and since we heard what we heard of rock and roll mostly on the radio we were shocked when we found out the first time that he was a “Negro” to use the polite parlance of the times not always used in the house, the neighborhood, the town, a black man making us go to “jump street.” And we bought into it, bought into the beat, and joined him in saying to Mister Beethoven that you and your brethren best move over because there is a new sheriff in town.   

Came sometimes in slo-mo, hey remember this rock and roll idea was as an ice-breaker with a beat you didn’t  have to dance close to with your partner and get all tied up in knots forgetting when to twirl, when to whirl, when to do a split but kind of free form for the guys (or gals, but mainly guys) with two left feet like me could survive, maybe not survive the big one if the Russkies decided to go over the top with the bomb, but that school dance and for your free-form efforts maybe that she your eyeballs were getting sore over would consent to the last chance  last dance that you waited around for in case she was so impressed she might want to go with you some place later. But before that “some place later” you had to negotiate and the only way to do was to bust up a slow one, a dreamy one to get her in the mood and hence people have been singing songs from time immemorial to get people in the mood, this time Earth Angel would do the trick. Do the trick as long as you navigated those toes of hers, left her with two feet and standing. Dance slow, very slow brother.   

Here is the funny thing, funny since we were present at the creation, present in spite of every command uttered by Miss Winot against it, declaring the music worse than that Russkie threat if you believed her (a few kids, girls mainly, did whether to suck up to her since she would take their entreaties and suck ups seriously although boys were strictly “no go” and I know having spent many a missed sunny afternoon doing some silly “punishment” for her since she was impervious to my sly charms).We were just too young to deeply imbibe the full measure of what we were hearing. See this music, music we started calling rock and roll once somebody gave it a name (super DJ impresario Alan Freed as we found out later after we had already become “children of rock and roll”) was meant, was blessedly meant to be danced to which meant in that boy-girl age we who didn’t even like the opposite sex as things stood then were just hanging by our thumbs.

Yeah, was meant to be danced to at “petting parties” in dank family room basements by barely teenage boys and girls. Was meant to be danced to at teenage dance clubs where everybody was getting caught up on learning the newest dance moves and the latest “cool” outfits to go along with that new freedom. Was meant to serve as a backdrop at Doc’s Drugstore’s soda fountain where Doc had installed a jukebox complete with all the latest tunes as boys and girls shared a Coke sipping slowly with two straws hanging out in one frosted glass. Was meant to be listened to by corner boys at Jack Slack’s bowling alley where Jack eventually had set up a small dance floor so kids could dance while waiting for lanes to open (otherwise everybody would be still dancing out in front of O’Toole’s “boss” car complete with amped-up radio not to Jack’s profit). Was meant to be listened to as the sun went down in the west at the local drive-in restaurant while the hamburgers and fries were cooking and everybody was waiting for darkness to fall so the real night could begin, the night of dancing in dark corners and exploring the mysteries of the universe, or at least the mysteries of Miss Sarah Brown.  Was even meant to be listened to on fugitive transistor radios in the that secluded off-limits to adults and little kids (us) where teens, boys and girls, mixed and matched in the drive-in movie night (and would stutter some nonsense to questioning parents who wanted to know the plot of the movies- what movies, Ma).              

Yeah, we were just a little too young even if we can legitimately claim to have been present at the creation. But we will catch up, catch up with a vengeance.