Saturday, July 08, 2017

Scenes From An Ordinary Be-Bop 1960s Life - When "Stewball" Stu Stewart’s ’57 Chevy Ruled The “Chicken” Roads

Scenes From  An Ordinary Be-Bop 1960s Life - When "Stewball" Stu Stewart’s ’57 Chevy Ruled The “Chicken” Roads

[A while back we, a bunch of us who knew Markin who wrote the sketch below back in sunnier days, in hang around corner boy high school days and afterward too when we young bravos imbibed in the West Coast dragon chase he led us on in the high hellish mid-1960s summers of love, got together and put out a little tribute compilation of his written sketches that we were able to cobble from whatever we collectively still had around. Those writings were from a time when Markin was gaining steam as a writer for many of the alternative magazines, journals and newspapers that were beginning to be the alternative network of media resources that we were reading once we knew the main media outlets were feeding us bullshit on a bun, were working hand in glove with big government, big corporations, big whatever that was putting their thumbs in our eyes.

On big series, a series that Markin was nominated, or won, I don’t remember which an award for, which I will tell you about some other time was from a period toward the end of his life, a period when he was lucid enough to capture such stories. He had found himself out in Southern California with a bunch of homeless fellow Vietnam veterans, no homeless was not the right word, guys from ‘Nam, his, their word not mine since I did not serve in the military having been mercifully declared 4-F, unfit for military duty by our local draft board, who having come back to the “real” world just couldn’t, or wouldn’t adjust and started “creating” their own world, their own brethren circle, such as it was out along the railroad tracks, rivers and bridges. Bruce Springsteen would capture the pathos and pain of the situation in his classic tribute-Brothers Under The Bridge.  Markin’s series was called To The Jungle reflecting both the hard ass jungle of Vietnam from which they ahd come to the old-timey hobo railroad track jungle they found themselves in.     

Yeah, those were the great million word and ten thousand fact days, the mid to late 1960s, and after he had gotten back from Vietnam the early 1970s say up to 1974 or so when whatever Markin wrote seemed like pure gold, seemed like he had the pulse of what was disturbing our youth dreams, had been able to articulate in words we could understand the big jail-break out he was one of the first around our town to anticipate. Had gathered himself to cut the bullshit on a bun world out.

That was before Markin took the big fall down in Mexico, let his wanting habits, a term that our acknowledged high school corner boy leader Frankie Riley used incessantly to describe the poor boy hunger we had for dough, girls, stimulants, life, whatever, get the best of him. Of course Frankie had “cribbed” the term from some old blues song, maybe Bessie Smith who had her habits on for some no good man cheating on her and spending all her hard-earned dough, maybe Howlin’ Wolf wanting every gal he saw in sight, skinny or big-legged to “do the do” with that Markin also had turned us onto although I admit in my own case that it took me many years, many years after Markin was long gone before I appreciated the blues that he kept trying to cram down our throats as the black-etched version of what hellish times were going through in the backwaters of North Adamsville while the rest of the world was getting ahead. Heading to leafy suburban golden dreams while we could barely rub two dimes together and hence made up the different with severe wanting habits-even me.  

From what little we could gather about Markin’s fate from Josh Breslin, a guy from Maine, a corner boy himself, who I will talk about more in a minute and who saw Markin just before he hit the lower depths, before he let sweet girl cousin cocaine “run all around his brain, the say it is going to kill you but they won’t say when” let the stuff alter his judgment, he went off to Mexico to “cover” the beginnings of the cartel action there. Somewhere along the line the down there Markin decided that dealing high heaven dope was the way that he would gather in his pot of gold, would get the dough he never had as a kid, and get himself well. “Well” meaning nothing but his nose so full of “candy” all the time that the real world would no longer intrude on his life. Somehow in all that mixed up world he had tried his usual end-around, tried to do either an independent deal outside the cartel, a no-no, or stole some “product” to start his own operation, a very big no-no. Either scenario was possible when Markin got his wanting habits on and wound up dead, very mysteriously dead, in a dusty back street down Sonora way in 1975, 1976 we don’t even have the comfort of knowing that actual date of his passing.

Those were the bad end days, the days out in Oakland where they were both staying before Markin headed south when according to Josh he said “fuck you” to writing for squally newspapers and journals and headed for the sweet dream hills. But he left plenty of material behind that had been published or at the apartment that he shared with Josh in Oakland before the nose candy got in the way. That material wound up in several locations as Josh in his turn took up the pen, spent his career writing for lots of unread small journals and newspapers in search of high-impact stories and drifted around the country before he settled down in Cambridge working as an free-lance editor for several well-known if also small publishing houses around Boston. So when the idea was proposed by Jack Callahan to pay a final written tribute to our fallen comrade we went looking for whatever was left wherever it might be found. You know from cleaning out the attics, garages, cellars looking for boxes where an old newspaper article or journal piece might still be found after being forgotten for the past forty or so years.

The first piece we found, found by Jack Callahan, one of the guys who hung around with us corner boys although he had a larger circle since as a handsome guy he had all the social butterfly girls around him and as a star football player for North Adamsville High he had the girls and all the “jock” hangers-on bumming on his tail, was a story by Markin for the East Bay Other about the transformation of Phil Larkin from “foul-mouth” Phil to “far-out’ Phil as a result of the big top social turmoil events which grabbed many of us who came of political, social, and cultural age in the roaring 1960s. Markin like I said before had been the lead guy in sensing the changes coming, had us following in his wake not only in our heads but his gold rush run in the great western trek to California where a lot of the trends got their start.

That is where we met the subject of the second piece, or rather Phil did and we did subsequently too as we made our various ways west, Josh Breslin, Josh from up in Podunk Maine, actually Olde Saco fast by the sea, and he became in the end one of the corner boys, one of the North Adamsville corner boys. But before those subsequent meetings he had first become part of Phil’s “family,” and as that second story documented also in the East Bay Other described it how Josh, working his new life under the moniker Prince Love, “married” one of the Phil’s girlfriends, Butterfly Swirl. The third one in the series dealt with the reality of Phil’s giving up that girlfriend to Prince Love and the “marriage” and “honeymoon,” 1960s alternative-style that cemented that relationship.

Yeah, those were wild times and if a lot of the social conventions accepted today without too much rancor like people living together as a couple without the benefit of marriage, same-sex marriage, and maybe even friends with benefits let me clue in to where they all started, or if not started got a big time work-out to make things acceptable. But that was not all he wrote about, just the easy to figure a good story about 1960s. Markin also wrote about those wanting habits days, our growing up poor in the 1950s days which while we had no dough, not enough to be rich was rich in odd-ball stuff we seemingly were forced to do to keep ourselves just a little left of the law, very little sometimes. Naturally he wrote about the characters like the one here, Stew-ball Stu, whom I hope doesn’t read this sketch if he is still alive because he might still take umbrage and without Markin around he might come after me with a wrench or jackknife, who we young boys, maybe girls too but then it was boys’ world mostly looked up to. The actual Stew-ball Stu he sued here was from a story told to him by Josh Breslin long after he shed his 1960s moniker of Prince Love when Markin was looking for corner boy stories. But believe me while the names might have been different old North Adamsville had its own full complement of Stus.        


For those not in the know, for those who didn’t read the first Phil Larkin piece where I mentioned what corner boy society in old North Adamsville was all about Phil was one of a number of guys, some say wise guys but we will let that pass who hung around successively Harry’s Variety Store over on Sagamore Street in elementary school,  Doc’s Drugstore complete with soda fountain and more importantly his bad ass jukebox complete with all the latest rock and roll hits as they came off the turntable on Newport Avenue in junior high school and Salducci’s Pizza “up the Downs” in high school, don’t worry nobody in the town could figure that designation out either, as their respective corners as the older guys in the neighborhood in their turn moved up and eventually out of corner boy life.

More importantly Phil was one of the guys who latter followed in “pioneer” Markin’s wake when he, Markin, headed west in 1966 after he had finished up his sophomore year in college and made a fateful decision to drop out of school in Boston in order to “find himself.” Fateful in that without a student deferment that “find himself” would eventually lead him to induction into the U.S. Army at the height of the Vietnam War, an experience which he never really recovered from for a lot of reasons that had nothing to do directly with that war but which honed his “wanting habits” for a different life than he had projected when he naively dropped out of college to see “what was happening” out on the West Coast.

Phil had met, or I should say that Josh had met Phil, out on Russian Hill in San Francisco when Josh, after hitchhiking all the way from Maine in the early summer of 1967, had come up to the yellow brick road converted school bus (Markin’s term for the travelling caravan that he and Phil were then part of and which the rest of us, including even stay-at-home me for a few months ) he and a bunch of others were travelling up and down the West Coast on and had asked for some dope. Phil was the guy he had asked, and who had passed him a big old joint, and their eternal friendship formed from there. (Most of us would meet Josh later that summer as we in our turns headed out. Sam Lowell, Frankie Riley, Jack Callahan, Jimmy Jenkins and me all headed out after Markin who had “gone native” pleaded with us to not miss this big moment that he had been predicting was going to sea-change happens for a few years.) Although Markin met a tragic end murdered down in Mexico several years later over a still not well understood broken drug deal with some small cartel down there as a result of an ill-thought out pursuit of those wanting habits mentioned earlier he can take full credit for our lifetime friendship with Josh.-Bart Webber]

From The Pen Of The Late Peter Paul Markin   

Scene: Brought to mind by the cover artwork that graces the front of the booklet that accompanied an album  I had been reviewing. The artwork contained, in full James Dean-imitation pout, one good-looking, DA-quaffed, white muscle-shirted young man, an alienated young man, no question, leaning, leaning gently, very gently, arms folded, on the hood of his 1950’s classic automobile, clearly not his father’s car, but also clearly for our purposes let us call it his “baby.”

And that car, that extension of his young manhood, his young alienated manhood, is Friday night, Saturday night, or maybe a weekday night if it is summer, parked, priority parked, meaning nobody with some Nash Rambler, nobody with some foreign Volkswagen, no biker even , in short, nobody except somebody who is tougher, a lot tougher, than our alienated young man better breathe on the spot while he is within fifty miles of the place, directly in front of the local teenage (alienated or not) "hot spot." And in 1950s America, a teenage America with some disposal income (allowance, okay), that hot spot was likely to be, as here, the all-night Mel’s (or Joe’s, Adventure Car-Hop, whatever) drive-in restaurant opened to cater to the hot dog, hamburger, French fries, barbecued chicken cravings of exhausted youth. Youth exhausted after a hard night, well, let’s just call it a hard night and leave the rest to your knowing imagination, or their parents’ evil imaginations.

And in front of the restaurant, in front of that leaned-on “boss” automobile stands one teenage girl vision. One blondish, pony-tailed, midnight sun-glassed, must be a California great American West night teeny-bopper girl holding an ice cream soda after her night’s work. The work that we are leaving to fertile (or evil, as the case may be) imaginations. Although from the pout on Johnny’s (of course he has to be a Johnny, with that car) face maybe he “flunked out” but that is a story for somebody else to tell. Here is mine.


Not everybody, not everybody by a long-shot, who had a “boss” ’57 cherry red Chevy was some kind of god’s gift to the earth; good-looking, good clothes, dough in his pocket, money for gas and extras, money for the inevitable end of the night stop at Jimmy John’s Drive-In restaurant for burgers and fries (and Coke, with ice, of course) before taking the date home after a hard night of tumbling and stumbling (mainly stumbling). At least that is what one Joshua Breslin, Josh, told me, he a freshly minted fifteen- year old roadside philosopher thought as for the umpteenth time “Stewball” Stu left him  by Albemarle Road off Route One and rode off into the Olde Saco night with his latest “hot” honey, fifteen year old teen queen Sally Sullivan. Here is the skinny as we used to say as per one Joshua Breslin:

Yah, Stewball Stu was nothing but an old rum-dum, a nineteen year old rum-dum, except he had that “boss” girl-magnet ’57 cherry red and white two-toned Chevy (painted those colors by Stu himself) and he had his pick of the litter in the Olde Saco, maybe all of Maine, night. By the way Stu’s official name, was Stuart Stewart, go figure, but don’t call him Stuart and definitely do not call him “Stewball” not if you want to live long enough not to have the word teen as part of your age. The Stewball thing was strictly for local boys, jealous local boys like Josh,  who when around Stu always could detect a whiff of liquor, usually cheap jack Southern Comfort, on his breathe, day or night.

Figure this too. How does a guy who lives out on Tobacco Road in an old run-down trailer, half-trailer really, from about World War I that looked like something out of some old-time Great Depression Hoover-ville scene, complete with scrawny dog, and tires and cannibalized car leavings every which way have girls, and nothing but good-looking girls from twelve to twenty (nothing older because as Stu says, anything older was a woman and he wants nothing to do with women, and their women’s needs, whatever they are). And the rest of us got his leavings, or like tonight left on the side of the road on Route One. And get this, they, the girls from twelve to twenty actually walk over to Tobacco Road from nice across the other side of the tracks homes like on Atlantic Avenue and Fifth Street, sometimes by themselves and sometime in packs just to smell the grease, booze, burnt rubber, and assorted other odd-ball smells that come for free at Stu’s so-called garage/trailer.

Let me tell you about Stu, Sally, and me tonight and this will definitely clue you in to the Stu-madness of the be-bop Olde Saco girl night. First of all, as usual, it is strictly Stu and me starting out. Usually, like today, I hang around his garage on Saturdays to get away from my own hell-house up the road on Ames Street, meaning almost as poor as Stu except they are not trailers but, well, shacks, all that the working poor like my people could afford in the golden age and I am kind of Stu’s unofficial mascot. Now Stu had been working all day on his dual-exhaust carburetor or something, so his denims are greasy, his white tee-shirt (sic) is nothing but wet with perspiration and oil stains, he hasn’t taken a bath since Tuesday (he told me that himself with some sense of pride) and he was not planning to do so this night, and of course, drinking all day from his silver Southern Comfort flask he reeked of alcohol (but don’t tell him that if you read this and are from Olde Saco because, honestly, I want to live to have twenty–something as my age). About 7:00 PM he bellows out to me, cigarette hanging from his mouth, an unfiltered Lucky of course (filtered cigarettes are for girls in Stu world), let’s go cruising.

Well, cruising means nothing but taking that be-bop ’57 cherry red and white two-toned Chevy out on East Grand and look. Look for girls, look for boys from the hicks with bad-ass cars who want to take a chance on beating Stu at the “chicken run” down at the flats on the far end of Sagamore Beach, look for something to take the edge off the hunger to be somebody number one. At least that last is what I figured after a few of these cruises with Stu. Tonight it looks like girls from the way he put some of that grease (no not car grease, hair-oil stuff) on his nappy hair. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to cruising tonight once I have that sign because, usually whatever girl Stu might not want, or maybe there are a couple of extras, or something I get first dibs. Yah, Stu is righteous like that.

So off we go, stopping at my house first so I can get a little cleaned up and put on a new shirt and tell my brother to tell our mother that I will be back later, maybe much later, if she ever gets home herself before I do. The cruising routine in Olde Saco means up and down Route One (okay, okay Main Street), checking out the lesser spots (Darby’s Pizza Palace, Hank’s Ice Cream joint, the Colonial Donut Shoppe where I hang during the week after school and which serves a lot more stuff than donuts and coffee, sandwiches and stuff, and so on). Nothing much this Saturday. So we head right away for the mecca, Jimmy John’s. As we hit Stu’s “saved” parking spot just in front I can see that several stray girls are eyeing the old car, eyeing it like tonight is the night, tonight is the night Stu, kind of, sort of, maybe notices them (and I, my heart starting to race a little in anticipation and glad that I stopped off at my house, got a clean shirt, and put some deodorant on and guzzled some mouthwash, am feeling tonight is the night too).

But tonight is not the night, no way. Not for me, not for those knees-trembling girls. Why? No sooner did we park than Sally Sullivan came strolling out (okay I don’t know if she was strolling or doo-wopping but she was swaying in such a sexy way that I knew she meant business, that she was looking for something in the Olde Saco night and that she had “found” it) to Stu’s Chevy and with no ifs, ands, or buts asked, asked Stu straight if he was doing anything this night. Let me explain before I tell you what Stu’s answer was that this Sally Sullivan is nothing but a sex kitten, maybe innocent-looking, but definitely has half the boys, hell maybe all the boys at Olde Saco High, including a lot of the guys on the football team drooling over her. I know, because I have had more than one sleepless night over her myself.

See, she is in my English class and because Mr. Murphy lets us sit where we want I usually sit with a good view of her. So Stu says, kind of off-handedly, like having the town teen fox come hinter on him was a daily occurrence, kind of lewdly, “Well, baby I am if you want to go down Sagamore Rocks right now and look for dolphins?” See, Sagamore Rocks is nothing but the local lovers’ lane here and “looking for dolphins” is the way everybody, every teenage everybody in town says “going all the way,” having sex for the clueless. And Sally, as you can guess if you have been following my story said, “Yes” just like that. At that is why I was dumped, unceremoniously dumped, while they roared off into the night. So like I said not every “boss” car owner is god’s gift to women, not by a long shot. Or maybe they are.

The Average Joe Fall Guy Falls-With Kansas City Confidential In Mind

The Average Joe Fall Guy Falls-With "Kansas City Confidential" In Mind

By Bart Webber 

No question Joe Rolfe, formerly Joey Bops, was built for the frame, built for that frame to fit snuggly around his head. Not that Joe was stupid, far from it he had received his high school diploma and was in his first year of college when December 7, 1941 happened, when the world changed and he was all wrapped in the mess. Not that Joe wasn’t brave either since he received a couple of big military ribbons all shiny bright as a result of his service. And not that he wasn’t good-looking, good-looking to girls good-looking and so always had a girl on his arm in the old days before the war. Still when the deal went down Joey always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, always seemed to be the fall guy falling.

It had not always been like that. Before the war, during high school, during the days when he wore the moniker Joey Bops since he was crazy for swing music, you know Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, guys like that, when he hung around with Frankie Riley, James Riordan, Lefty Kelly, and Rusty Shea in front of Harry’s Drugstore in Carterville, that’s out in “show me” Missouri, he could do no wrong. He and what did they call them then, oh yeah, the corner boys, led by the ingenious Frankie Riley, “Sparks” Riley, would carry out every midnight caper in search of loot that one could think of and never got in trouble with the law, any that would wind up on the books. Not even when the very, very suspicious Carterville police thought they had the lot of them nailed tight for the heist at the Lamar mansion. Yeah those were the days when even nice Catholic girls who went to church every Sunday and for the public record said their rosaries and swore they had a Bible between their knees at all other times would that previous Saturday night give up what they had had to give up, those sweet pussies, when they went out on a date with a Harry’s Drugstore corner boy they knew some nice jewelry or maybe some dough would go with the giving that sweet thing up. And good-looking Joey Bops got all he wanted, even from those Bible-worn girls, maybe especially from them.      

But the war, well, the war changed Joey Bops a lot, like I said, Joey had seen a lot of action in Europe, had gotten those medals, those well-earned medals, but he had lost a step, had lost the beat, maybe the be-bop beat of his youth, but most importantly the beat of how to beat the rap on some midnight adventure. Once he got home, after the fanfare was over and he went back to being just average Joey Rolfe citizen, after he decided all he saw and did in Europe made it kind of silly for him to go back to State U even though the newly enacted GI Bill would have pulled him through like it would many other ex-soldiers, he kind of lost his moorings and figured that he would go back to that sweet life of crime. Maybe it was because he went solo (the other corner boys had all dispersed, gone on, except Rusty Shea who was buried over in France during the war after being killed by a German mortar), maybe it was because he had lost the touch, maybe it was because he was crazy to hit a foolish gas station but Joey, Joey Bops of all people, got pegged for the robbery, armed robbery, when he tried to pull the caper just as a cop car was passing by Fred’s Esso station. So Joey got a nickel, did three and that was that.          

That was that until he got out, got his probation. Got himself into another town, got himself into the city, the big city, Kansas City, where he picked up a job delivering flowers, simple stuff, but one of the few jobs an ex-con on probation could get-driving a truck. But getting that job turned out to be the kiss of death for old Joey. See one of the delivery stops that he made was to Jones’ Funeral Home, not the one on Center Street in K.C. but over on Main, next to the First National Bank. One day while he was parked out front of Jones’ delivering a rack of roses for some departed soul next door the bank was being robbed in broad daylight by some guys in masks. They got away with half a million in cool hard cash (just walking around money today but then real dough). Got away clean in a sweet job. Naturally the coppers looking around saw Joey’s silly flower truck, checked it and him out, and once they found out that he was an ex-con and had served time they took him downtown (and they had contacted as well the Carterville cops who put the blast on him for all the crimes that they couldn’t prove he committed). There he stayed for a couple of weeks until the coppers found enough information about the robbery plan to know that he was not part of the caper and they had to let him go.

Here’s the lesson Joey learned though from that experience he was never going to be able to go straight if he didn’t find out who pulled the First National Bank caper. (Or if he decided to go crooked again he would always have that fall guy tag on him for any “cold cases” the cops caught nothing on and he would spent many nights before those stupid police lights blaring line-ups.)  So hunting down the guys who did the deed was his next “career.” His new reason to get up in the morning. For this he needed a little help, help from the only private detective that he could afford at the time, Philip Larkin. Phil had been a guy that he met in the Army overseas and they had been transported home on the troop ships together landing in New York Harbor, spent a few days getting drunk as skunks and laid seven different ways including Joe’s first blow job in a long time, since before the world when some of those Catholic girls in Carterville who didn’t want to “do the do” would piece a guy off with some head to save their reputations, as virgins and yet at the same time as willing to be frisky, and you can figure what that “frisky” part meant  as best you can. They then parted Joe to Carterville and the slammer and Phil up north to Riverdale in Massachusetts to join the cops.        

They had stayed in contact via the U.S. mails and Phil had gone out to the Missouri State pen a couple times to visit Joe after he got himself booted off the Riverdale cops for not going along with the cover-up of a vehicular homicide case involving one of the town’s Mr. Bigs. Those were the days when Phil was just starting out in the private detection business before the Altman case which put him in the local headlines for a while. That had been a whirlwind which soon faded and when Joe contacted Phil he was more than happy to help out an old buddy since he had been shuffling along doing key-hole peeping, getting the goods on adulterous guys or gals for their ever-loving spouses in order for those ever-loving spouses to take to court and get divorces and grab as much dough at the traffic would bear from their shamefully unfaithful spouses. Tough wormy work. That and hitting the bottle stashed conveniently in the bottom desk drawer of his dust-filled office a little too much while killing time between jobs.      

Here’s the stuff they don’t show or tell you on detective shows on television or in those glossy-covered crime detection novels where the P.I. always outsmarts the public cops. Even on the obvious cases like where the distraught wife has a smoking gun in her hand with three bullets gone into a philandering husband now dead who just so happens to have three bullets in his worthless body. Even they, the public cops, can figure that one out, as long as there are three bullets in the body. Less or more all bets are off.  But as a rule a private eye if he or she wants to have any career better either leave the serious crime detection to the public cops or report everything he or she finds out in a case they are handling involving crime to them. That had been Phil’s policy early on in his career and he kept his license no sweat because of that hard fact. What that sound policy had allowed Phil to do for Joe was to get access to the First National Bank job stuff the cops there in K.C. knew about via his connections with a couple of Riverdale detectives whom he had helped out a couple of times.    

Funny the layout of the K.C. job was simplicity itself and even Joe had wished he had thought of the plan rather than having been the fall guy falling. See the truck that delivered the bank its working money, say it  had a half million or so in the back for such deliveries, arrived at the about the same time as Joe made his fucking flower deliveries to the funeral parlor. What happened was that on the day of the armored bank truck robbery the robbers had a replica of the flower truck to throw the coppers off the scent. The robbers, four in all, all wearing Jimmy Cagney gangster masks, pulled the heist of the armored vehicle leaving two guards severely wounded (they would recover), and taking off for parts unknown in the fake flower truck. Leaving Joe the fucking fall guy of fall guys once the APB went out and his truck was the only one still in sight. With Phil’s information as a guide and stuff he had heard when the K.C. cops were giving him the “third degree” Joe figured to figure the whole scam out before he was done. Joe thanked Phil for his help and that is the last we will see of Phil in this caper because Joe couldn’t afford the twenty-five bucks a day, plus expenses, that Phil needed to stay on the case and Joe was itching to blam blam the bad hombres who put him in that tight spot on his own.        

Don’t let the fall guy Joe thing fool you too much, that probation straight and narrow  either since Joe who did his drinking at Matty’s Tavern a well know hang-out for hoods and other loose-livers was pretty well-connected to the underworld even if he had to in the over-world play the probation game. Matty, working the bar himself one night when Joe came, gave him the tip that was the first step in getting his handle on the guys who set the frame on him. One of the hoods, name undisclosed, that hung around Matty’s had told Matty that Zeke Zimmer, a low-life gambler who had owed him money, five Gs, had  blown town  after paying  him off, was headed south to sunny Mexico and the gambling joints there. This Zeke was a serious low-life who half the time didn’t have two dimes to rub together and when he did he bet them on the roulette wheel, the blackjack table, the ponies, or the queen of hearts so his having dough was the lead that got Joe going, had him heading down to Juarez and some Touch of Evil madness.  This tip was proof positive, as much proof positive as Joe needed to follow the trail south since it was much more than likely that Zeke had been in on the bank heist.   

Juarez was and still is a tough town to get anything out of, any kind of information about anything even directions to Rosa’s Cantina and that place to this day is still etched with a huge neon sign so you can see it almost from across the border in El Paso. Back in the 1950s it really was something out of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil you could smell the corruption the minute you got over the international border, the minute you had to hand some foul-breathed Federale five dollars American to let you through without the usual hassle inspection, maybe planting some illegal drugs or other contraband on you if you didn’t fork over the fiver.  It got worst from there as every con man, hooker, drifter, and all the batos locos descended on your head looking for his or her piece. Joe, after spending an hour in Senorita Santa Maria’s whorehouse since he had not had a piece of a woman’s flesh for a while and the Senorita specialized in fresh young fluff from the country, made his way to Rosa’s Cantina where there was 24/7/365 casino action, action that an in the chips guy like Zeke would naturally gravitate toward to see how fast he could lose his shirt and begin his usual begging gringos for two dimes to rub together. 

Rosa’s like all such places in Juarez in those days was no place to be asking any questions about gringos with money to spend, maybe asking any questions at all so Joe just kind of plunked himself on a barstool, ordered some tequila, and waited until he spotted a low-rent gambler who fit the description given to him at Matty’s. The key piece of information Joe had received had been that Zeke always wore (except when it was in hock) a gold-plated onyx ring with a diamond stud set in the center which you could see from a distance. So Joe waited, waited a couple of hours getting a little blasted on that harsh high-shelf tequila he was ordering (and fending off the barmaids who were offering blow jobs over in a quiet corner if he would buy them a drink, yeah, Rosa’s was that kind of place, you could get anything there you wanted from sex to gold-plated dentures you just had to ask, no, just had to wait long enough and somebody would come by selling themselves or something).

Finally Zeke rolled in and headed to the blackjack table. Joe waited and watched looking for an opening to “talk” to Zeke. About two in the morning Zeke went outside for a breather, went out with a lot less dough that he had come in with. So when Joe approached him with the intend of collaring him to find out who and where the other guys were Zeke surprised him when he asked if he had five bucks he could lend him until “pay day.” Joe flagged Zeke off, gave him the fiver and then quick as a rabbit strong-armed Zeke and force-marched him to a quiet area where they could talk.

Zeke filled with anger, hubris, and morphine was ready to talk, or else as Joe made very clear. Joe was persuasive enough against this low-life punk that he found out that the other three guys were in Sonora further south and that Zeke was supposed to head there in a couple of days to meet up with them and divvy up the rest of the dough. Zeke even under extreme pressure from the gun that Joe had at his head could not come up with the names of the three other guys because they had all worn masks at all meetings and on the job. The only name Zeke knew was of the guy who planned the whole caper, a guy who called himself Mister Big, a lot of help that was. At the meeting in Sonora Zeke was to go to the El Dorado Cantina and present his calling card-a sad ass joker from a special deck of cards Mister Big gave each confederate.      

Joe convinced Zeke in the most dramatic way possible that he was going to Sonora with him and that dramatic encounter was enough for Zeke to see the light. The very next morning after some tacos and tomales one Joey Bops and one Zeke Zimmer were seen heading taking a dusty old bus headed south to Sonora. The ride down was uneventful except the endless dust, the locals with their Mexican luggage and their sweaty smells and goddam fowls brought along like children, and the story that Zeke, going slightly cold turkey from the morphine, had to tell.

Tell about how Mister Big put the whole production together. It was Mister Big who had figured out that the similar arrival times of the flower truck at the funeral home and the armored car at the bank gave a few minute opportunity to grab the cash and take off in a “fake” flower truck. They had practiced the route and run about twenty times before Mister Big told them they were ready. It was also Mister Big who thought of the idea of the masks so nobody could fink on the other guys to the coppers if caught and of laying off for a while before splitting up the big dough. It was his caper but they were to split four ways even, and that was why they each had a card from the special deck as identification. (Joe thought to himself knowing stoolies since he was about twelve years old Mister Big was smart enough to know guys like Zeke and the others who were probably dredged from the same barrel bottom would sell their mothers for five bucks and change if they were in a squeeze and were looking to get out from under some rap. This Mister Big would be a tough nut to crack.)

Arriving in the early morning in Sonora Joe checked into the Rio Grande Hotel, which unlike it high class sounding name was a flea-bag joint but which had the best bar in town, a bar that the touristas did not frequent and so adequate for Joe’s needs (naturally with Zeke as his boon roommate and drinking companion). The next morning, late, Joe left Zeke in the room, taking the added precaution of grabbing that joker as insurance for his survival and so that Zeke could not sneak away to grab his dough forgetting about his boon companion Joe and went down to the bar to grab a few quicks shots of tequila that he was getting to like very much. At the bar he noticed a gringa, a good-looking gringa, brunette, blue eyes, a little on the tall side, thin, nice shape, well-turned legs and wondered what she was doing in hot, sweaty dusty, Mexico. He walked over to her, asked her name, she answered Laura, asked her if she would like a drink, she accepted and then he asked her why she was down in dusty Sonora apparently by herself. Laura replied that she was down with her father who was there on business, she was bored and had decided that she would drink the morning away.

As it turned out this Laura, after a few more drinks, was in the time of her time, was looking for little sexual escapade to while away the hours while her father did his business. That was her story to Joey anyway. Joe obliged her, grabbed a bottle from off the bar and they went to her room. They stayed drunk and sexed-up for a couple of days as it turned out. Then coming out of his alcoholic and sex haze he remembered Zeke, told this Laura that he had to check into his own hotel to finish some business but would be back the next day. Naturally by the time Joe got back to his hotel Zeke was long gone. Joe decided that he would sleep for a while and then the next day head back to Laura’s place and figure out how to keep her in tow and go about the business of finding the bank robbers. 

Joe needn’t have been in any rush because by the time he got back to Laura’s room the next late morning he was met with a “welcoming” committee of four guys, three in Jimmy Cagney masks, Zeke, and of course Laura. What he had not known although he should have figured it out was that the father that Laura was down in Sonora on business with was none other than Mister Big. See the hood that had given Matty the information about Zeke up in K.C., later identified as Lefty Finley, a known pimp and bad guy to mess with, had been one of the robbers keeping an eye on Zeke who with his morphine habit was the “loose cannon” in the operation. All that special joker card stuff Zeke talked about to avoid stoolies by Mister Big in the end was so much razzle-dazzle for the paying public.   

Yeah Joe shouldn’t have been in any rush to see that Laura since a few days later he was found with two big bullets in his head in a dusty back road in Sonora with a joker in his coat pocket and some hundred dollar bills later identified as being from the robbery. Alongside him in that back alley were Zeke, Lefty and the other member of the gang, Bugs Malone, a known drug runner and another bad hombre. They also had special jokers and some hundred dollar bills in their coat pockets. End of case, end of case for the Sonora police, the Federales, since they chalked it up to some Mexican bad guys wasting some gringos trying to cut in on their play. The K.C. cops, having unloaded an unsolved bank robbery and four creeps wrote the whole thing down to what they knew they knew at first. Joe had been the Mister Big of the operation all along and had out-smarted himself somehow. A wise guy double-dipping on that fake flower truck stuff. The real Mister Big and his daughter, Laura, well they were never heard from again as far as anybody knew- if they had ever existed. Yeah, Joe Rolfe, Joey Bops, All-American fall guy falling the big fall.          

If You Ain’t Got The Do Re Mi-With Woody Guthrie’s Song Of The Same Name In Mind

If You Ain’t Got The Do Re Mi-With Woody Guthrie’s Song Of The Same Name  In Mind

If You Ain’t Got The Do Re Mi-With Woody Guthrie’s Song Of The Same Name  In Mind 

By Sam Lowell

Peter Markin, Peter Paul Markin to his mother and a high-brow first wife, Sarah Jenkins of the Puritan three name Boston Stock Exchange Jenkins, who was trying to impress her Wellesley leafy suburban parents, with his three names to no avail since they sensed instinctively he was not to the manor born, not close since he could not recite his family tree unto the fifth generation and had unfortunately one night in his cups at dinner mentioned his maternal bog Irish “famine ships” roots always had a hard time living in California, hell, even his short visits always seemed to go over the edge. The way things worked out, or didn’t work out, which is perhaps a better way to say it, on that marriage business neither did Sarah when she split up with him, deserted him really for a fourth-cousin Puritan three name stockbroker from Connecticut.

Of course Peter, no, let’s call him Markin like all of his corner boys down in North Adamsville did and everybody else thereafter when the deal went down was always on edge financially every time he went out to California, every time he lived there which was sporadically over the course of his short not sweet life, a few months here, six months there. A couple of years straight toward the end but by that time he was knee-deep in the booming and expanding cocaine traffic which he thought would finally end that wanting habit craving for dough that had haunted him since childhood but which got him nothing but that short not sweet life when he mixed with the wrong hard boys down south of the border.

That thought, that California dreaming thought which had driven Markin to make so many wrong decisions, to go off the edge in the end, was what Josh Breslin a guy from Olde Saco, Maine who had met Markin out in San Francisco in the summer of love, 1967 was thinking about when he had one of his periodic Markin moans, moans even forty years after the sainted bastard had passed to the great beyond. Back then Markin had hitched his wagon to Captain Crunch’s big ass yellow brick road converted school bus and was staying in California for what he thought would be an indefinite time once he had broken free from his growing up town and from a couple of years of college to go West to “find himself” as it seemed half his generation was doing just then. Josh who had himself hitched from Maine to “find himself” before heading to freshman year at State U.  had also hitched his wagon to the Captain’s travelling commune of a bus as well had gone up to the bus when it was parked on the hill across from a small park on Russian Hill and, green at the time to the ways of hippie-dom and probably acting like the 49ers, the Okies and Arkies later thinking the streets of California were paved with gold, asked the first guy he saw for a joint (marijuana, for the clueless or the too young to know). And that first guy was Markin who passed Josh a big old blunt of a joint and that symbolic transfer started a friendship that lasted until Markin went over the edge.

(It is not too early to say that whatever way guys met Markin, guys who were on the same wavelength, guys who knew Markin, guys like Frankie Riley and Jimmy Jenkins from his hometown of North Adamsville, Bart Webber and Jack Callahan from Carver, down about thirty miles south of that town and of course Josh to this day would get wistful, maybe a little teary-eyed these days when they thought about all the promise he had, about all the funny schemes he cooked up, all his stockpile of two million facts that he laid on an unsuspecting  world before his baser instinct got the better of him).

Thinking back Josh thought maybe Markin was guy who never should have hit California, maybe his stars were ill-lined up that way. Maybe he should had done as Woody Guthrie suggested in his California Garden of Eden song Do Re Mi  that he had heard out in Concord the previous summer which still troubled him. Yeah, out in Concord where the New England Folk Song Society held its annual Woody Guthrie Tribute at the Old Manse which he had attended in the company of Sam Lowell and his lovely long-time companion Laura Perkins (whom he had had half a flame for since who knows how long but who made it clear to Josh on more than one occasion that she was true blue to Sam although she thanked him for the attraction compliment, damn) Jason Reed had done the cover with the chorus line that would have fit Markin when after busting out the first time he should have gone back to Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, gone back to his growing up Massachusetts after that first California time in 1967. Maybe stayed the summer and then split and gone back to where no dough guys had a chance to live okay with less filthy lucre than you needed in the Golden State. But Markin was a guy who always seemed to head toward the danger, didn’t always have a good sense of when to back off so he stayed in California that first time until he got his induction notice for the Army in late 1968 (except a for couple of weeks’ worth of trips back and forth to deal with his North Adamsville Draft Board).       

But after accepting his induction fate, accepting his cannon-fodder fate (his term), after ‘Nam Markin could not really go back home anymore, had broken off most of his family relationships, particularly with his hard-assed, hard luck, hard scrabble mother, had gotten himself married to that first wife Sarah in a mad frenzy of not being left with nobody left behind but who had essentially abandoned him for that Puritan three name stockbroker after he left for ‘Nam and did Dear John on him before he got back. (Jesus, what a bitch Josh thought since he had met her a couple of times, had disliked her from the start and sensed that if it had not been for the war and Markin’s overweening need to be married in case he died over there was not a marriage made in heaven. And it wasn’t.) So Markin drifted out to California again. Met up in Big Sur in early 1971 with Josh again who had also drifted back to California after he had gotten a half-serious job on an alternative journal in the East Bay. Had met up with first Annie Dubois in Golden Gate Park whom he should have married and gone back to Lima, Ohio with which she had done once she realized that she was not built for the communal vagabond life and then Josie Davis, the latter who turned out to be his second wife and another holy hell of a woman who abandoned him for some guy from Los Angeles who promised her some kind of job in the film industry. Josh agreed though that she had better grounds for splitting once Markin started into his fatal involvement in the international drug trade.      

Get this though about the man’s contrary instincts. After ‘Nam Markin was rabidly against the government that had sent him and a lot of guys from places like North Adamsville, Portsmouth, Nashua, New Hampshire, Harlem, Detroit, the prairies of Kansas and the like so he got caught up (as did Josh) with the anti-war struggle, But more importantly, since he and Josh were living in a vaguely communal house on the Oakland-Berkeley line at the time after Josie split, supporting  the Black Panthers who were square in the gunsights of the cops from the rabid local Oakland cops to the feds and needed dough, plenty of dough for bail and legal expenses. Of course Markin, as usual had nada for dough to help himself much less the hard-pressed Panthers. That was the first time Markin got caught up in the drug trade. He ran into Rancho Rick, a well-known San Francisco drug-dealer (in those na├»ve days just grass, marihuana, maybe some bennies, an odd lot of LSD), in Golden Gate Park who got to like and trust Markin after a while. What happened was that Markin became Rancho’s “mule,” the upfront guy who went down to Mexico to bring back the “product” as they called it. Once in a while Rancho would let Markin bring some stuff, a couple of bricks or so, a suitcase full maybe, on his own account. That “independent” dealer thing got to Markin’s head-eventually. What Markin would do was sell his stuff and then give some big percentage to the Panther Defense Fund (they didn’t know the source of Markin’s dough but they probably suspected he was dealing in any case they were so hard-pressed especially around the various BP leader Huey Newton cases that they would not have as Markin said given a fuck about how the money had been made).    

That was, more or less, the way that Markin held himself together in those days when everybody knew the ebb-tide of the 1960s was in full play but that California was still a better to live that North Adamsville, Lima, Nashua, Harlem, and so he staked himself on his cunning, and maybe his on some magic karma that he thought he had after doing about fifteen drug deals on his own account and never having been caught. But it was one thing to deal in grass, even smoke your brains out on the product without undue duress but another thing once the cocaine trick started being the new drug of the month choice among the hipper crowd.

See Markin had a crazy mixed psychic make-up. Bright, street bright too, but always with that freaking hunger, worse that sense that he was a moonchild. So as the trend moved to a harder drugs he got caught up doing the product, lots of it. One time so much he could hardly breathe out of his nose and told everybody he just had a cold. Yeah, lost his judgment. No longer were the honchos guys like easy-going Rancho but hard boys from down south of the border who wanted to control the whole traffic. And control it they did, right over Markin’s ill-fated head. Nobody knows to this day what really happened and now it is too long past to worry about. But not to moan over. Yeah, California is a tough dollar if you don’t have the do re mi. Just listen to Woody.     

Remembrances of Fair Angelina-With Bob Dylan’s Farewell Angelina In Mind

Remembrances of Fair Angelina-With Bob Dylan’s Farewell Angelina In Mind

By Sam Lowell

Josh Breslin, the fairly well-known writer of articles and essays by conscious choice when he first started out in half the unread and coffee table small press journals, magazines and newspapers in America, recently retired from steady writing as a profession and thus given of later to memory thoughts of his youth as part of his plan to write a semi-memoir of his growing up times in the 1960s automatically thought about his big time love affair with fair Angelina. Well maybe Josh had not automatically been thinking about that affair but had been led to those thoughts by two prompts, one good, one bad. The first one, the good one, listening while working on his computer which had become also of late his favorite way to listen to music to one of the never-ending bootleg series CDs of Bob Dylan where a version of his Farewell, Angelina came on. The second, the bad one, very bad for several days, an obituary in the New York Times which reported that the once well-known former 1970s and 1980s movie actress and commercial spoke-person Angelina Farrell had passed away at 70 after a long battle against cancer. That Angelina, his Angelina, Angelina Donnelly, when he knew her before she went into the movies and changed her name was that big affair from his youth that he was drifting back to in memory time. Sad day, sad days.

Looking back from grim memory think Josh thought it funny that probably in no time but the middle 1960s when all hell was breaking loose but all kinds of possibilities were also opening up that he would have run into a woman such Angelina. Josh had met her, met vivacious Angelina Farrell, when he decided to hitchhike west to see what all the commotion was about in the summer of love, 1967 version, just after he had graduated from high school and was aimlessly wandering around his hometown of Olde Saco up in Maine waiting to start college at State U in the fall. That decision had come about as a result of his having run into a wild man “hippie” in full regalia, long hair, pony tailed, wispy beard, the fate of many a youthful male, blue jeans, Army jacket, and bottomed off by roman sandals. No, bottomed off by that wild look Josh was beginning to see on more and more young people which indicated too many long nights around a corn cob pipe full of marijuana, a bong bowl of hashish, a rolled dollar bill of cocaine, or, more probably a Dixie cup full of acid-etched Kool-Aid, you know LSD. He, Lenny Josh thought his name was but don’t hold him to those memory names, had just gotten back from the Coast and had been visiting his grandmother in Portland who told Josh about the doings out there and about what was expected to happen that summer. He was intrigued, so intrigued that he gave up, to his father’s anger, a job working as a janitor in the textile mill where his father had gotten him a job for the summer. Packed up soon after meeting that wild man “hippie” (a term not widely used in 1967 but very descriptive now) and started hitchhiking west to save precious money needed for tuition in the fall, although he lied to his parents and told them he was taking the bus out when they tried to argue him out of such a forlorn adventure.

Of course as anybody who had read Jack Kerouac, the “king of the beats” author of On The Road who got many youth started, well, on the road as Josh had earlier that summer, could tell you the vagaries of the road, of hitching then, maybe now too if any ill-advised person still does that form of travel, was that you would not necessarily get to where you wanted to go in a straight line but where whatever ride on whatever road you hitched and accepted took you. That vagary had been how Josh wound up at Jimmy Jack’s Diner on the outskirts of Steubenville flat up on the Ohio River after being left there by a good guy trucker, Denver Slim (who was neither from Denver, nor slim, go figure) who had originally planned to drive directly to Chicago with his load but had changed his mind when he decided he needed to see his girlfriend who lived in Steubenville (his wife lived in Toledo but that was another story). So Jimmy Jack’s outside out of the way southeastern Ohio it was on that first run out to search for the great blue-pink American West night as another writer he would meet out in San Francisco put the matter. Yes, nowhere backroad truck stop Jimmy Jack’s Diner was where he met Angelina Donnelly from Muncie out in the wilds of Indiana who was serving them off the arm at the diner when he wandered in to grab a quick bit, a bowl of beef stew in the days when he ate meat which had the virtue of being cheap, hearty, in the way diner food was always hearty, and filling, before heading on the road again.      

Something about her as she served him his beef stew well before other patrons who were impatiently waiting for their cooling meals on the pick-up counter, something about him with that sly grin spoke to her,  spoke to both almost immediately of attraction. Angelina, young, pretty, very pretty in a Midwestern way, a way as he would later put it as fetching to others when she began to appear in films and commercials. Not the drop dead ice queen first female lead who would never disturb your dreams because you could never get through the layers, layers of every possible description to block your way, but the one you think about later, think sexual thoughts about, think about how if you played your cards just right you could probably find yourself under silky sheets. The kind of woman too who once she got you on her wavelength whatever ever she was selling you would buy whether you needed it or not just because she had that effect on you. A look to make a film career out of, no question although such thoughts never passed her lips. The attraction for her, just out of classes in business school, the Bancroft Business School, for the summer in Muncie and looking for “adventure” decided to head East to see what was up there was that he was her very first “hippie,” the first one that she had seen in  person and he seemed as she put it later “nice.” She had heard about such creatures, and been warned away from such evil by her parents and friends back in Muncie, but she was curious, very curious about this example of the new breeze the newspapers and magazines were talking about.                    

So they made a match. Hit it off that very night when after circling each other all day as he took his sweet time finishing his meal and several cups of coffee to make the moments last  they “made the roof shake to the heavens” in the cabin up the road from the diner where Angelina was staying with their love-making. Later on good days, on the sunnier days of their relationship they would tenderly refer to that fresh green lust. It was thus not surprising then when a few days later after Josh had worked the dishes at Jimmy Jack’s to grab some quick dough and Angelina worked double shifts that they headed out on the highway together to see what they would see. They had first headed south to Prestonsburg down in coal country Kentucky to see a cousin of hers and then began heading west again. They had their ups and downs on the road, getting short and long rides, depending on where they were let off. (In those days guys travelling with a young woman, a fetching woman, would grab rides much more easily than if alone although the duration might still be long or short depending on the driver’s destination.

That plan westward so Angelina could see the Pacific Ocean for the first time worked out okay for a while, they had fun meeting groups of fellow spirits on the road, spent an interesting week hanging out in the rustic campsite with a bunch of “freaks” where Josh stayed dope high all week (Angelina a true daughter of the Midwest just then still hearing those warnings against the devil’s doings from her parents in her head). They made great tumbling love, sex which Angelina did not heed her parents’ warning about, praise be, as she was curious, willing and resourceful in that regard. But as the weeks went by, as they were making no serious headway west, as she could not wash her hair daily, as she became less enamored of the small tent they had purchased in Louisville for nighte when they had no other way to sleep Josh could sense that Angelina was not built for the road, was built for other kinds of adventures, was built for comfortable beds and silky sheets.

The whole thing started to come to a head during one tough rainy stretch in Moline when they were forced by the continual bad weather to grab a cheapjack motel. That stuck situation strained their good feelings toward each other as Josh got more into being “on the road” the farther away he got from Maine and the less Angelina cared about seeing the wide Pacific. After the rains stopped in Moline they decided to give it one more try but by the time they got to Neola out in Iowa, got to Aunt Betty’s Dinner where Angelina was working for a few days to make some money and old Aunt Betty, a real Aunt Betty began to work on her to go home, the die was cast. The way they left it, left the situation between them Angelina would head back to school and meet Josh who had along the way decided that he would postpone going to college for a year to “find himself” somewhere out on the Coast during her winter break. Josh headed west mostly alone although he had a wild time with some serious freaks out in Joshua Tree channeling the ghosts of ten thousand years before Apache warriors (under the influence of a bunch of eaten peyote buttons). Several weeks later he wound up near La Jolla north of San Diego joined up as part of a traveling caravan, a yellow brick road converted school bus caravan heading north toward San Francisco where the summer of love was going full blast.      

Josh had thought that Angelina’s decision to go back to school and then meet him out West during winter break was so much wishful thinking but in December Angelina got a message to him through some people he was staying with outside of LA in a commune that she was coming out to see him as planned. Josh met her in car rented by one of the people who was staying at the commune at the LA airport and they headed up the Pacific Coast Highway to an ocean campsite near Point Magoo which Josh had picked out specifically to show her the ocean. There they frolicked in the ocean in which Angelina, not knowing the wild ways of the waters almost drowned in a riptide she was so happy to be in the water, make great love almost as great as that first night back in Steubenville where they made the roof shake. Angelina had on their second night out there also smoked dope for the first time. Josh said he would always remember that star-filled moon-filled night with the ocean waves crashing just beneath them when they seemed as one, that they had shared a Zen moment even if neither could have articulated their feelings exact way. (She said she too would remember that night and occasionally when he thought about her and that night over the years and specifically after he had read of her passing Josh wondered if she did later when she wound up living most of her life in  Southern California not fifty miles from Point Magoo.) But like a lot of things in life, lots of things having to do with timing, with the times, with things that tugged at your whole freaking life parents, home, who you were and how you had been brought up Angelina was not ready to live a nomad’s life and so they departed with some remorse but also knowing that they would not see each other again. 

A couple of years later after Josh had had his fill of the road and the nomadic life and was back in Maine in school at State U he saw a movie advertisement on campus with a photo of  somebody named Angelina Farrell who looked very much like his Angelina. He went to the theater and couldn’t believe that there she was on screen playing a secondary role but he could hardly keep his eyes off the screen whenever she was in a scene. The story that all the film magazines had when he checked later was that Angelina had gone back to California from Muncie a few months after she had left Josh and had stayed at the commune where he had been staying (he was drifting north to Oregon heading toward Alaska at the time). One of the communards was a budding director, Lance Lane, who saw something in Angelina of film star quality (that fetching and that sexually thoughts stuff about downy billows that Josh mentioned earlier which Josh had sensed when he first saw her behind the counter of Jimmy Jake’s in her white uniform and had his lusts up) and cast her in one of his low budget independent films that an assistant producer for one of the big movie companies saw one night and called Lane up to find out who the hell she was. And the rest was history. She has a decent career playing second and third leads and when that dried out she did even better as an ad spokesperson for everything from Ford cars to female products.       

Their paths never crossed again although a couple of times when Josh was on the West Coast on a story he thought to try to get in touch but figured that the studios would block his way as just another Angelina Farrell fan and blow him off. Eventually he heard that she had married a studio executive, had a couple of kids, and gone into retirement, and so his time had passed. After reading of Angelina’s death something gnawed at Josh though. Then he finally figured it out. With three unsuccessful marriages under his belt, years of alimony, child support, and a mountain of debt for multiple college educations for his kids which almost broke him Josh wondered whether if he had had the sense that God gave geese he had grabbed Angelina with both arms and said the hell with the road back then that would have changed the course of his, and her, life. With that thought in mind he played Dylan’s Farewell, Angelina one more time.

The Con Is On-In Honor Of Verbal Kint

The Con Is On-In Honor Of Verbal Kint

By Sam Lowell   

One night in Jack’s, the much frequented bar by Zack James’ old 1960s corner boys in Adamsville, he was telling a few of the guys, Jack Callahan, Jimmy Jenkins, Bart Webber, Frank Jackman maybe Kenny Jackson who stepped in for a moment, about a film that he had recently seen, a film that kind of made Kevin Spacey as an actor, titled The Usual Suspects (a title taken, consciously taken, from a line uttered by Claude Rains’ Vichy French gendarme character in the film classic Casablanca). The reason Zack was so hopped up on the film was that it featured Spacey as a very crafty con man. When they all heard that expression, that con man, the assembled crowd lifted their heads in unison. Even some thirty years later, thirty years from the time when they hung around Salducci’s Pizza Parlor and plotted their own cons, they responded that way to a type of criminal mind that they could still relate to even though any such criminal action on their own parts had been given up by the time they graduated from high school as being too hard to keep up once they had opportunities to escape that narrow corner boy con artist world. It was either Jack or Bart who chimed up and asked Zack to give them the “skinny” on the film, see what they had “missed” by not turning pro. See whether they would have worshipped the Kevin Spacey character Verbal Kint like a living god the way that they did the king hell king of the 1960s Adamsville night, Pretty James Preston.       

Zack agreed to tell the tale at least in outline although he was not sure that Pretty James Preston was in the same league as Verbal Kint, or would have been if he had decided to stick with con artistry rather than move on to more sullen criminal activity, move on to armed a robberies (and taking virtue from impressible young girls, a subject that was still on his mind whenever he thought about Pretty, especially after Pretty  had taken his girl Mimi Murphy away, away to who knows where after he fell down). The way that this Verbal Kint set up his game was to act like a small time con man, you know, taking old ladies for their insurance money, bait and switch stuff, flimflam stuff. Added in to those small time clips was to act the fool, ac the king’s court jester, act stupid and best of all put on the old “crip,” act, you know act all handicapped, disabled, or whatever they call a guy who looks like he would need help just to cross the street, that con men have been doing since Hector was a pup to get others to blow them off as so much wind.

In any case Verbal puts this little scam together, gave the cops anonymous information so that four other big time con men with specialized skills including the ability to work with heavy guns and other weapons, wound up in the same New York City police line-up with him. The key guy, the legendary Dean Keaton, who had been accused of half the big time hustles on the East Coast, was the guy Verbal hooked into leading the expedition. Hooked into the deal since Dean had declared himself out, said he was nothing but a straight and narrow dude. After a little work by Verbal, very little because no con man ever retires as long as he draws breathe, on Dean’s ego he fell, fell in as leader since the others were strictly guys who work aspects of a con, work as hired help, when it gets big, too big for them to plan in their simple blam, blam ways.              

So Dean pulled the guys through a couple of capers, soft and easy money like falling rain, got them so they didn’t mind working with each other, getting them to trust each other as much as one thief can trust another which is none too far. Then Verbal sprung his trap. Brought in this guy, a mouth-piece for a Mister Big to tell them if they knew what was good for them they would do Mister Big’s bidding. (That Mister Big had a name which they all recognized, recognized as somebody not to cross, not to say no to if he wanted you for a caper, but Zack didn’t feel the need to say the name since all the guys knew every real caper had some real banker/backer and so the actual name was not important, just the fear he could put on if you didn’t co-operate like with Pretty James Preston when he got his “wanting habits” on as Zack used to call  it when Pretty needed dough for some frail or his bike, man, his bad-ass bike) They collectively balked for a minute but once the mouth-piece laid out the plan, or rather the dough involved, a dope deal of course with the numbers his was putting out, and the consequences for them and their loved ones if they didn’t they came on board.

The caper involved an exchange of dough for a boatload of dope with a group of bad guys from Europe and Latin America. The thing went awry as Verbal had planned from the beginning with nothing but gun fire and explosions, all boom, boom around with only Verbal and some other guy surviving. Verbal surviving with all the dough when the deal went down.

Here is the beauty of the caper though, the getting away with it part that always is the tip-off of whether a con works, or some guy named Verbal Kint  did a ton of time and they throw away the key for good measure. Naturally the feds, FBI, Customs, once the boom, boom came into play wanted to find out what the hell happened so they interrogated Verbal mercilessly. The FBI offered immunity for Verbal’s story seeing him as the day labor not the boss whom they assumed was Dean Keaton. So Verbal gave them what they wanted, a beautiful story line made out of pure cloth about the whole thing being set-up by a unknown Mister Big under penalty of personal destruction for not co-operating. And the best part as he spinned his tale Verbal giving them Dean Keaton as the Mister Big. And so Verbal walked, walked away from his cripple act too. See old Verbal was really Mister Big if anybody was asking. The Feds had egg all over their faces. Good. As Zack said that the guys ate it up. Jack, who was still hustling Toyotas as Mister Toyota of Eastern Massachusetts and so not so far from his youthful cons as he might have thought but who had a good sense of who had the goods and who didn’t when they were kids said right out of the blue that old Verbal would have had Pretty James for lunch and had time for a nap.         

All the time Zack though was relating the story line he was thinking about damn Pretty James and his antics. Not his antics which every guy who hung around Salducci’s (and before that Doc’s Drugstore over on Newbury Street when they were in elementary school and Harry’s Variety Store in junior high school to show the corner boy progression as each grouping came of age) came to admire and wonder at (except when they had been the “victim” of Pretty’s’ con, or had been the fall guys when some scam didn’t work and they had been out some dough that he had inveigled them into “lending” him) but those that cut him personally to the quick. The times when he was a kid and Pretty made a sap out of him more than once but more importantly, more leaving him feeling like Pretty should burn in the gates of hell for what he did to, and with, Mimi Murphy as much as he admired him as a kid.       

Sure the sap stuff was kids’ stuff, you know grabbling Zack’s milk money along with the others in order to buy something, maybe rings, and then selling them to the kids, including Zack at a jacked up price although much less than what they would cost at the jewelry store. What nobody knew, nobody but Zack after he figured it out was that Pretty was grabbing the milk money for “walking around” money and doing the “five-finger” discount, “clipping” the rings. (That “Pretty” moniker had been hung on him in elementary school from a remark a teacher had made about him being too pretty, and he was, to be a bad boy, little did she know. He would only answer then to Pretty James Preston or somebody would get a fistful of knuckles as Jimmy Jenkins found out soon enough but later he would answer to just Pretty, especially when the girls called him that.). Or the time in junior high when he started raffles in school with kids’ grabbing tickets left and right to win television sets, radios, recorder players. And then holding the drawings with a rigged tumbler with fake name winners. Pretty just kept the dough because there were no winners, no merchandise either. He had made up all the names in the tumbler and thrown away all the other names. Beautiful.

Here is the real beauty of Pretty though on as he refined that basic scam- when he was running a classic pyramid scheme, a Pozzi deal really. He would sell the tickets say for a dollar a piece, collect maybe fifty or hundred bucks and the hold a “drawing.” There would be one prize some beat Radio Shack transistor radio maybe worth ten bucks and that was that. Of course junior high kids didn’t know how much the damn thing cost could care less, cared only that they had not won. Next day, hell, the very next morning before school Pretty had new tickets ready for the suckers. This drawing though got him a couple of hundred bucks and he distributed a couple of radios and a television. See he had worked a deal with some of the older guys who were hanging around Salducci’s Pizza Parlor before they graduated to something else and were doing the midnight creep around town, the midnight creep being B&E in the nighttime to certain houses which had televisions or warehouses with the same. The deal was they would sell him the merchandise whatever it was and he would cut them into a share of the profits from the raffles. That racket got Pretty most of the way to sixteen, got him plenty of admiration once he took us under his wing and let others be the “suckers” grabbling cheapjack stuff from his raffles.              

That sixteen was important because something turned in Pretty, not the con part, no way, he lived for the con, but his whole attitude toward society changed quite a bit from basically seeing the whole world as fair game for his various basically harmless if morally dubious grifts fits to “carrying a chip on his shoulder.” Started see the whole world as his to exploit whatever way he wanted. His scams got more ingenious but also more perverse. Moreover at sixteen he got his big ass motorcycle which he got by some fucked up scheme. Somehow he thought that bike, and it was a great big monster, a British bike not a Harley pig bike make him king of the world. Made him fast, which it did. That sixteen was the year he did his first robbery, armed robbery to boot, nothing big just a local gas station where he scared the gas jockey so much that when it came time for him to identify Pretty he suddenly got amnesia, couldn’t remember what the guy looked like. And Pretty did not wear a mask, and the jockey knew exactly who Pretty was since he would fill up the bike’s tank there all the time. Pretty became an urban legend off of that one.        

That sixteen though was the time that Pretty started treating his corner boys like shit though. That would have been okay probably but it still stuck in Zack’s gut after all the years Pretty had been dead and Mimi had been missing that Pretty had taken Mimi away from Zack right in front of his eyes. Zack had been cultivating his relationship with the pretty, nicely-shaped, red-headed Mimi, known around as one of those Irish Catholic girls in the neighborhood who had the rosary in her hand and a Bible between her knees and so Zack had played it slow and by the book unlike with other girls who he tried to fuck the first night, the first date or the second. Yeah he had it bad for her. One summer afternoon between sophomore and junior year Zack and Mimi had been walking along Adamsville Beach when a big boom motorcycle came up behind them and Zack knew it could only be Pretty whom he had not seen in a while since he had dropped out of school in the spring saying to everybody that he didn’t need any more school education since he knew how he was going to make his bones. That was just after the famous armed robbery at the local gas station. Pretty didn’t say one blessed word to Zack or Mimi but just nodded toward Mimi to get on the back of his bike. And just like that she did. That night from the scuttlebutt in the girls’ lav at school according to Zack’s sister who had been friendly with Mimi she let Pretty have his way with her.

For a while, a couple of years, he would see Mimi and Pretty usually on the back of one of Pretty’s bikes (one of them after a while including a big old Vincent Black Lightening another British bike that was supposed to be super-fast) and then he didn’t see or heard anything for a while until the time of the great Riverdale National Bank robbery, or rather attempted robbery, where Pretty was gunned down by a fleet of Riverdale coppers after being winged by some bank security guard who must have thought that the money was his own that was being stolen. The newspaper said witnesses had seen a pretty red-head across the street from the bank who looked frightened at what had happened. She had fled, Mimi had fled and while Zack had heard a rumor that she was for a time up in Portland working as a model or in some whorehouse, or doing something around there he never tried to find out and she never came back to Adamsville even for her parents’ funerals. Zack had to chuckle, a bitter chuckle, as he thought about what Jack had said about how even now old Verbal would have had Pretty for lunch and had time for a nap. Little good that knowledge would ever do Zack though.