Saturday, January 06, 2018
Songs To While Away The Resistance By-Back When We Tried To Turn The World Upside Down-From The Doors
Songs To While Away The Resistance By-Back When We Tried To Turn The World Upside Down-From The Doors
Frank Jackman comment September 2017:
A while back, maybe a half a decade ago now, I started a series in this space that I presented under the headline Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By where I posted some songs, you know, The Internationale, Which Side Are You On?, Viva La Quince Brigada, Solidarity Forever and others like Deportee, Where Have All The Flowers Gone, Blowin’ In The Wind, This Land Is Your Land while not as directly political had their hearts in the right place, that I thought would help get us through the “dog days” of the struggle for our socialist future. Those “dog days” in America anyway, depending on what leftist political perspective drove your imagination could have gone back as far as the late 1960s and early 1970s when all things were possible and the smell of revolution could be whiffed in the air for a while before we were defeated, or maybe later when all abandoned hope for the least bit of social justice in the lean, vicious, downtrodden Reagan years of unblessed memory or later still around the time of the great world- historic defeats of the international working class in East Europe and the former Soviet Union which left us with an unmatched arrogant unipolar imperialist world. That one pole being the United States, the “heart of the beast” from which we work. Whatever your personal benchmark they were nevertheless if you had the least bit of political savvy clearly dog days.
I began posting these songs at a time, 2009, when it was touch and go whether there would be some kind of massive uprising against the economic royalists (later chastised under the popular sobriquet “the one-percent”) who had just dealt the world a blow to the head through their economic machinations in what is now called the Great Recession of 2008. Subsequently, while there were momentary uprisings, the Arab Spring which got its start in Tunisia and Egypt and enflamed most of the Middle East one way or another, here in America the defensive uprising of the public workers in Wisconsin and later the quick-moving although ephemeral Occupy movement, and the uprising in Greece, Spain and elsewhere in Europe in response to the “belt-tightening demanded by international financial institutions to name a few, the response from the American and world working classes has for lots of reasons if anything further entrenched those interests.
So as the “dog days” continue now under the extreme retro Trump administration I have resumed the series. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs selected; 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 kind of formation would mean political death for any serious revolutionary upheaval and would not be acceptable for our political prospects it will suffice for our purposes here. I like to invite others to make additional comments on certain pivotal songs, groups and artists and here is one by my old friend Josh Breslin, whom I met out in California during the heyday of the summer of love 1967, that reflects those many possibilities to “turn the world upside down” back in the 1960s and early 1970s before the “night of the long knives” set in:
WE WANT THE WORLD AND WE WANT IT NOW!
From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin
My old friend from the Summer of Love, 1967 days, Peter Paul Markin, always used to make a point then of answering, or rather arguing which tells a lot about the kind of guy he was when he got his political hind legs up with anybody who tried to tell him back in the day that “music is the revolution.” Strangely when I first met him in San Francisco that summer you would have been hard-pressed to tell him that was not the case but after a few hit on the head by the coppers, a tour of duty in the military at the height of the Vietnam War, and what was happening to other political types trying to change the world for the better like the Black Panthers he got “religion,” or at least he got that music as the agency of social change idea out of his head. Me, well, I was (and am not) as political as Markin was so that I neither got drowned in the counter-culture where music was a central cementing act, nor did I have anything that happened subsequently that would have given me Markin’s epiphany.
I would listen half-attentively (a condition aided by being “stoned” a lot of the time) when such conversations erupted and Markin drilled his position. That position meaning, of course that contrary to the proponents (including many mutual friends who acted out on that idea and got burned by the flame, some dropping out, some going back to academia, some left by the wayside and who are maybe still wandering) that eight or ten Give Peace A Chance, Kumbaya, Woodstock songs would not do the trick, would not change this nasty, brutish, old short-life world into the garden, into some pre-lapsarian Eden. Meaning that the gathering of youth nation unto itself out in places like Woodstock, Golden Gate Park, Monterrey, hell, the Boston Common, or even once word trickled down the way the word has always trickled down to the sticks once the next new thing gets a workout, Olde Saco Park, in the town up in Maine where I grew up would not feed on itself and grow to such a critical mass that the quite nameable enemies of good, kindness starting with one Lyndon Johnson and one Richard M. Nixon and working down to the go-fers and hangers-on, and leave us alone would sulk off somewhere, defeated or at least defanged.
Many a night, many a dope-blistered night before some seawall ocean front Pacific Coast campfire I would listen to Markin blast forth against that stuff, against that silliness. As for me, I was too “into the moment,” too into finding weed, hemp, mary jane and too into finding some fetching women to share it with to get caught up in some nebulous ideological struggle. It was only later, after the music died, after rock and roll turned in on itself, turned into some exotic fad of the exiles on Main Street that I began to think through the implications of what Markin, and the guys on the other side, were arguing about.
Now it makes perfect sense that music, or any mere cultural expression standing alone, would be unable to carry enough weight to turn us back to the garden (I won’t use that “pre-lapsarian’ again to avoid showing my, and Markin’s, high Roman Catholic up-bringing and muddy what I want to say which is quite secular). I guess that I would err on the side of the “angels” and at least wish that we could have carried the day against the monsters of the American imperium we confronted back in the day. (Although I had a draft deferment due to a serious physical condition, not helped by the “street” dope I was consuming by the way, I supported, and something vehemently and with some sense of organization, a lot of the political stuff Markin was knee deep into, especially Panther defense when we lived in Oakland and all hell was raining down on the brothers and sisters.)
Thinking about what a big deal was made of such arguments recently (arguments carried deep into the night, deep in smoke dream nights, and sometimes as the blue–pink dawn came rising up to smite our dreams) I thought back to my own musical appreciations. In my jaded youth (if one could be jaded in Podunk Olde Saco, although more than one parent and more than one teacher called me “beatnik” back then whatever that meant to them) I developed an ear for roots music, whether I was conscious of that fact or not. Perhaps it was some off-shoot DNA thing since my people on my mother’s side (nee LeBlanc) were French-Canadian which had a deep folk heritage both up north and here although such music was not played in the house, a house like a lot of other ethnics where in the 1950s everybody wanted to be vanilla American (Markin mentioned that same thing about his Irish-etched parents). So it initially started as a reaction to my parents’ music, the music that got them through the Great Depression of the 1930s and later waiting for other shoe to drop (either in Normandy where my father first went to Europe under some very trying conditions or at home waiting in Olde Saco), and that became a habit, a wafting through the radio of my childhood home habit. You know who I mean Frank (Sinatra for the heathens), Harry James, the Andrews Sisters, Peggy Lee, Doris Day and the like. Or, maybe, and this is something that I have come closer to believing was the catalyst along with the DNA stuff I already mentioned, my father’s very real roots in the Saturday night mountain barn dance, fiddles blazing, music of his growing up poor down in Appalachia. (Again such music except every once in a while Hank Williams who I didn’t know about at the time was not played in the house either. Too “square” I guess.)
The origin of my immersion into roots music first centered on the blues, country and city with the likes of Son House(and that raspy, boozy country voice on Death Letter Blues), Skip James ( I went nuts over that voice first heard after he had been “discovered” at the Newport Folk Festival I think in 1963 when he sang I’d Rather Be The Devil Than Be That Woman’s Man on the radio after I had just broken up with some devil woman, read girl), Mississippi John Hurt (that clear guitar, simple lyrics on Creole Belle), Muddy Waters (yes, Mannish-Boy ), Howlin’ Wolf ( I again went nuts when I heard his righteous Little Red Rooster although I had heard the Stones version first, a version originally banned in Boston) and Elmore James ( his Dust My Broom version of the old Robert Johnson tune I used to argue was the “beginning” of rock and roll to anybody who would listen). Then early rock and roll, you know the rockabillies and R&B crowd, Elvis (stuff like One Night With You, Jailhouse Rock and the like before he died in about 1958 or whatever happened to him when he started making stupid movies that mocked his great talent making him look foolish and which various girlfriends of the time forced me to go see at the old Majestic Theater in downtown Olde Saco), Jerry Lee (his High School Confidential, the film song, with him flailing away at the piano in the back of a flat-bed truck blew me away although the film was a bust, as was the girl I saw it with), Chuck (yeah, when he declared to a candid world that while we all gave due homage to classical music in school Mister Beethoven better move on over with Roll Over Beethoven), Roy (Roy the boy with that big falsetto voice crooning out Running Scared, whoa), Big Joe (and that Shake, Rattle and Roll which I at one point also argued was the “beginning” of rock and roll, okay, I liked to argue those fine points) and Ike Turner (who I ultimately settled on with his Rocket 88 as that mythical beginning of rock and roll) Then later, with the folk revival of the early 1960’s, the folk music minute before the British invasion took a lot of the air out of that kind of music, especially the protest to high heaven sort, Bob Dylan (even a so-so political guy like me, maybe less than so-so then before all hell broke loose and we had to choose sides loved Blowin’ in the Wind), Dave Von Ronk (and that raspy old voice, although was that old then sing Fair And Tender Ladies one of the first folk songs I remember hearing) Joan Baez (and that long ironed-hair singing that big soprano on those Child ballads), etc.
I am, and have always been after that Podunk growing up experience a city boy, and an Eastern city boy at that. Meaning rootless or not meaningfully or consciously rooted in any of the niches mentioned above. Nevertheless, over time I have come to appreciate many more forms of roots music than in my youth. Cajun, Tex-Mex, old time dust bowl ballads a la Woody Guthrie, cowboy stuff with the likes of Bob Wills and Milton Brown, Carter Family-etched mountain music (paying final conscious tribute to the mountain DNA in my bones) and so on.
All those genres are easily classified as roots music but I recall one time driving Markin crazy, driving him to closet me with the “music is the revolution” heads he fretfully argued against when I mentioned in passing that The Doors, then in their high holy mantra shamanic phase with The End and When The Music’s Over epitomized roots music. That hurt me to the quick, a momentary hurt then, but thinking about it more recently Markin was totally off base in his remarks.
The Doors are roots music? Well, yes, in the sense that one of the branches of rock and roll derived from early rhythm and blues and in the special case of Jim Morrison, leader of The Doors, the attempt to musically explore the shamanic elements in the Western American Native- American culture that drove the beat of many of his trance-like songs like The End. More than one rock critic, professional rock critic, has argued that on their good nights when the dope and booze were flowing, Morrison was in high trance, and they were fired up The Doors were the best rock and roll band ever created. Those critics will get no argument here, and it is not a far stretch to classify their efforts as in the great American roots tradition. I argued then and will argue here almost fifty years later when that original statement of mine was more prophetic The Doors put together all the stuff rock critics in one hundred years will be dusting off when they want to examine what it was like when men (and women, think Bonnie Raitt, Wanda Jackson, et. al) played rock and roll, played the people’s music, played to respond to a deep-seeded need of the people before them, for keeps.
So where does Jim Morrison fit in an icon of the 1960s if he was not some new age latter day cultural Lenin/Trotsky. Some icon that Markin could have latched onto. Jim was part of the trinity, the “J” trinity for the superstitious – Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix who lived fast, lived way too fast, and died young. The slogan of the day (or hour) – “Drugs, sex, and rock and roll.” And we liked that idea however you wanted to mix it up. Then.
Their deaths were part of the price we felt we had to pay if we were going to be free. And be creative. Even the most political among us, including Markin in his higher moments (you figure out what that “higher,” means since you are bright people) felt those cultural winds blowing across the continent and counted those who espoused this alternative vision as part of the chosen. The righteous headed to the “promise land.” Unfortunately those who believed that we could have a far-reaching positive cultural change via music or “dropping out” without a huge societal political change proved to be wrong long ago. But, these were still our people.
Know this as well if you are keeping score. Whatever excesses were committed by our generation and there were many, many made by the generation that came of political and cultural age in the early 1960s, the generation I call the generation of ’68 to signify its important and decisive year internationally, were mainly made out of ignorance and foolishness. Our opponents, exemplified by outlaw big cowboy President Lyndon B. Johnson and one Richard Milhous Nixon, President of the United States and common criminal, and their minions like J. Edgar Hoover, Mayor Richard Daley and Hubert Humphrey spent every day of their lives as a matter of conscious, deliberate policy raining hell down on the peoples of the world, the minorities in this country, and anyone else who got in their way. Forty plus years of “cultural wars” in revenge by their protégés, hangers-on and now their descendants in Trump land has been a heavy price to pay for our youthful errors. And Markin would surely have endorsed this sentiment. Enough.
Memories Of Rick-With Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s “Casablanca” In Mind
By Seth Garth
[Before he passed away in the late 1980s the long time French police officer, Commandant Louis Renault (everybody, everybody but the bad guys who crossed his path and there were plenty and not all of them Germans, called him “Louie” for his mild-mannered easy style when he was not in hot pursuit of some nefarious types)who had worked both in colonial Algeria and French Morocco before heading back home to work with the National Police in his hometown of Lyon, liked to sit in the Café Algiers there and reminisce about all his adventures as a cop. When asked about the most memorable person, friend or foe, he had been up against in his times he would without much hesitation blurt out the name of Rick Blaine.
Rick of Rick’s Café in Casablanca when Louie had worked in French Morocco early in World War II after the fall of the French Republic and the rise of the Vichy government which controlled that colony then. He as a police officer noted the changing of the guard and went about his business as usual-regimes come and go he had always said but the cops are forever. After investigation of Rick’s past, most of the early part as a tough guy out of Hell’s Kitchen in New York City a place where Rick would make people laugh when he said even the mighty Germans would think twice about occupying and had included some troubling adventurous activity for the “wrong” side in Ethiopia and Spain during the 1930s, he, after having had his palm “greased” issued the liquor and nightclub license for Rick to keep his Cafe Americian open under his prefecture.
For most of the time he knew Rick in Casablanca they had had a good working relationship. Rick would let him “win” at the roulette wheel as his pay-off for letting illegal gambling go on in full sight, “comp” him for drinks and dope, mostly hashish, and let him have his women “rejects” on the rebound. Then she came in, came in as Rick said one drunken night when she had her claws in him bad again “of all the gin joints in all the world she had to show up at his door.” From then on things got interesting, very interesting. The following is a translation by Jean Marais of what Louie had to say when he was asked by a National Police archivist for details of his relationship with one Rick Blaine (1920-1982)-SG]
“That Rick Blaine was a piece of work, one of the last of the pre-war, pre-World War II if anybody is asking which war we are talking about, romantics tilting his lance at the windmills in the name of love-or the thrill of adventure, maybe even the thrill of tweaking somebody’s nose just for the hell of it, Louie Renault was reminiscing out loud to those who were attending his retirement party. Retirement from the National Police, [the French coppers although they are not national cops like the FBI in America but just like city and town cops there run through the central government], the guys who keep order in places like Paris and Lyon (since it was a governmental pension he was about to receive after much haggling his service during Vichy times first in Algiers and then in French-controlled Morocco, in Casablanca, was included as well as his Lyon assignments). He had been asked a question by one of the younger policer officers about what was his most memorable episode in a long and illustrious career. Of course Louie had to go back to those early war days when he ran the operation for Vichy in godforsaken Casablanca to find some events, some characters who could qualify for what that young officer was asking about. Had to go back to Rick Blaine without question.
“Yes, Rick was the real thing, I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned his name,” Louie blurted out when the officer did not comprehend why a guy whom he had on other occasions called nothing but a saloon keeper, a guy out for himself whatever checkered past he might have had rated so high. “Let me fill you and see if I am not right about this whole matter.” He would say out of earshot that even De Gaulle would gladly take a back seat after hearing this story since he was safely in London being a pain in the ass to the British and American while “little guys” like Rick and a guy who looked pretty big even by De Gaulle standards Victor Lazlo were mercilessly tweaking the German’s tail.
“Once the Germans marched into Paris they controlled the whole political situation but since they couldn’t handle a total occupation of France and wreak havoc on the rest of Europe at the same time they left part of the country to the French military, to General Petain who worked out of Vichy, the place where the specialized water comes from. Yeah, collaborators, liked they used to try to hang on me before Rick came to Casablanca, Lazlo too, and got everybody well. I had been in Algiers during that time but once the new political reality hit I was assigned to run the police operations in bloody Casablanca-a backwater where every odd-ball thing could and did happen as well as plenty of illegal stuff from dope to women to smuggling. Just my cup of tea. I figured that I could make more graft there in the Casbah than staying in Algiers once the British and Americans got serious about dislodging the Germans from Northern Africa.
“No sooner had I landed in Casablanca then I spied Rick’s place, Rick’s Café Americian he called it, a place where there was plenty of booze, women, gambling, dope and whatever else you wanted. Or wanted done-life was cheap there-dirt cheap. The bloody Arabs could barely keep themselves busy except when some silly “blood honor” thing came up and we had to pick up the mess after the killings. Some he said, the other guy said stuff and then bang-bang. Had to arrest about fifteen people, family members from both sides and show them a little baton to the head just to let them know we meant business. Nobody ever faulted me on that score. I walked in and introduced myself to Rick without saying anything further. He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye he said later after all the smoke had cleared and we could be honest with each other, sized me up and down and knowing that I would do “business” after that appraisal said would the previous arrangement with the Prefect I was replacing be okay- a cut of the profits, a slice of the gambling [paid out by his “winning at roulette” with lucky red 22], my pick of women, free liquor and dope, and deep discounts on anything else I needed. Also told me of his dealings, his working relationships for dope, booze and Moslem women which it seemed some of the Europeans were crazy for although I was strictly for the low-rent French tarts who found Casablanca easy on their virtue, with Sydney Greenstreet, an émigré merchant of sorts from England over in the Casbah. I immediately issued the necessary licenses that each new Prefect was entitled to issue as was my prerogative. Done.
“This Rick was a hard guy to figure though the more I ran into him on the street or more regularly in his place either to grab some young woman, to grab my cut, to “win” at roulette, or just to have some high shelf bonded whiskey that I became very fond of. Somebody said, I think it was Frenchie the main bartender, that Rick had had some kind of an adventurous past, had run some guns to Ethiopia when they were trying to hold off the Italians when Mussolini was flexing his muscles and later fought with the International Brigades, with the Communists in Spain when Franco was working up to flexing his muscles. I had already known that past from the files the previous Prefect had left and from a couple of snitches I had run through Rick’s place but the “grease” from Rick’s deal said otherwise in my eyes. When I first met him he was all business like I said, if you said green he said okay what shade, that kind of thing.
“Somebody said, maybe it was Frenchie again since I sat at the bar of the joint many a night to “enforce” the no gambling regulation and to drink a few high shelf scotches, that Rick had been unlucky in love and that was why when he, Rick, had his choice of any girl he wanted, two if he was feeling frisky, would take them up to his office and apartment upstairs from the club, do whatever it was that they did, some wild stuff I heard from a couple of them that I caught on the “rebound” especially from one who took him “around the world” which she would later do with me and the next night would not know them. Tell them to sell their wares in the Casbah, a low thing to say to a European woman if you knew anything at all about what went on in the Casbah. I never went there personally but would sent for this Greenstreet to deliver me my graft and whatever dope I was looking for at the time. Like I said mainly hashish from the pipe. In the end it would be that lost love that had been bothering Rick once she came to town but early on you couldn’t tell what was eating at him. Just knew that he had a chip on his shoulder which would not fall off.
“Jesus, in those days there were all kinds of people as you can imagine trying to get out of Europe for one reason or another and once France and the countries around it fell to the Germans that was doubled up. Homeless, stateless Jews, who we all knew were being savaged by the Germans and by Vichy too, International Brigaders who couldn’t go back to their occupied homelands, local Communists who didn’t get or who couldn’t get underground, anybody out of the ordinary, we even had a couple of kids, rich kids who had left Hamburg once Hitler said that jazz was a Negro-Jew conspiracy and banned the music. If you looked at a map of Europe in say 1941 you would notice that there was not much wiggle room to work with in order to get out of some occupied spot. The road out though however they got there led to Casablanca no matter what the individual reason for leaving Europe was. The link. The air flights to Lisbon and from there anyplace but the old canard Europe.
“So you know that there was plenty of money to be made by those daring enough to act as smugglers to get these desperate people out one way or another. I could have made plenty if I had decided to use my position to get real greedy but I didn’t want to deal with a bunch of desperate people bothering me about why they weren’t getting out fast enough. Rick and the Casbah made me plenty-for a while. All the action either went through that guy Sidney Greenstreet who ran his operation out of the Casbah where he mainly handled small fry, people of no account but with money, or at Rick’s for the higher class clientele. Mostly the wealthier Jews and previously high placed officials of democratic governments who the Germans were desperate to find and make an example out off for their compatriots under occupation. Some seriously shady characters, art forgers, crazed jazz aficionados, con artists, three card monte hustlers, independent dope dealers-mainly heroin out of the Afghan fields working their way West to the cities, jack-rollers, rapists and assorted slugs, characters who even we had to keep an eye on to keep any kind of order plopped themselves there.
“Things though were going fine until some horse’s asses, as it turned out guys we had on our radar but couldn’t quite nab, decided they would murder a couple of German couriers and grab a couple of letters of transit they were travelling with. Now these letters of transit were like gold-would make their possessor a pot of gold. Maybe two pots if they worked it right. These were no questions asked documents which only had to have names filled in order to catch a flight to Lisbon and from there wherever else they wanted to go. This weasel, well known to us from a couple of rip-off jobs he did on unsuspecting travelers, a guy named Peter Lorre was part of the gang who took the couriers down. One night he showed up at Rick’s the natural place to start looking for high-end buyers and we nailed him-took him in “custody” but he didn’t have the letters of transit on him. He hanged himself in his cell before we could get much more out of him. Rick had been as cool as a cucumber when this weasel, this sweaty little nobody showed his ugly face there. This Lorre begged Rick to hide him. Rick just blew him off, told him to get lost. A couple of customers made noises when we grabbed and manhandled Lorre saying they wouldn’t patronize Rick’s again because of his attitude in the matter. Rick told them something that impressed me at the time-he wasn’t sticking his neck out for anybody. Those customers by the way were back the next night when I let Rick reopen the place and he sent them over a couple of drinks. They were his best buddies then.
“That courier murder business though would lay us all low. See the Germans had sent over this hard-ass major, Major Veidt (sic) I think his name was if I remember the name correctly, to look into the matter. I was trying to impress him so he would put in a good word for me with Vichy. That was the whole idea behind making a big deal out of the Lorre arrest (and I was happy when he hung himself because he would have not stood up well under German methods and he might have spilled who knows what about what was going on in Casablanca at the time). That made Rick’s gesture at the time this guy Lorre begged him to save him from my men even more important. Rick just looked the other way and Lorre was a goner. We never did get the other guys in with Lorre when we rounded up, our what did we call them, oh yes, “usual suspects”, Communists and con men and a few whores who we regularly rounded up to fill the jails full and make it look like we were doing our jobs. Some wound up out in a desert graveyard once we were done with them.
“Like I said in those days all kinds of people were coming through town. One of them a guy I mentioned before and said I would speak of again named Victor Lazlo had escaped from a German concentration camp and somehow he had worked his way through whatever network he had in Europe to Casablanca. This Lazlo was well-known as a leader of the resistance to the German occupations of half of Europe so a guy whom the Germans, especially this Major Veidt, were foaming at the mouth to get their hands on. But as long as he didn’t do anything illegal I had no reason to arrest him. I had half-figured when I heard he was in town to see who the highest bidder, strictly cash, was for his hide and take my cut that way.
“But here is where things got interesting. This Lazlo, a good-looking guy with good manners and a good tipper according to Frenchie, was not travelling alone. He had this beautiful woman with him, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen then or now, Ilsa something, I am not sure we ever knew her last name and it didn’t matter with a beauty like that. When she showed up our Rick went crazy, went crazy like a loon. See he had come to Casablanca just ahead of the German armies advancing on Paris with this black guy who was an entertainer, a singer and piano player named Sam and a sour look on his face. He had “known” Ilsa in Paris, had been her fancy man from what I could tell. They were supposed to blow town together and meet at the train station one evening on the last train out of Paris before the Germans stopped the trains. She was a “no show.” She was in living color the reason that Rick had been so indifferent to everything. Why he turned over perfectly good women to me without batting an eyelash.
“Of course the minute she showed up the old flames were re-kindled-for both of them. She had spied Sam at the piano through the heavily smoke-filled room, had forced him to play “their” song, If I Didn’t Care I think and when Rick heard that he went ballistic, was ready to come to blows with Sam since Sam had been ordered never to play the song. Then he spotted her across the piano and he melted down like an ice cube. It seems that in Paris she had assumed her husband, this Lazlo was dead, had been killed by the Germans. False report. That last day in Paris she found out through some underground source that Lazlo was still alive and she had gone to him. Leaving Rick standing in the rain at the fucking train station. Naturally all of this stuff I learned later but that “left standing in the rain” is what drove Rick to get up on his high horse and create nothing but trouble for me and my men once she came into view.
“That long gone Lorre had given Rick the letters of transit to keep for him the night Rick looked the other way when we grabbed the weasel and made him squeal or whatever weasels do when they are caught. When with Rick’s help he fell down, wound up at the end of his checkered tie, Rick figured that he would use the letters to get himself out of hellhole Casablanca. He said that even Hell’s Kitchen in New York where he had grown up (and had “advised” the Germans to think twice about trying to occupy if you recall) was less dangerous than Casablanca so you get an idea how bad things were-how cheap life was on in the desert. Worse than the bloody wogs the British were always moaning about in the Raj, in India. He wasn’t going alone though. She, Ilsa, was going with him. She had snuck up into his apartment one night when Lazlo was out doing his organizing of the local resistance. As a result of that outlawed meeting I had Lazlo picked up when he surfaced, you couldn’t have such meetings and I knew that German major would be happy to hear that I had the great Victor Lazlo locked up like a caged animal.
“Whatever Rick and Ilsa did and from what Frenchie said Oscar the head waiter told him they had definitely gone under the sheets from his disheveled look and the blush on her face when Rick told Oscar to escort her home they were blowing town together. When Oscar told me that story a few days later I wondered about what had happened. What had made sour Rick decide to blow a good thing in Casablanca (my good thing too don’t forget). No question Ilsa was a beauty, an exceptional beauty but after the way she had left him high and dry in Paris I figured maybe a quick roll in the hay and then off alone. But you never know about beautiful women, sometimes they can be just as kinky as any whore or any low-rent tart. She didn’t look that way but maybe with a few drinks and an agenda of her own-like getting Lazlo out- alone- she took him around the world like that ex-flame Lisette had.
“Somehow and I never could get him to tell me exactly what happened he had had an epiphany after that night some kind of turnaround. All he would say back then was the way the world was just then the troubles of three people, him, Ilsa and Lazlo weren’t worth a hill of beans compared what was going on. But whatever the source from then on he was on fire, was maybe thinking back to that old fight in Spain, thought about some payback for lost comrades, maybe what would happen if the Germans won, maybe he just didn’t like that Major Veidt and his arrogant ways closing up his café when the high rollers were coming in for their weekend beatings.
“So he gave Ilsa one story about how they should meet at the airport and blow town. She was all over that idea and had dropped any mention of Lazlo. He told me another. Talked me into a deal that when I thought about it later I should have figured was bullshit from minute number one. Confessed to me that he had the letters. Was blowing town with Ilsa and that was that. He said -let’s do this though. Let Lazlo out, let him get to the airport with the letters and grab him as an accessory for the courier murders. A feather in my cap was all I could think of. Would get that fucking Major Veidt off my back about picking up Lazlo and showing him the desert sights. When the deal went down though Rick was faking the whole thing. Maybe not about wanting to flee with Ilsa but about his attitude toward Lazlo. He had convinced me of his plan but when the deal went down I was the fall guy, well, one of the fall guys. That German major took the big fall when he tried to stop the plane to Lisbon as Lazlo and Ilsa got on the plane. Rick took him down without a murmur in one clean shot making me wonder how the Loyalists lost in Spain with a guy like that working with them.
“Needless to say when I was caught in a bind I stepped away from danger by refusing to arrest Rick. I went into the usual dodge-round up the usual suspects, double it up this time since a goddam German major was under the ground. I resolved the bind I was in pretty simply. I figured my days in Morocco were finished and so I saw the writing on the wall. I walked away with Rick (an action that I was successfully able to use in order to have my service time there count toward my retirement which I had many hassles over before I won). We made our way to Brazzaville with the dough Rick grabbed from Greenstreet when Rick sold him his interest in the café. I stayed there grabbing my graft until the end of the war and had worked various grifts with Rick until he went back to Europe a few months later where he joined up with the French resistance, worked with Samuel Beckett the exiled Irish playwright who was deeply into the organization from what I heard later. I heard from him a few times over the years before he passed away a few years ago. I guess Casablanca was in his blood because after the war he ran the Café Casablanca in New York City for some thirty years before he gave it up to retire. But what a guy that Rick was, giving up that luscious piece for unsung glory underground in France. Making that big gesture for love. Yeah, the last of the pre-war romantics.
Sanctuary, William Faulkner, Vintage Books, New York, 1931
I have read my fair share of Faulkner although I am hardly a devotee. My main positive reference to him is concerning his role in the screenwriting of one of my favorite films- "To Have or To Have Not" with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. I have also, obliquely, run into his work as it relates to who should and who should not be in the modern American literary canon. Usually the criticism centers on his racism and sexism, and occasionally his alcoholism. Of course, if political correctness were the main criterion for good hard writing then we would mainly not be reading anything more provocative or edifying than the daily newspaper, if that.
So much for that though. Faulkner is hardly known as a master of the noir or 'potboiler' but here the genius of his sparse, functional writing (a trait that he shares with the Hemingway of "The Killers" and the key crime novelists of the 1930’s Hammett, think "The Red Harvest", and Chandler, think "The Big Sleep") gives him entree into that literary genre. And he makes the most of it.
The plot revolves around a grotesque cast of characters who are riding out the Jazz Age in the backwaters of Mississippi and its Mecca in Memphis. Take one protected young college student, Temple Drake, looking to get her 'kicks'. Put her with a shabbily gentile frat boy looking for his kicks. Put them on the back roads of Prohibition America and trouble is all you can expect. Add in a bootlegger or two, a stone-crazy killer named Popeye with a little sexual problem and you are on your way.
That way is a little bumpy as Faulkner mixed up the plot, the motives of the characters and an unsure idea of what justice, Southern style, should look like in this situation in the eyes of his main positive character, Horace, the lawyer trying to do the right thing in a dead wrong situation which moreover is stacked against him. As always with Faulkner follow the dialogue, that will get you through even if you have to do some re-reading (as I have had to do). Interestingly, for a writer as steeped in Southern mores, Jim Crow and very vivid descriptions of the ways of the South in the post-Civil War era as Faulkner was there is very little of race in this one. The justice meted out here tells us one thing- it is best to be a judge’s daughter or a Daughter of the Confederacy if you want a little of that precious commodity. All others watch out. Kudos to Faulkner, whether he wrote this for the cash or not, for taking on some very taboo subjects back in 1931 Mississippi. Does anyone really want to deny him his place in the American literary canon? Based on this effort I think not.
The Night Captain Crunch Cashed His Check-With Jeanbon Kerouac In Mind
By Bradley Fox
It was a dark, drizzly night the night in October, 2015 when Bart Webber and Sam Lowell heard from their old on the road friend from up in Maine Josh Breslin that Captain Crunch had cashed his check (for those not in the know that was an old-time 1950s and 1960s expression among hipsters, be-boppers, beats and along the edges of hippie-dom to say that somebody had passed on to the great beyond just like among the hobos, tramps and bums out in the great railroad “jungles” of the West the expression that some compadre had “caught the freight train West” meant the same thing). That night, or whenever the old gang still left heard about his demise, there must have been consideration gnashing of teeth among guys, gals too, in places like Sam and Bart’s Carver, Josh’s Olde Saco, North Adamsville, Riverdale, Steubenville, Ohio, Omaha, Saint Louie, and a thousand other places where those who knew the Captain in his prime and their primes wound up. Maybe wept a tear for their lost youth when everything was possible and knowing the Captain made you believe that hard fact even in the face of contrary evidence as the decade of the 1960s moved along. Yeah, that’s it, maybe wept a tear for their lost youth.
See Captain Crunch, real name Jonathan Fuller, Yale Class of 1957, but always Captain Crunch to all who knew him in that time when everybody and the uncles and aunts were shedding their real names and reinventing, or trying to reinvent themselves, in many cases that was a close thing, had caught the fever caused by the stir of Jeanbon Kerouac’s classic 1950s road novel On The Road (although the events in that book had actually occurred in the late 1940s the vagaries of the publishing industry and Jack’s hubris combined to delay the news of the new dispensation much to his chagrin). That novel had come out the year the Captain had graduated from Yale and having been foot loose and fancy free coming from an old moneyed family and thus unlike many others who graduated that year not in need of a job to set himself up the world headed out to San Francisco to check out the scene there. Took the train out if anybody was wondering if he followed Jack’s hitchhike trail to breathe deeply of the American night.
The scene that was happening in that town, its doings, and its characters would eventually be widely called the “beat generation.” (The genesis of that term “beat” has a checkered history since both John Holmes who used it in an article in the later 1940s and Jack who personified “beat” claimed fatherhood to the idea but in any case Jack made the term more widely known and more interesting.) The Captain had landed in Frisco in late 1957 and headed straight to the City Lights bookstore over on Columbus run by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and a couple of other associates to see what was what. One day a few months thereafter he had met Kerouac who had just come off one of his famous, or infamous, three day drunk-doped up-sexed up binges and looked like hell but who answered his questions about his take on the scene. Jack had told him all the media stuff was all bullshit, all bullshit now not when the events depicted in the novel occurred and that the so-called hipster beatnik clowns (his term according to the Captain) running around with beards, berets, and bennies were all fakers and punks although the girls, especially those all dressed in black including their lingerie and wearing black eyeliner, who were willing to go down for him, or on him, just because he was famous now was okay as long as they didn’t expect anything of him except to get laid. The Captain (who had not taken on that persona then that would come later when he drew his own acolytes around him like Bart and Sam) hung around that scene, the edges of that Frisco beat scene for a few years until it kind of petered out of its own inertia.
The Captain had said later when a new generation familiar with On The Road and not much else began to ask questions about what happened then that he had learned a lot from the beat poets, artists and performers no question. Knew many of them who were already famous or who would become famous in the folklore of the town Ginsberg, Kerouac, Corso, Snyder, and Cassady or have a local fame like Jake Arbus, Dixie Davis, and Guy Daniels. But as that that movement drifted into dust he had become more interested in expanding his self-consciousness, his karmic being, when he fit in the universe and so he slowly drifted south to La Honda where Ken Kesey was putting together a new dispensation around Jack’s on the road idea and the serious use of drugs to create a new consciousness (or as Kesey would say with some candor before he himself got famous just to get through the fucking horrible day).
The biggest thing that the Captain picked up though as the 1950s drifted forlornly into the 1960s since the drugs could only take him so far was the idea of the road, the road constantly travelled, in the end the idea of being “on the bus” that he grabbed straight off from Kesey and his Merry Pranksters about 1964, 65. Kesey’s bus, a converted real live yellow brick road school bus, the Further On was a combination floating commune for the aimless homeless young who could not deal with the nine to five world, a moving concert hall complete with state of the art sound system that could handle the explosive new music coming out of the Bay area (the uprisings of the Doors, the Dead, Jefferson Airplane and a million other acts which the impresario Bill Graham put on at the Fillmore West and other locales), a dope-infested caravan with every kind of dope from LSD to horse to grass to bennies and back, and a free-lance free sex sex parlor. That idea or series of ideas attracted the Captain and after a short stay on Kesey’s bus he broke out on his own like a lot of people were starting to do and put together his own bus. Whereas say in 1965 Kesey’s bus would have been subject to talk by hipsters and gawks by the tinny tourists by the time the Captain put his bus together named Jade Karma there were many roaming up and down the Coast highway looking, well looking for something. That was the time, after he picked a few acolytes, a few fellow-travelers if you like, grabbed a girlfriend, Mustang Sally (Susan Stein, Bryn Mawr Class of 1960, who gave him all the trouble of heart and mind he ever needed since she was truly a free spirit and free with her love, Jonathan Fuller one night, one laced LSD night, transformed himself into Captain Crunch.
This is where Bart and Sam (and later others from Carver, Josh from Olde Saco, the late Pete Markin from North Adamsville and many others) enter the story. They like half their freaking generation were restless, bored with what was ahead for them in the nine to five world, worried about draft status and the social situation and decided mostly from what they read in Kerouac, mostly On The Road and Big Sur and what they heard was happening on the West Coast to hitchhike out. Sam and Bart had gone out together after Frankie Riley also from Carver and a friend of theirs had gone out and had met up with the Captain and the bus in Golden Gate Park one summer day in 1967. So they had gone out, hitched themselves to the bandwagon and travelled with the Captain up and down the coast.
During that Frisco time they had met Josh up on Russian Hill when he came by after hitchhiking from Maine and asked for a joint. Somebody gave him one and that was that. Later Pete Markin came and for a while Bart (known as the Lonesome Cowboy), Sam (Mister Moonbeam), Pete (known as the Scribe), and Josh known as the Prince Of Love) showed up and for a while formed a core of guys who kept things somewhat stable as a ton of other people from all over who would get “on or off the bus” at various points. Of course they all imbibed in the “drugs, sex, rock and roll,” consciousness and some the political stuff although that tended to be discouraged on the bus-the idea being that the nine to five world was there and politics should be left at that door and the denizens of the bus were here so they were on two different universes.
Bart had not stayed on the bus long, just the summer since he realized after few months of travelling and all the other things that went with it was not for him (he had a girl, Betsy Binstock back in Carver who he eventually married), that while he was not a nine to five guy (then) still he was not built for the road. Some others would follow that same path and eventually all but a remnant would be left to carry on as the 1960s drifted into the ebb tide of the 1970sand the road back to “normalcy.” Sam had stayed longer, a couple of years, had a slew of girlfriends, the longest one an ex-surfer girl Butterfly Swirl that every guy took a shot at, and lovers, did his fair share of dope, learned about lots of things, mind things, dug the music but eventually he saw something coming that looked like a drag, looked like the end of the brave new world experiment they were trying to work out. He would go back East, go to law school and prosper. Josh had stayed even longer about four years since along the way he had realized that he had a writing talent that he could exploit while on the road, got several of his pieces published by the explosion of small and alternative presses created out of the need for their “people of the light” to know something other than the mainstream media pabulum put out daily. Eventually he too saw the writing on the wall and that as the 1970s started drying up everything worthwhile from the 1960s the audience he was trying to reach was disappearing, was going back to whatever they had fled. He would continue to write for small journals and other publications and survive pretty well.
In a lot of ways though the case of Pete Markin kind of wrapped up the ebb tide of the 1960s with a big bow, kind of put a bummer edge on everything since he had stayed on the road the longest, had the most invested in seeing the great generational experiment succeed. He had been bitten hard, had had the Captain’s confidence, had stayed with him for lots of reasons some personal some to have a place to stay against the storms of his life but in the end he too got off the bus. Got off the bus but that is where his childhood growing up wanting habits that had been held in check fell apart. He had been writing but the market for his stuff dried up quicker than Josh’s and he had no backup. No back-up except to get involved in the international drug trade, got involved with the evolving cartels raising their ugly heads down south of the border. Had been blown away by some nasty gunman down in Sonora after some misdirected drug deal went awry. Had as far as anybody got the story right tried to rip the cartel off, go independent. Got a couple of slugs and a potter’s grave in Sonora for his efforts. Josh said he did not know about the others stories, about what happened later to many of those on the bus for a longer or shorter periods of time, how they turned out but probably not much different that the stories he knew, the stories of the ups and downs, the promises and failures of his generation.
As for the Captain, well until the news came that he had cashed his check he had kind of fallen under the radar, had gotten lost in the mist of time for the Sam, Bart, and Josh. When they had a memorial service for the Captain down at Pfeiffer Beach at Big Sur where he had more or less stayed the last several years of his life and later when some whizzbang kid did a documentary about the Captain it turned out that he had stayed on the road the longest, never really got “off the bus.” Could be seen driving up and down the Pacific Coast Highway with his increasingly bizarre-looking and funky bus with a couple of graying acolytes and his old-time girlfriend Mustang Sally periodically looking, looking for something. Some of the young who were clueless about what the bus experience meant would come by when they were parked at some campsite and ask batteries of questions about what had happened and sat in awe as the Captain patiently gave them some answers. Yeah, wasn’t that a time though, wasn’t that a time. Captain Crunch, RIP.
*Eveybody's Going Back Home To Their Roots- Mississippi Sheiks Move On Over- Geoff Muldaur And The Texas Sheiks Are In Town
*Eveybody's Going Back Home To Their Roots- Mississippi Sheiks Move On Over- Geoff Muldaur And The Texas Sheiks Are In Town
The Texas Sheiks, Geoff Muldaur and company, Tradition and Moderne, 2009
Recently in reviewing Maria Mulduar's latest CD, "Garden Of Joy", in which she goes back to the old Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band tradition I noted that the tide seemed to be drifting that way. And ex-husband and jug band member Geoff must have heard the siren call because this little treat that goes back to old time, old time music hits the spot. This thing is like a part recreation of the famous "Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music", including some from that series, like "Poor Boy".
Boy and girls, hear this thing if you want to know what music was like when you were left to your own devices and didn't have "MTV" or "YouTube" to make your selections from. The only question left, and one that I posed in reviewing Maria's album. Jim Kweskin is still performing. Geoff Muldaur is still performing. Maria Muldaur is still performing. Everybody's got a ton of great musicians to back them up. So I will let you guess what my next question was.
Below are some remarks that I made in reviewing some of Geoff Muldaur's earlier works.
Over the past year or so I have been asking a recurring question concerning the wherewithal of various male folk performers from the 1960’s who are still performing today in the “folk concert” world of small coffeehouses, Universalist-Unitarian church basements and the like. I have mentioned names like Jesse Winchester, Chris Smither and Tom Paxton, among others. I have not, previously mentioned the performer under review, Geoff Muldaur, who is probably best known for his work in the 1960’s, not as solo artist, but as part of the famous Jim Kweskin Jug Band and later the equally famous Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Thus, in a way, I had no reason to place him in the pantheon of the solo performers from that period. But things sure are different now.
The following is a review of Geoff Muldaur's "Password" CD, Hightone Records, 2000, by way of an introduction:
“Since my youth I have had an ear for roots music, whether I was conscious of that fact or not. The origin of that interest first centered on the blues, then early rock and roll and later, with the folk revival of the early 1960's, folk music. I have often wondered about the source of this interest. I am, and have always been a city boy, and an Eastern city boy at that. Nevertheless, over time I have come to appreciate many more forms of roots music than in my youth. The subject of the following review is an example.
Geoff Muldaur took almost two decades off from the hurly-burly of traveling the old folk circuit. When I saw him at a coffeehouse upon his return to the scene I asked him what the folk revival of the 1960's was all about. He said it was about being able to play three chords to get the girls to hang around you. Fair enough. I KNOW I took my dates at the time to coffeehouses for somewhat the same reason. I guess it always comes down to that. Kudos to Freud.
Seriously though, Geoff Muldaur was and is about lots more than three chords. He has developed a style that reflects the maturation of his voice and of his interests. And beside that he has always, even in the crazy days of the 1960's, taken a serious attitude to the way that he interprets a song. And furthermore has a very deep knowledge of all sorts of music. Every time I think I know most of the artists in the blues genre he, at a concert, will throw out one more name that I have 'missed'. Example, "At The Christmas Ball" is an old Bessie Smith novelty tune. Geoff gives it his own twist. He likewise does that on "Drop Down Mama" the old Sleepy John Estes version of the tune (I think) and on fellow old time folkie Eric Von Schmidt's "Light Rain". Enough said. Listen.”
On The 80th Anniversary- On The Great White Way-Broadway-Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers’ “Stage Door” (1937)-A Film Review
On The 80th Anniversary- On The Great White Way-Broadway-Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers’ “Stage Door” (1937)-A Film Review
By Leslie Dumont
[This review was in the pipeline in 2017 but due to some internal problems kind of got lost in shuffle so 80th anniversary is still appropriate. Greg Green]
Stage Door, starring Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, 1937
Sometimes we of the later feminist-friendly generations are clueless by means or happenstance about the efforts of earlier generations of women to get ahead in this man’s world (less so that before but as the recent sexual harassment scandals of 2016 point out this bad ass stuff runs deep among important segments of the male population). Still it was nice to have Greg Green the new site manager call me up to do this review since the previous site manager, Allan Jackson, who I had known for years refused to do so. Even when one of his best friends, Josh Breslin, from back in the 1960s in California was my companion for many years (and we still talk now more frequently since we are both working at this site). Refreshing too to do basically an all women film like Stage Door at a time when such efforts were rare, certainly rare than today and where for the most part men take the background although always have a lingering presence.
The beauty of this one is that a number of then well-known women actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers work the crowd with up and coming types like Lucille Ball and Eve Arden. Of course the story-line is important here as well since well know Algonquin Roundtable writers Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman provided the original premise if not the bulk of the screenplay dialogue. Moreover it is very good that this ensemble do their thing not in glamour puss Hollywood but in the Great White Way, Broadway, which used to be called, and maybe still is by some, the legitimate theater. Of course the backdrop of stuck on stardom and its pitfalls is the same in both locations with the same failure rates and broken dreams of the thousands who headed either East or West to get themselves noticed.
The set-up, a great idea used many times to good effect in ensemble efforts, of this one is that all the main female actors reside in one lunatic asylum of a women’s hotel, famous lodgings near good old Broadway. The banter thus is close in and sharp. In the old days some would say catty particularly when Katharine Hepburn’s haughty character charges through the door. You have the whole range of experiences from last year’s up and coming star who is now on the road to bust to a bright-eyed novice dilettante who wants to make the big show on her own terms. The central action though is between Terry, played by poor little rich girl out slumming (at some level) and Jean, played by Ginger Rogers who will take whatever she can get from some two-bit dance routine to the boss’ bed if necessary. Those are the poles and all the others from that last year’s fallen wonder to truly second-rate talents who should think about a career change (fat chance) run the string out.
We see it all, all the back story of the uphill battle the average woman faced to get her foot in the door, from the cancelled appointments to don’t call us, we’ll call you to the infamous, and in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein line of sexual harassment and other sexual crimes, insidious casting couch which beckoned to Jean by the main male figure, Anthony Powell, played by Adolphe Menjou whose way of operating seemed eerily portentous. Not to worry though Terry, after a traumatic experience, finds her voice-she despite, or because of, that good breeding has star quality-that certain “it.” (Of course figuring that out was a no-brainer since almost all these actresses had that star quality). The only discordant note, a note which I am not sure rung true and certainly broke away from the wit and sarcasm that drove the film was the suicide of that last years’ star when she was on the way to down and out. How many wannabe actors wind up in that extreme situation I am not sure of but it did throw me off a bit as the key event to get Terry to emote like crazy in the play she was starring in and show that “it.”
Tell Me Rosalie Sorrels Have You Seen Starlight On The Rails?-In Honor Of The Late Rosalie Sorrels
By Fritz Taylor
[This piece was written and in the pipeline before the recent (2016) internal wrangle at this site about who would write what and what kind of material would survive the posting wars so I asked new site manager not to put the now familiar notice about job titles and specialties beneath my by-line as he has done on most pieces submitted of late. He has honored my request and this may yet lead to a cessation of the practice since unless the reader has been privy to the vast inside information about the replacement of old-time manager Allan Jackson (and in the interest of transparency my old friend going back to Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) by former American Film Gazette editor Greg Green it poses more questions than it answers. In any case I will keep my opinions to myself for now about whether we have just gone through a purge and attempt to write Allan out of blogosphere history somewhat reminiscent of the old Stalinist tricks trying to write (and airbrush) Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky out of history or a simple retirement of an eligible candidate. Fritz Taylor
Every hobo, tramp, and bum and there are social distinctions between each cohort recognized among themselves if not quite so definitely by rump sociologists who lump them all together but that is a story for another day has seen starlight on the rails. Has found him or herself (mainly hims though out on the “jungle” roads) flat up against some railroad siding at midnight having exhausted every civilized way to spent the night. Has seen the stars out where the spots are darkest and the brilliance of the sparkle makes one think of heaven for those so inclined, think of the void for the heathen among them. Has dreamed dreams of shelter against life’s storms.
But not everybody has the ability to sing to those heavens (or void) about the hard night of starlight on the rails and that is where Rosalie Sorrels, a woman of the American West out in the Idahos, out where, as is said in the introduction to the song, the states are square (and at one time the people, travelling west people and so inured to hardship, played it square, or else), sings old crusty Utah Phillips’ song to those hobo, tramp, bum heavens. Did it while old Utah was alive to teach the song (and the story behind the song) to her and later after he passed on in a singular tribute album to his life’s work as singer/songwriter/story-teller/ troubadour.
Now, for a fact, I do not know if Rosalie in her time, her early struggling time when she was trying to make a living singing and telling Western childhood stories had ever along with her brood of kids been reduced by circumstances up against that endless steel highway but I do know that she had her share of hard times. Know that through her friendship with Utah she wound up bus-ridden to Saratoga Springs in the un-squared state of New York where she performed and got taken under the wing of Lena from the legendary Café Lena during some trying times. And so she flourished, flourished as well as any folk-singer could once the folk minute burst it bubble and places like Café Lena, Club Passim (formerly Club 47), a few places in the Village in New York City and Frisco town became safe havens to flower and grow some songs, grow songs from the American folk songbooks and from her own expansive political commentator songbook. And some covers too as her rendition of Starlight on the Rails attests to as she worked her way across the continent. Worked her way to a big night at Saunders Theater at Harvard too when she called the road quits a decade or so ago. So listen up, okay.
To Seek A Newer World-The Trials And Tribulations Of The Non-Violence Path To Social Change -Join The Resistance-Down With The Trump Government
To Seek A Newer World-The Trials And Tribulations Of The Non-Violence Path To Social Change -Join The Resistance-Down With The Trump Government
Frank Jackman comment:
Recently I noted in a short comment about my checkered political past concerning my very often wavering adherence to the principles of non-violent action that Anna Riley my maternal grandmother was a great believer in the social message of the Catholic Worker movement, gave great credence to the essentially non-violent social change message that leaders like Dorothy Day had to say about pursuing the course. I failed to mention then that around the old neighborhood, the Acre section of North Adamsville, the geographic fate of the working poor section, mostly Irish from “famine ships” times to “just off the boat,” most definitely mostly Catholic, that sweet Anna Riley was considered a “saint.” That saint designation provoked primarily by her ability for over fifty years to put up with one curmudgeon, and I am being kind here, named Daniel Patrick Riley, her husband and my maternal grandfather. Virtually everybody in the neighborhood, the older folks and his many local relatives, including me, had except on his deathbed and when they laid him down to rest which in Irish tradition forgives even the most wicked, had nothing but curses when his name was spoken. He was that kind of man, unfortunately.
But dear sweet grandmother Anna was also known around the neighborhood by all except the most hardened heathen Protestants, few as they were, who had nothing but scorn for the raggedly shanty Irish, as a saint for her gentle but persistent adherence to her well-defined Christian-etched social gospel. She was always among the leaders when someone was to be evicted from one of the crummy three-decker apartment buildings for which the section in imitation of the far larger ones in the Dorchester and South Boston sections was locally famous, or infamous. Moreover when the “boyos” were on strike against the shipbuilding companies which drove the economy of the town in those days (now long gone and almost forgotten once the shipbuilders headed off-shore to cheaper labor markets leaving the Acre even poorer and less stable) Anna was the first to knock on doors to get the women and non-shipbuilding men down to the picket lines in support of the brethren. She did a million small and unacknowledged kindnesses as well but also made sure that the local authorities (they were always called the authorities, governmental, court, police around the Acre) knew when children were going to bed hungry in the land of plenty, the 1950s land of plenty.
What drove Anna like I said was her simple but strong sense of social gospel which was derived not from the main tenets of the Roman Catholic Church (that “Roman” not necessary in North Adamsville but as I am addressing a wider audience Roman to separate from other forms of Christianity) but from her allegiance to a small group of “renegades” the Brethren of the Common Life led by old Father Joyce who was constantly in hot water with the very conservative Cardinal who presided over the Archdiocese of Boston. That old goat threaten ex-communication and perdition to anybody who adhered to such basic principles as opposition to war, charity to the poor and bedraggled, and any communal what he called communistic sensibilities ( I never did get the whole list of their principles but these general categories give an idea of what the organization was about). Hence Anna’s kinship with the old-time Catholic Workers movement.
Hence also her very great influence over my youthful political and social formation. She never pressed the Brethren issue on me, per se, since my mother and uncles were adamantly opposed to her views and maintained a strict orthodox Roman Catholic view of the world but just being around her gave me a sense of what she was about. And as I came of age in the red scare Cold War anti-communist keep your head down and let Ike handle everything late 1950s her bromides against the craziness of the known world egged me on. Egged me on too when I began to spent more and more time at her house which was only a few blocks from my family house as my mother got to be more and more (and more) overbearing. Those were the days too when Daniel had been placed in what today would be called an “assisted living” home and back then a rest home after he suffered a stroke. So the place was tranquility itself, a place to read stuff like the Catholic Worker which she subscribed to and other books and pamphlets put out by the Brethren and other such organizations like the Quakers
I mentioned in that previous comment about non-violent action that in my youth, my younger days, the idea of non-violent action was not an abstract question. I was especially (and so was Grandma) impressed by the assertive and definitely not passive non-violent lines of the black civil right movement in the South that were unfolding before my eyes seemingly every night on television and which held great sway over me. In those days sympathy for the black civil rights struggle down South was almost non-existent in the Acre. Any sympathy even in school debating the merits of the case against Mister James Crow and its equivalent in the North was met with snarls of “n----r-lover,” or worse. (Belying the old-time leftist notion that the poor and working people have much in common no matter what race or ethnic grouping which should override everything else. Unfortunately almost the direct opposition was/is true since down there at the margins of society down there where the working poor meet the thugs, gangsters and rip-off artists it is every person for him or herself-and theirs). So very early on I had had to take a very close look at some of the trends that had developed in the struggle for human emancipation. The central debate in my mind, and remember too I was a child of the Acre as well, was about passive non-violence argued by the likes of Tolstoy or a more muscular one that was beginning to form in action down South. I gravitated toward the more muscular variety (and so did Grandma).
Naturally direct non-violent actions in the North other than solidarity actions with the struggle down South were few and far between in those days. Mainly sit-ins around equal access to places that were supposed to serve the general public-but didn’t. I have mentioned elsewhere that my very first public political street action demonstration had been a SANE-Quaker and other religious pacifistic organizations rally at historic Park Street Station on Boston Common around the struggle against nuclear weapons in the fall of 1960 (at a time when I was also campaigning like crazy to get one of our own, Jack Kennedy, elected President, even though he was rattling the “missile gap” saber-go figure).
In retrospective those heady days when the black civil rights movement was carrying all before it were also the heydays of my belief in creative non-violent action. The time when whatever Doctor King and the other leadership said about bowing our heads before the aggressors held me in its thrall. Although, and here is my contradiction of the time if you will, I was enamored under the spell of my maternal grandfather, that old curmudgeon Daniel Riley, an ardent Irish nationalist of the struggle in Ireland that got its modern start around Easter, 1916. Despite his gruffness and meanness I would sit by and listen as he told tales learned from cousins who had been in the 1916 fight even if at other times I avoided him like the plague. So let’s put it down that I was probably more tactically committed to non-violent actions (and under current circumstances still am with what I see of the huge disparity of forces on our side and those leveled against us-and the passive quiescence of the working populations).
The great change, maybe of emphasis, maybe of getting older and wiser, and maybe, just maybe as a result of my truncated Army career which was a watershed of sorts since that service happened during the Vietnam War (where I didn’t go although I was 11 Bravo, an infantryman but that is a story also told elsewhere). The savagery of the American government against a small but real national liberation struggle (like the British for a long time against the Irish if you want an analogy until they got noses bloody in 1916) which could not be fought any other way except under the gun led me away from even that previous total tactical acceptance of the idea that non-violent action could slay the evil dragon. And that stance has not changed much in the last forty years or so, although I wish those who can “keep the faith,” the faith of my youth, well.