Tuesday, October 09, 2018

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.

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