From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin
[No, you are not seeing things in some weird way when you see a seeming disconnect between the named person in the title of this piece and the person who wrote it. They are one in the same person. Peter Paul Markin was the moniker that Allan used when he was the site manager, then called administrator, at this publication for many years both in its hard copy and current on-line forms. The demise of Allan Jackson, his removal by a vote of no confidence from among the younger writers, has been written unto death and need not detain us further.
What I do want to detain you about is the origin of the Markin moniker because that long-departed mad man, Allan’s words, still hovers over this publication, especially among the older writers who knew Markin, who in a funny way have almost made a cult out of his sordid memory. To make a long story short since along the way many of the older writers have written their remembrances of their long- fallen corner boy brother I will hurry along. (In fact young Zack James, at the request of his brother Alex, who knew and was best friends with Markin in high school, was commissioned to edit and see to hard copy publication a collective memoir dedicated to Markin’s memory which will be released for the general readership next year.) Markin, whatever happened to him later after his Vietnam War military service and the drug addiction which would lead to his downfall, was the recognized “intellectual” leader of the Tonio’s Pizza Parlor corner boys and while he could barely tie his shoes in practical matters was the guy who came up with all the ideas, good and bad, legal and illegal.
Allan, as he told me once we got him back on board as a contributing editor when things started going awry with some of the younger writers wo buckled under a few suggestions I tried to pass their way, took Markin’s murky death down in Mexico pretty hard since one of the he and a bunch of other writers looking for steady work and publication to avoid that cabdriver (now Uber or Lyft, that faced every unrequited writer, had put this operation together with Markin in mind. He was so bereft that he had to take Markin’s name if only to keep the bastard’s aura hang over the joint, and so it remains. I, frankly don’t like it, don’t like a two bit junkie with big dope-filled eyes hanging around overhead looking down at my every move. But that is just me and I know I will take a rash of nonsense for even mentioning Markin’s name without genuflecting my ass off. Sorry, guys. Greg Green]
It is dawn, or maybe just those few minutes before the dawn, those dark light minutes when the sun’s battle for the day is set. The waves splash, today not so innocently, today not tepidly like the past several days when the she sea sounds did not mercifully drown out traffics, construction hammers, or beach tractor clean-ups but swirling out from some hidden sea swells beyond the horizon against the defenseless waiting sand, sand beaten down since time immemorial. Or as long as anyone has been watching that feat, that seemingly endless feat.
This beach, this northern clime beach, the far end of Saco, Maine beach, is this day filled with empty clam shells from some timeless previous sea swirlings waiting sandification (is that right?), abandoned and mislaid lobster traps (and one up in lobster country had better know the difference, know the livelihood difference between the two conditions , just in case some irate boat craggy captain, aged liked sea, decides to reclaim one over your head), occasional oil slicks spilled from the trawlers (and hopefully only small working residues and not some monster slick by some tiny horizon tanker heading to oil depot ports further up the coast), working trawlers nearby, the flotsam and jetsam streamed here of a thousand ships, cargoes, careless throwaways and conscious, very conscious dumpings, like the sea was just another land-fill wanting filling.
Today though I am ready, ready for the hundredth hundredth time to walk the walk, the ocean walk that has defined more parts of me than heaven will ever know. As I button up my yellow slicker against the April winds that come here more often than, and can come out of the blue against the Bay of Fundy confusions, one minute eighty degrees the next thirty five, I see, see faintly in the distance, a figure, a fellow traveler taking his, her or its (don’t laugh I have seen horses, unridden horses, trotting these beaches, although no sea monsters), maybe also hundredth hundredth walking along the ocean sidewalk, and maybe, just maybe, for the same reason.
Today, hundredth, hundredth walk or not, I am in a remembering mood, a high dudgeon remembering mood that always gets triggered by proximity, fifty mile proximity if the truth be known, to the ocean. I have just finished up a piece of work that reminded me of seas, sea-sides, sea walks, sea rocks, ocean-side carnival amusement parks placed as if to mock the intrinsic interest that one would have in the sea, our homeland the sea, and I need to sort this out, also for that now familiar ten-thousandth time. But I best begin at the beginning, or try to, so I will be finished in that hour or so that it will take me to walk this walk, this rambling ocean walk, and I will pass that solitary walker coming the other way and be obliged under some law of the sea to break my train of thought and remark on the nature of the day, the nature of the ocean, and the joys of ocean-ness brought forth by old King Neptune to that passing stranger.
Ah, memory, jesus, just the names, Taffrail Road, Yardarm Lane, Captain's Walk, Quarterdeck Road, Sextant Circle, and the Snug Harbor Elementary School tell a story all on their own. Yes, those names, those seemingly misplaced, misbegotten names and places from the old housing project down in Adamsville, down in my old hometown, and where I came of age, sea-worthy age as well, surely evoke imagines of the sea, of long ago sailing ships, mast-strewn ships, and of desperate, high stakes battles fought off shrouded, mist-covered coasts by those hearty enough to seek fame and fortune. And agile enough to keep it. Almost from my first wobbly, halting baby steps down at “the projects” I have been physically drawn to the sea, a seductive, foam-flecked siren call that has never left me.
Needless to say, ever since I was a toddler my imagination, my sense of imagery, my sense of the nature of the world has been driven by the sea as well. Not so much of pirates and prizes, although those drove my youth a bit but of the power of nature, for good or evil. And on those long ago days, just like now, I dressed against the impending inclement weather with my mustard yellow rain slicker(French’s mustard color not Guiden’s, okay) complete with Gloucester fisherman’s rain floppy rain hat of the same color and rubber boots, black, knee-length boots that go squish, squish and have done so since before time immemorial.
Of course, anybody with any sense knows that anyone who had even a passing attachment to a place like Adamsville, tucked in a bay, an Atlantic bay, had to have an almost instinctual love of the sea; and, a fear of its furies when old Mother Nature turns her back on us. Yes, the endless sea, our homeland the sea, the mother we never knew, the sea... But, enough of those imaginings. If being determines consciousness, and if you love the ocean, then it does not hurt to have been brought up in Adamsiville with its ready access to the bay and water on three sides. That said, the focal point for any experience with the ocean in Adamsville centered, naturally, around its longest stretch of beach, Adamsville Central Beach. Puny by Saco beach far-as-the-eye-can-see standards, and Saco puny by Carlsbad (California Carlsbad) farther-than-the-eye-can-see standards but a place to learn the ropes of how to deal with the sea, with its pitfalls, its mysteries, it lure, and its lore.
For many of us of a certain age brought forth by the sea, including this writer, one cannot discuss Adamsville Central Beach properly without reference to such spots such as Howard Johnson's famous landmark ice cream stand (now a woe-begotten clam shack of no repute). For those who are clueless as to what I speak of, or have only heard about it in mythological terms from older relatives, or worst, have written it off as just another ice cream joint you can only dream of such heavens although someone, not me, not me today as I remembrance with a broad stroke and have no time for pretty descriptions, for literary flourishes, should really do themselves proud and write the history, yah, the child’s view history of that establishment. And make the theme, make the theme if you will, the bond between New England love of ice cream and of the sea (yes, it is true, other parts of the country, other ocean parts of the country as well, are, well, nonplussed by the ice cream idea, and it shows in their product).
Know this for now though: many a hot, muggy, sultry, sweaty summer evening was spent in line impatiently, and perhaps, on occasion, beyond impatience, waiting for one of those 27 (or was it 28?) flavors to cool off with. In those days the prize went to cherry vanilla in a sugar cone (backup: frozen pudding). I will not bore the reader with superlative terms and “they don’t make them like they used to”, especially for those who only know “HoJo’s” from the later, pale imitation franchise days out on some forsaken turnpike highway, but at that moment I was in very heaven.
Nor can one forget those stumbling, fumbling, fierce childish efforts, bare-footed against all motherly caution against the dreaded jellyfish (or motherly cautions against everything, everything even the slightest bit harmful in this dangerous old world), pail and shovel in hand, to dig for seemingly non-existent clams down toward the South Adamsville end of the beach at the, in those days, just slightly oil-slicked, sulfuric low tide (the days before dinosaur lament fossils fuels exploded the oceans). Or the smell of charcoal-flavored hot dogs on those occasional family barbecues (when one in a series of old jalopies, Nash Ramblers come to mind and disappear, that my father drove worked well enough to get us there) at the then just recently constructed old Treasure Island (now named after some fallen Marine) that were some of the too few times when my family acted like a family. Or, more vivid, the memory of roasted, really burnt, sticky marshmallows sticking to the roof of my mouth (and maybe still ancient wound stuck there).
But those thoughts and smells are not the only ones that interest me today. No trip down memory lane would be complete without at least a passing reference to high school Adamsville Central Beach. The sea brings out many emotions: humankind's struggle against nature ( a fitful and uneven struggle at best as a few over the top wave crashes have demonstrated to keep us on our toes, and humble), some Zen notions of oneness with the universe (and if not Zen then Kali, Misha or some Zoroastrian flaming fire god mad monk), the calming effect of the thundering waves (rule: speak no louder than the angriest wave in its presence, children under twelve excepted), thoughts of mortality (endless seas bring that notion to the fore and not just ancient wounds and sorrows), and so on. But it also brings out the primordial longings for companionship. And no one longs for companionship more than teenagers. So the draw of the ocean is not just in its cosmic appeal but hormonal, as well. Mind you, however, we, you and I, just in case a stray naive child of about eight is around, are not discussing the nighttime Adamsville Beach, the time of "parking" and the "submarine races.” Our thoughts are now pure as the driven snow. We will confine ourselves to the day time beach.
Virtually from the day we got out of school for the summer vacation I headed for the beach. And not just any section of that beach but the section directly between the John Adams and John Quincy Adams Yacht Clubs (yes, it was that kind of city touting ancient wise men long gone and not missed, not missed after the obligatory sixth grade crypt visit in the Center, not missed, hell, not even on the radar for heady 1960s teenagers. Now, I ask you, was situating myself in that spot done so that I could watch all the fine boats at anchor? Or was this the best swimming location on the beach? Hell no, this is where we heard (and here I include my old running pal and classmate, Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, the king of the North Adamsville corner boy night around Salducci’s Pizza Parlor of blessed memory and nothing but a flame-throwing lady-killer, uh, when his honey, Joanne Doyle was summering elsewhere) all the "babes" were. We were, apparently, under the influence of Beach Blanket Bingo or some such teenage beach film. (For those who are again clueless this was a grade B ‘boy meets girl’ saga the plot behind a thousand Hollywood films, except they exploded into song on the beach as well.)
Well, for those who expected a movie-like happy ending to this section of the remembrance piece, you know, where I meet a youthful "Ms. Right" to the strains of the song Sea of Love, forget it. (That is the original Sea of Love, by the way, not the one used in the movie of the same name sung by Tom Waits at the end, and a cover that you should listen to on YouTube.) I will keep the gory details short, though. As fate would have it there may have been "babes" aplenty down there but not for this lad. I don't know about you but I was just too socially awkward (read, tongue-tied) to get up the nerve to talk to girls (female readers substitute boys here). And on reflection, if the truth were to be known, I would not have known what to do about such a situation in any case. No job, no money and, most importantly, no car for a date to watch one of those legendary "submarine races" that we, you and I, have agreed that we will not discuss here. But we can hardly fault the sea for that, right?
But visions of nearly one-half century ago hardly exhaust the lure of the sea. And, speaking of visions, that fellow sea-seeker I mentioned a while ago, coming from the other end of the beach is starting to take shape, it is a he, I can tell by the walk, by the sea walk that men put on when they are alone with their thoughts, although beyond that he is too far away for me to determine age, class (this is a very democratic beach, in most spots, with few vulgar and almost universally disregarded no-trespassing-private property-keep out-beware-of-dogs-police-take-notice signs on some Mayfair swell properties), or physical description, as the suppressed light from the cloudy morning day gets a little brighter
Funny, some people I have known, including some I grew up with, grew up with breathing ocean air embedded in their inner beings and who started with a love of the sea much as I did, moved to Kansas, Omaha, Peoria, Winnemucca or some such place, some such distinctly non-ocean place and never looked back. Christ, as is well known by one and all who know me I get very nervous even now when, as a city boy, I go to the country and do not have the feel of city lights to comfort me. Not as well known is the fact, the hard fact that I get nervous, very nervous, when I am not within driving distance of some ocean, say that fifty miles mentioned above. So keep, please keep, your Kansas, your Omaha, your Peoria, and your damned Winnemucca (and that desolate bus station bench I slept on one night after giving up on the hitchhike road for the evening trying to head out of town to no avail, trying to head ocean west, and let me be, be in places like Bar Harbor, Maine, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, Sanibel Island, Florida, Carlsbad, California (hell no, not the New Mexico one ), Mendocino, ditto California, Seattle, Washington just to name a few places on this continent, and there are many others, and on other continents, or the edges of other continents, as well. And stories, plenty of stories, which I don’t have time to tell you now except for one that will stand in as an exemplar for what I mean. By the way that form, that mannish form, coming toward me is looking more like a young man by the speed of his walk, and he too seems to have on a favored sea dog yellow rain jacket.
January 1970 visions of Angelica, Angelica of the homeland sea.
I waved good-bye to Angelica, once again, as she drove off from the ocean front campsite that we had been camping out on, the Leo Carrillo State Park near Point Magoo about fifty miles or so north of Los Angeles. She will now drive the road back in her green Ford Hertz unlimited mileage, mid-size rental (paid for, as she explained one night, by her parents whose golden age of the automobile-frenzied minds counted it as a strike against me, a very big strike, that when I had “kidnapped” their daughter on the 1969 blue-pink summer road west down in Steubenville, Ohio I didn’t even have a car). She planned (on my advice) to drive back mostly on the ocean-abutted, white-capped waves smashing against jagged ancient shore rocks, Pacific Coast Highway down through Malibu and Santa Monica to take one last look at the Pacific Ocean as the final point on her first look ocean trip, on the way to LAX to take a flight back to school days Muncie, Indiana.
She will also be driving back to the airport and getting on that miserable plane east knowing as I do since we talked about it incessantly during her stay, that some right things, or at least some maybe right things, like our being together last summer heading free west and for these two January weeks in front of the sea, our homeland the sea, before her classes started again, got caught up in the curious web of the human drama. For no understandable reason. Hey, you already knew this if you have ever had even that one teeny-weeny, tiny, minuscule love affair that just had no place to go, or no time to take root, or just got caught out there in the blue-pink night. Yah, you know that story. But let me take some minutes to tell you this one. If it seems very familiar and you “know” the plot line well then just move on.
To get you up to speed after Angelica and I had been on the heartland hitchhike road (and places like Moline, Neola, and Omaha are nothing but the heartland, good or bad), she, well, she just got tired of it, tired of the lacks, tired of the uncertainties of the road. Hell hell-on-wheels, I was getting tired of it myself except I was a man on a mission. The nature of that mission is contained in the words “search for the blue-pink great American West night” so the particulars of that mission need not detain us here. So in Neola, Iowa, Neola, Iowa of all places aided by “fairy grandmother” Aunt Betty, who ran the local diner where Angelica worked to help make us some dough to move on, and her own sense of dreams she called it quits back in September. Aunt Betty drove us to Omaha where Angelica took the bus back east, Indiana east from Nebraska, to hometown Muncie and I hit Interstate 80 West headed first to Denver before the snows, or so I hoped.
Honestly, although we exchanged addresses and telephone numbers where messages could be left, or where we could speak to each other (her parents’ house not being one of them), and made big plans to reunite in California in January during her school break, I didn’t really think that once we were off the road together that those plans would pan out.
Now I may not remember all my reasoning at the time this far removed, the now of my telling this story many years later, but I had had enough relationships with women to sense this one was good, very good, while it lasted but it could not survive the parting.
Not one of those overused “absence makes the heart grow fonder” things you hear about. And, truth to tell, because I thought that was the way things would play out, I started getting focused back on Boston Joyel more than a little as I walked a lot, stood at the shoulder of the hitchhike road a lot, and fitfully got my rides on the road west.
But see this is where you think you have something figured out just so and then it goes awry. Angelica called, left messages, sent letters, even a telegram, to Denver (to the commune where, Jack and Mattie, my traveling companions on the final leg west whom I had met earlier in the spring on a different trip down to D.C., were staying). She sent more communications in early December saying that she was still coming to Los Angeles as well where we three stayed with a few artistic friends of Jack and Mattie’s. Cinema-crazed artistic friends, including one budding film director who, moreover, had great dope connections right into the heart of Mexico. This is where they would stay while I planned to push the hitchhike road north heading to San Francisco.
I once, in running through one of the scenes in this hitchhike road show, oh yah, it was the Neola scene, mentioned that in Angelica what you saw was what you got, what she said was what she meant, and both those were good things indeed. And so if I had thought about it a minute of course she was coming to California in January and staying with me for her two week break, and maybe longer. So when January came she contacted me though John and Mattie, who like I said were now staying with this very interesting experimental film-maker, David, in the Hollywood hills and canyons. I started back south to L.A. in order to meet her at the airport. From there I had it planned that we would go to Point Magoo and camp out like in the “old days” at an ocean front state park.
Needless to say when I greeted her at LAX we both were all smiles, I was in more than all smiles mode, because I had been “stag” for a while and she was, well, fetching as always, or almost always. Here though is where I noticed that the road really is not for everyone. In Neola, and later getting on the bus back home in Omaha, poor Angelica looked pretty haggard but at the airport, well like I said, she was fetching.
And, guess what, she brought her sleeping bag that we had gotten for her in a Lexington, Kentucky Army-Navy Store when we first seriously started on the road west. The first thing she said about it was, referring to a little in-joke between us, “it fits two, in a pinch.” Be still my heart. So we gathered up her stuff, did the airport exit stuff (easier in those days) and picked up the outside shuttle to the Hertz car rental terminal. We were jabbering away like crazy, but best of all, we were like, a little, those first days last summer back in that old-time Steubenville truck stop diner and cabin when I first met her.
Of course, part of the trip for her, part of what she went as far as she could with me on the hitchhike road for, was to get to California and see what it was all about, and what the ocean was all about since she was a heartland girl who had never seen the ocean before. When we got to Point Magoo she flipped out, she flipped out mostly at the idea that we would stay, could stay right on the beach in front of the ocean. And just like a kid, just like I did when I was kid and saw the ocean, when she saw the Pacific, she jumped right in. Hell, she was so excited she almost got caught in a small riptide. I had to go drag her out. I won’t say we had fun every minute of those weeks acting out our ocean nomad existence, but most minutes, and I could see that she felt the same way.
Naturally, as time drifted away toward her return flight date we talked more and more about what the future, if any, held in store for us. She was adamant about not going back on the road, she was adamant as well that she wanted to finish school and make something of herself. I had no serious defense against that practical wisdom. And, truthfully, I wasn’t, toward the end of her stay, pushing the issue, partially because even I could see that it made sense but also, we had had a “flare-up” over the Boston Joyel question (I am being polite here).
But it was more than that; the flat out, hungry truth was that I really didn’t know how to deal with a Midwestern what you see is what you get woman like Angelica. I was more used to virtuous Irish Catholic girls who drove me crazy as a kid getting me all twisted up about religion, about nice girls, and about duplicity when I found out what the real score was with this type of young girl/ woman later. I was also, and Joyel was the epitome of this type, totally in sync (well, as much as a man can be) with the Harvard Square folksy, intellectual, abstract idealist, let’s-look-at-everything-from-twenty-two different angles, what is the meaning of human relationships 24/7 kind of woman. And fatally attracted to them (and still am). This Angelica look at things only a couple of ways, let’s work things out easy-like, heavens, let’s not analyze everything to the nth degree flipped me out. Angelica was a breath of fresh air and, maybe, maybe, about ten years later, and two divorces later to boot, I would have had that enough sense god gave geese to hold onto her with both hands, tightly, very tightly. But I was in my blue-pink search phase and not to be detoured.
Of course all this hard work of trying to understand where we stood put a little crack in our reason for being together in the first place. The search for, search for something. Maybe, for her, it was just that life minute at the ocean and then on to regular life minutes out in the thickets of the white picket fences. She never said it then in so many words but that seemed to be the aim. And to be truthful, although I was only just barely thinking about it at the time, as the social turmoil of the times got weird, diffuse, and began to evaporate things started to lose steam. As we were, seemingly, endlessly taking our one-sided beatings as those in charge started a counter-offensive ( a counter-offensive still going on) people, good people, but people made of human clay nevertheless got tired of the this and that existence, even Joyel. Joyel of Harvard Square folksy, intellectual, abstract idealist, let’s-look-at-everything-from-twenty-two different angles, what is the meaning of relationships 24/7 was also weary and wary of what was next and where she fit into “square” society. Christ, enough of that, we know, or knew, that song too well.
A couple of days before Angelica was to leave, and on a day when the sun seemed especially bright, especially bright for then smog-filled Los Angeles January, and warm, not resident warm but Boston and Muncie warm, sat like two seals sunning ourselves in the glow of mother ocean she nudged me and asked me if I had a joint. Now Angelica liked a little vino now and then but I can’t recall her ever doing a joint (grass, marijuana, herb, ganja, whatever you call it in your neck of the woods). So this is new. The problem, although not a big one in ocean-side state park 1970 Southern California, was that I was not “holding.” No problem though, a few spots down the beach was an old well-traveled, kind of beat-up Volkswagen van that I knew, knew just as sure as I was standing on that white sand beach, was “holding.” I went over, asked around, and “bingo” two nice big joints came traveling with me back to our campsite. Oh, daddy, daddy out in the be-bop blue-pink night thank you brother van man. For just a minute, just that 1970 California minute, the righteous did inherit the earth.
Back at our camp site Angelica awaited the outcome of my quest, although she also wanted to wait until later, until the day’s sun started going down a bit more to go into that smoked-filled good night. When that later came Angelica was scared/ thrilled, as she tried to smoke the one I lit up for her and started coughing like crazy, but that was nothing then. Everybody, at least everybody I knew, went through that same baptism. But Jesus, did we get mellow, that stuff, as was most stuff then, was primo, not your ragweed bull stuff that ran the rounds later. And why should it have not been so as we were so close to the then sane Mexican border of those days to get the good stuff.
But all of this build-up over this dope scene is so much filler, filler in those days when if you didn’t at least take a pipe full (inhale or not, like it or not) you were a square “squared.” What the stuff did for Angelica, and through Angelica to me, got her to open up a little. No, not about family, or old boyfriends, or her this and that problems. No, but kind of deep, kind of deep somewhere that she maybe didn’t know existed. Deep as I had ever heard her before. She talked about her fate, the fate of the fates, about what was going on in the world, no, not politics; she was organically incapable of that. Mystics stuff, getting in touch with the sea homeland stuff, earth mother stuff too in a way. Dope-edged stuff sure but when she compared the splashing foam-flecked waves to some cosmic force that I forget how she put it (remember I was dope-addled as well) then for just that moment, just that moment when the old red-balled sun started to dip to the horizon on one of those fairly rare days when it met the ocean I swear that Angelica knew, knew in her heart, knew in her soul even, what the blue-pink American West dream stuff I had bombarded her with was all about. That was our moment, and we both knew it.
So when leaving came a couple of days later and we both knew, I think, as we packed up her things, including that well-used sleeping bag, we had come to a parting of the roads. As I put her stuff in the rental car she sweetly blurted out something I was also thinking, “I’ll always remember that night we made the earth under the cabin in Steubenville shake.” And I thought I bet she will, although she forgot the part about the making the roof of the cabin move too. And so there I was, waving as she drove off to her Angelica dreams. And I never saw her again.
But enough of ancient thoughts, of ancient sea thoughts, and ancient sea loves because just now I see that previously distant figure is none other than a young boy, a young boy of maybe six or seven, not older I am sure. About fifty yards away he stops, as boys and girls will when confronted with the endless treasures of the sea, and is intently looking at some sea object although I cannot make it out from this distance. What I can make out, make out very plainly, is that he is wearing a mustard yellow rain slicker (French’s mustard color not Guiden’s) complete with a Gloucester fisherman’s floppy rain hat of the same color and knee-deep rubber boots, black, of course. As we approach each other I notice that he has that determined sea walk that I have carried with me since childhood. I look at him intensely, he looks at me intensely, and we nod as we pass each other. No words, no remarks on the nature of the day, the nature of the ocean, and the joys of ocean-ness brought forth by old King Neptune need be spoken between us. The nod, the ocean swell, and the ocean sound as the waves crashed almost to the sand beneath our feet, spoke for us. The torch had been passed.