Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Very Different Look at May Day On A Non-May Day- A Personal View

Click on the headline to link to a May Day website that links to the various May Day traditions in history.

Peter Paul Markin, North Adamsville Class Of 1964, comment:


For those of a certain age, who came of age during the now ancient history Cold War, the images of May Day evokes pictures of the latest display of Soviet weaponry and of elite Red Army military units marching in step in Red Square in Moscow before some glowering delegation from the Communist Party Politburo and other invited dignities. Such pictures gave the usually information-starved and speculation-crazy Western Sovietologists plenty of ammunition for figuring out who was “in” and who was “out” in the internal party regime. At least until the next public display on the November 7th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution when the search for the elusive “musical chairs” would start all over again.

For others, more historically-oriented, perhaps, May Day evokes the struggle for the eight hour work day, the class struggle, and the heroic Chicago Haymarket martyrs. Those with a more recent interest in the day may evoke the continuing struggle for the recognition of immigrant rights, for full citizenship rights for those who have made it here, here more recently. Now all of these are worthy, if highly political, views of May Day and I certainly have no quarrel with those evocations. However, just for the few minutes that it takes to write this entry I wish to evoke another, more ancient, more pagan, vision of May Day that, strangely, may dovetail with the motives behind those more political expressions put forth on this day.

I, of course, refer to the ancient roots of the holiday or rather the pre-Christian religious significance of the day as a day of renewal and of homage to the virtues of spring. Especially for those hoary masses whose heritage stems from the British Isles. Under normal circumstances I would not necessarily be in a mood to reflect on this aspect of the day but a couple of things have set me to thinking about it. The first, as a result of having recently read a number of 19th century American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Puritan-etched short stories, including “The May Pole Of Merry Mount,” got me thinking about that May Day pagan scenario and also about how deeply, even now, the formal Puritan ethic that frowned on such celebrations is embedded in our common cultural experiences. The second had to do with childhood reflections of our kid's version of May basket, May Day.

As to the first, whatever the “official” line is on Puritan history here in America and in England as laid down by the likes of Professors Perry Miller and Hugh Trevor-Roper, to name a couple that come mind, I am privy to a “secret” history of the doings of the old Puritan stock. While Hawthorne’s Puritans, as he sternly portrayed them, are no friends to the fun-loving that is rather more his hang up and his way to make a quick dollar on that saga from punishment fetishists who hide his works in some back bureau drawer and only take out on special occasions. The real “skinny” on the Puritans here and back in the old country is that they were not adverse to a little “good times,” just not in excess.

How is one to otherwise make sense of that little ménage of Pricilla and John Alden and Myles Standish down at Plymouth Plantation in the old days? Or the real story about Tommy Wollaston’s wood fetish over at the rolling hills of Merrymount. Or how about Governor’ Winthrop’s private dope stash that he tried to pass off as tobacco (and which he claimed, like some future bourgeois leaders who will remained unmentioned, he in any case did not inhale). And to complete the story on the other side of the ocean, in old Mother England, how about arch-Puritan poet and revolutionary John Milton’s open endorsement of concubinage, including, and I “reveal” this here for the first time, his own bevy of "ladies." “A Paradise within Thee, Happier Far,” indeed. For a long time the poem "Paradise Lost" was a book with seven seals. Now it all fits. And I should not fail to mention the other well-known arch-Puritan Oliver Cromwell whose well-hidden drinking problem (he called it his "tea," high tea, wink-wink) goes a long way to explaining those rash outbursts when Parliament was in session. Rump, indeed.

Okay, I am sure that the reader has had enough of my 'insight' into the rough stuff of the seamy edges of history. I will reprieve you with a final few thoughts about my own childhood relationship to this other May Day. Of course, I am something of a “homer” on this one, at least on the pre and post-Puritan English traditions since I grew up frequently passing the site of the Merry Mount May Pole (now on land used as a cemetery) at Mount Wollaston, which is a part of Adamsville, the town where I grew up. I knew this story as part of Adamsville town history from very early on. I am not sure whether it was through a teacher or by the local city historian, Edward Rowe Snow, but I knew all about old Tommy Wollaston and his crowd of "wild boys and girls". Sounded like fun, and it was.

On kid time May Day, as I recall, we were given little May crepe paper-lined baskets with a chocolate treat in it from one or another source, and in at least one year we danced around the Puritan-forbidden May Pole. I guess, even then, I had a secret desire that old Tommy should have won. Call me a pagan but that is the truth. But also note this, to kind of put this little “fluff” piece in perspective. Isn’t, in the final analysis, either the old pagan ritual or the newer May Pole festivity emblematic of the kind of thing that those of us who are trying to create “a newer world” aiming for. To make the world and its pleasures in common, for everyone. I think that I am on to something here. May Day greetings in advance from this space.

The Centennial Of Pete Seeger’s Birthday (1919-2014)- Bob Dylan Is Here- Somewhere - A Film Review Of "I'm Not There"

Click on the title to link to YouTube's interview of the movie "I'm Not There" by Todd Haynes

DVD Review


I’m Not There, starring Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Leger and others, 2007


If you want Bob Dylan at the beginning, the middle (or middles) and as he moves toward the end of his career this film is for you-if you have decoder ring. After having been introduced to Bob Dylan’s music in the early folk revival days of the 1960s, having gone on with him through the folk rock days, moved away during his preacher Bob days and have come back to his music now that he is in his dotage (otherwise known as the endless tour) it is rather nice for someone to be thoughtful enough to do a little cinematic bio of the man who has been hailed as a cultural icon.

And after watching this film is that still true? A bio you say? Of who, you say? Well, I didn’t say that it was a standard cookie- cutter bio sketch of the many lives of a performer who has been doing it for over forty years, warts and all. No, this is more in the realm of high camp, low camp, surrealism, name games and just pure whimsy as director Todd Haynes (apparently with Dylan’s approval) has set up an allegory of the six main lives of Dylan. And it works. Let’s put it this way. If you want a standard bio there are many, many good film documentaries out there (especially from the British) that chronicle one aspect or another of the ups and downs of Dylan’s recording career. Here we have a puzzle to solve, Dylan from bright young talent to old time Western codger (played by Richard Gere).

Although I would not really suggest this thing for novices, every aficionado should be viewing this thing more than once. I might add that between covers of his music by the likes of Richie Havens (a fantastic version of “Tombstone Blues” done with one of Dylan’s personas) and a sound track filled with his own performances is worth the price of admission. Moreover, Cate Blanchett’s performance as Dylan in his turning folk electric period of the mid-1960s is better than… Dylan's. Go figure.

Tombstone Blues

The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course
The city fathers they're trying to endorse
The reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse
But the town has no need to be nervous

The ghost of Belle Starr she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun she violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits
At the head of the chamber of commerce

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

The hysterical bride in the penny arcade
Screaming she moans, "I've just been made"
Then sends out for the doctor who pulls down the shade
Says, "My advice is to not let the boys in"

Now the medicine man comes and he shuffles inside
He walks with a swagger and he says to the bride
"Stop all this weeping, swallow your pride
You will not die, it's not poison"

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, "Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?"

The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, "Death to all those who would whimper and cry"
And dropping a bar bell he points to the sky
Saving, "The sun's not yellow it's chicken"

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

The king of the Philistines his soldiers to save
Puts jawbones on their tombstones and flatters their graves
Puts the pied pipers in prison and fattens the slaves
Then sends them out to the jungle

Gypsy Davey with a blowtorch he burns out their camps
With his faithful slave Pedro behind him he tramps
With a fantastic collection of stamps
To win friends and influence his uncle

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone
Causes Galileo's math book to get thrown
At Delilah who sits worthlessly alone
But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter

Now I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill
I would set him in chains at the top of the hill
Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille
He could die happily ever after

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

Where Ma Raney and Beethoven once unwrapped their bed roll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul
To the old folks home and the college

Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

Copyright ©1965; renewed 1993 Special Rider Music

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac-On The 60th Anniversary Of Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl”Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night-Allen Ginsberg: An Elegy

DVD Review

Allen Ginsberg: An Elegy, Allen Ginsberg and assorted “beat” and non-“beat” modern poets and admirers, 2004


If a rough dictionary definition of an elegy is a poem of lament and praises for the dead then this little documentary tribute to the seemingly very inelegant Allen Ginsberg is the correct term here in celebration of his life that ended in 1997. I have discussed in other entries the central role that Ginsberg played in both the “beat” literary movement of the 1950s and as the godfather of the “hippie” counterculture movement of the 1960s ("flower power" was a term coined by him. Ya, I know dated, very dated). I have also mentioned the influence that he had (and they over him as more material from this period, especially his “Journals” have come to publication) over his fellow literary figures from the earlier period, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Neal Cassady and too many others to list here properly.

I have also spoken about the influence and affect such classic Ginsberg poems as “Howl” and “Kaddish” had on me when I first read and then heard them. No, not at the time they were written and read, especially that famous (or infamous) reading of “Howl” in that ‘garage’ in San Francisco in 1956. What could a ten year old boy from the low rent public housing projects make of Whitmanesque plea to rethink the contours of modern American industrial society. Especially of a pious Catholic boy in regard to a Jewish writer who swore and talked about homosexuality in a positive sense, to boot. Moreover, he did not “speak” to me even during the height of the “hippie” movement but rather a little latter when I actually heard his work read both by himself and others. The essential blues rhythm beat that I believe influenced and drove his work finally meshed with the blues beat in my own head.

And that last point from the last sentence is exactly the point the producers of this effect have tried to reach for by bringing many of the poets from Ginsberg’s time, most importantly Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder, and some of those who were influenced by him to read from his work and share their recollections. Additionally, as seems to be just right for a poet who whatever his vast literary abilities was very aware of the need to play the troubadour to get his work before the public there are plenty of segments of his reading himself, especially the lyrical “death” poem which ends the presentation.

Kudos to all kinds of people here from the readers to those like Anne Charters who have spent their whole academic careers trying to get the word out about the “beats” importance to the modern American literary tradition. Yes, beat and blues that is the essential Ginsberg language. It might be underappreciated now, but we need it more than ever as we face the “monster’ of today’s version of the American post-industrial society.
*****
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)

Howl

For Carl Solomon

I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,

who passed through universities with radiant eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,

who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,

who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,

who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,

who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night

with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,

incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping towards poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,

Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,

who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,

who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,

who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,

a lost batallion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon

yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,

whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,

who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,

suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,

who wandered around and around at midnight in the railway yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,

who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,

who studied Plotinus Poe St John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah because the universe instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,

who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels,

who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,

who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,

who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,

who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving nothing behind but the shadow of dungarees and the larva and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago,

who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets,

who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism, who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,

who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,

who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,

who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,

who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,

who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,

who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,

who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword,

who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman's loom,

who copulated ecstatic and insatiate and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,

who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but were prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,

who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver—joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses' rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,

who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hungover with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,

who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open full of steamheat and opium,

who created great suicidal dramas on the appartment cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion,

who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of the Bowery,

who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music,

who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts, who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,

who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,

who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom,

who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,

who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for an Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,

who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried,

who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,

who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,

who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,

who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch Birmingham jazz incarnation,

who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,

who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,

who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other's salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,

who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz,

who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave,

who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,

who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturerson Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with the shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,

and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,

who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,

returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,

Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,

with mother finally *****, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger on the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—

ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you're really in the total animal soup of time—

and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrating plane,

who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soulbetween 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus

to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,

the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,

and rose incarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America's naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio

with the absolute heart of the poem butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.


II

What sphinx of cement and aluminium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgement! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovas! Moloch whose factories dream and choke in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!

Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!

Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!

Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!

Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisable suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!

They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!

Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstacies! gone down the American river!

Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!

Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!

Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!


III

Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland

where you're madder than I am

I'm with you in Rockland

where you must feel strange

I'm with you in Rockland

where you imitate the shade of my mother

I'm with you in Rockland

where you've murdered your twelve secretaries

I'm with you in Rockland

where you laugh at this invisible humour

I'm with you in Rockland

where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter

I'm with you in Rockland

where your condition has become serious and is reported on the radio

I'm with you in Rockland

where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses

I'm with you in Rockland

where you drink the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica

I'm with you in Rockland

where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the harpies of the Bronx

I'm with you in Rockland

where you scream in a straightjacket that you're losing the game of actual pingpong of the abyss

I'm with you in Rockland

where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse

I'm with you in Rockland

where fifty more shocks will never return your soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void

I'm with you in Rockland

where you accuse your doctors of insanity and plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha

I'm with you in Rockland

where you will split the heavens of Long Island and resurrect your living human Jesus from the superhuman tomb

I'm with you in Rockland

where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale

I'm with you in Rockland

where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won't let us sleep

I'm with you in Rockland

where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls collapse O skinny legions run outside O starry-spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here O victory forget your underwear we're free

I'm with you in Rockland

in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night



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Transatlantic Howl! A Dedication to Allen Ginsberg
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Friday, December 20, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac--On The 60th Anniversary Of Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl” Not Ready For Prime Time Class Struggle-The Baby-Boomer Birth Of The Search For The Blue-Pink American Western Night- “American Graffiti”-Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of a segment of American Graffiti, featuring the lead-up to the hot rod duel.

DVD Review

American Graffiti, starring Richard Dreyfus, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford, Paul LeMat, directed by George Lucas, 1973


Recently in this space I have been deep in remembrances of the influences, great and small, of the 1950s “beats” on my own sorry teen-aged alienation and teen-aged angst (sometimes they were separate anguishes, sometimes tied together like inseparable twins, mostly the later) and the struggle to find my place in the sun, to write in bright lights my own beat plainsong. Of course, that influence was blown over me second-hand as I was just a little too young, or too wide-world unconscious, to be there at the creation, on those first roads west, those first fitfully car-driven, gas-fuelled, thumb hanging-out, sore-footed, free exploration west, in body and mind. That first great rush of the adrenal in trying to discover, eternally discover as it has turned out, the search for the meaning of the great blue-pink American West night. Ah, pioneer-boys, thanks.

I just got a whiff, a passing whiff of that electric-charged air, the sweet “be-bop”, bop-bop, real gone daddy, cooled-out, pipe-filled with whatever, jazz-sexed, high white note blown, howling in the wind plainsong afterglow. Moreover, somewhat tarnished, a little sullen and withdrawn, and media-used up by my time. More than one faux black chino-wearing, black beret’d, stringy-bearded, nightshade sun-glassed, pseudo-poetic-pounding, television-derived fakir crossed my path in Harvard Square in those high stakes early 1960s high school days. And a few real ones, as well. (A couple, whom I still pass occasionally, giving a quick nod to, have never given up the ghost and still haunt the old square looking for the long-gone, storied Hayes-Bickford, a place where the serious and the fakirs gathered in the late night before dawn hour to pour out their souls, via mouth or on paper). More to the point, I came to late to be able to settle comfortably into that anti-political world that the “beats” thrived in. Great political and social events were unfolding and I wanted in, feverishly wanted in, with both hands.

You know some of the beat leaders, the real ones, don’t you? Remembered, seemingly profusely remembered now, by every passing acquaintance with some specimen to present. Now merely photo-plastered, book wrote, college english department deconstruction’d , academic journal-debated, but then in full glory plaid shirt, white shirt, tee shirt, dungarees, chinos, sturdy foot-sore cosmic traveler shoes, visuals of heaven’s own angel bums, if there was a heaven and there were angels and if that locale needed bums.

Jack, million hungry word man-child sanctified, Lowell mills-etched and trapped and mother-fed, Jack Kerouac. Allen, om-om-om, bop, bop, mantra-man, mad Paterson-trapped, modern plainsong-poet-in-chief, Allen Ginsberg. William, sweet opium dream (or, maybe, not so sweet when the supply ran out), needle-driven, sardonic, ironic, chronic, Tangiers-trapped, Harvard man (finally, a useful one, oops, sorry), Williams S. Burroughs. Neal, wild word, wild gesture, out of ashcan all-America dream man, tire-kicking, oil-checking, gas-filling, zen master wheelman gluing the enterprise together, Neal Cassady. And a whirling crowd of others, including mad, street-wise, saint-gunsel, Gregory Corso. I am a little fuzzy these days on the genesis of my relationship to this crowd (although a reading of Ginsberg’s Howl was probably first in those frantic, high school, Harvard Square, poetry-pounding, guitar-strummed, existential word space, coffee, no sugar, I’ll have a refill, please, fugitive dream’d, coffeehouse-anchored days). This I know. I qualified, in triplicate, teen angst, teen alienation, teen luddite as a card-carrying member in those days.

That brings us to the film under review, American Graffiti, and its relationship to the birth of the search for the blue-pink great American West night promised to be discussed in the headline. Well, let me run through the plot line for those who are not familiar with idea behind the film, or are too young to have a clue as to such goings-on but might want to know what the old fogies, their parents or (ouch) grandparents were up to (or thought they were up to) back in the days, or are the peers of those 1960s baby-boomers enshrined in the film, but have forgotten a thing or two since they watched the thing in 1973 (another ouch).

The opening scene sets the whole film up. A very spiffy, well-dressed, well-scrubbed, well-mannered (mostly), middle class crew of 1962-era Southern California suburban valley kids with plenty of disposable income at hands, are gathering for one last tribal meeting before they go their separate ways in the great adult grind-it-out, eyes-straight-forward, shoulder-to-the-wheel, little boxes world at their main club house, Mel’s fast food drive-in (already I have lost the younger set on that last point, on the non-mall food court, drive-in thing, right?). How did they get to said gathering spot, you might ask? Come on now, this is wide open-spaced California suburban valley how else would they get there other that in their own personal “teen mobiles.” Jesus, do I have to tell you everything.

They come in one and twos, mainly, in some of the best-looking “boss” car (excuse my reversion to an old-time term for excellence, automobile division) that you will see these days outside of an automobile museum. And besides that, many of them, the cars that is, are “souped-up” (look that one up yourself), especially valley hot-rod-king of the hill, John (played by Paul LeMat), and his yellow (mustard yellow, wow, can you believe that?) little deuce coup (ditto on the look up). Here is the point though, the main point even in this pre-1960s rebellion period, none of the cars look anything like any parent would drive, or could drive (except the few dweeby cars borrowed for the evening from some plaint, or beaten-down, beaten down by teen argument parent). Yes indeed, this is a gathering of the California branch of “youth nation” in all their tribal finery.

As is to be expected of a teen-centered (amazingly teen-centered, adults get merely cameo appearances in this one, and that seems about right) drama the plot line thins out considerably after the flash at Mel’s. Mainly, it is about a single night’s search for the 1962 version of the California blue-pink night (more on this below). And what drives that search? Cruising, natch. Why spend the time and expense involved in a “boss” car (you know that word now, right?) if you don’t create a stir up and down the main drag boulevard looking for…. , you can easily fill in that blank yourself. The rest of the plot centers on such eternal questions as the young leaving home and hearth to face the great wide world (here to be or not to be a college freshman by stars Ron Howard, as Steve, and Richard Dreyfus, as Curt), the usual boy looking for girl thing (including by oldster hot-rod king, Johnny) that I have endlessly reported on elsewhere in this space and that is not worthy of comment in a teen film. What else could such a film be about? Teen break-ups (Howard and Cindy Williams, as Laurie), cruising, stopping at Mel’s for some car-hopped fast food, cruising, a little hot- rod duel ( between Johnny and, ah, one Harrison Ford) on those open California highways (what else are they for?), and then daylight and the rude old work-a-day world intrudes, even on sanctified teen life.

This is one time though that I do not do justice to a film with a summary because this thing is well-directed, well-produced, and well-acted by a crew of then very young unknowns (mostly) that would go on to all kinds of other cinematic successes (including hot-rod runner-up, ah, Ford). The sense of déjà vu for this Eastern U.S.-born baby-boomer, including a great high school dance segment and a soundtrack that reads out of every classic Oldies But Goodies compilation that I have ever reviewed, was palpable, without being maudlin. Kudos

So what connection can be drawn, one might rightly ask in a review of American Graffiti, a film that depicts a snapshot of a then respectable early 1960s coming-of-age teen-driven culture. With, by then, a respectable post-birth of rock and roll (cleaned up of the “bad boys” like Jerry Lee Lewis) soundtrack. That also pays homage to a then very respectable post-Great Depression Okie-Akie invasion middle class-driven suburban valley life-style, and its respectable (mostly) California teen “boss” car culture. And highlights a then respectable superficial teen angst (“do you like my finger nails painted in crimson red or rose red?”, “do you want Pepsi or Coke with your hamburger, hold the onions?”, or something along those lines) and the search for now respectably beatified “beat” culture great blue-pink American West night? A film which, moreover, has not the slightest reference to, nor can in any way be taken to have been produced under the under the sign of, the “beats.” Hell, not even a Maynard G. Krebs (from the old time media image of beatniks television show, Dobey Gillis) beatnik caricature in the lot. Nada.

The closest that any character comes is my boy John, “greaser”, deuce coup, hot rod-king-of- the-hill, and working class poet (limited lyric car poet, okay)/ existential philosopher. And he doesn’t count because he has been around since Hector was a pup, is seen as an eternal “townie” by his middle class brethren, and is a throwback to James Dean and Marlon Brando 1950s California cool. And those guys (I mean the characters they played in Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One not them as personalities, they were cool, no question) weren’t beat, no way. Beside John’s angst, important but kind of universal as it is, for some dewy-eyed female teeny-bopper to sit next to him in that old jalopy as he cruises those great California valley night highways is not the stuff of tragedy. Not in my book anyway, and I also had more than my share of that kind of teen angst.

No, what this film connects to, and connects to visually in the first instance, is that great big old search for that pink-blue American Western night that the “beats”, at least what I think the beats were searching for when they were doing their breakout from the post- World War II American crank-out death machine night. The shift from the Eastern American dark night westward (mainly, although some of beats were already vanguard- hovering around San Francisco waiting for the boys to come off the roads from the east and establish what was what) serves as a metaphor for much of what they were up to, if only to breakout, a little, from the nine-to-five, waiting for the bomb (atomic bomb) to drop world. That visual sense is most dramatically highlighted in the very first opening shots of this film where the pink-blue sky forms the backdrop to the activity starting up at California teen-hang-out (and elsewhere as well, even stuffy old Boston), fast food drive-in, Mel’s drive-in (A&W, Adventure Car-Hop, Diary Queen, fill in your own named spot), central committee headquarters for valley California teen night. .

Wait, let me detail this a little more so there is no mistake. The film opens with the first few anxious California “boss” cars (you remember what that word means, right?), almost tear-provoking in this reviewer, because I rode in teen cars just like those, rolling into neon-sign lighted Mel’s(lights just turned on against the kitchen-backdrop dark night) just as the sun is going down. There is a big old sun-devouring red devil of a cloud flaming up in the background. That is NOT the part of the pink-blue night I am talking about. Below, just below, nearer the horizon is the one I am talking about, the symbol of the search, and the stuff of dreams, the great American blue-pink dream escape.

I can hear great yawns and see rolled eyes piercing through cyberspace as you say so what is the big deal about some foolish ephemeral passing cloud, blue-pink, pink-blue, or hell, blue-blue. Philistines! Go back now to Mel’s, or wherever the blue-pink sky announces the nights doings, the night’s promises or disappointments. Those promises or those disappointments, great or small, went to make up the birth of the search for the great American Western night, the night of our own circumscribed teen, kiddish break-outs, great or small.

Make no mistake it was not the morning, the morning of school or toil, paid or unpaid. It was not the lazy afternoon, the time of study or of the self-same toil, paid or unpaid (the unpaid kind thanked for or not, or to quote the universal parent god of the time done because we keep a roof over your head). It was the night, no the approach, the blue-pink approach of night that drove our maddened dreams, hopefully signaling good omen for the night’s work. The day was mere preclude to that tiny feverishly sought breakout (now a small thing seen, but not then). The telephoned arrangements, the groomed preparations, the gathering of the odd dollar here or there, in order to first cruise that teen empty highway and then on second pass the filling teen night.

Now do you see how the “beats”, those unnamed, unnamable, sub-consciously-embedded beats drove our bust-out dreams for travel, for adventure, for wine (later, dope),for women (or men) and for song, for shaking off the dust of the old town, great or small, as long as it moving elsewhere, and on a thumb pulled-out, hard-driven, shoe leather-beaten shod foot if need be.

American Graffiti is a snapshot of just exactly that minute, just that historic minute before the great shake-out of the 1960s for the baby-boomer generation, after that minute some of us went left politically and became social activists. We made just about every political, social, and cultural mistake along the way and lost, no, were defeated, no again, were mauled, in the end in our dreams of “seeking that newer world.” (And have spent the past forty or so years having to fight a rear-guard against the straightjacket, death machine-loving yahoos and their consorts). Ya, but hear me out. The search for the blue-pink Great American Western night was not one of those mistakes.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac-On The 60th Anniversary Of Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl”Beat Poet’s Corner-Out In The American Wilderness-Allen Ginsberg’s “Paterson”




… on a cold clear winter night across the channel you could see the sparks from the welding torch flying earthbound as the mad monk welder (a modern day sorcerer in his own right) seven stories scaffolding up melded yet another bolt to join the emerging ship’s skin and elsewhere hear the thundering beat of immense hammerings as some deafened laborers laid foundation bones to her bottom (her, yes, her, ships always her against the manly King, or was it uncle, or brother, Neptune who jealously ruled the seas). That beehive of activity created World War II troops transports (one a day collectively to bring bad boy Hitler righteously to his knees and that bastard Tojo too) and later majestic (majestic on launching but barnacled, rusted, and needing paint after a few trans-oceanic voyages) and gigantic floating oil well tankers made old hometown Adamsville stir, made its denizens leap for joy as each new contract came in. Money to spent, money to burn after hard time 1930s depression days (not called great depression, not by the railroad siding, shanty town shack, park bench newspaper for a pillow living, but only anointed as such later by august historians and quirky plainsong singers). He noticed though that those welded sparks and headache hammerings were less frequent, less frequent at night, in childhood 1950s and while he could hear occasional muted hammerings and firefly sparks that gigantic superstructure lost his undivided attention.

His attention now drawn to sullen laborers, mostly kindred Irish, Irish moved south from the great Southie migration when Hitler’s moves demanded a troop transport a day (no I haven’t forgotten that bastard Tojo but Adamsville ships were meant for Atlantic waters) and sturdy hands and fellaheen forbear hearts gave it to him right in the kisser, unemployed now, sitting in Dublin Grille, Irish Pub, hell, Johnny Ricco’s Bar (where they could get credit, drink credit, okay), gnawing over wife- nagging troubles (she tiredly counting out the bill envelopes, food, gas, electric, oil, telephone, no skip that this week ,to cover the weekly graft, or a little bit to keep the wolves away from the door for another week), kids getting to be strangers troubles (not knowing of sullen dads, or penny-pinching moms, but only of Jones’ children with spiffy sporty clothes, not hand- me-downs, personal record players and money, cash money to buy be-bop Elvis records and rock the night away), and rent troubles (no more mortgage troubles, thank god, since the house went last year along with that six payments short of completion up-scale Buick that was a pride and joy).

He noticed too the town at daylight seemed kind of ashen grey, kind of preternaturally quiet against the steel-hammered plated world, trash strewn, uncollected, over ball fields, down Adamsville beaches, up the store front empty Square, average citizens with their heads bent down walking around just to walk around (just to get out of the house, and get, what did his grandfather call it, oh yah, to get the stink blowed off), and houses, too many houses, in need of lawn trimmings, in need of paint to color the world again, in need of, in need of, damn, life. He swore (an oath, not a Catholic brimstone and damnation no no word) on all that his twelve-year old dreams could dream on that he would get out, get out just as fast as he could.

Another sound, a bobbing machine sound, ten thousand bobbing machine sounds at once all day and all night along one blessed textiles to clothe a modern world mile (including modern armies to kick Hitler’s butt, and Tojo’s too), maybe more, all red brick and waspish-sounding owner names, peopled by Irish, Italians, Greeks, and French-Canadians down from Quebec farms and Gaspe ports of call, the ethnics, the usual suspects in mill- town America (who knows maybe the world) another smell, smoke, endless smoke from endless chimneys form long phallic lines (don’t let Allen know that) across the Lowell sky and add look, look at the rushing Merrimac torrent now colored blue ,or red, or yellow, depending on day’s fabric as those looks are carried to the Atlantic seas. Money to spend , money to burn, sounds familiar, after hard time 1930s depression days (not called great depression, not by the Boston and Maine railroad siding, riverside shanty town shack, Daly Square park bench newspaper for a pillow living, but only anointed as such later by august historians and quirky plainsong singers). He noticed, like his Adamsville cousin down the road with his blessed savior ships , that those bobbing sounds, grey smoke belching chimneys, and flash- colored river torrents were less frequent, less frequent at night, in childhood 1950s and while he could hear occasional muted bobbings and see fire- spark crackling smokes, that long red mile lost his undivided attention.

His attention now drawn to sullen laborers, mill hands mostly, mostly too kindred F-C, F-C moved south from the great Quebec migration when sturdy hands and fellaheen forbear hearts were needed to clothe a naked world, unemployed now, sitting in Jacques’ Grille, The French- American Club over in Pawtucketville, hell, even the Galway Pub (where they could get credit, drink credit, a universal need in doldrums days, okay), gnawing over wife- nagging troubles (she tiredly counting out the bill envelopes, food, gas, electric, oil, telephone, no skip that this week , to cover the weekly graft, or a little bit to keep the wolves away from the door for another week), kids getting to be strangers troubles (not knowing of sullen dads, or penny-pinching moms, but only of Jones’ children with sporty clothes, not hand- me- downs, personal record players and money, cash money to buy be-bop Elvis records and rock the night away), and rent troubles (no more mortgage troubles, thank god, since the house went last year along with that six payments short of completion up-scale Buick that was a pride and joy).

He noticed too the town at daylight seemed kind of ashen grey not real ash, like some erupted volcano, just metaphor ash, kind of preternaturally quiet against the bobbing-less world, trash strewn, uncollected, over ball fields, down riverside fronts, up in Daly Square, average citizens with their heads bent down walking around just to walk around (just to get out of the house, and get, what did his grandfather, universal grandfather, call it, oh yah, translated from F-C patois, get the stink blowed off), and houses, too many houses, in need of lawn trimmings, in need of paint to color the world again, in need of, in need of, damn, life. He swore (an oath, not a Catholic brimstone and damnation no no word) on all that his twelve- year old dreams could dream on that he would get out, get out just as fast as he could.

And further south, Jersey town south, down past the Jersey piers, and dotted oil tanks, Paterson, a town of towns of long ago boss fights and John Reed big story reportings, red, a town name now to make a poet blanche. Another bobbing sound, a bobbing machine sound, ten thousand bobbing machine sounds at once all day and all night along one blessed textiles to clothe a modern world section of town (including modern armies to kick Hitler’s butt, and Tojo’s too), all red brick and waspish-sounding owner names, peopled by Irish, Italians, Greeks, and occasionally some Jews fresh from New York Seventh Avenue flights to get away from big city noises, crimes, distractions (strangely their sons and daughters, and Adamsville and Lowell son and daughters, will be moth-drawn to the big fussy neon cities), the ethnics, the usual suspects in mill- town America (who knows maybe the world) another smell, smoke, endless smoke from endless chimneys form long phallic (don’t let Allen know that, or maybe he already knows the metaphor ) lines across the Paterson sky and add look, look at the rushing river torrent now colored blue ,or red, or yellow, depending on day’s fabric as those looks are carried to the Atlantic seas. Money to spend, money to burn, sounds very familiar, after hard time 1930s depression days (not called great depression, not by the Penn railroad siding, shanty town shack, downtown park bench newspaper for a pillow living, but only anointed as such later by august historians and quirky plainsong singers). He noticed, like his Adamsville cousin up north with his blessed savior ships and his up north too Lowell cousin with his infernal be-bop bobbings, that those bobbing sounds, grey smoke belching chimneys and flash- colored river torrents were less frequent, less frequent at night, in childhood 1950s and while he could hear occasional muted bobbing and fire- spark crackling smokes, those long smoke stacks lost his undivided attention.

His attention now drawn to sullen laborers, mill hands mostly, mostly not Jewish kindred now (they had moved on to Jersey shore suburbs and away from all cities big and small), but Irish and Italian (and, a few, what did Gregory call them, oh yah, spics, from Puerto Rico, thrown in)when sturdy hands and fellaheen forbear hearts were needed to clothe a naked world, unemployed now, sitting in Billy’s Grille, Nino’s Bar in the barrio, hell, even the Galway Pub (where they could get credit, drink credit, a universal need in doldrums days, okay), gnawing over wife- nagging troubles (she tiredly counting out the bill envelopes, food, gas, electric, oil, telephone, no skip that this week ,to cover the weekly graft, or a little bit to keep the wolves away from the door for another week), kids getting to be strangers troubles (not knowing of sullen dads, or penny-pinching moms, but only of Jones’ children with sporty clothes, not hand- me- downs, personal record players and money, cash money to buy be-bop Elvis records and rock the night away), and rent (no more mortgage troubles, thank god, since the house went last year along with that six payments short of completion up-scale Buick that was a pride and joy).

He noticed too the town at daylight seemed kind of ashen grey not real ash, like some erupted volcano, just metaphor ash, kind of preternaturally quiet against the bobbing-less world, trash strewn, uncollected, over ball fields, in front of abandoned downtown store fronts, up in the square, average citizens with their head bent down walking around just to walk around (just to get out of the house, and get, what did his grandfather, universal Jewish grandfather, call it, oh yah, to unwind the mind and think kabala thoughts of ancient times, or, simple Hebrew translation , just to get the stink blowed off) and houses, too many houses, in need of lawn trimmings, in need of paint to color the world again, in need of, in need of, damn, life. He swore (an oath, not a Talmudic brimstone and damnation no no word) on all that his twelve- year old dreams could dream on that he would get out, get out just as fast as he could.

… yah, towns to get out of, towns to be long gone daddy gone from.

Paterson

What do I want in these rooms papered with visions of money?
How much can I make by cutting my hair? If I put new heels on my shoes,
bathe my body reeking of masturbation and sweat, layer upon layer of excrement
dried in employment bureaus, magazine hallways, statistical cubicles, factory stairways,
cloakrooms of the smiling gods of psychiatry;
if in antechambers I face the presumption of department store supervisory employees,
old clerks in their asylums of fat, the slobs and dumbbells of the ego with money and power
to hire and fire and make and break and fart and justify their reality of wrath and rumor of wrath to wrath-weary man,
what war I enter and for what a prize! the dead prick of commonplace obsession,
harridan vision of electricity at night and daylight misery of thumb-sucking rage.


I would rather go mad, gone down the dark road to Mexico, heroin dripping in my veins,
eyes and ears full of marijuana,
eating the god Peyote on the floor of a mudhut on the border
or laying in a hotel room over the body of some suffering man or woman;
rather jar my body down the road, crying by a diner in the Western sun;
rather crawl on my naked belly over the tincans of Cincinnati;
rather drag a rotten railroad tie to a Golgotha in the Rockies;
rather, crowned with thorns in Galveston, nailed hand and foot in Los Angeles, raised up to die in Denver,
pierced in the side in Chicago, perished and tombed in New Orleans and resurrected in 1958 somewhere on Garret Mountain,
come down roaring in a blaze of hot cars and garbage,
streetcorner Evangel in front of City I-Tall, surrounded by statues of agonized lions,
with a mouthful of shit, and the hair rising on my scalp,
screaming and dancing in praise of Eternity annihilating the sidewalk, annihilating reality,
screaming and dancing against the orchestra in the destructible ballroom of the world,
blood streaming from my belly and shoulders
flooding the city with its hideous ecstasy, rolling over the pavements and highways
by the bayoux and forests and derricks leaving my flesh and my bones hanging on the trees.

Allen Ginsberg

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- New Jack City Blues, Circa 1950s




New York City, 1950s New Jack City for the jack-worthy, not big enough for million worded jacks (or jills), not in the end, but for a while you could hear that old caged bird sing, sing some Billie Holliday swing low, swing misty, swing along nod sway song, maybe a little boy-juiced, but swaying, some Dizzy dizzy salt peanuts tune, maybe a little tea-time dizzy, some high white note stuff every once in a while just to keep things interesting, some, well just name your cool as a cucumber jazzman Lester blowing that big sexy sax at the end, Gerry, Dave Brubeck, Charlie Gabriel trumpet blowing early, some more experimental guys, Monk, mad monk riff piano riffing monk , on top of the heap, sweaty in a hundred cool as a cucumber midnight cafes, The Swan, The Gaslight, Benny’s, The Hi Hat, and the beloved Red Fez (red to make you sunset dream, sunset tea dream, fez to make you think Africa calling, calling home her children), drawing, drawing can you believe this, the Mayfair swells like in old Duke Cotton Club high Harlem night Scott Fitzgerald bathtub gin jazz age time.
Maybe Time Square, flamed never-ending lights of hell-lit up, neon- lit, gas-lit, 24/7/365-lit, lit to the gills, lit against the jack-rolling crime night back alley big city simplicity itself just some chain, or an off-hand pipe, behind the knees, crumple easy to the ground, grab the dough, up and out to some whore blow, dope blow, whisky blow in the flamed, never ending lights of hell-lit up, lit against the gang night, Central Park mainly and some off streets down in Little Italy and up in high Harlem, 125thStreet anyway, lit against the rough trade Genet night sailor boys fresh from the wharves, Hudson wharves, East River wharves, flush with pay-off cash, looking for chain-whip kicks, some diva delight, some fresh leather boy too, lit against the sad sin sexless sex night, some anonymous Lansing, Muncie, Omaha corn-fed young thing, shapely, good legs, working hips, tired of light-less farms and farm fields headed to the big city, headed up 42nd street instead of Broadway or the Village and wound up with big faded dreams calling out “hey mister, want a good time,” or maybe stoned to the gills just nods, stoop nods, symbolically showing a good time just by her uniform, that split pea dress, those long nylon stockings, and that kewpie doll smile, all yours for the price of a needle, a room, and some pimp’s damn cut or, hell, when the spiral goes down some quickie back alley head and a quick napkin spit wipe, jesus, watch out for the jack-rollers though, thinking to herself if farm boy love Roy could see me now, later turned over to some Jersey whorehouse and work by the bell. Go home sister go home, now. New Jack was just too big for you.

Wall Street, pass, this is not about coupon-clipping, okay. Madison Avenue, pass, this is not about subliminal desires and tricks. Park Avenue, pass, well, maybe half-pass, for those looking for jack night thrills to fill up, fill up like some gas tank, their beat souls, or maybe some Genet boys rough stuff. Columbia, the university, of course, ivy-covered, respectable for a minute (before the 1960s heist of all property when it was merely an Ivy outpost in a brazen, bare knuckles city), a minute when some buzz came in breezing in through the portals. And Jack and Allen and kindred teased the city dry, and created some flash beat to be listened to elsewhere.
The Village of course (those who need to know what village just move on), the clubs and nooks already mentioned, jazz, folk rearing its head, more jazz, some poetry on an off night, the beat poets reading their beat poems to a famished world (or slender slice of it), the streets of dreams not mentioned, Bleecker, McDougall on up to Canal, the safe harbor, hell, sanctuary for those blown away by the cold war red scare night, not just reds, and pinks, and maybe white pinks, but all mother nature’s odd and damaged, the beat poem listen hangers for sure, the morphine kickers looking for sure connections and some walking daddy to be-bop with when the crash came, the rough trade boys, reading Genet in some back room in translation, tired of hell angels beating up on them without style, plainsong fags tired of dating someone’s sister as a favor and ready to face the cops’ bull if only to have a few nights of boy love without being run out of a Podunk town on a rail, same, same for those weary of those boston marriages and tired of wearing men’s clothing in private Beacon Street Boston rooms, art guys by the biz-illion, Jackson this, Larry that, Motherwell this and that, enough art to paint the world, all abstract and symbolic, all death to sweet Madonna slash dabbed in the night.

Movie houses, movie theaters, all sweet black and white stark, all New Jack city eight million stories stark, and, and, uh, art films for the discreet, of men in raincoats stinking of urine or Thunderbird wines, of drifters, grifters, grafters, midnight sifters, hustling, always hustling like some rats on speed, of mad men and monks, and semi-monks disguised as poets, of street poet gangsters all shiny words and a gun at your head to say yes you liked the last verse, of Gregory Corso, of muggers and minstrels, of six dollar whores for a quickie, of twelve dollar whores who will take you around the world, of neon signs, night and day, of neon cars and car -beams night and day, of trash spread every which way, of the flotsam and jetsam of human existence cloistered against 42nd Street hurts.
And Howard Johnson’s frankfurts, mustard, relish, onions, go ahead the works, eaten by the half dozen to curb hungers, not food hungers but hungers that dare not speak their name, not sex but fame, fresh off the Port Authority bus, of Joe and Nemo’s two o’clock fatty griddle hamburgers, the works again, please, of fags (bothering guys in public toilets, jesus), and fairies, all dressed up and rouged ready for some gentleman caller, and, shade distant dreams, of quasi-Trotskyite girl lovers taking a rest from their bourgeois travels who loved truth, truth and dark-haired revolutionary French guys from textile mill lowells, all proletarian Lowell, and can write too, write one million words on order, and perform, on cue, stalinite-worthy betrayals with some new found friend’s wife, or husband, of Siberia exile of the mind, and of second million word writes all while riding the clattering subway to and fro crosstown, not to speak of Soho or the Bronx . And of junkies of every description, morphine, speed, cocaine, and of hustlers pushing their soft wares, call your poison, step right up, of William Burroughs, of deadly terror at the prospects for the next fix, of human mules face down in some dusty Sonora town failing to make that connection to get them well, and of off-hand forgotten murders. Jesus suffering humanity. New Jack City.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac-On The 60th Anniversary Of Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl”*** Out In The Be-Bop Night- Fragments On Working Class Culture- Scenes From The Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night- The Siren Call Of The Mountain Wind Song

Markin comment:

The scene below stands (or falls) as a moment in support of that eternal search mentioned in the headline .

Scene Five: The Siren Call Of The Mountain Wind Song In The Search For The Blue- Pink Great American West Night

Hey, not every aspect of the 1960s blue-pink night was a search for some kind of transcendence. Mostly it was that, and its glow has kept a few of us warm through many a desperate dark, cold night since. But sometimes it was running away from the past, from roots, or maybe better, from rooted-ness. Or just plain old running away from what lurked ahead, and ahead did not seem as good as the road, the road with all its troubles. For those who have read the previous scene, the scene where I got stuck down in a Steubenville, Ohio 1969 truck stop diner and got “lucky” finding a woman friend to share the road with, you know at the end of that episode we were heading out, or trying to head out West. For those who have not read that scene let me introduce my new lady friend, Angelica. Angelica, who, as fate would have it, was working in that diner truck stop where I got stuck and happened to think I was “nice” and after a little of this and that decided that her search for meaning in her young life entailed accompanying me on the road west. Whoa! In any case there she was walking beside me as we tried to hitch a ride from one of the rigs idling at the stop. If you want to know the details of the “how come” of our walking together just now go read that last scene, otherwise I will try to fill you in as we go along.

In the process of getting you filled in, let’s get one thing clear. When you were on the road, on the 1960s hitchhike road, and trying to get across the country the rules, the rules of the road, were a little different than the rules in workaday life. Your take on life and your, usually, transient relationships with passing strangers, male or female, got a little twisted. Not necessarily in a bad way, but twisted. I was pleased, pleased beyond belief, as least privately, to have winsome, fetching Angelica along. As I mentioned before in those hitchhike days it was always easier to get rides when you had a female companion, and one with good legs and a good shape, a shape that drivers could notice as they sped by was a plus. Maybe, thinking it was a mirage anyway, not every benny high, moony, overstretched transcontinental truck driver, running overweight anyway, would put on the airbrakes for her on the Interstate at eighty miles an hour. But those young, slower lane sedan drivers would slam on the brakes, and gladly. Ya, I know now it is not cool, nor should it be, to be using a woman as a “decoy” in that way but that was the way it was then “on the road.”

Now, if you don’t know, meaning you haven’t read the previous scenes, I, by this time, had been periodically crossing the country for some time in search of …... well, in search of something because just now, some forty years later, I am getting just a little weary of calling it the blue-pink night but this was Angelica’s whimsical maiden voyage. Angelica, was, moreover, pretty naïve about life and clueless about the road having just a few weeks earlier left home and hearth in cozy mid-country Muncie, Indiana. (Don’t tell me all about the famous Lynd sociological study of squaretown, oops, I mean, Middletown, that used that town as its sample back in the 1920s I already mentioned that before.) Therefore she was crushed beyond my comprehension, as we walked closer to the idling trucks on the other side of the diner, when I mentioned to her that the small suitcase (neatly packed) she was carrying was not a good road item compared to a nice fungible knapsack for when we had to do some walking between rides. I do not know, and I never found out, whether the look, not the nice sly, coquettish look that she greeted me with early in our “courtship” at the diner and that hooked me, but some volcanic devilish look when I mentioned that to her the fact that she was going to have to abandon that suitcase or that the “road”, the real hitchhike road meant some walking. Later, and not much later at that, she saw my point about the suitcase, but that does not erase that look from memory’s eye.

Nor was that little episode the end of out little road “adjustments.” In the few weeks that Angelica had been working long hours at the diner she served many of the truckers whose rigs were idling in the truck stop rest area we were cruising for rides. So, naturally, she tried to find out where some of those that she knew were heading. This day, they are heading mainly east, or anyway not west. Finally, she ran into one burly teamster, Eddie, who was heading down Route 7 along the Ohio River to catch Interstate 64 further down river and then across through to Lexington, Kentucky. Angelica was thrilled because, as it turned out, she had kin (her term, okay), a cousin or something, down in Prestonsburg, Kentucky whom she hadn’t seen in a while and where we could stay for a few days and take in the mountain air (her idea of rest, mine then and now, was strictly ocean breezes, thank you). I tried, tried desperately, without being obnoxious about it, to tell her that heading south was not going to get us to the West very easily. She would have none of it, and she rightly said, that we were in no rush anyway and what was wrong with a little side trip to Kentucky anyway. Well, I suppose in the college human nature course, Spat-ology 101, if there was such a course then, and they taught it, I should have had enough sense to throw in the towel. After all this was Angelica’s first, now seriously, whimsical venture out on the road. And I did, in the end, throw in the towel, except not for the reason that you think.

What Angelica didn’t know until later, and you didn’t know until now, was that I was deathly afraid of going to Kentucky. See, I had set myself up to the world as, and was in fact in my head, a Yankee, an Oceanside Yankee, if you like. I was born in Massachusetts and have the papers to prove it, but on those papers there is an important fact included. My father’s place of birth was Hazard, Kentucky probably not more than fifty to one hundred miles away from Prestonsburg. He was born down in the hills and hollows of mining country, coal mining country, made famous in song and legend. And also made infamous (to me) by Michael Harrington’s Other America which described in detail the plight of Appalachian whites, my father’s people. And also, as a result of the publicity about the situation down there, the subject in my early 1960s high school of a clothing drive to help them out. My father left the mines when World War II started, enlisted in the Marines, saw his fair share of battles in the Pacific, got stationed before discharge at a Naval Depot in Massachusetts and never looked back. And see I never wanted him to look back. That’s the way it was back then, make of it what you will. Sure, now, among other things, I can thank winsome, head-strong Angelica for making that move, but then, well, like I said I threw in the towel, but I was not happy about it. Not happy at all.

Actually the ride down Route 7 was pretty uneventful and, for somebody who did not feel comfortable looking at trees and mountains, some of the scenery was pretty breath-taking. That is until we started getting maybe twenty miles from Prestonsburg and the air changed, the scenery changed, and the feel of the social milieu changed. See we were getting in the edges of coal country, not the serious “Bloody Harlan” stuff of legend but the older, scrap heap part that had been worked over, and “worked out” long along. The coal bosses had taken the earth’s assets and left the remnants behind to foul the air and foul the place.

But, mostly, and here is where I finally understood why my father took his chances in World War II and also why he never looked back, shacks. Nothing but haphazardly placed, unpainted shacks, hard-scrabble patched roofs just barely covering them. With out-houses, out-houses can you believe that in America in the 1960s. And plenty of kids hanging out in the decidedly non-manicured front yards waiting… well, just waiting. Look, I came up in my early youth in a public housing project that had all the pathologies one has come to associate with that form of social organization. Later, in my coming of age days we lived in a tiny, very tiny, single family house but I was not prepared for this. All that I can say about my feelings at the time was that I would be more than willing to crawl on all fours to get back to my crummy old growing up homestead rather than fight the dread of this place.

Fortunately Angelica’s kin (second cousin), Annadeene, husband and two kids all at about age twenty, lived further down the road, out of town, in a trailer camp which the husband, Fred, had expanded so that it had the feel of a small country house. Most importantly it had indoor plumbing and a spare room where Angelica and I could sleep and put our stuff. Fred, as I recall, was something of a skilled mechanic (coal equipment mechanic) who worked for a firm that was indirectly connected to the Eastern Kentucky coal mines.

This Prestonsburg, as you can imagine, in the 1960s was nothing but one of a thousand such towns that I had (and have) passed through. A main street with a few essential stores, some boarded up retail space and then you are out of town. Then hardly worth, and maybe now too, putting a strip mall into. Moreover, Route 7 as it turned into Route 23 heading into Prestonsburg and then further down turned into nothing but an old country, pass at your own risk, country road about where Angelica’s cousin lived. What I am trying to get at though is that although these people were in the 20th century they were somewhat behind the curve. This is, as it probably was in my father’s time, patriotic country, country where you did your military service came home, worked, if you could find it, got married and raised a family. Just in tougher circumstances than elsewhere.

I understood that part. What I did not understand then, and am still somewhat confused about, is the insularity of the place. The wariness, serious wariness, of strangers even of strangers brought to the hills and hollows by kin. I was not well received at least first, and I still am not quite sure if I ever was, by Angelica’s kin and I suppose if I thought about it while they had heard of “hippies” (every male with beard, long hair, and jeans was suspected of belonging to that category) Prestonsburg was more like something from Merle Haggard’s Okie From Muskogee lyrics than Haight-Ashbury. Angelica kept saying that I would grow on them (like I did on her) but I knew, knew down deep that we had best get out of there. I kept pressing the issue but she refused to listen to any thoughts of our leaving until after Saturday night’s barn dance. After all Fred and Annadeene had specially invited us to go with them. We could leave Sunday morning but not before. Christ, a hillbilly hoe-down.

Probably about twenty years ago I would have felt no compulsion to go into anything but superficial detail about this barn dance. Today though I do. Otherwise this scene lacks completeness. I will say that I have, twenty years ago or now, a very clear picture of Angelica being fetching for this dance. All her feminine wiles got a workout that night. What I can’t remember is what she wore or how she wore her hair (up, I think) but the effect on me (and the other guys) was calculated to make me glad, glad as hell, that we stayed for this thing. What I can remember vividly though is that this barn dance actually took place in a barn, just a plain old ordinary barn that had been used in this area for years (according to the oldsters since back in the 1920s) for the periodic dances that filled up the year and broke the monotony of the mountain existence. The old faded red-painted barn, sturdily build to withstand the mountain winds and containing a stage for such occasions was something out of a movie, some movie that you have seen, so you have some idea of what it was like even if you have never been within a hundred miles of a barn.

Moreover the locals had gone to some effort to decorate the place, provide plenty of refreshments and use some lighting to good effect. What was missing was any booze. This was a “dry” county then (and maybe still is) but not to worry wink, wink there was plenty of “white lightning” around out in the makeshift dirt parking lot where clusters of good old boys hovered around certain cars whose owners had all you needed. Just bring your own fixings. After we had checked out the arrangements in the barn and Annadeene had introduced us to her neighbors Fred tapped me on the shoulder and “hipped” me to the liquor scene. We went outside. Fred talked quietly to one of the busy car owners and then produced a small jar for my inspection. “Hey, wait,” he said “you have to cut that stuff a little with some water if you are not used to it.” I took my jar, added some water, and took a swig. Jesus Christ, I almost fell down the stuff was so powerful. Look, I used to drink whiskey straight up in those days, or I thought I drank whiskey straight up but after one swig, one swig, my friends, I confess I was a mere teetotaler. Several minutes later we went back inside and I nursed, literally nursed, that jar for the rest of the night. But you know I got “high” off it and was in good spirits. So good that I started dancing with Angelica once the coterie of banjo players, fiddlers, guitarists and mandolin players got finished warming up. I am not much of a dancer under the best of circumstances but, according to her, I did okay that night.

Hey, you’d expect that the music was something out of the Grand Ole Opry, some Hee-Haw hoe-down stuff, some Arkansas Jamboree hokum, right? Forget that. See back in the mountains, at least in the 1960s mountains, they did not have access to much television or sheet music or other such refinements. What they played they learned from mama and papa, or some uncle who got it from god knows where. It’s all passed down from something like time immemorial and then traced back to the old county, the British Isles mainly. Oh sure there was a “square” hoe-down thing or two but what I heard that night was something out of the mountain night high-powered eerie winds as they rolled down the hills and hollows (hollers, if you are from there). Something that spoke of hard traveling first from the old country when luck ran out there, then from the east coast of America when that got too crowded and just sat down when it hit those grey-blue mountains, or maybe, although I never asked (and under the circumstances would not have dared to ask) formed their version of the blue-pink great American West night, and this is as far as they got, or cared to go.

Some of this music I knew from my folk experiences in Boston and Cambridge earlier in the 1960s when everybody, including me, was looking for the roots of folk music. Certainly I knew Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies when the band played it instrumentally. That was one of the first songs, done by gravelly-voiced Dave Van Ronk, I heard on the folk radio station that I listened to. But, see, back in those early days that stuff, for the most part, was too, well you know, too my father’s music for me to take seriously. Bob Dylan was easier to listen to for a message that “spoke” to me. But this night I thrilled to hear real pros going one-on-one to out-fiddle, out-banjo, out-mandolin, out, out-any instrument each other in some mad dash to appease the mountain nymphs, or whatever or whoever was being evoked to keep civilization away from the purity of the music. That night was as close as I got to my roots, and feeling good about those roots, and also as close as I got to Angelica. I could go on and give examples that you could go check out on YouTube and listen to but this is one of those moments you had to be there, okay.

About 12:30 or one o’clock the dance broke up, although as we headed down the rutted, jagged street we could still hear banjos and fiddles flailing away to see who really was “king of the hill.” Angelica said she was glad that we stayed, and I agreed. She also said that, yes, I was right; it was time to head west. She said it in such a way that I felt that she could have been some old time pioneer woman who once she recognized that the land was exhausted knew that the family had to pull up stakes and push on. It was just a matter of putting the bundles together and saying goodbye to the neighbors left behind. Needless to say old resource road companion Angelica, sweet, fetching Angelica put that fetchiness to good use and had us lined up for a ride from another Eddie truck driver who, if he was sober enough, was heading out with a load at 6:00 AM to Winchester just outside Lexington from where we could make better connections west. 6:00 AM, are you kidding? I am still wearing about eight pound of that white lightning, or whatever it was. Angelica merely pointed out in her winsome, fetching way that nobody forced me to drink that rotgut (her word) liquor when softer refreshments had been available inside. Touché, 6:00 AM it is.

Dog tired, smelling of a distillery, or some old time hardware store (where the white lightning ingredients probably came from) Angelica and I laid our heads down to get a few hours sleep. Gently she nuzzled up to my side (how she did it through the alcoholic haze I do not know) and gave every indication that she wanted to make love. Now we are right next door to the two unnamed sleeping children, sleeping the sleep of the just, and as she gets more aggressive we have to be, or we think we have to be, more quiet. No making the earth under the Steubenville truck stop motel cabin shake this night. And, as we talked about it on the road later, that was not what was in her mind. She just wanted to show, in a very simple way, that she appreciated that I had stayed, that I had been wise enough to figure out how long we should stay, and that, drunk or sober, I would take her feelings into account. Not a bad night’s work. And so amid some low giggles we did our exploration. Oh, here is the part that will tell you more than a little about Angelica. She also wanted to please me this night because she did not know, given the vagaries of the road, when we would be able to do it again. Practical girl.

In the groggy, misty, dark before dawn, half awake, no quarter awake night Angelica tapped me to get up. We quickly packed, she ate a little food (I could barely stand never mind do something as complicated as eat food), and we made our goodbyes, genuine this morning by all parties. As we went out the front trailer door and headed up the road to the place where Eddie had said to meet him I swear, I swear on all the dreams of whatever color that I have ever had, that the background mountains that were starting to take form out of the dark started to play, and to play like that music I heard last night from those demon fiddlers and banjo players. I asked, when we met Eddie, who was only a few minutes late, and who looked and felt (as he told me) worst that I did (except that he proudly stated that he was used to it, okay Eddie) if those musicians were still at it over at that old devil of a red barn. “No,” he said. “Where is that music coming from then?” I said. Old Eddie (backed by Angelica) said “What music?” That angel music I said. Eddie just looked bemused as he revved that old truck engine up and we hit the road west.

Several years ago I was half-listening to some music, some background eerily haunting mountain music coming from a folk radio station when I had the strangest feeling that I had heard the tune before. I puzzled over it sporadically for a few days and then went to the local library to see if they had some mountain music CDs. They did and I began on that date a feverish reaquaintance with this form of music that I have occasionally reviewed here, especially the various Carter Family combinations. I, however, never did find out the name of that song.

And in a sense it has not name. It was the music from that old mountain wind as it trailed down the hills and hollows that I heard that last night in Prestonsburg. See here is what you didn’t know as you read all this stuff, and I only half knew it back then. I had been in Kentucky before that trip down from Steubenville, Ohio with sweet Angelica. No, not the way you think. My parents, shortly after they were married and after my father got out of the service, took a trip back to his home in Hazard so his family could meet his bride, or maybe just so he could show her off. They stayed for some period of time, I am not sure exactly how long, but the long and short of it is, that I was conceived and was fussing around in my mother’s womb while they were there. So see, it was that old mountain wind calling me home, calling me to my father’s roots, calling me to my roots as I was aimlessly searching for that blue-pink great American West night. Double thanks, Angelica.