Showing posts with label growing up absurd in the 1950's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label growing up absurd in the 1950's. Show all posts

Monday, January 13, 2020

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-*Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- Frankie Out In The Adventure Car Hop Night

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the Dubs performing the classic Could This Be Magic? to set the mood for this piece.

CD Review

The Rock ‘N’ Roll Era: 1957: Still Rockin’, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1988

Markin comment:

Okay, you know the routine by now, or at least the drift of these classic rock reviews in this space. The part that starts out with a tip of the hat to the fact that each generation, each teenage generation that is makes its own tribal customs, mores and language. Then the part that is befuddled by today’s teenage-hood. And then I go scampering back to my teenage-hood, the teenage coming of age of the generation of ‘68 that came of age in the early 1960s and start on some cultural “nugget” from that seemingly pre-historic period. Well this review is no different, except, today we decipher the drive-in restaurant, although really it is the car hops (waitresses) that drive this one.

See, this series of reviews is driven, almost subconsciously driven, by the Edward Hopper Nighthawk-like illustrations on the The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era CDs of this mammoth set of compilations. In this case it is the drive-in restaurant of blessed teenage memory. For the younger set, or those oldsters who “forgot” that was a restaurant idea driven by car culture, especially the car culture from the golden era of teenage car-dom, the 1950s. Put together cars, cars all flash-painted and fully-chromed, “boss” cars we called them in my working class neighborhood, young restless males, food, and a little off-hand sex, or rather the promise or mist of a promise of it, and you have the real backdrop to the drive-in restaurant. If you really thought about it why else would somebody, anybody who was assumed to be functioning, sit in their cars eating food, and at best ugly food at that, off a tray while seated in their cherry, “boss" 1959 Chevy.

And beside the food, of course, there was the off-hand girl watching (in the other cars with trays hanging off their doors), and the car hop ogling (and propositioning, if you had the nerve, and if your intelligence was good and there was not some 250 pound fullback back-breaker waiting to take her home a few cars over) there was the steady sound of music, rock music, natch, coming from those boomerang speakers in those, need I say it, “boss” automobiles. And that is where all of this gets mixed in.

Of course, just like another time when I was reviewing one of the CDs in this series, and discussing teenage soda fountain life, the mere mention, no, the mere thought of the term “car hop” makes me think of a Frankie story. Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, Frankie from the old hell-fire shipbuilding sunk and gone and it-ain’t-coming-back-again seen better days working class neighborhood where we grew up, or tried to. Frankie who I have already told you I have a thousand stories about, or hope I do. Frankie the most treacherous little bastard that you could ever meet on one day, and the kindest man (better man/child), and not just cheap jack, dime store kindness either, alive the next day. Ya, that Frankie, my best middle school and high school friend Frankie.

Did I tell you about Joanne, Frankie’s “divine” (his term, without quotation marks) Joanne because she enters, she always in the end enters into these things? Yes, I see that I did back when I was telling you about her little Roy “The Boy” Orbison trick. The one where she kept playing Running Scared endlessly to get Frankie’s dander up. But see while Frankie has really no serious other eyes for the dames except his “divine” Joanne (I insist on putting that divine in quotation marks when telling of Joanne, at least for the first few times I mention her name, even now. Needless to say I questioned, and questioned hard, that designation on more than one occasion to no avail) he is nothing but a high blood-pressured, high-strung shirt-chaser, first class. And the girls liked him, although not for his looks although they were kind of Steve McQueen okay. What they go for him for is his line of patter, first class. Patter, arcane, obscure patter that made me, most of the time, think of fingernails scratching on a blackboard (except when I was hot on his trail trying to imitate him) and his faux “beat” pose (midnight sunglasses, flannel shirt, black chinos, and funky work boots (ditto on the imitation here as well). And not just “beat’ girls, that liked him, either as you will find out.

Well, the long and short of it was that Frankie, late 1963 Frankie, and the...(oh, forget it) Joanne had had their 207th (really that number, or close, since 8th grade) break-up and Frankie was a "free” man. To celebrate this freedom Frankie, Frankie, who was almost as poor as I was but who has a father with a car that he was not too cheap or crazy about to not let Frankie use on occasion, had wheels. Okay, Studebaker wheels but wheels anyway. And he was going to treat me to a drive-in meal as we went cruising the night, the Saturday night, the Saturday be-bop night looking for some frails (read: girls, Frankie had about seven thousand names for them)

Tired (or bored) from cruising the Saturday be-bop night away (meaning girl-less) we hit the local drive-in hot spot, Arnie’s Adventure Car Hop for one last, desperate attempt at happiness (ya, things were put, Frank and me put anyway, just that melodramatically for every little thing). What I didn’t know was that Frankie, king hell skirt-chaser had his off-hand eye on one of the car hops, Sandy, and as it turned out she was one of those girls who was enamored of his patter (or so I heard later). So he pulled into her station and started to chat her up as we ordered the haute cuisine, And here was the funny thing, now that I saw her up close I could see that she was nothing but a fox (read: “hot” girl). The not so funny thing was that she was so enamored of Frankie’s patter that he was going to take her home after work. No problem you say. No way, big problem. I was to be left there to catch a ride home while they set sail into that good night. Thanks, Frankie.

Well, I was pretty burned up about it for a while but as always with “charma” Frankie we hooked up again a few days later. And here is where I get a little sweet revenge (although don’t tell him that).

Frankie sat me down at the old town pizza parlor and told me the whole story and even now , as I recount it, I can’t believe it. Sandy was a fox, no question, but a married fox, a very married fox, who said she when he first met her that she was about twenty-two and had a kid. Her husband was in the service and she was “lonely” and succumbed to Frankie’s charms. Fair enough, it is a lonely world at times. But wait a minute, I bet you thought that Frankie’s getting mixed up with a married honey with a probably killer husband was the big deal. No way, no way at all. You know, or you can figure out, old Frankie spent the night with Sandy. Again, it's a lonely world sometimes.

The real problem, the real Frankie problem, was once they started to compare biographies and who they knew around town, and didn’t know, it turned out that Sandy, old fox, old married fox with brute husband, old Arnie’s car hop, Sandy was some kind of cousin to Joanne, second cousin maybe. And she was no cradle-robber twenty-two(as if you could rob the cradle with Frankie)but nineteen, almost twenty and was just embarrassed about having a baby in high school and having to go to her "aunt's" to have the child. Moreover, somewhere along the line she and cousin Joanne had had a parting of the ways, a nasty parting of the ways. So sweet as a honey bun Arnie's car hop Sandy, sweet teen-age mother Sandy, was looking for a way to take revenge and Frankie, old king of the night Frankie, was the meat. She had him sized up pretty well, as he admitted to me. And he is sweating this one out like crazy, and swearing everyone within a hundred miles to secrecy. I’m telling you this is strictest confidence even now. Just don’t tell Joanne. Ever.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac-The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"-Ain't Got No Time For Corner Boys, Down In The Streets Making All That Noise”-The Mean Streets Of Working Class Times- “The Fighter”- A Film Review

The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"-Ain't Got No Time  For Corner Boys, Down In The Streets Making All That Noise”-The Mean Streets Of Working Class Times- “The Fighter”- A Film Review

DVD Review

The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, Paramount Pictures, 2010

I know the mean streets of Lowell, Massachusetts, although of late that geographical reference point would center on a more literary sense of the place around the figure of 1950s beat novelist/poet Jack Kerouac. I do not, by the way, mean that I know Lowell from actually growing up in that old-time textile mill town that has seen better days, mainly. I mean I know Lowell because I know the double-deckers, the triple-deckers, the seedy bowling alleys, the back lot gyms, the mom and pop variety stores, the ethnically-tinged bars, biker hang-outs, and flop houses that dot that working class town and form the backdrop to the cultural life of that place. I grew up on the southern side of Boston in North Adamsville. That past its prime working class town (formerly a shipbuilding center rather than Lowell's textile but they shared the same ethos) had its full compliment of tight housing, rundown stores, sparse entertainment possibilities and cramped view of life’s prospects just like Lowell.

I know Mickey Ward (Wahlberg) and, more importantly, I know Dickie Eklund (Bale) and their mother Alice (Leo). I do not mean that I know any of them personally but I know their ilk. See North Adamsville also had its fair share of club fighters (or other sports king wanna-bes), working out of some third floor back door gym that smelled of tiger’s balm and other liniments, looking to make it out of the dead-end town and on to the big tent, whether they actually left North Adamsville or not. And most didn’t and most did not even get a shot at hitting someone like Sugar Ray Leonard down on some matted ring floor like Dickie did. Frankly, I spent most of my time as a youth being attracted too but ultimately trying to run, run very hard, away from the Dickie guys, the street-wise corner boys who fall sort of catching the brass ring. While they may be street-wise corner boys, unlike in this film, they are strictly bad-ass cut your throat for a dime characters best left behind. That was hard lesson to learn back in the day, and as the film makes clear, now too.

That said about the social realities of working class life what is there not to like about a film that highlights, Mickey Ward, one of our own getting out from under by sheer perseverance, wit, and his own sense of street smarts, mainly on his own terms. And to be a bloody stubborn Irishman to boot. Some of the stuff concerning his family connections, his eight million family connections, the “us against the world (you do not air your dirty linen in public, period)” while hard to take at points rang true. As did many of the confrontation scenes with Mickey’s high-flying girlfriend Charlene, when she tried to break her man out of the family’s grip. Finally, the acting from Wahlberg’s conflicted (between family and career, between being a “stepping stone” and a champ) boxer, to Bale’s mad monk ex-boxer who had gone a long way down from those Sugar Ray days (a not uncommon fate for those who are just not good enough to wear the crown, whatever the crown might be) to Leo’s (Alice)one-dimensional family worldview (with nine kids, seven of them girls, that might have been the beginning of wisdom in her case) was uniformly fine. Still, I am glad, glad as hell that I made a left turn away from those corner boys down in the streets making all that noise. But it was a close thing, no question.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night-"What Folksinger Dave Van Ronk Stole"

Happy Birthday To You-

By Lester Lannon

I am devoted to a local folk station WUMB which is run out of the campus of U/Mass-Boston over near Boston Harbor. At one time this station was an independent one based in Cambridge but went under when their significant demographic base deserted or just passed on once the remnant of the folk minute really did sink below the horizon.

So much for radio folk history except to say that the DJs on many of the programs go out of their ways to commemorate or celebrate the birthdays of many folk, rock, blues and related genre artists. So many and so often that I have had a hard time keeping up with noting those occurrences in this space which after all is dedicated to such happening along the historical continuum.

To “solve” this problem I have decided to send birthday to that grouping of musicians on an arbitrary basis as I come across their names in other contents or as someone here has written about them and we have them in the archives. This may not be the best way to acknowledge them, but it does do so in a respectful manner.   

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Dave Van Ronk performing Fair and Tender Ladies.

What Folksinger Dave Van Ronk Stole

“Hey Joyell, good news Dave Van Ronk is playing at the Club Morocco over in Harvard Square next Friday night, do you want to go?” Phil Kiley asked over the telephone, the late night telephone as was his habit in dealing with Joyell, Joyell Davidson. While he waited for an answer he thought about how he had started making these late night calls. Reason: well two reasons really, Joyell worked at the Eden Café in Kenmore Square as a waitress most week nights for a few hours for pocket change to be among what she sardonically called the “proles,” and what she called part of a proper education, a sociology degree-driven education, about how the other half lived. Of course, the so-called proles were other girls from the university, some whom Joyell knew from her classes, who were also seeing how the other half lived, more or less, although some may have actually needed the pocket change.

This Eden Café, by the way, catered to nothing but university students, mainly university students who had fathers who had dough like Joyell’s (her father was some rich stockbroker in New York City and, from what Phil gathered, she hardly needed to work), so the whole bourgeois-prole combination running its commentary through every 1960s college was rather comical every time Phil, a real prole, a real son of the working poor at university on a partial scholarship, went into the place. Went in to see or pick up Joyell, not to eat. Too expensive for him, he tended to eat at Timmy’s Irish Pub down near Fenway Park where the “eats” was cheap, and plentiful.

But that Eden Café “experience,” or more the idea behind it, is what drove Phil toward Joyell in the first place. That "bourgeois slumming" make him desire her even more ever since they met last month at the beginning of school in Professor Sharpe’s Modern Social Theory seminar. And one thing led to another and now they were at the talking stage, talking over the phone or after work as he walked her to her apartment that she shared with another girl, a decidedly bourgeois non-slumming girl, down Commonwealth Avenue toward the Boston Common. And that was the second reason that Phil made his late night calls. He was just flat-out scared that anything he said to Joyell, a New York City girl, a Hunter College High girl, and a Jewish girl (or mostly Jewish according to the way that she described her family’s genealogy, but enough Jewish to satisfy the Israelis is the way she put it) might be taken the wrong way.

Sure Phil had plenty of girls, plenty of kind of interesting girls back at North Adamsville High a couple of years back, but they were all cookie-cutter Irish Catholic girls of varying degrees of virtue who mainly thought about marriage, white picket fences, and more than he would like to admit, girls who wanted to have many kids to honor Jesus, jesus. But Joyell talked of thing that he had not heard of like the ballet, the opera, the opera for christ sakes, and Broadway (and, more often, off-Broadway off-beat plays). Phil had read a ton of modern plays, O’Neill, Brecht, Tennessee Williams, and so on but he had never actually seen a Broadway play, just some hokey high school production of Chekov’s Cherry Orchard and stuff like that. But the saving grace was Joyell’s fantastic interest in the burgeoning folk scene-the one that had developed right down the street from her (so to speak) in the Village (Greenwich Village in New York City for the greenhorns).

This interest mirrored Phil’s own fascination with roots music, first with rockabilly before rock ‘n’ roll got stale, country blues, then city blues, and now going through folk traditional and protest songs, especially the protest songs. Joyell actually knew people who knew the likes of Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and other folk names the reader might not recognize but that Phil spent many a Sunday radio night listening to for hours on the local folk station. And, back in North Adamsville High days, he developed an intense interest in the music of folksinger Dave Van Ronk. Not just of his vast knowledge of the American songbook but his very gritty-voiced (and professional) renditions of those songs. He heard Van Ronk's version of Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies first and flipped out. That is the one that he, timidly, sang to Joyell when they were comparing notes about folksingers. Strangely, as important as Van Ronk was to the behind- the-scenes New York (and general) folk scene that was working west to San Francisco and north to Boston (although Boston, with the Club 47 in Harvard Square and the like, of starting out Joan Baez and whiz Eric Von Schmidt, could stake its own secondary claims to importance) he was not that well-known. So when he heard that Van Ronk was coming to town he was beside himself fretting away the hours to ask Joyell for their first "date."

“Sure,” answered Joyell, “I hope he is all that you have cracked him up to be. If I don’t see you before then come by around seven o’clock and we can walk over if it is a nice night and save the cab fare. And if you get a chance come by Thursday to the ‘Eden’ and you can walk me home, okay?”

(Another funny Joyell "prole" thing, she thought taxis were too, too bourgeois although she didn’t say it exactly that way, Phil thought afterwards. She never mentioned taking the bus, the bus from Dudley that almost passed her apartment. He also found out later that everybody, everybody with the price of the fare, and tip of course, took cabs in New York City).

“Okay,” was all Phil could say, "and I will try to come by Thursday but I have to work that night myself." (Phil, no prole status -craving student looking for pocket change had a job driving a truck around the city delivering boxes, of this and that, to stores and factories a few nights a week depending on demand.)

As it turned out Phil had to work that Thursday night and so did not see Joyell until he showed up at her door around seven o’clock that Dave Van Ronk Friday night. Melissa (the non-slumming bourgeois roommate) opened the door and pretty much ignored his existence after that, although freshman year they had had a couple of classes together and she sat a few seats away from him then. But Phil hardly noticed the snub, if it was a snub, and not just Melissa’s problem with men, or something like that because he was hopped-up, not drug hopped-up if that’s what you think, but maybe more sexual promise hopped-up if anything but mainly just excited to have a date with such an exotic flower as Joyell.

Then she came out of her room looking, well, looking fetching with a peasant blouse (expensive peasant blouse if that is not an oxymoron), the de rigueur jeans of the folk scene, sweater on her arm against a possible cool weather night, black hair gleaning, eyes flashing, laughing eyes he thought. God’s own gypsy princess. On seeing her then he got even more hopped-up, if that was possible.

And his luck had held, that night was a clear, fall-ish October night, big moon, big promise, and perfect for walking over the Massachusetts Avenue bridge (pavement smoots and all) through Central Square to the edge of Harvard Square where the Club Morocco’s lights beckoned all to come and eat, drink and be merry. Of course Phil was also hopped-up on talking about Dave Van Ronk, like somehow keeping the talk on him was a magic mantra to ward off their social differences (although pro-prole Joyell seemed to like him well enough his insecurities as well as his lack of social lacks some times got the best of him, especially with her). As he analyzed the situation later this over-hype was probably decisive in what happened later.

But, except for that nervousness, things went along okay, maybe better than okay as Joyell suddenly displayed a great deal of knowledge about mountain music, a staple of Van Ronks’s play list. She rattled off some stuff about the British musicologist, Cecil Shape, who had “discovered” that Fair and Tender Ladies song that Phil was always harping on down in the hills and hollows of Kentucky in 1916 He was impressed (and was still impressed later, but for another reason) when he found out that trying to impress him she had gone, as he had and many others as well, to Sandy’s Records on Mass Ave where she got the “skinny” on lots of folk information).

You knew, if you have been to Harvard Square anytime between the landing of the Mayflower and 1963, that the Club Morocco was not so much a coffeehouse, the vital core of the folk revival existence, as a be-bop jazz club. Moreover they sold liquor, liquor by the glass, as Phil’s Irish-born grandmother used to say when his father and his cronies hightailed it over to North Adamsville’s Dublin Grille to toss down a few (well, more than a few) rather than a sober (lesser, really) amount at home, so naturally Phil and Joyell were carded at the door to make sure they were twenty-one. No problem, no problem either in finding some seats near the front to hear Mr. Van Ronk better. While getting seated, they half, or maybe quarter-listened to the front performer twanging away on some sing-along thing that was suppose to get everybody in the spirit of the thing. (Why, Phil wondered, did they always have some lame, half on, half off-key local “coming folk star” to warm up the audience when you came to see, see exclusively that night, the main performer. And the front guy, and it was usually guys, was never heard from again, usually.)

More importantly, Phil noticed Dave at the bar drinking a couple of shots (whiskey shots, he assumed) straight-up. Well anything to fortify you Phil thought. Probably will help to get that gravelly voice razor-edged. Then Dave tossed another as Phil turned to give his undivided attention to his gypsy princess. Damn she looked, well, fetching was the word that came to his mind, at least for public consumption, although if Phil was was honest with himself he was just hopped-up, sexually hopped up.

The front man finished up to lackluster applause, as he should have expected except for his sing-along rendition of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land always a crowd-pleaser, especially late in the night. The MC announced Dave to hearty applause; aficionados were clearly in the house for this performance. Phil noticed that as he came away from the bar Dave tossed another straight-up whisky down. He got slightly nervous never having heard any rumors about a drinking problem but also knowing, first hand-knowing, or rather observing, that several straight-up drinks were not a good sign. Moreover Dave had what Phil thought at first was a water bottle (or soda, although he had always been taught at home to call it tonic) but on closer inspection looked much more like a flask on his hip. Dave took to the impromptu stage, taking the steps steadily enough, introduced himself, and after the applause died down, started in right away on his Fair and Tender Ladies version, sounding a little tinny in the process. And sipping from the flask.

Another song, Cocaine Blues, followed. And then the axe. Well the axe for Phil, anyway. Dave literally mumbled the old time traditional song Railroad Boy. Joyell had had enough by then. As she explained while they were walking out the door she was no “purist” but she wasn’t going to spend the night listening to a drunk, a drunk that she could have listened to on the street outside to better effect. Out the door she spied an MTA bus, the one to Dudley that went right by her apartment, and told Phi that she was going to take it home. Home alone. And that was what Dave Van Ronk stole from one heart-broken Phillip Francis Kiley.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

On The Sixtieth Anniversary Of Her Death-Lady Day-Billie Holiday- She Took Our Pain Away Despite Her Own Pains- Happy Birthday To You-***When Radio Ruled The Air-Waves- "Stardust:Decca Records:Classics and Standards Collection"

Happy Birthday To You-

By Lester Lannon

I am devoted to a local folk station WUMB which is run out of the campus of U/Mass-Boston over near Boston Harbor. At one time this station was an independent one based in Cambridge but went under when their significant demographic base deserted or just passed on once the remnant of the folk minute really did sink below the horizon.

So much for radio folk history except to say that the DJs on many of the programs go out of their ways to commemorate or celebrate the birthdays of many folk, rock, blues and related genre artists. So many and so often that I have had a hard time keeping up with noting those occurrences in this space which after all is dedicated to such happening along the historical continuum.

To “solve” this problem I have decided to send birthday to that grouping of musicians on an arbitrary basis as I come across their names in other contents or as someone here has written about them and we have them in the archives. This may not be the best way to acknowledge them, but it does do so in a respectful manner.    

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the Inkspots performing I’ll Get By.

CD Review

Stardust: The Classic Decca Hits and Standards Collection, various artists, Decca Records, MCA, 1994

I am a first generation child of the television age, although in recent years I have spent more time kicking and screaming about that fact than watching the damn thing. Nevertheless I can appreciate this little compilation of Decca hits and standard tunes from the 1940s and 1950s as a valentine to the radio days of my parents’ youth, parents who came of musical age (and every other kind of age as well) during the Great Depression of the 1930s and who fought, or waited for those out on the front lines fighting, World War II. I am just old enough though, although generation behind them, to remember the strains of songs like the harmonic –heavy Mills Brothers Paper Dolls (a favorite of my mother’s) and The Glow Worm (not a favorite of anybody as far as I know although the harmony is still first-rate) that came wafting, via the local Adamsville radio station WJDA, through our big box living room radio in the early 1950s. It seemed they, or maybe the Andrews Sisters, be-bopping (be-bopping now, not then, you do not want to know what I called it then), on Rum And Coca-Cola or tagging along with Bing Crosby on Don’t Fence Me In were permanent residents of the airs-waves in the Markin household.

I am also a child of Rock 'n' Roll but those above-mentioned tunes were the melodies that my mother and father came of age to and the stuff of their dreams during World War II and its aftermath. The rough and tumble of my parents raising a bunch of kids might have taken the edge off it but the dreams remained. In the end it is this musical backdrop, behind the generation musical fights that roils the Markin household in teen times, that makes this compilation most memorable to me. Just to say names like Dick Haymes (I think my mother had a “crush” on him at some point), Vaughn Monroe, The Inkspots (who, truth, I liked even then, even in my “high, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee, Buddy Holly days, especially on If I Didn’t Care and I’ll Get By-wow), and Lois Armstrong. Or songs like Blueberry Hill, You’ll Never Know, A- Tisket- A Tasket, You Always Hurt The One You Love and so gather in a goodly portion of the mid-20th century American Songbook. Other talents like Billie Holiday, The Weavers, and Rosemary Clooney and tunes like Lover Man (and a thousand and one Cole Porter Billie-sung songs), Fever, and As Time Goes By (from Dooley Wilson in Casablanca) came later through very different frames of reference. But the seed, no question, no question now, was planted then.

Let’s be clear as well going back to that first paragraph mention of television - there something very different between the medium of the radio and the medium of the television. The radio allowed for an expansion of the imagination (and of fantasy) that the increasingly harsh realities of what was being portrayed on television did not allow one to get away with. The heart of World War II, and in its immediate aftermath, was time when one needed to be able to dream a little. The realities of the world at that time seemingly only allowed for nightmares. My feeling is that this compilation will touch a lot of sentimental nerves for the World War II generation (that so-called ‘greatest generation’), including my growing-up Irish working class families on the shores of North Adamsville. Nice work.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-Out In The Corner Boy Night- Rock “Em Daddy, Be My Be-Bop Daddy

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Elvis Presley performing a sassy, sexy, alternate version of One Night, One Night Of Sin.

CD Review

Rockin’ Bones, Four CD set with booklet, various artists, Rhino Records, 2006

This is the way Betsy McGee, an old time, very old time Clintondale Elementary School flame (locally known as the Acre school, and everybody knew what you were talking about, everybody around Clintondale anyway), and now (1961, in case anybody reads this later) a fellow sophomore classmate at North Clintondale High, wanted the story told, the story of her ill-fated brother, twenty-two year old John “Black Jack” McGee so this is the way it will be told. Why she wanted me to tell the story is beyond me, except that she knows, knows even in her sorrows, that I hang around with corner boys, Harry’s Variety Store corner boys, although I am more like a “pet,” or a “gofer,” than a real corner boy. But that story has already been told, told seven ways to Sunday, so let’s get to Black Jack’s story.

John “Black Jack” McGee like a million guys who came out of the post-World War II Cold war night and came out of the no prospect projects, in his case the Clintondale Housing Project (the Acre, okay, and hell’s little acre at that to save a lot of fancy sociological talk stuff), looking for kicks. Kicks anyway he could get them to take the pain away, the pain of edge city living if he was asked, by the way, politely asked or you might get your head handed to you on a platter asked. Needless to say Black Jack was rough stuff, rough stuff even when he was nothing but another Acre teenage kid, with a chip, no, about seven chips, on his wide shoulders. Needless to say, as well, there was nothing that school could teach him and he dropped out the very day that he turned sixteen. As a sign of respect for what little North Clintondale High taught him threw a rock through the headmaster’s window and then just stood there. The headmaster did not made peep one about it (he was probably hiding under his desk, he is that kind of guy) and Black Jack just walked away laughing. Yes, Black Jack was rough stuff, rough stuff all the way around. That story made him a legend all the way down to the Acre school, and so much so that every boy, every red-blooded boy, in her class made his pitch to get along with Betsy.

The problem with legends though is unless you keep pace other legends crowd you out, or somebody does some crazy prank and your legend gets lost in the shuffle. That’s the way the rules are, make of them what you will. And Black Jack, wide shouldered, tall, pretty muscular, long brown hair, and a couple of upper shoulder tattoos with two different girls’ names on them was very meticulous about his legend. So every once in a while you would hear a rumor about how Black Jack had “hit” this liquor store or that mom and pop variety store, small stuff when you think about it but enough to stir any red-blooded Acre elementary schoolboy’s already hungry imagination.

And then all of sudden, just after a nighttime armed gas station robbery that was never solved, Black Jack stepped up in society, well, corner boy society anyway. This part everyone who hung around Harry’s Variety knew about, or knew parts of the story. Black Jack had picked up a bike (motorcycle, for the squares), and not some suburban special Harley-Davidson chrome glitter thing either but a real bike, an Indian. The only better bike, the Vincent Black Lightning, nobody had ever seen around, only in motorcycle magazines. And as a result of having possession of the “boss” bike (or maybe reflecting who they thought committed that armed robbery) he was “asked” (if that is the proper word, rather than commissioned, elected, or ordained) to join the Acre Low-Riders.

And the Acre Low-Riders didn’t care if you were young or old, innocent or guilty, smart or dumb, or had about a million other qualities, good or bad, just stay out of their way when they came busting through town on their way to some hell-raising. The cops, the cops who loved to tell kids, young kids, to move along when it started to get dark or got surly when some old lady jaywalked caught the headmaster’s 'no peep' when the Low Riders showed their colors. Even “Red” Doyle who was the max daddy king corner boy at Harry’s Variety made a very big point that his boys, and he himself, wanted no part of the Low-Riders, good or bad. And Red was a guy who though nothing, nothing at all, of chain-whipping a guy mercilessly half to death just because he was from another corner. Yes, Black Jack had certainly stepped it up.

Here’s where the legend, or believing in the legend, or better working on the legend full-time part comes in. You can only notch up so many robberies, armed or otherwise, assaults, and other forms of hell-raising before your act turns stale, nobody, nobody except hungry imagination twelve-year old schoolboys, is paying attention. The magic is gone. And that is what happened with Black Jack. Of course, the Low-Riders were not the only outlaw motorcycle “club” around. And when there is more than one of anything, or maybe on some things just one, there is bound to be a "rumble" (a fight, for the squares) about it. Especially among guys, guys too smart for school, guys who have either graduated from, or are working on, their degrees from the school of hard knocks, the state pen. But enough of that blather because the real story was that the Groversville High-Riders were looking for one Black Jack McGee. And, of course, the Acre Low-Riders had Black Jack’s back.

Apparently, and Betsy was a little confused about this part because she did not know the “etiquette” of biker-dom, brother John had stepped into High-Rider territory, a definite no-no in the biker etiquette department without some kind of truce, or peace offering, or whatever. But see Black Jack was “trespassing” for a reason. He had seen this doll, this fox of a doll, this Lola heart-breaker, all blonde hair, soft curves, turned-up nose, and tight, short-sleeved cashmere sweater down at the Adamsville Beach one afternoon a while back and he made his bid for her. Now Black Jack was pretty good looking, okay, although nothing special from what anybody would tell you but this doll took to him, for some reason. What she did not tell him, and there is a big question still being asked around Harry’s about why not except that she was some hell-cat looking for her own strange kicks, was that she had a boyfriend, a Groversville guy doing time up the state pen. And what she also didn’t tell him was that the reason her boyfriend, “Sonny” Russo, was in stir was for attempted manslaughter and about to get out in August. And what she also did not tell him was that Sonny was a charter member of the High-Riders.

Forget dramatic tension, forget suspense, this situation, once Sonny found out, and he would, sooner or later, turned into “rumble city," all banners waving, all colors showing. And so it came to pass that on August 23, 1961, at eight o’clock in the evening the massed armies of Acre Low-Riders and Groverville High-Riders gathered for battle. And the rules of engagement for such transgressions, if there is such a thing, rules of engagement that is rather than just made up, was that Sonny and Black Jack were to fight it out in a circle, switchblades flashing, until one guy was cut too badly to continue, or gave up, or… So they went back and forth for a while Black Jack getting the worst of it with several cuts across his skin-tight white tee-shirt, a couple of rips in his blue jeans, bleeding but not enough to give up. Meanwhile true-blue Lola is egging Sonny on, egging him on something fierce, like some devil-woman, to cut the love-bug John every which way. But then Black Jack drew a break. Sonny slipped and John cut him, cuts him bad near the neck. Sonny was nothing but bleeding, bleeding bad, real bad. Sonny called it quits. Everybody quickly got the hell out of the field of honor, double-quick, Sonny’s comrades helping him along. That is not the end of the story, by no means. Sonny didn't make it, and in the cop dust-up Lola, sweet Lola, told them that none other than lover-boy Black Jack did the deed. And now Black Jack is earning his hard knock credits up in stir, state stir, for manslaughter (reduced from murder two).

After thinking about this story again I can also see where, if I played my cards right, I could be sitting right beside maybe not-so-old-flame Betsy, helping here through her brother hard times, down at the old Adamsville beach some night talking about the pitfalls of corner boy life while we are listening to One Night of Sin by Elvis Presley; Boppin’ High School Baby by Don Willis; Long Blonde Hair, Rose Red Lips by Johnny Powers (watch out Johnny); Sunglasses After Dark by Lo Lou Darrell Rhodes (Clintondale's pizza parlor max daddy Frankie Doyle’s favorite song); Red Hot by Bob Luman (yes, red hot); Long Gone Daddy by Pat Cupp; Put Your Cat Clothes On by Carl Perkins; Duck Tail by Joe Clay; Switch Blade Sam by Jeff Daniels (maybe not); Susie-Q by Dale Hawkins; Who Do You Love by Ronnie Hawkins; Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran; Rumble Rock by Kip Taylor, Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On by Jerry Lee Lewis; and, Get Hot Or Go Home by John Kerby on the old car radio. What do you think?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

On The Sixtieth Anniversary Of Her Death-Lady Day-Billie Holiday- She Took Our Pain Away Despite Her Own Pains- I Fall To Pieces Each Time I Hear Her Sing- Pasty Cline-Live At The Cimarron Ballroom (Okalahoma)-A CD Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Patsy Cline performing her classic I Fall To Pieces.

CD Review

Pasty Cline-Live At The Cimarron Ballroom (1961), Patsy Cline, MCA Records, 1997

For those of us of a certain age (growing up in the early 1960’s) the timeless voice of Patsy Cline, whether we were aware of it or not, formed the backdrop to many a school dance or other romantic endeavor. I was not a fan of Cline’s, at least not consciously, growing up but have come to appreciate her talent and her amazing voice. In another review in this space I have called her the “country torch singer,” par excellence. And she does not fail here. At least musically. On such classics as I Fall To Pieces (twice, the second being better than the first, ah, “warm up”), Walking After Midnight, Stupid Cupid, Foolin’ Round, and some twangy Cline dialogue between songs she is up to par.

However, thematically this CD, while of some value as a historic document (her first concert after a near fatal car accident), is another question. While it was interesting (and a little disconcerting live, circa 1961) to hear her work from the 1950's and early 1960s and covers of others I do not believe that this compilation does justice to her work. Patsy, like many another torch singer like Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday, needs to grow on you. The best way to do that is grab a Greatest Hits (or a Gold Definitive) album and sit back. You won’t want to turn the damn thing off. As for this one, if you have time to listen do so as an appetizer.


Written by willie nelson
(as performed by willie nelson)
Also performed by patsy cline and ray price*

Crazy for feeling so lonely
Im crazy
Crazy for feeling so blue

I knew
Youd love me as long as you wanted
And then someday
Youd leave me for somebody new

Why do I let myself worry
What in the world did I do

For thinking that my love could hold you
Im crazy for tryin
Crazy for cryin
And Im crazy
For lovin you

(repeat last verse)

Patsy Cline, She's Got You Lyrics

Artist: Cline Patsy
Song: She's Got You

“She's Got You”

I've got your picture that you gave to me
And it's signed "with love," just like it used to be
The only thing different, the only thing new
I've got your picture, she's got you

I've got the records that we used to share
And they still sound the same as when you were here
The only thing different, the only thing new,
I've got the records, she's got you

I've got your memory, or has it got me?
I really don't know, but I know it won't let me be

I've got your class ring; that proved you cared
And it still looks the same as when you gave it dear
The only thing different, the only thing new
I've got these little things, she's got you

Patsy Cline, Why Can't He Be You Lyrics

Artist: Cline Patsy
Song: Why Can't He Be You

“Why Can't He Be You”

He takes me to the places you and I used to go
He tells me over and over that he loves me so
He gives me love that I never got from you
He loves me too, his love is true
Why can't he be you

He never fails to call and tell me I'm on his mind
And I'm lucky to have such a guy; I hear it all the time
And he does all the things that you would never do
He loves me, too, his love is true
Why can't he be you

He's not the one who dominates my mind and soul
And I should love him so, 'cause he loves me, I know
But his kisses leave me cold

He sends me flowers, calls on the hour, just to prove his love
And my friends say when he's around, I'm all he speaks of
And he does all the things that you would never do
He loves me too, his love is true
Why can't he be you

Patsy Cline, Sweet Dreams Lyrics

Artist: Cline Patsy
Song: Sweet Dreams

“Sweet Dreams”

Sweet dreams of you
Every night I go through
Why can't I forget you and start my life anew
Instead of having sweet dreams about you

You don't love me, it's plain
I should know I'll never wear your ring
I should hate you the whole night through
Instead of having sweet dreams about you

Sweet dreams of you
Things I know can't come true
Why can't I forget the past, start loving someone new
Instead of having sweet dreams about you

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-In The Time Of The Great 45 RPM "Clip"- The "Cradle Of Love" Indeed

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Johnny Preston performing his Cradle Of Love.

CD Review

21 Hard To Find 45s On CD; Volume One, various artists, Eric Records, 1996

“ Hey Jimmy have you heard the latest Sonny Knight 45, Confidential, its all slow, smooth, and girl close hold-able, and maybe even kissable, “ yelled Sammy Rizzo across the seventh period study hall classroom. “ Christ, Sammy Whammy, where do you come up with those words, 'close hold-able,’ what does that mean, you’re poking her,” yelled Jimmy, Jimmy Cullen, back at his old friend. Just then Miss Wilmot, that old bitch thought Sammy, came into the room signaling lock-down, prison lock-down and that there would be no more talking, no more talking, period, except of course for the flurry, the massive flurry of notes, between boys and girls, girls and girls, boys and their confederates, boy or girl. Confederates like Sammy Rizzo and Jimmy Cullen, who from appearances would seem like an unlikely pair, except they had been friends, well, since way back in old Clintonville Elementary School days.

Jimmy, long, long and slender, wiry, sneaky wiry if you decided that he was an easy target in a hard fistfight, although all bets were off if you decided on switchblades, knives that every boy, every smart boy, carried, carried concealed on his person somewhere, and let’s just leave it at that. Carrying just in case he caught trouble at school in some dark back hall, or more likely, found himself on some foreign corner, some corner boy corner without his boys, and some king hell corner boy king decided he didn’t like your looks, or just didn’t like the idea of you on his corner. And Jimmy also had a handsome face set off by deep-blue eyes, a cross between Paul Newman movie star glamour eyes and the steel-blue eyes of "Stacks McGee," a serial killer now waiting to fry up in the death row of the state pen, if the appeals process ever ended. And long eyelashes, girl-driving crazy long eye lashes, to go with those eyes. Ya, Jimmy would never, probably until he was old and grey and maybe not even then, lack for female company, if that is what he wanted.

And Sammy, "Sammy Whammy," Rizzo, the Whammy part given a few years back in junior high school when the rhyming simon craze swept through Clintonville Junior High School and all the girls spent all their time making up names, double names, for every boy, and some boys did it too although not Jimmy and Sammy. So the Whammy part stuck to Sammy, like it or not, which he did. Sammy, some Sancho Panza sad-sack dumpling, stocky, hell no, kind of fat, with a non-descript face, except that it seemed to always need a shave even at eight in the morning, and no description eyes. Except that Sammy never lacked for girls, at least one date girls, or maybe two. See Sammy was the max daddy be-bop 45 record king hell king of the town of Clintonville, maybe of all Dewar County if someone decided to count. And so Sammy could use that old gag on the girls, on the be-bop rock and roll record-starved girls, about coming up to see his etchings after a date, except he actually had the records. Had them so it seemed as soon as they came off the presses. So he could work his magic, let’s say, for example, on some Born Too Late-crazed girl, some girl who liked an older guy, a guy, who had no time for, well, jail bait, and be the soul of compassion about her woes while the 45 played in the background. See it worked for that one date, maybe two, until she got tired of the song, or found a new boyfriend or that older guy said the hell with it and took his chances.

But see Sammy did not have those hundreds, seemingly hundreds, of 45s just by accident, or just by his parents having deep pockets to allow him to buy whatever he wanted right off the presses. No way. Sammy Whammy was from hunger. What Sammy was also master of, king hell king master of, was the clip. The clip from Bugsy’s Big Tent Record Shop up in Clintonville Center (in the heart of downtown Clintonville, according to Bugsy’s ads on the local 24/7/365 rock and roll radio station, WJDA, where his ads ran about every six seconds, or so it seemed, alternating with Benny’s Car Hop, a drive-in restaurant that also was owned by Bugsy).

See, here is how it worked, and this is where friend Jimmy came in (and also why Jimmy didn’t care if he had three, or three hundred, records as background for one of his dates, his girl crazy eyelashes dates. He could just cop one from Sammy). Let’s say they wanted Jimmy Jones’ Handy Man (a favorite of Sammy’s, he had two copies of it because the first one got worn out from working his gag about his being a handy man- and Christ, everybody knew about it because it got all around school, all around Monday morning girls’ lav talk school to be exact, the girls went for it, strictly one date went for it). Jimmy and Sammy would make the couple of mile trek to Bugsy’s, usually on foot since car times were few and far between in the Cullen and Rizzo households, especially for no work, no want to work, clip artist kids. Most of the time Bugsy’s daughter , Cindy, would be working out front helping customers, showing people to the record booths to play the latest, or ring up the sales.

And here was the beauty of it, Cindy, fellow classmate of theirs, was nothing but head over heels crazy for Jimmy, or maybe it was those long eyelashes and would get a little confused, or something, when Jimmy stepped up and asked her a question about a record. Maybe a weepy one like Mark Dinning’s Teen Angel, about a dizzy teenage dame who, after being led to safety from a car stranded on a railroad by her boyfriend, got the bright idea of tempting the fates and going back for the boy’s high school ring. She was last seen in heaven, or somewhere like that. Just then Sammy was looking for Ricky Nelson’s A Teenager's Romance because his upcoming date was with a girl all hung up of that twerp. So while Jimmy and Cindy were talking Sammy went to the record bin, grabbed the 45, and slipped it under his shirt. Easy, almost like taking candy from a baby. No just like it.

But being the king of the 45 record night ain’t easy, or maybe better, is filled with all kind of funny things. One time Jimmy and Sammy were in Bugsy’s for the clip and they were going through their normal paces. Jimmy started talking animatedly to Cindy about Johnny Preston’s Cradle of Love, and really laying it on in a way that made Cindy think he was making a play for her, a big play. Now Sammy was in looking for Ray Peterson’s Corrina, Corrina for a hot date. He grabbed the 45 okay but as he signaled to Jimmy that the deal was done and went to leave the store Cindy called him over and directed him to follow her to a certain record bin. Jimmy, meanwhile, waited outside. At the bin she put a record under his shirt and said, “That’s for Jimmy.” Sammy rushed out the store, called to Jimmy to move quickly, and when they got around the corner Sammy pulled out the Cindy picked record. Ya, a pristine Cradle of Love.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-Out In The 1950s Crime Noir Night- When Alan Ladd Held Forth-“Appointment With Danger”- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the crime noir film Appointment With Danger.

DVD Review

Appointment with Danger, starring Alan Ladd, Jack Webb, Jan Sterling, Paramount Picture, 1951

No question I am a film noir aficionado. Recently I have been on a tear reviewing various film noir efforts and drawing comparisons between the ones that “speak” to me and those that, perhaps, should have been left on the cutting room floor. The classics are easy; films like Out Of the Past, Gilda, The Lady From Shang-hai, and The Big Sleep need no additional comment from me as they stand on their own merits. I would add here a couple of earlier Alan Ladd vehicles, the film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key and This Gun For Hire both also starring classic femme fatale Veronica Lake (be still my heart, sorry Rita Hayworth). Others, because they have a fetching, or wicked, for that matter, femme fatale to muddy the waters also get a pass, or as in Gilda a double nod for the plot and for the femme fatale, Rita Hayworth. Be still my heart, am I forgiven, Rita Hayworth? I have even tried to salvage some by touting their plot lines, and others by there use of shadowy black and white cinematography to overcome plot problems. Like The Third Man (and, in that case, the edgy musical score, with all the zither music you could want or need, as well). And that brings us to those, like this film under review, 1951's Appointment With Danger, starring the above-mentioned Alan Ladd that have no redeeming film noir qualities.

Now as I mentioned in a recent review of another lesser crime noir, William Holden in Union Station, it is not like Alan Ladd did not know how to play hard-boiled crime noir on either side of the crime line as he did in The Glass Key and This Gun For Hire (as well as the Raymond Chandler-scripted The Blue Dahlia) so it is not the acting capabilities, although Brother Ladd may have been a little tired from holding Veronica Lake's hand (or playing playfully with that big wavy hair falling over her right eye). What is missing here in the film under review, Appointment With Danger, is any spark to get interested in actors or plot.

The plot line in any case is rather conventional. Ladd plays a hard-nosed postal inspector (what? yes a postal inspector, and hard-nosed to boot) who is sent out to crime-ridden Indiana to seek the killer, or killers, of a fellow postal inspector (what?, again a postal inspector-who would have known it was such a dangerous life) and the only clue that he has to go on is via a sister, no not a dame, a nun who can identify (and be identified by) one of the men last seen with said postal inspector. Between the pair hard-boiled, obviously Protestant, postal inspector with a narrow sense of his job, and narrower regard for the human species and Catholic nun good who sees only good, Ladd tumbles into a big time heist, a million dollar heist (that was big dough ten, if only pocket change now) involving the postal service. Is nothing sacred?

Part of the tumbling by Ladd is that he gets inside the job through wit, wiliness, and an occasional drawing of the gun, although this is the weakest part of a weak plot. If one assumes a certain amount of finesse by Earl, a hotel owner looking for, well, looking for “easy street” and an end to changing towels for the masses, then Ladd’s working his way into the scheme should have put out signals big time. Moreover some of Earl’s confederates have more than a few problems, especially the combination that later in the decade would do yeomen’s service as detectives in Dragnet (Jack Webb and Harry Morgan). Of course in this one the message was telegraphed from the very beginning, crime doesn’t pay, especially if you go after the big boys, the postal service. Or people who walk around with guardian angels to protect them.

Note: As is usual with crime-addled guys they need their molls, sometimes gun molls, but sometimes just for company in the sometimes long wait between jobs. Here the moll, a blonde one as well, although blondeness is not required for the job, just the craven desire for a share of the ”easy street” dough is played by the same moll from Union Station, Jan Sterling. Ms. Sterling actually “steals” the show here as the hard-boiled but smart “be-bop” moll with the quick answer who also has enough sense to come in out of the rain. In short, to know when the deal goes down that her man, Earl, ain’t going nowhere fast and so she blows town, just in time. Nice work. But this is where my interest was perked; she also was into the 1950s be-bop jazz night and brought tin-eared Ladd up to her digs to listen to some platters. If Brother Ladd had had any sense he would have followed her out of town. Willingly.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-Growing Up Absurd In The 1950s- In The Heart Of The Last Kiss Night- A CD Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Elvis Presley performing his classic, Love Me.

CD Review

The Heart Of Rock ‘n’ Roll: 1956-1957, Time-Life Music, 1996

Scene: (Prompted by the cover photograph, the memory cover photograph, which graces each CD in this Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll series. The photo on this CD, as might be expected, shows a he, Johnny Riley, and a she, Peggy McGuire, half-dancing, half-embracing, half-kissing (wait a minute that is too many halves, right?). Kissing that last dance kiss as if their lives depended on it, and maybe it does. Or it had better be so else this scene will turn to ashes)

Johnny Riley had been thinking, thinking hard about Peggy, Peggy McGuire, all day as he prepared himself in anticipation of his date with her for that night’s school dance over at the North Adamsville High gym. Although they had only gone out a few times, a few glorious down the day time beach, out to the movies, and after school bowling at Jake’s Bowling and pizza at Salducci’s times he was thinking hard about her just the same. Ya, it was getting to be like that. More pressing though was, if she liked him too, and he thought she might, what it would be like on their first kiss. She looked like a good kisser but kissing, although he didn’t have all that much experience at it truth to tell, wasn’t something you could tell about by looking; only doing. With that “wisdom” in mind he planned, planned hard, almost as hard as he was thinking about Peggy on how he would “work” around to that first kiss tonight. Ya, tonight was the night he thought to himself later as he made his final preparations, teeth brushed, check, mouth wash, check, deodorant, check, hair tonic-ed and combed, check. Ready.

And out the door with the keys to father’s, clueless father’s, automobile on loan, on special Johnny loan for this evening because Johnny’s father “liked” Peggy. Johnny wondered, wondered for just a second, whether his father and mother kissed. Nah, no way. And as he drove to pick Peggy up Johnny went through his plan in his head one more time. At the dance he was going to dance all the slow dances real close and real physical to get her worked up a little. Then after the dance suggest that they go to Salducci’s for some pizza and then down the beach to “watch the submarine races.” Although he wouldn’t say that but more like it was nice night and let’s go down to the beach and watch the moon or something like that. The key though was to get her “in the mood” with that slow dancing.

Well, Johnny picked Peggy up, they talked in the car on the way over, just chitchat stuff, Johnny parked the car, and they went into the dance. No problems so far, and things were going according to Johnny plan because no sooner had they got there than the DJ played Fever by Little Willie John and Johnny “worked” his closeness magic and a few songs later with Long Lonely Nights by Lee Andrews and The Hearts. After intermission the DJ played Ivory Joe Hunter’s Empty Arms, a song, no question, designed to bring lips together. And Johnny could sense that Peggy, every time he held her closer, didn’t try to back off but just followed his lead and stayed close. Yes, this was going to be the night. A couple of songs they sat out as both agreed they were drippy like old foggy Pat Boone’s April Love and Lloyd Price’s Just Because.

Then Elvis’ Love Me came on and they got up again to dance. About two seconds into the dance Peggy gave Johnny the biggest kiss he had ever received in his life, not a long kiss but big, big with meaning, kiss. Right on the dance floor. And then Peggy said she had enough of dancing and since it was such a nice night maybe they could go down to the beach to cool off and “watch the submarine races.” See, as hard as Johnny was thinking about Peggy that day, Peggy McGuire was thinking just a little harder about him, and about why he was taking so long to give her a first kiss like he didn’t want to. So a girl had to take things in hand sometimes. Of course old clueless Johnny only found this out, between kisses, as they were watching those submarine races on that nice night down at the beach. Thanks Elvis.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-Growing Up Absurd In The 1950s- In The Heart Of The Late Dance Night- A CD Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of The Platters performing their classic, Only You.

CD Review

The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Slow Dancing Classics, Time-Life Music, 1997

Scene: (Prompted by the cover photograph, the memory cover photograph, which graces each CD in this Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll series. The photo on this CD, as might be expected, shows a he, Jimmy Callahan, and a she, Kathy Kelly, in formal attire dancing, dancing that last sweet teenage high school, maybe the senior prom, dance. Or it had better be else this scene will turn to ashes)

“I don’t understand why it took you so long to ask me out, Mr. James Callahan,” murmured Kathy Kelly as they clasped hands in anticipation of the last dance. Jimmy mumbled, or it seemed like mumbling to Kathy, that he was shy, that he was busy, that he wasn’t sure that she even noticed him, or if she did notice him, liked him. Kids’ stuff, typical guy kids’ stuff, thought Kathy. But just now, unbelievably, the last dance, the last sweet time high school dance before facing the Cold War world and whatever it held out in that 1957 night, was to begin. But that world stuff was for tomorrow tonight Kathy has finally, finally, snagged the boy she has been mooning over for, well, let’s leave it as a long time, long before rock ‘n’ roll made it easier for a guy like Jimmy Callahan to ask a girl like Kathy Kelly out on to the dance floor without having to get all balled up in following the leader close dancing, sweaty palms and all. Now though was the time for slow dancing, slow last dance dancing and two-left feet, two left-shoeless feet, heck, two left-snow-shoed feet or not, Jimmy, as Kathy beamed to herself, was snagged.

Kathy looking resplendent in her Filene’s finest formal dress, complete with lacy see-though shawl, and topped off with a Jimmy corsage, a corsage that spoke more powerfully to her victory than ten million dances, and that finally felt that it all worth it feeling another ten million. Worth the every trick in the book that she had to pull out of the hat in order that he would “ask” her to their senior prom, the last chance Kathy would get to claim her Jimmy before he left for State later in the summer. Just that hand-clasped moment she hoped, hoped to the stars above, that they played her “they” song, a song that she had been listening to with Jimmy last dance dancing in mind since, well, you already know, a long time.

That right choice might also be the last chance to put her mark on him, although earlier in the evening she sensed something, something unsaid, when they played 16 Candles by the Crests and Jimmy mumbled something about how he was sorry that he couldn’t make it to her 16th birthday party, although Kathy had gone through six levels of hell to try and get him there. Then he kind of backed off when they played Patsy Cline’s cover of Crazy and right after that he said he didn’t understand how someone could keep on “carrying the torch” when the love affair was over. And he was definitely moody when they played I’m Sorry by Brenda Lee, calling it drippy. He lightened up a little when they played in In The Still Of The Night by the Five Satins and said he loved doo wop, proving it by knowing all the words and doing some fine harmony in his deep bass voice.

Suddenly some awfully familiar music started up and the last dance began, the last dance ending with Only You by The Platters. And just as the Platters got into the heart of the song, the heart-felt only you part, Jimmy, red-faced, shy, two left-feet Jimmy, asked Miss Kathy Kelly if she would come up and visit him at State in the fall. Ah, very heaven.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-Out Of The Be-Bop Film Noir Night- The Crime Noir “Kansas City Confidential”

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the crime film noir, Kansas City Confidential.

DVD Review

Kansas City Confidential, John Payne, Preston Foster, Coleen Gray, Jack Elam, directed by Phillip Karlson, United Artists, 1952

I have said this many times. Sure I am an aficionado of film noir, especially those 1940s detective epics like the film adaptations of Dashiell Hammet’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. Nothing like that gritty black and white film, ominous musical background, and shadowy moments to stir the imagination. Others in the genre like Gilda, The Lady From Shang-hai, and Out Of The Past rate a nod because in addition to those attributes mentioned above they have classic femme fatales to add a little off-hand spice to the plot line, and, oh ya, they look nice too. Beyond those classics this period (say, roughly from the mid-1940s to mid-1950s produced many black and white film noir set pieces, some good, some not so good. For plot line, and plot interest, the film under review, Kansas City Confidential, is in the former category.

And why shouldn’t it be. One fall guy Joe (fall guys seem always to be named Joe, regular Joes I guess), played here in a understated way by John Payne, a little the worst for wear in post-World War II America, having had a few legal problems of his own, gets caught up in the dragnet after a major heist (over a million dollars, a lot of money then but just pocket change today) of a bank, in of all places Kansas City. Now all of this, aside from the criminal intent and cash reward, has been set-up by a disgruntled, vengeful ex-cop (played by Preston Foster) who masterminds the whole thing. Of course such a major heist then (as now) requires several, um, “associates”, in this case masked associates (for their own and Foster's self-protection against the dreaded “stoolie’ syndrome. Said associates are not anyone you or I would want to hang around with, these guys are strictly losers, especially one grafter extraordinaire, Pete Harris, played to manic perfection by Jack Elam. (The others are perennial bad guys Lee Van Cleef and Neville Brand).

Now Joe, as one might expect, takes umbrage, yes, umbrage at having taken a beating from the cops, and also for being set up as the fall guy. So, naturally, as any crime noir hero worth his salt would do, he is going to get to the bottom of this thing come hell or high water. And the rest of the plot line centers of following the clues, and following the sun to sunny Mexico (low film budget faux Mexico, to be sure) to undo the bad guys, and maybe catch a reward. Or at least a stray gringa or senorita. Naturally he does, the gringa part anyway, although she turns out to be mastermind ex-cop’s daughter (law student daughter, by the way, played by Coleen Gray). Other than the inevitable tacky ending ( I won’t spoil your fun by telling what it is) this one moves along nicely, is filled with some nice twists, and is, as usual with black and white noir films great on those shadowy takes which reveal evil in the making. Especially those loser, grifter, chain-smoking Jack Elam takes. Some noirs you watch for the magic camera work, some for the femme fatales that drive the story line, some for the tough guys and their gaff. This one you get for the plot line.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-***Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night- Boy Meets "Our Lady Of The Saint Patrick’s Day Night" Girl- For Joanne- Class of 1964

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Saint Patrick's Day for those three people in the North Adamsville universe who may not know what it is all about.

Markin comment:

I am fuming but I will get to that part in a minute. First, let me just point out the trouble I had figuring out what I should use as a headline for this entry. See, this is a Frankie story, a Francis Xavier Riley story, maybe you already know the name, Frankie, king of the old North Adamsville working class neighborhood schoolboy night in the early 1960s. That part, the boy part is simple, the other part is less so because this is a story, or is going to be a story, once again straight from the horse’s mouth, the Frankie mouth.

I have been letting Frankie spew forth in this space whenever a subject comes up that is from “pre-markinian” times, the time before we became fast friends in the seventh grade North Adamsville Middle School (then junior high) days. And the subject here is how Frankie “courted” his ever lovin’ sweetie, Joanne, a sweetie whom he “went steady with” from middle school all the way though to the end of high school. And that courtship, its twists and turns, is linked to the observance, the non-heathen observance of Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th (although any real Irish partisan, heathen or non-heathen knows, or should know, that the observance of Easter 1916 is the real Irish deal). So once again because he did okay, or at least good enough, on his previous two endeavors (the weirdly interesting king of the skees carnival story from his innocent dream pre-teen days and his saga, christ that is the only word to describe it, of his “conversion” from no name football wannabe to midnight sunglassed king hell king of the late 1950s, early 1960s be-bop North Adamsville schoolboy night) he gets to speak his piece here.

Now for the fuming part. In that just mentioned football conversion saga Frankie said, although it was not strictly part of the story (or part of the deal in my letting him use this space for his spewing), that he wanted one and all to have an example of how his be-bop “beat” style worked magic on the, frankly, bewildered North Adamsville Middle School girls (and whatever other stray frails he could corner with his pitch). And the story he wanted to tell, the primo, numero uno, ace example one story was how he captured (and kept) the elusive, ever lovin’ Joanne. So rather than just coming out in manly fashion, manly working class fashion, and asking for space he tried an "end around." Just to goad me into another story he mentioned that somehow in that desperate late 1950s night I was smitten with Joanne, and that she was smitten with me, before he honed in on her and worked his magic. Needless to say once said Frankie magic was applied that previous configuration was ancient history.

So just to set the record straight before Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, spins his misbegotten yarn let me say my piece:

In order to set the background to this dispute up for those who don’t know I had arrived from the Adamsville Middle School just at the beginning of 1959, about half way through seventh grade. As a twelve year old boy, almost thirteen, after some delay I had developed a very healthy interest in girls. In their girlish charms, if not their giggles. Of course, as anybody who went through the experience knows, which means just about everybody, the social pecking order in middle school (and high school too, but maybe a little less so) is etched in stone for the duration about the second or third week of school.

So I was nothing but an "outsider," an outsider waiting to be an insider if I could hitch onto somebody else’s star. That star, no question, was Frankie. But Frankie’s “style” was different, not a football or sports thing, or an intellectual thing (although that is what it was, it just didn’t look like it at the time), or a best looking thing (wiry Frankie did have pretty decent Steve McQueen-type looks though). What he had, and what made him a magnet for me (and, strangely, those girls with their girlish charms not giggles that I was attracted to) was this be-bop, “faux” beat thing. He will describe it better in his story but it certainly caused a stir, especially the eternal midnight sunglasses that he wore part.

Now what does all that have to do with Joanne, my attraction to her (or her to me)? Well, everything. See Joanne was the smartest person in the seventh grade class. Book smart for sure. Answering teachers’ questions smart, definitely. She also was pretty, but no more so, and maybe a little less so, than some of the other less bright girls. And she had, had when she wanted to have it, a very winning smile. Moreover, and here is when Frankie seems to have gotten his signals crossed for once, she was friendly toward me, me, an outsider, friendly in a universal kindly way, even before I started running around with Frankie (or she did either).

So as any observant person could see there was nothing to the whole thing but kid’s stuff and, as I thought about it later (and just now as I am re-thinking about it) Joanne had a huge dose of Roman Catholic fellowship and rectitude, meaning doing the right social thing. Frankie is right about the part that we, Joanne and I, were civil to each other in his presence later but that is after a whole bunch of other things happened to sour our relationship. But enough of this because this is stuff that Frankie will, I am sure, tell you about. Let me just finish with something I wrote in another Frankie story, one that I told so I know it’s true. I will swear on a book with seven seals the following- when it came to Joanne, and this was true even before Frankie whiz kid moved in, she was okay, but not someone that I would jump off a bridge over. There were girls, some of those other less bright girls, whom I would have jumped off that bridge for, and gladly. But not her. That should put paid to this subject.

Francis Xavier Riley comment:

See, I told you I still had the kingly touch. I knew, and know now, just how to get to Markin, Peter Paul Markin, get him where he has to defer, humbly defer, to my "goading" as he called it. Of course, and here is the beauty of the king’s touch, I knew, and I damn well should know even fifty years later, that old Markin never carried the torch for Joanne. But see I just threw that little doubt in his direction and he jumped at it. And then that “social” thing, that Peter Paul Markin sense of fair play, that overweening sense of his about giving the other side a chance to speak their minds (if only, as he used to say, to hang themselves) came into play. A piece of cake. And for those who don’t know, or don’t understand, how old Markin could have got bested for the kingship of the old neighborhood in the old schoolboy nights this is a prime example. His failed attempt was so utterly a failure that we all, everybody except Markin that is, spent more than a few off moments, a few nothing dull moments, giving it a big laugh every now and again when we needed a laugh. But enough of that I have a story to tell, and by hook or by crook, I ‘m going to tell it.

See, as anyone can see from the last paragraph, it is about knowing human psychology. No, not some book, Sigmund or Anna Freud, Ernest Jones, Melanie Klein, Carl Jung, christ, even R.D. Laing goof thing. Hell no, it is about observing people and what they like and don’t like, what makes them pay attention to your patter and what doesn’t. Now the big thing about this is, let’s face it, for a red-blooded boy like me, not just to inspect people in general but girls, girls with girlish charms, all the way back to middle school girlish charms. I already told you before about my short-lived football scrawny kid career and how through perseverance, perversity, and perdition I figured out my place in the sun by my wits(a thing Markin was always yakking about, but you've probably figured that out by now)and by knowing what Markin insists was "arcane" knowledge. But see it was just that arcane knowledge part, weak as it was, and it really was looking back on it, and the way the knowledge was presented both by style and by fit that made the difference. On behalf of the interest of that honey you were aiming your stuff at.

See, Markin never really got it, got how the knowledge and presentation worked together, and probably still doesn’t from what I can see. Let me give you the wrong example before I tell how this thing worked to bring me and my ever lovin’ Joanne together back in the day. Markin, after he started hanging around with me for a while, decided that he would try my method out after he saw that the foxiest girls, the cutest girls, and well, as always in a pinch, those just girls with their girlish charms (giggles and all, see, that is where Markin and I had big differences always-the giggles go with the charms-get it Peter Paul) who were hanging around me before school, during passing time, lunch time and, a little, at least in middle school, after school.

So, and so help me this is true, even he won’t forget this one, Markin decides that he will go up to this cute girl with a French name, Barbette or something like that, and start in on every known fact about the French revolution, the French revolution of the 18th century, you know the Jacobins, Girondins, Marat, Robespierre and those guys- the "liberty, equality, fraternity" guys. See, this is something he is interested in, interested in like crazy if I remember. Ya, I know you know, no dice. But here is the thing-a couple of weeks later as Barbette starts to hang around the outer edges of our circle she confides in me (no secret here as I told Markin at the time to try to straighten him out) that she thought Markin was okay but that she was afraid, get this, afraid of him because of his flipping out (my term) over something she knew nothing about. I admit that I never got too far with old Barbette myself, but at least I didn’t scare her half to death.

Hey, I actually have a better example now that I think about it. A lot of this arcane knowledge thing was, as you can figure, playing the percentages. Probably Barbette was a “no sale” anyway. But Evelyn, Evelyn Smythe, was a different matter. Ya, now that I think about it forget Barbette as an example and pay attention to this one. Okay, Evelyn through my intelligence network of sources (that’s part of the secret to success too) was seriously into church, her church, her Episcopalian church and its history. I found out, and its shows you an example of good intelligence work, through my sources that she had given a class report on said subject. Bingo. Now Evelyn is nice, Evelyn is cute, Evelyn is smart (although not as smart as Joanne), and Evelyn has that winning smile we were always on the lookout for in those days. But see, Evelyn was a, a, how should I say it, Protestant so she was a “no go, no way” for one Francis Xavier Riley, one Francis Xavier Riley to the cold-water tenements, the Irish Catholic, more Roman than the Romans Catholic, tenements born. No way that, outside of the gates of hell, that Patrick “Boyo” Riley, and on this issue one Maude Grace Riley, nee O’Brian, were going to let their blessed son within twenty non-school paces of said Evelyn Smythe. Not seventh grade Frankie anyway (later I had more Protestant girl friends that I care to remember, if for no other reason than they weren’t so religion crazy, Roman Catholic religion crazy, mainly)

But see ecumenical Markin, Peter Paul Markin, Irish Catholic brought up, and church mouse poor, but with a heathen Protestant father (except for that he was a good man whom everybody liked, even Boyo) decides he will take a shot at sweet Evelyn. Now his approach, since he knows from my intelligence report that she’s also some kind of history nut, is to start talking about the word "anti-disestablishmentarianism," then the longest word in the English dictionary, and for all I know still is, and related somehow, although don’t press me on this to Puritan stuff or English stuff, because, again, he’s crazy, crazy as a loon for Puritan heritage English colonial stuff. I mean really crazy. I think that he was born on Plymouth Rock in another life, maybe. Now sweet Evelyn was, if nothing else, polite and she hears him out. And since I was near the scene of this encounter I heard him say as she drifted off, “and my father’s a protestant too.” Like the co-religionist link is going to clinch the thing. Christ.

No sale, amigo. But here is the kicker, a couple of years later, when Joanne and I had, uh, uh, one of our “misunderstandings” I ran into Evelyn one night down at the seashore. Now by this time she had blossomed into a certified twist, although I also knew that she was still into religion because she belonged to some Protestant girls' club, some religiously-oriented girls' club. But see she had that winning smile still, that winning smile that we were on the lookout for in those days, and by then after another earlier Joanne “misunderstanding” I had already sold my soul to the devil and taken a Protestant girl out, and liked it. So, because in the meantime I had started to get a little Puritan nutty like Markin I started on my patter and mentioned that word anti-disestablishmentarian and what it was all about. We must have talked for about two hours about this and that on the subject; two hours can you believe it.

But see here is where the lesson is. Peter Paul got the context all balled up so bad he was arguing about the beauties of Oliver Cromwell, or the Quakers or something. Those were not Evelyn’s forebears. He had the wrong side, although, as usual, he had it right for the side he liked. Evelyn couldn’t figure it out. What she could figure out, and figure out fast, if not necessarily accurately in Markin’s case, was that she was a minority in a heavily Irish Catholic working class neighborhood and so Markin was probably putting her down for being a Protestant. Christ, again. As a postscript I will mention that sweet, smiling Evelyn and I had a couple of nice weeks together before "ball and chain" Joanne and I stopped our "misunderstandings." I won’t give the details of Evelyn's and my tryst because, see, and especially Markin see, she is now an Episcopal priest, or something like that and does not need that kind of publicity.

So you can see that the be-bop pitter-patter was (or is) not for amateurs, or the faint-hearted, and requires some skill. Especially for hormonally-charged twelve and thirteen year old boys who are only vaguely, at best, aware that this thing requires skills, finely-honed skills. All of this is to say that whatever skills I had in, let’s say October and November of 1958, needed to be used in the hard nut to crack case of one Joanne Marion Murphy, one lace curtain Irish Catholic, more Roman than the Romans Catholic, Joanne Marion Murphy, to the lace curtain single house working class family born.

Markin mentioned in his “introduction” that Joanne was smart, check, pretty, check, had a winning smile, check, and was, as he put it and rightly so I think, universally kind out her religiously-derived social sense, check. What she was not, at least for a long time, was very interested in one Francis Xavier Riley and his cohorts, amigos, and “faux” beat aficionados. She had moved into the neighborhood, neighborhood in the widest sense because no way did she live near my cold-water flats district or Markin’s cottage-like (to be kind) dwelling on the wrong side of the tracks, in sixth grade but went to Adamsville Central Elementary School and so I did not pick up her scent until middle school, the first day of middle school, no, the first hour of middle school, jesus, no, the first minute. Sure she had all the checked things above but she also carried herself, her twelve year old self, in a very intriguing way and so I took a note, literally, took a note on her. But for a while nada, nothing, nowhere and partly because that intriguing carriage included what to me, shanty boy me, was that lace curtain Catholic by the rules thing despite smarts, pretties, winsome smile, and kindliness I thought no way. No way one Francis Xavier Riley was going to get involved with that scene, not with that frail, no way I said, did you hear me?

Truth. Once I started to have a first little success with my girl-directed be-bop pitter-patter Joanne kind of went off the radar even though I saw her every day in class, every day. Truth again. I had no angle on this girl, no angle at all. See the other less bright girls kind of got caught up in the sunglasses, be-bop words, long-gone daddy, rock ‘n’ roll, heartthrob thing. And I loved that, loved the idea that I could be the max daddy king of that scene with a few breaks. So it was not until a couple of real frailly frails came round my table, good-looking girls, maybe not beautiful, not twelve year old beautiful anyway, but smart enough, whimsical enough, and daredevil enough that I noticed Joanne starting to pay attention in my direction. You know that look, that look a guy twelve or twelve hundred is ready to leap off bridges for, and as Markin mentioned before, gladly. Well, if someone is giving old Francis Xavier Riley the look well what is he going to do but look back, right?

This went on for a while, as such things do. But you can't depend on the after-effects of "the look" to determine your whole twelve year old life so what you need, and need badly is intelligence. Any king of the hill, any poor boy, boondocks, third-rate king, hell, any king of the pizza parlor night (in-waiting at that point) needs all kinds of intelligence from whatever source. In this case it was like manna from heaven as my younger sister, Catherine Anne (not Kathy Anne, not Kate, straight Catherine Anne with no bluster nicknames like with my older brothers Tommy and Timmy), was friendly with Joanne's younger sister, Mary Margaret (there are more Marys with various middle names, more Elizabeths, ditto with middle names, and more Catherines, with or without Annes, in this early 1960s Irish working class neighborhood than you can shake a stick at but that is another story, a Markin sociology of the neighborhood story for another time, I am sure) over at North Adamsville Elementary School. This intelligence was gold because it seems that beyond that "look," that jump off the bridge look that I just mentioned, Joanne liked me. But wait a minute no teen saga can just end like that, a story goes with it. See, Joanne was put off by my devil-make-care-attitude which seemed to her, pious girl that she was, kind of sacrilegious, but on the other hand she liked the cool midnight blessed sunglasses. Ya, women.

Let me get back to that pious part for a minute because it will explain lots of things, lots of things that even Markin didn't get. Like when Joanne and I would later have our "misunderstandings" and break-ups which is usually when I looked around for another girl. Not the slanderous way Markin made it seem like I was 24/7 on the hunt even when Joanne and I were in our glory days. See, and here is where the intelligence from Mary Margaret (hereafter, Moe, which is a reasonable nickname and she liked it as well) was invaluable, although if I thought about it I should have after hearing the gist of it ran, ran like hell to Africa or some place like that. See, even worst that in mother Maude's household the religion, the hard core Roman Catholic religion, the more Roman than the Romans religion, its superstitions, its dogmas, and its graces were pervasive via Joanne's mother (Doris). And while mother Maude, and to a lesser extent mother Arlene (Markin's mother), bore down, and bore down hard, with their religious tyrannies toward us boys the girls took the serious brunt of the damage to their fragile psyches. No question.

See here is the set-up. Pious mother (learning from pious mothers back to Stone Age Ireland, and elsewhere I suppose) had a funny standard. They, with the boys, would give kind of a sacramental dispensation for wayward behavior up to, and including, the occasional armed robbery (I am not kidding that happened with one of Markin’s brothers, and others, too many others in the old neighborhood) except, of course, holy of holies, taking the lord’s name in vain and stuff like that. With the girls though, and maybe with some malice, I don’t know, but at least in the family of Doris Anna Murphy, nee Mulvey, it seemed so. They, the girls that is, were held to a higher standard of behavior and were suppose to act as such, at least for public consumption. (I found out later that the public consumption part was all that really mattered for some later flames who, as Markin very succinctly pointed out, had twelve novena books in their hands and lust in their hearts, great lust, praise be). This is the backdrop to my struggle to win Joanne’s affections.

But see that was only part of it, the religious part, the Roman Catholic religious part (I won’t say again the more Roman than the… , ah, forget it) part of it. Let me show you how I got it wrong at first though to show you how tough it was to get my signals straight. Based on my intelligence service (My Catherine Anne-Moe intelligence) I took my best shot at Joanne by going on and on about the Church (you know now what church), about ritual, about various disputes, theological disputes, City of God, Thomist, Counter-Reformation, Virgin Mary disputes, about the meaning of the religious experience in one’s life, etc. Basically blarney, okay (I am also being polite here as I, like Markin, prefer to be so in the public prints).

I swear I thought I was making some headway when all of a sudden I started balling things up, balling them up like I just learned them rather than had them down pat like I should. Now remember this is before Pope John XXIII’s Vatican Council II thing and we were all confronted with the mysteries of the Latin mass, a weird language that confronted us kids like the bloody English language did when those heathens stepped into (and over) the old sod Ireland, plebeian anti-Semitic hatred of the Jews (hell, they killed our savior, didn’t they), and other doctrinal stuff that didn’t mean much. I tried to be cute, meaning I tried to bail out as best I could, by reciting what I knew (and knew haphazardly) about Christian doctrine. Without boring everybody with how I held forth on such esoteric things like how many angels can fit on the head of a needle and other Thomisms the long and short of it is I busted flat, busted flat hard. No sale, no wannabe sale, nada, nothing. Joanne stiffly proud, stiffly piously proud, just kind of dismissed me out of hand, with the flip of a wrist. Vanquished. Gone. In short, she just walked away. (Later, she told me she actually liked my pitter-patter but that on Church matters, you know what church matters, I should leave it to the priests, and guys like that. Fine.)

But that little setback was obviously not the end of my hopes, not even close, because, as I gathered from my Catherine Anne-Moe CIA connections my approach was all wrong. How? Well, Joanne, as it turned out, was pious, no question, pious for public consumption anyway, but that her Catholicism was very much colored by the Irish aspect of it. An Irish expression drilled into her by her grandmother, Anna, who apparently was next to, or close by, when old Saint Patrick did his demon-devouring tricks in the old country. Okay, no problem I will just be-bop on John Bull’s tyranny, eight hundred years of oppression, the bastard Oliver Cromwell (sorry Markin), and the heathen English at Wexford and Drogheda (and in the North).

See here is where it gets tricky again though, actually weird is a better word, because as Irish as the shamrock as I am, I didn’t know a lot about the history of the old Catholic, blighted (like the potatoes too often), priest-ridden (oops) Irish. And I didn’t want to get all balled up like I did with Christian doctrine (or like Markin with Evelyn and her Protestant ways). But I got well fast as I studied up on my own, and again giving the devil his due, Markin filled me in on some stuff. (Wouldn’t you know it took a half–arsed Irishman with a bloody protestant father, although everybody liked old father Prescott, would be giving me, a full-blooded son of the old sod Irishman chapter and verse, christ). In any case one day after school I was walking up Atlantic Street (or was it Appleton) and I noticed Joanne coming out of the old Thomas Crane Public Library branch, the one that was nothing but an old unused storefront that they used until they built a larger one up in Norfolk Downs (by the way although the Irish and Italians build modern Adamsville, or modern in those days, way back when back in Plymouth Rock times every name was bloody English so all the streets names and section names reflect either that or the Indian (oops), Native-American, influence). When Joanne sees me walking her way she gives me the cursory, kindly (really kiss-off okay, twelve year old kiss-off) nod to acknowledge my existence but no little “the look” (discussed previously and the reader is presumed both to remember such details and to “know” the look from his or her own life experiences). Nevertheless this is my golden opportunity-out in the street-no crazy classmates around, no Markin fouling the waters around, and no distractions. Yes, just the right time to do my sing-song, pitter-patter be-bop night paean to the plight of bloody, but not bowed, Ireland and its churchly concerns.

I will say I “stepped up to the plate” on this one. I even brought in the Book of Kell, for christ’s sake, and how the Irish Church, the blessed Irish church and the monasteries were fountains of knowledge , wisdom, …faith (she said later she loved that one) when the dirty-handed, unwashed English were eating their meals off the hip in their dingy little hovels. Suddenly she said “Stop.” My heart fell, oh my god, I’ve blown it. No, not this “scholarly” twelve year old. Well maybe. Joanne said she knew I was up to something (she had intelligence, exclusive intelligence, from, ah, Catherine Anne and Moe) and although I had actually had a fair number of facts balled up (about bloody Oliver Cromwell and Wexford and Drogheda for one, that damn Markin put his secular spin on the thing and made the hated Cromwell the hero, although from this reference you can see what kind of ammunition I was throwing out like this was a meeting of the Central Committee of the Irish Republican Army, (IRA), or something). She was “impressed”, impressed as hell (my term, okay) that I thought enough of her to go to the bother. And then she gave me a winsome smile. (Hey, Markin is not the only one susceptible to that smile.) Home run.

On the basis of that smile I “asked her out.” Now twelve year old “asking out,” then anyway, and probably now too, was usually something like going to a dance after school, or maybe getting a bite to eat at the soda fountain (including listening to the jukebox, coins in hand), bowling, ya, bowling, or a matinee movie thing. But see here is where old Frankie knew how to segue into this proposition based on his recent pitter-patter. I asked Joanne to go the upcoming March 17th Saint Patrick’s Day Parade over in South Boston with me. Nice touch, right.

Now in those days, and you can ask your parents and grandparents about it if you are too young to remember the be-bop 1950s night, the parade was actually held on March 17th, whatever day of the week it fell on so that meant “skipping” school that year. See in Adamsville March 17th, unlike in Boston, was not a day off-a holiday and even in Boston, officially, it was not a day off for blessed Saint Patrick. It was to celebrate the bloody British defeat in Boston- Evacuation Day- a worthy reason in its own right. Joanne “freaked” out at this idea at first. But then I worked on her, and worked on her, with the notion that it was her patriotic duty, her grandmother Anna memory honor duty, to go and pretend we were in the old sod for the day. Ya, I know bringing in grandma was off base but, well, but… As an added kicker, and to show my honorable intentions, I told her that Markin was also going although I had not asked him at the time (and didn’t want him around anyway). That day she said no, but over the next several days she started to weaken.

In the meantime (although I guess my intelligence network was on “vacation” or, like the current day CIA, “out of the loop” because I didn’t know this) Joanne was working on her mother by putting up an argument that it was her religious duty to stand up for the Irish Church on that day (christ, she sounded like me after a while). Finally mother Doris said yes and Joanne said yes. Of course, as this was going on, old Peter Paul, old true-blooded, down with John Bull’s tyranny, Markin wimped out, yes, wimped out, saying he did not want to miss school. As it turned out (and was Joanne’s expression after she heard that Markin had wimped out) three was one too many (and both Joanne and I agreed on this one, with a little snicker, many times later). And the reason that Joanne said that, to make a long story short because you really don’t need me to go into the details of the parade-marching bands, drill teams, bagpipes, twirlers, drunken green-faced rowdies and all that- or the results of my efforts, was that she figured (as she told me later) we would probably get around to kissing (be still my heart on hearing this even now) and she didn’t want Markin to blab it all over school. And guess what? We did kiss, kissed in honor of Saint Patrick, the Irish Church, the Book of Kell, and I don’t know how many other things, Irish things, naturally-hey, maybe even the blarney stone.

Now Markin in one of his foolish, damn foolish, commentaries once asked a question to his fellow North Adamsville high school classmates about whether, in the old days, anybody “skipped” school to go over to Southie and see the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. We know he wimped out, always. But note this, Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, has a very big A (for absent) next to his name for March 17, 1959. And he is proud of it. I’ll even get a notarized copy of the damn North Adamsville Middle School transcript to prove it. So there.