Showing posts with label pre-teen angst. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pre-teen angst. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In The Time Of Working Class Alienation(Always)- S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders”

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.

In The Time Of Working Class Alienation- S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders”

DVD Review

The Outsiders, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise and every other rising young male star of the 1980s worth his salt, Dian Lane, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Paramount Pictures, 1983

Recently I reviewed another film adaptation by the director Francis Ford of one of S.E. Hinton’s classic tales of American teenage working class alienation during the 1950s-1960s, “Rumblefish”. There the plot centered on the seemingly inescapable nihilism following the footsteps of a leader, and then ex-leader of a by then passé white teenage gang. That film presented the anguish of youthful working class alienation in a very different and much less glamorous light than the teenage angst films of my youth, like Marlon Brando’s “The Wild Ones” and James Dean’s “Rebel Without A Cause”. I also mentioned in that review that I had been momentarily attracted, very attracted to that ‘lifestyle,’ coming as I did from that stratum of the working class that lived with few hopes and fewer dreams. It was a very near thing that shifted me away from that life, mainly the allure of books and less dangerous exploits.

Not so here in this other outstanding tale of youthful working class alienation out in the heartland in the hill of Oklahoma, “The Outsiders”. That, notwithstanding the fact that the main character and narrator, “Pony Boy,” is also very attracted to books (although “Gone With The Wind” seems an odd choice to go ga-ga over). The difference. In “Rumblefish”, seemingly a much more experimental film on Coppola’s part and a more searing look at working class youth on Hinton’s part is filled with that unspoken danger, that unspoken destructive pathology and dead end nihilism that meant doom for at least some of the characters, and not just the easy to foresee one of death.

Superficially the plot of “The Outsiders” would have assumed that same fate. A small town out in the hill of Oklahoma where the class divisions are obvious has the working class “Greasers” lined up in combat against the middle class “Socs” with every cliché of the class struggle, except the political, thrown in for good measure. (Obviously portrayed, as well, note the sideburns and long hair on one side and the neatly –pressed chino pants on the other. You don’t need a scorecard on this one.) In summary: the two sides clash over nothing in particular except “turf”: hold grudges; seek revenge taking causalities, one fatally; and ending with a rumble where the Greasers have their momentary Pyrrhic victory.

Along the way there is plenty of time for youthful reflection about the ways of the class-ridden world, a few bouts of heroism and a little off-hand (very off-hand) romance. As much as we know about the nature of modern class society this thing rings false. Even the most alienated Greaser, played to a tee by Matt Dillon, is really only searching for meaning to his life and a little society, only to get waylaid by that life in the end. Thus, this thing turns into something more like a cautionary tale than a slice of live down at the bottom edges of society. The more circumspect and existential “Rumblefish” gets my vote any day.

Note: Part of the problem with this film cinematically is that the leading male actors here, the likes of Rob Lowe, the late Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise and Matt Dillon are all too ‘pretty’ to be Greasers. Although one can appreciate the talent pool that came out of this film I know from real life that, while the greasers of this world may have some raw sexually attractions they would hardly grace the pages of “Gentleman’s Quarterly”, or some such magazine. These guys could. That is what rings false here, as well as the assurances, hammered home to us throughout the story, that in democratic America even the down-trodden can lift themselves up and succeed. If they would just wash up a little.

Friday, October 28, 2011

In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- When "Stewball" Stu Stewart ’57 Chevy Ruled The “Chicken” Roads

In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- When "Stewball" Stu Stewart ’57 Chevy Ruled The “Chicken” Roads

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Chuck Berry performing his classic School Day to give a flavor of the times to this piece

CD Review

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era: 1957, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1987

Scene: Brought to mind by the cover artwork that graces the front of the booklet that accompanies this CD. The artwork contains, in full James Dean-imitation pout, one good-looking, DA-quaffed, white muscle-shirted young man, an alienated young man, no question, leaning, leaning gently, very gently, arms folded, on the hood of his 1950’s classic automobile, clearly not his father’s car, but also clearly for our purposes let us call it his “baby.”

And that car, that extension of his young manhood, his young alienated manhood, is Friday night, Saturday night, or maybe a weekday night if it is summer, parked (priority parked, meaning nobody with some Nash Rambler, nobody with some foreign Volkswagen, no biker even , in short, nobody except somebody who is tougher, a lot tougher, than our alienated young man better breathe on the spot while he is within fifty miles of the place) directly in front of the local teenage (alienated or not) "hot spot." And in 1950s’ America, a teenage America with some disposal income (allowance, okay), that hot spot is likely to be, as here, the all-night Mel’s (or Joe’s, Adventure Car-Hop, whatever) drive-in restaurant opened to cater to the hot dog, hamburger, French fries, barbecued chicken cravings of exhausted youth. Youth exhausted after a hard night, well, let’s just call it a hard night and leave the rest to your knowing imagination, or their parents’ evil imaginations.

And in front of the restaurant, in front of that leaned-on “boss” automobile stands one teenage girl vision. One blondish, pony-tailed, midnight sun-glassed, must be a California great American West night teeny-bopper girl holding an ice cream soda after her night’s work. The work that we are leaving to fertile (or evil, as the case may be) imaginations. Although from the pout on Johnny’s (of course he has to be a Johnny, with that car) face maybe he “flunked out” but that is a story for somebody else to tell. Here’s mine.
Not everybody, not everybody by a long-shot, who had a “boss” ’57 cherry red Chevy was some kind of god’s gift to the earth; good-looking, good clothes, dough in his pocket, money for gas and extras, money for the inevitable end of the night stop at Jimmy John’s Drive-In restaurant for burgers and fries (and Coke, with ice, of course) before taking the date home after a hard night of tumbling and stumbling (mainly stumbling). At least that is what one Joshua Breslin, Josh, me, freshly minted fifteen- year old roadside philosopher thought as for the umpteenth time “Stewball” Stu left me by the side of Albemarle Road and rode off into the Olde Saco night with his latest “hot” honey, fifteen year old teen queen Sally Sullivan.

Ya, Stewball Stu was nothing but an old rum-dum, a nineteen year old rum-dum, except he had that “boss” girl-magnet ’57 cherry red Chevy (painted that color by Stu himself) and he had his pick of the litter in the Olde Saco, maybe all of Maine, night. By the way Stu’s official name, was Stuart Stewart, go figure, but don’t call him Stuart and definitely do not call him “Stewball” not if you want to live long enough not to have the word teen as part of your age. The Stewball thing was strictly for local boys, jealous local boys like me, who when around Stu always could detect a whiff of liquor, usually cheap jack Southern Comfort, on his breathe, day or night.

Figure this too. How does a guy who lives out on Tobacco Road in an old run-down trailer, half-trailer really, from about World War II that looked like something out of some old-time Hooverville scene, complete with scrawny dog, and tires and cannibalized car leavings every which way have girls, and nothing but good-looking girls from twelve to twenty (nothing older because as Stu says, anything older was a woman and he wants nothing to do with women, and their women’s needs, whatever they are)? And the rest of us get his leavings, or like tonight left on the side of Route One? And get this, they, the girls from twelve to twenty actually walk over to Tobacco Road from nice across the other side of the tracks homes like on Atlantic Avenue and Fifth Street, sometimes by themselves and sometime in packs just to smell the grease, booze, burnt rubber, and assorted other odd-ball smells that come for free at Stu’s so-called garage/trailer.

Let me tell you about Stu, Sally, and me tonight and this will definitely clue you in to the Stu-madness of the be-bop Olde Saco girl night. First of all, as usual, it is strictly Stu and me starting out. Usually, like today, I hang around his garage on Saturdays to get away from my own hell-house up the road and I am kind of Stu’s unofficial mascot. Now Stu had been working all day on his dual-exhaust carburetor or something, so his denims are greasy, his white tee-shirt (sic) is nothing but wet with perspiration and oil stains, he hasn’t taken a bath since Tuesday (he told me that himself with some sense of pride) and he was not planning to do so this night, and of course, drinking all day from his silver Southern Comfort flask he reeked of alcohol (but don’t tell him that if you read this and are from Olde Saco because, honestly, I want to live to have twenty–something as my age). About 7:00 PM he bellows out to me, cigarette hanging from his mouth, a Lucky, let’s go cruising.

Well, cruising means nothing but taking that be-bop ’57 cherry red Chevy out on East Grand and look. Look for girls, look for boys from the hicks with bad-ass cars who want to take a chance on beating Stu at the “chicken run” down at the flats on the far end of Sagamore Beach, look for something to take the edge off the hunger to be somebody number one. At least that last is what I figured after a few of these cruises with Stu. Tonight it looks like girls from the way he put some of that grease (no not car grease, hair-oil stuff) on his nappy hair. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to cruising tonight once I have that sign because, usually whatever girl Stu might not want, or maybe there are a couple of extras, or something I get first dibs. Ya, Stu is righteous like that.

So off we go, stopping at my house first so I can get a little cleaned up and put on a new shirt and tell my brother to tell our mother that I will be back later, maybe much later, if she ever gets home herself before I do. The cruising routine in Olde Saco means up and down Route One (okay, okay Main Street), checking out the lesser spots (Darby’s Pizza Palace, Hank’s Ice Cream joint, the Colonial Donut Shoppe where I hang during the week after school and which serves a lot more stuff than donuts and coffee, sandwiches and stuff, and so on). Nothing much this Saturday. So we head right away for the mecca, Jimmy John’s. As we hit Stu’s “saved” parking spot just in front I can see that several stray girls are eyeing the old car, eyeing it like tonight is the night, tonight is the night Stu, kind of, sort of, maybe notices them (and I, my heart starting to race a little in anticipation and glad that I stopped off at my house, got a clean shirt, and put some deodorant on and guzzled some mouthwash, am feeling tonight is the night too).

But tonight is not the night, no way. Not for me, not for those knees-trembling girls. Why? No sooner did we park than Sally Sullivan came strolling (okay I don’t know if she was strolling or doo-wopping but she was swaying in such a sexy way that I knew she meant business, that she was looking for something in the Olde Saco night and that she had “found” it) out to Stu’s Chevy and with no ifs, ands, or buts asked, asked Stu straight if he was doing anything this night. Let me explain before I tell you what Stu’s answer was that this Sally Sullivan is nothing but a sex kitten, maybe innocent-looking, but definitely has half the boys, hell maybe all the boys at Olde Saco High, including a lot of the guys on the football team drooling over her. I know, because I have had more than one sleepless night over her. See, she is in my English class and because Mr. Murphy let’s us sit where we want I usually sit with a good view of her. So Stu says, kind of off-handedly, like having the town teen fox come hinter on him was a daily occurrence, says kind of lewdly, “Well, baby I am if you want to go down Sagamore Rocks right now and look for dolphins?” See, Sagamore Rocks is nothing but the local lovers’ lane here and “looking for dolphins” is the way everybody, every teenage everybody in town says “going all the way,” having sex for the clueless. And Sally, as you can guess if you have been following my story said, “Yes” just like that. At that s why I was dumped, unceremoniously dumped, at my street while they roared off into the night. So like I said not every “boss” car owner is god’s gift to women, not by a long shot. Or maybe they are.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The "Projects" Boys... And Girls-For Denny And All The Other Adamsville Housing Authority Survivors From The Class Of 1964-With Tom Waits In Mind

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Tom Waits performing Jersey Girl

"Ain't Got No Time For The Corner Boys, Down In The Streets Making All That Noise"- The first line from Tom Waits classic working class love song, Jersey Girl. The best version of the song by Tom Waits is the one that you can link to on YouTube above.
Peter Paul Markin, Adamsville Housing Authority Alumnus and North Adamsville, Class Of 1964, (although most AHA alumni graduated from cross-town rival, Adamsville High) comment:

Funny how some stories get their start. A few years back one of my old Adamsville South Elementary corner boys, Denny Romano, he of the squeaky burgeoning tenor in our impromptu 1950s back end of the school-yard summer nights doo wop group (and I of the squeaky bass, low, very low bass) “connected” with me again. He did so not through this site but through one of those looking for old high school graduate-based Internet sites that relentlessly track you down just as, in your dotage; you think you have finally gotten out from under that last remnant speck of fighting off the last forty years of your teen alienation and teen angst.

Denny asked me to speak of the old “corner boy” days down at “the projects,” the Adamsville Housing Authority low-rent housing where the desperately poor, temporarily so or not, were warehoused in our town in the post-World War II good night when some returning veteran fathers needed a helping hand to get them going back into civilian life. Corner boys, in case you were clueless (or too young to know of anything but mall rat-dom), were guys, mainly, who “hung out” together. Poor boy, no money, no other place to go, or with no transportation to get some place, hung out in front of a million mom and pop variety corner variety stores, corner pizza parlors, corner bowling alleys, corner fast food joints, hell, even corner gas stations in some real small towns from what some guys have told me when I asked them. Here is the odd part though. Ya, we were corner boys even that young, although we had no corner, no official corner like a corner mom and pop variety store, or a pizza parlor like I did later at Doc’s Drugstore in middle school and then as the king hell king’s scribe to Frankie Riley in front of Salducci’s Pizza Parlor but just the back end of the elementary school, as long as we were quiet and nobody cried murder and mayhem to the cops. The following, in any case, a little revised, represents my “homage” to Denny and the gang from those by-gone days and even the girls that ninety-three point four percent of the time I was scared to death of/ fascinated by. Well, some things haven’t changed anyway.

Taffrail Road, Yardarm Lane, Captain's Walk, Quarterdeck Road, Sextant Circle, the Old Sailor’s Home, the Shipyard (abandoned now) and Sea Street. Yes, those streets and places from the old public housing project down in the Germantown section of Adamsville surely evoke imagines of the near-by sea that touched its edges, of long ago sailing ships, and of battles fought off some mist-driven coast by those hearty enough to seek fame and fortune. And with the wherewithal to hold on to their booty (no, not that booty, dough, prizes, stuff like that) But, of course, we know that anyone with even a passing attachment to Adamsville had to have an instinctual love of the sea, and fear of its furies when old Mother Nature turns her back on us. Yes, the endless sea, our homeland the sea, the mother we never knew, the sea... But, enough of those imaginings.

Today I look to the landward side of that troubled housing project peninsula, that isolated expanse of land jutting out of the water and filled with wreckage of another kind, the human kind . No, this will not be a sociological survey of working class pathologies made inevitable by the relentless struggle to scramble for life's necessities, the culture of poverty, or the like. Nor will it be a political screed about rising against the monsters that held us down, or the need for such a rising. Nor even about the poetic license necessary to cobble pretty words together to speak of the death of dreams, dreamless dreams or, maybe, just accepting small dreams to fit a small life. Rather, I am driven by the jumble of images that passed through the thoughts of a ragamuffin of a project boy as he tried to make sense out of a world that he did not create, and that he had no say in.

Ah, the scenes. Warm, sticky, humid summer nights, the air filled with the pungent, overpowering soapy fragrance from the Proctor & Gamble factory across the channel that never quite left one's nostrils. Waking up each morning to face the now vanished Fore River Shipyard superstructure; hearing the distant clang of metals being worked to shape; and, the sight of flickering welding torches binding metals together. The endless rust-encrusted, low-riding oil tankers coming through the channel guided to port by high whistle-blowing tugs.

The interminable wait for the lifeline, seemingly never on time, Eastern Mass bus that took one and all in and out through that single Palmer Street escape route to greater Adamsville. Or that then imposing central housing authority building where I was sent by my mother, too proud to go herself, with the monthly rent, usually short. Oh, did I mention Carter's Variety Store, the sole store for us all the way to Sea Street but police take notice off limits to corners boys young or old, another lifeline. Many a time I reached in Ma's pocketbook to steal money, or committed other small hoodlum wanna-be larcenies, in order to hike down that long road and get my sugar-drenched stash (candy bars, soda, a.k.a. tonic but that word is long gone, Twinkles, Moon Pies, and so on, sugar-drenched all)

And the kids. Well, the idea in those “golden” post-war days was that the projects were a way-station to better things, or at least that was the hope. So there was plenty of turn-over of friends but there was a core of kids, kids like me and my brothers, who stayed long enough to learn the ropes. Or get beaten down by guys just a little hungrier, a little stronger, or with just a little bigger chip on their shoulder. Every guy had to prove himself, tough or not, by hanging with guys that were "really" tough. That was the ethos, and "thems were the rules." Rules that seemed to come out of eternity’s time, and like eternity never challenged.

I took my fair share of nicks but also, for a moment, well for more than a moment as it turned out, I was swayed by the gangster lifestyle. Hell, it looked easy. With old elementary school classmate Rickie B., Denny knows who I am talking about, who, later, served twenty years, maybe more for all know, for a series of armed robberies, I worked my first "clip" in some downtown Adamsville Square jewelry store, Sid’s I think, the one with all the onyx rings on display in the front and the twelve signs about how you could have anything in the place on very easy terms, only a million installments (with interest piling up, of course). No, thanks. The clip, again for the clueless, is nothing but kids’ stuff, strictly for amateurs because no professional thief would risk his or her good name for such a low-rent payoff. The deal was one guy went in and got the salesperson’s attention while the other guy ripped off whatever was “hanging low on the tree.” In that arrangement I was usually the “tree” guy not because I had quick hands, although come to think of it I did (and big eyes, big greedy eyes for all the booty, and you know what booty means here now since I told you before), but because I didn’t have the knack of talking gibberish to adults. Hell, you probably did the clip yourself, maybe for kicks. And then forgot about it for some other less screwy kick. Not me.

Okay, so at that point maybe every kid, every curious kid ready in whatever manner to challenge authority and I (and most of my then corner boys, although not Denny if I recall correctly) are even. Here is the tie-breaker though. Moving on, I was the "holder" for more expansive enterprises with George H. (who, later, got killed when a drug deal he was promoting, a lonely gringo deal down in Mexico, went south on him). See George was a true artist, a true sneak thief who was able to get into any house by stealth and sheer determination. Mainly houses up in Adams Shore where people actually had stuff worth stealing unlike in the projects where the stuff was so much Bargain Center specials (the local Wal-Mart-like operation of its day). He needed me for two, no three, things. First, I was the “look-out” and even the clueless know what that means. Secondly, I actually held and carried some of the loot that he passed to me out of the window or door, and one time out a backyard bulkhead (the good stuff, televisions, silverware, a stamp collection, a coin collection, and some other stuff that I have forgotten about, was in the basement family room). Lastly, as George started to draw school and police attention I actually “held” the stuff in a safe location (which I will not disclose here just in case the various statutes of limitations have not run out). That went on for a while but George got busted for something else, some unruly child baloney rap thing, and that was that.

That was just a kid’s gangster moment, right? It was not all larcenies and kid dreams of some “big score” to get himself, and his family, out from under though. It couldn’t be for a kid, or the whole world, poor as it was, would have just collapsed over my head, and I would not be here to honor Denny’s request.

Oh, the different things that came up. Oddball things like Christmas tree bonfires on New Year’s Eve where we scurried like rats just as soon as neighbors put their trees out to be taken away in order to assemble them on the beach ready to be fired up and welcome in the new year. Or annual Halloween hooliganism where we, in a sugar frenzy, worked the neighborhood trick or treat racket hitting every house like the 82nd Airborne Division, or some such elite unit running amok in Baghdad or some Iraqi town ...

Hey, wait a minute, all this is so much eyewash because what, at least in my memory's eye, is the driving "projects" image is the "great awakening." Girls. Girls turning from sticks to shapes just around the time that I started to notice the difference, and being interested in that different if not always sure about what it meant. You don’t need a book to figure that out, although maybe it would have helped. And being fascinated and ill at ease at the same time around them, and being a moonstruck kid on every girl that gave me a passing glance, or what I thought was a passing glance, and the shoe leather-wearing out marathon walking, thinking about what to do about them, especially when the intelligence-gatherers told you about a girl who liked you. And the innocent, mostly dreaded, little petting parties, in dank little basements that served as 'family rooms' for each apartment, trying to be picked by the one you want to pick you and, well, you get the drift. Remind me to tell you some time, and here is where Denny comes in, how we put together, a bunch of corner-less corner boys, a ragtag doo wop group one summer for the express, the sole, the only purpose of, well, luring girls to the back of the school where we hung out. And it worked.

Now a lot of this is stuff any kid goes through, except just not in "the projects." And some of it is truly "projects" stuff - which way will he go, good or bad? But this next thing kind of ties it together. Just about the time when I was seriously committed to a petty criminal lifestyle, that “holding” stuff with my corner boy comrade George, I found the Thomas Crane Library branch that was then in the Adamsville South Elementary School (now further up the street toward Adamsville Square). And one summer I just started to read every biography or other interesting book they had in the Children's Section. While looking, longingly, over at the forbidden Adult Section on the other side of the room for the good stuff. And I dreamed. Yes, I am a "projects" boy, and I survived to tell the tale. Is that good enough for you, Denny?

Tom Waits Jersey Girl Lyrics

Got no time for the corner boys,
Down in the street makin' all that noise,
Don't want no whores on eighth avenue,
Cause tonight i'm gonna be with you.

'cause tonight i'm gonna take that ride,
Across the river to the jersey side,
Take my baby to the carnival,
And i'll take you all on the rides.

Down the shore everything's alright,
You're with your baby on a saturday night,
Don't you know that all my dreams come true,
When i'm walkin' down the street with you,
Sing sha la la la la la sha la la la.

You know she thrills me with all her charms,
When i'm wrapped up in my baby's arms,
My little angel gives me everything,
I know someday that she'll wear my ring.

So don't bother me cause i got no time,
I'm on my way to see that girl of mine,
Nothin' else matters in this whole wide world,
When you're in love with a jersey girl,
Sing sha la la la la la la.

And i call your name, i can't sleep at night,
Sha la la la la la la.

Friday, August 05, 2011

For Margaret Gilbert-In Lieu Of A Letter-For The Adamsville South Elementary Class of 1958

Click on the headline to link to The Literature Networks online copy of Edgar Allen Poe's, Ullalume. Sorry, the Mayakovsky poem that I followed in writing the post below is not available in English on the Internet. Poe's poem gives the dreamy mood I [Markin] was trying to evoke, though.

Ulalume (1847)
by Edgar Allan Poe

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul—
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll—
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole—
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere—
Our memories were treacherous and sere,—
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)—
We noted not the dim lake of Auber
(Though once we had journeyed down here)—
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn—
As the star-dials hinted of morn—
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn—
Astarte's bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said: "She is warmer than Dian;
She rolls through an ether of sighs—
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies—
To the Lethean peace of the skies—
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes—
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes."

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said: "Sadly this star I mistrust—
Her pallor I strangely mistrust:
Ah, hasten! -ah, let us not linger!
Ah, fly! -let us fly! -for we must."
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings until they trailed in the dust—
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust—
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied: "This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendour is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty tonight!—
See! -it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright—
We safely may trust to a gleaming,
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night."

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom—
And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb—
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said: "What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?"
She replied: "Ulalume -Ulalume—
'Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!"

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere—
As the leaves that were withering and sere;
And I cried: "It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed -I journeyed down here!—
That I brought a dread burden down here—
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon hath tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber—
This misty mid region of Weir—
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."

{Said we, then — the two, then —" Ah, can it
Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —
The pitiful, the merciful ghouls —
To bar up our way and to ban it
From the secret that lies in these wolds —
From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds —
Had drawn up the spectre of a planet
From the limbo of lunary souls —
This sinfully scintillant planet
From the Hell of the planetary souls ?")

Johnny Silver comment:

My old pal from North Adamsville high school days and before that down in the old- time Adamsville housing project (the infamous “projects”) where we went to elementary school together, Peter Paul Markin, recently asked me to write about my take on his “love affair,” his first time puppy-love affair (from afar to boot) with Margaret Gilbert in fourth grade down at Adamsville South Elementary School. I accepted with the proviso that whatever I wrote was not to be “edited” by him. See, I know he is a fast man with the delete button when things don’t come out just right in his rose-colored glasses world. So I am “trusting” him, as a man of honor, some old-time corner boy man of honor anyway, or rather I am holding certain information that he would no like to see in the public eye to make sure I get my say.

Why he is suddenly inflamed by the desire to stir the ashes of the past is beyond me. What he asked me is anybody’s guess. We hadn’t seen each for years until several years ago and I had, almost, well kind of almost, forgotten her name when he mentioned it. I guess he figured that since I went through the experience with him that I would tell the truth. Well, the truth of the matter was that while he was doing his mooning act, getting all misty-eyed every time she came within fifty yards of us, and endlessly “crying” on my shoulder about whether he should approach her, you know boy meets girl stuff that has been going on since Adam tried to date up Eve, I was holding the “torch” for her myself.

As was true of every non- juvenile delinquent guy in the school with enough sense to come in out of the rain on Tuesdays (jesus, I haven’t said that old-time schoolboy expression in ages, well since elementary school). Ya, she was like that, ten-years old like that, with that what was it, damn, gardenia scent or some exotic soap thing that drove me crazy any time she came within fifty yards of me. Had me mumbling to myself, mumbling distractedly. But see Markin, sweet old goof Peter Paul, couldn’t see I was hurting, hurting bad myself. Now some fifty years later turnabout is far play so I am just going to turn his little “in lieu of” around as my own valentine to Margaret Gilbert. Margaret, did you later drive half the men who came within fifty yards of you to distraction without even meaning too. The worst part not even aware of it. Lordy, lordy.

The best way to read, really read Peter Paul’s screed is wherever the idea seems to suggest some action (or inaction) by him just think old Johnny Silver. You too, Margaret Gilbert if you every see this. The asides “speak" for themselves:

“I make no claim to any literary originality [christ, the guy use to carry around index cards all through school with ideas on them, all unattributed, although none of us knew that at the time we just though they were all his ideas. It was not until later when I started to get serious about reading and would run across certain Markinisms I got hip to what he had done.] I will shamelessly ‘steal’ any idea, or half-idea that catches my fancy in order to make my point. [See aside above.] That is the case today, as I go back in time to my elementary school days down at the old Adamsville South Elementary School in the Adamsville projects. Part of the title for today’s entry and the central idea that I want to express is taken from a poem by the great Russian poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky. [Everybody and his brother knew Markin was crazy for Russian writers like Dostoevsky and poets like Pushkin in high school. We just thought he was a “red,” some kind of bolshevik creep who would get caught by the FBI soon enough. They never got him, I guess, and I ain’t a squealer, no way. Old Coach Duffy had his number in high school though. He called him a Bolshevik with a capital B right in front of the whole history class one day.]

So what do a poet who died in 1930 and a moonstruck kid from the Adamsville projects, growing up haphazardly in 1950s have in common? We have both been thrown back, unexpectedly, to childhood romantic fantasies of the “girl who got away.” [I already mentioned that I was clueless about why he is in a craze mode now about it so that covers me on this.] In my case, Margaret G. [nee Gilbert], as the title to this entry indicates. [See, that is where Markin’s weird sense of honor, romance, or just plain fear of girls got him nowhere. Fifty years later he is playing the gallant by not divulging her name like it was some state secret or like she hadn’t gotten married (if some guy was brave enough to get within fifty yards of her and survived the enveloping fragrances, lucky guy) or something.] I do not remember what triggered Mayakovsky’s memories but mine have been produced via an indirect North Adamsville Internet connection seeing her last name mentioned on a profile page. In this instance, damn the Internet. I do not know the fate of Margaret G., [Gilbert, okay for the slow-witted] although I fervently hope that life has worked out well for her. This I do know. For the time that it will take to write this entry I return to being a smitten, unhappy boy. [Ya, sometimes, every once in a blue moon, Markin catches a hold on the truth, the bone-dry truth. Margaret G., ah, nee Gilbert, Johnny Silver wishes you well too. Ya, he is a little unhappy too]

Mayakovsky would, of course, now dazzle us with his intoxicating use of language, stirring deep thoughts in us about his unhappy fate. I will plod along prosaically, as is my fate. Through the dust of time, sparked by that Internet prod, I have hazy, dreamy memories of the demure Margaret G., mainly as seemed from afar through furtive glances in the old schoolyard at Adamsville South (which is today in very much the same condition as back then) . This is a very appealing memory, to be sure, of a fresh, young girl full of hopes and dreams, and who knows what else. [Ya, Markin is on fire here, go brother speak some truth, speak some Margaret Gilbert truth.]

But a more physical description is in order that befits the “real time” of my young ‘romance’ fantasies. Margaret G. strongly evoked in me a feeling of softness, soft as the cashmere sweaters that she wore and that reflected the schoolgirl fashion of those seemingly sunnier days. And she almost always wore a slight suggestion of a smile, working its way through a full-lipped mouth. And had a voice, just turning away from girlishness to womanhood, which spoke of future conquests. I should also say that her hair… But enough of this. [Thanks, for stopping, stopping right there Brother Markin] This is now getting all mixed up with adult dreams of childhood. Let the fact of fifty plus years remembrances speak to her charms.

Did I ‘love’ Margaret G.? [Did you love her more than me, Peter Paul?]That is a silly thought for a bashful, ill-at-ease, ragamuffin of a project boy and a ‘princess’ who never uttered two words, if that, to each other, ever. Did I ‘want’ Margaret G.? Come on now, that is the stuff of adult dreams. Did Margaret G. disturb my sleep? Well, yes, she was undoubtedly the subject of more than one chaste dream, although perhaps not so innocent at that. But know this. Time may bury many childhood wounds but there are not enough medicines, not enough bandages on this good, green earth to stanch some of them. So let’s just leave it at that. Or rather, as this. For the moment it takes to finish this note I am an unhappy man and… maybe, for longer. [Ditto, Brother].”

I guess I didn’t turn the tables on Markin after all. Sweet dreams, Margaret Gilbert wherever you landed. Johnny Silver blows you a kiss.