Showing posts with label teen alienation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teen alienation. Show all posts

Friday, December 20, 2019

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

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

DVD Review

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

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

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 Moreover, somewhat tarnished, a little sullen and withdrawn, and media-used up by my time.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

***Daydream Visions Of Adamsville Beach, Circa 1964-In Honor Of Elsa Alva (nee Daley), Class Of 1964

***Daydream Visions Of Adamsville Beach, Circa 1964-In Honor Of  Elsa Alva (nee Daley), Class Of 1964

Alex James , North Adamsville Class Of 1964, comment:

I have been dedicating some of my sketches to various people. When I first wrote this one in 2008 I had not one in particular in mind but when I recently rewrote it I did have Elsa in mind. I did not know her well at North Adamsville, and do not know her now much better now, but I felt her presence very strongly when I was rewriting this thing. So here it is.>
Taffrail Road, Yardarm Lane, Captain's Walk, Quarterdeck Road, Sextant Circle, and the Adamsville Old Sailor’s Home (and cemetery about a quarter of a mile away, closed now but the final resting place for many a sea-faring man, known and unknown). Yes, those names and places from the old housing project down in South Adamsville where I came of age surely evoke imagines of the sea, of long ago sailing ships, and of desperate, high stakes battles fought off shrouded, mist-covered coasts by those hearty enough to seek fame and fortune. And agile enough to keep it. Almost from my first wobbly, halting first baby steps down at “the projects” I have been physically drawn to the sea, a seductive, foam-flecked siren call that has never left me. Moreover, ever since this writer was a toddler his imagination has been driven by the sea as well. Not so much of pirates and prizes but of the power of nature, for good or evil.

Of course, anyone with even a passing attachment to Adamsville has to have an almost instinctual love of the sea; and a fear of its furies when old Mother Nature turns her back on us. Yes, the endless sea, our homeland the sea, the mother we never knew, the sea... But enough of those imaginings. If being determines consciousness, and if you love the ocean, then it does not hurt to have been brought up in Adamsville with its ready access to the bay and water on three sides. That said, the focal point for any experience with the ocean in Adamsville centers, naturally, around its longest stretch of beach, aptly, if not ingeniously, named Adamsville Beach.

For those of us of a certain age, including this writer, one cannot discuss Adamsville Beach properly without reference to such spots such as Howard Johnson's famous landmark ice cream stand (now a woe-begotten clam shack of no repute). For those who are clueless as to what I speak of, or have only heard about it in mythological terms from older relatives, or worst, have written it off as just another ice cream joint I have provided a link to a Wikipedia entry for the establishment. That should impress you of the younger set, I am sure. Know this: many a hot, muggy, sultry, sweaty summer evening was spent in line impatiently, and perhaps, on occasion, beyond impatience, waiting for one of those 27 (or was it 28?) flavors to cool off with. In those days the prize went to cherry vanilla in a sugar cone (backup: frozen pudding). I will not bore the reader with superlative terms and the “they don’t make them like they use to” riff, especially for those who only know “HoJo’s” from the later, pale imitation franchise days out on some forsaken great American West-searching highway, but at that moment I was in very heaven.

Nor can one forget those stumbling, fumbling, fierce childish efforts, bare-footed against all motherly caution about the dreaded jellyfish, pail and shovel in hand, to dig for seemingly non-existent clams down toward the Merrymount end of the beach at the, in those days, just slightly oil-slicked, sulfuric low tide. Or the smell of charcoal-flavored hot dogs on those occasional family barbecues (when one in a series of old jalopies that my father drove worked well enough to get us there) at the then just recently constructed old barren old Treasure Island (now named after some fallen Marine, and fully-forested, such is time) that were some of the too few times when my family acted as a family. Or the memory of roasted, really burnt, sticky marshmallows sticking to the roof of my mouth. Ouch!

But those thoughts and smells are not the only ones that interest me today. No trip down memory lane would be complete without at least a passing reference to high school Adamsville Beach. The sea brings out many emotions: humankind's struggle against nature, some Zen notions of oneness with the universe, the calming effect of the thundering waves, thoughts of immortality, and so on. But it also brings out the primordial longings for companionship. And no one longs for companionship more than teenagers. So the draw of the ocean is not just in its cosmic appeal but hormonal, as well. Mind you, however, we are not discussing here the nighttime Adamsville Beach, the time of "parking" and the "submarine races." [For the heathens, or those from Kansas or some such place, going to watch the submarine races was a localism meaning going, via car, down to the beach at night, hopefully on a very dark night, with a, for a guy, girl and, well, start groping each other, and usually more, a lot more, if you were lucky and the girl was hot, while occasionally coming up for air and looking for that mythical submarine race. Many guys (and gals) had there first encounter with oral sex that way, if the Monday morning before school boys’ lav talk, and maybe girls’ lav talk too, was anything but hot air.] Our thoughts are now pure as the driven snow. We will save that discussion for another time when kids and grand-kids are not around. Here we will confine ourselves to the day-time beach.

Virtually from the day school we got out of school for summer vacation I headed for the beach. And not just any section of that beach but the section directly between the Squaw Rock and Adamsville Heights Yacht Clubs. Now was situating myself in that spot done so that I could watch all the fine boats at anchor? Or was this the best swimming location on the beach? Hell no, this is where we heard (and here I include my old running pal and classmate, Bill Bailey) all the "babes" were. We were, apparently, under the influence of Beach Blanket Bingo or some such early 1960s Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicillo (sic) teenage beach film. (For those who are again clueless this was a “boy meets girl” saga like Avatar, except on the beach...and on Earth.)

Well, for those who expected a movie-like happy ending to this piece, you know, where I meet a youthful "Ms. Right" to the strains of Sea of Love, forget it. (That is the original Sea of Love, by the way, not the one used in the movie of the same name sung by Tom Waits at the end, and an incredible cover that you should listen to on YouTube.) I will keep the gory details short, though. As fate would have it there may have been "babes" aplenty down there but not for this lad. I don't know about you but I was just too socially awkward (read: tongue-tied) to get up the nerve to talk to girls (female readers substitute boys here). And on reflection, if the truth were to be known, I would not have known what to do about it in any case. No job, no money and, most importantly, no car for a date to watch one of those legendary "submarine races" that we have all agreed that we will not discuss here. But we can hardly fault the sea for that, right?
The above piece came about as a result of a response to some correspondence, via, a manically hard-working and determined North Adamsville High School class reunion committee member who shall remain nameless (except for gender, she) concerning old-time memories of Adamsville Beach which formed one of the backdrops to our high school experiences. In the wake of my commentary everybody and their brother (or sister) who ever came within fifty miles of smelling the sulfuric-flecked sea air at that beach has felt some kind of ‘civic duty’ to bring out his or her own salt-encrusted memories of the place. Below, mainly unedited (who could edit someone’s civic duty), is the traffic in response to the above piece. No one is required to wade through all the blather but to make a New York Times-like offical record seems appropriate under the circumstances.
Betty Gilroy 1985 (view profile)
Posted: Jul 22 2008 11:00pm PST
In reply to Peter Paul Markin 1964

I grew up close to Adamsville Beach...I used to ride my bike there, runaway there... was a great bike path, I loved it as a kid. I used to hang out with friends from school, had some great jelly fish fights there. Ahhh, my friend and her boy fell asleep on the beach divider {Markin: sea-wall]with his hand on her stomach. How was she going to explain that one to mom and dad? (And, no, you dirty old man, they were not having oral sex or anything like that, although I learned later from my own experience that this was a “hot” spot for such things being so secluded and all. She, maybe they, didn’t know anything about sex then according to her, although later she told me about a couple of things, nasty-sounding things then but nice now, to do with guys. I am blushing now, and getting a little funny-feeling too, when I think about it now but the sound of the ocean in the background was a great place to do those things, those so-called nasty things. I know it got me going.)

I lived in Adamsville Central in the ‘70s to the early 80s and then moved to North Adamsville. I love the views, and the clam shack, the ice cream, all the clam diggers... the pond on the way from Marlboro Street, jumping the fence trying to catch the bull frogs going to the swamp cemetery swinging from the willow tree I think... I live in California and have a son that’s 7 (I hope he doesn't read what I wrote above, about that sex stuff I mean, but the ocean did turn me on, a lot) around the age that I would ride my bike the freedom, the safeness I had skate boarding around losing track of time, I haven't been back since my 10 year reunion I miss it, my friends, but then again I'm older with responsibilities maybe some day again I will take my son and show him Adamsville Beach and throw a few jelly fish his way??

North Adamsville High 85
Memories Of Adamsville Beach

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Jul 26 2008 05:31am PST
In reply to Betty Gilroy, 1985

Betty- Thanks for the reply. The glint of silver off the Treasure Island Bridge when the sun hit it at a certain time. The early morning winter sun coming up over the horizon on the bay. The Boston skyline at dusk (pre-Marina Bay times when there was an unimpeded view). Well, we could go on and on with our memories but the one thing that caught my eye in your reply was the word “escape.” In one sense I was using Adamsville Beach as a metaphor for that idea in my story. I do not know about you and your family but, to be kind, I had a very rocky time growing up and certainly by the time I got to high school I was in desperate need of a sanctuary. It is no accident that I (and my old running mate, Bill Bailey) spent a fair amount of time there.

I went back to Adamsville last year (2007) while they were doing some reconstruction and cleaning the place up. I wrote about that in a sketch entitled Do You Know Adamsville Beach? that I posted here but then deleted. My original idea was to draw a comparison between the old hazy, happy memories of Adamsville in our youth and looking at it with today's older eyes. Somehow it just didn't fit right as a discussion item with the things I was trying to write then. If you would kindly reply to this message I will place it as a reply to some of what you have mentioned in your message about 'coming home.' By the way the jellyfish are still there in all their glory and please, take mother's advice, do not step on them, they might be poisonous.

Finally, I will not let you off the hook. I won’t comment on the "dirty old man" remark as I will take it as just a cute “fresh,” maybe flirty remark on your part. Yes, and I know as well as you that this is a family-friendly site but how did your friend explain away her 'sleeping' on the old wall to mom and dad? That bit about how she (they) didn’t know anything about sex, oral or otherwise, just doesn’t wash. Everybody “knew,” including parents who probably invented the spot, you only went to that particular spot with one thing in mind. You can send me a private e-mail with the real details if you like and then you can see if I am really a dirty old man or not. Regards, Peter Paul Markin

[Markin: Betty, by the way did send me an e-mail, several in fact, and I am still blushing, blushing profusely over some of her information old and ‘mature’ as I am. Let's put it this way my temperature was rising not a little. Frankly, some of the stuff (various sexual positions) she spoke of have to defy the laws of nature, but so be it. We were young and flexible (in more that one way) then. Forward.]
Craig Wallace, North Adamsville High,1957 (view profile)
Posted: Jul 23 2008 10:34am PST
In reply to Peter Paul Markin,1964

Peter Paul: I heard from a younger friend, a woman friend (of my ex-wife’s actually) who knew you back in the day Professor Joan Murphy from over at MIT, who used to call you P.P., and that you liked it. [Markin: Tolerated it from her only because she was Frankie Riley’s ever-loving girlfriend. You remember the Riley family, the one with all the great North Adamsville raider red football players, Frankie was my corner boy chieftain up in front of Salducci’s Pizza Parlor. And she was, well, let's leave it as Frankie's ever-loving girlfriend.]

I don't have an awful lot to say about the beach, since I lived in a few other places while growing up. I do remember walking along the old sea wall and jumping across the openings trying to grab the rail to avoid falling. I once caught the rail, but hit the edge of the concrete wall with my shin. It hurt, but I didn't think it was broken.

Once a friend ran into a guy at the beach, and for some reason began to "exchange words." They were about to go at each other, but the lifeguard told them to take their dispute elsewhere. They went across the street to the grass in front of a stand where clams and other goodies were sold. The friend proceeded to tear the other guy apart. It didn't last that long. The friend was 5'-7" tall and the other guy 6'-3". I heard that some years later they ran into each other again and had a big laugh about the whole thing. Kids do grow up.

When I visited Massachusetts with my wife and two kids in 1983, my brother took us through some of the "old haunts," and we roamed the beach a bit. They got a kick out of a pair of horseshoe crabs skittering along the edge of the low tide line. I also went back there in 2007 and took a few walks along the beach. I did miss the old candle pin bowling alley, which appears to have been replaced by condos as was the old Adamsville Grammar School where I went through 1st grade (Miss Gray) and most of 2nd grade (Miss Lindberg).

Oh, yeah. I believe the Adamsville East Elementary School on Huckins Avenue is still in operation. I read that there's a boundary somewhere in North Adamsville and that kids who live east of the line go to Adamsville East School and those west of that line go to Parker Elementary on Billings Road. What is now North Adamsville High School included grades 7 through 12 till 1958 or 1959. So, even though I lived in 3 or 4 places, I was able to attend all 6 years at the same school.

Overall, most memories of Adamsville Beach are pretty good.

Craig S. Warren, 1957
Peter Paul Markin reply:


Nobody has to stay on the subject at hand, all information about the old times in North Adamsville is welcome, but did you ever go to the beach? From the way you described it I thought maybe you knew about it from some picture postcard, of any beach, anywhere. Were you one of those, and there were not a few if I recall, who "rode," hot-rod rode the Adamsville Shore Boulevard and never touched down on the sand, or caught a fresh sea breeze on a hot summer day. Just kept cruising, eyes forward or left honed in on the ice cream, bowling alley, clam shack side, looking for the be-bop night, girls, or something. Like old Adamsville was Kansas or some sod town.

Peter Paul Markin,1964
Posted: Jul 23 2008 12:51pm PST
In reply to Craig Wallace, 1957

This entry started as a short sketch in this space but I deleted it because it did not fit in with what I was trying to evoke in these pages then. Now the sketch does serve as a decent reply though for Betty Gilroy's,(1985) and Craig Wallace's (1957) comments above. I, moreover, actually am writing about the old-time beach here and not everything else under the sun like hot sex spots and Adamsville school locations. Christ. Peter Paul Markin

Okay, in the sketch above(Daydream Visions Of Adamsville Beach, Circa 1964) this writer got all misty-eyed about the old days at Adamsville Beach. I went on and on about things like the various flavors of ice cream at HoJo's, the local king-of-the-hill ice cream stand, the vagaries of clam-digging in the oil-soaked flats and about the smell of charcoal- broiled hot dogs at Treasure Island. And I did not fail to mention the obligatory teenage longings for companionship and romantic adventure associated with the sea. But enough of magical realism. Today, as we are older and wiser, we will junk that memory lane business and take a look at old Adamsville in the clear bright light of day.

Last year, as part of the trip down the memory lane that I have been endlessly writing about in this space, I walked the length of Adamsville Beach from the Squaw Rock Causeway to the bridge at Adamsville Shore. At that time the beach area was in the last stages of some reconstruction work. You know, repave the road, redo the sidewalks, and put in some new streetlights. Fair enough-even the edges of Mother Nature can use a make-over once in a while. The long and short of this little trip though was to make me wonder why I was so enthralled by the lure of Adamsville Beach in my youth.

Oh sure, most of the natural landmarks are still there, as well as some of the structural ones. Those poor, weather-beaten yacht clubs that I spend many a summer gazing on in my fruitless search for teenage companionship (read: girls). And, of course, the tattered Beachcomber gin mill in much the same condition is still there as are the inevitable clam shacks with their cholesterol-laden goods. That is not what I mean-what I noticed were things like the odd smell of low-tide when the sea is calm, the tepidness of the water as it splashed, barely, to the shore-when a man craved the roar of the ocean-and the annoying gear-grinding noise caused by the constant vehicular traffic on the near-by boulevard. Things that I was, frankly, oblivious to back in the days.

There is thus something of a disconnect between the dreaminess and careless abandon of youthful Adamsville Beach and the Adamsville of purposeful old age-the different between eyes and ears observing when the world was young and there were things to conquer and now. The lesson to be learned- beware the perils of memory lane. But don't blame the sea for that, please.

.....and the tin can bended, and the story ended (title from the late folksinger/folk historian Dave Van Ronk's last album). That seems about right.
On Our 'Code Of Honor'

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Jul 26 2008 05:42am PST
In reply to Craig Wallace, 1957

Craig- I am very interested in having you fill out this story about the fight between your friend and the other guy down at Adamsville Beach that you mentioned before (see above). I do not need to know the gory details nor what happened years later. What I am looking for is your take on what the whole incident meant at the time. This was hardly an unusual event at then(or now for that matter), right?

I am trying to put together an entry based on our working class “code of honor”- male version- at the time before women's liberation and other social phenomena helped us to expand our sense of the world and how we should act in it. Even “loner” types like me would not back down on certain 'turf' issues (girls, giving way while walking on the street, who you "hung" with, where your locker was, which “lav” you used, etc.) and took a beating rather than concede the point. Enough for now but give this some thought.

Regards, Peter Paul
Fight . . . ?

Craig Wallace,1957 (view profile)
Posted: Jul 28 2008 09:09am PST
In reply to Peter Paul Markin,1964

Peter Paul (I won’t call you P.P., okay). [Markin: Watch it old man. The days of the bogus 'code of honor' may be long gone but every working-class corner boy still has a slight edge on, even fifty years later, okay.]

The scuffle between a friend of mine and a much bigger guy at Adamsville Beach was not really "earth shaking." It started a couple days before when the friend and I were walking along one of the streets leading to the beach, Bayfield Road, perhaps. The "other guy" passed by in a car with some of his friends, including a couple girls. That guy yelled some insult at my friend in reference to his "eye-wear." He probably was trying to impress the girls by showing them he could insult anyone and all could get a good laugh out of it. Of course, my friend yelled something equally offensive at those in the passing car, which kept going. The "incident" appeared to have terminated.

A few days later the friend and I crossed the road to the beach near one of the yacht clubs and there was the guy who had yelled the insulting remarks. Apparently, he thought he could continue the verbal abuse without suffering the consequences, because he yelled something similar again. My friend went after the kid, but was informed by the lifeguard that they better take their "dispute" elsewhere. They went across the road to a grassy area and, encouraged by a small crowd that was gathering around them, proceeded to "get it on." My friend was usually a fairly pacific person, but when "pushed," he was like a cornered wolverine that would take on anybody or anything. The scuffle didn't last long, and the bigger kid got the worst of it. That time was the end of the dispute. Apparently nobody was seriously hurt, but maybe some had a bit more respect for the smaller kids after that. Some years later the two met, and remembering the incident, shared a good laugh over the whole thing.

Then, as now, I saw no esoteric meaning to the "battle." It didn't seem like the medieval days when one would "defend his honor" or that of a "damsel in distress." It was just an exchange of words that developed into a short round of what may be referred to these days as "ultimate fighting" where no rules are observed. I had a couple scuffles in elementary school and my son did in middle school, but we more-or-less outgrew such things. Sadly, nowadays those "scuffles" can become more deadly and end with somebody paying the "ultimate price." Are we reverting to the "Dark Ages." I hope not.

Anyway, enough said of a "juvenile incident."

Craig, 1957
The "Code of Honor"

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Aug 03 2008 11:31am PST
In reply to Craig Wallace, 1957

Craig, thanks for story. It gives me an angle for a story that I will write about on our youthful sense of “honor.” This story that you related, especially the part about impressing the girls, etc. really says something about that code.

Regards, Peter Paul
Day and Night At Adamsville Beach

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Aug 02 2008 06:21am PST
In reply to Betty Gilroy, 1985

I mentioned in my original story that all of us would talk about daytime Adamsville Beach (although once the kids are out of sight-the nighttime is the right time- can come into play). I hope that at some point Betty Gilroy will expand on her comment about her girlfriend down at the day time beach and the incident alluded in her comment about her falling asleep. Ms. Gilroy is more than capable of telling her own version of the story. [Markin: She did via e-mail, private e-mail, and it would take a civil war to get the information out of me, or a few bucks. Let me put it this way. I was blushing for days, maybe now even, as I mentioned above]. The only point I want to make here is that some of these day time remembrances are as funny as what might have happened at night. Funny now, that is.

Regards, Peter Paul
Anyone Remember Adamsville Beach?

Robina Moore, 1978 (view profile)
Posted: Aug 15 2008 04:35pm PST
In reply to Peter Paul Markin, 1964

Totally agree that growing up on Adamsville Beach was an experience. So natural at the time, but looking back I now see how fortunate I was. I don’t remember the HoJo’s but I do remember the 19 cent hotdogs sold on the beach that was a few blocks from my house. What a treat for the neighborhood kids to get together and go get a dog.

As far the beach was concerned as kids, we followed the tides. Some parent would parade a group us kids and watch over us. Generally for two hours before high tide, and two hours after, and they always had snacks and drinks in tow…just gotta love the moms for that! Swim, dig in the sand, play catch in the water and when finally tired, lay on a towel and listen to WRKO or WMEX on the transistor radio.

Once I hit teenage years, I choose not to venture near the beach. I think my parents knew about the cosmic and hormonal appeal as well as primordial longings going on there. I was taught at a young age, the beach is not a good place at night. I totally thank them for instilling this and letting Adamsville Beach be filled with wonderful childhood memories. With that said, I am thrilled at the revitalization, and hope this generation of children will have a chance to create memories that they can cherished forever.
Back In The Days

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Aug 18 2008 02:49pm PST
In reply to Robina Moore, 1978

Robina-Very nicely told memories. That is the thing that I was trying to evoke in writing this particular commentary. A few points.

*The reason for the boxes in your entry [Markin:since deleted] is that when you transfer from a word processor to the message space here the apostrophes and quotation marks turn into some Serbo-Croatian dialect in the process. It happens to me all the time. You have to change them in this space to avoid that.

* Do you, or anyone else, know when HoJo's left the Adamsville Beach site?

* Did you mean 19 dollars for a hot dog? You put 19 cents but that can't be right. Nothing ever cost 19 cents.

• You realize, of course, that this is a generic North Adamsville site and therefore members of generations X, Y or Z may not be familiar with the term “transistor radio.” For their benefit, that was a little battery-powered gizmo that allowed you to listen to music, the 'devil's music,' rock 'n' roll, without your parents going nuts. And no, sorry, you could not download whatever you wanted. Yes, I know, the Stone Age.

Regards, Peter Paul Markin
The Nighttime Is The Right Time....

Peter Paul Markin, 1964
Posted: Aug 21 2008 08:08am PST
In reply to Robina Moore, 1978 be with the one you love. Yes, that classic Ray Charles tune (covered by many, including a steamy tribute version by The Rolling Stones in their 2005 Fenway Park concert) is a good lead in to what I want to mention here. Most of the comments on this entry have concerned day time Adamsville Beach but I have been thinking that it is time to open up to the night time episodes. Here are my reasons:

• Hey, it is entirely possible that some of our fellow alumni never went to Adamsville Beach during the day. They might have a legitimate grip against us for that. Remember we are using this cyberspace so that everyone has their "15 minutes of fame."

• The heck with protecting the kids and grandkids. They know this stuff already. Let's face it, as well, no self-respecting member of the hip-hop/iPod/Sidekick/texting generations (or younger) would dream of reading this far down into the entry. Ugh!

• Frankly, there is only so far we can go with the day-time Adamsville Beach. While there have been some nice comments there is only so far you can go with jellyfish, 19 cent hot dogs, teenage romantic longings and getting sand kicked in your face. We need to spice this up. In short, sex, or the hint of it, sells.

These are all good and sufficient reasons but, as usual, my real reason for arguing inclusion here is personal curiosity. I have been waiting some forty-four years to ask this simple question. Why, while we were driving down Adamsville Shore Boulevard on those cold October nights, let's say, were most of the cars all fogged up? What, were their defrosters not working? Come on, please, tell me.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King Of The Beats" Jack Kerouac-*In The Time Of The “Beat” -English Style- “Beat Girl”- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Beat Girl.

DVD Review

Beat Girl, Gilliam Hills, Oliver Reed, Christopher Lee, 1960

Forget “king of the literary ‘beats’”, Jack Kerouac. Forget beat down, beat up, up-beat, listen to the beat, be-bop beat, holy of holies beatitude, intoxicatingly sweet-incensed high-massed (catholic high-massed) beat. Forget the one hundred and one other words that old Jack used to describe, or try to describe, that great unquenched hunger, that beast-like hunger of the young, or at least the non-G.I. Bill, Levittown, sell-out for a mess of pottage, close your eyes and let Harry or Ike or Jack do it, post World War II, reds under all the beds, your mommy is a commie turn her in, great American night highway young. And forget “high priest of the literary ‘beats’”, howling trumpet angel, Allen Ginsberg. Forget “high Buddha”, "high om", high-candle lighting, high-flying, high song and dance man, high ganja high, high pre-hip-hop, hip-hop social poet prophet of that great American “beat” night in the cafes and garages of high art. Hell, forget even ironic, sardonic, moronic, “mass media king of the boob tube “beats,” television'd Dobey Gillis-"beat", Maynard G. Krebs. Forget bomb shelter, better dead than red, every mother’s favorite bedraggled, goateed, slightly rank, quirky, jerky, smirky black and white television “beat”, if she had a favorite beat and if she knew enough, which she probably didn’t for she was “square” and squares never knew enough. and she was anyway heavily-invested in that great “luxury” Leavitt town American night to know that it was all put on to stanch the terror of the mid-century, mid- 20th century night at the invasion of the “hip”. (Read: international, jewish, communist menace, or pick some variation of that theme.)

Yes, I say, forget all of that. They all had it wrong, even those who invented blessed “beat”. For until one see the film, the strictly low budget, English, black and white B-film, under review, Beat Girl, that all that was said above was merely eyewash. You see it had nothing to do with the great American highway night, or of hunger, beast-like or otherwise, even if only hunger for meaning but it was merely another in the endless, endless I say, ways that youth tries to assert itself in a world that it had not choice making and had not been asked about. A mere condition on the way to well-adjusted middle class respectability. A lark. No, that “cautionary tale” moral seems a little too pat for me.

A short summary is thus in order. Said titled “beat girl” (named in film but I will not name her, oh, okay, Jennifer), schoolgirl, blonde, of course, heavy mascara'd eye-shadowed , beautiful, curvaceous, upper-middle class, rebellious, slumming, double-life dregs of society-seeking, alienated, forlorn, fed-up, freaked out, sexually frustrated, sexually disoriented, incest-driven (maybe, in the post-Freudian age, who knows, I will throw it in anyway)is on a tear. Did I mention also vacuous, silly, vain and somewhat monosyllabic?

She has been, in any case, left alone, apparently pouting, in splendid early 1960s London isolation (except for the servants) by good old boy (English-style, not American) divorced father. A divorced father, moreover, out to conquer his worlds on his own terms, a thoroughly modern man, a man trying to do good whether asked to or not. Ms. Beat Girl (aka, Jennifer) amps up her aforementioned virtues and vices when “Pa” brings home a new “trophy” wife. A French trophy wife no less, and young to boot like all trophy wives, or most anyway, and blonde, although they are not always blonde. Now said trophy wife tries to make nice but “beat girl” being alienated, forlorn, fed-up, freaked-out and, who knows, maybe, incest driven (poor "Pa") is having in her hard teen age-honed years none of it. Not only that she is out to expose, come hell or high water, said “Ma” (trophy Ma) if for no other reason that to prove that she is “cool” and not “square” (or cubed, octagonal, or any kind of n-gonal existence) to her also alienated, freaked out, fed-up “beat” band of brothers and sisters, middle class, to the teeth (and teeth, good teeth, had a social meaning in that early 1960s England). Moreover, “Ma” has a shady, a very shady past as a night club stripper and as …., (you know what else just in case any one under the age of about eight is around) that cries out for exposure and ruin.

So you can see where this thing is heading, although I can barely keep my hands to the keyboard at this point. The problem is, more apparent in real life, “beat” real life or “real” real life, than in the film that “slumming” among the lower depths of society (here the stripper life) is risky business, very risky business whether for “kicks” or for compulsion. Thus, as our “beat girl” meets with the strip club owner who tries to seduce her (played by Christopher Lee, who as far as I can remember, has never, never, played anything but sinister, if not down right perverted roles, right?) she finally confronts, after his timely murder (not by her, of course) the fact that life with father (and “Ma”) is better, far better, than being alienated and perhaps “fresh meat” for those hoary-eyed, mean mamas who populate the women’s gaol (our jail, okay).

Now, after this admitted fluffy, sketchy, little summary one can ask, as I did, what in the name of sweet jesus does all of this plot line, except the alienated, freaked-out, trying to make sense of a world not of one’s own making, post World War II, declining British Empire, clueless youth have to do with “beat”, with Jack Kerouac thumbed-road, shoe-leather worn, endless diner/gas station-seeking, gong bong dope-smoking, Allen Ginsberg poem- wailing, hipster, dipster, tipster , Charlie Parker be-bop, smoke-filled cellar café night. Well, for that you have to go back to one Maynard G. Krebs. Or rather the idea that the mainstream media, including the makers of this film, had about what “beat” was all about. This film is just the other side of the old Maynard caricature. That “beat” leads straight to immorality, communism, warts, or worst sex, and other forbidden fruits and thus in need of this little parable to cry, cry in the wilderness, and it turns out for social order and those “little boxes” that Malvina Reynolds wrote about in a song by the same name.

So pretty good of me, right? To be able to take a second-rate, maybe, even third-rate B-film when you take into consideration the threadbare dialogue that I refused to mention and the, at times, bizarre facial expressions of the main characters as they “emote” their alienation, and turn it into a polemical beating over the head of those who would denigrate our sacred youthful “beatness.” Oh, well, all in a day’s work, however, there is more though. I am an “avenging angel” today.

Look, I do not have a feel for the pre-World War I Greenwich Village bohemianism that attracted the likes of John Reed, Louise Bryant, Mabel Dodge and Max Eastman. I do not have a real feel for the Paris-exiled, lost-generationness of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and their crowds. I do not have a feel for the jitterbugging, sweet “swing is king" clarinet man Benny Goodman, big band with brass and reeds, Great Depression grope-through to keep body and soul together, of my parents’ generation, and, maybe, of yours. I do, however, have a feel for the 1950s red scare, Cold War, atom bomb (or worst, H-bomb) is going to get us, live for today so live well, or at least live it up, this old world is too big for me to understand and I did not make it anyway, look over the hill for the next mountain to climb break-out, or just a small get out of the “square” house break-out, alienations of the “beats”. And I tried, tried like hell, to live it out a little, young and silly as I was. In short, being “beat” while being political.

And that feel is where I have issues with the “beats” presented here. Of course, like lots of things, social things, the middle class, or rather a small, disenchanted (or don’t fit in), sometimes dismissed, or declassed element of it drive such new movements. Fair enough. And it is almost ABCs that in the early stages, at least, that exclusiveness by dress, language, mores, style, what have you, drive the thing. That is what happened in this film. The alienated youth, including their jazz-background'd (but also budding rock and roll, classic Elvis, Bo Diddley, blue-influenced rock-driven), smoky cellar café, all night-partying caught the last flashes of “beatness.” Faux “beatness.”

As I pointed out earlier the moral of this thing was that “beat” was just another aspect of teen alienation. Hardly unusual, at least since about the 18th century, when teenagehood became more of a human condition (if for no other reason than people lived longer and needed a niche between babyhood and the work-a-day world). But what about those, like me, who took “beat” for good coin, at least as far as I understood it.

Beat was not just bongos, banjos, guitars, sitars, drums, rums, oms, roams, highways and byways but a way of looking at middle class life (admittedly, on my part from the edges of the working poor) and flipping the finger at it , for good. Whether that was done wearing three piece suits (hard, very hard to do, granted) or thonged-sandals, hot rod roadster-driven or on sore, worn-down, shoe-leathered feet, as bohemian or Bolshevik, flipping that finger for good, was the real deal when the deal went down. I have taken old brother wind Kerouac to task for many things, mainly political, but not for that. That flip of the finger. That is what is missing here. Hey, on second thought, don’t forget Jack Kerouac. Or Allen Ginsberg either.

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.

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.

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.