Saturday, March 23, 2013

In Honor Of The 142nd Anniversary Of The Paris Commune –Jean-Paul Roget’s Fear

Jean-Paul Roget frankly was exhausted after coming out of the three hour meeting of the sectional committee of the Paris Commune that had just been declared a few days previously and was desperately in need of organization now that the Theirs government had fled to Versailles leaving the city to the “people.” And that idea of organization, damn, the desperate need for organization, first and foremost of the food supplies and military defense of the city against an attack by either forces loyal to Theirs or from the dreaded Prussians who just that moment had most of the capital surrounded and squeezed in was needed right then. What had Jean-Paul exhausted was not the daunting tasks of organization in front of him and his comrades, tough as they were, but that the three hour meeting that had just finished produced not resolve and purpose but only reams and reams of hot air.

Now that that people of Paris were masters of their own house every dingbat orator, lawyer, crackpot radical and not a few dandies saw their opportunity to wax and wane endlessly about the beautiful struggle that had taken place, that a new day was aborning ,and ill-witted material like that. Take Varlin, a Proudhonist who had been, in the old days back in ’48 quite the radical figure, had been seemingly on every barricade and who in the aftermath of the June Days bloodbath been transported (exiled). This day however he felt the need, and felt it for hours, to push the notion of artisan cooperatives at a time when Paris was losing that segment of the population to the every-devouring factories that were in fact more efficient in the production of goods. Moreover dear Varlin was captivated by the notion that now that Theirs had fled (and good riddance) there was no reason to pursue his troops and disband them as agents of potential counter-revolution.

Certainly Varlin had forgotten the harsh memories of’48 but he was not the worst offender against the urgency of the times. The old windbag Capet, jesus, was he still alive thought Jean-Paul when he heard that name announced from the podium, went on and on about the glory days, the glory days of ’89 like life had stopped in that blessed time. In the same vein (maybe vain) as well Dubois, an old time working-class radical, a semi-follower of Marx from over in England, kept harping on the need to take over the banks in order to finance the new affairs of the Commune. Jean-Paul himself merely a tanner, and a good one, laughed when that idea was announced for where would he, or anyone else, get the money for their daily personal and business needs. A couple of other speakers went on and on as well about how great the peoples’ needs were without however coming up with one solid working idea. At least Jean-Paul had suggested setting a maximum on the price of bread that could help the people but that was merely “taken under advisement” And so ended a day, a fruitless day by Jean –Paul’s lights in the life of the Commune…

***Out In The 1940s Crime Noir Night- Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers- A Film Adaptation

DVD Review

The Killers, starring Edmond O’Brian, Burt Lancaster, and Ava Gardner, based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway, 1946

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

Although the screen adaptation owes little, except the opening passages, to Ernest Hemingway’s short story of the same name this is primo 1940s crime noir stuff. Here, although Hemingway left plenty of room for other possibilities in his plot line, the question is why did two professional killers, serious, bad-ass killers want to kill the seemingly harmless “Swede”(played by a young, rough-hewn Burt Lancaster). But come on now, wake up, you know as well as I do that it’s about a dame, a frill, a frail, a woman, and not just any woman, but a high roller femme fatale. In this case that would be Kitty Collins (played by sultry, very sultry, husky-voiced, dark-haired Ava Gardner) as just a poor colleen trying to get up from under and a femme fatalethat has the boys, rich or poor, begging for more.

As I have noted recently in a review of the 1945 crime noir, Fallen Angel, femme fatales come in all shapes, sizes and dispositions. But, high or low, all want some dough, and man who has it or knows how to get it. This is no modernist, post-1970s concept but hard 1940s realities. And duplicity, big-time duplicity, is just one of the “feminine wiles” that will help get the dough. Now thoroughly modern Kitty is not all that choosy about the dough's source, any mug will do, but she has some kind of sixth sense that it is not the Swede, at least not in the long haul, and that notion will drive the action for a bit. And if you think about it, of course Kitty is going with the smart guy. And old Swede is nothing but a busted-up old palooka of a prize fighter past his prime and looking, just like every other past his prime guy, for some easy money. No, no way Kitty is going to wind up with him in some shoddy flea-bitten rooming house out in the sticks, just waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Let’s run through the plot a little and it will start to make more sense. You already know that other shoe dropped for Swede. And why he just waited for the fates to rush in on him. What you didn’t know is that to get some easy dough for another run at Ms. Kitty’s affections he, Swede, is involved along with Kitty’s current paramour, “Big Jim”, and a couple of other midnight grifters in a major hold-up of a hat factory (who would have guessed that is where the dough, real dough, was). The heist goes off like clockwork. Where it gets dicey is pay-off time. Kitty and Big Jim are dealing the others out, and dealing them out big time. And they get away with it for a while until an insurance investigator (yah, I know, what would such a guy want to get involved in this thing) trying to figure out why Swede just cast his fate to the wind starts to figure things out. And they lead naturally to the big double-cross. But double-crossing people, even simple midnight grifters, is not good criminal practice and so all hell breaks loose. Watch this film. And stay away from dark-haired Irish beauties with no heart, especially if you are just an average Joe. Okay.

Note: This is not the first Hemingway writing, or an idea for a writing, that has appeared in film totally different from the original idea. More famous, and rightly so, is his sea tale, To Have Or Have Not, that William Faulkner wrote the screenplay and that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall turned into a steamy (1940s steamy, okay) black and white film classic.

When: Friday, March 22 at 5:30 to 7:30 PMWhere: Harvard Square in front of Au Bon Pain
This event is being held to mark the international 2013 Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW).
Boston has so many events scheduled that March is Israeli Apartheid Month –
see the list at


Sponsored by the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights (

Anniverary of Iraq War, and on June 1st, attend the rally at Fort Meade
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Bradley Manning Support Network

June 1: Rally for Bradley Manning at Fort Meade

By exposing the truth, Bradley Manning helped end a war based on lies. Join us June 1, 2013 to rally in support of Bradley Manning at Fort Meade.
A still from the Collateral Murder video which exposed the murder of two Reuters journalists
This week, pundits across the political spectrum are searching for meaning in the tenth anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. The decade-long campaign of bombings and occupation left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and millions wounded, displaced, or scarred. Justified with lies about biological and chemical weapons that never existed, the senseless war cost U.S. tax-payers more than 3 trillion dollars, and far more in blood and shame. Tens of thousands of US soldiers were wounded or killed, and to this day, $490 billion is owed to veterans.
Many credit President Obama with the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, and almost none mention the fact that it was cables provided by Bradley Manning and published by WikiLeaks that made Obama’s attempt to keep troops there past the 2011 deadline impossible. As CNN reported in October of that year,
[Iraq and U.S.] negotiations were strained following WikiLeaks’ release of a diplomatic cable that alleged Iraqi civilians, including children, were killed in a 2006 raid by American troops rather than in an airstrike as the U.S. military initially reported.

Obama had wanted to keep troops beyond President Bush’s 2011 deadline, but required the condition that all U.S. soldiers be guaranteed legal immunity for their actions. Upon reading the WikiLeaks-released cables, the Iraqi government refused.
By revealing the hidden realities of the Iraq War, Pfc. Bradley Manning achieved his noble goal of sparking domestic debate, and he helped begin the end of an aggressive, violent, and counterproductive war.
Rally at Fort Meade, June 1.

Here are a few of WikiLeaks’ revelations about the U.S war in Iraq:
  • 15,000 more Iraqi civilians had been killed than were reported in any other count
  • U.S. soldiers were formally commanded not to investigate reports of torture committed by the Iraqi Federal Police with whom they cooperated
  • The American occupation of Iraq has failed to stabilize the widespread violence and corruption that has escalated following the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure
Embarrassed by the exposure of its failures, the military is seeking to make an example of Bradley Manning, and for this reason we must thank, support, and defend him. The government has chosen to pursue all 22 counts, amounting to a life sentence without parole, against Bradley when his court-martial trial finally begins on June 3.
We’re calling on supporters to descend in droves to Ft. Meade, MD, on June 1, 2013. President Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey have already deemed Bradley guilty, pressuring Judge Denise Lind to follow suit, making it impossible for Bradley to receive a fair trial. The military court has failed to repudiate Bradley's unlawful torture and the violation of his right to a speedy trial. It has significantly hindered the defense's ability to discuss both Bradley’s motive to expose wrongdoing and the fact that no harm has come from WikiLeaks’ publications. So we must support Bradley both inside and outside the courtroom. We must express our outrage at the government’s attempts to send this generation’s Daniel Ellsberg to jail for life. Bradley Manning put his life and liberty on the line to inform his fellow Americans about a disturbing war’s darkest secrets, and on June 1, we must return the favor.
Learn more about organizing a van or bus to Ft. Meade — grants are available.
If you can’t make it to Fort Meade, organize a solidarity event in your own community.

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of Bradley's legal fees! Donate today.

Victor Serge’s The Case Of Comrade Tulayev


Normally I do not read novels as I have enough on my plate in reading all the history books I need to read. However, every once in a while a novel comes along that illuminates a historical situation better than a history and begs for some attention. Victor Serge’s political parable falls in that category.  His subject is a fictional treatment of the Great Terror highlighted by the Moscow Trials in the Soviet Union of the 1930’s. This Great Terror liquidated almost the whole generation of those who made the October Revolution of 1917 and administered the early Soviet state as well as countless other victims. Adding a personal touch, as an official journalist of the Communist International he knew many of that generation. The political and psychological devastation created by this catastrophe is certainly worthy of novelistic treatment. In fact it may be the only way to truly comprehend its effects. Serge is particularly well placed to tell this story since he was a long time member of the Trotsky-led Left Opposition in the Soviet Union and barely got out of there at the height of the Terror as a result of an international campaign of fellow writers to gain his freedom. The insights painfully learned from this experience place his book in the first rank.  

The plot line is rather simple- a disaffected Russian youth of indeterminate politics, as an act of hubris, kills a high level Soviet official in the then Stalinized Soviet Union and sets in motion a whirlwind of governmental reaction. As if to mock everything the Russian Revolution had stood until that time this youth goes free while a whole series of oppositionists of various tendencies, officials investigating the crime and other innocent, accidental figures are made to ‘confess’ or accept responsibility for the crime with their lives in the name of defending the Revolution 9read Stalin).

While the plot line is simple the political and personal consequences are not, especially for anyone interested in drawing the lessons of what went wrong with the Russian Revolution. The central question Serge poses is this- How can one set of Communists persecute and ultimately kill another set of Communist who it is understood by all parties stand for the defense of the same revolution?  Others such as Arthur Koestler in Darkness at Noon, Andre Malraux in Man’s Fate and George Orwell in several of his books have taken up this same theme of political destruction with mixed success and ambiguous conclusions. In any case, aside from the tales of obvious bureaucratic obfuscation in turning the crime to a political vendetta which Serge treats masterfully the answer does not resolve itself easily.

What Serge  concludes, based I believe on his own personal trial of fire in that same period, and makes his novel valuable is that one must defend ones revolutionary integrity at all costs. His own conduct bears this out. The history of the period also bears this out not only in the Soviet Union but in Spain and elsewhere. For every Bukharin, Zinoviev or out of favor Stalinist factionalist who compromised himself or herself there were many, mainly anonymous Left Oppositionists and other such political people who did not confess, who did not abandon their political program and went to exile and death rather than capitulate. History may have not absolved them yet. However, those courageous fighters need no good conduct certificate before it, the reader of these lines or me.   

Victor Serge (With Natalia Sedova- Leon Trotsky’s Widow) –The Life And Death Of Leon Trotsky

As far as I know Victor Serge’s biography of Leon Trotsky was the first comprehensive evaluation from a left-wing perspective of the Bolshevik leader’s life and work after his death. From that perspective it is valuable for two reasons. Serge himself was a secondary Communist leader after the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia in 1917 and witnessed many of the events described in the book. Moreover, for a long period of time he was a member of the Trotsky-led Left Opposition to the rise of Stalinism which formed in the Russian Communist Party and the Communist International in the 1920’s. Additionally, Serge wrote this book in collaboration with Trotsky’s widow, Natalia Sedova who provides many of the personal insights into Trotsky’s life, work and behavior that round out Serge’s historical narrative. This is a task she also performed in Trotsky’s memoir My Life and there is some overlap of the material used. Most importantly this biography fills out the last ten years of Trotsky’s life not covered in his memoir. If a reader wants a rewarding insider’s view of the whirlwind of Trotsky’s life from prophetic rise to leadership to subsequent fall and isolation for his steadfast beliefs I would recommend reading both books.

The main task Serge sets himself here is to place the dramatic and ultimatelyfateful events of Trotsky’s life in the content of his role in the peaks and valleys of the Russian revolutionary movement from the turn of the 20thcentury under his assassination in 1940. Those included his leadership of the defeated Revolution of 1905, his internationalist fight against World War I, his organizing the October Revolution, his creation of the Red Army in the Civil War against the Whites, his various positions as a Soviet official, the defeat of the Left Opposition led by him by Stalin and his henchmen and his failure to create a viable leftwing alternate Stalinist rule in exile. Just to summarize the highlights of his career above indicates that we are dealing with a very big task and a very big historical figure. Although Serge had broken politically with Trotsky several years before this biography was written he senses this and mainly lets Trotsky’s accomplishments and mistakes speak for themselves.

As I noted in my review of Trotsky’s My Life many of the events depicted in this biography such as the seemingly arcane disputes within the Russian revolutionary movement, the very real attempts of the Western Powers to overthrow the Bolsheviks by force of arms in the Civil War after their seizure of power and the struggle of the various tendencies inside the Russian Communist Party and in the Communist International in the 1920’s discussed in the book may not be familiar to today's audience. Nevertheless one can take the measure of the man from the strength of Trotsky's commitment to his cause and the fight to preserve his personal and political integrity against overwhelming odds. As the organizer of the October Revolution, creator of the Red Army in the Civil War, theorist, orator, writer and fighter Trotsky was one of the most feared men of the early 20th century to friend and foe alike. Today, the natural audience for the book, especially those trying to find a way out of the impasse that the international labor movement as the victim of a one-sided class war finds itself in, needs to critically assess Trotsky’s life and times. This book will help.

Victor Serge - The Russian Revolution  

I have read several books on subjects related to the Russian Revolution by Victor Serge and find that he is a well-informed insider although history writing is not his strongest form of expressing his views. This book can be profitably read in conjunction with other better written left-wing interpretations of this period by Sukhanov (for the February period), Leon Trotsky and John Reed.   The task Serge sets himself here is to look at the dramatic and fateful events of first year of the Russian Revolution. Those included the seizure of power, the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly and the struggle by the Bolsheviks against other left-wing tendencies in defining Soviet state policy, the fight to with former allies and current enemies to end Russian participation in World War I and, most importantly, the beginnings of Civil War. In short, he investigates all the issues that will ultimately undermine and cause the degeneration of what was the first successful socialist seizure of state power in history.

Serge's history is partisan history in the best sense of the word. It is rather silly at
this late date to offer an argument that historians must be detached from the subject of
their investigations. All one asks is that a historian gets the facts for his or her argument
straight. Serge worked under the assumption that the strategic premise of the Bolshevik
leaders Lenin and Trotsky was valid. That premise was that Russia as the weakest link in
the capitalist system could act as the catalyst for revolution in the West and as a
consequence take the road to socialism. The failure of that European development, the
subsequent hostile encirclement by the Western powers and the seeds of degeneration
implicit in a revolution in an economically undeveloped country that was left to its own
resources underlies the structure of his argument.         __

Although Serge was not present during the first year of the Russian Revolution the time of the events depicted in this book and therefore was not an actual eyewitness to the events and the book itself was not written until 1930 he brings and informed although critical insiders slant on the dramatic unfolding of events. Underlying his selection of events is a formation of a theory of degeneration of the revolution and while it is true that the Bolsheviks appear to have had enough cadres to make and consolidate state power they did not have enough to extend the revolution to socialism

The Russian revolution of October 1917 was the defining event for the international labor movement during most of the 20th century. Serious militants and left -wing organizations took their stand based on their position on the so-called Russian Question. At that time the level of political consciousness in the international labor movement was quite high. Notwithstanding the demise of the Russian Revolution in 1991-92 and the essential elimination of the Russian Question as a factor in world politics and the subsequent corresponding lowering of political consciousness anyone who wants learn some lessons from that experience will find this book an informative place to start.

Victor Serge's Year One Of The Russian Revolution

I have read several books on subjects related to the Russian Revolution by Victor Serge and find that he is a well-informed insider on this subject although the novel rather than history writing is his stronger form of expressing his views. This book can be profitably read in conjunction with other better written left-wing interpretations of this period. Sukhanov's History of the Russian Revolution (for the February period), Leon Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution and John Reed's Ten Days that Shook the World come to mind. The task Serge sets himself here is to look at the dramatic and eventually fateful events of first year of the Russian Revolution. Those included the Bolshevik seizure of power, the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly and the struggle by the Bolsheviks against other left-wing tendencies in defining Soviet state policy, the fight to end Russian participation in World War I culminating in the humiliating Brest-Litovsk treaty with Germany and, most importantly, the beginnings of Civil War against the Whites. In short, he investigates all the issues that will ultimately undermine and cause the degeneration of what was the first successful socialist seizure of state power in history.
Serge's history is partisan history in the best sense of the word. It is rather silly at this late date to argue that historians must be detached from the subject of their investigations. All one asks is that a historian gets the facts for his or her analysis straight. And try to stay out of the way. Serge passes this test. Serge worked under the assumption that the strategic theory of the Bolshevik leaders Lenin and Trotsky was valid. That premise stated Russia as the weakest link in the capitalist system could act as the catalyst for revolution in the West and therefore shorten its road to socialism. The failure of that Western revolution, the subsequent hostile encirclement by the Western powers and the inevitable degeneration implicit in a revolution in an economically undeveloped country left to its own resources underlies the structure of his argument.

The Russian revolution of October 1917 was the defining event for the international labor movement during most of the 20th century. Serious militants and left -wing organizations took their stand based on their position on the so-called Russian Question. At that time the level of political class-consciousness in the international labor movement was quite high. Such consciousness does not exist today where the socialist program is seen as Utopian. However, notwithstanding the demise of the Soviet state in 1991-92 and the essential elimination of the Russian Question as a factor in world politics anyone who wants learn some lessons from the heroic period of the Russian Revolution will find this book an informative place to start.

***Out In The 1950s Rockabilly Night –With Bill Riley And The Little Green Men's MyGirl Is Red-Hot In Mind

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

No question Eddie Jackson was vain. No, not about his personal aspect, not at all, for such considerations were beneath the dignity of a newly minted hot-rod king of the night who had just converted his first Hudson no account car into a souped-up dandy that had blown Slim Jacob’s Packard sedan off the “chicken run”road out on Highway 61 on the outskirts of Memphis one sultry summer night a few weeks back. He rated, to the extent that it mattered, that he was only average for looks, a little too thin and wiry for he-man appearances and a funny gait too although he, as was the uniform of the times, decked himself out in the apparel of the hot-rod night white tee- shirt, denim jeans, wide black buckled belt (which doubled as a convenient weapon when unexpected trouble reared its head) and thick engineer boot, buckled as well, topped off by an ever dangling cigarette, a Camel, unfiltered, just barely hanging from the corner of his mouth. He knew, moreover, that his looks did not matter as long as he was the walking daddy of the hot-rod night for the girls would practically take of their underpants, and maybe more, just for the chance to sit in that Hudson front with him. And he had the scratches on his back to prove that statement.

No Eddie was vain about the appearance of his girlfriend of the time (not to be confused with that horde one or more who might have produced those scratches on Eddie’s back). The one who sat next to him at Jimmy Jack’s Shack, the local drive-in restaurant where he hung out waiting for the night to develop and, more importantly, the one who would ride with him down that lonely stretch of Highway 61 heading south on a “chicken run” when some goof who hadn’t heard he was the king of the walking daddy night and ill-advisedly threw down some god forsaken challenge. His last girl, Wanda, no question and all around agreed even some of the married guys, or maybe especially the married guys, was a fox, all slinky, all curvy and full of bumps in the right places, in her Capris and cashmere sweater, long and blonde (real or not he did not ask, no guy did and just assumed not in those Marilyn-etched years). But she had moved away to Chi town and the big lights and he had been left alone.

Alone except for those sweaty women ready to take off undergarments just to ride with him. And that is where his problem came in. He got interested in one of them, Sheila (although she had not, strictly speaking, been one of the offerees but had been standing outside Jimmy Jack’s Shack eying his vehicle and had badgered him into letting her take a ride with him), who he had figured for nothing but a one night stand, maybe two and then flee. She was funny and made him laugh and told him some stuff about the old days and that (old Pharaoh times and Babylonians and Cretans and stuff which she found interesting and that made him think she was screwy at first but which kind of grew on him although don’t tell her that, either about the screwy or kind of grew on him part). See she was a senior in high school who was going to college at Memphis State in the fall and while she had been just as clawing as any not going to college girl looking to ride with Eddie she was different and he liked that, liked that a lot. Plus she had a few things, a few hot sexual things, different, that she had read about, read about in a book called the Kama Sutra whatever that was, that she would do for him when they were over at Lookout Peak, the local lovers’ lane.

(Sheila had made him laugh once when they had done one of the positions illustrated in the book in the backseat and afterward she said that if he was still pining for Wanda she, all bumps and curves, would not have been able to do what they had just done so chalk one up for skinny no breast girls. She also said don’t be fooled by smart girls like her and girls from good homes too who liked sex just as much, maybe more, that those hot Wanda girls, except they kept it under the sheets and didn’t spread it around town. And he had to privately agree, having had to endure many a Wanda headache night, or not into it night, or it hurts too much night. Still Wanda was a fox and looked good, real good in that front seat and that meant a lot.)

What Sheila was not though was beautiful, foxy, hot, and certainly not red hot. And that bothered him, or rather it bothered him that the guys over at Jimmy Jack’s Shack would make a point out of teasing him about her, about his plain jane girlfriend when their honeys were almost uniformly hot, and where Wanda’s essence was still felt around the joint. Yah, it bothered him, bothered him that even a king of the hot-rod night needed to keep up appearances, needed to have fox in that front seat when the deal went down. Bothered him that he was going to have to ditch Sheila sometime despite the fact that she made him laugh, and read all that stuff that got him hot. See, yah, he was starting to figure that she was red-hot in her own way whatever the guys said. Just then he thought maybe she would ditch him come fall when she went off to college and found some joe really interested in Pharaoh times and stuff like that and that would be the end of it. Till then he figured she could ride with him, ride with him just fine…

Out The 1950s Film Night- Robert Mitchum and Rita Hayworth’s Fire Down Below

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
Naturally a woman came with it, came with the story, or it probably would not have been worth the telling. And not just any woman, some housewife from Cleveland (although that category has some tales to tell, some spicy tales once you get them out of Cleveland, out of the women’s club, and away from hubby for a few days, but later on that), or some New York City professional woman (ditto on the tales, except they involve getting away from that damn office, and ditto the later too) but a femme fatale. A little older femme although one who would still have guys looking hard and figuring what they could do to get next to that, older though that a guy would like in a femme story where young buds who don’t know every single rotten thing to pull on a guy make things, well, interesting.But she was nothing but the real thing from that first look through the cigarette haze and the scotch neat sitting in front of her all enflamed red-head and looking like she just came out of some society magazine. See here is where you can learn a few things in life, important things, femmes, don’t retire or fade out they just kind of keep being femmes until they stop drawing breathe, maybe later, and will rattle guys just as bad, maybe worse since they know the score, as the young femmes all filly firepower and that wicked perfume as they enter the room. Once you've heard this story then you will know what I mean.

Yah, she was the real thing alright, Rita, Rita from somewhere, Rita from nowhere by name (let’s dispense with road monikers and call our crowd, the ones that count,by their real names or at least by the names they gave the cops or immigration when they alit from that somewhere or nowhere), a dazzling red head who had given up her virtues, given them up gladly up for whatever it was that she really wanted , a very long time ago and had been working off of that hard fact of life ever since, and making it stick, and making guys, rough guys, punks, and pussycats snap to without a murmur. Someone said (and she would embellish the stories as she went along, all plausible, all with an ounce of truth and all, in the end, worthless, worthless in trying to figure her out) she had started out in Europe, maybe before the war, World War II if anybody was asking, had moved fast on both sides of the line, had to flee one thing or another there, headed to North Africa with either some on the run Nazi general or some old communist partisan fleeing with the party funds, these things are hard to pin down. From there to South America running wild with senor this and mister that’s dough, and them not saying a peek-until she snuck out of some hotel room with a fistful of diamonds and wound up in San..., well, let’s leave it as in the Caribe with some pussy cat from Detroit. And didn’t work up a sweat all those fifteen or so years she was on the run. Some guy was always there to provide a soft landing. And glad to be run over. You had to say that about her, whatever she did for the guys, or to them, they never squawked about it. Beautiful.
Just then though, just out in that Caribe night, she was stateless, persona non grata, no papers, no way to get papers (yet) and no prospects since that pussy cat had a very waiting wife in Detroit and so he slipped her over to Robert and Jack, two guys who knew their way around the Caribe and around women, even a femme or two in their travels. So they thought. Rita practically licked her lips when she saw this pair, one, the older one, Robert, kind of rough-hewn, kind of an old salt whom she had eyed as the tougher of the two, weary, wary of the world, easy, easy in her hands, the younger one, strictly a college boy on a lark, learning a few things but still just on a lark, easier still. She would have them paired off against each other before a few days were done, especially if they could be coaxed into helping her, greased by some dough, to get to where she wanted to go next on their trawler, their fishing boat. All she had to do was look helpless, not school girl helpless but maybe a few nights under the sheets if they helped helpless. They both had that look although the younger guy looked like it would not take even that much to hook him, hook him bad.

And it worked, worked for the who knows, the fiftieth or sixtieth time in her crowded life, worked like a charm. Worked too that she had them at each other throats within forty-eight hours of getting on board that wreck of a trawler.See Robert knew, knew damn well, that she had her hooks into the soft young Jack and while he said, said like they all say, he was just keeping his young companion out of the clutches of a flash dance scheming woman, she knew he had flamed eyes for her. Especially after that night she went “native” on him at some island Marti Gras port stop where she practically replicated some Kama Sutra sex act in front of him, make him drink her in, and drink a few more rums to try to forget that sight. He would have some restless hours over that one. And so they, Jack and Robert fought, fought to the death, at least Jack did, or was ready to. See he had big plans, marriage and stuff like that. Yah, she had her hooks into him. Her, she just licked her lips.

But see water seeks its own level and so while Jack was ready to die for her she had already made up her mind that she would go with the survivor-type, her own kind, Robert and one night she snuck into his bed, and well that was that. Well not quite since that afternoon she had agreed to marry Jack and he was waiting for her the next morning like the dew outside her door. As they headed to the town hall to do the wedding deal they were stopped by an island cop, a big brute of a black man, who asked for their papers. She had none, although she did not mention that to the cop (or to Jack previously). And as things developed that question did not come up. Jack showed his papers first and while doing so a few bindles of heroin fell from his pocket. He had not explanation, none, for that as the copper led him away and left Rita to her own devises.

It did not dawn on Jack until later, until he had been in that stinking jail for a couple of weeks that he had been set up, set up either by Robert , by her, or by the both of them. He swore if he ever got out he would kill Robert if it was the last thing he did. Her, well maybe they could still work something out. And it might have been, might have been the last thing he did, since Robert and Rita had taken off for parts unknown. And had left no forwarding address. Robert did note that as they were ready to cast off a couple of days after the heroin incident, along with a passenger , a paying passenger, a businessman from Miami he said looking to head there, all dressed in white and wearing a Panama hat against the day’s sun that Rita was making some eye contact with that guy.Yah, that Rita was a piece of work, a real piece of work…

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Machem- Keeping The Irish Eyes Alive

The following review is being used to comment on several of the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Machem recordings. The obvious musical skills, talent and commitment to craftsmanship of this group during its history need no comment by me. Nor does their commitment to keeping alive the Irish folk tradition. Thus, the criterion for review is whether the works represents the political traditions associated with the historic struggle for independence from the English.

A word. As I developed a quasi- leftist political consciousness in my youth I also, in an unsystematic and for the most part then unconscious manner, developed an interest in what is today is called roots music. Initially this was reflected in my first love-the Blues. During the early sixties, under the influence of Dave Van Ronk at first, then Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and the rest I developed an interest in folk music, then at the height of its revival. It is through this process that I came to appreciate the work of the artists under review. This is odd, and I will explain why. I was actually reared on the material presented here by my maternal grandfather, a great supporter of the Irish Republican Army. I gained from him my own romantic attachment to the exploits of the IRA in 1916 and beyond until independence. Although my own political evolution since then has led me away from political support to the IRA I still love the old songs which represent the spirit of Irish national identity and aspirations for national liberation historically suppressed by the bloody English.

A word about the songs presented here. The liner notes included with the CD are helpful here. The songs range in subject from ‘The Rising of the Moon’ at the time of Wolfe Tone and the United Irishman, probably the last time that a united, independent, non-sectarian single Irish state was possible, to ‘Kevin Barry’ and ‘Sean Treacy’ just before the partition in 1921, creating the mess that still confronts us politically today. That said, as these lines are being written we are approaching the 90thAnniversary of the Easter Uprising of 1916. The vision that James Connolly and others of a Social Republic proclaimed at the General Post Office still waits. In short, there is still work to be done, North and South, united or as independent states. Listen to these songs to understand where we have come from and why we still need to fight.

Leon Trotsky On The Spanish Civil War 1936-39

I have been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War since I was a teenager. My first term paper was on this subject. What initially perked my interest, and remains of interest, is the passionate struggle of the Spanish working class to create its own political organization of society, its leadership of the struggle against Spanish Fascism and the romance surrounding the entry of the International Brigades, particularly the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15l Brigade, into the struggle.

Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees. Of all modern working class uprisings Spainshowed the most promise of success. Russian Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky's writings on this period represent a provocative and thoughtful approach to an understanding of the causes of that failure. Moreover, with all proper historical proportions considered, his analysis has continuing value as the international working class confronts the one-sided class war being waged against it today.

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 has been the subject of innumerable works from every possible political and military perspective possible. A fair number of such treatises, especially from those responsible for the military and political policies on the Republican side, are merely alibis for the disastrous policies that led to defeat. Trotsky's complication of articles, letters, pamphlets, etc. which make up the book reviewed here is an exception. Trotsky was actively trying to intervene in order implement a program of socialist revolution most of the active forces on the Republican side were fighting, or believed, they were fighting for. Thus, Trotsky's analysis brings a breath of fresh air to the historical debate. That in the end Trotsky could not organize the necessary cadres to carry out his program or meaningfully impact the unfolding events in Spainis one of the ultimate tragedies of that revolution. Nevertheless, Trotsky had a pretty good idea of what forces were acting as a roadblock to revolution and had a strategic conception of the road to victory.

The central question Trotsky addresses throughout the whole period under review here is the crisis of revolutionary leadership. That question entails, in short, a view that the objective conditions for the success of a socialist program for society had ripened. Nevertheless, until that time, despite several revolutionary upheavals, the international working class had not been successful anywhere except in backward Russia. Thus it is necessary to focus on what condition is missing that would assure success or at least put up a fight- witness the failure of the German Revolution in 1923). This is a continuation of an analysis that he developed in earnest in his struggle to fight the Stalinist degeneration of the Russian Revolution in the mid-1920's. It is a question that still remains to be resolved. The need to learn the lessons of the Russian Revolution and to extend the revolution internationally was thus not a merely a theoretical question. Spain, moreover, represented a struggle where the best of the various leftist forces were in confusion about how to move forward. Those forces could have profitable heeded Trotsky's advice.

Trotsky's polemics are highlighted by the article 'The Lessons of Spain-Last Warning", his definitive assessment of the Spanish situation in the wake of the defeat of the Barcelona uprising in May 1937. They center on the failure of the Party of Marxist Unification (hereafter, POUM) to provide revolutionary leadership. That party, partially created by cadre formerly associated with Trotsky in the Spanish Left Opposition, failed on virtually every count. He had no illusions about the roadblock to revolution of the policies carried out by the old-time Anarchist, Socialist and Communist Parties. Unfortunately the POUM did. Moreover, despite being the most honest revolutionary party in Spainit failed to keep up an intransigent struggle to push the revolution forward. The Trotsky - Andreas Nin (key leader of the POUM and former Left Oppositionist) correspondence in the Appendix makes that problem painfully clear.

The most compelling example of this failure - As a result of the failure of the Communist Party of Germany to oppose the rise of Hitler in 1933 and the subsequent decapitation and the defeat of the Austrian working class in 1934 the European workers especially the younger workers of the traditional Socialist Parties started to move left. Trotsky observed this situation and told his supporters to intersect that situation by entry into those parties. Nin and later the POUM failed to do that. As a result the Socialist Party youth were recruited to the Communist Party en masse. This accretion formed the basic for its expansion as a party and key cadre of its notorious security apparatus that would after the Barcelona uprising suppress the more left ward organizations. For more such examples of the results of the crisis of leadership in the Spanish Revolution read this book.



THE ODYSSEY OF THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN BRIGADE: AMERICANS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR, Peter N. Carroll, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1994.

I have been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 since I was a teenager. My first term paper was on this subject. What initially perked my interest, and remains of interest, is the passionate struggle of the Spanish working class to create its own political organization of society, its leadership of the struggle against Spanish Fascism and the romance surrounding the entry of the International Brigades, particularly the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, into the struggle.

Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees. Of all modern working class uprisings after the Russian revolution Spain showed the most promise of success. Russian Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky noted in one of his writings on Spain that the Spanish proletariat at the start of its revolutionary period had a higher political consciousness than the Russian proletariat in 1917. That calls into question the strategies put forth by the parties of the Popular Front, including the Spanish Communist Party- defeat Franco first, and then make the social transformation of society. Mr. Carroll’s book while not directly addressing that issue nevertheless demonstrates through the story of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion how the foreign policy of the Soviet Union and through it the policy of the Communist International in calling for international brigades to fight in Spain aided in the defeat of that promising revolution.

Mr. Carroll chronicles anecdotally how individual militants were recruited, transported, fought and died as ‘premature anti-fascists’ in that struggle. No militant today, or ever, can deny the heroic qualities of the volunteers and their commitment to defeat fascism- the number one issue for militants of that generation-despite the fatal policy of the leaderships. Such individuals were desperately needed then as now if revolutionary struggle is to succeed. However, to truly honor their sacrifice we must learn the lessons of that defeat through mistaken strategy as we fight today. Interestingly, as chronicled here and elsewhere in the memoirs of some veterans, many of the surviving militants of that struggle continued to believe that it was necessary to defeat Franco first, and then fight for socialism. This was most dramatically evoked by the Lincolns negative response to the Barcelona uprising of 1937-the last time a flat out fight for leadership of the revolution could have galvanized the demoralized workers and peasants for a desperate struggle against Franco.

Probably the most important part of Mr. Carroll’s book is tracing the trials and tribulations of the volunteers after their withdrawal from Spain in late 1938. Their organization-the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade- was constantly harassed and monitored by the United States government for many years as a Communist front group. Individuals also faced prosecution and discrimination. He also traces the aging and death of that cadre. In short, this book is a labor of love for the subjects of his treatment. Whatever else this writer certainly does not disagree with that purpose. If you want to read about what a heroic part of the vanguard of the international working class looked like in the 1930’s, look here. Viva la Quince Brigada!!

A SMALL SLICE OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR-Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bells Toll



I have been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War since I was a teenager. What initially perked my interest, and remains of interest, is the passionate struggle of the Spanish working class to create its own political organization of society, its leadership of the struggle against Spanish Fascism and the romance surrounding the entry of the International Brigades, particularly the American Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, into the struggle.

Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees. Of all modern working class uprisings after the Russian revolution Spain showed the most promise of success. Russian Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky noted in one of his writings on Spain that the Spanish proletariat at the start of its revolutionary period had a higher political consciousness than the Russian proletariat in 1917.

That analysis calls into question the strategies put forth by the parties of the Popular Front, including the Spanish Communist Party- defeat Franco first, and then make the social transformation of society. Ernest Hemingway in his novel For Whom the Bells Toll weighs in on that question here. Whatever value the novel had or has as a narrative of a small slice of the Spanish events one must look elsewhere to discovery the causes of the Republican defeat.

Ernest Hemingway most definitively was in love with Spain and always lurking just below the surface was his love affair with death. That combination placed in the context of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 makes for an explosive, dramatic tale. The hero is an American, Robert Jordan, aka Ernest Hemingway, of fizzy politics but a desire to help the Spanish people. Additionally Jordan, if expediency demands it, is willing to face danger and death at the command of the Communist-dominated International Brigades (although it is not always clear whether he is a Lincoln Brigade volunteer or a freelancer). Hemingway's critique of the Stalinist domination of the military command and therefore authors of the military strategy that led to defeat at times overwhelms the story. His skewering of Andre Marty, leader of the International Brigades, also has that same effect. In short, Hemingway believed that 'outside forces’ meddling in Spanish affairs led to death for Jordan and disaster for the Spanish people. Well, nobody expects nor is it mandatory for a novelist to be politically astute or correct. Here Hemingway joins the crowd

The one subject that Ernest Hemingway seemed consistently to excel at was the telling of war stories. And whatever else might be true of For Whom the Bell Tolls it is preeminently a war story. A classic war romance if you have also seen the movie treatment of the book starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. It might be a male thing, it might be a Hemingway thing, or it might be that the nature of war lends itself to dramatic tension that holds a story together. Today, in some literary circles, it is not considered politically correct to laud works by such dead, white males as Hemingway but the flat out truth is that the man could write. If his work stands outside the current canon of American literary efforts then something is wrong with the new canon.

To make matters worst the current leftist-oriented literary establishment, grizzled, hard-bitten warriors that they are, has not been the only force that has taken aim at Hemingway's head. At the time of publication in 1940 the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, those who actually fought in Spain and the various Communist Parties throughout the world were unhappy with the novel. Why? Hemingway was too harsh on the deficiencies of the Communists, the International Brigades and the Republican forces in general. Above I mentioned that writers were not expected to be politically astute. That is one thing. But to say that Hemingway was essentially sabotaging the exiled Republican efforts to aid the refugees by the thrust of his novel is also politically wrong. The man did materially and militarily aid the Republican side (sponsoring volunteers and ambulances). That accrues to his honor. In short, Hemingway's writings- yes. Hemingway's politics no.

***The Old Man’s Old Sea- In Honor Of Our Homeland, The Ocean

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin

It is dawn, or maybe just those few minutes before the dawn, those dark light minutes when the sun’s battle for the day is set. The waves splash, today not so innocently, today not tepidly like the past several days when the she sea sounds did not mercifully drown out traffics, construction hammers, or beach tractor clean-ups but swirling out from some hidden sea swells beyond the horizon against the defenseless waiting sand, sand beaten down since time immemorial. Or as long as anyone has been watching that feat, that seemingly endless feat.

This beach, this northern clime beach, the far end of Saco, Maine beach, is this day filled with empty clam shells from some timeless previous sea swirlings waiting sandification (is that right?), abandoned and mislaid lobster traps (and one up in lobster country had better know the difference, know the livelihood difference between the two conditions , just in case some irate boat craggy captain, aged liked sea, decides to reclaim one over your head), occasional oil slicks spilled from the trawlers (and hopefully only small working residues and not some monster slick by some tiny horizon tanker heading to oil depot ports further up the coast), working trawlers nearby, the flotsam and jetsam streamed here of a thousand ships, cargoes, careless throwaways and conscious, very conscious dumpings, like the sea was just another land-fill wanting filling.

Today though I am ready, ready for the hundredth hundredth time to walk the walk, the ocean walk that has defined more parts of me than heaven will ever know. As I button up my yellow slicker against the April winds that come here more often than, and can come out of the blue against the Bay of Fundy confusions, one minute eighty degrees the next thirty five, I see, see faintly in the distance, a figure, a fellow traveler taking his, her or its (don’t laugh I have seen horses, unridden horses, trotting these beaches, although no sea monsters), maybe also hundredth hundredth walking along the ocean sidewalk, and maybe, just maybe, for the same reason.

Today, hundredth, hundredth walk or not, I am in a remembering mood, a high dudgeon remembering mood that always gets triggered by proximity, fifty mile proximity if the truth be known, to the ocean. I have just finished up a piece of work that reminded me of seas, sea-sides, sea walks, sea rocks, ocean-side carnival amusement parks placed as if to mock the intrinsic interest that one would have in the sea, our homeland the sea, and I need to sort this out, also for that now familiar ten-thousandth time. But I best begin at the beginning, or try to, so I will be finished in that hour or so that it will take me to walk this walk, this rambling ocean walk, and I will pass that solitary walker coming the other way and be obliged under some law of the sea to break my train of thought and remark on the nature of the day, the nature of the ocean, and the joys of ocean-ness brought forth by old King Neptune to that passing stranger.

Ah, memory, jesus, just the names, Taffrail Road, Yardarm Lane, Captain's Walk, Quarterdeck Road, Sextant Circle, and the Snug Harbor Elementary School tell a story all on their own. Yes, those names, those seemingly misplaced, misbegotten names and places from the old housing project down in Adamsville, down in my old hometown, and where I came of age, sea-worthy age as well, surely evoke imagines of the sea, of long ago sailing ships, mast-strewn ships, and of desperate, high stakes battles fought off shrouded, mist-covered coasts by those hearty enough to seek fame and fortune. And agile enough to keep it. Almost from my first wobbly, halting baby steps down at “the projects” I have been physically drawn to the sea, a seductive, foam-flecked siren call that has never left me.

Needless to say, ever since I was a toddler my imagination, my sense of imagery, my sense of the nature of the world has been driven by the sea as well. Not so much of pirates and prizes, although those drove my youth a bit but of the power of nature, for good or evil. And on those long ago days, just like now, I dressed against the impending inclement weather with my mustard yellow rain slicker(French’s mustard color not Guiden’s, okay) complete with Gloucester fisherman’s rain floppy rain hat of the same color and rubber boots, black, knee-length boots that go squish, squish and have done so since before time immemorial.

Of course, anybody with any sense knows that anyone who had even a passing attachment to a place like Adamsville, tucked in a bay, an Atlantic bay, had to have an almost instinctual love of the sea; and, a fear of its furies when old Mother Nature turns her back on us. Yes, the endless sea, our homeland the sea, the mother we never knew, the sea... But, enough of those imaginings. If being determines consciousness, and if you love the ocean, then it does not hurt to have been brought up in Adamsiville with its ready access to the bay and water on three sides. That said, the focal point for any experience with the ocean in Adamsville centered, naturally, around its longest stretch of beach, Adamsville Central Beach. Puny by Saco beach far-as-the-eye-can-see standards, and Saco puny by Carlsbad (California Carlsbad) farther-than-the-eye-can-see standards but a place to learn the ropes of how to deal with the sea, with its pitfalls, its mysteries, it lure, and its lore.

For many of us of a certain age brought forth by the sea, including this writer, one cannot discuss Adamsville Central Beach properly without reference to such spots such as Howard Johnson's famous landmark ice cream stand (now a woe-begotten clam shack of no repute). For those who are clueless as to what I speak of, or have only heard about it in mythological terms from older relatives, or worst, have written it off as just another ice cream joint you can only dream of such heavens although someone, not me, not me today as I remembrance with a broad stroke and have no time for pretty descriptions, for literary flourishes, should really do themselves proud and write the history, yah, the child’s view history of that establishment. And make the theme, make the theme if you will, the bond between New England love of ice cream and of the sea (yes, it is true, other parts of the country, other ocean parts of the country as well, are, well, nonplussed by the ice cream idea, and it shows in their product).

Know this for now though: many a hot, muggy, sultry, sweaty summer evening was spent in line impatiently, and perhaps, on occasion, beyond impatience, waiting for one of those 27 (or was it 28?) flavors to cool off with. In those days the prize went to cherry vanilla in a sugar cone (backup: frozen pudding). I will not bore the reader with superlative terms and “they don’t make them like they used to”, especially for those who only know “HoJo’s” from the later, pale imitation franchise days out on some forsaken turnpike highway, but at that moment I was in very heaven.

Nor can one forget those stumbling, fumbling, fierce childish efforts, bare-footed against all motherly caution against the dreaded jellyfish (or motherly cautions against everything, everything even the slightest bit harmful in this dangerous old world), pail and shovel in hand, to dig for seemingly non-existent clams down toward the South Adamsville end of the beach at the, in those days, just slightly oil-slicked, sulfuric low tide (the days before dinosaur lament fossils fuels exploded the oceans). Or the smell of charcoal-flavored hot dogs on those occasional family barbecues (when one in a series of old jalopies, Nash Ramblers come to mind and disappear, that my father drove worked well enough to get us there) at the then just recently constructed old Treasure Island (now named after some fallen Marine) that were some of the too few times when my family acted like a family. Or, more vivid, the memory of roasted, really burnt, sticky marshmallows sticking to the roof of my mouth (and maybe still ancient wound stuck there).

But those thoughts and smells are not the only ones that interest me today. No trip down memory lane would be complete without at least a passing reference to high school Adamsville Central Beach. The sea brings out many emotions: humankind's struggle against nature ( a fitful and uneven struggle at best as a few over the top wave crashes have demonstrated to keep us on our toes, and humble), some Zen notions of oneness with the universe (and if not Zen then Kali, Misha or some Zoroastrian flaming fire god mad monk), the calming effect of the thundering waves (rule: speak no louder than the angriest wave in its presence, children under twelve excepted), thoughts of mortality (endless seas bring that notion to the fore and not just ancient wounds and sorrows), and so on. But it also brings out the primordial longings for companionship. And no one longs for companionship more than teenagers. So the draw of the ocean is not just in its cosmic appeal but hormonal, as well. Mind you, however, we, you and I, just in case a stray naive child of about eight is around, are not discussing the nighttime Adamsville Beach, the time of "parking" and the "submarine races.” Our thoughts are now pure as the driven snow. We will confine ourselves to the day time beach.

Virtually from the day we got out of school for the summer vacation I headed for the beach. And not just any section of that beach but the section directly between the John Adams and John Quincy Adams Yacht Clubs (yes, it was that kind of city touting ancient wise men long gone and not missed, not missed after the obligatory sixth grade crypt visit in the Center, not missed, hell, not even on the radar for heady 1960s teenagers. Now, I ask you, was situating myself in that spot done so that I could watch all the fine boats at anchor? Or was this the best swimming location on the beach? Hell no, this is where we heard (and here I include my old running pal and classmate, Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, the king of the North Adamsville corner boy night around Salducci’s Pizza Parlor of blessed memory and nothing but a flame-throwing lady-killer, uh, when his honey, Joanne Doyle was summering elsewhere) all the "babes" were. We were, apparently, under the influence of Beach Blanket Bingo or some such teenage beach film. (For those who are again clueless this was a grade B ‘boy meets girl’ saga the plot behind a thousand Hollywood films, except they exploded into song on the beach as well.)

Well, for those who expected a movie-like happy ending to this section of the remembrance piece, you know, where I meet a youthful "Ms. Right" to the strains of the song Sea of Love, forget it. (That is the original Sea of Love, by the way, not the one used in the movie of the same name sung by Tom Waits at the end, and a cover that you should listen to on YouTube.) I will keep the gory details short, though. As fate would have it there may have been "babes" aplenty down there but not for this lad. I don't know about you but I was just too socially awkward (read, tongue-tied) to get up the nerve to talk to girls (female readers substitute boys here). And on reflection, if the truth were to be known, I would not have known what to do about such a situation in any case. No job, no money and, most importantly, no car for a date to watch one of those legendary "submarine races" that we, you and I, have agreed that we will not discuss here. But we can hardly fault the sea for that, right?

But visions of nearly one-half century ago hardly exhaust the lure of the sea. And, speaking of visions, that fellow sea-seeker I mentioned a while ago, coming from the other end of the beach is starting to take shape, it is a he, I can tell by the walk, by the sea walk that men put on when they are alone with their thoughts, although beyond that he is too far away for me to determine age, class (this is a very democratic beach, in most spots, with few vulgar and almost universally disregarded no-trespassing-private property-keep out-beware-of-dogs-police-take-notice signs on some Mayfair swell properties), or physical description, as the suppressed light from the cloudy morning day gets a little brighter

Funny, some people I have known, including some I grew up with, grew up with breathing ocean air embedded in their inner beings and who started with a love of the sea much as I did, moved to Kansas, Omaha, Peoria, Winnemucca or some such place, some such distinctly non-ocean place and never looked back. Christ, as is well known by one and all who know me I get very nervous even now when, as a city boy, I go to the country and do not have the feel of city lights to comfort me. Not as well known is the fact, the hard fact that I get nervous, very nervous, when I am not within driving distance of some ocean, say that fifty miles mentioned above. So keep, please keep, your Kansas, your Omaha, your Peoria, and your damned Winnemucca (and that desolate bus station bench I slept on one night after giving up on the hitchhike road for the evening trying to head out of town to no avail, trying to head ocean west, and let me be, be in places like Bar Harbor, Maine, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, Sanibel Island, Florida, Carlsbad, California (hell no, not the New Mexico one ), Mendocino, ditto California, Seattle, Washington just to name a few places on this continent, and there are many others, and on other continents, or the edges of other continents, as well. And stories, plenty of stories, which I don’t have time to tell you now except for one that will stand in as an exemplar for what I mean. By the way that form, that mannish form, coming toward me is looking more like a young man by the speed of his walk, and he too seems to have on a the favored sea dog yellow rain jacket.
January 1970 visions of Angelica, Angelica of the homeland sea.

I waved good-bye to Angelica, once again, as she drove off from the ocean front campsite that we had been camping out on, the Leo Carrillo State Park near Point Magoo about fifty miles or so north of Los Angeles. She will now drive the road back in her green Ford Hertz unlimited mileage, mid-size rental (paid for, as she explained one night, by her parents whose golden age of the automobile-frenzied minds counted it as a strike against me, a very big strike, that when I had “kidnapped” their daughter on the 1969 blue-pink summer road west down in Steubenville, Ohio I didn’t even have a car). She planned (on my advice) to drive back mostly on the ocean-abutted, white-capped waves smashing against jagged ancient shore rocks, Pacific Coast Highway down through Malibu and Santa Monica to take one last look at the Pacific Ocean as the final point on her first look ocean trip, on the way to LAX to take a flight back to school days Muncie, Indiana.

She will also be driving back to the airport and getting on that miserable plane east knowing as I do since we talked about it incessantly during her stay, that some right things, or at least some maybe right things, like our being together last summer heading free west and for these two January weeks in front of the sea, our homeland the sea, before her classes started again, got caught up in the curious web of the human drama. For no understandable reason. Hey, you already knew this if you have ever had even that one teeny-weeny, tiny, minuscule love affair that just had no place to go, or no time to take root, or just got caught out there in the blue-pink night. Yah, you know that story. But let me take some minutes to tell you this one. If it seems very familiar and you “know” the plot line well then just move on.

To get you up to speed after Angelica and I had been on the heartland hitchhike road (and places like Moline, Neola, and Omaha are nothing but the heartland, good or bad), she, well, she just got tired of it, tired of the lacks, tired of the uncertainties of the road. Hell hell-on-wheels, I was getting tired of it myself except I was a man on a mission. The nature of that mission is contained in the words “search for the blue-pink great American West night” so the particulars of that mission need not detain us here. So in Neola, Iowa, Neola, Iowa of all places aided by “fairy grandmother” Aunt Betty, who ran the local diner where Angelica worked to help make us some dough to move on, and her own sense of dreams she called it quits back in September. Aunt Betty drove us to Omaha where Angelica took the bus back east, Indiana east from Nebraska, to hometown Muncie and I hit Interstate 80 West headed first to Denver before the snows, or so I hoped.

Honestly, although we exchanged addresses and telephone numbers where messages could be left, or where we could speak to each other (her parents’house not being one of them), and made big plans to reunite in California in January during her school break, I didn’t really think that once we were off the road together that those plans would pan out.

Now I may not remember all my reasoning at the time this far removed, the now of my telling this story many years later, but I had had enough relationships with women to sense this one was good, very good, while it lasted but it could not survive the parting. Not one of those overused “absence makes the heart grow fonder” things you hear about. And, truth to tell, because I thought that was the way things would play out, I started getting focused back on Boston Joyel more than a little as I walked a lot, stood at the shoulder of the hitchhike road a lot, and fitfully got my rides on the road west.

But see this is where you think you have something figured out just so and then it goes awry. Angelica called, left messages, sent letters, even a telegram, to Denver (to the commune where, Jack and Mattie, my traveling companions on the final leg west whom I had met earlier in the spring on a different trip down to D.C., were staying). She sent more communications in early December saying that she was still coming to Los Angeles as well where we three stayed with a few artistic friends of Jack and Mattie’s. Cinema-crazed artistic friends, including one budding film director who, moreover, had great dope connections right into the heart of Mexico. This is where they would stay while I planned to push the hitchhike road north heading to San Francisco.

I once, in running through one of the scenes in this hitchhike road show, oh yah, it was the Neola scene, mentioned that in Angelica what you saw was what you got, what she said was what she meant, and both those were good things indeed. And so if I had thought about it a minute of course she was coming to California in January and staying with me for her two week break, and maybe longer. So when January came she contacted me though John and Mattie, who like I said were now staying with this very interesting experimental film-maker, David, in the Hollywood hills and canyons. I started back south to L.A. in order to meet her at the airport. From there I had it planned that we would go to Point Magoo and camp out like in the “old days” at an ocean front state park.

Needless to say when I greeted her at LAX we both were all smiles, I was in more than all smiles mode, because I had been “stag” for a while and she was, well, fetching as always, or almost always. Here though is where I noticed that the road really is not for everyone. In Neola, and later getting on the bus back home in Omaha, poor Angelica looked pretty haggard but at the airport, well like I said, she was fetching.

And, guess what, she brought her sleeping bag that we had gotten for her in a Lexington, Kentucky Army-Navy Store when we first seriously started on the road west. The first thing she said about it was, referring to a little in-joke between us, “it fits two, in a pinch.” Be still my heart. So we gathered up her stuff, did the airport exit stuff (easier in those days) and picked up the outside shuttle to the Hertz car rental terminal. We were jabbering away like crazy, but best of all, we were like, a little, those first days last summer back in that old-time Steubenville truck stop diner and cabin when I first met her.

Of course, part of the trip for her, part of what she went as far as she could with me on the hitchhike road for, was to get to California and see what it was all about, and what the ocean was all about since she was a heartland girl who had never seen the ocean before. When we got to Point Magoo she flipped out, she flipped out mostly at the idea that we would stay, could stay right on the beach in front of the ocean. And just like a kid, just like I did when I was kid and saw the ocean, when she saw the Pacific, she jumped right in. Hell, she was so excited she almost got caught in a small riptide. I had to go drag her out. I won’t say we had fun every minute of those weeks acting out our ocean nomad existence, but most minutes, and I could see that she felt the same way.

Naturally, as time drifted away toward her return flight date we talked more and more about what the future, if any, held in store for us. She was adamant about not going back on the road, she was adamant as well that she wanted to finish school and make something of herself. I had no serious defense against that practical wisdom. And, truthfully, I wasn’t, toward the end of her stay, pushing the issue, partially because even I could see that it made sense but also, we had had a “flare-up” over the Boston Joyel question (I am being polite here).

But it was more than that; the flat out, hungry truth was that I really didn’t know how to deal with a Midwestern what you see is what you get woman like Angelica. I was more used to virtuous Irish Catholic girls who drove me crazy as a kid getting me all twisted up about religion, about nice girls, and about duplicity when I found out what the real score was with this type of young girl/ woman later. I was also, and Joyel was the epitome of this type, totally in sync (well, as much as a man can be) with the Harvard Square folksy, intellectual, abstract idealist, let’s-look-at-everything-from-twenty-two different angles, what is the meaning of human relationships 24/7 kind of woman. And fatally attracted to them (and still am). This Angelica look at things only a couple of ways, let’s work things out easy-like, heavens, let’s not analyze everything to the nth degree flipped me out. Angelica was a breath of fresh air and, maybe, maybe, about ten years later, and two divorces later to boot, I would have had that enough sense god gave geese to hold onto her with both hands, tightly, very tightly. But I was in my blue-pink search phase and not to be detoured.

Of course all this hard work of trying to understand where we stood put a little crack in our reason for being together in the first place. The search for, search for something. Maybe, for her, it was just that life minute at the ocean and then on to regular life minutes out in the thickets of the white picket fences. She never said it then in so many words but that seemed to be the aim. And to be truthful, although I was only just barely thinking about it at the time, as the social turmoil of the times got weird, diffuse, and began to evaporate things started to lose steam. As we were, seemingly, endlessly taking our one-sided beatings as those in charge started a counter-offensive ( a counter-offensive still going on) people, good people, but people made of human clay nevertheless got tired of the this and that existence, even Joyel. Joyel of Harvard Square folksy, intellectual, abstract idealist, let’s-look-at-everything-from-twenty-two different angles, what is the meaning of relationships 24/7 was also weary and wary of what was next and where she fit into “square” society. Christ, enough of that, we know, or knew, that song too well.

A couple of days before Angelica was to leave, and on a day when the sun seemed especially bright, especially bright for then smog-filled Los Angeles January, and warm, not resident warm but Boston and Muncie warm, sat like two seals sunning ourselves in the glow of mother ocean she nudged me and asked me if I had a joint. Now Angelica liked a little vino now and then but I can’t recall her ever doing a joint (grass, marijuana, herb, ganja, whatever you call it in your neck of the woods). So this is new. The problem, although not a big one in ocean-side state park 1970 Southern California, was that I was not“holding.” No problem though, a few spots down the beach was an old well-traveled, kind of beat-up Volkswagen van that I knew, knew just as sure as I was standing on that white sand beach, was “holding.” I went over, asked around, and “bingo”two nice big joints came traveling with me back to our campsite. Oh, daddy, daddy out in the be-bop blue-pink night thank you brother van man. For just a minute, just that 1970 California minute, the righteous did inherit the earth.

Back at our camp site Angelica awaited the outcome of my quest, although she also wanted to wait until later, until the day’s sun started going down a bit more to go into that smoked-filled good night. When that later came Angelica was scared/ thrilled, as she tried to smoke the one I lit up for her and started coughing like crazy, but that was nothing then. Everybody, at least everybody I knew, went through that same baptism. But Jesus, did we get mellow, that stuff, as was most stuff then, was primo, not your ragweed bull stuff that ran the rounds later. And why should it have not been so as we were so close to the then sane Mexican border of those days to get the good stuff.

All of this build-up over this dope scene is so much filler, filler in those days when if you didn’t at least take a pipe full (inhale or not, like it or not) you were a square “squared.” What the stuff did for Angelica, and through Angelica to me, got her to open up a little. No, not about family, or old boyfriends, or her this and that problems. No, but kind of deep, kind of deep somewhere that she maybe didn’t know existed. Deep as I had ever heard her before. She talked about her fate, the fate of the fates, about what was going on in the world, no, not politics; she was organically incapable of that. Mystics stuff, getting in touch with the sea homeland stuff, earth mother stuff too in a way. Dope-edged stuff sure but when she compared the splashing foam-flecked waves to some cosmic force that I forget how she put it (remember I was dope-addled as well) then for just that moment, just that moment when the old red-balled sun started to dip to the horizon on one of those fairly rare days when it met the ocean I swear that Angelica knew, knew in her heart, knew in her soul even, what the blue-pink American West dream stuff I had bombarded her with was all about. That was our moment, and we both knew it.

So when leaving came a couple of days later and we both knew, I think, as we packed up her things, including that well-used sleeping bag, we had come to a parting of the roads. As I put her stuff in the rental car she sweetly blurted out something I was also thinking, “I’ll always remember that night we made the earth under the cabin in Steubenville shake.” And I thought I bet she will, although she forgot the part about the making the roof of the cabin move too. And so there I was, waving as she drove off to her Angelica dreams. And I never saw her again.
But enough of ancient thoughts, of ancient sea thoughts, and ancient sea loves because just now I see that previously distant figure is none other than a young boy, a young boy of maybe six or seven, not older I am sure. About fifty yards away he stops, as boys and girls will when confronted with the endless treasures of the sea, and is intently looking at some sea object although I cannot make it out from this distance. What I can make out, make out very plainly, is that he is wearing a mustard yellow rain slicker (French’s mustard color not Guiden’s) complete with a Gloucester fisherman’s floppy rain hat of the same color and knee-deep rubber boots, black, of course. As we approach each other I notice that he has that determined sea walk that I have carried with me since childhood. I look at him intensely, he looks at me intensely, and we nod as we pass each other. No words, no remarks on the nature of the day, the nature of the ocean, and the joys of ocean-ness brought forth by old King Neptune need be spoken between us. The nod, the ocean swell, and the ocean sound as the waves crashed almost to the sand beneath our feet, spoke for us. The torch had been passed.