Monday, May 05, 2014


***Out In The American Neon Wilderness-In The Beginning

 

 

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman  

 

This is the way that I heard the story one bar stool night from Josie Little, a young woman in the troubled last throes of a dying love that would not quite quit whom I had met in Cambridge while trailing a story. We had met in an earlier different bar several weeks before, and I had become immediately interested in her and she, with qualifications, interested in me. Qualifications that Josie would not disclose until this night despite the fact that we had shared a bed together on several occasions. Yeah, this is the way I heard a story out in the American neon wilderness. Another one of those in a long line of stories of a still not quite finished love that nevertheless had nowhere to go, a story she felt needed to be told just then, just that one long sad, rainy, bluesy Cambridge bar stool night in late 1977, the Miller Hi-Life sign blinking off and on making strange shadows on Josie’s sad brown eyes world as she spoke: 

 

…she, Josie Little (Anglicized from Litvinov a couple of generations back, back around the turn of the 20th century, by paternal Jewish grandparents from Russia seeking Americanization as well as by the sleight-of- hand of immigration officials at Ellis Island who could not spell the old country name correctly), had been at her wit's end, or maybe that was too harsh a term to express her condition giving her need, but she had been unhappy in the early 1970s, a few years before this Miller-Hi-Life sign-etched bar stool conversation took place. Unhappy after years, her growing up years, of being the dutiful daughter, the New York Jewish middle-class gentile-emulating dutiful daughter. No JAP princess she although she had dreamed of that exalted position when she was young and had hung out with some serious JAPs when she attended Hunter College High School in Manhattan where she had been an outstanding student, and they, well, they attended the school and that name looked good on the future husband-hunting resumes. Just that early 1970s then though she had been unhappy, having just finished an internship (via Boston University) with Doctor Thaddeus Telly, yes that Telly, the big up and coming quantum sociologist who at the time was on the cutting edge of the next big thing in the field (now superseded by about twenty-seven newer cutting edges), and she was also exhausted from study, research and her gofer existence on his team..

Having been the dutiful daughter, striving to please her parents as she accumulated each new degree and award, Josie had missed the turmoil on the campuses in the 1960s (her undergraduate campus the volatile radical hotbed University Of Wisconsin, although given her dogged attention to her studies she said she might as well have been at North Dakota State or some such Podunk school). She had only found out about half the anti-war, anti-establishment, anti, well, anti- everything, every not student thought of stuff that went on there when she had come to Boston, and her fellow doctoral program students kept quizzing her about this and that thing, the demonstrations, the shuts-downs, the music and dope, that had happened in Madison and had she been she involved in it once they knew where she was from. More importantly, she had missed that new wave breeze that had come through the land in those days, the palpable sense of jailbreak from what pleased (or didn’t please) parents, professors, police, employers , or anyone else who got in the way. She was ready, all twenty-five years of her ready, to break out, break out and check out what he had called the American neon wilderness.

The he in question, that not quite finished love with nowhere to go, Allan Murphy, her boyfriend, companion, partner, lover whatever term of art, relationship art you wished to use in those topsy-turvy times, had told her about the search for the American neon wilderness one night when they had been together for while (not living together, that came later), the night when she first tried some mescaline with him. And how after that night she had been frantic to get out and see the American countryside and make her own estimate about what was going, or not going, on. As part of that mescaline dream night Allan had steadily tried to coax her into travelling with him on that journey, a journey that would probably last six months to a year depending, depending on what pleased them, what they wanted to see, what happened on that far-flung road and she had gotten getting rid of enough hesitations in order to get rid of that wit's end condition, or whatever it was that was eating at her to buy into his plan. But as she said this she said she was getting ahead of herself. She hadn’t explained to me how she had come to be entranced by Allan, how she had begun to smell those open roads wherever they might lead and to dream of them, and to begin to think of a defensive barrage against her parents’ seventy-seven wishes, expectations, and disappointments when explanation time came.

Sometime after she had come to Boston in late 1970 she had settled into the student ghetto across the river in Brighton with her own little first- floor apartment off of Commonwealth Avenue, and after she had settled into her studies, those Telly-inspired studies that she was exhausted from, she had become interested in what was then to be the last stages of the anti-Vietnam war movement. That interest was sparked (along with some square-baiting by some fellow interns when she expressed her previous basically un-political nature) on a couple of dates with a guy whom she met through a girl in her Advanced Quantum Sociology seminar, Lucy, who was something in the Socialist Workers Party or their youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance, organizations that at the time were involved in a last push to end the war in Southeast Asia before President Nixon blew the places to kingdom come. Those organizations were also involved (as were other groups) in trying to corral in or contribute to the burgeoning anti-war fever among the U.S. soldiers, both in America and in Vietnam. The rank and file soldiers of the Army, in particular, were half in mutiny over the pace of withdrawal and other issues related to their in- your- face cannon-fodder existence.

One night, one Monday night, she attended a meeting here in Cambridge, at the Harvard Divinity School, where there was to be planning for a retreat to help organize that anti-war G.I. movement. A lot of those in attendant were ex-servicemen, including Allan. Allan had just been released from an Army stockade after about a year for refusing to fight in Vietnam (or anywhere else for that matter, although Josie did not know that at the time) and as the meeting progressed and it was his turn to speak he was explaining the ins and outs of his struggle to get out of the clutches of the military, the complicated legal case that was waged to get him out, and the absolute (his word) necessity of continuing to directly cramp the military’s style by going right to the source, the soldier, the cannon fodder(his term that is where she got it from having had absolutely no experience or knowledge about the military). He said all of this in a slow, steady style with a wicked Boston accent, you know that “pahk the cah in Harvard Yahd” goof stuff that the slain President Kennedy had made everybody aware of a few years previously when they were growing up and coming of age, combined with a little working-class twist. While he was addressing the audience she, sitting not twenty feet away from him, noticed that he had some very fierce blue eyes. She, from a brown-eyed, brown hair, brown everything world (including all brown herself) had never seen such blue eyes, and fierce too. She was mesmerized.

After Allan finished his talk and the audience broke into groups that were split up according to what task one wished to participant in to help organize that upcoming anti-war G.I. retreat she gravitated toward the group where he was sitting, the contacting GIs group. When the members introduced themselves she noticed that he was kind of staring, well, not staring but he kept looking in her direction, and gave a little smile her way. She responded with little smiles too, and a little confusion too because while she considered herself nice, and maybe pretty, she was not some “movement” heavy or anything like that, as were some of the other women in the room. She tried to see if he was smiling at anybody else, at any other woman there. She did not think so.

At the close of the meeting Allan went up to her and softly, very softly, shook her hand and said that he hoped that she would be able to make the retreat to be held at a site, a well-known retreat site, just over the New Hampshire border that had been donated to the cause by some anonymous people who wanted to make sure that “the movement” had a place to put on such events. People, according to Allan and others were always doing stuff like that then. It was part of that wave that she had missed most of by being the dutiful daughter. That was all that happened that night though. A hand-shake. Damn, that was it.

The retreat was to be held two weekends after that meeting and Josie had originally planned to attend the event even before the talk with Allan, if she got her studies completed by then. After “meeting” Allan she knew she would be going and as it turned out she would be going up in the same car as him. That retreat Friday night as they met in Harvard Square with those who would drive them up on the trip north she noticed Allan looking at her in that same way he had looked at her at that first meeting with that little smile when they greeted. After arriving at their destination in New Hampshire (Brookline)  and while waiting in line to register he asked her, expressing a hope, a fervent hope he said later, that she would spare some time to talk to him if she had a chance.

This comment disarmed Josie a little, most of the guys she had dated (and slept with, while she may have been dutiful daughter she was no prude, not since back in Hunter College High days when those Jewish princesses told her, and showed her, what was what with guys), mostly Jewish guys from Long Island or places like that, not the city, when she went to Wisconsin, had been, maybe sensing something in her, kind of pushy, kind of bossy and took the lead, like it was a manly right. And in the boy and girl wars then those were kind of the rules, at least that is what she thought and everybody else did too, new breeze coming through or not. Here though was a guy who was asking her if she had time for him, like he didn’t take that local poster boy of the anti-war GI struggle role assigned to him all that seriously. At least with her. With a dry throat and barely getting what she had to say out Josie remembered she said she hoped that he might have some time to talk to her. She blushed, red-brown blushed, and he, sensing the oddness of the moment just squeezed her hand, squeezed it almost as softly as at their first meeting. Then he said with those blue eyes sparkling, not fierce but devilishly sparkling , showing his little blarney Irish side (his term, explained later), he would not have bothered to come up if he hadn’t expected to talk to her. And then he blushed, and out of nowhere she squeezed his hand. Whether it was softly done or not she could not remember but it was a squeeze. Just then someone yelled out the first call for the meeting to start and they parted, him turning back to her with that quizzical smile as they did so. And that was how they had started and maybe why she was ready later to chance things, to chuck everything to travel with him wherever the winds might take them.

Josie kept coming back to that first mescaline-edged night when Allan laid out his puff dream scenario, scenarios really, since they were, drug-induced, up all night and half the next day. Allan had said all along, or from pretty early on in their affair, that he had a childhood dream that he wished to tell her about, wished to bring her in on, wished her to make part of her dreams too but that he felt that he should wait until the proper moment to discuss it. The proper moment being understood as a time when they were comfortable with each other, comfortable enough that he could spill what he had to say and not be dismissed out of hand. And also, to be in some drug –induced state, not weed but mescaline which she had never tried, that they could feel totally honest with each other and then he changed his mind and said she could dismiss the thing out of hand if the whole enterprise felt too crazy to her.

Josie had not experimented with drugs while she was at drudge Wisconsin although she (or anybody else ) could not walk into a dorm or most any place on campus, or its immediate environs like the Rathskeller, the big hip local drink, drug, and  rock and roll hang-out, without getting at least a second-hand high (she did not know what that meant then but only learned what it meant subsequently) from some pungent mary jane, weed, herb or whatever somebody called those substances on any given day or reflecting any given local moniker for the stuff. She had heard, as well, that peyote buttons, mescaline, a little LSD (for the advanced heads but not as widely used as on the East and West coasts), and more and more, cocaine were becoming favored recreational drugs de jus but no, she had not partaken of those pleasures.

When she had come to Boston some people in one of her classes, Advanced Quantum Sociology (a seminar taught by Professor Telly himself), organized a party and that was where she had her first drug encounter as a big old joint was passed around and she felt she had to be cool and so took a few hits and coughed, coughed like crazy for a while when the harsh smoke hit her throat and everybody laughed. [Join the club, sister.] She liked it, like the way it relaxed her, like the odd feeling and strange moods that she felt while high but had seldom imbibed in while she was in her drudge phase before Allan.

Strangely sometime after that first experience she had kept some hash, given as a gift from some guy who took her fancy one night at the Kasbah Grille in Harvard Square when she was “on the hunt” with her girlfriends. He had spent the night with her at her apartment after he had introduced her to the bong of hashish (and its far less harsh throat-tickling and more vivid sweet dreams than weed) that next morning, since he was heading out of the hitchhike road to D.C. for some anti-war demonstration and knew, especially in Connecticut knew, that if he did not want to spend some hard time, some very hard time, in the pokey that he better not be “holding.” And thus the gift (fired up when Allan and she were looking for a different kick when he said he had never tried the stuff).

Allan and she, started, discreetly, to smoke more weed (his term, she always had called it pot from what she heard it called in her Wisconsin days but she picked up his more street-wise term for some reason) both to relax, relax while having sex, and just to kind of catch up with their generation and its predilections. The discreet part was necessary because he, and to a lesser extent she, had a high political profile doing that anti-war G.I. work that placed them square in the sights of the state, its military, and the federal cops. Once he had been hauled in for questioning by the feds in Boston and that clinched the discreet part. So no smoking in the Wild West streets of Boston, or at parties, and such. Their connection was through an interesting  third party, Sam Stevens, who had a millions connections for dope, mostly weed, going all the way down to high-grade Mexico and back, although he, himself was not a dealer but an angel of mercy, a guy who passed the stuff on to his friends. He lived like a lot of Boston student ghetto denizens off a very hefty trust fund and so not only did he have the capacity to show largesse, but did so.  A real cool guy.

Allan admitted to her that he had not previously been much of a drug user; he said maybe he would do a little speed on exam prep nights to catch up on that reading he had put off until the last minute at school, before his army stint, before he got “religion” on what the American state was all about. Until then he  had been, as an official member in good-standing of the working-class, of the Irish working-class, a heavy drinker, whisky mainly, with a beer chaser when he was frisky, water chaser when he was broke, and had done just a little dope in the service, some passed joints.  He said that he didn’t like the taste of the stuff, the way the smoke bothered his throat, although he was a tobacco smoker, or the way it made him feel, feel out of control, in another place without kicks. And that was how they got to the idea of trying mescaline and other drugs, but mainly mescaline to help express eternal truths or whatever they thought would come from such experimentation. Naturally Sam was the friendly provider for the stuff, and also to insure that it was righteous since in that period of time lots of awful stuff was being put into drugs by street dealers who were looking to make quick scores and blow town, and let the rubes figure out the stuff of dreams, or of dream puffs.

So that first mescaline night Allan told of his child dream, his dream to escape the damn world that he was born into and hadn’t any say in creating, or being asked about. Josie could see when Allan talked like that, in that Jehovah righteous tone why he would be a prime candidate for some foreboding army stockade or the bastinado when the deal went down, although his decision to confront the Army head-on was a closer thing than one might think as he explained one night, one non drug-induced night. Allan mentioned that “had not being asked about stuff” had bothered him since about age ten or eleven. He related some stuff about his family, as she did about hers but that was later, about how he was in a constant civil war with his mother from as early as he could remember. His poor, hard-working when he could find work father, with no breaks in the world, straight from the hard scrabble world of coal mine Appalachia, was a shadow figure somewhere in the background. The main bouts were with “Ma,” over money, over going, or not going here or there, of breathing, breathing too much to hear him tell it. Kids’ stuff but big on some kid horizon. So that around ten or eleven he started dreaming, first started dreaming about escaping from his tumble- down working poor boy fate, starting dreaming about the big jail breakout from the old ways.

Where Allan lived growing up was near the water in Hull, about fifteen or twenty miles from Boston. He said he could see across to Castle Island on a good day and so he could see the tankers and other ships coming into the bay to leave off their product or pick up stuff. That is where he then got the idea to build a raft and go out to join a ship moored in the channel and flee to the big wide world parts unknown. In the end it didn’t work out since his reach exceeded his grasp, he could not, not being very good mechanically even then, even with brother help get a sea-worthy, a channel-worthy raft together. But that escape idea, that idea of seeing the great big world, of seeing in person the places and persons that he had heard about, from teachers and others heard about, read about, big sassy book poured over and thumbed over until he was exhausted read about, and seen too on that old black and white television screen we all were glued to which crowded his brain.

That failed raft experiment, in any case, was not the end of his strivings although it ended his physical break-out end for a while. He spoke one night of sneaking out the back of the family house (he called it a shack and when he took me there on one ill-advised meet with his mother I had to agree with him although I was always too polite to say anything bad about the place) on midnight runs to Harvard Square at sixteen. Of walking a couple of miles to catch a local all-night bus to then catch the subway at Fields Corner in Dorchester and to rumble, tumble, amble his way over to Cambridge, to the all-night open Hayes-Bickford. Being there just to feel the air of the place when things were beginning to happen in 1962, to just be around the new thing, the jailbreak out thing that he sensed was coming. And then rumble, tumble, amble back on that subway before dawn to avoid mother worries, mother hassles and mother penalties. And then one thing led to another and he put the dream on hold, put it on hold through college, through whisky nights, through some personal political dream etched out in Kennedy days splendor, in short  “to get his” while helping others to get theirs. And so his horizon narrowed, his fervent desire to see, hear, read, be with everything, everybody, to see how things ticked is what he said he called it faded, childhood, young manhood faded.

And then came the Army. Allan didn’t like to talk about it, talk about it all that much, especially when early on Josie would go on and on about what the experience was like in order to get a feel for who she was getting tied up with, about what happened while he was in the military, the Army. He would cut her short with this- “he did what he had to do, did it, and he was not sorry, nor sorry for a minute, that he did what he did.” He added, chuckling, the worst of it was when they threw him in solitary for a while and wouldn’t let him smoke cigarettes in those days when he was a fairly heavy smoker (although the system worked out among solitary prisoners allowed him to cadge a few puffs while in the rest room, oh no what did he call it, oh yeah, the latrine). He had begun to smoke more after he was inducted when there was so much dead time that the trainees would just stand around smoking one cigarette after another to kill time until some jackass (his word) sergeant sadistically decided he wanted his charges to double- time with full backpack somewhere for some reason known only to that self-same sergeant, for some odd national or personal security reason.

Mainly though Allan said he would go back and forth in his mind about whether before he went in he should have decided differently and not allowed himself to be inducted. The back and forth really centered on that faded dream, that faded break out dream that he let fall on the back burner at a time when having it front and center would have counted . See, he came from working-class people, no, working poor, a notch below that, his poor be-draggled father, from down in Podunk (his term) Kentucky, down in white hillbilly Appalachia, down among the poor white trash of literature. The just poor that she knew needed help from when she read Michael Harrington’s The Other America for a sociology class that she took as an under-graduate where he described the white folks left behind in the go-go America of the 1950s.

Allan had turned red one time when Josie mentioned that book and that she knew, book knew, of what his father, and his people were all about, “the wretched of the earth” in America. He related a story, a school story, about how his high school,  Hull High, was going to reach out to the victims in Appalachia by sending food, clothing and money down there, down to Hazard, Kentucky. Jesus, he said when the headmaster announced the program over the loudspeaker, that was where his father was born (Allan had shown her that fact listed on his birth certificate one day). In any case his father was always out of work, out of luck, and out of Allan’s frame of reference especially when he got older and started drifting away from the family and started to develop his own political perspective and his own jailbreak way out of the scene he grew up with.

But that was exactly the problem, that from hunger bringing up, that hand-me-down-where-is-the-rent-money-coming-from-keep-your-eyes-to-the-ground-shame and sorry combined with three thousand pounds of plain ordinary vanilla 1950s all ships rising teen angst and teen alienation, that came between Allan and all his decisions in those days. Along with some very standard American idiotic patriotic my-country-right-or- wrong local mores and customary Roman Catholic subservience to authority, Rome or D.C.(in this life he said, all was to be milk and honey in the next) in that Irish neighborhood that he grew up in. That and his very real appetite for going for the main chance in politics. That was what he had been aiming for, a career, a regular career in politics, “helping his people while helping himself,” is the way he put it.

Allan told Josie that he had spent most of 1968 working that main chance idea as he was getting ready to graduate from school and had some time to “build his resume.” He started out that fateful year holding his nose and committed to backing Lyndon Johnson for re-election until Eugene McCarthy (Irish Gene he mentioned, a poet and a dreamer and thus worthy of support) pushed the envelope and Johnson backed out. He went wild for Robert Kennedy, his idea of a beau political animal then, ruthless to political enemies, young or old, and not forgetful about old wounds either, and this beautiful patrician vision of “seeking a newer world.” When Bobby was assassinated he went over to Humphrey and would up there under the principal that Richard Noxious, uh, Nixon was the main enemy of the people of the world (and of his political advancement). So not the profile of a guy who was going to chance charging windmills, or crush dreams of bourgeois break-outs, no way.

So Allan went, sullenly went when drafted. After about three days he realized that he had made a mistake, a serious mistake and that he should have chanced draft- dodger jail instead. But see, it was hard for a guy hard-wired for a political career to shift gears like that, so he fumbled and bumbled with the problem for a while. He had always been anti-war in kind of an abstract way; kind of an “all men are brothers” way. He told Josie that he had first expressed that opinion on the Boston Common back in the fall of 1960 when he attended a small demonstration at the Park Street Station with a bunch of little old angel ladies in tennis sneakers and stern-faced Jehovah-etched Quakers who were calling for nuclear disarmament. He also told her as if to express the Janus nature of the times, of himself, that the next week he was working the streets of Hull passing out Jack Kennedy presidential literature. Jack who was crying out loud about the “missile gap,” nuclear missiles to be sure. So he stumbled and mumbled fitfully through the problem.

Of course if you were part of the military, down in some boondock (Allan’s term) southern town out in nowhere far from northern gentility, even rough-edged northern working- class gentility, you were up the creek without a paddle (Josie’s expression), and also surrounded by guys, maybe sullen, maybe gung-ho, but mainly who like you were kind of committed to their fate (and afraid, afraid like hell of that constant threat, Fort Leavenworth, the main Army penal threat) then stumbling and mumbling is what you did, and did it for a while. But the military fates were not kind, not wartime kind, not 1969 wartime kind, when the Vietnam war was eating up men and material at prestigious rates, while the world clamored for shut-down and so Allan’s fate was to be a grunt, a foot soldier, and the only place that foot soldiers were being gainfully employed in those days was in sweaty, sullen Southeast Asia. And in the normal course of events after training he was so ordered there.

And still he mumbled, stumbled, and tumbled. He, political animal he, tried to work around it administratively, pulling some chips dues in with his cronies, no go. He tried to do an end- around by claiming conscientious objector status, although he was uneasy about it since he believed that there were some just wars and that position was not a ground for discharge then, no go. Then one night, one night, a Sunday night, a hot and sweaty Sunday night, sitting in the base PX after the library had closed he decided, decided that some form of resistance was the only way out. Personal resistance since he saw no other kindred.

He went out in the sultry night and started walking and planning, and half-hesitating. He would make a public display; he would go AWOL and then make a splash at some public civilian anti-war. (That AWOL, absent without leave part was important for him, and later Josie, since he stayed away just long enough from the Replacement Center at Fort Lewis in Washington state to be  “dropped for the rolls,” meaning that he could turn himself in at Fort Devens about forty miles from Boston and stay there pending new orders. The importance for Josie was, unknowingly, or half knowingly, that she had been one of the demonstrators clamoring for his release in a rally in front of the fort after he was incarcerated.) Other soldiers he had heard had done such stunts prodded on by those same Jehovah Quakers who formed the backdrop of his political coming of age in Boston Common as a boy. No. As his resolve firmed up, and as he got courage, some well-spring of Appalachia hunker- down father genes- bought courage he thought later when he had plenty of time to think, he decided that he would make a showing in front of his fellow soldiers.

So one Monday morning as the base gathered for its weekly gathering of troops on the parade ground for inspection (and to see who was missing, if anybody) he walked out, walked out of his nearby barracks in civilian clothes, carrying a simple homemade sign “Bring The Troops Home.” He was immediately seized and man-handled by some what he called ‘lifer’ sergeants (who, when he thought about it later probably didn’t know if he was soldier or just a damn hippie protester trespasser and he therefore should have been in uniform with his sign). And the rest was mainly legal proceedings, and doing the time, doing that almost a year in the base stockade. (Under the outside civilian parallel legal proceedings on his behalf then in effect they couldn’t sent him to Fort Leavenworth without violating a civilian judge’s order.) Like Josie said, he didn’t like it talk about it all that much, except he had plenty of time to think, think those ancient break-out thoughts that had him (and her as he told his story) in its thrall.

Josie realized that the way she told the story, told Allan’s childhood dream story, all cold sober, no sweet dream drug haze, no colors, no pizzazz, sounded as straight narration like a good description for why he wanted to see the world, or at least the continent which was what his preliminary plan had entailed, but did not half-explain how she was inflamed by his fire that night, or thereafter. Or why he was either. That night as she remembered it Allan was in what he called (and she started to get a drift sense of it more and more after that drift snowdrift night they connected up in New Hampshire) his high blarney Irish lost land poet and prophet mood, a mood for him enhanced not by the color dream sequences going through his mescaline-fueled brain but ancient memory longing to understand the world, the fellahin world that she associated, via her fervent Zionist parents, with the Palestinian refugee camps but he associated with his own bog Irish, his mill town Lowell, Nashua, Lawrence, Saco, his Iowa farmhands, his Nova Scotia Grand Banks hearty and hellish fisherman, his Woody Guthrie okie and arkie dust- blown refugees, his bracero mex, or flip (Filipino) grape-picking field hands, and mex dark home land village runaways when the land gave out or the federales got too close. And that was just on this continent. He wanted to understand, as well, what made people tick, why they worked so hard to keep in one place, in order to keep from going backwards.

And why too in certain spots, in certain cultural oases she called them (and he yelled at her, faux yelled at her although as she thought back on the moment he probably was serious, to stop with the “soc” jargon that was destroying the common language of explanation, almost like a damn church that has spent too much time in the wilderness and developed a secret coda among the elect but had only generals, no corporals, no followers), new forms of expression, new words to explain life’s struggles were developed and nowhere else. Places like Frisco town (his always usage for that place after he heard Memphis Minnie’s song of the same name) with its beat down, beat around, beat beatitude beat scene and later its summer of love, like L.A. and its characters out of central casting, cast really on the beaches of Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and surfer- ready Malibu, like New Jack City (although that locale, her hometown and his place of a thousand times, was not scheduled except to end at and to dump whatever was to be dumped at her parents’ place when they finished up), like Boston even to some extent. So that was what was on his mind but that was just the outline, they talked for hours (and other days after that first extended outline they continues talking about it, about what was remembered, tip of tongue remembered since color, and other less ancient dreams also snuck into that night).

Strangely he started talking about stone cold jetties, the ones up in Hampton, up in New Hampshire (not their first bonding New Hampshire old converted farmland homestead night but the seacoast, by the water, that drove a lot of his imaginings) and how a man could sit for hours and watch the seas come and go, crashing against that rock-strewn jetty, ripping the face of the stone and shipping it express back to the shoreline sands. He had actually done such sitting one time when they first started going together, before they lived together, and he ran up there to see some old anti-war G.I. buddy, a kooky guy, a wild monk guy all caped up, for real, named Magic Mick, who was transforming himself into some kind of groupie zen master. He had heard from Magic Mick that up in mill town Saco, up in Maine there was a jetty that made Hampton look like dry land slumbers, stretching out to Motherland Sea, the homeland, the place where we started from. Allan said they could check that out as they headed up the coast. See the vague outline of the trip was to head north before it got too cool, head west before the cold Denvers hit, California about November and then south to Mexico for the winter and then back east. There was no need to stop at Hampton though as those stones were, as he said, passé, they needed new adventures, new sittings for hours druid Stonehenge by the sea stones.

Josie did not learn until later, later when the trip was well under way, that while he was addicted to ocean edges, tepid waters running to shore, fetid marshes to feed mother oceans’ starving denizens, and mephitic smucks at low tide fetching earthbound clams for human hungers, he feared, deathly feared, and rightly so mother sea’s fury. Feared since childhood being on the water, being boat-stirred or swim- stirred since he had logged drifted out to sea and almost three dip drowned and so he searched, searched longingly for succor from the ocean depths by getting landward as far out as possible.

He expected to see from that Saco jetty vantage point as well the fellaheen lobster boatmen plying the waters off the coast, plying their lobster trap trade. Fierce men fiercely defending their flash- colored pots against all-comers, all comers except King Neptune with his quirky habit of dumping a certain percentage of them on land as tribute to his generous nature at other times. Allan knew, childhood knew, the mucky gypsy clam muckers down at Hull’s Hell’s End (real gypsies who worked the carnivals by night, their women the old  wilting rose for the lady trick, and maybe the night sweat trick as well for a lonely carnival fortune wheel losers, pay up, pay up twice, brother). Swarthy, dark heathens, gruff, gruff even to homeland ocean boys and gruff about who could and could not ply the mudflats seeking clam bits to spice up some off-hand spur-of-the-moment family barbecue before it all, the family, fell apart and went about six different ways. So he wanted to know their brethren, their swamp yankee down east brethren brought up in small seacoast villages harsh learning life against the Atlantic gales, out in the creeping boats, seaworthy or not, fully-equipped or not, at dawn, if not before, coffee-filled, some stone cold breakfast so they could get a little extra sleep, maybe rum brave when all was said and done. Knowing fair shares of “oh yah jim, he fell overboard a few years back, they have his name over on the seamen’s memorial in town if you want to know, a fine lobster man, Sam well, Sam never, was right after that boom hit him, hit him square on the noggin, maybe his name should go up there too,” and such.

When Allan got his fill of sitting and viewing, and viewing and sitting they would move on up the coast, maybe picking blueberries along the way for fresh fire- side breakfast pancakes, or just pop it in with the oatmeal, and head to Bar Harbor and the swells, and some Arcadian delight. And of sweetening it up with thoughts of midnight love-makings on the secluded rocks all naked and free and away from prying eyes and with the sea playing some kind of sea symphony to the rhythm of their love. [Yes, I could see what she meant about his blarney, myself full of blarney, although she smiled when she mentioned the rocks, mentioned the love-making on the rocks and maybe thought back to nights of risings and falling of the sea and of them, or as she related another time, when she told me a story about them in Perkin’s Cove also up in Maine, that she had started that whole idea of nakedness and fucking  with her delight at the sea that day and had suggested that very idea.]

Josie had to laugh as she told of Allan’s dream, Allan’s get out in the wide world dream for he was, like her, strictly a city dweller even if he grew up in the working-class suburbs. When he started going on and on about being some mountain man she cut him short. It must have been the honesty brought forth by the drugs that she chirped up that she at least had been to camp when she was a kid and remembered how to pitch a tent, work camp fires, and hike a freaking trail without needing first aid or a bevy of hospital services. He stopped for a moment, for a candid moment. He confessed, confessed that come the first night of camp, that he would be fearful when he was away from city lights, lamp posts, when the only light was from some blinking star (she shared part of that fear, not for dark nights, but what lurked, lurked for a woman, in an untamed world), and that while he was the ocean’s own nature boy, some son of Neptune his oceans always bordered land, sighted land. That was all prelude he confessed to pre-excuses for any difficulties when they traversed (what the heck was traverse he asked) some small trail headed up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Arcadia National Park.

Allan then, as if to change the subject, got back to his point about the beauty of seeking nature’s course like some latter day Thoreau rising with the dawn, rising with the sun, rising to the sound of birds, to keep faith with the handiwork of nature especially when they hit the summit and could see all of the ocean for miles around that he had seen in pictures.  (And Magic Mick had told him about one desperate hashish night when they were preparing for some protest, or something and needed new age “rum bravery” to see them through. They were going to distribute some anti-war material on an army base, Daniel Ellsberg’s The Pentagon Papers she thought, and had been arrested and thrown off the base and told in no uncertain terms not to come back, sixty days in the some stinking federal pokey, if they did. So maybe that courage was necessary).

Allan got on his high-horse about natural wonders, which while he didn’t understand he could appreciate. Like that idea behind television and transistor radios when he was a kid, and the red scare cold war sputnik, about how did they do that stuff. That drove him mad (although when she explained a couple of things to him, things picked up at Hunter College High, to dispel his “heathen seeing silver flying birds” theory of the universe, he waved it off, “too heavy” waved it off, and she relented. What drove him crazier though was the idea of natural stuff, stuff like the reversing falls at Saint John’s up in New Brunswick, or craters come down to earth and then just sit there. Old Faithful out in Wyoming or someplace out there on the prairie was the end though, imagine something blowing off steam every ninety minutes or something like that, He had hoped they would get to see that on their way to Denver if the thing moved along okay and it was not too late to chance a detour if it looked like the snow squalls didn’t block them in late October or so. But the Bay of Fundy and its funny tides had him flipped, he said maybe that would be worth watching for hours like that Saco jetty (and coming back on her about that afternoon they rocked the rocks in old Perkin’s Cove, maybe they could start an international trend like some new edition of the Kama Sutra).

Then Allan got serious again, real serious, which meant that he was going to go onto some political thing, some political-etched thing. Then he started reciting from memory Longfellow’s Evangeline the one about the French in Arcadia being pushed out of their ancient land by the bloody British after the various world- wide battles those two European powers fought throughout the eighteenth century, and about love, land love, ocean love, love love being uprooted and they were exiled sent down to swamp Cajun country. Jesus he almost cried. He said he wanted to stand in solidarity with another victim of John Bull’s tyranny, to stand with the lost fellahin long suffering on another of history’s long marches to oblivion and the death of the Arcadian dream then, and now. Josie  still remembered the half-lilt in his voice when he did that recital (how the hell did he do that, she thought). She could see in the way that he spoke that he was thinking his own fellaheen thoughts, his old neighborhood thoughts about how his people had been displaced (like her own, although she did not identify as strongly with that diaspora sentiment as he did, after all her people, her parents, their kin too, had made the grade  in America, as had she) and about some nagging, festering sore that would not quit him, about those small dream days, about how everybody pushed hard to stay in the same place (some of the kindred had been in the neighborhood for four generations, a long time in go-go America), He named a spot, Grand Pre where he wanted to stop and express his solidarities and so that was plotted onto their ever- expanding itinerary.

Allan floored her after that recital and gabfest  with a thing he picked up from Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, which he said he had read again in the stockade along with a bunch of his other books, Desolation Angels, Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and a couple of others she didn’t remember. She had read On The Road as an undergraduate although it didn’t make a big impact on her since she felt that it was mainly a man’s book, a book about guys doing what guys always do, try to screw women and then take off for some other adventure, or other women. She thought he was going to go on and on about the beauty of the relationship between Sal and Dean, about some mystical lost kindred spirit, about the wide open spaces, and of a man’s need (or woman’s, Allan was pretty good about including women in the road, and real worlds, without making a big deal about it although a couple of times she had to take him up quick on the subject of a women’s place ) to break-out of convention, to explore stuff, and to observe human nature in the raw, and do something about it, if only to write about it.

Instead he berated the characters of On The Road for not stopping at some youth hostels where they could have stayed for cheap, or little dough, in clean (you helped keep it that way as part of the fee), rooms or dorms instead of sleeping in the back seats of cars, on the side of the road, in some freaking corn field, or something like that. Besides they could have met better people, better ride-sharing and expenses people, and people with some dough, since there usually were people from Europe or places like there who had traveler’s cheques and such, than at the Traveler’s Bureaus or u-ride places. See when he was in the stockade there was a guy he used to talk to (before that guy got shipped to Leavenworth, he was doing some big time for the same kind of things Allan was in for but without his civilian legal backing), Bruce, from New York City who had done some on the road travelling and “hipped” him to that scene.

It sounded kind of hokey to Josie, since she expected that they would either tent or stop at an occasional bed and board. Josie also thought they were a little too old to be sitting in some dorm thing, like they were at college, with a million people who maybe didn’t speak English (or French, her college language) and they might not even, from the way he told it, depending on the hostel, be able to sleep together. She didn’t like that idea since she had gotten used to them sleeping in their double bed. He said the one in Halifax, the first one that he figured they would try was co-ed, and had private rooms so they should try it, try, he laughed to be more “progressive,” road progressive than Jack and his crowd. There would be time enough to sleep on the sides of roads, or in some lazy cottage, or with friends dotted at spots over the American landscape. And with that, after many fretful hours, they drifted off to sleep.    

That next late afternoon at “breakfast” Allan started up again about the trip to end all trips. That breakfast Josie was at pains to point out had been made by Allan since he was then in, as a lot of young men were at the time, his women’s “lib” moment. While she and Allan had more than a few battles later over who was to do, and not do, what in sharing household chores she thought his initiative in requesting to feed her breakfast was, well, charming. In those days when a lot of what women, including Josie, were growling over had been the male king in his castle thing and so any slight effort to off-set that mystique was taken as good coin. Later when things got more political, when the question of real power came up a lot of guys went into the tank. So in those early days the easier way to show one’s male liberation from mother’s apron strings fetch-all was to make and serve meals to milady, Josie remember that menu, eggs, bagels and lox, some juice and coffee like it had come down from the mountain…      

…while Allan was cleaning up the dishes (added points if a man did the cooking and the cleaning up) he mentioned that he was crazy to go to Neil’s Harbor and Peggy’s Cove up in Cape Breton and could hardly wait to get on the road out of Halifax and push north unless we were somewhat behind in our schedule, our rough schedule, to try to head west and then south before the winter set in. He wanted to take in the beauty, the hills rising above the ocean along the road that encircled the whole place, and the separate circle that enveloped Cape Breton, Nova Scotia beyond that Arcadia notion. Moreover a friend had told him that the provincial parks, unlike the state parks in the states were cheap, were well kept-up, provided firework and hearths, and had decent showers facilities (except in the few “primitive” sites which we might be confronted with at certain points where you had to backpack in and take your chances, ugh) He had hoped to get his fill of ocean views to strengthen him against the mid-American continent bump where you might be lucky to see a lake or something.

They would head west when they were both heartily tired of endless seas, endless looking at seas, although not of walking them, sitting and listening to the ocean, or making love as the waves rolled in if they had the chance. His thing was to chart things like the furthest point in all directions they hit on the trip, how many of this and that they saw, how many that and this, things they did, you could tell he was a real numbers and geography guy. Not where those places were in the world so much, no, so he could said, sometimes brag, brag a little, but mostly say, well, he had been this far  in case somebody might think he was a rube if he hadn’t been far enough from home.

 

 

 

Funny too because Josie said in his politics, his political moment that he would be  suppressing a little on the trip for her sake, he was always talking, and doing something about it which is where they were beginning to differ, about the struggle in against the American government in Vietnam, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the fate of the Palestinians (the one major point where she, a half-hearted Zionist, daughter of Zionists, and he would have a few blow-ups including one night in Boston before the trip when they, drunk and stoned, were at some party which was being attended by something like the central committee of the Zionist movement in Boston, although neither of them originally knew that was the case. They were raising money for something in Israel, and he started talking his liberation talk, talking about the Irgun gang, about the King David Hotel, about Deir Yessin, jesus, stuff Josie didn’t even know about. He got heated, got heated at her, most of all, for half-defending the infidels at the party, or just their right to support Israel, something like that.

When they got back to her place, they weren’t living together then he was living in a commune down the road, she threw him out, after they had probably woken up half of the student ghetto in Allston. Then around four o’clock Josie said she was missing “my sweet walking daddy” [I blushed when she said that.] and called him up to come on back over. He didn’t want to, didn’t want to because he was sleepy, and they had another row over that. He, when Josie propositioned him, propositioned him with a little secret thing that that she did to him with her mouth (expecting me to know what that was without further description, which I did and made a mental note on), a thing that as he said, or as he had heard on some blues song, maybe David Bromberg, maybe Muddy Waters she couldn’t remember, that curled his toes, he came over, but it was not a good night, not a good omen at all.

It’s funny because Josie was, and Allan later admitted that he was too, very provincial, not in the sense of being some hayseed thing out in Iowa but provincial in the way they interpreted Saul Steinberg’s sardonic  New Yorker cover, the one where his map of America started in Manhattan big and then the rest of America was about one inch of space. She related to that sense of the world and would tell him, at his request, endless things odd-ball things about growing up in Manhattan what she had seen, and did. He said he felt the same about Boston and maybe that is why he had to have charts and lists and a stuff like that, his stuff in the world.                              

…A lot of what Josie said that sad rainy Cambridge night, after she had a few scotches, neat, got mixed-up, not purposefully mixed-up but mixed between the great Allan dream stretch and events that occurred when they actually did get out on the neon wilderness road. I confess too that I having had that same liquor concoctions that I was mixed-up prone. What follows is to the best of my recollection the real travelogue of the trip. Like I say it was a long rainy Cambridge night but she wanted to talk, and I wanted to listen. Let us continue:   

…Josie’s feelings about Peggy’s Cove, Cape Breton, and the like when they got there though was (besides the great view and friendly huge immense rocks they could sit on and get splashed by the sea and feel clean although she was never an ocean freak like him) that since this was to be the eastern most point of their trip (and they thought at the time it would be the northernmost as well) they could stay in a bed and breakfast place. Indoors with an indoor shower, private, or not wait in line, or anything like that. Maybe something just off the main road, “Mrs. Miller’s Bed and Breakfast” or something like that. And if that name of the places and who ran it sounds like something out of about 1947 then you are right because that is exactly what it was like, and what she was like when they found themselves looking for such a place. Of course out in the provinces, the gentle provinces, among the folk who live in the little off-the-road places, the places where times stands still, they depend on the travelling peoples of the world who want to see great natural beauty, and relax against the craziness of the world depend on making their, what did Allan call it, their harsh lonely winter tide-me-over money, in season. But these people, and Josie and Allan ran into many, on the outskirts of civilization, have their limits, and have their own mores, and good for them. Except not good for them, almost. Mrs. Miller wanted to know if they were married, and they, thinking they were in Boston or New York, said, well no, and, essentially, what of it. She kind of flipped out and did not want to let them stay in her “home.”  So they, tired for a long day on the road, sometime in the rock-bound sea sun, and not sure where the next B&B was, if  any started back-tracking, started  talking about their travels, about tires, about using this trip to see if they should get married. (That contribution was by Josie so you could see Allan’s blarney side rubbing off.) Mrs. Miller didn’t like it, but as a good Christian woman, she had to welcome us. It was close though, very close. See too though they had intended that this indoor scene would allow them to have a freshen up, a shower, have a nice dinner, maybe some wine to get a little high (they had no intention of doing reefer, no way), and then some serious gentle sex. They were both tired of hard-scrabble dirt, of rocks, of fleas, gnats and every other bug taking the edge off their love-making. So they had to debate whether to do this deed in this good Christian woman’s house. They did but did it so quietly that both of them thought afterwards that this is the way that they are forced to do it in Chinese villages and working- class neighborhood where everybody is packed in together. But here is the best part, the next morning Mrs. Miller made the best pancake-waffle-eggs-anyway you wanted them-ham-hash-home fries- muffins-juice- and whatever for them the best breakfast that they had ever had. And to top it off a big old fresh baked blueberry pie for them to eat on their travels. Josie said, smiling, a remembrance smile, a good Christian angel woman, indeed, she has her place reserved in heaven, if such a place was worthy of her.

 

Although Josie lived on the island of Manhattan growing up she never had an occasion to ride the Staten Island ferry which people who don’t come from Manhattan don’t understand, especially since it was only a nickel then. Allan said that his mother told him when she was a girl that she would take boat from Boston down to New York via the Cape Cod Canal and the two things that he remembered that he said she went on and on about were the cheap-jack Automat, the cafeteria where you inserted coins and got your food via the cubicles, a far out thing in the 1930s Josie guessed, and the ride on the cheap Staten Island (and the view of downtown Manhattan from the Staten Island side). So Allan told her that the first time they went down to New York City together to face the fireworks from her parents and they wouldn’t, no way, let us stay together in her room he actually spent the night riding the ferry back and forth, a very cheap way to keep out of the cold and away from harm and copper eyes. So when they made the turn past Neil’s Harbor and headed west, the first real west move they had made on the trip Allan said remembering the Staten Island Ferry experience “let’s take the ferry over to Prince Edward Island,” and so they did and while Josie thought it was interesting to be on the water with their funny old Datsun it wasn’t anything like the big deal Allan made of it. Josie said to me “Let’s put it this way I still haven’t taken the Staten Island Ferry.” Prince Edward Island certainly had its charm, small fishing and farming villages dotted the highway around the island but Josie was getting a little antsy about moving on to see some different scenery from the boats and cows.

The one thing that stuck out in her mind though was this incredible beach on the north side, this Brackley Beach which extended for miles jutting out into the Saint Lawrence, and which if you can believe this up that far north had no qualms about allowing nude bathing. They had it right on the sign, the sign that reserved the area for nude bathers. They were kind of shocked, or she was but Josie said to Allan that she was game, although she had a swim suit along. Allan was kind of funny about that though, some Irish Catholic working- class hang-up about public exposure, or something. He used to hang around the various water spots they landed on with a light- weight long sleeve shirt, his jeans and sandals, he refused to wear a bathing suit, and as it turned out didn’t even have one with him. This get-up thing he said he wore because of the bugs, bugs that really did seem to draw a bee-line to him. That day though Josie coaxed him out of his jeans and all when she whispered in his ear that I was kind of horny, horny like down in Maine that time at Perkin’s Cover when she had given him the first blow job she had given him (she said to me that “thing she did with her mouth” but we all know what she meant) and she said maybe she was up for giving a little skull that day too. That perked him up as they headed to some private area of the dunes, put down a big towel, maybe a small blanket and she went to work on him. Josie said he was all smiles when she “curled his toes” for him.                                  

Down river flow that is what Allan kept practically chanting as they drifted down the Saint Lawrence River headed to Quebec City. But along the way they had stopped at seemingly twenty different towns, Trois this and that kind of towns, three river places, all the same place as far as Josie was concerned, but one town that they stopped in she said could stand for her little road story for that leg  of the trip because it really could stand in for all of them. The story also can stand as testimony to the cool, kooky, kinky stuff that made the days go by nicely, and too fast with her sweet walking daddy. All of these river towns had like a lot of towns they had seen, a small main street, a few stores, maybe a library, a school showing here and there, and all had churches, but not the New England big steeple white simple church gathering in the pious brethren on Sunday to hear some big top theology from some learned Harvard-trained minister praise big bad Jehovah, or something like that.

What these towns had was heavy stone-etched imposing cathedral-like edifices with plenty of artwork, devotional stuff, and dank, dark, and smelling of death about them, or really the readiness for death that the Catholics are always hankering for. Really though just like the New England pine-box churches once you have seen one you have pretty much gotten all you need to know about the damn things. And Josie would have left it at that but something about the whole sanctified, sacred, scented scene, kind of took Allan off his moorings. She had mentioned before that he was off the church thing but like he said such things when so intense die hard, die out only after some kind of sacred exorcism, and so that is how he schemed (schemed in the good sense of planning something out) to do a mock exorcism at the church in Trois Rivieres, a couple of hundred miles from Quebec City. Now this was not some churchy thing he was thinking of but rather as was their first thought thing then, a little sexual escapade. See his idea was that he and Josie would do some hanky-panky in that dark church (dark, because like the New England white steeple church brethren the parishioners were deep in work on the farms or in the cotton mill that provided some work for the town folk). So they snuck over to the chapel at least that is what she thought they called it, Allan did anyway (like maybe he knew that was the best place , although he swore, swore after they were done that he had never done it there, or even though about it until the ride down the Saint Lawrence). Josie had been afraid to take her clothes off, and insisted that she wouldn’t so they settled on her giving him some head, but he said that for once they would use a condom and leave the residue there as a burnt offering for the sins of the world. Josie said that she did not usually like condoms (rubbers) in her mouth because they taste funky but this time she kind of didn’t notice it so much because frankly, as they got started she got so turned on by the idea they were doing it in church, a sacred place, that she just went about her work, and she could tell by his little moanings that Allan was appreciating  her efforts, although after a bit she said started thinking about how maybe they should “do the do” (their little term for love-making courtesy of  a Howlin’ Wolf song) and she suggested that to him but once he got into her “giving head”  thing that usually was what he wanted. Well, Allan  came, after she had given him the best blow job she thought she had ever given him until then, and least he had a big grin on his face after she took the condom off and we placed it carefully in front of the altar. She  told him she was still turned on and so they went back to that secluded area and did “do the do”, twice. Josie, the little tease, one of the reasons I was interested in her, said she would tell me more, a couple of little extra things that happened that day at that church but she said she could  tell I are getting turned on and so she left it at that. I was too.                 

 

    

 

After the farms, field and rivers coming down the Saint Lawrence all of a sudden out of the river mist, out of the river turn around Ile de Orleans there came into view the great fortress city of Quebec City, a city that Allan and Josie both confessed that they knew about mainly from the Plains of Abraham, bloody deaths of Montcalm and Wolfe in some 18th century part of the world-wide battle for world supremacy, for the ports, the commercial ports of entry. Quebec to her though was mainly a matter of about ten million churches, Gallic Roman Catholic churches fit for the lame, halt, and crippled it seemed by their names or names associated with each parish, with all grey stone, all gothic, all forbidding, foreboding and frankly hostile, hostile to whatever Jewish identity she felt, felt being among those who not that long before (or maybe they still did) called her people Christ-killers and did stuff about it. Allan, a long lapsed, lapsed  since about fourteen when he started reading some stuff , some stuff by Jews like Karl Marx and Sartre, Catholic, and feeling out of sorts and oppressed by the Catholic-ness of the place (except for those bloody Plains of Abraham alongside the Saint Lawrence and really beautiful), for his own reasons, stated categorically that he would defend me, my honor, the bones of my forbears, even my fussy parents, if anybody, anybody under cloak of clerical authority, or just any lay person who got crazy, tried any rough stuff, and that kept her in check (and made her love him even more, and ready then to show some him decidedly non-Catholic loving out of wedlock, and out of procreation’s way too).

Also despite the architectural beauty of the city, the gothic old time sense of some very much earlier age, some age when men and women were not afraid to come out and face the wilds, the hostile Indians, the even more hostile wildlife and stake their claim to new world riches and pay homage to the providence that spared those who survived put paid to that good wind by those incredible churches, nunnery and chapel (and the vast number of personal to service them), the current crop of  French-Canadians who just then dominated the very nationalistic times were short with Anglos, including sympathetic Anglos like Allan and Josie. This was the heyday of Quebec independence movement and the tensions were still in the air against the Anglo government which had at one point before they came declared martial law in the province. The way that edge came out was when they would go into restaurant in Old Town and try to order lunch or something (admittedly, Josie said, her  my high school and first year of college long past French and later Allan’s Spanish in Mexico were too Anglo to fake anybody out that they  were anything but Americanos) and be snubbed at every turn, deliberately snubbed by waiters, slumming while students like was almost universal then, maybe now too) who you could overhear speaking perfectly usable English among themselves when they wanted to make some obscure point. Allan would get on his high- horse about the heathens (his term for any high-hat snub anywhere usually followed by-“well, my people were creating great culture when their forbears were trying to figure out how to use a spoon, or what it was useful for)  While Allan wasn’t happy about snubs, or any other of the small change of people, people like his Irish forbears, who couldn’t respond to their oppression any other way he was more tolerate than Josie was toward what he called his fellahin brethren . 

Josie asked him, asked him seriously one time when they were driving out of Quebec City toward Montreal what he meant by fellahin, where he had heard or seen the word, was it in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road where she had seen it as part of Jacks’  trip in southern California in describing the places, the night after hard day fields places the mex places, where he and his lady of the time, his little mex whore, landed on that famous trip, and the people and their mores, his kindreds. Allan said no he had learned it in seventh grade over at Hull Junior High School when some history teacher, a Jewish guy if he remembered correctly, held the class in awe with stories about the Jewish struggles in the Middle East with the Palestinians, including labor Zionists, and Allan had held the word like a lot of odd-ball words that interested him in his head since then. What Allan meant, maybe like Kerouac, and like that history teacher, was life’s dispossessed, those left behind in the dust who, until their judgment day (not that foolish religious one) when they were liberated, maybe generations, would forget that bondage times but until then he wanted to be very indulgence toward them, even if we got poor wait staff service, ouch. Yeah, the fetid fellaheen night was what was in store for, Josie wondered that night for the first time could she take it …              

…It started to go bad, not the bad bad of their being together bad, but trip bad, after Quebec City as they were heading down to Montreal. Allan began to doubt the whole purpose of the trip, expounding on the bourgeois nature of the thing, the dilettante thing they were doing while the people’s struggles was going on all around them. That night in Quebec City that she had mentioned before when they stood in solidarity with the students fighting the national liberation struggle kind of set things off in his head. He was going through something of an ocean change in his head, something more in line with his slightly changed political views as he moved away from peaceful rallies and sweet reason conferences and workshops like the one when we first met up in New Hampshire, something that had been gnawing at him since that time down in Washington, that May Day 1971 time when she had refused to stay with him to participant in a mass civil disobedience action on that day to try to shut down the government in order to shut down the Vietnam War.

They had had arguments over the correctness of that series of actions as they were hitch-hiking down with a couple of her work friends to attend a mass rally that Josie had helped organize the Boston part of and which Allan called hopelessly futile. He was staying for the civil disobedience and she and her friends were heading back to Boston directly after that rally. What bothered Allan after he came back about a week later after having been incarcerated in the RFK stadium for a few days was how futile that action was, how they, mainly students and young unaffiliated radicals, had been easily defeated military by the cops and guardsmen. Swept up like the rubbish and with less fuss it seemed to him. He got into a mood like it didn’t matter what they did, those brethren students and unaffiliated radicals, without some other force to help them out they would stay just as isolated and defeated as if they had just stayed with those like her who called for more massive peaceful marches as a strategy.

So Allan read, really read when he got off of whatever temporary job his was doing to help they get the dough to make the trip (he said he had not read so much, with so much purpose since the stockade days), and went to different political meetings to try to see if anybody else knew what the hell way that the wars could be stopped, or some rough economic and social justice could be brought into this wicked old world. After several months he finally gravitated toward some socialist stuff, some stuff by Marx, but the big thing was that massive three-volume set by Leon Trotsky the assassinated Bolshevik leader, History of the Russian Revolution. I knew enough about Trotsky, and about Allan, to get secretly stirred inside when he lost himself in that “project” (Allan’s term) In the span between that night when he laid out his dream trip and the actual start of the several months later he thus found “religion.”

Now one of the things about Josie, one that she saw as a positive trait, was that she was a drone when it came to research, that was why Professor Telly liked her, worked with her closely. It turned out that Allan was the same way about things, a drone when he got into something, not necessarily academic things but things that he thought important and so he began reading everything he could about the socialist movement, revolutions, the labor movements and all that. (She had never told Allan this because although it was before she had met him she was not sure how he would take it but a couple of times the Professor and her got high on dope and went over to his house on Commonwealth Avenue when his wife was out of town and did the “do the do.” Telly was looking for sex and she was looking for good grades and a nice recommendation so it was a fair trade-off. She still thought so, although a couple of my girlfriends had raised their eyebrows when she told them.)

 Allan would read his books as well on the trip, which was fine sometimes but a few times when she did not want him to when she was feeling kind of lonely and looking attention from him. Looking for him to do stuff with and to her me. Especially when they were in cities and not the long lost shadow campers. So that was what made Montreal, a perfectly beautiful city sitting there on the Saint Lawrence with nice clean, busy, happy streets and great scenery, kind of a bummer, kind of a turning point. They had rented a small room with a kitchenette near the student ghetto for a week and for that week he almost hibernated there reading, reading, reading one political book after another.

One night, maybe their third night there, she said, “hey, we are in the city, if you don’t want to go out I do.” He said go ahead and returned to his book. So Josie left and walked down Saint Catherine’s Street which was only a few blocks from where their room was. Now since she was in the city she had dressed up a bit, wore a mini-skirt which Allan had said that he liked and that showed her legs to good effect. While she was walking a young guy, Jean Bon she called him, maybe a little older than her, asked her (in French) if she was looking for company. She said yes. They stepped into a cafĂ© for a drink, maybe a couple and without too much coaxing by then he brought her to his studio apartment. He went to a bowl, rolled a couple of joints, passed her some of the dope and that got her going a little. Well maybe a lot, because she said he was pretty good- looking and she had always had a fantasy about making it with a stranger the first night (she said he had great technique but that she would tell me about that some other time since she had already told me enough about the specifics of her sex life back then).  When they were done and she was ready to leave he handed her fifty-dollars (Canadian). Josie asked what that was for and he explained that he assumed that she was a prostitute (although he was more delicate than that) since she was on Saint Catherine Street and was an easy pick up and that was the going rate for good hookers then. She started to protest but then stopped quickly and said to herself well why not keep the money. It made her a little wet thinking about it as she walked the streets back to her room although while she had that stranger fantasy she never before that night had a working street girl fantasy.

When Josie got back to the room she told Allan about her “date” (except the money part). He said, as he always said they weren’t tied up like some bourgeois parents nonsense, and then went back to reading. She was furious and to take her revenge she went to Jean Bon’s place a couple more times before they left Montreal. And, both of them smiling, took her fifty-dollar fee each time (and it really was the going rate as he said because she had asked a couple of streets girls on Saint Catherine’s about it after that first time, she didn’t want to be some cheap whore. They looked at her strangely when she asked in her Americanized French since to them she did not look like she was in the “trade,” strictly an amateur slumming, if anything). After those sessions then not so furious she also bought herself a nice dress with her “earnings” before they left Montreal. Allan did say she looked sexy in when she tried it on in front of him, and she did. He took the dress off of her fast enough when he saw her swaying gently (and suggestively) in that slinky thing. The wages of war.                   

Josie said that really after Montreal a lot of the rest of the trip got kind of blurry, Allan blurry because what had started out for him as some fulfillment of a childhood quest turned to ashes, turned in on itself after he got “religion” and began to think more about how he was going to fit into the “new world” after the end of the trip. He and Josie had both agreed that they could see signs, definite signs that the big wave that had risen in the 1960s to smite the giants had lost steam, had begun to fade as the war in Vietnam, and America’s central role in the fiasco, diminished. Frankly Josie was less concerned about what to do in the post-revolt world since she had not been washed as much by the phenomenon but she knew the events piling up weighed on Allan’s mind. He after all had staked his political future on some kind of people’s victory in the ongoing struggles to right the world’s wrongs. They would argue over that future a bit, more and more as time on the trip went on and Allan kept thinking almost daily that the travels should be shortened and they should get back to the “real world.” The effect of all this was that after Montreal the former leisurely pace of a hundred or two hundred miles a day, max, went by the boards as they travelled from Montreal to Detroit, really Ann Arbor in one day (skipping right through Toronto, which had been part of the original trip plan but was scuttled since Allan s said they had been there the year before anyway. Josie did not mind the skip although she hated the fast pace that Allan pushed that day to hit Ann Arbor before dusk).        

Ann Arbor in 1972 represented all that Allan feared about what was happening to that big splash 1960s wave. Since Josie had gone to fellow Michigan Big Ten Wisconsin and had made connections on that campus that way and had also gone to high school with several women who went Michigan school and had kept in touch they stayed at the house of one of those of high school friends. Or rather the house, the doctor’s house, outside of town, that her girlfriend (and her boyfriend) were house-sitting while the doctor’s family was in Europe. During their stay there were several parties, nothing too wild but enough to be entertaining, except for Allan.

He was shocked by the lack of any political talk from people who Josie had assured him had been big wheels in the burgeoning Ann Arbor radical and anti-war movements of the late 1960s. He did make Josie laugh when he said they could have been in Tea Neck or Newburgh given that scene that night. Worse much, worse was when they went down to the Quad and around the streets surrounding the campus and Allan remarked (although Josie did not laugh this time) about the place turning into a den of “cockroach” capitalists. The week they expected to spend in friendly Ann Arbor (and that Josie’s friend expected as well) turned into four days and Allan got antsy. That quick departure was also the first time that Josie found Allan had done, or someone had done, some suspicious things in that doctors’ house. But that did not come out until much later, a couple of years later when she saw that high school girlfriend who told her some things, valuable things, had gone missing from the doctor’s house. But that latter information was not part of the trip story that night and she did not, in any case, want to go into those sordid Allan details.          

After Ann Arbor there were mad spurs through big cities, small towns and plenty of prairie, rock formations, and dry desert as Josie and Allan had mapped out as at Allan’s insistence they had decided to get to the West Coast in a far shorter period than they had originally planned. That grasping between Chicago and the Coast, San Francisco was to take two month, with the proviso that if the weather in the Rockies got bad early they would push on faster. In any case the new plan called for them to be on the Coast in two week. Josie said most of it was kind of a blur between racing between points and ignoring many point that she wanted to see in the Western desert night. She did mention a couple of interesting stops and what happened, or almost happened in a couple of places. Some tinged with disputes others just signifying that the writing was on the wall.

That rainy Cambridge night she also felt comfortable enough with me to pass me a sheath of type-written pages that she wanted me to read over later since she was too tired then to speak about those blur days and nights. What she had done was converted her woes into short stories and fictionalized those adventures. Her name in the stories was Angelica and they were told in Allan’s voice although Josie insisted that the important point for me to take from the stories was not the facts, although the locales were true, but the feeling about how things had changed between her and Allan.

That neon wilderness travelling talk night (and the next day) and what followed on the trip, the ups and downs, and Josie  said the sideways too, was their beginning, Her and Allan’s real beginning, their love time with all the bumps, maybe despite all the bumps. She said she could no longer be with him, didn’t want to go beyond the details of their love and their failings that she had spoken of already, that he had gone to a place that she could not follow, had cut her too badly by his careless love actions with other women, by his waywardness, by his angers and hatreds, by his deceits and lies, so no way, there had been too much sorrow between them. She said that every once in a while though on wind-swept nights, or when she was near some ocean, or some raggedy scruffy guy selling some left-wing newspaper passed her by she would get all misty about her sweet walking daddy. Would try to reach out again for that love that had passed them by, that he, her be-bop sweet walking daddy when he was in the mood, had never known how to handle. Would wonder to herself when she was in that mood if he ever found that neon wilderness that he wandered after, and which they together had not found. She said I would have to know that, know that up front, on that rainy, sad, bluesy night. And that was our beginning… 

 

 

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