Saturday, April 19, 2014




A word on the Easter Uprising

In the old Irish working-class neighborhoods where I grew up the aborted Easter Uprising of 1916 was spoken of in mythical hushed reverent tones as the key symbol of the modern Irish liberation struggle from bloody England. The event itself provoked such memories of heroic “boyos”  (and “girlos” not acknowledged) fighting to the end against great odds that a careful analysis of what could, and could not be, learned from the mistakes made at the time entered my head. That was then though in the glare of boyhood infatuations. Now is the time for a more sober assessment.  

The easy part of analyzing the Irish Easter Uprising of 1916 is first and foremost the knowledge, in retrospect, that it was not widely supported by people in Ireland, especially by the “shawlies” in Dublin and the cities who received their sons’ military pay from the Imperial British Army for service in the bloody trenches of Europe which sustained them throughout the war. That factor and the relative ease with which the uprising had been militarily defeated by the British forces send in main force to crush it lead easily to the conclusion that the adventure was doomed to failure. Still easier is to criticize the timing and the strategy and tactics of the planned action and of the various actors, particularly in the leadership’s underestimating the British Empire’s frenzy to crush any opposition to its main task of victory in World War I. (Although, I think that frenzy on Mother England’s part would be a point in the uprising’s favor under the theory that England’s [or fill in the blank of your favorite later national liberation struggle] woes were Ireland’s [or fill in the blank ditto on the your favorite oppressed peoples struggle] opportunities.

The hard part is to draw any positive lessons of that national liberation struggle experience for the future. If nothing else remember this though, and unfortunately the Irish national liberation fighters (and other national liberation fighters later, including later Irish revolutionaries) failed to take this into account in their military calculations, the British (or fill in the blank) were savagely committed to defeating the uprising including burning that colonial country to the ground if need be in order to maintain control. In the final analysis, it was not part of their metropolitan homeland, so the hell with it. Needless to say, cowardly British Labor’s position was almost a carbon copy of His Imperial Majesty’s. Labor Party leader Arthur Henderson could barely contain himself when informed that James Connolly had been executed. That should, even today, make every British militant blush with shame. Unfortunately, the demand for British militants and others today is the same as then if somewhat attenuated- All British Troops Out of Ireland.

In various readings on national liberation struggles I have come across a theory that the Easter Uprising was the first socialist revolution in Europe, predating the Bolshevik Revolution by over a year. Unfortunately, there is little truth to that idea. Of the Uprising’s leaders only James Connolly was devoted to the socialist cause. Moreover, while the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army were prototypical models for urban- led national liberation forces such organizations, as we have witnessed in later history, are not inherently socialistic. The dominant mood among the leadership was in favor of political independence and/or fighting for a return to a separate traditional Irish cultural hegemony. (“Let poets rule the land”).

As outlined in the famous Proclamation of the Republic posted on the General Post Office in Dublin, Easter Monday, 1916 the goal of the leadership appeared to be something on the order of a society like those fought for in the European Revolutions of 1848, a left bourgeois republic. A formation on the order of the Paris Commune of 1871 where the working class momentarily took power or the Soviet Commune of 1917 which lasted for a longer period did not figure in the political calculations at that time. As noted above, James Connolly clearly was skeptical of his erstwhile comrades on the subject of the nature of the future state and apparently was prepared for an ensuing class struggle following the establishment of a republic.

That does not mean that revolutionary socialists could not support such an uprising. On the contrary, Lenin, who was an admirer of Connolly for his anti-war stance in World War I, and Trotsky stoutly defended the uprising against those who derided the Easter rising for involving bourgeois elements. Participation by bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements is in the nature of a national liberation struggle. The key, which must be learned by militants today, is who leads the national liberation struggle and on what program. As both Lenin and Trotsky made clear later in their own experiences in Russia revolutionary socialists have to lead other disaffected elements of society to overthrow the existing order. There is no other way in a heterogeneous class-divided society. Moreover, in Ireland, the anti-imperialist nature of the action against British imperialism during wartime on the socialist principle that the defeat of your own imperialist overlord in war as a way to open the road to the class struggle merited support on that basis alone. Chocky Ar La.

A word on James Connolly.

They tell a story about James Connolly that just before the start of action on Easter Monday, 1916 he told the members of the Irish Citizen’s Army (almost exclusively workers, by the way) that if the uprising was successful to keep their guns handy. More work with them might be necessary against the nationalist allies of the moment organized as the Irish Volunteers. The Volunteers were mainly a petty bourgeois formation that had no intention of fighting for Connolly's vision of a Socialist Republic. True story or not, I think that gives a pretty good example of the strategy and tactics to be used in colonial and third world struggles by the working class. Would that the Chinese Communists in the 1920’s and other colonial and third world liberation fighters since then have paid heed to that strategic concept.

James Connolly, June 5, 1868-May 12, 1916, was of Scottish Irish stock. He was born in Edinburgh of immigrant parents. The explicit English colonial policy of trying to drive the Irish out of Ireland and thus created the Irish diaspora produced many such immigrants from benighted Ireland to England, America, Australia and the far- flung parts of the world. Many of these immigrants left Ireland under compulsion of banishment. Deportation and executions were the standard English response in the history of the various “Troubles" from Cromwell’s time on.

Connolly, like many another Irish lad left school for a working life at age 11. The international working- class has produced many such self-taught and motivated leaders. Despite the lack of formal education he became one of the preeminent left-wing theorists of his day in the pre-World War I international labor movement. In the class struggle we do not ask for diplomas, although they help, but commitment to the cause of the laboring masses. Again, like many an Irish lad, Connolly joined the British Army at the age of 14. In those days the British Army provided one of the few ways of advancement for an Irishman who had some abilities. As fate would have it Connolly was stationed in Dublin. I believe the English must rue the day they let Brother Connolly near weapons and near Dublin. As a line in an old Irish song goes- ‘Won’t Old Mother England be Surprised’.

By 1892 Connolly was an important figure in the Scottish Socialist Federation which, by the way, tended to be more militant and more Celtic and less enamored of parliamentarianism than its English counterpart. Later, the failure to gather in the radical Celtic elements was a contributing factor in the early British Communist Party’s failure to break the working class from the Labor Party. Most of the great labor struggles of the period came from the leadership in Scotland and Ireland. Connolly became the secretary of the Federation in 1895. In 1896 he left the army and established the Irish Socialist Republican Party. The name itself tells the program. Ireland at that time was essentially a classic English colony so to take the honored name Republican was to spit in the eye of the English. Even today the English have not been able to rise to the political level of a republic. Despite Cromwell’s valiant attempt in the 1650's and no thanks to today's British Labor Party’s policies this is still sadly the case. All militants, of whatever nation, can and must support this call- Abolish the British monarchy, House of Lords and the state Church of England.

In England Connolly was active in the Socialist Labor Party that split from the moribund above-mentioned Social Democratic Federation in 1903. During the period before the Easter uprising he was heavily involved in the Irish labor movement and acted essentially as the right hand man to James Larkin in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913 when Larkin led a huge strike in Dublin but was forced to leave due to English reprisals Connolly took over. It was at that time that Connolly founded the Irish Citizens Army as a defense organization of armed and trained laboring men against the brutality of the dreaded Dublin Metropolitan Police.
Although only numbering about 250 men at the time their political goal was to establish an independent and socialist Ireland.

Connolly stood aloof from the leadership of the Irish Volunteers, the nationalist formation based on the middle classes. He considered them too bourgeois and unconcerned with Ireland's economic independence. In 1916 thinking the Volunteers were merely posturing, and unwilling to take decisive action against England, he attempted to goad them into action by threatening to send his Irish Citizens Army against the British Empire alone, if necessary. This alarmed the members of the more militant faction -Irish Republican Brotherhood, who had already infiltrated the Volunteers and had plans for an insurrection as well. In order to talk Connolly out of any such action, the IRB leaders, including Tom Clarke and Patrick Pearse, met with Connolly to see if an agreement could be reached. During the meeting the IRB and the ICA agreed to act together at Easter of that year.

When the Easter Rising occurred on April 24, 1916, Connolly was Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, and as the Dublin brigade had the most substantial role in the rising, he was de facto Commander in Chief. Following the surrender he was executed by the British for his role in the uprising. Although he was so badly injured in the fighting that he was unable to stand for his execution and he was shot sitting in a chair. The Western labor movement, to its detriment, no longer produces enough such militants as Connolly (and Larkin, for that matter). Learn more about this important socialist thinker and fighter. ALL HONOR TO THE MEMORY OF JAMES CONNOLLY.
Out In The American Neon Wilderness-In The Beginning



From The Pen Of Frank Jackman  


This is the way that I heard the story, a story out of the neon wilderness, a story of a still not quite finished love, one sad, rainy, bluesy Cambridge bar stool night in the late 1970s, the Miller Hi-Life sign blinking off and on making strange shadows on Josie’s sad brown world eyes as she talked: 

…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 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 it looked good on the future husband-hunting resumes. Just then though she had been  unhappy, having just finished an internship (via Boston University) with Doctor Telly, yes that Telly, the big up and coming quantum sociologist who was on the cutting edge of the next big thing in the field, 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, she had missed the turmoil on the campuses in the 1960s (her undergraduate campus the volatile University Of Wisconsin, although given her dogged attention to her studies 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 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 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, 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 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 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 was beginning 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 basic previous un-political nature) on a couple of dates with a guy whom she met through a girl in her seminar, Lucy, who was something in the Socialist Workers Party, an organization that at the time was involved in a last push to end the war before President Nixon blew the place to kingdom come. That organization was 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 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 she 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 back, 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 he finished and the audience broke into groups that were split up according to what task one wished to participant in to help organize that 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 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 he 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 it. A hand-shake. Darn, that was it.

The retreat was to be held two weekends after that meeting and she had originally planned to attend it, 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 to take 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 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 her 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 did else 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 it out she 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 devilish 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.

Jose 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 it 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 in 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 it 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 (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 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 it.).

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 and 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 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. Previously 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 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, 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. One could see when he talked like that why he would be a prime candidate for some foreboding army stockade 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. That “ had not being asked about stuff” he said bothered him since about age ten or eleven. He related some stuff about his family, as she did about hers but that 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, 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. Kid’s 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, about the big jail breakout.

Where he 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 in 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 fled to the big wide world part 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, and seen too that old black and white television screen we all were glued to crowded his brain.

That failed raft experiment, in any case, was not the end of it although it ended his physical break-out end for a while. He spoke of sneaking out the back of the house on midnight runs to Harvard Square at sixteen. Of walking a couple of miles to caught 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 there 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 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 she would go on and on about it trying 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 said, 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, ah, 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 turned red one time when she 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 (he had shown her that fact listed on his birth certificate). 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 him 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.

He 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. So he stumbled and mumbled fitfully through the problem.

Of course if you were part of the military, down in some boondock (his 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 (her expression), and also surrounded by guys, maybe sullen, maybe gung-ho, but mainly like you were kind of committed to your 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 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.

And still he mumbled, stumbled, and tumbled. He, political animal he, tried to work around it administratively, pulling some chip 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 make a splash. 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). 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 he 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 hi 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, not 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 it 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 one 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. She 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 boat men 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 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).

Then he 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 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 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 exile 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. She 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 it 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 (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 ) need 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 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 her, 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 travelling talk night (and day) was their beginning, their real beginning and she said every once in a while although she could no longer be with him, no way, there had been too much sorrow between them, on wind-swept nights, or when she was near some ocean, or some raggedy scruffy guy selling some left-wing newspaper passed by her she would get misty about her sweet walking daddy. She said I would have to know that, know that up front, on that rainy, sad, bluesy night. And that was our beginning… 

Old Willie Boy’s Gone Now- A Black Cat Story

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

The rhythm of the life cycle takes strange twists and turns sometimes. Back in the mid-1970s I did a fair amount of freelance research for my old friend from back in high school days in the 1960s, Peter Paul Markin. I gathered true life stories, or some kind of stories anyway, that he would sent on to his writer friend Joshua Lawrence Breslin whom he had met in the later part of the 1960s out in California during the heyday of the summer of love/hippie/communal experiments that flamed out in the early 1970s.

Josh Breslin, whom I would subsequently meet and become friends with, would use these stories, dolled up a bit, for his by-line in the East Bay Eye out in Northern California where he lived at the time. Josh’s idea was to grab stories from people who had been touched by the turmoil of the 1960s, had experienced whatever had been experienced, drugs, communes, music, politics, alternative life styles, stuff along that line and who had not made it back to “real” society after that wave ebbed about 1970. Not psychos and screwballs but people who were left adrift after the ebb, maybe had a drug habit, had been in jail, were some kind of outlaws. He would later do a series based on the same premise around guys who had been to Vietnam and who had not adjusted when coming back to the “real world” and found themselves living as best they could down in the ravines and under the bridges around Los Angeles.

The reason that Markin asked me to help Josh out back then was that he had moved to some Podunk place in Maine to get away from the cities for a minute (he rushed back pretty soon but don’t tell him I told you), not exactly the center of the counter-cultural movement, and did not have access to the kind of stories Josh was looking for. Whereas I had moved to Boston, a center of that movement and a place where there were plenty of people who had been burned out by the 1960s flame. One of the guys that I ran into in Boston back then was Adam Jamison whose story is the subject of this sketch. He had grown up in a working-class neighborhood in Nashua, New Hampshire, had gone to school a while (Lowell Tech, now merged into U/Mass-Lowell), had dropped out, and listed as 4-F for draft board purposes (chronic knee problem caused by a serious fall when he was twelve) gone to Boston in 1966 and immersed himself into the budding communal scene there.

As the 1960s turned to the 1970s Adam had developed first a large alcohol problem and then a large cocaine problem. Such problems, or the satisfaction of such needs, led him to small-time larcenies, robberies, and also rip-offs of each and every friend he had ever met by the time I ran into him at the Boston Common one afternoon in early 1976 when he had hustled me for some spare change. From his demeanor, despite his unkempt look, I sensed a story and so I offered him a couple of bucks if he would tell me his story and he agreed. Some of it sounded right but some of it sounded like it was just trade-puffing by some half-bent junkie. I also spent a few weeks talking to him each time I was at the Commons until one day when we were supposed meet to finish up he never showed and I never saw him again.

That story, in any case, is not what concerns me here since I believe that Josh used it in one of his columns, although he does not remember whether he did or not. What does concern me here is that via Facebook this Adam Jamison whom I had not heard from for maybe thirty plus years wanted to tell me a story.

Not a rags-to-riches story because that was not the case, that had not been his fate. Nor a victim story all dressed up and ready for pity because he had grown up poor, without much in the way of the world’s goods, with heavy wanting habits, and without any rudder to guide him. Adam had knocked down that idea a while back he said. Not a survival story as such although he did survive, had had his share of life’s up and downs like the rest of us. Had a couple of failed marriages and one that lasted, that he would have thought would last to eternity last that is until recently when he mistook kindness he said without elaboration, had a couple of kids whom he was able to keep on the straight and narrow, had gone back to school and got catch up early on in the high tech computer wave, got himself and his a nice little house in the leafy suburbs and had recently retired with a reasonable pension and an okay 401k account.

Oh, and lived some days on the edge, the edge of a cocaine meltdown. All except the last item not worthy of any ink, not worthy of the ink spilled back forty years ago when his generation’s ebb was newsworthy. What had him agitated was about how cats, particularly black cats, had saved his bacon after I had lost contact with him. Here is the way he told it to me, a little dolled up, when we met at a restaurant, Not Your Average Joe’s, up in Newburyport one sunny afternoon a few weeks back:

He, Adam Jamison, had long been disheveled in appearance by the time he decided to dry out that time, that time in late 1976, although it could have been late 1970, ‘72, or ’74, in all cases long after the summer of love wave to give it a name that he had used to describe the experience of the 1960s to anybody who would listen [including me] that had hovered over the land and which he had been caught up in ran its course. There he was in raggedy second -hand faded chino pants, a too large short-sleeved checkered shirt also faded and floppy shoes, brown, all picked up off the rack at the Salvation Army Store over in Cambridge, and needing a shave and a haircut badly. The drying out this time, by the way unlike say 1970 when it was from booze, was from a bout with cousin, you know, sweet, sweet cocaine. As he sat in a chair in the waiting room, waiting to be processed into the shelter, which shall remain nameless since he has been long past needing those kind of services, where he would be staying to recuperate, to get well, that time, he looked out the open filmy window of the back alley when he spied a black cat, a black cat that looked to be like himself homeless and in need of some help.

Adam had chuckled to himself that here was another waif in the world trying to make do with what had been dealt. Scrounging for whatever it could to survive another day in the mean urban streets. He was partial to waifs ever since he walked away from his home, his home town, and his home town interests in order to search for what he described as the search for… The “search for” aided and abetted by the 1960s summer of love frame that had hovered over the land and that he had wanted in on. So out of some sense of romance, or hubris, he always considered himself a waif, a loner in this wicked old world. He would seek out such types as well for female companionship, seeing kindred. And more often than not he would find one to share his time.

[He went on endlessly about all the ”chicks,” lost soul chicks he called them that he had run through in good days and bad and how many he had ripped off, ripped off to feed his various habits of the day and show not an ounce of remorse. I could see where he had a certain rough charm that would appeal to lonely women, for a while, although the waif part seemed just some romantic self-aggrandizement.]

But all of that was past, had all turned to dust since Adam from old sturdy New England stock up in the river towns of New Hampshire had inherited some bad genes that had caused him to spit up everything that mattered to him once he got his wanting habits on, wanting something for nothing habits. So he ran through women, through friends, through 1970 booze, through 1972 booze, through 1974 cocaine and then 1976 cousin again. And so that waif thing, that free spirit spitting on what he called bourgeois society wore pretty thin by the time he sat in that barren waiting room looking out of that murky window at that fellow waif black cat.

That cat, black cat suggesting witches’ delights and evil, that damned black cat, triggered thoughts in Adam just then of cats he had raised as a kid. He had to laugh about the first cat back in the mid-1950s he was not sure of the date, but not black he was sure, not by a long shot but white and gray, a cat they had named Smokey as a result of that coloring combination, who had terrified he and his two brothers the first night after being brought home from the animal shelter. Smokey had been carried in a small box, maybe a shoe box, over to their grandmother’s house where they had been staying over Christmas vacation and that night letting him out of the box he had jumped around, jumped around like kittens will do. They, at wit’s end, tried to get him back in the box but to no avail. What did they know of cat behavior though and in their fright they, taking turns, had guarded against Smokey getting on the bed and doing who knows what to them. By dawn’s early light they realized that Smokey was just a gentle playful kitten.

And so it started, the cat thing started. Later after his family had moved across town with Smokey they had adopted a pregnant stray cat, black, who begat her litter in their basement and for many seasons until he reached manhood and left home (or was thrown out depending on whose version of the story you wanted to believe) to seek the great American night various generations of cats were hither and yon around the house, the most memorable one, the one he was attached to was a frail black cat named Sorrowful who died young after producing several litters of kittens. Those thoughts, those reflections back to sunnier days though were suddenly cut short by a rush feeling that he needed a line or two of cousin to get well, needed it kind of bad. That feeling passed, a little, since there was nothing he could do about it just then, penniless and sitting in a detox center.

[When I asked him why the family did not get the cats neutered to spare the endless turmoil of litter after litter of cats Adam said they were poor, poor as church mice, and so things like neutering or going to the vet were out. He also remembered that his mother had argued in a Christian Science kind of way that one should let pets follow nature’s course set for them unaided by whatever science had come up with by that point.]

Once he was given a bed, a bed in a room that was on the same side of the building as that first day waiting room he would look out his equally filmy open window, looking for something, looking for that waif black cat as it turned out. One day he spied her, knowing that “her” was the right gender since she was showing her pregnant condition, something he knew from kid times around his home. He saved some milk from lunch for several days hoping that he would see her again. One day she showed up just underneath that open bedroom window, open since the room was too stuffy closed with the excessive heat from the overhead pipes that ran through the room, and he placed his opened carton of milk before her. She lapped it up quickly and left that way as well. Next day she showed again, same thing. This went on for a few more days until one day she jumped up onto the window sill meowing like crazy. She wanted to be petted. And so Adam Jamison entered the world of cats again.

She would come back daily sometimes for a while and sometimes if the window was open would jump the window sill and lay down on a cushion Adam had found. Given her condition he named her Mums and when she had her litter he took charge of getting them to the Animal Rescue League Center to hopefully be adopted. Later after the appropriate wait he had her neutered. A few months later after Adam checked out of the shelter Mums went with him to the half-way house that was to be the start of his new life.

Mums would stay with Adam through thick and thin the next nineteen years. Through another bout with cousin cocaine a couple of years later and through his last drying out. One day having snorted one too many lines, sitting on a rooming house bed wondering where he would get the dough for another eight-ball since he once again had run through and ripped off whatever new series of friends he have developed since that shelter time in 1976, Mums had sat across from him on the bed. As he looked in her direction she gave him a look that he took for pure contempt like she was ready to forsake him too. He stopped that day cold, although it was a close thing, would always be a close thing.

She stayed with him through his finding a real fellow waif woman who would not take his nonsense and who loved Mums as well. Stayed with him through some bad mental depression times, through changes in housing, through no money times, through having dough times so he could get her veterinary help as she aged (no mother Christian Scientist he), through ups and down until she passed away of old age and weariness. She rests in her last home, Adam’s current home up in Amesbury, out in the back yard where he still looks out the window at her grave.

The passing of Mums left a hole in Adam’s heart. He could not shake the feeling that Mums had been his lucky charm and without her he again had the itch for some cousin, for reaching for that high white note again. That despite that waif love and two kids to feed and support as well as that eternal mortgage around his neck in order to stay in the leafy suburbs. The feeling passed maybe out of some remembrance of Mums’ scorn, although it was a close thing. Instead he went to an animal shelter to find another, well what do you think, black cat, a cat that he, they, would name Willie Boy.

For the next fifteen years Willie Boy got him through some hard times, another bout of no dough times, some waif woman problems hard times, some thinking about mortality times, and some good times too. This Willie Boy would keep the household laughing with his constant desire for attention, with his patented whining, with his being everywhere there was something to get in trouble over. Mainly though it was that he was Adam’s shadow when he was in the house, a boon companion once the kids left. Willie Boy had died recently of medical complications which helped explain Adam’s desire to tell his story. Willie Boy too is buried out in that back yard. “Yes, old Willie Boy is gone now” Adam said with a lump in his throat as we finished up our talk. He too had been a lucky charm.

As Adam got up to leave the restaurant he turned back to me and said he had another short piece to add, to black cat, to Willie Boy add. Seems that waif entanglement companionship thing that had along with cats run its course. Maybe it was the times, or the long time, or just the need for a fresh smell of gardenia but he had taken up clandestinely with another woman, a classmate from high school although he did not want to discuss the details of their meeting at that late hour. The relationship grew, grew as such things will but with no hint of a future. Or rather that the future portended a fork in the road, a separation from his old waif companion in order to continue. Adam fretted over the thing-go-stay-leave-runaway until one desperate April night he went out into the back yard to sit by Willie Boy’s grave and pleaded with his ghost for a sign. Somehow Willie Boy told him to stick with that waif, to see the thing through to eternity like he expected. Adam agreed and left off with that new woman. Unfortunately, like with a lot of transgressions, the pain of the affair with the other woman to the waif woman was too much for her to take and she left him. As Adam walked, tipping his finger to his forehead, he said to me “don’t blame that on black cats though, okay.”