Saturday, March 28, 2015

In Honor Of The 144th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune-From The American Left History Blog Archives(2007) - On American Political Discourse


Markin comment (Winter 2015):


In the period 2006-2008 I, in vain, attempted to put some energy into analyzing the blossoming American presidential campaign since it was to be, as advertised at least, a watershed election, for women, blacks, old white anglos, latinos, youth, etc. In the event I had to abandon the efforts in about May of 2008 when it became obvious, in my face obvious, that the election would be a watershed only for those who really believed that it would be a watershed election. The four years of the Obama presidency, the 2012 American presidential election campaign, and world politics have only confirmed in my eyes that that abandonment was essentially the right decision at the right time and my only fear is that now that Obama and his lame duck presidency are in full flower that as the machines are gearing up for the 2016 presidential campaign maw I will seeking another watershed election where there is none will be tempted, sorely tempted to put my foot in the waters of campaign commentary again. If I do so I deserve the fate that befell Theodore White in his endless campaign books every four years starting with the JFK-Nixon fistfight in 1960 which left his a blathering idiot before he was done. Or worse since he was (is) something of a muse for me what happened to the later Hunter Thompson, Doctor Gonzo when he got caught up in the avalanche of presidential campaigns which probably played no little part in his eventual suicide. I am forewarned.    


In short, let the well- paid bourgeois commentators go on and on with their twitter (literally now as that stunted social network operation replaces Facebook as the place to be). I, we, had (have) better things to do like fighting against the permanent wars, the permanent war economies, the struggle for more and better jobs, and for a workers’ party that fights for a workers government . That is where the link to the Paris Commune comes in which in its time was a beacon for the international working class, a first failed attempt for the fellahin to taek charge of their own lives, govern as they saw fit. So with the Paris Commune and its lessons as heady backdrop we have enough, more than enough to do, right? Still a look back at some of the stuff I wrote then as talking points to drown out the coming deluge does not have a bad feel to it. Read on.







Every once in a while left wing propagandists, like this writer, are forced to comment on odd ball political or social questions that are not directly related to the fight for socialism. Nevertheless such questions must be addressed to in the interest of preserving democratic rights, such as they are. I have often argued that socialists are, or should be, the best defenders of democratic rights, hanging in there long after many bourgeois democrats have thrown in the towel especially on constitutional questions like abortion and searches and seizures.

A good example from the not too distant past, which I am fond of citing because it seems so counter intuitive, was opposition to the impeachment of one William Jefferson Clinton, at one time President of the United States and now potentially the first First Ladies’ man. How, one might ask could professed socialists defend the rights of the Number One Imperialist –in-Chief. Simple, Clinton was not being tried for any real crimes against working people but found himself framed by the right wing cabal for his personal sexual preferences and habits. That he was not very artful in defense of himself is beside the point. We say government out off the bedrooms (or wherever) whether White House or hovel. We do no favor political witch hunts of the highborn or the low. Interestingly, no one at the time proposed that he be tried as a war criminal for his very real crimes in trying to bomb Serbia, under the guidance of one Wesley Clark, back to the Stone Age (and nearly succeeding). Enough said.

Now we are confronted with another strange situation in the case of one ex-Governor of Massachusetts and current Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney on the question of his Mormon religious affiliation and his capacity to be president of a secular state. Romney, on Thursday December 6, 2007 fled down to Houston, apparently forced by his vanishing prospects in Iowa, and made a speech about his Mormon faith, or at least his fitness for office. This speech evoked in some quarters, at least formally, Jack Kennedy’s use in the 1960 presidential campaign of the same tool concerning his Roman Catholicism as a way to cut across anti-Catholic bigotry in a mainly Protestant country and to affirm his commitment to a democratic secular state. I pulled up that speech off the Internet and although Kennedy clearly evoked his religious affiliation many times in that speech he left it at that, a personal choice. He did not go on and on about his friendship with Jesus or enumerate the virtues of an increased role for religion in political life.


Romney’s play is another kettle of fish entirely. He WANTS to affirm that his Mormon beliefs rather than being rather esoteric are in line with mainstream Protestant fundamentalist tenets. In short, Jesus is his guide. Christ what hell, yes hell, have we come to when a major political party in a democratic secular state has for all intents and purposes a religious test for its nominee for president. A cursory glance at the history of 18thcentury England and its exclusion clauses, codified in statutes, for Catholics and dissenters demonstrates why our forbears rejected that notion. It is rather ironic that Romney evoked the name of Samuel Adams as an avatar of religious toleration during some ecumenical meeting in 1774. Hell, yes when you are getting ready to fight for a Republic, arms in hand, and need every gun willing to fight the King you are damn right religion is beside the point. Revolutions are like that. Trying to prove your mettle as a fundamentalist Christian in order to woo the yahoo vote in 2007 is hardly in the same category. Nevertheless on the democratic question- down with religious test for political office, formal or otherwise.


Now to get nasty. Isn’t it about time we started running these religious nuts back into their hideouts? I have profound differences with the political, social and economic organization of this country. However, as stated above I stand for the defense of the democratic secular state against the yahoos when they try, friendly with Jesus or not, to bring religion foursquare into the ‘public square’. We have seen the effects of that for the last thirty or forty years and, hit me on the head if I am dreaming, but isn’t the current occupant of the White House on so kind of first name basis with his God. You know, all those faith-based initiatives Look, this country is a prime example of an Enlightenment experiment, and tattered as it has become it is not a bad base to move on from. Those who, including Brother Romney, want a faith-based state-get back, way back. In the fight against religious obscurantism I will stand with science, frail as it is sometimes, any day- Defend the Enlightenment, and let’s move on.
***Songs To While The Time By- The Roots Is The Toots

A YouTube clip to give some flavor to this subject.

Over the past several years I have been running an occasional series in this space of songs, mainly political protest songs, you know The Internationale, Union Maid, Which Side Are You On, Viva La Quince Brigada, Universal Soldier, and such entitled Songs To While The Class Struggle By. And those songs provide our movement with that combination entertainment/political message that is an art form that we use to draw the interested around us. Even though today those interested may be counted rather than countless and the class struggle to be whiled away is rather one-sidedly going against us at present. The bosses are using every means from firing to targeting union organizing to their paid propagandists complaining that the masses are not happy with having their plight groveled in their faces like they should be while the rich, well, while away in luxury and comfort.  

But not all life is political, or rather not all music lends itself to some kind of explicit political meaning yet speaks to, let’s say, the poor sharecropper at the juke joint on Saturday listening to the country blues, unplugged, kids at the jukebox listening to high be-bop swing, other kids listening, maybe at that same jukebox now worn with play and coins listening to some guys from some Memphis record company rocking and rolling, or adults spending some dough to hear the latest from Tin Pan Alley or the Broadway musical. And so they too while away to the various aspects of the American songbook and that rich tradition is which in honored here.   

This series which could include some protest songs as well is centered on roots music as it has come down the ages and formed the core of the American songbook. You will find the odd, the eccentric, the forebears of later musical trends, and the just plain amusing here. Listen up.

***The Roots Is The Toots-The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-One Night With You

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

 Sam Lowell thought it was funny how things worked out in such contrary fashion in this wicked old world, not his expression that “wicked old world” for he preferred of late the more elastic and ironic “sad old world” but that of his old time North Adamsville corner boy Peter Markin who will be more fully introduced in a moment (Markin aka Peter Paul Markin although nobody ever called him that except his mother, as one would expect although he hated to be teased by every kid from elementary school on including girls, girls who liked him too as a result, and his first ill-advised wife, a scion of the Mayfair swells who tried, unsuccessfully, to impress her leafy suburban parents with the familiar waspy triple names).

Neither of those expressions referred to date back to their youth since neither Sam nor Peter back then, back in their 1960s youth, would have used such old-fashioned religious-drenched expressions to express their take on the world since as with all youth, or at least youth who expected to “turn the world upside down” (an expression that they both did use in very different contexts) they would have withheld such judgments or were too busy doing that “turning” business they had no time for adjectives to express their worldly concerns. No that expression, that understanding about the wickedness of the world had been picked up by Sam from Peter when they had reconnected a number of years before after they had not seen each other for decades to express the uphill battles of those who had expected humankind to exhibit the better angels of their nature on a more regular basis. Some might call this nostalgic glancing back, especially by Peter since he had more at stake in a favorable result, on a world that did not turn upside down or did so in a way very different from those hazy days.   

The funny part (or ironic if you prefer) was that back then Sam had been in his youth the least political, the least culturally-oriented, the least musically-oriented of those corner boys like Markin, Jack Dawson, Jimmy Jenkins and “max daddy” leader Fritz Fallon (that “max daddy” another expression coined by Peter so although he has not even been properly introduced we know plenty about his place in the corner boy life, his place as “flak,” for Fritz’s operation although Fritz always called him “the Scribe” when he wanted something written and needed to play on Peter’s vanity) who kept the coins flowing into the jukebox at Phil’s House of Pizza. That shop had been located down a couple of blocks from the choppy ocean waters of Adamsville Beach (and still is although under totally different management from the arch-Italian Rizzo family that ran the place for several generation to some immigrant Albanians named Hoxha).

That made it among other things a natural hang-out place for wayward but harmless poor teenage corner boys. (The serious “townie” professional corner boys, the rumblers, tumblers, drifters, grifters and midnight sifters hung around Harry’s Variety with leader Red Riley over on Sagamore far from beaches, daytime beaches although rumors had been of more than one nighttime orgy with “nice” girls looking for kicks with rough boy down among the briny rocks, Fritz and the boys would not have gone within three blocks of that place. Maybe more from fear, legitimate fear as Fritz’s older brother, Timmy, a serious tough guy himself, could testify the one time he tried to wait outside Harry’s for some reason and got chain-whipped by Red for his indiscretion.) Moreover this spot provided a beautiful vantage point for scanning the horizon for those wayward girls who also kept their coins flowing into Phil’s jukebox (or a stray “nice” girl after Red and his corner boys threw her over).

Sam had recently thought about that funny story that Markin had told the crowd once on a hot night when nobody had any money and were just holding up the wall at Phil’s about Johnny Callahan, the flashy and unstoppable halfback from the high school team (and a guy even Red respected having made plenty of money off of sports who bet with him on Johnny’s prowess any given Saturday although Johnny once confessed that he, rightly, avoided Harry’s after what had happened to Timmy). See Johnny was pretty poor in those days even by the median working poor standard of the old neighborhoods in those days (although now, courtesy of his incessant radio and television advertising which continues to make everyone within fifty miles of North Adamsville who knew Johnny back in the day aware of his new profession, he is a prosperous Toyota car dealer down across from the mall in Hull about twenty miles from North Adamsville, the town where their mutual friend Josh Breslin soon to be introduced came from). Johnny, a real music maniac who would do his football weight-lifting exercises to Jerry Lee’s Great Balls of Fire, Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula and stuff like that to get him hyped up, had this routine in order to get to hear songs that he was dying to hear, stuff he would hear late at night coming from a rock station out of Detroit and which would show up a few weeks later on Phil’s jukebox just waiting for Johnny and the kids to fill the coffers, with the girls who had some dough, enough dough anyway to put coins into that jukebox.

Johnny would go up all flirty to some young thing (a Fritz expression coped from Jerry Lee and not an invention of Markin as Peter would later claim to some “young thing” that he was trying to “score”) or depending on whatever intelligent he had on the girl, maybe she had just had a fight with her boyfriend or had broken up with him so Johnny would be all sympathy, maybe she was just down in the dumps for no articulable reason like every teen goes through every chance they get, whatever it took. Johnny, by the way, would have gotten that intelligence via Peter who whatever else anybody had to say about him, good or bad, was wired into, no, made himself consciously privy to, all kinds of boy-girl information almost like he had a hook into that Monday morning before school girls’ locker room talkfest (everybody already knew that he was hooked into the boys’ Monday morning version and had started more rumors and other unsavory deeds than any ten other guys).

Now here is what Johnny “knew” about almost every girl if they had the quarter which allowed them to play three selections. He would let them pick that first one on their own, maybe something to express interest in his flirtation, maybe her name, say Donna, was also being used as the title of a latest hit, or if broken up some boy sorrow thing. Brenda Lee’s I Want To Be Wanted, stuff like that. The second one he would “suggest” something everybody wanted to listen to no matter what but which was starting to get old. Maybe an Elvis, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee thing still on the jukebox playlist but getting wearisome. Then he would go in for the kill and “suggest” they play this new platter, you know, something like Martha and the Vandelas Dancing in the Streets or Roy’s Blue Bayou both of which he had heard on the midnight radio airwaves out of Detroit one night and were just getting play on the jukeboxes. And bingo before you know it she was playing the thing again, and again. Beautiful. And Johnny said that sometimes he would wind up with a date, especially if he had just scored about three touchdowns for the school, a date that is in the days before he and Kitty Kelly became an item. An item, although it is not germane to the story, who still is Johnny’s girl, wife, known as Mrs. Toyota now.

But enough of this downstream stuff Sam thought. The hell with Johnny and his cheapjack tricks (although not to those three beautiful touchdowns days, okay) this thing gnawing at him was about old age angst and not the corner boy glory days at Phil’s, although it is about old time corners boys and their current doings, some of them anyway. So yeah he had other things he wanted to think about (and besides he had already, with a good trade-in gotten his latest car from Mr. Toyota so enough there), to tell a candid world about how over the past few years with the country, the world, the universe had been going to hell in a hand-basket. In the old day, like he kept going back to before he was not the least bit interested in anything in the big world outside of sports, and girls, of course. And endlessly working on plans to own his own business, a print shop, before he was twenty-five. Well, he did get that small business, although not until thirty and had prospered when he made connections to do printing for several big high-tech companies, notably IBM when they began outsourcing their work. He had prospered, had married (twice, and divorced twice), had the requisite tolerated children and adored grandchildren, and in his old age a woman companion to ease his time.

But there had been for a long time, through those failed marriages, through that business success something gnawing at him, something that Sam felt he had missed out on, or felt he had do something about. Then a few years ago when it was getting time for a high school class reunion he had Googled “North Adamsville Class of 1966” and came upon a class website for that year, his year, that had been set up by the reunion committee, and decided to joint to keep up with what was going on with developments there (he would wind up not going to that reunion as he had planned to although that too is not germane to the story here except as one more thing that gnawed at him because in the end he could not face going home , believed what Thomas Wolfe said in the title of one of his novels, you can’t go home again).

After he had registered on the site giving a brief resume of his interests and what he had been up to these past forty years or so years Sam  looked at the class list, the entire list of class members alive and deceased (a rose beside their name signifying their passing)  of who had joined and found the names of Peter Markin (he had to laugh, listed as Peter Paul Markin since everybody was listed by their full names, revenge from the grave by his poor mother, and that leafy suburban first wife who tried to give him Mayflower credentials, he thought) and Jimmy Jenkins among those who had done so. (Jack Dawson had passed away a few years before, a broken man, broken after his son who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan had committed suicide, according to Peter, as had their corner boy leader, Fritz Fallon, homeless after going through a couple of fortunes, his own and a third wife’s). Through the mechanism established on the site which allowed each class member who joined to have a private e-mail slot Sam contacted both men and the three of them started a rather vigorous on-line chat line for several weeks going through the alphabet of their experiences, good and bad (the time for sugar-coating was over unlike in their youth when all three would lie like crazy, especially about sex and with whom in order to keep their place in the pecking order, and in order to keep up with Fritz whom lied more than the three of them combined. Peter knew that, knew it better than anybody else but to keep his place as “scribe” in that crazy quill pecking order went along with such silly teenage stuff, stuff that in his other pursuits he would have laughed at but that is what made being a teenager back then, now too, from what he saw of his grandchildren’s trials and tribulation).

After a while, once the e-mail questions had worked their course, all three men met in Boston at the Sunnyvale Grille, a place where Markin had begun to hang out in after he had moved back to Boston (read: did his daytime drinking) over by the waterfront, and spent a few hours discussing not so much old times per se but what was going on in the world, and how the world had changed some much in the meantime. And since Markin, the political maniac of the tribe, was involved in the conversations maybe do something about it at least that is what Sam had hoped since he knew that is where he thought he needed to head in order to cut into that gnawing feeling. Sam was elated, and unlike in his youth he did not shut his ears down, when those two guys would talk politics, about the arts or about music. He had not listened back then since he was so strictly into girls and sports, not always in that order (which caused many problems later including one of the grounds for his one of his divorces, not the sports but the girls).

This is probably the place for Sam to introduce Peter Markin although he had already given an earful (and what goes for Peter goes to a lesser extent for Jimmy who tended to follow in Pete’s wake on the issues back then, and still does). Peter as Sam already noted provided that noteworthy, national security agency-worthy service, that “intelligence” he provided all the guys (and not just his corner boys, although they had first dibs) about girls, who was “taken,” a very important factor if some frail (a Fritz term from watching too many 1940s gangster and detective movies and reading Dashiell Hammett too closely, especially The Maltese Falcon),was involved with some bruiser football player, some college joe who belonged to a fraternity and the brothers were sworn to avenge any brother’s indignities, or worse, worse of all, if she was involved with some outlaw biker who hung out in Adamsville and who if he hadn’t his monthly quota of  college boy wannabes red meat hanging out at Phil’s would not think twice about chain-whipping you just for the fuck of it (“for the fuck of it” a  term Jimmy constantly used so it was not always Markin or Fritz who led the verbal life around the corner), who was “unapproachable,”  probably more important than that social blunder of ‘hitting on” a taken woman since that snub by Miss Perfect-Turned-Up-Nose would make the rounds of that now legendary seminar, Monday morning before school girls’ locker room (and eventually work its way though Markin to the boys’ Monday morning version ruining whatever social standing the guy had spent since junior high trying to perfect in order to avoid the fatal nerd-dweeb-wallflower-square name your term). Strangely Markin made a serious mistake with Melinda Loring who blasted her freeze deep on him and he survived to tell the tale, or at least that is what he had the boys believe. Make of this what you will he never after that Melinda Loring had a high school girlfriend from North Adamsville High, who, well, liked to “do the do” as they called it back then, that last part not always correct since everybody, girls and boys alike, were lying like crazy about whether they were “doing the do” or not, including Markin.

But beyond, well beyond, that schoolboy silliness Markin was made of sterner stuff (although Sam would not have bothered to use such a positive attribute about Markin back then) was super-political, super into art and what he called culture, you know going to poetry readings at coffeehouses, going over Cambridge to watch foreign films with subtitles and themes that he would try to talk about and even Jimmy would turn his head, especially those French films by Jean Renoir, and super into music, fortunately he was not crazy for classical music (unlike some nerds in school then who were in the band) but serious about what is now called classic rock and roll and then in turn, the blues, and folk music (Sam still shuttered at that hillbilly stuff Markin tried to interest him in when he thought about it). That was how Peter had first met Josh Breslin, still a friend, whom he introduced to Sam at one of their meetings over at the Sunnyvale Grille. Josh told the gathering that Markin had met him after high school, after he had graduated from Hull High (the same town where Johnny Callahan was burning up the Toyota sales records for New England) down at the Surf Ballroom (Sam had his own memories of the place, some good, some bad including one affair that almost wound up in marriage). Apparently Josh and Peter had had their wanting habits on the same girl at one Friday night dance when the great local cover band, the Rockin’ Ramrods held sway there, and had been successively her boyfriend for short period both to be dumped for some stockbroker from New York. But their friendship remained and they had gone west together, gone on that Jack Kerouac On The Road  for a number of years when they were trying their own version of turning the world upside down on. Josh also dabbled (his word) in the turning upside down politics of the time.

And that was the remarkable thing about Peter, not so much later in cahoots with Josh because half of youth nation, half the generation of ’68 was knee-deep in some movement, but in staid old North Adamsville High days, days when to just be conventionally political, wanting to run for office or something, was kind of strange. See Peter was into the civil rights movement, nuclear disarmament, and social justice stuff that everybody thought he was crazy to be into, everybody from Ma to Fritz (and a few anonymous midnight phone-callers yelling n----r-lover in the Markin home phone).  He had actually gone into Boston when he was a freshman and joined the picket-line in front of Woolworths’ protesting the fact that they would not let black people eat in their lunchrooms down south (and maybe Markin would say when he mentioned what he was up to they were not that happy to have blacks in their northern lunchrooms either ), had joined a bunch of Quakers and little old ladies in tennis sneakers (a term then in use for airhead blue-haired lady do-gooders with nothing but time on their hands) calling on the government to stop building atomic bombs (not popular in the red scare Cold War we were fighting against the Russians North Adamsville, or most other American places either), running over to the art museum to check out the exhibits (including some funny stories about him and Jimmy busting up the place looking at the old Pharaoh times slave building Pyramids stuff uncovered by some Harvard guys way back), and going to coffeehouses in Harvard Square and listening to hokey folk music that was a drag. (Sam’s take on that subject then, and now.) So Peter was a walking contradiction, although that was probably not as strange now as it seemed back then when every new thing was looked at with suspicion and when kids like Peter were twisted in the wind between being corner boys and trying to figure out what that new wind was that was blowing though the land, when Sam and the other corner boys, except Jimmy and sometimes Jack would try to talk him out of stuff that would only upset everybody in town.

But here is the beauty, beauty for Sam now that he was all ears about what Peter had to say, he had kept at it, had kept the faith, while everybody else from their generation, or almost everybody, who protested war, protested around the social issues, had hung around coffeehouses and who had listened to folk music had long before given it up. Markin had, after his  Army time, spent a lot of time working with GIs around the war issues, protested American foreign policy at the drop of a hat and frequented off-beat coffeehouses set up in the basements of churches in order to hear the dwindling number of folk artists around. He had gotten and kept his “religion,” kept the faith in a sullen world. And like in the old days a new generation (added to that older North Adamsville generation which still, from the class website e-mail traffic had not gotten that much less hostile to what Peter had to say about this wicked old world, you already know the genesis of that term, right, was ready to curse him out, ready to curse the darkness against his small voice).

One night when Peter and Sam were alone at the Sunnyvale, maybe both had had a few too many high-shelf scotches (able to afford such liquor unlike in the old days when they both in their respective poverties, drank low-shelf Johnny Walker whiskey with a beer chaser when they had the dough, if not some cheapjack wine), Peter told Sam the story of how he had wanted to go to Alabama in high school, go to Selma, but his mother threatened to disown him if he did, threatened to disown him not for his desire to go but because she would not have been able to hold her head up in public if he had, and so although it ate at him not to go, go when his girlfriend, Helen Jackman, who lived in Gloversville, did go, he took a dive (Peter’s words). Told a redemptive story too about his anti-war fight in the Army when he refused to go to Vietnam and wound up in an Army stockade for a couple of years altogether. (Sam thought that was a high price to pay for redemption but it may have been the scotch at work.) Told a number of stories about working with various veterans’ groups, throwing medals over Supreme Court barricades, chainings to the White House fence, sitting down in hostile honked traffic streets, blocking freeways complete with those same hostile honkings, a million walks for this and that, and some plain old ordinary handing out leaflets, working the polls and button-holing reluctant politicians to vote against the endless war budgets (this last the hardest task, harder than all the jailings, honkings, marches put together and seemingly the most fruitless). Told too stories about the small coffeehouse places seeing retread folkies who had gone on to other things and then in a fit of anguish, or hubris, decided to go back on the trail. Told of many things that night not in feast of pride but to let Sam know that sometimes it was easier to act than to let that gnawing win the day. Told Sam that he too always had the gnaw, probably always would in this wicked old world. Sam was delighted by the whole talk, even if Peter was on his soapbox. 

That night too Peter mentioned in passing that he contributed to a number of blogs, a couple of political ones, including an anti-war veterans’ group, a couple of old time left-wing cultural sites and a folk music-oriented one. Sam confessed to Peter that although he had heard the word blog he did not know what a blog was. Peter told him that one of the virtues of the Internet was that it provided space (cyberspace, a term Sam had heard of and knew what it meant) for the average citizen to speak his or her mind via setting up a website or a blog. Blogs were simply a way to put your opinions and comments out there just like newspaper Op/Ed writers or news reporters and commentators although among professional reporters the average blog and blog writers were seen as too filled with opinions and sometimes rather loose with the facts. Peter said he was perfectly willing to allow the so-called “objective” reporters to state the facts but he would be damned if the blog system was not a great way to get together with others interested in your areas of interest, yeah, stuff that interested you and that other like-minded spirits might respond to. Yeah that was worth the effort.

The actual process of blog creation (as opposed to the more complex website-creation which still takes a fair amount of expertise to create) had been made fairly simple over time, just follow a few simple prompts and you are in business. Also over time what was possible to do has been updated for ease, for example linking to other platforms to your site and be able to present multi-media works lashing up say your blog with YouTube or downloading photographs to add something to your presentation. Peter one afternoon after Sam had asked about his blog links showed him the most political one that he belonged to, one he had recently begun to share space with Josh Breslin, Frank Jackman and a couple of other guys that he had known since the 1960s on and who were familiar with the various social, political and cultural trends that floated out from that period. 

Sam was amazed at the various topics that those guys tackled, stuff that he vaguely remembered hearing about but which kind of passed him by as he delved into the struggle to build his printing shop. He told Peter that he got dizzy looking at the various titles from reviews of old time black and white movies that he remembered watching at the old Strand second run theater uptown, poetry from the “beat” generation, various political pieces on current stuff like the Middle East, the fight against war, political prisoners most of whom he had never heard of except the ones who had been Black Panther or guys like that, all kinds of reviews of rock and roll complete with the songs via YouTube, too many reviews of folk music that he never really cared for, books that he knew Peter read like crazy but could not remember the titles. The guys really had put a lot of stuff together, even stuff from other sites and announcements for every conceivable left-wing oriented event. He decided that he would become a Follower which was nothing sinister like some cult but just that you would receive notice when something was put on the blog.

Peter also encouraged him to write some pieces about what interested him, maybe start out about the old days in North Adamsville since all the guys mined that vein for sketches (that is what Peter liked to call most of the material on site since they were usually too short to be considered short stories but too long to be human interest snapshots. Sam said he would think about the matter, think about it seriously once he read the caption below:                                                                           

“This space is noted for politics mainly, and mainly the desperate political fight against various social, economic and moral injustices and wrongs in this wicked old world, although the place where politics and cultural expression, especially post-World War II be-bop cultural expression, has drawn some of our interest over the past several years. The most telling example of that interest is in the field of popular music, centrally the blues, city and country, good woman on your mind, hardworking, hard drinking blues and folk music, mainly urban, mainly protest to high heaven against the world’s injustices smite the dragon down, folk music. Of late though the old time 1950s kid, primordial, big bang, jail-break rock and roll music that set us off from earlier generations has drawn our attention. Mostly by reviewing oldies CDs but here, and occasionally hereafter under this headline, specifically songs that some future archaeologists might dig up as prime examples of how we primitives lived ,and what we listened to back in the day.”
Sam could relate to that, had something to say about some of those songs. Josh Breslin laughed when he heard that Sam was interested in doing old time rock and roll sketches. He then added, “If we can only get him to move off his butt and come out and do some street politics with us we would be getting somewhere.” Peter just replied, “one step at a time.” Yeah, that’s the ticket. 

From The Massachusetts Citizens Against The Death Penalty Website

Click below to link to the Massachusetts Citizens Against The Death Penalty website.

Markin comment:
I have been an opponent of the death penalty for as long as I have been a political person, a long time. While I do not generally agree with the thrust of the Massachusetts Citizens Against The Death Penalty Committee’s strategy for eliminating the death penalty nation-wide almost solely through legislative and judicial means (think about the 2011 Troy Davis case down in Georgia for a practical example of the limits of that strategy) I am always willing to work with them when specific situations come up. In any case they have a long pedigree extending, one way or the other, back to Sacco and Vanzetti and that is always important to remember whatever our political differences.

Here is another way to deal with both the question of the death penalty and of political prisoners from an old time socialist perspective taken from a book review of  James P. Cannon's Notebooks Of An Agitator:

I note here that among socialists, particularly the non-Stalinist socialists of those days, there was controversy on what to do and, more importantly, what forces socialists should support. If you want to find a more profound response initiated by revolutionary socialists to the social and labor problems of those days than is evident in today’s leftist responses to such issues Cannon’s writings here will assist you. I draw your attention to the early part of the book when Cannon led the Communist-initiated International Labor Defense (ILD), most famously around the fight to save the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti here in Massachusetts. That campaign put the Communist Party on the map for many workers and others unfamiliar with the party’s work. For my perspective the early class-war prisoner defense work was exemplary.

The issue of class-war prisoners is one that is close to my heart. I support the work of the Partisan Defense Committee, Box 99 Canal Street Station, New York, N.Y 10013, an organization which traces its roots and policy to Cannon’s ILD. That policy is based on an old labor slogan- ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ therefore I would like to write a few words here on Cannon’s conception of the nature of the work. As noted above, Cannon (along with Max Shachtman and Martin Abern and Cannon’s long time companion Rose Karsner who would later be expelled from American Communist Party for Trotskyism with him and who helped him form what would eventually become the Socialist Workers Party) was assigned by the party in 1925 to set up the American section of the International Red Aid known here as the International Labor Defense.

It is important to note here that Cannon’s selection as leader of the ILD was insisted on by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) because of his pre-war association with that organization and with the prodding of “Big Bill’ Haywood, the famous labor organizer exiled in Moscow. Since many of the militants still languishing in prison were anarchists or syndicalists the selection of Cannon was important. The ILD’s most famous early case was that of the heroic anarchist workers, Sacco and Vanzetti. The lessons learned in that campaign show the way forward in class-war prisoner defense.

I believe that it was Trotsky who noted that, except in the immediate pre-revolutionary and revolutionary periods, the tasks of militants revolve around the struggle to win democratic and other partial demands. The case of class-war legal defense falls in that category with the added impetus of getting the prisoners back into the class struggle as quickly as possible. The task then is to get them out of prison by mass action for their release. Without going into the details of the Sacco and Vanzetti case the two workers had been awaiting execution for a number of years and had been languishing in jail. As is the nature of death penalty cases various appeals on various grounds were tried and failed and they were then in imminent danger of execution.

Other forces outside the labor movement were also interested in the Sacco and Vanzetti case based on obtaining clemency, reduction of their sentences to life imprisonment or a new trial. The ILD’s position was to try to win their release by mass action- demonstrations, strikes and other forms of mass mobilization. This strategy obviously also included, in a subordinate position, any legal strategies that might be helpful to win their freedom. In this effort the stated goal of the organization was to organize non-sectarian class defense but also not to rely on the legal system alone portraying it as a simple miscarriage of justice. The organization publicized the case worldwide, held conferences, demonstrations and strikes on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti. Although the campaign was not successful and the pair were executed in 1927 it stands as a model for class war prisoner defense. Needless to say, the names Sacco and Vanzetti continue to be honored to this day wherever militants fight against this system.


Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now's the time for your tears."

last lines from The Lonseome Death Of Hattie Carroll, another case of an injustice against black people. - Bob Dylan
, 1963

Markin comment (posted September 22, 2011):

Look, after almost half a century of fighting every kind of progressive political struggle I have no Pollyanna-ish notion that in our fight for a “newer world” most of the time we are “tilting at windmills.” Even a cursory look at the history of our struggles brings that hard fact home. However some defeats in the class struggle, particularly the struggle to abolish the barbaric, racist death penalty in the United States, hit home harder than others. For some time now the fight to stop the execution of Troy Davis has galvanized this abolition movement into action. His callous execution by the State of Georgia, despite an international mobilization to stop the execution and grant him freedom, is such a defeat.

On the question of the death penalty, moreover, we do not grant the state the right to judicially murder the innocent or the guilty. But clearly Brother Davis was innocent. We will also not forget that hard fact. And we will not forget Brother Davis’ dignity and demeanor as he faced what he knew was a deck stacked against him. And, most importantly, we will not forgot to honor Brother Davis the best way we can by redoubling our efforts to abolition the racist, barbaric death penalty everywhere, for all time. Forward.

Additional Markin comment posted September 23, 2011:

No question the execution on September 21, 2011 by the State of Georgia of Troy Anthony Davis hit me, and not me alone, hard. For just a brief moment that night, when he was granted a temporary stay pending a last minute appeal before the United States Supreme Court just minutes before his 7:00PM execution, I thought that we might have achieved a thimbleful of justice in this wicked old world. But it was not to be and so we battle on. Troy Davis shall now be honored in our pantheon along with the Haymarket Martyrs, Sacco and Vanzetti, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and others. While Brother Davis may have not been a hard politico like the others just mentioned his fight to abolish the death penalty for himself and for future Troys places him in that company. Honor Troy Davis- Fight To The Finish Against The Barbaric Racist Death Penalty!



As The 100th Anniversary Of The First Year Of World War I (Remember The War To End All Wars) Continues ... Some Remembrances-Writers’ Corner  

In say 1912, 1913, hell, even the beginning of 1914, the first few months anyway, before the war clouds got a full head of steam in the summer they all profusely professed their unmitigated horror at the thought of war, thought of the old way of doing business in the world. Yes the artists of every school the Cubist/Fauvists/Futurists/Constructivists, Surrealists or those who would come to speak for those movements (hell even the Academy spoke the pious words when there was sunny weather), those who saw the disjointedness of modern industrial society and put the pieces to paint, sculptors who put twisted pieces of metal juxtaposed to each other saw that building a mighty machine from which you had to run created many problems; writers of serious history books proving that, according to their Whiggish theory of progress,  humankind had moved beyond war as an instrument of policy and the diplomats and high and mighty would put the brakes on in time, not realizing that they were all squabbling cousins; writers of serious and not so serious novels drenched in platitudes and hidden gazebo love affairs put paid to that notion in their sweet nothing words that man and woman had too much to do, too much sex to harness to denigrate themselves by crying the warrior’s cry and by having half-virgin, neat trick, maidens strewing flowers on the bloodlust streets; musicians whose muse spoke of delicate tempos and sweet muted violin concertos, not the stress and strife of the tattoos of war marches with their tinny conceits; and poets, ah, those constricted poets who bleed the moon of its amber swearing, swearing on a stack of seven sealed bibles, that they would go to the hells before touching the hair of another man, putting another man to ground or lying their own heads down for some imperial mission. They all professed loudly (and those few who did not profess, could not profess because they were happily getting their blood rising, kept their own consul until the summer), that come the war drums they would resist the siren call, would stick to their Whiggish, Futurist, Constructionist, Cubist worlds and blast the war-makers to hell in quotes, words, chords, clanged metal, and pretty pastels. They would stay the course.  

And then the war drums intensified, the people, their clients, patrons and buyers, cried out their lusts and they, they made of ordinary human clay as it turned out, poets, beautiful poets like Wilfred Owens who would sicken of war before he passed leaving a beautiful damnation on war, its psychoses, and broken bones and dreams, and the idiots who brought humankind to such a fate, like e. e. cummings who drove through sheer hell in those rickety ambulances floors sprayed with blood, man blood, angers, anguishes and more sets of broken bones, and broken dreams, like Rupert Brooke all manly and old school give and go, as the marched in formation leaving the ports and then mowed down like freshly mown grass in their thousands as the charge call came and they rested, a lot of them, in those freshly mown grasses, like Robert Graves all grave all sputtering in his words confused about what had happened, suppressing, always suppressing that instinct to cry out against the hatred night, like old school, old Thomas Hardy writing beautiful old English pastoral sentiments before the war and then full-blown into imperium’s service, no questions asked old England right or wrong, like old stuffed shirt himself T.S. Eliot speaking of hollow loves, hollow men, wastelands, and such in the high club rooms on the home front, and like old brother Yeats speaking of terrible beauties born in the colonies and maybe at the home front too as long as Eliot does not miss hi shigh tea. Jesus what a blasted nigh that Great War time was.   

And do not forget when the war drums intensified, and the people, their clients, patrons and buyers, cried out their lusts and they, they, other creative souls made of ordinary human clay as it turned out artists, sculptors, writers, serious and not, musicians went to the trenches to die deathless deaths in their thousands for, well, for humankind, of course, their always fate ….    
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The tragedy and violence of that event provide the climax to this very personal, moving and surprisingly romantic story. With remarkable skill and in achingly beautiful prose, Roger McDonald takes the reader on an archetypal Australian journey which parallels the nation's progress from its country childhood, through the adolescent exuberance of its young cities, to initiat ...more   
Stop The Killer-Drone Madness…Stop It Now


If one takes a quick look at military history not at the pre-conditions that set any particular war up but, you know, what was decisive in the victory of one side over the other you will, except those times when desperate valor saved the day, actually an unusual occurrence in the great scheme of warfare, notice that the side with the technological advantage, the latest gadget usually will prevail. Or at least that is what the average run of military historians will highlight. Taking an example from American internal war history, the Civil War of the 1860s, the decisive edge had been given to the industrial power of the North to produce as many cannon, guns, wagons, etc. as needed whereas the South, especially after Billy Sherman and his “bummers” marched through Georgia and its environs squeezing whatever industrial capacity that region did have, was starved for such materials. Thereafter the massing of high caliber accurate firepower weaponry became the standard on the battlefield.

All of this simple-simon history is presented to make a point about what military strategists are up to these days with the incessant use of killer-drones, those gadgets that now, whether recognized as such or not are seen as the solution to reducing the need for boots on the ground which in turn means that those like the American military and its civilian administrators need to worry less about outraged citizens when the body count gets too high. That has not deterred every administration, including the current Obama one from anteing up the boots on the ground when the deal goes down and land needs to be secured. So needless to say this military “new age” thinking is hogwash since while drones had more than occasionally hit their targets they have more than occasionally created what is euphemistically termed “collateral damage” to anybody in the area of the strike.

That fact alone, that fact of innocent civilian causalities, is why I along with others, hopefully a growing number of others, are out in the streets at anti-war rallies and elsewhere telling presidents and generals to stop their killer-drone programs. Join us on this one just like you would when the American government throws boot on the ground in some ill-conceived plan to make the world “safe for democracy.”         


Out In The 1960s Be-Bop Corner Boy Night-Dimmed Elegy For Peter Paul Markin-Take Two


From The Pen Of Bart Webber   

My old friend and corner boy the late Peter Paul Markin got as caught up in what he called the jailbreak of the 1960s counter-cultural movement as any man I knew from that time.  You know, and if you don’t know you can look up the information on Wikipedia or take a chance that somebody has put something about the times so I will just give a little shorthand, the “hippie”-tie-dye-far out, man-drugs, sex, rock and roll-live fast and stay out of the fast lane-angry, gentle people-seek a newer world-turn the world upside down-we want the world and we want it now-Nirvana crash-out thing. While everybody did not go through all the connected hyphens enough did enough of most of the ideas described to form a significant mass movement, for a while. That “for a while is” is important because Peter Paul stuck it out through thick and thin a lot longer than most, stuck with the “new age” ideas for a while after the ebb tide having caught him sort of flat-footed could no longer hold back those “wanting” hungers that flashed through his life (and the rest of us his corner boys too). That tension between the new world that he invested his “angel-heart” in when he threw the dice of his life against the back alley boards and the satan-demon” he suppressed temporarily just could not stay inside that fragile man for too long and in the end he went under.

I was there through some of it, the early part mostly when Peter Paul  was driven more by the “better angel of his nature.” When he sensed that the fresh breeze coming through the 1960s land might wash him clean, might give him some breathing room, during the school part from late elementary school on through our first couple of years out of high school when a lot of the stuff was getting into high gear. Then I drifted away with a little junior college time, an early marriage, a quick first child, some responsibilities starting up a small restaurant but, frankly, because I was never as invested in the successful outcome of what was going on then as Markin. Got tired of the constant on the road hitchhiking, sleeping on some off-beat bus, somebody’s kindly floor, or curled up in a sleeping bag against the wide oceans, and tired of the drugs, sex, and rock and roll run through although for about two years I was with Markin almost every step of the way. Some people, and thinking about those days over the years since I am one of them, were not built to be a merry prankster, to “be on the bus” as some guy used to say and Markin picked it up and would say it every time somebody jumped off the bus.

I might have drifted away, got caught up with the family ways but until a few years before the end we would stay in contact, or I would get messages from him through other old time corner boys like Frankie Riley, Sam Lowell, and Jack Dawson. Just so you know what I am talking about in case you were not washed, washed clean I hope, by that tide Peter Paul got caught up in the anti-establishment/anti-Vietnam War/don’t trust anybody over thirty/live free and communally on greens and love/hippie/drugs, the more the better/louder the better acid rock/strobe light dreams/seeking a newer world/turn the world upside down and see what shakes out scene and if you didn’t know I have laid out the briefest of outlines here. Some of those trends around our town, North Adamsville down by the shore about thirty miles south of Boston, Markin, or he and Frankie once Frankie stopped harassing him and began to be swept up by the tide too started or heard about from the grapevine and started.  But you have to know this, and I didn’t really get the full weight of what this meant until recently when I felt compelled to write a little something about the bastard and had to think about all the things I knew about him directly and what I picked up from other sources that he was a man of profound contradictions.

Hell, like many things that sprang up from nowhere then and had to be dealt with like the war, like your relationship with your parents, your view of success and an interesting life, and the way events totally outside their control twisted many people, from that time he was nothing but a walking contradiction. Would go from talking kick ass about the heathen commies and taking them down a peg in Vietnam one minute when we were hanging around idly against the brick wall in front of Jack Slack’s bowling alley in high school, no, for longer than that until he had to face Charley on his own turf when he got dragged into the Army and practically became a red-front street fighter with the NLF flag in his hands running through the streets of Cambridge, Washington, San Francisco the next. Really after he got out of the service but it seemed strange to see him switch up like that. Maybe that experience, the whole panorama of Vietnam, the war that broke apart our generation, hell, broke the country apart is the prime example I can give about Markin’s contradictions or better those tussles that crammed his brain for almost as long as I had known him, although I will give you more. See Markin  would yell and scream about the commie menace, like the rest of us caught up in the red scare Cold War are we going to last until next Wednesday or is the world going to go up in a puff.

He had been furious when that war got started up in earnest in the early 1960s while we were still in school and practically wanted to join the Green Berets sight unseen although given his physique and lack of co-ordination he would have washed out about the first day, and would tell one and all that we needed stop the bad guys in their tracks. At the same time he was very influenced by his grandmother who was loosely associated with the Catholic Workers movement, you know the social justice and peace people, Catholic version, who are still around, Catholic version, and actually would some nights rant about the Russkies and their nefarious doings around the world and in the next topic talk switch up about how we needed to make a more peaceful world and do something about it. If that doesn’t give you an idea of what he was about, maybe is too vague, I remember in 1960, the fall, when we were just starting high school, he would go door to door for hard anti-communist Jack Kennedy (one of our own Irish to boot) every weekend who was spouting in debates and where ever he could on the stump about the “missile gap” meaning the United States needed more bombs, more nuclear bombs,. Except one weekend, one Saturday, to placate his grandmother, his Irish Catholic grandmother although she was a little less enamored of the “chandelier” Irish Kennedys doing any “bog shanty” Irish proud, he went to a  Catholic Worker-sponsored nuclear disarmament (along with the Quakers and a bunch of little old ladies in tennis shoes as we used to call the grandmotherly do-gooders who you would see in Adamsville Center passing out leaflets once in a while for some worthy cause, and maybe some Universalists and Unitarians before they joined forces together but don’t hold me to that last group, except they did join together for some reason).We all gave him hell about that not seeing, me as hard as anybody else since I was as anti-red as the next guy, being clueless, about how the events of the world were twisting him back and forth. The rest of us, except maybe Sam Lowell a little, were either not consciously conflicted about the big events in the world. We  were so tied up in corner boy midnight creep small larcenies, turf wars with other corner boy cohorts (except for Red Radley and his biker boys who hung around Harry’s Variety Store, nobody, nobody still living, messed with those guys and their whip-chains and we never went within ten blocks of them even if we needed a soda desperately on a hot day, no way, Jesus, no way), getting girls to “do the do” or having many male fantasies about that idea, especially the ideas, read lies, come Monday morning before school cafeteria talkfest about who did or did not do what over the weekend, yes read mainly lies, getting winos or older brothers to get booze for us, no lie, although with the winos you had to make sure they got their bottle of Ripple or Thunderbird and watch them in and out of the liquor store to make sure that did not break on you, that that the fate of the world or the vagaries and rages of our small town existence passed us by, then anyway.              

But see maybe it is best to give some other examples so that nobody gets the idea that I have overdrawn that Markin contradictions business. No question from early on, junior high anyway from what I remember since I only knew him in sixth grade in elementary school having moved up from Carver when my father changed jobs, Markin had an idea about seeing himself as a up and coming politician, what he would later where he had shifted to that street fighter stance after the Army call a bourgeois politician at one point in order to satisfy some fierce childhood wanting habit as he called what ailed him and a fiery renegade street fighter facing down the cops at another (after the Army and after he got what he called “hip” he got arrested more than a few times for acts of civil disobedience including in the big bad mass arrests down in Washington on May Day in 1971). A desert-seeking latter day hermit slated for the slab or sainthood actually having gone out into the caves near Joshua Tree in California for a while one month and king hell orgy satyr the next (he was not happy, despite his  failed marriages complete with divorces, unless he had a few girlfriends at the same time to lie to). Consumed tanks-full of Irish working class kick ass (kick ass the commies I guess but mainly kick ass for me to get into an occasional fistfight when somebody crossed me) low-shelf Johnny Walker whiskies on sleepy Cape Cod beach strewn nights and a warrior avenging angel “walking with the king” peyote button visions on electric Joshua Tree days. Was as truthful as God one minute and the devil’s own hell and fire liar the next. Got as sentimental over women as an Romantic poet one day and despite needing those women friends then proceeded to cold-heartedly betray about four women in two hours the next. Peter Paul by his whole being, just by his very existence, was twisted up with each new social convulsion, twisted by who he was, who he wanted to be but most of all by his over-sized  puffball dreams of his own future, and the world’s. No wonder Sam Lowell who knew him as well as any guy except maybe Allan Johnson ( who knew him from about third grade when they had lived in the same four unit housing project complex with together him and used to write on various blogs and websites a few years ago using Markin’s name as his moniker as a sign of respect for his long lost memory), used to said he was a man not of his times but of some earlier time when the world was small enough that the weight and fire of one man’s rages could set the world right.

Take that corner boy designation that I started out with, a designation let’s be very clear, which was separate from friendships, a distinction which every corner boy knew, every corner boy who hung out on our corner. At the end senior year in high school and for a couple of years after that before the group started going its own ways that corner was in front of Jack Slack’s bowling alleys. Before that starting out at Doc’s Drugstore in late elementary school, maybe fifth grade according to Frankie Riley, Gino’s Sub Shop in junior high (when Frankie, a character worth writing about in his own right back in those days if not later, became the acknowledged and undisputed leader of our corner boy cohort) and before the place changed ownership in high school and the new owners did not want corner boys hanging around their place, Salducci’s Pizza Parlor, up in North Adamsville Square. Serious business. Serious corner boys hanging out most of the time, especially early on, because we were flat out busted, no dough, no way to get dough, except our little midnight creep petty larcenies, some not so petty like the time we hit it big on a big jewelry box in one house we crept into,  and maybe hitting Ma’s pocketbook for change when times were tough and most of us just couldn’t stand being cooped up all the time with no space to breathe brothers and sisters (me four sisters) coming out of the rafters. So weekend nights mainly and almost any night during the summer you could find at least a few of us holding up whatever age-appropriate wall we were holding up. And many nights Peter Paul was the guy who glued us together, the guy talking a mile a minute (or if he wasn’t talking writing something two miles a minute) about everything under the sun that he had read that day, or sometime.

Of course Peter Paul was also the glue guy when our larcenous hearts were on fire, he had a few contradictions even then to work out. I don’t want to get into those larcenies but I will give one example from our early days, kids’ stuff days, when we figured the “clip,” you know, the five-finger discount up the Square where in those days all the stores were not in the malls like now in most places, especially the jewelry stores and department stores. Here was the beauty of Markin, he worked out the “clips,” who to hit, how and where, although Frankie was the “on-site” organizer I guess you would call him. Funny the way Markin got started he said one night a few years later when we were at wits’ end about dough to get a car and be mobile for once, was he was trying to impress some girls and didn’t have dollar one and so he and some kid who left the neighborhood before I got there went to Kay’s Jewelry store and grabbed an onyx ring with a diamond set in the middle, cheap stuff but all the rage then for boy-girl “going steady” and the girl loved it. I don’t know what happened after that with those “clips,” before I got into town, how many and for what purpose, but that probably gave Markin just the flame he needed whenever he was in a tight corner. The basics of the clip were simple, have one guy clip and another lookout (which I did mostly since I was kind of nervous and would get sweaty palms) and then clear out slowly like nothing happened. Markin was beautiful in his planning (although as Frankie said no way could Markin run the operation or we all would have been in reform school or prison) but the really beautiful part was how we made money off the stuff. Obviously we couldn’t go to a pawn shop or something like that so Markin would sell the stuff to high school kids who had dough at a nice discount. Really beautiful, and here is where we might have been unconscious socialists, we pooled all our monies together for whatever entertainment we were going to use the money for.  


Here’s the difference between corner boys and friends though, okay. Friends could be anything from some “nod” thing where you were cool with another guy (sometime I am going to write something up about the meaning of the “nod,” in the hierarchy of the gestures of the time because you would never nod a fellow corner boy, no way, and no way, no way in hell, would you nod a girl, Jesus, they wouldn’t know what it meant but I will leave it as this “cool” between guys for now), maybe played sports together, worked together, but corner boys were expected to be more than that, were expected to be willing to go to the mat for the other guy, and did, and although we did not have anything as corny as some ceremonial blood oath like some corners had that we had heard about and had dismissed out of hand we were tight.

Peter Paul Markin was a key guy in the great firmament of the different configurations that we morphed into (I had only caught the sixth grade at Doc’s to start my corner time but Peter Paul, Allan and, I think, Sam all started to hang out at Doc’s in the fifth grade when they “discovered” rock and roll and Doc’s big ass play everything, five, can you believe it five selections for a quarter jukebox on their way home from the elementary school that was just down the block). He was as stand-up a corner boy as the next guy, probably more so than me, since he whole blessed life depended on that link to the world then. He took more than a few punches and kicks defending his brethren, including me one time when Frannie Desoto was after my ass, when he could have looked the other way. He really never was much of a fighter then, too runty and awkward but game. Thing was Peter Paul could never be the leader, he was far too bookish for that with his eight billion facts ready to drown out any argument with the light of pounding reason when other skills were more necessary like how to get money fast for whatever enterprise was at hand from date money to car money. Skills which required somebody like the larcenous Frankie Riley and his midnight creep operations which were done with style, however everybody especially Frankie appreciated him, called him the “Scribe,” mostly a high honor in our corner.                   

This is where those eight billion, maybe before the end nine billion, facts did come in handy. See Peter Paul had out of some almost mystic sense, or maybe just through his overweening desire to see the thing happen, called the breeze that was palpably running through the country beginning with the election of our own practically neighbors but Irish in any case even if chandelier Irish “new thinking” President Kennedy in 1960 and that fresh breeze got translated by many of us in lots of ways from social activism to outrageous self-indulgence, not all of them in the end worthy of remembering, not all of them thought back on with fondness. But remember we were fighting what Peter Paul later on termed a rear-guard action in a cold civil war that I feel goes on to this day and if Peter Paul were around he would be sure to remind us not only of his call on the breeze but of who we were up against and why, and name names for the forgetful, so good or bad that breeze is part of the chronicle of our time.

Peter Paul, who we always called Markin early on and never that WASP-ish three name thing like his forbears had come over on the Mayflower or something rather than he to the low-end housing projects born, or once Frankie Riley our leader anointed him in high school we began calling him, sometimes by me just to get under his skin, “the Scribe” since he was basically Frankie’s flak, always writing stuff about Frankie like it was scripture and Frankie did nothing to dissuade anybody about its worthiness as such. You could always depend on the Scribe with his infernal facts to make anything Frankie did seem like the Second Coming, and maybe with his frenzied pen Markin actually believed that.

Markin, Frankie, Allan, Sam, me  and a bunch of other guys basically came of age together, the fresh breeze trying to figure out the world and our place, if any, in it in the early 1960s when we po’ boys used to hang around the corner in high school, the corner right next to Jack Slack’s bowling alley on Thornton Street where sometimes we would cadge a few free games if Jack’s son, our fellow classmate in the North Adamsville Class of 1962, was working and if not then just hanging out, Frankie talking a mile a minute, Markin taking notes at two miles a minute, maybe gathering in some girls if we had money to head to Jimmy Jack’s Dinner up on Atlantic Avenue near-by where Jimmy Jenkins who would later join with us held forth with his corner boys and on most nights would welcome us there if there was no beef brewing between our respective corners. Jimmy Jack’s after Doc retired and closed his drugstore was the place to be if you wanted the best jukebox in town (although only three selections for a quarter but Markin, big idea Markin, figured out a way in tenth grade to take some slugs the size of a quarter that he got from an older brother who worked in a metal stamping shop and play for free, how about that, as long as we didn’t get too greedy and Jimmy Jack would pull the plug on the jukebox).

Most nights though no dough, no girls, we would endlessly banter back and forth about whatever was on our minds, maybe girls, girls who did or did not “do the do” and you can figure that out, whether some Frankie midnight creep thing would work out or whether we would wind up in the clink, maybe somebody’s take on sports or politics the latter mostly when some big event shook even our corner complacency. A lot of times it would be Markin spouting something, maybe, to give you an example, how religion was a joke, especially our Roman Catholic religion that didn’t make sense to us a lot of the time and we lots of times skipped Mass as we got older. Except of course going to Mass was just fine with Markin when he got the “hots” for Minnie Callahan and he would sit a few rows behind her at eight o’clock Mass and watch her ass the whole time, and she knew he was watching her that way as she told him later when he asked her for a date. Nobody jumped on him for that contradiction after all it was about a girl and that was fair enough. But get this, and the more I write about the guy the more I see the terrible contradictions that he was always bouncing around in his head and I keep coming back to that one day, that one fall day, that October day, the October before the 1960 elections, he had heard that the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day’s social justice operation out of New York City, was going to be part of a nuclear disarmament demonstration on the Boston Common with some Quakers and other little old ladies in tennis sneaker and he was going to march with them. Jesus did he take a razzing from the rest of us, Catholic do-gooders, Quakers and quirky old grandmothers for Chrissakes. Classic Markin though.

Pretty early on Markin caught this fresh breeze idea, caught and wouldn’t let it go, influenced a little by some “beat” stuff he read, you know big Jack Kerouac and his on the road travels along with some other New York guys in what sounded like great stuff when he told us about its beginnings in the late 1940s but which was just winding down as a cool movement in our time and was then being commercialized to hell, was a goof on television and subject to silly jokes about guys with long beards, berets, and bongos and girls dressed head to toe in black, maybe underneath too something for erotic fantasy in those days. He would tell us too on those nights when no corner boys were around like sometimes happened in the summer with dopey family vacations and he had had it with his mother’s endless harping on him or his three brothers doing stuff to disturb his reading or something he would fly out the back door and walk to the bus stop which took him to the subway which took him to Harvard Square when he would hang out in the Hayes-Bickford and just observe stuff. Stuff like goofy guys singing songs, folk songs as it turned out when he got brave enough to ask, that he had never heard of or guys reading poets or stories to a few people in front of them, mostly girls. Stuff that the first time he told us about it sounded weird, Frankie made jokes for days about Markin winding up like some lonesome hobo, being some Harvard goof’s mascot, being some kind of a court jester to the winos, drunks, hipsters and con artists ready to make him jump. Markin got mad, said it was not like that, refused to write stuff about Frankie for a while but kept pushing the point that maybe this was what we were spending all those lonely ass nights yakking about, that we might get swept up in it too. A fresh breeze he said that was going put all our talking points dreams about schools, jobs, marriage, kids, everything in the shade. We laughed at him, although as the decade moved on the laughter subsided.

This fresh breeze thing was not just goof talk although there was plenty of that toward the end of the night if we had been drinking some Southern Comfort purchased by Allan’s older brother or maybe like we did more than a few times by getting one of the town winos to go to the liquor for us and who could care less about our ages as long as he got his bottle of Thunderbird, Ripple or some such rat poison wine. Markin was an intense reader of the news, of what was going on in the world and maybe the rest of us should have been a little more world-wise then too but I think what we got caught up in then was the notion that we were born into a world that was already fixed, that somebody else had the strings too and that down among the fellahin like one of our history teachers called us peasants, including himself, that deal was done. (By the way that was the first time I heard the word fellahin and was surprised later when Markin almost forced me to read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, he a fellow working-class guy from up in Lowell, used the word too). We, maybe Allan and Sam most of all, were what Markin called alienated although he did not use that word then but rather called us hung up on the James Dean sullen nobody cares thing. Hell, Allan, a big lumbering guy, used to do his James Dean tee shirt, rolled up sleeve cigarette pack, blue jeans, engineer boots completer buckles and a whip-chain hanging out of his back pocket sulk all the time, and had used that whip-chain for more than ceremony as Frankie could tell you when we got into a few scrapes with Leo Russo and his corners up in the Square. So maybe we were but like Markin said, and who could be as sullen as the rest of us especially when he had his battle royals with his mother, a lot of young people around the country were feeling the same way and were trying to break out of the Cold War we-are-going-to-die tomorrow thing what with nuclear bomb threats being thrown around every other day by one side or the other. Stuff like that Markin was hip to, stuff like the fight for civil rights in the South where young white people were joining in the fight although Frankie Riley would say some very derogatory things about black people, and about how they better not show up in North Adamsville looking for anything and some guys, me too for a while, felt the same then, felt we didn’t want n----rs around our way. That was the hard reality fed to us by parents and everything else in our cramped little lives. Of course the big thing for Markin was the music, the rock and roll we came of age to but also this new folk stuff that he would hear in Harvard Square. Most of it I hated, still do, but that music was another move away from the old stuff that Markin kept saying had to change. Yeah, later we each in our own way grabbed some of what that madman speaking about forty miles an hour would run by us but when he presented it at first he might as well have been on the moon.       

Markin really was the bell-weather, the first guy to head west to check out what was happening in the summer after high school. He had been accepted into Boston University on a wing and a pray since as bright as he was he was slightly indifferent to grades preferring to wrap himself around the eight million facts knowledge of what interested him, mainly literature, history, and math and neglected the rest. Neglected it too because at least for public consumption we corner boys were not supposed to be too “book smart” but needed to be “street smart,” a very big different especially when the deal was coming down.  (Strangely, although I personally was never much of a student and only went to junior college for a couple of years to learn business administration in order to help me understand that aspect of the printing business, guys like Markin, Frankie and Sam, Jack Dawson, went to four year colleges in a time when that was unusual around our way and they all were the first in their families to do so, hell, Frankie and Sam went on to be lawyers, Frankie mine until this day.). That first trip out in the summer of 1964 Markin did not hitchhike whatever he may have told the girls around Adamsville, Boston, and Harvard Square trying to cash in in the “romance of the road” residue from the Jack Kerouac-induced fervor which fired all our imaginations after Markin force-fed us to read his big “beat” book On The Road. Markin and some of the rest of us did the hitchhike road later to save money and just to do it but the first time out he took the Greyhound bus which he said was horrible going out over several days of being squeezed in by some fat ass snorer, some mother who let her child on her lap wail to the high heavens, and some wino who along with his dank urine smell was drifting west. He said though despite his feeling like some unwashed hobo as he got off the bus it had been worth it once he got to ‘Frisco and saw right in front of him the wild west show stuff at places like Golden Gate Park that put the “hip” action in dingy staid Harvard Square in the shades. Had his first taste of dope, several kinds, had a few quick, easy and non-committal affairs (that was his term, okay, like he was a guy out of a Fitzgerald novel), and that non-committal was on the girls’ parts unlike in old North Adamsville where every girl in those days, especially the “do the do” girls expected marriage and kids and white pickets fences and everything that Markin said we would leave behind, and gladly. 

He also went west the first couple of years when he was in college, a few times with me along until I tired of it and by then we were all pretty much going our separate ways and I was starting up my first small print shop in the Gloversville Mall. So I missed a bunch of what Markin was about before he announced to the world one night at Jimmy Jack’s where we were grabbing something to eat and trying to find some non-Beatles tunes on the jukebox that he was tired of college, that he wanted to pursue the fresh breeze that was starting to build a head of steam while he could and he would probably catch up with college later, later when we had won, when the “newer world” as he called it after some English poet, was the implication. Unfortunately poor old Markin had made his what might have previously been reasonable decision just as all hell was breaking loose in Vietnam and every non-college guy was being grabbed to fill the ranks of the army and he got drafted which clipped his wings for a couple of years (I was exempt as the sole support of my mother and younger sisters after my father died in 1965).



But that Army death trap was a little later because I know he got caught up in the summer of love in 1967, before they clipped his wings with that freaking draft notice. That was the summer that he met Josh, Josh Breslin from up in Podunk, Maine (Josh’s expression, but really Olde Saco by the ocean up near Portland ) who has his own million stories that he could tell about that summer, about being on some Captain Crunch-led merry prankster ex-school bus riding up and down the coast, getting high about thirteen different ways, playing high decibel music coming out a jerry-rigged stereo on the front top of the bus, picking up freaks (later called hippies, male and female), got “married” to one Butterfly Swirl and had a Captain-sanctioned acid-blessed “honeymoon,” and stayed on the bus for a long while after Markin headed back east to face the music. Yeah, Markin while out there got caught up in the acid-etched music from the Dead, the Airplane and a million other minute niche rock bands (I just realized I had better tell you that acid being not “throw in your face” acid but LSD, colors, man, colors, okay, just in case you were worrying), the drugs from ganja to peyote although he always claimed not LSD but with some of the stuff he did toward the end I don’t know, the sex in about seventeen different variations once he got the hang of the Kama Sutra and a couple of adventurous West Coast women to indulge him (although in the end I heard that he betrayed them as well, if that is not too strong a word for the loose but mainly sincere attachments of the time, left them high and dry with the rent due and their drug stash gone once he was ready to move onto some new woman, a woman he had met in La Jolla), the madcap adventure of hitchhiking west which the times we went out together could be a subject for more than a few pages of interest, the bummer of riding freight when he tired of the hitchhike road (and had sworn off cross-country buses as had I after one jaunt to Atlanta), which he often said when we would run into each other periodically later was not for the faint-hearted , not for those who didn’t breathe train smoke and dreams the way he put it to me one time when he was in high dudgeon.

Markin not only got caught up in all the commotion of the counter-culture that kids today scratch their heads about the minute some old geezer like Josh Breslin, Jack Dawson, Sam Lowell, Jimmy Jenkins, or, hell, me starts going on about “wasn’t that a time” but brought me, Frankie Riley, Jack, Allan, Jimmy Jenkins, Josh, Sam, Phil Ballard and a few other guys from around our way (except Josh who was from Olde Saco up in Maine although in the end he was as much a corner boy refugee as the rest of us from North Adamsville) into the action as well. All of us (again except Josh whom he had met out on Russian Hill in Frisco in the summer of love, 1967 version) at one time or another travelled west with the Scribe, and lived to tell about it, although it was a close thing, a very close thing a couple of times, drug times and wrong place at the wrong time times.

But as the 1960s decade closed, maybe a little into the early 1970s the luster faded, the ebb came crashing in, and most of the old corner boys like Frankie and Sam who took the lead back to the “normal” went back to the old grind (both of them to the law, lawyers if you can believe that, Frankie mine of course). Markin could have or Josh can tell more about what happened when the fresh breeze gave out about somewhere between 1971 and 1974, when the Generation of ’68 as both of them liked to call it for all the things that happened that year, although Markin was on the sidelines or rather he was trying to keep his ass from being blown away by  Charley (name for the enemy in Vietnam, usually in some guerilla unit) when he, Charley, decided to come up over the hill some dark moonless sweaty night (Charley, that’s what he called them too, the enemy, at first he said out of spite and disrespect but after Tet in 1968 he said it with respect, lots more respect). According to stuff Markin wrote later for some journal that was interested in such things (and I think Josh said he had “cribbed” some stuff from Markin’s article to fill out an article he was doing for Esquire and for once some big money) a lot had to do with political confusion, a lot believing that we were dealing with reasonable opponents when they didn’t give a damn about us, their sons and daughters, when they let us to hang out to dry when they decided to pull the hammer down. But he insisted we were also done in by our studious refusal almost on principal to listen to the old-timers the guys and gals who fought the social and labor battles in the 1930s and 1940s and could have helped figure out which way to go, how to defend ourselves when a fast freeze cold civil war was brewing in the land.

Some stuff, frankly had to do with the overweening self-indulgence that set in once we took a few hits to the head from the powers that be, drugs to the point of stupor, a half-baked “theory” that music is the revolution that even I balked at although Markin said he went through a stage where he thought that might do the trick, know thyself in one of a hundred forms, new age stuff, before you go out to slay the dragon while he or she in the meantime is arming to the hilt, and a whole segment just withdrew literally to the hills, abandoned any thought of confrontation, heavy, man, heavy. Josh told me a few years ago to go to the back roads of Maine, Vermont, Oregon, places like that to see what happened to the remnant of that crowd, he said it wasn’t pretty, not pretty at all. But Markin said after the hubris and defiance of any coherent political strategy settled if you wanted to really understand what went wrong you could point to the fact that we never despite appearances, despite half a million strong Woodstock nation or million-massed marches in Washington, get to enough people to get seriously into the idea of turning the world upside down. Could not despite the baloney main media stories, turn all those who did not indulge in the counter-cultural life, did not have a clue where Vietnam was, did not jail-break out in any real sense when there was plenty of  cover and mobility into active allies. People like Josh’s friends up in Maine who went into the dying textile plants just like their fathers and mothers, or like ours in North Adamsville who also went on the traditional school-job-marriage-three kids-two dogs and that coveted white picket fence (which I wound up doing after the road tired me out). We were pariahs in some spots in town, seen as commies or some exotic wild life, and that attitude got repeated many places when the steam ran out, or people had their drug minute (or longer) and that was that, that was enough.

That last idea hit home with me. I had been, despite a few flings at the west with Markin or one of the guys and some weekend hippie warrior action around Harvard Square or on the then tent city new age Boston Common, grinding away at that printing shop I had built up from scratch after high school which was starting to take off especially when I made one smart move and hired a professional silk-screener out of the Massachusetts School of Art and grabbed a big chunk of the silk-screening trade which was starting to mushroom as everybody needed, just needed, to have some multi-colored silk-screen poster hanging from their walls or have their tee-shirts, guys and gals, done up the same way. Or a guy like Allan who took the trips west too but who was just on the cusp of the new wave and had gone into the almost dying shipbuilding trade, as a draftsman if I recall, since although he was not much of a student he had been the ace of our drafting classes even in junior high and took it up in high school as well. Even Josh, a late hold-out with Markin, went to writing for a lot of what he called advanced publications (meaning low circulation, meaning no dough, meaning doing it for the glory to hear him tell it now, now that he is out of the grind).

And Markin, the last guy standing, well, Markin, as we all expected, once his Army time was up, once after that he had crisscrossed the country in one caravan or another, indulged in more dope than you could shake a stick at, got into more in-your-face-street confrontations with the cops, soldiers, rednecks, never went back to college but also took up the pen, for a while. Wrote according to Josh some pretty good stuff that big circulation publications were interested in publishing. Wrote lots of stuff in the early 1970s once he settled down in Oakland (Josh lived out there with him then and I know Sam and maybe Frankie visited him there) about his corner boys, his old working class neighborhood, about being a screwed-up teen filled with angst and alienation in the old days. Good stuff from what I read even if I was a little miffed when he constantly referred to me as a guy with two left feet, two left hands and too left out with the girls which wasn’t exactly true, well a little.

One big series that Markin did, did as homage to his fellow Vietnam veterans, although he never talked much about his own experiences, said he did what he did and that was that just like our fathers would say when we tried to asked about World War II with them, Vietnam veterans who had trouble getting back to the “real world” and wound up under bridges and along railroad tracks mainly in Southern California where he interviewed them and let them tell their stories their way called Going to the Jungle (a double-reference to the jungle in ‘Nam and the railroad “jungle” of hobo legend where they then resided) was short-listed for some important award but I forget which one.                    

And then he stopped. Fell off the earth. No, not really, but the way I got the story mostly from Josh and Sam, with a little stuff from Frankie thrown after the dust settled is what the thing amounted to. Markin had always been a little volatile in his appetites, what he called in high school (and we started calling too) his “wanting habits” coming out of the wretched of the earth North Adamsville deep down working poor neighborhoods  (me and Sam too). At some point in about 1976 or 1977 but probably the earlier date he started doing girl, snow, you know, cocaine that was no big thing in the 1960s (I had never tried it and has only heard about it from guys who went to Mexico for weed and would pick up a couple of ounces to level out with when the pot got weary as it started to do when the demand was greater than the supply and street hipsters and junkies were cutting what they had with oregano or herbs like that, or maybe I heard one time all oregano and good-luck to your high, sucker). Cocaine then was pretty expensive so if you got your “wanting habits” on with that stuff, if you liked running it constantly up your nose using some freshly minted dollar bill like some guys did  until you always sounded like you had a stuffed up nose then you had better have either started robbing banks, a dicey thing, a very dicey thing the one time me and a couple of guys tried to rob as little a thing as a variety store or start dealing the stuff to keep the demons away. He choose the latter.           

Once Markin moved up the drug dealer food chain that is where things got weird, got so weird that when I heard the story I thought he must have taken too much acid back in the day no matter what he claimed. He was “muling” a lot for the boys down south, for what was then a far smaller and less professional drug cartel, meaning he was bringing the product over the border which was a lot easier then as long as you were not a Mexican or a “hippie,” or looked like either. From what Sam said things went okay for a while but see, and this I know from my own story, those kid “wanting habits” play funny tricks on you, make you go “awry” as Markin used to say. In the summer of 1977 (we are not sure which month) Markin went south (Mexico) to pick a big (for him) two kilogram batch of coke to bring back to the states. And that was the end of Markin, the end that we can believe part. They found his body in a back alley down in Sonora face down with two slugs in his head. Needless to say the Federales did next to nothing to find out who murdered him.

Frankie, then just a budding lawyer, once the news got back to Boston, sent a private detective down there but all he was able to find out from a shaky source was that Markin had either stolen the two kilogram shipment and was going to go independent (not a good idea even then when the cartels were nothing like the strong-arm kill outfits they are today, Jesus) or the negotiations went bad, went off the track, and somebody got offended by the gringo marauder. Life is cheap in that league. To this day that is all we know, and old Markin is buried down there in some potter’s field unmarked grave still mourned and missed.        

I mentioned above that in the early 1970s Markin before we lost contact, or rather I lost contact since Josh knew his whereabouts outside of San Francisco in Daly City until about 1974, did a series of articles about the old days and his old corner boys in North Adamsville.  A few years ago we, Frankie, Josh, Sam (Allan had passed away before this) and I agreed that a few of them were worth publishing if only for ourselves and the small circle of people whom Markin wrote for and about. So that is exactly what we did having a commemorative small book of articles and any old time photographs we could gather and had it printed up in the print shop my oldest son is now running for me. Since not all of us had everything that Markin wrote, what the hell they were newspaper or magazine articles to be used to wrap up the fish in or something after we were done reading them, we decided to print what was available. I was able to find a copy of a bunch of sketches up in the attic of my parents’ home which I was cleaning up when they were putting their house up for sale since they were in the process of downsizing. Josh, apparently not using his copies for wrapping fish purposes, had plenty of the later magazine pieces. Unfortunately we could not find any copies of the long defunct East Bay Other and so could not include anything from that Going To Jungle series.   

Below is the introduction that Sam Lowell wrote for that book which we agreed should be put in here trying to put what Markin was about in content from the guy who knew him about as well as anybody from the old neighborhood:  

The late Peter Paul Markin, also known as “the Scribe, ” so anointed by Frankie Riley the unchallenged self-designated king hell king of the schoolboy night among the corner boys who hung around the pizza parlors, pool halls, and bowling alleys of the town, in telling somebody else’s story in his own voice about life in the old days in the working class neighborhoods of North Adamsville where he grew up, or when others, threating murder and mayhem,  wanted him to tell their stories usually gave each and every one of that crew enough rope to hang themselves without additional comment. He would take down, just like he would do later with the Going To The Jungle series that won a couple of awards and was short-listed for the Globe award, what they wanted the world to hear, spilled their guts out as he one time uncharitably termed their actions (not the veterans, not his fellows who had their troubles down in L.A. and needed to righteously get it out and he was the conduit, their voice, but the zanies from our old town), and then lightly, very lightly if the guy was bigger, stronger than him, or in the case of girls if they were foxy, mainly clean up the language for a candid world to read. Well I have said enough except I like Bart still miss and mourn the bastard. Here is what he had to say:  

Tell me, damn it, try to tell me this is not an elegy worthy of a fallen corner boy, yeah, go on and tell me. BW