Saturday, June 18, 2016

*In Honor Of Our Class-War Prisoners- Free All The Class-War Prisoners!-Kevin Kjonaas

*In Honor Of Our Class-War Prisoners- Free All The Class-War Prisoners!-Kevin Kjonaas


A link above to more information about the class-war prisoner honored in this entry.

Make June Class-War Prisoners Freedom Month

Markin comment (reposted from 2010)

In “surfing” the National Jericho Movement Website recently in order to find out more, if possible, about class- war prisoner and 1960s radical, Marilyn Buck, whom I had read about in a The Rag Blog post I linked to the Jericho list of class war prisoners. I found Marilyn Buck listed there but also others, some of whose cases, like that of the “voice of the voiceless” Pennsylvania death row prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, are well-known and others who seemingly have languished in obscurity. All of the cases, at least from the information that I could glean from the site, seemed compelling. And all seemed worthy of far more publicity and of a more public fight for their freedom.

That last notion set me to the task at hand. Readers of this space know that I am a longtime supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, a class struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which supports class war prisoners as part of the process of advancing the international working class’ struggle for socialism. In that spirit I am honoring the class war prisoners on the National Jericho Movement list this June as the start of what I hope will be an on-going attempt by all serious leftist militants to do their duty- fighting for freedom for these brothers and sisters. We will fight out our political differences and disagreements as a separate matter. What matters here and now is the old Wobblie (IWW) slogan - An injury to one is an injury to all.

Note: This list, right now, is composed of class-war prisoners held in American detention. If others are likewise incarcerated that are not listed here feel free to leave information on their cases in the comment section. Likewise any cases, internationally, that come to your attention. I am sure there are many, many such cases out there. Make this June, and every June, a Class-War Prisoners Freedom Month- Free All Class-War Prisoners Now!


Scenes In Search Of The Blue-Pink Great American West Night-Setting The Mood

Scenes In Search Of The Blue-Pink Great American West Night-Setting The Mood

Setting The Mood

I, once a while back, was asked, in earnest, what I meant by the “blue-pink western skies” that has formed the backdrop for several entries in this space of late. Or rather the way I would prefer to formulate it, and have taken some pains to emphasize it this way, “the search for the blue-pink great American West night.” Well, of course, there was a literal part to the proposition since ocean-at-my back (sometimes right at my back) New England homestead meant unless I wanted to take an ill-advised turn at piracy or high-seas hijacking or some such thing east that the hitchhike road meant heading west.

So that night is clearly not in the vicinity of the local Blues Hills or of the Berkshires since early childhood ocean-fronted Massachusetts, those are too confined and short-distanced to even produce blues skies much less that west-glanced sweet shade just before heaven, if there was a heaven shade, blue-pink. And certainly not hog-butcher-to-the-world, sinewy Midwest Chicago night, Christ no, nor rarefied, deep-breathed, rockymountainhigh Denver night, although jaded sojourner-writer not known for breathe-taking, awe-bewilderment could have stopped there for choice of great western night. Second place, okay.

But no, onward, beyond, beyond pioneer, genetically-embedded pioneer America, past false god neon blue-pink glitter Las Vegas in the Nevada desert night to the place where, about fifty miles away from sanctified west coast, near some now nameless abandoned ghost town, nameless here for it is a mere speck on the map and you would not know the name, you begin, ocean man that you are, if you are, and organically ocean-bred says you are, to smell the dank, incense-like, seaweed-driven, ocean-seized air as it comes in from the Japanese stream, or out there somewhere in the unknown, some Hawaii or Guam or Tahiti of the mind, before the gates of holy city, city of a thousand, thousand land’s end dreams, San Francisco. That is where the blue-pink sky devours the sun just before the be-bop, the bop-bop, the do wang-doodle night, the great American Western star-spangled (small case) night I keep reaching for, like it was some physical thing and not the stuff of dreams.


The scenes below stand (or fall) as moments in support of that eternal search.

Scene One: The Prequel- Germantown Monday, Summer 1957

I wake up early, with a sudden start like something hit me but it kind of missed, kind of just glanced off me, something that felt like a pebble, maybe thinner and a little lighter, but I don’t see anything out of my watery, half-closed eyes. And I don’t feel anything around me in this feeble excuse for a bed that my father lashed together out of old blankets when my previous mattress fell apart, something like you see down at the Plymouth Plantation when the Pilgrims, a few hundred years ago, made beds for their kids except not with the corn husking filler they used. See, Ma and Pa couldn’t see their way clear to getting me a new one since my younger brother, Kevin, really needed one for his “problem”. A “problem” that I don’t understand about, and that nobody ever talks about, even Grandma, and she talks about everything and will tell me anything, anything but that, at least when I am around they don’t.

Maybe, I wouldn’t understand it even if they blabbed about it all day, but here I am with this low-rent sleeping bag, our lord in the manger kind of a bed. And Kevin’s sleeping like a king in the room across the hall all by himself away from this midget-sized room that they must have thought of when kids were smaller than they are these days, what with us drinking more milk with “Big Brother” Bob Emery every school day when we go home at lunchtime. Ma says I should be thankful (including to the Lord, as she always says, without fail) that I have any bed at all as some kids in India don’t even have that. The reasons for that, I guess, are ‘cause those people don’t thank the Lord, or at least thank our “the Lord.”

Darn it, I now suddenly remember, whatever it was that hit me, maybe something from outer space, broke up a nice half-formed dream that was just starting to get somewhere and that was about being on some television show and winning something like a thousand dollars and me getting to buy stuff for me and my friends like serious bicycles or a big record player, and getting girls stuff too, like a box of candy from the Rexall drugstore up in Adamsville Square, and just like that its gone, gone, now long gone. Just like shutting off the television before the end and the good guys, or whoever has the right to be on the right side of the law like Maverick, wins; just like missing American Bandstand before Dick Clark gets to the big dance off thing at the end where everybody’s jumping and grooving and having a good time, the band is rocking, and the guys, especially the guys that get the cute girls and not the left-over ones that they must just put on to be nice, or something are smiling, smiling the smile of the just. Double darn it.

Ya, something’s out of whack, something’s definitely out of whack, or it’s gonna be. Every time I have one of these broken-up dreams something goes awry pretty soon only not today please, and I am scared, no, really scared about it this time. Wouldn’t you be? I suddenly notice something in a split-second that confirms this bad omen coming-Oh no, not again, for the hundredth hundredth time this ratty old summer, this boring never-ending summer that I wish would end so bad I am praying, and praying hard, that it will be over and we can go back to the cool air in Snug Harbor school that we left the last part of last month. I told you it was bad, bad as all that. I’m all sweaty, I feel under my arms, underarms sticky, underwear, all cottony, sticking to me like it’s part of my skin forever, eyes sticky and half shut from a nighttime’s worth of perspiration, and maybe more than a night at that. I don’t think I took a bath yesterday, did I? I sniff, no. Sticky, that me, that’s gonna be my middle name before long if this mind-numbing weather keeps up.

Heck, I’m tired, tired to hell and back, no, farther than that, of these half-sleep, restless nights; god awful humid, sultry, breathless summer’s nights, no relief and no air conditioning in sight. No air, no wind coming from the channel across the parking lot from our house, or I should say apartment. No air, less than no air, coming from Adamsville Bay, so still that throwing a rock on it would make ripples all the way to Merrymount. And certainly no air coming from god forsaken Hough’s Neck. I know that for sure, ‘cause I went over there, walked all the way up to Rock Island and down that dusty dirt road all the way to Nut Island almost before I realized that the air had died, or gone on vacation.

Ma, making fun of me and my sweating every second of every minute of every day for about a week now, the other day told me that this was my own personal preview of what it is gonna be like for me in hell, if I don’t change my ways. Yes, Ma. But that is just her con, she’s always conning me and my brothers, trying make us do good by bringing God, his son, his holy ghost, his mother, his father, his sisters and brothers and whoever else she can conjure up using to make us do good, to do as she’s says every chance she gets in order to do God’s work, but that’s impossible using her tried and true method. She must have learned that “method” from some priest over at Saint Boniface, or something. She sure didn’t learn it from that cool doctor, Doctor Spock, I think was his name, that I saw on TV the other day on that Mike Douglas, or one of them talk shows. He knows a lot about kids, they say, at least that’s what someone said. I wouldn’t know, I ‘m stuck with Ma, and that ain’t no nice to kids lady, nor does she want to be.

But saying all that ain’t doing me any good, lying here in a pool of sweat, thinking about getting up.

I’m getting mad, even though I know getting mad today is tempting fate, I guess I was born mad, or got that way early because even though I know its gonna get me in trouble , I’m mad . You would think that in the year 1957, in a year when everybody else seems to have money and is spending it, that even in this woe begotten tiny airless apartment filled to the brim with three growing boys and two grown, overgrown if you ask me, adults; in this woe begotten tiny airless room filled to the brim with two growing boys, one sleeping like a log, sleeping the sleep of the just, I guess, across from me right now; in this woe begotten no account housing project where you can’t get anything fixed without about twenty forms and a six month wait and even then you have to wait, nothing less. Even for a light fixture it takes a civil war. Christ, how long, in this woe begotten town before we could have this “necessity,” air conditioning. Ma says we can’t afford it, or whatever her excuse of the week is. “How about a fan, Ma?” Nope, can’t afford the extra electricity ‘cause Dad just got laid off, whatever that means. He’s always getting laid off so I can’t tell what is so different about this time so that we can’t get air conditioning. Johnny Jakes has it, and his father hasn’t ever worked. Can’t, for some reason.

Enough of this, I‘m getting up, if only to splash some water on my face and get my eyes unstuck, or get a cool drink of water to bring down what has got be about a 110 degrees of temperature running through my body, maybe 115. Nah, that can’t be right, we learned about body temperatures in class. I would have to be some alien from outer space maybe. But I’m feverish, that’s for sure. Just then I am stopped short by a sound, a familiar sound. A sound that if I had just one sound to hear in the whole universe of sounds that I have heard in my long eleven year old life it would be that one. The sound of fleeing this hellish, airless place for parts unknown, any unknown. Ya, that old, sweet, lonesome, high whistle sound that cuts me to the bone, that sweet old fog horn sound when the air is like pea soup down the channel ‘cause that means a big old firemen’s red, rubber tire-draped tugboat, or maybe two, is bringing a low-riding, rusty old tanker, or some ship to port across the channel to the Proctor & Gamble factory, the place of a thousand perfume smells, as we call it when the wind is up and all the world here smells like a bar of soap.

If I live to be a hundred, if I live to be a thousand, I’m always gonna watch, even if only in my mind, when that old tanker comes down the line, dragging or getting dragged by that old tug, whistling away, to keep river traffic away, and like it just as much then I bet. I know what I will be doing this morning, or the first part of the morning, heat or no heat, air conditioning or no air conditioning. I will be perched on my very own private, for invited guests only which means nobody, viewing stand at the little point along the shoreline that is my real home, or the home that I wish was my home except maybe in winter, just across from where the big boy boat will settle in.

“Hey, a boat’s coming in, I’m off,” I yell to no one in particular. And from not one of those no one in particulars do I get an answer. My brothers don’t suffer the sweats like I do, they have their own problems which I already sense will be their undoing later, but it ain’t the sweats and so they just sleep away. I rush, and I mean rush, to the bathroom, use the toilet, splash that life-saving water on my face, it always feels good, brush my teeth perfunctorily, and run down the stairs. “Ma, a ship’s coming in,” I say excitedly, even though its about the hundredth time I seen one come in, to my mother who is distracted by something, as usual, especially when my father is out of work, and especially today, Monday, when he goes off in search of new work with a lot of hope about getting some job that will keep the wolves from the doors, that is the constant phrase that he uses to deal with the situation. I’ll tell you about him sometime but today I ain’t got any time for nothing but my ship coming in, and that ain’t no lie either.

“Well, it is not our ship that is coming in so don’t worry about it and just eat your breakfast,” she, dear old Ma, blurred out, and then I know she is in a fit and even if my ship wasn’t coming in I know the ropes enough to know to keep low, very low and out of the range of fire that I know is coming from her direction. I go to the cabinet, grab a cracked, slightly cracked bowl, get a spoon and go over to the stove, take the cover off the pot, steam escaping, and without even looking start dishing out my Quaker Oats oatmeal. Rain, shine, sleet or snow, summer, winter, spring or fall that is my nectar of the gods. With a little milk, when we have it, and even if we don’t a little Karo syrup, I am fortified for the day. Ma, can be a pain, Ma and I have a thousand battles a week over two thousand different things, and I know that already things are never gonna be right between us, even if at times we have an armed truce but, mark this down I always got my oatmeal, and always when I wanted it. I guess that put her on the right side of the angels, a little.

A few gulps later, washed down with about a half glass of milk, I am out the door, hell, even my blessed oatmeal gets short shrift when the tankers blow in. Now going out the door most places that you know about means just going out the door straight. Bu in this urban planner’s nightmarish hangover not at 666 Taffrail Road. First you have the obstacle course of getting around the ten million poles and fences that are plucked right in the “courtyard” when my mother and the other housewives in the other three units that make up our complex they call it hang out their daily washing, or dry their curtains or whatever people like my mother do to keep places like this from reverting back to caveman times. Then I have to cross the parking lot, a lot filled with all kinds of cars, for those that have them. These days we don’t have one, in case I didn’t tell you before, because Dad is out of work so we are all reduced to waiting for an eternity for that slow-rolling, seems never to be here when you need it, Eastern Avenue bus that ambles on to Adamsville Square, making so many stops that I usually just walk it, if I am in a hurry to get something, even on a hot, sweltering summer day like this.

As I hit the already hot asphalt of the lot I look around longingly at the vast array of cars; Plymouths with fins that look like a fish; Chevies, my favorite, sleek and so, Timmy McDevitt tells me, go real fast when you get onto Route 128 and let her rip; Fords that look like something they want to use to go up into space with, and I don’t know what else, but there are plenty. Finally I get to the lower parking lot that’s for guests or people who don’t get a parking spot in front of their house, or maybe just run out of steam before making the turn into hell-bent Taffrail Road. I don’t know and I am now passed that spot on the move along the fence anyhow to get to the little opening that will take me to my grand viewing area. I’m okay though, I still hear the old tug whistle coming up the line so I have some time to wait.

I get to my little sliver of land, just a little jut out of the shoreline, covered with old, oil-slicked quarry rock probably from the ground around here about a million years ago, ‘cause this town is known for its granite rock, cause it’s a granite city, even though the real work done around here is over at the Five Rivers Shipyard that is just across the bridge from the Proctor & Gamble factory, and where even on this hot, god forsaken morning I can faintly hear the sounds of metal being banged by hammers or whatever they use to put the ship together, and the flashes of welders’ torches as they put that banged metal in seamless water-tight condition.

I also notice some empty beer cans, cigarette butts, chip bags left haphazardly all over my viewing stand, somebody last night, or the night before, must have said the hell with it and got out one of the sweltering houses and came over here to get whatever little, little breeze that could be eked out of the windless night. I rule the day here in this spot, especially when the boats come in, no question about that, but what others do at night I have no control over. I just wish they wouldn’t leave a mess on my sacred site.

But that is all so much made-up irritation, probably ‘cause I am so hot, for now I can see the first glimmer of the smokestack of a ship coming up the line. I wonder whose oil it is, Esso? Texaco? Shell? Esso has been in the lead this year, and they are bigger ships and ride real low in the water coming in, and real high going out. I can start to see specks on the bridge, human specks that are busy doing the work of preparing the ship for the dock.

I wonder, wonder a lot, about these guys and the work they do and whether they like it and like being on the sea and whether they ever have any trouble like in stories that I read down at the Thomas Crane Library attached to the school, and where they have been and what adventures they have had, and where, and with whom. Maybe that’s the life for me. And I wonder about the girls they know from all over and whether they are nicer than the girls in the "projects" who are beginning to get on my nerves, for some reason. At least I don’t know what to do or what to say around them, or what they want me to do, or want me to say. I hope this is just being a boy kid and that it goes away, and I hope it a lot.

Oh, there she is, an Esso. The tugs are in position, gently nudging her and getting her ready to go dockside, tie up and unload. Wonder how long she will stay? Usually its takes a couple of days and then they are gone, sometimes in the middle of the night and they are not there in the morning depending on the tides and the traffic on the roads, oh, ocean roads, that is. Hey, its almost lunchtime, guess I’ll go home and eat and go down the cellar, maybe to try to cool off. I know one thing now though that kind of had me worried and kind of bothered me for a while 'cause I am just a kid. I now know I will always take time to watch the boats as they blow in, any dream about catching a boat out, wherever I am. Maybe, that is an omen, a good omen, about my future. I'll let you know.

Joy To The World- With Jennifer Lawrence’s Joy In Mind

Joy To The World- With Jennifer Lawrence’s Joy In Mind

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell


Joy, starring Jennifer Lopez, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, 2015


On the face of it one would think that a film going through the trials and tribulations of a driven house-wife, working mother and gimme shelter provider to all the flotsam and jetsam that came through her door would not really cut it. But factor in a driven to succeed at getting out from under a pile of debt going nowhere fast but with a few ideas in her head mother and housewife and maybe you would be on to something that people might want to spend two hours watching. Well you have come to the right place if you are thinking about the film under review Joy staring the ubiquitous Jennifer Lawrence.      

Let’s start from the beginning on this one-start in childhood to figure out that this Joy certainly lived in her own world. A fantasy world as a kid but a rather hard-nosed young woman after giving up college and whatever that might have meant to deal with her cuckoo parents, her jealous half-sister, a go for broke husband turned ex-husband and a couple kids, nice kids but an added demand on her energies. A woman facing an average suburban life, a lower middle class maybe even these days working class life complete with bills, leaky faucets, and demanding children (and don’t forget to add to the baggage train a love-addled father, a television-addled mother and a generally-addled ex-husband all living one way or the other under her roof, her heavily mortgaged roof.).     

But put together spunk, smarts and chutzpah too and that will make Joy different from the run of the mill suburban housewife-working mother that populate the silver screen and television land. Make her another of the strong modern woman that have come to dominate the silver screen of late when you get away from purely romantic films and into slice of life pics. Joy’s salvation. A mop. What? Yes a mop and not just any mop my friend but a mop which can clean whole floors without going to the bucket, a mop which can get into hard to reach corners, a mop that practically wrings itself, a mop that you only have to buy one of in your entire life, a mop which will take your household blues away and, well, just and. The selling of that mop idea to marketers in the new age of purchasing materials by credit card via television commercials on stations dedicated to such purchases (and now on-line as well) is what drives this film. The rags to riches story grown hoary in America if you can just make the right connections. No, actually I am wrong what drives this film is a young woman up against it but who with grit and savvy succeeds and who just happens to have self-rinsing mops to sell. A quirky film that is a little soft on story-line and off-hand goofy in places but strong on its Joy/Jennifer Lawrence performances. Watch it.               

Support The Campaign To Stop Killer Coca-Cola In Columbia -And That Ain't No Lie

Support The Campaign To Stop Killer Coca-Cola In Columbia -And That Ain't No Lie  

*****From The A Dimmed Elegy For The Late Peter Paul Markin Series- Tell Me Utah Phillips Have You Seen “Starlight On The Rails?”

*****From The A Dimmed Elegy For The Late Peter Paul Markin Series- Tell Me Utah Phillips Have You Seen “Starlight On The Rails?”

A New Introduction From The Pen Of Sam Lowell

A while back, a few months ago although the project had been percolating in his brain for the previous year or so after an incident reminded him how much he missed his old corner boy from the 1960s North Adamsville night, the late Peter Paul Markin, Bart Webber wrote up what he called, and rightly so I think, an elegy for Markin, A Dimmed Elegy For The Late Peter Paul Markin. That reminder had been triggered one night the year before when Bart took the visiting grandchildren of his son Lenny who now lived in New Haven, Connecticut and worked at Yale to Salducci’s ’ Pizza Parlor “up the Downs” in North Adamsville for some pizza and soda (that “up the Downs” not some quirky thing Bart made up but the actual name of the shopping area known by  that name to one and all not far from the high school although nobody ever knew exactly how it got that moniker). Of course that Salducci’s Pizza Parlor had been the local corner boy hang-out for Bart, Frankie Riley, Jimmy Jenkins, Johnny Callahan, Fran Rizzo, Markin, me and a roving cast of sometime corner boys depending on who we picked up (or who had ditched or been ditched by some faithless girl and thus had time to hang rather than spent endless hours prepping for dates, or going through “the work-out” down at Adamsville Beach in some car) before Tonio who treated Frankie Riley like a son sold the place to moved back to Italy and the new owners did not see “no account” (their description) corner boys as an asset to their family-friendly pizza dreams. The corner boys subsequently “hung” at Jack Slack’s bowling alleys, the ones on Thornton Street near the beach not the ones in Adamsville Center which was strictly for people who actually bowled, liked to anyway although that latter information is strictly on the side since what got Bart Webber in a lather was from Salducci times.
Although Bart had not been in the place in years and it had changed hands several times since Tonio ran the place back in the early 1960 the décor, the pizza processing area complete with what looked like the same pizza ovens and most importantly the jukebox, the jukebox, man, were still intact (that jukebox selections composed of many “oldies but goodies” from that time not found on nostalgia compilations for the local clientele who bring their kids and grandkids in for pizza and soda, what else, although not three for a quarter like in the old days but a quarter a pop). That night a young guy, a high school kid really, was sitting with three guys and a couple of girls all also with the look of high school about them, was if not loudly then animatedly talking a mile a minute complete with about one thousand arcane facts to back him up about “a new breeze coming through the land,” about how he, they were going to save the planet, stop the wars, make the world a decent place to live in by people like him, them who had not made the mess but who had a chance now to clean things up (he, the kid didn’t say that “new breeze” thing but that is what he meant, meant in all sincerity).

Like Markin he went on for the time that Bart and his grand-kids entered until they left (and he still might be taking if he was really the ghost of Markin). And of course that talk, that mile a minute talk complete with those ersatz facts reminded Bart of the night (make that nights) when Markin held forth about the “new breeze coming” (his actual term) based on the iceberg tip of events like the fight for nuclear disarmament, the fight for black civil rights down south, the fight against the big bad brewing war happening in Southeast Asia, and the first trappings of the counter-culture with the shift-up in music to a disbelieving group of fellow corner boys who were just trying finish high school without winding up in jail for the midnight capers they pulled off to keep themselves in dough(engineered by that same Markin and pulled off by Frankie Riley’s magic). Yeah, so as the kids today say Bart was “stoked” to do something to bring back Markin’s memory, warts and all.             
Bart had thereafter approached me about doing the chore, about writing some big book memory thing  since we now live in the same town, the same suburban town which represents a small step up from our growing up in strictly working-class North Adamsville (and still is), Carver about thirty miles south of that town (and a town which had its own working-class history with its seasonal “boggers” who worked the cranberry bogs which originally made the town famous but is now a bedroom community for the high-tech firms on U.S. 495). Bart figured that since he had retired from the day to day operations of his print shop which was now being run by his oldest son, Jeff, and I was winding down my part in the law practice I had established long ago I would have plenty of time to write and he to “edit” and give suggestions. He said he was not a writer although he had plenty of ideas to contribute but that I who had spent a life-time writing as part of my job would have an easy time of it.

Bart under the illusion that writing dry as dust legal briefs for some equally dry as dust judge to read is the same as nailing down a righteous piece about an old time corner boy mad man relic of a by-gone era, with his mad talk, his mad dreams, his mad visions, who was as crooked as they come, who was as righteously for the “little guy” as a man could be, who had some Zen under the gun magic which made our nights easier and who I would not trust (and did not have to trust since we had the truly larcenous Frankie Riley to lead the way) to open a door sainted bastard. I turned him down flat which I will explain in a moment.
The way Bart presented that proposal deserves a little mention since he made the case one night when the remnant of Markin’s old comrades still alive and who still reside in the area, Frankie, Josh, Jack Callahan, Jimmy Jenkins, Bart and me were drinking now affordable high-shelf liquors at “Jack’s” in Cambridge near where Jimmy lives (that high-shelf liquor distinction important for old corner boys who survived and moved upa peg in the world who drank cheap Southern Comfort by the fistful pints and later rotgut maybe just processed whiskies from the very low-shelves). During the conversation, not for the first time, Bart mentioned that he was still haunted by the thought  he had had a few years before about the time that Markin had us in thrall one night out in Joshua Tree in 1972 when we were all high as kites on various drugs of choices and he, Markin, at first alone, and then with Josh began some strange Apache-like dance and they began to feel (at least according to Josh’s recollection) like those ancient warriors who tried to avenge their loses when white settlers had come to take their lands and we all for one moment that long ago night were able to sense what it was like to be warrior-avengers, righters of the world’s wrongs that Markin was always harping on.

Markin had that effect on the rest of us, was always tweaking us on some idea from small scale larcenies to drug-induced flame-outs. Yeah, that miserable, beautiful, so crooked he could not get his legs in his pants, son of a bitch, sainted bastard still is missed, still has guys from the old days moaning to high heaven about that lost. Bart insisted there was a story there, a story if only for us and someone (all eyes on me) should write it up.             

I can say all of that and say at the same time that I can say I couldn’t write the piece. See while at times Markin was like a brother to me and we treated each other as such he also could have his “pure evil” moments which the other corner boys either didn’t see, or didn’t want to see. These may be small things now on reflection but he was the guy who almost got me locked up one night, one summer night in 1966 before our senior year when Frankie who usually was the “on-site” manager of our small larcenies was out of town with his girlfriend. Markin figured since he was the “brains” behind the various capers that he could do one on his own but he needed a look-out, me. The caper involved a small heist of a home in the Mayfair swells part of North Adamsville whose owners were “summering” somewhere in the Caribbean. Markin had “cased” or thought he had cased the place fully except he didn’t factor in that the owners had a house-sitter during that time, some college girl doing the task for a place to stay near Boston that summer from what we figured later. Markin startled her as he entered a side door, she screamed, Markin panicked, as she headed for the telephone to call the police and he fled out the door. But see Markin came running out that door toward me just when the cops were coming down the street in their squad car directly toward us where we met up. They stopped us, told to get in the car and headed back to that Mayfair house. As it turned out the house-sitter couldn’t identify either of us, couldn’t identify Markin and the cops had to let us go.

No question Markin panicked and no question he made a serious mistake by heading my way knowing what he knew had happened with the sitter and her response to the invasion. I had, and have always had, the sneaking suspicion that he might have rolled me over as the B&E guy if it had been possible. I have a few other stories like that as well but that gives you a better insight into what Markin could turn into when cornered.
A couple of other incidents involved women, one my sister, the other an old flame or rather someone I wanted to be my flame. One of the reasons that I, unlike Markin who did serve in Vietnam which I think kind of turned him over the edge to the “dark side” once his dream about a “newer world” as he called it started to evaporate in the early 1970s, did not do military duty since I was the sole support, working almost full time after school during high school, of my mother and four very younger sisters after my old-fashioned Irish drunken half-dead-beat father died of a massive heart attack in 1965. My oldest sister, Clara, only thirteen at the time while we were in high school, was smitten by Markin from early on and I could see that he was willing to take advantage of her naiveté as well although I warned him off more than once. Now I could never prove it, and Clara would not say word one about it to me, but I believe he took her virginity from her. I do know during that period I found a carton of Trojans, you know “rubbers,” in her bureau drawer when I was looking for something I thought she had of mine and she was not around to ask. I didn’t confront him directly since among corner boys such things would have been “square” to discuss even about sisters but I continued to keep warning him off like I didn’t know anything had happened and before long I saw Clara had taken up with a boy her own age so I let it drop.
Clara, now a professor at a New York college and with a great husband and three great kids, a bright young woman with great promise even then except around Markin who had some spell on her, had that spell on her even later when she had a boyfriend her own age and would come into Salducci’s trying to make him jealous from the way she acted, cried to high heaven when I told her the news of his fate. Although I left out the more gruesome parts about the where and how   of his demise since I knew that would upset her more. Even recently after all these years when I told her of Bart’s piece she welled up.  I tried to ask her exactly what hold he had over her after all these years just to see if there was something I had missed about my own feelings about the man after all these years but all she said was that he was her “first love” and more cryptically that he was the first male whom she would have been willing to abandon everything for at the time, including her reputation as a good Catholic girl with the novena book in one hand and rosary beads in the other the way we put such things back then. Clara too said too something about those two million facts he had stored in his head and how he swooped her up with them, that and the look in his fierce blue eyes when he was spouting forth. Jesus, that bastard Markin had something going, some monstrous Zen-like hold when his contemporaries are still moaning to high heaven of him, moaning over something good he represented in his sunnier days when he carried us over more than a few rough spots.    
The flame thing involved Laura Perkins who I was “hot” for from the ninth grade on and who I had several dates with in the tenth grade and it looked like things were going well when she threw me over for Markin. Now that situation has happened eight million times in life but corner boys were supposed to keep “hands off” of other corner boys’ girls although I was not naïve enough to believe that was honored more in the breech than the observance having done a couple of end-around maneuvers myself but this Laura thing strained our relationship for a while. Here is the funny part though after a few weeks she threw Markin over for the captain of the football team (she was a cheerleader as well as bright student, school newspaper writer, on the dance committee and a bunch of other resume-building things) who we all hated. Funnier still at our fortieth reunion a few years back Laura and I got back together (after her two marriages and my two marriages had flamed out something we laughed about at the time of the reunion) and we have been an “item” ever since. But you can see where I would, unlike say Bart, have a hard time not letting those things I just mentioned get in my way of writing something objective about that bastard saint.                   
So Bart wrote the piece himself, wrote the “dimmed” elegy (the “dimmed” being something I suggested as part of the title) and did a great job for a guy who said he couldn’t write. Frankly any other kind of elegy but dimmed would fail to truly honor that bastard saint madman who kept us going in that big night called the early 1960s and drove us mad at the same time with his larcenous schemes and over-the-top half-baked brain storm ideas and endless recital of the eight billion facts he kept in his twisted brain (estimates vary on the exact number but I am using the big bang number to cover my ass, as he would). I need not go into all of the particulars of Bart’s piece except to say that the consensus among the still surviving corner boys was that Bart was spot on, caught all of Markin’s terrible contradictions pretty well. Contradiction that led him from the bright but brittle star of the Jack Slack’s bowling alleys corner boy back then to a bad end, a mucho mal end murdered down in Sonora, Mexico in 1976 or 1977 when some drug deal (involving several kilos of cocaine) he was brokering to help feed what Josh said was a serious “nose candy” habit went sour for reasons despite some investigation by Frankie Riley, myself and a private detective Frankie hired were never made clear.

The private detective, not some cinema Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, but a good investigator from his scanty report was warned off the trail by everybody from the do-nothing Federales to the U.S. State Department consular officer in Sonora, and warned off very indirectly both down there and in Boston not to pursue the thing further, the implication being or else. What was clear was that he was found face down on some dusty back road of that town with two slugs in his head and is buried in the town’s forlorn potter’s field in some unmarked grave. That is about all we know for sure about his fate and that is all that is needed to be mentioned here.
That foul end might have been the end of it, might have been the end of the small legend of Markin. Even he would in his candid moments accept that “small” designation. Yes, been the end of the legend except the moaning to high heaven every time his name comes up. Except this too. Part of Bart’s elegy referenced the fact that in Markin’s sunnier days before the nose candy got the best of him, brought out those formerly under control outrageous “wanting habits,” in the early 1970s when he was still holding onto that “newer world” dream that he (and many others, including me and Bart for varying periods) did a series of articles about the old days and his old corner boys in North Adamsville. Markin before we lost contact, or rather I lost contact with him since Josh Breslin his friend from Maine (and eventually our friend as well whom we consider an honorary Jack Slack’s corner boy) met out in San Francisco in the Summer of Love, 1967 knew his whereabouts outside of San Francisco in Daly City until about 1974 wrote some pretty good stuff, stuff up for awards, and short-listed for the Globe prize.
Pushed on by Bart’s desire to tell Markin’s story as best he could who must have been driven by some fierce ghost of Markin over his shoulder to do such yeoman’s work, he, Frankie (as you know our corner boy leader back then who had Markin as his scribe and who coined the moniker “the Scribe” for him that we used to bait or honor him depending on circumstances and now is a big time lawyer in Boston), Josh, and I agreed that a few of the articles were worth publishing if only for ourselves and the small circle of people whom Markin wrote for and about. (Markin’s oldest friend from back in third grade, Allan Johnson, who would have had plenty to say about the early days had passed away  after a long-term losing fight with cancer before this plan was hatched, RIP, brother.) So that is exactly what we did. We had a commemorative small book of articles and any old time photographs we could gather put together and had it printed up in the print shop that Bart’s oldest son, Jeff, is now running for him since his retirement from the day to day operations last year.
Since not all of us had everything that Markin wrote, as Bart said in his piece, 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. Bart was able to find copies of a bunch of sketches up in the attic of his parents’ home which he was cleaning up for them 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. I had a few things, later things from when we went on the quest for the blue-pink Great American West hitchhike road night as Markin called it. Unfortunately, we could not find any copies of the long defunct East Bay Eye and so could not include anything from the important Going To The Jungle series about some of his fellow Vietnam veterans who could not adjust to the “real” world coming back from ‘Nam and wound up in the arroyos, canyons, railroad sidings and under the bridges of Southern California. He was their voice on that one then, if silent now when those aging vets desperately a voice.  So Markin can speak to us still. Yeah, like Bart said, that’s about right for that sorry ass blessed bastard saint with his eight billion words.  
Below is the short introduction that I wrote for that book which we all agreed should be put in here trying to put what Markin was about in content from a guy who knew him about as well as anybody from the old neighborhood, knew his dark side back like I mentioned  then and when that side came out later too:  
“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 hard-pressed Vietnam veterans trying to do the best they could out in the arroyos, crevices, railroad sidings and under the bridges when they couldn’t deal with the “real” world after Vietnam in 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, and mainly just clean up the language for a candid world to read.
Yeah Markin would bring out what they, we, couldn’t say, maybe didn’t want to say. That talent was what had made the stories he wrote about the now very old days growing up in North Adamsville in the 1960s when “the rose was on the bloom” as my fellow lawyer Frankie Riley used to say when Markin was ready to spout his stuff so interesting. Ready to make us laugh, cringe, get red in the face or head toward him to slap him down, to menace him, if he got too ungodly righteous. Here is the funny part though. In all the stories he mainly gave his “boys” the best of it. Yes, Bart is still belly-aching about a few slights, about his lack of social graces then that old Markin threw his way, and maybe he was a little off on the reasons why I gave up the hitchhike highway blue-pink Great American West night quest that he was pursuing (what he called sneeringly my getting “off the bus” which even he admitted was not for everyone) but mainly that crazy maniac with the heart of gold, the heart of lead, the heart that should have had a stake placed in its center long ago, that, ah, that’s enough I have said enough except I like Bart still miss and mourn the bastard.” 

Tell Me Utah Phillips Have You Seen “Starlight On The Rails?”

From The Pen Of The Late Peter Paul Markin  

(Bruce Phillips)

I can hear the whistle blowing

High and lonesome as can be

Outside the rain is softly falling

Tonight its falling just for me

 Looking back along the road I've traveled

The miles can tell a million tales

Each year is like some rolling freight train

And cold as starlight on the rails

I think about a wife and family

My home and all the things it means

The black smoke trailing out behind me

Is like a string of broken dreams

A man who lives out on the highway

Is like a clock that can't tell time

A man who spends his life just rambling

Is like a song without a rhyme

Copyright Strike Music

@train @lonesome


“Hey, Boston Blarney, lend me a dollar so I can go into Gallup and get some Bull Durham and, and, a little something for the head,” yelled out San Antonio Slim over the din of the seemingly endless line of Southern Pacific freight trains running by just then, no more than a hundred yards from the arroyo “jungle” camp that Boston Blarney had stumbled into coming off the hitchhike highway, the Interstate 40 hitchhike highway, a few days before. Pretending that he could not hear over the din Boston Blarney feigned ignorance of the request and went about washing up the last of the dishes, really just tin pans to pile the food on, metal soup cans for washing it down, and “stolen” plastic utensils to put that food to mouth, stolen for those enthralled by the lore of the road, from the local McDonald’s hamburger joint. Like that corporation was going to put out an all- points bulletin for the thieves, although maybe they would if they knew it was headed to the confines of the local hobo jungle(bum, tramp, someone told him once of the hierarchical distinctions but they seemed to be distinctions without a difference when he heard them).

That washing up chore fell to Boston Blarney as the “new boy” in camp and before he had even gotten his bedroll off his sorely-tried back coming off that hard dust Interstate 40 hitchhike road, it was made abundantly clear by the lord of the manor, the mayor of the jungle, Juke Duke, that he was more than welcome to stay for a while, more than welcome to share a portion of the unnamable stew (unnamable, if for no other reason than there were so many unknown ingredients in the mix that to name it would require an Act of Congress, a regular hobo confab, to do so, so nameless it is), and more than welcome to spread his bedroll under the conforms of the jungle night sky but that he was now, officially, to hold the honorific; chief bottle washer, pearl-diver to the non-hobo brethren. 

So Boston Blarney washes away, and stacks, haphazardly stacks as befits the ramshackle nature of the place, the makeshift dinnerware in a cardboard box to await the next meal as a now slightly perturbed Slim comes closer, along with his bindle buddy, Bender Ben, to repeat the request in that same loud voice, although the last Southern Pacific train is a mere echo in the distant darkening Western night and a regular voiced-request would have been enough, enough for Boston Blarney. This though is the minute that Boston Blarney has been dreading ever since he got into camp, the touch for dough minute. Now see Boston Blarney, hell, William Bradley, Billy Bradley to his friends, on the road, and off. That Boston Blarney thing was put on him by Joe-Boy Jim the first night in camp when Joe-Boy, who was from Maine, from Maine about a million years ago from the look of him, noticed Billy’s Boston accent and his map of Ireland looks and, as is the simple course of things in the jungle that name is now Billy’s forever moniker to the moniker-obsessed residents of the Gallup, New Mexico, yah, that's one of those square states out in the West, jungle, although don’t go looking for a postal code for it, the camp may not be there by the time you figure that out. 

Now here are the Boston Blarney facts of life, jungled-up facts of life is that no way is he going to be able to beg off that requested dollar with some lame excuse about being broke, broke broke. (By the way I will use this Boston Blarney moniker throughout just in case anybody, anybody Billy does not want to have known of his whereabouts, is looking for him. In any case that moniker is better, much better, than the Silly Willy nickname that he carried with him through most of his public school career put on his by some now nameless girl when rhyming simon nicknames were all the rage back in seventh grade.) See everybody knows that San Antonio Slim, who belies his moniker by being about five feet, six inches tall and by weighing in at about two hundred and sixty, maybe, two-seventy so he either must have gotten that name a long time ago, or there is some other story behind its origins, has no dough, no way to get dough, and no way to be holding out on anyone for dough for the simple reason that he has not left the camp in a month so he is a brother in need. Boston Blarney is another case though, even if he is just off the hitchhike highway road, his clothes still look kind of fresh, his looks look kind of fresh (being young and not having dipped deeply in the alcohol bins, for one thing) and so no one, not Slim anyway, is going to buy a broke, broke story. 

The problem, the problem Boston Blarney already knows is going to be a problem is that if he gives Slim the dollar straight up every other ‘bo, bum, tramp, and maybe even some self-respecting citizens are going to put the touch on him. He learned, learned the hard way that it does not take long to be broke, broke on the road by freely giving dough to every roadster Tom, Dick, and Harry you run into. “Here, all I have is fifty cents, until my ship comes in,” says Boston Blarney and Slim, along with his “enforcer,” Bender Ben, seem pleased to get that, like that is how much they probably figured they could get anyway. Blarney also knows that he was not the first stop in the touch game otherwise old hard-hand veteran Slim would have bitten harder. 

Well, that’s over, for now Blarney says to himself softly out loud, a habit of the single file hitchhike road time when one begins to talk, softly or loudly, to oneself to while away the long side of the road hours when you are stuck between exits in places like Omaha or Davenport on the long trek west. And just as softly to himself he starts to recount where his has been, where he hasn’t been, and the whys of each situation as he unrolls his bedroll to face another night out in the brisk, brisk even for a New England hearty and hale regular brisk boy, great west star-less October night. First things first though, no way would he have hit the road this time, this time after a couple of years off the road, if THAT man, that evil man, that devil deal-making man, one Richard Milhous Nixon, common criminal, had not just vacated, a couple of months back, the Presidency of the United States and had still been in office. After that event, after that hell-raising many months of hubris though, it seemed safe, safe as anything could be in these weird times, to get on with your life. Still, every once in a while, when he was in a city or town, big or small, large enough to have sidewalk newspaper vending machines he would check, no, double check to see if the monster had, perhaps, “risen” again. But Blarney’ luck had held since he took off from Boston in late August on his latest trip west in search of ...

Suddenly, he yelled out, no cried out, “Joyel.” Who was he kidding? Sure getting rid of “Tricky Dick” was part of it, but the pure truth was “woman trouble” like he didn’t know that from the minute he stepped on to the truck depot at the entrance to the Massachusetts Turnpike in Cambridge and hailed down his first truck. And you knew it too, if you knew Billy Bradley. And if it wasn’t woman trouble, it could have been, would have been, should have been, use the imperative is always woman trouble, unless it was just Billy hubris. Nah, it was woman trouble, chapter and verse. Chapter twenty-seven, verse one, always verse one. And that verse one for Joyel, lately, had been when are we going to settle down from this nomadic existence. And that Joyel drumbeat was getting more insistent since things like the end of the intense American involvement in Vietnam, the demise of one common criminal Richard Milhous Nixon, and the ebbing, yes, face it, the ebbing of the energy for that newer world everybody around them was starting to feel and had decided to scurry back to graduate school, to parents’ home, or to marriage just like in the old days, parent old days. 

 Blarney needed to think it through, or if not think it through then to at least see if he still had the hitchhike road in him. The plan was to get west (always west, always west, America west) to the Pacific Ocean and see if that old magic wanderlust still held him in its thrall. So with old time hitchhike bedroll washed, basics wrapped within, some dollars (fewer that old Slim would have suspected, if he had suspected much) in his pocket, some longing for Joyel in his heart, honestly, and some longing that he could not speak of, not right that minute anyway, he wandered to that Cambridge destiny point. His plan with the late start, late hitchhike start anyway, was to head to Chicago (a many times run, almost a no thought post-rookie run at one point) then head south fast from there to avoid the erratic rockymountainhigh early winter blast and white-out blocked-in problems. Once south he wanted to pick up Interstate 40 somewhere in Texas or New Mexico and then, basically because it mostly parallels that route “ride the rails,” the Southern Pacific rails into Los Angeles from wherever he could pick up a freight. Although he never previously had much luck with this blessed, folkloric, mystical, old-timey, Wobblie (Industrial Workers of the World, IWW) method of travel a couple of guys, gypsy davey kind of guys, not Wobblie guys, told him about it and that drove part of his manic west desire this time. 

As he eased himself down inside his homemade bedroll ready for the night, ready in case tomorrow is the day west, the day west that every jungle camp grapevine keeps yakking about until you get tired of hearing about it and are just happy to wait in non-knowledge, but ready, he started thinking things out like he always did before the sleep of the just knocked him out. Yes sir, chuckling, just waiting for the ride the rails west day that he had been waiting for the past several days and which the jungle denizens, with their years of arcane intricate knowledge, useful travel knowledge said “could be any day now,” caught him reminiscing about the past few weeks and, truth to tell, started to see, see a little where Joyel was coming from, the point that she was incessantly trying to make about there now being a sea-change in the way they (meaning him and her, as well as humanity in general) had to look at things if they were to survive. But, see if she had only, only not screamed about it in those twenty-seven different ways she had of analyzing everything, he might have listened, listened a little. Because whatever else she might have, or have not been, sweet old Joyel, was a lightning rod for every trend, every social and political trend that had come down the left-wing path over the past decade or so. 

Having grown up in New York City she had imbibed the folk protest music movement early in the Village, had been out front in the civil rights and anti-war struggle early, very early (long before Billy had). She had gone “street” left when others were still willing to go half-way (or more) with LBJ, or later, all the way with Bobby Kennedy (as Billy had). So if she was sounding some kind of retreat then it was not just that she was tired (although that might be part of it) but that she “sensed” an “evil” wind of hard times and apathy were ahead. She was signaling, and this is where they had their screaming matches, that the retreat was the prelude to recognition that we had been defeated, no mauled, as she put in one such match. 

So, as Billy got drowsier from having taken too many rays in the long hard sun day and was now fading nicely under the cooling western night he started connecting the dots, or at least some dots, as he thought about the hitchhike road of the past several weeks. He, worse, started to see omens where before he just took them as the luck of the road, the tough hitchhike roads. Like how hard it was to get that first ride out of Boston, Cambridge really, at the entrance to the Massachusetts Turnpike down by the Charles River where many trucks, many cross-country traveling trucks begin their journey from a huge depot after being loaded up from some railroad siding. A couple of years ago all you had to do was ask where the trucker was heading, whether he wanted company, and if yes you were off. Otherwise on to the next truck, and success. Now, on his very first speak to, the trucker told him, told him in no uncertain terms, that while he could sure use the “hippie” boy‘s company (made him think of his own son he said) on the road to Chicago the company (and, as Billy found out later, really the insurance company) had made it plain, adamantly plain that no “passengers” were allowed in the vehicle under penalty of immediate firing. And with that hefty mortgage, two kids in college, and a wife who liked to spent money that settled the issue. He left it at, “But good luck hippie boy, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” 

He finally got his ride, to Cleveland, but from there to Chicago it was nothing but short, suspicious rides by odd-ball guys, including one whose intent was sexual and who when rebuffed left Billy off in Podunk, Indiana, late at night and with no prospects of being seen by truck or car traffic until daybreak. Oh yah, and one guy, one serious guy, wanted to know if anybody had told him, told sweet-souled Billy Bradley, that he looked a lot like Charles Manson (and in fact there was a little resemblance as he himself noticed later after taking a well-deserved, and needed, bath, although about half the guys in America, and who knows maybe the world in those days, looked a little like Charles Manson, except for those eyes, those evil eyes of Manson’s that spoke of some singularity of purpose, not good). 

And thinking about that guy’s comment, a good guy actually, who knew a lot about the old time “beats” (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and had met mad man saint Gregory Corso in New York City), and for old time’s sake had picked Billy up got Billy thinking about a strange event back in Cambridge about a year before. Although he and Joyel had lived together, off and on, for several years there were periods, one of those chapter twenty-seven, verse one periods when they needed to get away from each other for one reason or another. That had been one of those times. So, as was the usual routine, he looked in the Real Paper for some kind of opening in a communal setting (in short, cheap rent, divided chores, and plenty of partying, or whatever, especially that whatever part). One ad he noticed, one Cambridge-based ad looked very interesting. He called the number, spoke to one person who handed him off to the woman who was handling the roommate situation and after a description of the situation, of the house, and of the people then residing there was told, told nonchalantly, to send his resume for their inspection. Resume, Cambridge, a commune, a resume. Christ! He went crazy at first, but then realized that it was after all Cambridge and you never know about some of those types. He quickly found a very convivial communal situation, a non-resume-seeking communal situation thank you, in down and out Brighton just across the river from hallowed Cambridge but at more than one of those whatever parties that came with this commune he never failed to tell this story, and get gales of laughter in response. 

But that was then. And here is where connecting the dots and omens came together. On the road, as in politics, you make a lot of quick friends who give you numbers, telephones numbers, address numbers, whatever numbers, in case you are stuck, or need something, etc. A smart hitchhiker will keep those numbers safely and securely on him for an emergency, or just for a lark. One night Billy got stuck, stuck bad in Moline and called up a number, a number for a commune, he had been given, given just a few weeks before by a road friend, a young guy who gave his name as Injun Joe whom he had traveled with for a couple of days. He called the number, told of his plight and received the following answer- “What’s Injun Joe’s last name, where did you meet him, where do know him from?” Not thinking anything of it Billy said he didn’t know Injun Joe’s last name and described the circumstances that he met Injun Joe under. No sale, no soap, no-go came the reply. Apparently, according to the voice over the telephone, they knew Injun Joe, liked him, but the commune had been “ripped” off recently by “guests” and so unless you had been vetted by the FBI, or some other governmental agency, no dice. That voice did tell Billy to try the Salvation Army or Traveler’s Aid. Thanks, brother. Yah, so Joyel was not totally off the wall, not totally at all. 

And then in that micro-second before sound sleep set in Billy went on the counter-offensive. What about those few good days in Austin when a girl he met, an ordinary cheer-leader, two fingers raised Longhorn Texas girl, who was looking to break-out of that debutante Texas thing, let him crash on her floor (that is the way Billy wants that little story told anyway). Or when that Volkswagen bus, that blessed Volkswagen bus stopped for him just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in, as Thomas Wolfe called them, one of the square western states that he now still finds himself imprisoned in, and it was like old times until they got to Red Rock where they wanted to camp for a while (hell, they were probably still there but he needed to move on, move on ocean west).

But Red Rock was more than some old time hippie community, including passing the dope freely. Red Rock was where he met Running Bear Smith, who claimed to be a full Apache but who knows (and where did the Smith part come in).

Now Running Bear was full of mystery, full of old-time stories about the pride of the dog soldiers, about his ancestors, about the fight against the ravages and greed of the white man. And about the shamanic ceremonial that he learned from his grandfather (his father had been killed, killed in some undisclosed manner when he was very young, about three), about dancing with the spirits of by-gone days, and dancing he added, or Billy added, under the influence of communion wafer peyote buttons. Several days ago, or rather nights, just a few days before he encamped in this broken down jungle Running Bear and he had “walked with the ‘Thunder Gods,’” as Running Bear described it. Billy described it somewhat differently, after the buttons took effect, and Running Bear stoked the camp fire with additional wood to make a great blazing flame that jumped off the wall of the cavern adjacent to where they were camping out. The shadows of the flames made “pictures” on the cavern walls, pictures that told a story, told Billy a story that one man could fight off many demons, could count later on many friends coming to his aid, and that the demons could be vanquished. Was that the flame story or the buttons, or Billy’s retort to Joyel? All he knew was that Running Bear’s “magic” was too strong for him and he began “smelling” the ocean some several hundred miles away. Time to leave, time to get to Gallup down the road, and the hobo jungle wait for the ride on the rails. 

Just then, just as he was closing accounts on the past several weeks by remembering his reactions on entering this ill-disposed jungle that was in no way like the friendly, brotherly, sisterly Volkswagen encampment at Red Rock, old-time stew ball “Wyoming Coyote” yelled, yelled almost in his ear, although Billy knew that he was not yelling at him personally, but that the Southern Pacific was coming through at 4:00AM. The Southern Pacific going clear through to Los Angeles. Billy’s heart pounded. Here he was on the last leg of his journey west, he would be in L.A. by tomorrow night, or early the next morning at the latest. But the heart-pounding was also caused by fear, fear of that run to catch that moving freight train boxcar just right or else maybe fall by the wayside. 

This was no abstract fear, some childhood mother-said-no fear, but real enough. On the way down from Chicago, after being enthralled by the gypsy davies talk of “riding the rails” he had decide that he needed to try it out first in order to make sure that he could do it, do it right when a train was moving. Sure he had caught a few trains before but that was always in the yards, with the trains stationary, and anyway as a child of the automobile age, unlike most of the denizens of the jungle he was more comfortable on the hitchhike road than the railroad. So, as practice, he had tried to catch an Illinois Central out of Decatur about a half-mile out just as the train started to pick up steam but before it got under full steam and was not catchable. He ran for it, almost didn’t make it, and cursed, cursed like hell those coffin nails that he smoked, and swore to give them up. So he was afraid, righteously afraid, as he fell asleep. 

At 3:30AM someone jolted Billy out of his sleep. He woke with a start fearing someone was trying to rob him, or worst, much worst in a grimy jungle camp trying to sexually assault him, some toothless, piss-panted old drunken geezer caught up in some memory fog. Damn, it was only San Antonio Slim shaking him to wake him up for the Southern Pacific coming, just in case it came a little early, although according to the jungle lore it came on time, with maybe a minute or so off either way. Billy asked for a cigarette and Slim rolled him a choice Bull Durham so smartly that Billy blinked before he realized what Slim had produced. He lit up, inhaled the harsh cigarette smoke deeply, and started to put his gear quickly in order, and give himself a little toilet as well. Suddenly Slim yelled out get ready, apparently he could hear the trains coming down the tracks from several miles away. Nice skill. 

The few men (maybe seven or eight) who were heading west that night (not, by the way, Slim he was waiting on a Phoenix local, or something like that maybe, thought Billy, a Valhalla local) started jogging toward the tracks, the tracks no more than one hundred yards from the jungle. The moon, hidden for most of the night under cloud cover, made an appearance as the sound of the trains clicking on the steel track got louder. Billy stopped for a second, pulled something from his back pocket, a small weather-beaten picture of Joyel and him taken in Malibu a few years before in sunnier days, and pressed it into his left hand. He could now see the long-lined train silhouetted against the moonlit desert sands. He started running a little more quickly as the train approached and as he looked for an open boxcar. He found one, grabbed on to its side for all he was worth with one hand then with the other and yanked himself onto the floor rolling over a couple of times as he did so. Once he settled in he again unclasped his left hand and looked, looked intensely and at length, at the now crumbled and weather-beaten picture focusing on Joyel’s image. And had Joyel thoughts, hard-headed Joyel thoughts in his head “riding the rails” on the way to the city of angels.