Saturday, September 03, 2016

*****The Blues Aint Nothing But Lucille On Your Mind- With The Late B.B. King’s Lucille In Mind

An Encore Presentation-The Blues Aint Nothing But Lucille On Your Mind- With The Late B.B. King’s Lucille In Mind 


From The Pen Of Sam Lowell

Here is the drill. Bart Webber had started out life, started out as a captive nation child listening to singers like Frank Sinatra who blew away all of the swirling, fainting, screaming bobbysoxers who really did wear bobby sox since the war was on and nylons were like gold, of his mother’s generation proving that his own generation, the generation that came of age to Elvis hosannas although to show human progress they threw their undergarments his way, was not some sociological survey aberration before he, Frank,  pitter-pattered the Tin Pan Alley crowd with hip Cole Porter champagne lyrics changed from sweet sister cocaine originally written when that was legal, when you could according to his grandmother who might have known since she faced a lifetime of pain could be purchased over the counter at Doc’s Drugstore although Doc had had no problem passing him his first bottle of hard liquor when he was only sixteen which was definitely underage, to the bubbly reflecting changes of images in the be-bop swinging red scare Cold War night, Bing Crosby, not the Bing of righteous Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? when he spoke a little to the social concerns of the time and didn’t worry about Yip Harburg some kind of red pinko bastard raising hell among the workers and homeless guys who slogged through World War I  but White Christmas put to sleep stuff dreaming of very white Christmases along with “come on to my house” torchy who seemed to have been to some Doc’s Drugstore to get her own pains satisfied Rosemary Clooney (and to his brother, younger I think, riding his way, Bob and his Bobcats as well), the Inkspots spouting, sorry kit-kating scat ratting If I Didn’t Care and their trademark spoken verse on every song, you know three verses and they touched up the bridge (and not a soul complained at least according to the record sales for a very long time through various incantations of the group), Miss Patti Page getting dreamy about local haunt Cape Cod Bay in the drifty moonlight a place he was very familiar with in those Plymouth drives down Route 3A  and yakking about some doggie in the window, Jesus (although slightly better on Tennessee Waltz maybe because that one spoke to something, spoke to the eternal knot question, a cautionary tale about letting your friend cut in on your gal, or guy and walking away with the dame or guy leaving you in the lurch), Miss Rosemary Clooney, solo this time, telling one and all to jump and come to her house as previously discussed, Miss Peggy Lee trying to get some no account man to do right, do right by his woman (and swinging and swaying on those Tin Pan Alley tunes of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers and Jerome Kern best with Benny Goodman in wartime 1940s which kept a whole generation of popular singers with a scat of material), the Andrew Sisters yakking about their precious rums and cokes (soft drinks, not cousin, thank you remember what was said above about the switch in time from sweet sister to bathtub gin), the McGuire Sisters getting misty-eyed, the Dooley sisters dried-eyed, and all the big swing bands from the 1940s like Harry James, Tommy Dorsey (and his brother Jimmy who had his own band for some reason, maybe sibling rivalry, look it up if you like) as background music on the family radio in the 1950s.
The radio which his mother, Delores of the many commands, more commandments than even old Moses come down the mountain imposed on his benighted people, of the many sorrows, sorrows maybe that she had picked a husband more wisely in the depths of her mind although don’t tell him, the husband, his hard-pressed father or that she had had to leave her own family house over on Young Street with that damn misbegotten Irish red-nosed father, and the many estrangements, something about the constant breaking of those fucking commandments, best saved for another day, always had on during the day to get her through her “golden age of working class prosperity” and single official worker, dad, workaday daytime household world” and on Saturday night too when that dad, Prescott, joined in.
Joined in so they, mother and father sloggers and not only through the Great Depression and World War II but into the golden age too, could listen to Bill Marley on local radio station WJDA and his Memory Lane show from seven to eleven where they could listen to the music that got them (and their generation) through the “from hunger” times of the 1930s Great Depression (no mean task not necessarily easier than slogging through that war coming on its heels)  and when they slogged through (either in some watery European theater or the Pacific atoll island one take your pick) or anxiously waited at home for the other shoe to drop during World War II. A not unusual occurrence, that shoe dropping, when the lightly trained, rushed to battle green troops faced battle-hardened German and Japanese soldiers until they got the knack of war on bloody mudded fronts and coral-etched islands but still too many Gold Star mothers enough to make even the war savages shed a tear. 
Bart, thinking back on the situation felt long afterward that he would have been wrong if he said that Delores and Prescott should not have had their memory music after all of that Great Depression sacking and war rationing but frankly that stuff then (and now, now that he had figured some things out about them, about how hard they tried and just couldn’t do better given their circumstances but too later to have done anything about the matter, although less so) made him grind his teeth. But he, and his three brothers, were a captive audience then and so to this very day he could sing off Rum and Coca Cola, Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (the Glenn Miller version not the Andrew Sisters’) and Vera Lynn’s White Cliffs of Dover from memory. But that was not his music, okay. (Nor mine either since we grew up in the same working class neighborhood in old Carver, the cranberry bog capital of the world, together and many nights in front of Hank’s Variety store we would blow steam before we got our very own transistor radios and record players about the hard fact that we could not turn that radio dial, or shut off that record player, under penalty of exile from Main Street.)     
Then of course since we are speaking about the 1950s came the great musical break-out, the age of classic rock and roll which Bart “dug” (his term since he more than the rest of us who hung around Jimmy Jack’s Clam Shack on Main Street [not the diner on Thornton Street, that would be later when the older guys moved on and we stepped up in their places in high school] was influenced by the remnant of the “beat” generation minute as it got refracted in Carver via his midnight sneak trips to Harvard Square, trips that broke that mother commandment number who knows what number), seriously dug to the point of dreaming his own jailbreak commandment dreams about rock star futures (and girls hanging off every hand, yeah, mostly the girls part as time went on once he figured out his voice had broken around thirteen and that his slightly off-key versions of the then current hits would not get him noticed on the mandatory American Bandstand, would not get him noticed even if he was on key) but that Elvis-etched time too was just a bit soon for him, us, to be able to unlike Bart’s older brother, Payne, call that stuff the music that he, I came of age to.
Although the echoes of that time still run through his, our, minds as we recently proved yet again when we met in Boston at a ‘60s retro jukebox bar and could lip-synch, quote chapter and verse, One Night With You (Elvis version, including the salacious One Night Of Sin original), Sweet Little Sixteen (Chuck Berry, of course, too bad he couldn’t keep his hands off those begging white girls when the deal went down and Mister wanted no interracial sex, none, and so send him to hell and back), Let’s Have A Party ( by the much underrated Wanda Jackson who they could not figure out how to produce, how to publicize -female Elvis with that sultry look and that snarl or sweet country girl with flowers in her hair and “why thank you Mister Whoever for having me on your show I am thrilled” June Carter look ), Be-Bop-a-Lula (Gene Vincent in the great one hit wonder night, well almost one hit, but what a hit when you want to think back to the songs that made you jump, made you a child of rock and roll), Bo Diddley (Bo, of course, who had long ago answered the question of who put the rock in rock and roll and who dispute his claim except maybe Ike Turner when he could flailed away on Rocket 88), Peggy Sue (too soon gone Buddy Holly) and a whole bunch more.   
The music that Bart really called his own though, as did I, although later we were to part company since I could not abide, still can’t abide, that whiny music dealing mainly with mangled murders, death, thwarted love, and death, or did I say that already, accompanied by, Jesus, banjos, mandos and harps, was the stuff from the folk minute of the 1960s which dovetailed with his, our coming of chronological, political and social age, the latter in the sense of recognizing, if not always acting on, the fact that there were others, kindred, out there beside us filled with angst, alienation and good will to seek solidarity with which neither of us tied up with knots with seven seals connected with until later after getting out of our dinky hometown of Carver and off into the big cities and campus towns where just at that moment there were kindred by the thousands with the same maladies and same desire to turn  the world upside down.
By the way if you didn’t imbibe in the folk minute or were too young what I mean is the mountain tunes of the first generation of the Carter Family coming out of Clinch Mountain, Buell Kazell, a guy you probably never heard of and haven’t missed much except some history twaddle that Bart is always on top of (from the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music times), Jimmy Rodgers the Texas yodeler who found fame at the same time as the Carters in old Podunk Bristol, Tennessee, the old country Child ballads (Northwest Europe old country collected by Child in Cambridge in the 1850s and taken up in that town again one hundred years later in some kind of act, conscious or unconscious, of historical affinity), the blue grass music (which grabbed Bart by the throat when Everett Lally, a college friend of his and member of the famed Lally Brothers blue grass band let him in on his treasure trove of music from that genre which he tried to interest me in one night before I cut him short although Everett was a cool guy, very cool for a guy from the hills and hollows of Appalachia). Protest songs too, protest songs against the madnesses of the times, nuclear war, brushfire war in places like Vietnam, against Mister James Crow’s midnight hooded ways, against the barbaric death penalty, against a lot of what songwriter Malvina Reynolds called the “ticky-tack little cookie-cutter box” existences all of us were slated for if nothing else turned up by the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Dave Von Ronk and Phil Ochs. Bart said that while he was in college (Boston College, the Jesuit school which was letting even heathen Protestants like Bart in as long as the they did not try to start the Reformation, again on their dime, or could play football) the latter songs (With God On Our Side, Blowin’ In The Wind, The Time They Are A-Changing, I Ain’t Marching No More, Universal Soldier and stuff like that) that drove a lot of his interest once he connected their work with the Harvard Square coffeehouse scene (and the adjacent hanging out at the Hayes-Bickford Cafeteria which he has written plenty about elsewhere and need not detain us here where he hung on poverty nights, meaning many nights.
Bart said a lot of the drive toward folk music was to get out from under the anti-rock and rock musical counter-revolution that he, we although I just kept replaying Elvis and the crowd until the new dispensation arrived, kept hearing on his transistor radio during that early 1960s period with pretty boy singers (Fabian, a bunch of guys named Bobby, the Everly Brothers) and vapid young female consumer-driven female singer stuff (oh, you want names, well Sandra Dee, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, Leslie Gore say no more). I passed that time, tough time it was in that cold winter night where the slightest bit of free spirit was liable to get you anywhere from hell form commandment mother to the headmaster to some ill-disposed anonymous rabid un-American committee which would take your livelihood away in a snap if you didn’t come across with names and addresses and be quick about it just ask the Hollywood Ten and lesser mortals if you think I am kidding which I agreed was a tough time in the rock genre that drove our desires, feeling crummy for not having a cool girlfriend to at least keep the chill night out playing my by the midnight phone classic rock and roll records almost to death and worn down grooves and began to hear a certain murmur from down South and out in Chicago with a blues beat that I swear sounded like it came out of the backbeat of rock. (And I  was not wrong, found out one night to Bart’s surprise and mine that Smiley Jackson big loving tune that I swear Elvis ripped off and just snarled and swiveled up. Years later I was proven right in my intuition when it turned out that half of rock and roll depended on black guys selling scant records, “race records” to small audiences.)  
Of course both of us, Bart and me, with that something undefinable which set us apart from others like Frankie Riley the leader of the corner boy night who seemed to get along by going along, being nothing but prime examples of those alienated teenagers whom the high-brow sociologists were fretting about, hell, gnawing at their knuckles since the big boys expected them to earn all that research money by spotting trends not letting the youth of the nation go to hell in a handbasket without a fight, worried that we were heading toward nihilism, toward some “chicken run” death wish or worse, much worse like Johnny Wild Boy and his gang marauding hapless towns at will leaving the denizens defenseless against the horde and not sure what to do about it, worried about our going to hell in a handbasket like they gave a fuck, like our hurts and depressions were what ailed the candid world although I would not have characterized that trend that way for it would take a few decades to see what was what. Then though the pretty boy and vapid girl music just gave me a headache, a migraine if anybody was asking, but mostly nobody was.  Bart too although like I said we split ways as he sought to seek out roots music that he kept hearing in the coffeehouses and on the radio once he found a station out of Providence  (accidently) which featured such folk music and got intrigued by the sounds.
Part of that search in the doldrums, my part but I dragged Bart along a little when I played to his folkie roots interests after he found out that some of the country blues music would get some play on that folk music station, a big search over the long haul, was to get deeply immersed in the blues, mainly at first country blues and later the city, you know, Chicago blues. Those country guys though intrigued me once they were “discovered” down south in little towns plying away in the fields or some such work and were brought up to Newport for the famous folk festival there, the one where we would hitchhike to the first time since we had no car when Steve  when balked at going to anything involving, his term “ faggy guys and ice queen girls” (he was wrong, very wrong on the later point, the former too but guys in our circle were sensitive to accusations of “being light on your feet” and let it pass without comment) to enflame a new generation of aficionados. The likes of Son House the mad man preacher-sinner man, Skip James with that falsetto voice singing out about how he would rather be with the devil than to be that woman’s man, a song that got me into trouble with one girl when I mentioned it kiddingly one time to her girlfriend and I got nothing but the big freeze after that and as recently a few years  when I used that as my reason when I was asked if would endorse Hilary Clinton for President, Bukka White (sweating blood and salt on that National Steel on Aberdeen Mississippi Woman and Panama Limited which you can see via YouTube), and, of course Creole Belle candy man Mississippi John Hurt.
But those guys basically stayed in the South went about their local business and vanished from big view until they were “discovered” by folk aficionados who headed south in the late 1950s and early 1960s looking for, well, looking for roots, looking for something to hang onto  and it took a younger generation, guys who came from the Mister James Crow’s South and had learned at their feet or through old copies of their records like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the guy whose photograph graces this sketch, the late B.B. King, to make the move north, to follow the northern star like in underground railroad days to the big industrial cities (with a stop at Memphis on Beale Street to polish up their acts, to get some street wise-ness in going up river, in going up the Big Muddy closer to its source as if that would give them some extra boost, some wisdom) to put some electric juice in those old guitars and chase my blues away just by playing like they too had, as the legendry Robert Johnson is said to have done one dark out on Highway 61 outside of Clarksville down in the Delta, made their own pacts with the devil. And made a lot of angst and alienation just a shade more bearable.  
B.B. King was by no means my first choice among electrified bluesmen, Muddy Waters and in a big way Howlin’ Wolf, especially after I found out the Stones were covering his stuff (and Muddy’s) got closer to the nut for me, But B.B.  on his good days and when he had Lucille (whichever version he had to hand I understand there were several generations for one reason or another) he got closer to that feeling that the blues could set me free when I was, well, blue, could keep me upright when some woman was two-timing me, or worst was driving me crazy with her “do this and do that” just for the sake of seeing who was in charge, could chase away some bad dreams when the deal went down.
Gave off an almost sanctified, not like some rural minster sinning on Saturday night with the women parishioners in Johnny Shine’s juke joint and then coming up for air Sunday morning to talk about getting right with the Lord but like some old time Jehovah river water cleaned, sense of time and place, after a hard juke joint or Chicago tavern Saturday night and when you following that devil minister showed up kind of scruffy for church early Sunday morning hoping against hope that the service would be short (and that Minnie Callahan would be there a few rows in front of you so you could watch her ass and get through the damn thing. B.B. might not have been my number one but he stretched a big part of that arc. Praise be.

*****For The Frontline Defenders Of The Working Class!-Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up!”

*****For The Frontline Defenders Of The Working Class!-Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up!”

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend The International Working Class Everywhere!
Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
Ralph Morris and Sam Lowell a couple of old-time radicals, old-time now not being the Great Depression labor radicals who had been their models after a fashion and who helped built the now seemingly moribund unions but anti-war radicals from the hell-bent street in-your-face 1960s confrontations with the American beast during the Vietnam War reign of hell were beside themselves when the powder-puff uprising of the Occupy movement brought a fresh breeze to the tiny American left-wing landscape in the latter part of 2011.  (That term “powder puff” not expressing the heft of the movement but the fact that it disappeared almost before it got started giving up the huge long-term fight it was expected to wage to break the banks, break the corporate grip on the world and, try to seek “newer world”). Although Ralph and Sam were not members in good standing of any labor unions, both having after their furtive anti-war street fights and the ebbing of the movement by about the mid-1970s returned to “normalcy,” Ralph having taken over his father’s electrical shop in Troy, New York when he retired and Sam had gone back to Carver to expand a print shop that he had started in the late 1960, but having come from respectable working-class backgrounds in strictly working-class towns, Carver about thirty miles from Boston and the cranberry bog capital of the world and Ralph in Troy near where General Electric ruled the roost, and had taken to heart the advice of their respective grandfathers about not forgetting those left behind, that an injury to one of their own in this wicked old world was an injury to all as the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) motto had it. Moreover despite their backing away from the street confrontations of their youth when that proved futile after a time as the Vietnam War finally wound down and yesterday’s big name radicals left for parts unknown they had always kept an inner longing for the “newer world,” the more equitable world where the people who actually made stuff and kept the wheels of society running and their down-pressed allies ruled.    

So Ralph and Sam would during most of the fall of 2011 travel down to the Wall Street plaza which was the center of the movement on weekends, long weekends usually, to take part in the action after the long drought of such activity both for them personally and for their kind of politics. They were crestfallen to say the least when the thing exploded after the then reigning mayor and the NYPD the police pulled down the hammer and forcibly disbanded the place (and other city administrations across the country and across the world and police departments doing likewise). Of more concern since they had already known about what the government could do when it decided to pull down the hammer was thereafter when the movement imploded from its own contradictions, caught up not wanting to step on toes, to let everybody do their own thing, do their own identity politics which did much to defang the old movements, refusing out of hand cohering a collective leadership that might give some direction to the damn thing but also earnestly wanting to bring the monster down.

Ralph and Sam in the aftermath, after things had settled down and they had time to think decided to put together a proposal, a program if you like, outlining some of the basic political tasks ahead to be led by somebody. Certainly not by them since radical politics, street politics is a young person’s game and they admittedly had gotten rather long in the tooth. Besides they had learned long ago, had talked about it even over drinks at Jack Higgin’s Grille more than once, how each generation will face its tasks in its own way so they would be content to be “elder” tribal leaders and provide whatever wisdom they could, if asked. Here working under the drumbeat of Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up something of a “national anthem” for what went on among the better elements of Occupy are some points that any movement for social change has to address these days and fight for and about as well.       

A Five-Point Program As Talking Points

***Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement going back to the 1930s Great Depression the last time that unemployment, under-employment, those who have just plain quit looking for work and critically those who are working jobs beneath their skill levels was this high in the American labor force, although it is admittedly down from the Great Recession of 2008-09 highs. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay is a formula to spread the available work around to all who want and need it. This is no mere propaganda point but shows the way forward toward a more equitable distribution of available work.

The basic scheme, as was the case with the early days of the longshoremen’s and maritime unions when the union-run hiring hall ruled supreme in manning the jobs is that the work would be divided up through local representative workers’ councils that would act, in one of its capacities, as a giant hiring hall where the jobs would be parceled out. This would be a simpler task now than when it was first proposed in the 1930s with the vast increase in modern technology that could fairly accurately, via computers, target jobs that need filling, where, and at what skill level,  and equitably divide up current work.

Here is the beauty of the scheme, what makes it such a powerful propaganda tool-without the key capitalist necessity of keeping up the rate of profit the social surplus created by that work could be used to redistribute the available work at the same agreed upon rate rather than go into the capitalists’ pockets. The only catch, a big catch one must admit, is that no capitalist, and no capitalist system, is going to do any such thing as to implement “30 for 40” –with the no reduction in pay proviso, although many low –end employers are even now under the “cover” of the flawed Obamacare reducing hours WITH loss of pay-so that to establish this work system as a norm it will, in the end, be necessary to fight for and win a workers government to implement this demand.


Organize the unorganized is a demand that cries out for solution today now that the organized sectors of the labor movement, both public and private, in America are at historic lows, just over ten percent of the workforce and less in the formerly pivotal private industries like auto production.  Part of the task is to reorganize some of the old industries like the automobile industry, now mainly unorganized as new plants come on line and others are abandoned, which used to provide a massive amount of decent jobs with decent benefits but which now have fallen to globalization and the “race to the bottom” bad times. (Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, the North American auto industry employs almost a million workers but only a third or less are unionized whereas in the old days the industry was union tight.)

The other sector that desperately need to be organized is to ratchet up the efforts to organize the service industries, hospitals, hotels, hi-tech, restaurants and the like, that have become a dominant aspect of the American service-oriented  economy. Everyone should support the recent militant efforts, including the old tactic of civil disobedience, by service unions and groups of fast-food workers to increase the minimum socially acceptable wage in their Fight For $15.

Organize the South-this low wage area, this consciously low-wage area, where many industries land before heading off-shore to even lower wage places cries out for organizing, especially among black and Hispanic workers who form the bulk of this industrial workforce. A corollary to organizing the South is obviously to organize internationally to keep the “race to the bottom” from continually occurring short of being resolved in favor of an international commonwealth of workers’ governments. Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.

Organize Wal-Mart- millions of workers, thousands of company-owned trucks, hundreds of distribution centers. A victory here would be the springboard to a revitalized organized labor movement just as auto and steel lead the industrial union movements of the 1930s. The key here is to organize the truckers and distribution center workers, the place where the whole thing comes together. We have seen mostly unsuccessful organizing of individual retail stores and victimizations of local union organizers. To give an idea of how hard this task might be though someone, probably Bart Webber in his more thoughtful moments,  once argued that it would be easier to organize a workers’ revolution that organize this giant mainstay of the run to the bottom capitalist ethos. Well, as to the latter point that’s a thought.


Defend the right of public and private workers to unionize. Simple-No more defeats like in Wisconsin in 2011, no more attacks on collective bargaining the hallmark of a union contract. No reliance on labor boards, arbitration, courts or bourgeois recall elections either. Defeat all “right to work” legislation. Unions must keep their independent from government interference. Period.

*** Defend the independence of the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray, the very stray   Republican) candidates. In 2008 and 2012 labor, organized labor, spent over 450 million dollars respectively trying to elect Barack Obama and other Democrats (mainly). The “no show, no go” results speak for themselves as the gap between the rich, make that the very rich but don’t forgot to include them on the fringes of the one percent and poor has risen even more in this period. For those bogus fruitless efforts the labor skates should have been sent packing long ago. The idea presented, an old idea going back to the initial formation of the working class in America, in those elections was that the Democrats (mainly) were “friends of labor” and the Republicans are the 666 beasts but the Obama administration does not take a back seat to the elephants on this one. The past period of cuts-backs, cut-in-the-back give backs should put paid to that notion. Although anyone who is politically savvy at all knows that is not true, not true for the labor skates at the top of the movement. They always have their hands out.

The hard reality is that the labor skates, not used to any form of class struggle or any kind of struggle, know no other way than class-collaboration, arbitration, courts, and every other way to avoid the appearance of strife, strife in defense of the bosses’ profits. One egregious example from the recent past from around the time of the Occupy movement where some of tried to link up the labor movement with the political uprising- the return of the Verizon workers to work after two weeks in the summer of 2011 when they had the company on the run and the subsequent announcement by the company of record profits. That sellout strategy may have worked for the bureaucrats, or rather their “fathers” for a time back in the 1950s “golden age” of labor, but now we are in a very hard and open class war. The rank and file must demand an end to using their precious dues payments for bourgeois candidates all of whom have turned out to be sworn enemies of labor from Obama on down when the deal goes down.

This does not mean not using union dues for political purposes though. On the contrary we need to use them now more than ever in the class battles ahead. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized, organizing the South, organizing Wal-Mart, and other pro-labor causes. Think, for example, of the dough spent on the successful November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio. That type of activity is where labor’s money and other resources should go. And not on recall elections against individual reactionaries, like Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, as substitutes for class struggle when some form of general strike was required to break the anti-union backs (and which was overwhelmingly unsuccessful to boot-while the number of unionized public workers has dwindled to a precious few).  


***End the endless wars!- As the so-called draw-down of American and Allied troops in Iraq reached its final stages back in 2011, the draw- down of non-mercenary forces anyway, we argued, Sam more than I did since he had been closer to the initial stage if the opposition that we must recognize that we anti-warriors had failed, and failed rather spectacularly, to affect that withdrawal after a promising start to our opposition in late 2002 and early 2003 (and a little in 2006).As the endless American-led wars (even if behind the scenes, as in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and other proxy wars) continue now with a new stage against ISIS (common moniker for the Islamic State) in Iraq we had better straighten out our anti-war, anti-imperialist front quickly if we are to have any effect on the U.S. troop escalation we know is coming before that fight is over. Not Another War In Iraq! Stop The Bombings In Syria, Iraq, Yemen! Stop The Arms Shipments To The Middle East Especially To Israel and Saudi Arabia! Defend The Palestinian People-End The Blockade of Gaza-Israel Out Of The Occupied Territories. And as always since 2001 Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of Every Single U.S./Allied Troops (And The Mercenaries) From Afghanistan!  

U.S. Hands Off Iran! Hands Off Syria!- Despite a certain respite recently during the Iran nuclear arms talks  American (and world) imperialists have periodically ratcheted up their propaganda war (right now) and increased economic sanctions that are a prelude to war well before the dust has settled on the now unsettled situation in Iraq and well before they have even sniffed at an Afghan withdrawal of any import. We will hold our noses, as we did with the Saddam leadership in Iraq and on other occasions, and call for the defense of Iran against the American imperial monster. A victory for the Americans (and their junior partner on this issue, Israel) in Iran and Syria is not in the interests of the international working class. Especially here in the “belly of the beast” we are duty-bound to call not just for non-intervention but for defense of Iran. We will, believe us we will, deal with the mullahs, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran in our own way in our own time.

U.S. Hands Off The World! And Keep Them Off!- With the number of “hot spots” that the American imperialists, or one or another of their junior allies, like Saudi Arabia and France over the recent period have their hands on in this wicked old world this generic slogan would seem to fill the bill.


Down With The War Budget! Not One Penny, Not One Person For The Wars! Honor World War I German Social-Democratic Party MP, Karl Liebknecht, who did just that in 1915 in the heat of war and paid the price unlike other party leaders who were pledged to stop the war budgets by going to prison. The only play for an honest representative of the working class under those conditions. The litmus test for every political candidate must be first opposition to the war budgets (let’s see, right now no new funding in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran preparations, China preparations, etc. you get the drift). Then that big leap. The whole damn imperialist military budget. Again, no one said it would be simple. Revolution may be easier that depriving the imperialists of their military money. Well….okay.

***Fight for a social agenda for working people! Free Quality Healthcare For All! This would be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The health and welfare of any society’s citizenry is the simple glue that holds that society together. It is no accident that one of the prime concerns of workers states whatever political disagreements we may have with the Cuban leadership like Cuba, and whatever their other internal political problems caused in no small part the fifty plus year U.S. blockade, has been to place health care and education front and center and to provide to the best of their capacity for free, quality healthcare and education for all. Even the hide-bound social-democratic-run capitalist governments of Europe have, until recently anyway, placed the “welfare state” protections central to their programs. Be clear Obamacare is not our program and has already been shown to be totally inadequate and wasteful however we will defend that program against those who wish to dismantle it and leave millions once again uninsured and denied basic health benefits.  

Free, quality higher education for all! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! One Hundred, Two Hundred, Many Harvards!

This would again be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The struggle to increase the educational level of a society’s citizenry is another part of the simple glue that holds that society together. Today higher education is being placed out of reach for many working-class and minority families. Hell, it is getting tough for the middle-class as well.

Moreover the whole higher educational system is increasing skewed toward those who have better formal preparation and family lives leaving many deserving students from broken homes and minority homes in the wilderness. Take the resources of the private institutions and spread them around, throw in hundreds of billions from the government (take a big chuck from the bloated military budget and the bank bail-out money, things like that, if you want to find the money quickly to do the job right), get rid of the top heavy and useless college administration apparatuses, mix it up, and let students, teachers, and campus workers run the thing through councils on a democratic basis.

Forgive student debt! The latest reports indicate that college student debt is something like a trillion dollars, give or take a few billion but who is counting. The price of tuition and expenses has gone up dramatically while low-cost aid has not kept pace. What has happened is that the future highly educated workforce that a modern society, and certainly a socialist society, desperately needs is going to be cast into some form of indentured servitude to the banks or other lending agencies for much of their young working lives. Let the banks take a “hit” for a change!

Stop housing foreclosures and aid underwater mortgages now! Although the worst of the crunch has abated there are still plenty of problems and so this demand is still timely if not desperately timely like in the recent past. Hey, everybody, everywhere in the world not just in America should have a safe, clean roof over their heads. Hell, even a single family home that is part of the “American dream,” if that is what they want. We didn’t make the housing crisis in America (or elsewhere, like in Ireland, where the bubble has also burst). The banks did. Their predatory lending practices and slip-shot application processes were out of control. Let them take the “hit” here as well.

***We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Karl Marx was right way back in the 19th century on his labor theory of value, the workers do produce the social surplus appropriated by the capitalists. Capitalism tends to beat down, beat down hard in all kinds of ways the mass of society for the benefit of the few. Most importantly capitalism, a system that at one time was historically progressive in the fight against feudalism and other ancient forms of production, has turned into its opposite and now is a fetter on production. The current multiple crises spawned by this system show there is no way forward, except that unless we push them out, push them out fast, they will muddle through, again.

Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Socialism is the only serious answer to the human crisis we face economically, socially, culturally and politically. This socialist system is the only one calculated to take one of the great tragedies of life, the struggle for daily survival in a world that we did not create, and replace it with more co-operative human endeavors.

Build a workers’ party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. None of the nice things mentioned above can be accomplished without as serious struggle for political power. We need to struggle for an independent working-class-centered political party that we can call our own and where our leaders act as “tribunes of the people” not hacks. The creation of that workers party, however, will get us nowhere unless it fights for a workers government to begin the transition to the next level of human progress on a world-wide scale.

As Isaac Deutscher said in his speech “On Socialist Man” (1966):

“We do not maintain that socialism is going to solve all predicaments of the human race. We are struggling in the first instance with the predicaments that are of man’s making and that man can resolve. May I remind you that Trotsky, for instance, speaks of three basic tragedies—hunger, sex and death—besetting man. Hunger is the enemy that Marxism and the modern labour movement have taken on.... Yes, socialist man will still be pursued by sex and death; but we are convinced that he will be better equipped than we are to cope even with these.” 

Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!


Bob Marley Get Up, Stand Up Lyrics

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!

Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Preacher man, don't tell me,

Heaven is under the earth.

I know you don't know

What life is really worth.

It's not all that glitters is gold;

'Alf the story has never been told:

So now you see the light, eh!

Stand up for your rights. come on!

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!

Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!

Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Most people think, Great god will come from the skies,

Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.

But if you know what life is worth,

You will look for yours on earth:

And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. jah!

Get up, stand up! (jah, jah! )

Stand up for your rights! (oh-hoo! )

Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )

Don't give up the fight! (life is your right! )

Get up, stand up! (so we can't give up the fight! )

Stand up for your rights! (lord, lord! )

Get up, stand up! (keep on struggling on! )

Don't give up the fight! (yeah! )

We sick an' tired of-a your ism-skism game -

Dyin' 'n' goin' to heaven in-a Jesus' name, lord.

We know when we understand:

Almighty god is a living man.

You can fool some people sometimes,

But you can't fool all the people all the time.

So now we see the light (what you gonna do?),

We gonna stand up for our rights! (yeah, yeah, yeah! )

So you better: Get up, stand up! (in the morning! git it up! )

Stand up for your rights! (stand up for our rights! )

Get up, stand up!

Don't give up the fight! (don't give it up, don't give it up! )

Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )

Stand up for your rights! (get up, stand up! )

Get up, stand up! (... )

Don't give up the fight! (get up, stand up! )


We Don’t Want Your Ism-Skism Thing- Dreadlocks Delight- “One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley And The Wailers”- A CD Review By Ralph Morris (2012)

One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley And The Wailers, Bob Marley And The Wailers, UTV Records, 2001

Admit it, back in the late seventies and early eighties we all had, Sam and me included, our reggae minute, at least a minute anyway. And the center of that minute, almost of necessity, had to be a run-in with the world of Bob Marley and the Wailers, probably I Shot The Sheriff. Some of us stuck with that music and moved on to its step-child be-bop, hip-hop when that moved onto the scene. Others like me just took it as a world music cultural moment and put the records (you know records, those black vinyl things, right?) away after a while. And that was that.

Well not quite. Of late the Occupy movement, the people risen, has done a very funny musical thing, at least funny to my ears when I heard it. They, along with the old labor song, Solidarity Forever, and, of course Brother Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land , have resurrected Bob Marley’s up-from-under fight song, Get Up, Stand Up to fortify the sisters and brothers against the American imperial monster beating down on all of us and most directly under the police baton and tear gas canister. And that seems, somehow, eminently right. More germane here it has gotten me to dust off those old records and give Brother Marley another hear. And you should too if you have been remiss of late with such great songs as (aside from those mentioned already) No Woman, No Cry, Jamming, One Love/People Get Ready (yah, the old Chambers Brother tune), and Buffalo Soldier. And stand up and fight too.

Originally Posted 10th February 2012 on Amazon  

Stop Continuing To Let The Military Sneak Into The High Schools-Down With JROTC And Military Recruiter Access

Stop Continuing To Let The Military Sneak Into The High Schools-Down With JROTC And Military Recruiter Access


 Frank Jackman comment:


One of the great struggles on college campuses during the height of the struggle against the Vietnam War back in the 1960s aside from trying to close down that war outright was the effort to get the various ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps, I think that is right way to say it) programs off campus. In a number of important campuses that effort was successful, although there has been back-sliding going on since the Vietnam War ended and like any successful anti-war or progressive action short of changing the way governments we could support do business is subject to constant attention or the bastards will sneak something in the back door.


To the extent that reintroduction of ROTC on college campuses has been thwarted, a very good anti-war action indeed which had made it just a smidgen harder to run ram shot over the world, that back door approach has been a two-pronged attack by the military branches to get their quota of recruits for their all-volunteer military services in the high schools. First to make very enticing offers to cash-strapped public school systems in order to introduce ROTC, junior version, particularly but not exclusively, urban high schools (for example almost all public high schools in Boston have some ROTC service branch in their buildings with instructors partially funded by the Defense Department and with union membership right and conditions a situation which should be opposed by teachers’ union members).


Secondly, thwarted at the college level for officer corps trainees they have just gone to younger and more impressible youth, since they have gained almost unlimited widespread access to high school student populations for their high pressure salesmen military recruiters to do their nasty work. Not only do the recruiters who are graded on quota system and are under pressure produce X number of recruits or they could wind doing sentry guard duty in Kabul or Bagdad get that access where they have sold many young potential military personnel many false bills of goods but in many spots anti-war veterans and other who would provide a different perspective have been banned or otherwise harassed in their efforts.  


Thus the tasks of the day-JROTC out of the high schools-military recruiters out as well! Let anti-war ex-soldiers, sailors, Marines and airpersons have their say.         

Labor's Untold Story In Song- Remember The Heroic Lawrence Textile Strike Of 1912-"Bread And Roses"-Yes, Indeed

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of a performance of "Bread and Roses" about the famous textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912.

Poem and Song lyrics-"Bread And Roses"


As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"
As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for roses, too!
As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler -- ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses! Song Lyrics


As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: Bread and Roses! Bread and Roses!
As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.
As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too.
As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days,
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses

*****Fragments Of Sam Lowell’s Paris Notebooks- With Laura Perkins In Mind

*****Fragments Of Sam Lowell’s Paris Notebooks- With Laura Perkins In Mind


From The Pen Of Bart Webber


Rummaging through my Sam Lowell files several months ago, files composed of frantic notes taken when he, me, we were high on life, liquor, dope, usually high-end marijuana from Mexico or Columbia in the days when that was the cartel crop of choice not the oregano-filled stuff street dealers were trying to hustle, not after the first few rookie buying errors when we made connections with guys who knew how to get good reefer and pass it along uncut or cocaine, then a rarer drug of choice and harder to depend on, I noticed a document, a rather tattered document, worn at the edges, turned slightly yellow although that could have been from the sunlight directly hitting it rather than claiming ancient origin, really about thirty pages of mimeograph paper (the old mimeo a hand-cranked messy way, messy with the carbon copy, messy with the smelly fluid used to reproduce leaflets, flyers, or any other type material in the days when copying was expensive or non-existent in the days before you could reproduce whatever you wanted at home via your printer attached to your computer, hail progress), sheets of white paper, that’s what we called it in the old days anyway, stapled together, with the title Sam Lowell’s Paris Notebooks written in pen on the front but with no name to indicate whether he or I had written the material.

In the minute before I actually inspected the material, thumbed through the pages to find out the origins, I thought it might have been some old material that I had laid aside and let go to pot (no pun intended, although the lassitude of pot-smoking may have created the environment to forget about such things) about my old friend’s trips to Paris in the 1970s that he told me about over many nights sitting in my smoky living room (from dastardly, dastardly now, tobacco cigarette smoke as well as weed smoke since we both we practically chain-smokers especially when drinking wine, or in the desperate hours before some demonstration when we were in a frenzy to get things organized and used the tobacco to keep us at a fine edge knowing full well that some ancient Surgeon-General had forced the cigarette companies to put a skull and cross –bones warning label on each and every pack speaking about the seventy-six ways the “coffin sticks,” a term we used to use around Jack Slack’s bowling alleys where we hung out in high school down in Carver) regaling me with his adventures abroad when he felt he needed to put a little distance between himself and America, become something in the mold of the American ex-pats like Hemingway, Bowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Buddha Stein (and Miss Toklas) the aftermath of World War I. Maybe not with quite the same literary conviction, certainly not with the intention of writing the great American novel which they aimed to do but certainly with the same sense that an ebb tide had been building in this country after the big bad ass fresh breeze (Sam’s term) that had come through the land in the 1960s and had evaporated without a trance.

Sam had, has, provided me with a wealth of information from the old days for my own little pieces, sketches really, since he went through a lot of the episodes related in them by me back in the day. Sam remembering things, wanting to remember things, in the tradition of the great literary rememberers who seem to have become something of a dying breed as insto-information, mostly accurate too, can be gleaned from the products of modern information technology saving hurt overstuff  heads filled with two thousand facts which may, or maybe not, have gotten them out of a jam (Sam, me too, mere acolytes to the Pete Markin when he was in his prime and had two thousand facts available just as an appetizer, had then at the tipoff his tongue so he did not even work up a sweat, who could rattle the stuff off to some unsuspecting young girl and wind up with a date more times than you might think, good-looking girls too, and smart while we were left with egg on our faces).

Sam remembering events from our old corner boy days down in Carver, down in Southeastern Massachusetts cranberry bog country for which the town was then famous and we tagged far and wide as boggers, and sons of boggers, down in front of Harry’s Variety when we were just kids about going to school dances with our full complement of two-left feet, about our social immaturities and our wicked “from hunger” wanting habits which perhaps we could not articulate, in fact I know we could not articulate then but which hung just below the surface of every action, legal or illegal that we did in those holy goof days (Jack Kerouac’s term and appropriate), about the awkwardness of growing up and dealing with girls and their funny ways which I turned into a small series about various guys, including him and me, and their two left feet, their clammy hands, their clumsiness, trying to fit into the fresh breeze world of rock and roll which freed us from having to dance close with a girl (except for that last chance last dance song where you hoped you were lucky enough, had had enough charm to wangle a chance to go on with the evening).

Remembering later when we were in high school corner boy times hanging around Jack Slack’s bowling alleys desperate to talk about, mostly talk about, the cars, girls, dough, dough a big thing on Friday and Saturday nights, that we “from hunger” boys didn’t have and used many ways, some midnight sifter ways included to get dough for our needs which I also turned into a short series about the pratfalls and pitfalls of growing up in the heat of the night at the edge of the fresh  breeze 1960s before the new dispensation took hold and changed the courses of our lives. Remembering too later times, times after high school when we all mostly went our separate ways, a few to the raging Vietnam War where we lost Jack Jenkins and Sonny Kelly from the crowd in some swampy battlefields now eternally etched in memory on black granite down in D.C., RIP, brothers, RIP.

On a happier note Sam dragging me, one time almost literally when he wanted to hear the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, to Cambridge and his beloved Harvard Square folk scene music which frankly put me on edge, makes my teeth grind to this day, and eventually after his own military service (I was exempt from the draft since I was the sole support of my mother and four younger sisters when my father, my alcoholic father if you want to know, did us the great favor of dying of a heart attack and releasing us from his grimy grip) on the hitchhike road west which he and I did a big series on under the title The Search For The  Blue-Pink Great American West Night, which was hell of a ride while it lasted, lasted until the bad guys got their guns ready, got the ebb tide rolling and I am not quite sure we are not still in its grip.

After that I didn’t think anymore more about it at the time, just threw the manuscript back into the sun-drenched pile to get yellow with other bits of paper gathering dust since I had no intention on my own of doing anything with the material whether it was Sam’s or mine since the notes were in tough shape and frankly I couldn’t figure out what half the short sharp sentences without punctuation meant, a sure sign that they were Sam’s, only in Sam’s special code unlike my own extended paragraphs explaining everything under the sun, except maybe the subject I was trying to wade through.

There it lay gathering its dusty layers and being turned by the sun a shadow of its own color until a few weeks ago when Sam, now semi-retired from his small two-man law office down in Carver, a town which he never left, never left in his mind, and never left after all the 1970s adventures except to move into a house on the Plymouth side of the Carver-Plymouth line when he got married the first time, free from over the top alimony payments after two unsuccessful marriages and four successful children, all adults, free from the burden of their collective college and graduate school (one law school, daughter Jenny) told me when we met at the Sunnyvale Grille over near the Financial District in downtown Boston that he had just gotten back from Paris, Paris, the “city of lights” as he used to always call it back when he went over fairly regularly, back in the early 1970s when still in thrall to whatever romance the 1960s still had left, whatever appeal the lore of guys, writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bowles, Winot, Breslin had on him and his vivid imagination by vagrant freighter before those two unsuccessful marriages and four successful children put a stop to that, put a stop pronto. Sam had gone over by jet with his latest flame live-in flame, Laura Perkins, who had never been there and had a life-long wish to go. (Don’t get me wrong about the flame thing, Laura and Sam have been together several years so it is not some fly-by-night romance).

Strangely or maybe not given his martial history and strike-outs Sam never went there after those vagrant runs with either wife, none of the kids, nor me although I was supposed to go one time but my girlfriend of the time, Betsy, said “no” and that finished it (that girlfriend now a wife of thirty-seven years and still counting). I mentioned to him that I had in my office a yellowing manuscript entitled Sam Lowell’s Paris Notebooks which I told him I had thumbed through quickly a few months before and that kind of forgot about since I was then writing about the horrible effect and drama that the damn, yes still damn Vietnam War had had on our generation and still does. 

Sam was surprised when I told him that information about the manuscript since he thought that it had been lost forever in one of those “move out of the house” situations with one of the wives (or later move out of one of his girlfriends’ places when he, the supposedly smart lawyer, finally figured out that it was cheaper for him to just shack up with women and avoid the “marriage penalty”). He had forgotten that after his second divorce (Joyell and two children, both girls, including budding successful lawyer Jenny who, out of loyalty to her mother according to one of his other children, will not speak to him these days despite paying through the nose for seven years of high-priced education which practically made him an indentured servant) he had wound up in our spare bedroom complete with whatever earthy possessions he was able to keep after his banishment from civil society, Joyell’s high-end civil society, which was all that mattered at the time. He had put some of his papers, this written stuff in my office when he was thinking that he would like to start writing about his old time Paris experiences and wanted to use my electric typewriter to frame his ideas (yeah, electric typewriter so it had been a while and that yellowing patina actually was with age). One thing or another came up as it will with lawyers who are hustling to earn every dollar so that they don’t wind up in front of some fiery Brahmin judge who will hold them in contempt or whatever they do when you don’t pay up your court-ordered expenses for alimony and child support (and don’t forget the college and beyond tuitions which nearly broke him, and did break his spirit for a while). So the material just got left there.

One day a few days later after our conversation at the Sunnyville Grille Sam showed up at our apartment in Cambridge (condo really for we had downsized from a house in Watertown after the kids fled the scene and we became “empty-nesters”) all red-faced, red-faced from having had a few too many high-shelf whiskies at Jack’s s down the street looking for that damn manuscript (the “damn” his expression). He had taken it into his flushed head that he wanted to write about Paris again, Laura’s Paris, to show Laura he could write about Paris like in the old days, that if nothing else they would “always have Paris” ( a line stolen by him and sixteen million other guys for reasons as varied as giving some dame the brush-off to some act of bravery from Humphrey Bogart, Bogie of the constant cigarette in hand and mouth, cigarettes 1930s and 1940s cinematic “cool” and plentiful before the that Surgeon-General lowered the boom, and the arched-eyebrow, as Rick of Rick’s American Café to Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa in the classic black and white film Casablanca as he is doing the noble thing in the struggle against the bloody Huns in letting her leave with her freedom-fighter husband Victor Lazlo after they had found each other again out in the Moroccan desert during World War II). So that night after sleeping it off a little in our spare room (feeling very spare even if smaller and more manageable than the house in Watertown now with the kids fled) Sam and I went into the office and read over the thirty odd handwritten pages of what would be the background skeleton, mainly of places and events that connected back then and now of the “travelogue” (Sam’s expression) that Sam would write. And write he did. Here is what he had to say:               


“Funny sitting here at Logan Airport with my sweetie, Laura Perkins, who has authorized me to call her sweetie, call her sweetie despite the fact that we are both well beyond the sweetie endearment stage to acknowledge our love, have been for years, call her sweetie even though today’s conventions, today’s women feminist conventions frown on such designations for women that term reflecting an certain old-time, hell, not so old time only forty or so years ago, a pittance in the male-female tightrope walk, male subjugation of the female by making her sound like some young child despite her womanly appearances, so there take that, a couple of hours to kill waiting for the Delta flight at 7: 35 PM, this will be the first time that I will have flown to Paris. First time too that I will have gone there since the early 1970s, since before I decided to go to law school after I felt that the fresh breathe of fresh air had held us together in the 1960s had gone to hell in fits of hubris and our own innocence and came back from California where I was trying to find the “Great Blue-Pink American West night along with Bart Webber (and the late Pete Markin who was the harbinger of the fresh breeze around Jack Slacks’ when we were in high school), since before the grind and, since before ex-wives Joyell and Ella got their claws into me.

In those days, no money, no cares in particular I would grab a cheap freighter heading to Europe, one that carried passengers although once on an oiler where they thought that I was somebody else, was one of the crew who had signed on and me near ocean-grown but totally ignorance of thing number one about boats and ships, where would I have got that kind of knowledge coming from the Carver projects and the only sea-worthy vehicle I had every had a chance to get on was a raft that me and a couple if my brothers built ,or tried to build, along the Carver River in order to head out to sea when our mother threw us out of the house at ages seven, eight, and nine for some reason that we were probably guilty of and we were going  to sail the ocean blue for adventure and blow the dust of Carver off of our shoes. Bu never again on an oiler the damn things stink worse than hell of seaweed and bilge and you have the smell of tarry oil in your nostrils forever. Although once I got my sea-legs on my first freighter, the S.S. Daniel Radley (flying a “flag of convenience out of Liberia), after a couple of days of barfing overboard or wherever I felt ill the trip wasn’t too bad but made me realize that flying in six or seven hours is surly easier that to spent several days at on the blue-green sea remembering that not too long before in human experience even the ides of crossing the rough-hewn Atlantic was an adventure fit only for the bravest, fittest, and luckiest.

Sitting too wondering what we will find about what is new in Paris since those by-gone days. Will it still have that certain charm that it had back then when the train arrived at the station from Le Havre (I had forgotten which one but it had these huge clocks with roman numerals on the top of the building which had a certain 19th century age of progress charm about them) and I turned around and there was the Eiffel Tower seen in the mind’s eye in every half decent film set in Paris (along with the Arc de Triumph). Will it still have the ubiquitous cafes with their outdoor seemingly in all weathers tables bunched tight together filled with people-watching customers sipping wines and smoking cigarettes. Cafes, many of which I drank small whiskies neat at or expresso coffee as only the French can make with that weird coppery machinery they use to brew the stuff (many of those cafes which apparently Hemingway haunted as well at least they all boasted that he drank there, drank their wines, closed their joint down as well, for they all had at least one copy of a Hemingway novel, in English and French, as proof). The Seine with its miles of cobblestone walks and ever present barges trolling product up and down the river. Notre Dame in the mist. But mainly the feeling that as some long ago writer up in the Montmartre art colony once said “it was better to be poor in Paris than rich elsewhere.” Yeah that feeling that Sam had not felt with his self-imposed burdens of forty years rolling the rock up the hill.               

I, Laura too, had always lived busy lives, had jobs that required lots of fast-stepping and avoiding of bottle-neck situations so we did not have to wait for much of anything except perhaps an unexpected traffic delay that had always been part of the modern landscape ever since we were kids (she in North Adamsville) and our parents took us them down to Cape Cod and would always wind up starting too late in the day like lots of families with plenty of kids to be accounted for, their needs satisfied, the kids that is, and their considerations on the long trip (even a fifty mile trip with three screaming kids is a long trip-for the parents as I and Laura would learn for ourselves with our own respective families) and by the time they started all those other delayed similarly delayed families would be piled up at the Sagamore or Bourne bridges (the former if headed toward Provincetown the latter headed toward the ferry for Martha’s Vineyard) and there would be creepy crawl all the way down Route 6 or Route 24.

Once I had my own car and a desire to head to the Cape (either place) I would leave at 6 AM or not bother. I would later get up early to head to my law office early if I had a court date in say Boston and so while I never fully mastered the urban sprawl which seemed to grow exponentially each year I held it in check, rolled a little more with the punches as I aged although why there would be a twenty-five car line-up on Thornton Street when they put the traffic light there and a three light wait where previously you could breeze through using the old four-way-stop courtesies still observed in town because some drunk guy had had an accident there still makes me grind my teeth. Of course through trial and error Laura and I have  both picked up a few tricks to avoid the dreaded waiting like, this is before the age of E-Pass transmitter of course, keeping to the right lanes when traffic was heavy at tolls since everybody thought that the left lanes held some speed magic even when the lanes were clogged; avoiding express lines in supermarkets and heading to the lonely full-load grocery cashier down at the far end of the check-out lanes; using cash for small transactions everywhere; and, well, avoiding Thornton Street at certain twenty-five car back-up hours and taking North Main and a two second stop at an stop sign intersection. There were probably more things as well like using curbside service for a couple of bucks at airports where and when possible rather than face the monster lines when there was luggage to check, especially at JetBlue in Boston for some reason (of course print-out of boarding pass a beauty of modern technology but nothing can be done about that security check unless you grabbed a random Pre-TSA clearance tab and sailed through, well, almost since my knee replacement from several years ago requires the obligatory “hands up” scan and occasional pat-down to be expected in a rabid 9/11 world).          

Me, for sure, and Laura perhaps a little less so were not used to delays, or the what amounted to the same thing- waiting for services. Welcome to Paris, the land of the line everywhere although that little surprise would not become manifest until later when I, with un-ground teeth which Laura knew meant I was only go to make a casual observation and not begin a civil war, a scene that would set Franco-American relations back about one hundred years, said that this line, this patient line business meant that Parisians must have different timeclocks in their heads. It all started at the huge modern Charles De Gaulle Airport “frontier” exit into France. This new airport (it was not there that last freighter trip over) named for the unlamented former head of the Free French forces in World War II after the French army went belly-up, again as in World War I, against the Germans and the six guys who had not abjectly surrender or run away when the tanks started rolling across the borders needed a leader, a leader who did not mind that France was to be liberated by outside forces despite a fig-leaf entry late after the key battles of Normandy were in the books  and despite the real fight by the Resistance on the ground during the war far from sedate London; named for the French President who was ready to kill every Algerian nationalist he could get his hands on until they fought back furiously  and he was forced to back off or face the bastards running amok in Paris; and, named for the returned President who was ready to commit another Paris Commune massacre if cooler heads had not prevailed when students and then workers got uppity in 1968, all first rate qualifications for having an airport or any other public building named after you but enough of political potshots as Laura and I are still waiting to get out of the damn airport, rather the border of France, technical border for the line to show passports was very, very long since about three flights from wherever (at least one with prosperous looking Germans coming peacefully to France, this time) were trying to pass through to France at that same time. Very different from landing on some French coastal port in a stinking freighter with about twelve people on it and a quick run through customs. I, to Laura’s relief, stayed calm and we survived the gauntlet on the way to get our cleared luggage.     

What got me, though not Laura since she was too excited to be in France, to be on her way to Paris and all the quaintness, charm, splendor and just plain cultural atmosphere to get unnerved by whatever small indignities that might befall us, was the interminable wait for a freaking taxi cab in order to ride into the place we were to stay at (via Airbnb another marvel of modern technology which produced an inexpensive place) near the Seine in Paris. Despite a never-ending array of taxis coming through a controlled point we waited about fifteen minutes before we grabbed the next available cab. After the cab-driver, who turned out to be an impatient Gallic brethren of mine since he fumed all the way to Paris about the damn traffic piled up going into the city, we were off in a light rain which turned heavier as we approached the city causing the aforementioned grousing by the cabbie. (That rain was no surprise to us again due to the beauties of modern weather technology and the Internet for we knew in advance it would be raining when we arrived and knew enough to bring umbrellas although after that rain it was dry the next several days of our stay a fact we had also expected since we, or rather tour director Laura, had had checked the ten day forecast from home-oh, techno-beauty thou are fine.)

So we arrived at their destination in the rain, bag and baggage in hand to wait for an hour until the owner of the Airbnb apartment we had rented would meet us. We had figured to be in Paris about the time we  had planned to meet Celine, the owner of the apartment we were renting, but somehow I had miscalculated the time zones between Boston and Paris at five rather than six hours. Rather than wait the rain out under a steel awning they decided to step right into the crepes shop next door to the apartment Celine lived in. And had the best crepes I had had since I was last in Paris. Oh beautiful start.

We rested and set up that day and walked around the neighborhood to get a feel for things, for the life, walked into the beautiful Luxemburg Gardens just an hour before they were ready to close (in Paris maybe elsewhere too but I tend to go to such places early in the day these days the guards will not let you in maybe forty-five minutes or an hour before closing. Some places it makes sense but at the Gardens that didn’t make sense to me. This is one place where I knew it had been a while since I know I had slept there more than one night back in the day when I was going to the nearby Sorbonne for lectures and demonstrations and there was no guard then. But mainly we rested for all out museum assault we had planned this trip around. To the Louvre first of all.”   

Here’s is what Sam told me about the tour one night at the Sunnyvale Grille:

“The crowd around the famous painting of  Mona Lisa by Leonardo Di Vinci posed all by itself (or is it herself) in the Louvre in a central room in one of the wings of that museum in Paris was ten deep in order for each and every viewer to get their very own digitally-contrived photograph of the bemused lady (that was Sam’s take on her quizzical look but he claimed no expertise in the matter and left it to the art critics who may very well have determined that she was merely being ironic before the master’s gaze). Everybody except Sam, and not excepting Laura who was all excited about being in the same room with the lady despite the hard fact that you could not get within ten feet of the portrait (held back first by a satiny red rope barricade, then by the surly looks of two museum guards whose only job was apparently to look surly and finally lurking unmentioned in the background although nobody tested this possibility out the combined forces of the Paris police, Interpol, the French Foreign Legion and NATO if you took a mad dash toward the wall in which the lady was encased. So Sam was content to “cool his heels” as Laura waited her turn to get that once-in-a-lifetime shot of the lady (that “cooling the heels” nothing new since he had perfected the art over the years waiting in the world’s shopping venues for his lady).         

That “cooling the heels” moreover allowed him to wander about the room where there were actually a fair number of Titians and other masters to gaze at closely (within a foot a distance he respected since other surly guards might set upon him and maybe the dreaded lurking second phalanx too if he got too close but close enough to see the brushstrokes that he was always interested in observing when he looked at a painting and which was emphatically not possible with milady Mona) and to wander out in the main hallway and look at some Di Vinci’s portraits that he thought were actually better than the famous lady’s.

And that was the point that he tried to make to Laura after she came down from her high of being within twenty feet of probably the most famous painting in the Western world. Here they were at the world famous Louvre, busily trying to maneuver through the endless crowds that filled every exhibition room (and worst the blazing lights underground mall that seemingly had more customers than the museum itself as well as the restaurant areas where they had wanted to grab a quick bite to eat to fortify them for the rigors of the day’s work but wound up fleeing the place for a nice little café on Rue Bonaparte), and its most famous product (except maybe sweet Venus De Milo) could easily have been purchased at the museum store with less work.

Sam didn’t want to generalize (and didn’t really want to burst Laura’s euphoric balloon) but it really was funny that the painting had sunk so deeply into Western consciousness that it was rather anti-climactic in actually viewing the thing even that twenty feet away. Laura naturally poured water on Sam’s “so-called theory” (her expression) until they were leaving for the day (the museum really was as advertised at least a two-day adventure so back on the morrow for a look at the Greek sculpture that fascinated them both and some 17th century French art. For later paintings you need to go to the Musee D’ Orsay across the river which is both less crowded and in a more spacious venue where you can see a billion Impressionists, maybe more) after viewing plenty of great Rodins (more than they would see at the Musee Rodin itself since except for the works in the garden the main building was closed for restorations), a ton of interesting Greek and Roman statuary and some Asian art in the new wing extension when she noticed a small mini-shop which had this most exquisite photograph of Mona Lisa. Better she admitted than anything that her “dinky” (her term again) digital camera could produce. Sam silently turned his head and chuckled.  

“Okay so you are in Paris, the city of lights (no question on the merits of that question since from the well-lighted boulevards to the twinkle of the Eiffel Tower at about 9 PM you are inundated with light), you are not out in the provinces, maybe Bordeaux or Iowa in the states, there are more museums, Left Bank, Right Bank, uptown too, there are more romantic outdoor cafes filled with people watchers and chain-smokers drinking their daily quota of sweet wines making you realize that Rick of Rick’s American Café was not blowing smoke at Ilsa when he said that they would always have Paris, the traffic on the Seine filled with tour boats, shuttle ships and long drawn out barges are bringing product to anxious Parisians, the cobblestones along the river walkways filled with the grasping green book stalls selling trinkets and books (in French of course it is their country if you want English titles go like Hemingway and his fellow ex-pats did in the 1920s to what was then Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company book store and still there) are doing a horrible job on your ankles as advertised and what are the great lessons you take from a day, a Saturday when you and your honey are out and about sizing up the town? Don’t by any means go within a mile, make that two miles of the famous (make that infamous) Champs Elysee on the weekends, not unless you wish to be trampled by, whip-lashed by, squeezed in by all of Paris which seems to have descended on the place in order to make some kind of statement. And not just the upper crust, the hipsters and tricksters but poor-boy Moslems with their covered up wives, seedy looking waterfront types and everybody in between.

The other great lesson you had being think strategically if you are of a certain age and plan your nature needs accordingly because from painful personal experience there is only one, one as in one stall, public restroom along the whole stretch. Too late did Sam and Laura find out that the McDonald’s  along the Champs was a known place to take care of business otherwise (although the lines there from what was told to them were as furious as at that one public stall).                      

But not all the lessons were weekend negative after all most of the great cities of the world are crowded on weekends. Here is what you do though if you want to keep the peace and want to do as promised to Laura and be nice during the trip. Take the waterway shuttle to the Champs stop and then go left rather than right for some blocks over to the Rodin Museum on a little side street where the crowds were not dangerous and where, praise be, the public restroom facilities were plentiful and no waiting. Plus you get to see some great works by that mad man sculptor at various stages of his long and prolific career.

But that was post hoc, the reality was something different, so different no self-respecting tour book would fill you in enough to do what you should have done to begin with. The day started out for Sam and Laura like most days in Paris late, about noon, when they ambled down the Rue Bonaparte to the shuttle boat at Rue Saint Germain to go up the Seine two stops to the Champs Elysee. The boat unlike on Friday was crowded a sign of things to come if they had only known then. So they rode, got off and started to head to the two beautiful palaces, big and small, which led to the Champs and to what was Sam’s idea of a place to finish, the Arc de Triumph. Not to leave anybody in the least suspense needless to say once they realized that they would have to break the equivalent of a siege to get there they abandoned that idea. That is also where the nature problem began to rear its ugly head. They asked a friendly police officer where the toilette was and were told “in the park” across the way. Expecting a big facility they were shocked when they found the place with a small line in front. As already noted there was only one stall and while the operation was something like state of the art in restroom fare they decided, or rather Mother Nature decided, that they would not be able to hold out long enough to use that facility so they went scouting for another such restroom. Silly them and really a surreal moment when twice they asked for the nearest toilette and were directed by friendly cops to that same damn spot. Quick witted Laura said they should grab a cab and head to the Rodin where they were sure to have a restroom. And the place did, large, multi-stalled and pleasant. 

But you don’t go to the Rodin, or any museum to use the restroom but to see beautiful works of art. And they were there except not in the museum which was closed for restoration but in the park where a number of his sculptures were standing in various locations. Best of all were the various individual sculptures that made up one of Rodin’s most famous works (after The Thinker), the Burghers of Calais who brought to mind the heroic efforts of the town’s leaders to save the city’s starving population after defeat at the hands of the bloody British and put themselves forth for execution. They were spared but the spirit that entailed had an enduring effect in the days when the emerging merchant bourgeoisie was capable of such actions. So yeah well worth the cab fare and the earlier discomfort. Wine and café life followed for Sam and Laura that day. And the days that followed at Notre Dame and the artists’ hang-outs at Montmartre before the seize trip home. As they entered the cab for the long trip to DeGaulle Laura, not usually one to throw old-time lines around said to Sam, “Yes, we will always have Paris.” Yes they will.