Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Con Man Cometh-David Mamet’s “The House Of Games” (1987)-A Film Review

The Con Man Cometh-David Mamet’s “The House Of Games” (1987)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell 

The House Of Games, starring Lindsay Crouse, Joe   ,directed by David Mamet

A while back in reviewing the first film of the Ocean trilogy (you know 11, 12, 13 and then they ran out of legitimate cons and so mercifully closed down the film caper) I noted something that I believe applies in duplicate to the film under review David Manet’s The House Of Games. Here is what I said there: 

“Let’s face it everybody loves a con, loves a con artist at least since old Herman Melville made a big literary deal out of such characters in his 19th century novel The Confidence Man . Well everybody loves a con, a con artist as long as that personage is conning somebody else and not one’s good self. Better if the con is on some super-rich guy who made his dough by walking over a pile of people, hell, maybe a pile of corpses. And that latter premise is what makes George Clooney’s remake of the 1960s Frank Sinatra-led classic con story Ocean’s Eleven go the distance.”

Well we have no superrich personage here but rather a best-selling psychiatrist who specializes in addictions, Doctor Margaret Ford played by Lindsay Crouse, and we have a con that beats whatever Danny and Rusty in Ocean’s could come up with-almost.

Here’s the skinny. One of the good Doctor’s clients had a gambling addiction and was ready to commit suicide over the huge deal he owns to a gambler, Mike, played by Joe Mantegna, but she is able to dissuade him from that drastic action. She in turn goes to Mike to try to persuade him to forget the debt. To “rope” her in he makes a deal with her to play his girlfriend while playing poker against a Las Vegas big wheel. Her role is to see what quirk belies his hand. When the gambling gets going Margaret noticed the tell-tale jerk of his ring that Mike had been looking for which told him the other guy was bluffing. Mike made bets based on that quirk. And lost, lost big. Trouble was he was betting on credit. No go. The Vegas wheel wanted his dough and produced a gun. Margaret feeling responsible agreed to write a check for the money owed. Beautiful, almost. She noticed that the gun was a water pistol. No sale but she was hooked even though she was to be the victim.

Her own life is a drag despite her latest best-selling so she gravitates toward Mike and his very upfront con artist ways. Gravitates to his bed as well. The next caper is a beauty. The found money gag which has been around since Adam and Eve and the serpent gag, maybe before. She wants in on the caper at least to see the play. Mike, his roper, and the “mark” “find” a suitcase with eighty thousand big ones in it. They “squabble” over what to do with it but it winds up that the “mark” is going to take custody of the dough until the split by giving Mike a check for thirty thou (no way they were returning the dough). Like finding money, finding a real thirty thou on the ground. Except the “mark” is a cop pulling a sting operation. Mike had to kill the cop in a melee and the three have to flee with Mike implicating Margaret in the scheme to get away. Oops, they “lose” the suitcase with the dough in it in the rush to get away. The dough had been borrowed by the mob-ouch. Then Margaret offered to pay the lost dough. Bingo. Eighty large and no heavy lifting. Almost.

See something wasn’t right when Margaret saw that client of hers’ at Mike’s hang-out and so she slipped in and overheard how they had, Mike, the client, the “dead” cop and the roper, pulled this bigger caper on her. Well she had played with fire so she should have expected to get burned. She had a better idea though. Pretending she thought they were still on the lam she told Mike that she had been freaked out by the caper and had taken all her money out of the bank and they should go away together. That dough was catnip to Mike but in a final confrontation once Mike knew she knew about the scam that had been pulled on her she wanted him to repent. No go. A con is a con and that was that. She killed Mike on the spot without remorse. Sorry.

Like I said everybody likes a con as long as it is not directed against them. Ask Mike if you don’t believe me.              

The 100th Anniversary Year Of The Bolshevik Revolution In Russia- Honor The 3Ls-The Heritage of Lenin

Honor The 3Ls-The Heritage of Lenin

Workers Vanguard No. 1081
15 January 2016


The Heritage of Lenin
(Quote of the Week)
In January of each year, communists honor the Three L’s: Lenin, Liebknecht and Luxemburg. German Spartacist leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were assassinated in January 1919 by the reactionary Freikorps, acting at the behest of the Social Democratic Party, as part of the crushing of a workers uprising. Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin died in January 1924. Keeping with early communist tradition, in 1945 the then-revolutionary Socialist Workers Party published a special “Lenin Memorial Number” of its theoretical journal devoted to the supreme architect of the proletarian revolution.
At a time when the whole Socialist movement consisted of loose, sprawling, easy-going parties, with an accommodating attitude toward every perversion of the Marxist program; in the period when the whole of Social Democracy was beginning to fall victim to opportunism; when party work was designed primarily for the winning of electoral successes and conducting loyal oppositions in the various bourgeois parliaments and legislative assemblies, Lenin came forward and pioneered an entirely new type of revolutionary Marxist party, never before seen in history. Lenin’s party was tight-knit, compact, bound by an iron discipline, based upon unyielding adherence to Marxism—the science of the proletarian revolution. Lenin’s party was built for revolutionary combat. It was designed specifically to launch the revolutionary offensive against the citadel of capitalism. How eloquent are Zinoviev’s words in his speech on Lenin [30 August 1918] and how much they tell us of the real Lenin when he says: Lenin never permitted anybody to insult Marx. No! How could he? Lenin was no dabbler, no dilettante. Lenin was deadly serious about the proletarian revolution. How could he therefore tolerate any lightmindedness or playfulness toward the theory of scientific socialism?
Lenin was not the only left-winger in the Second International. The Socialist movement had many other great revolutionary leaders. Some like Rosa Luxemburg had a masterful understanding of Marxism and possessed superb talents. But they did not comprehend the indispensability of a Leninist-type party. Only Lenin fully understood, fully grasped what kind of party the proletariat needed in order to triumph. And he had the iron will to drive through despite all opposition and calumny and create that kind of a revolutionary party. Just as the Paris Commune revealed to the working class the form of its rule, the form under which the Dictatorship of the Proletariat would be exercised, so Lenin’s Bolshevik Party showed in practice the type of organization the proletariat must have in order to make the revolution and secure its victory.
The German proletariat paid dearly for this lack, for the absence of a Leninist party. In 1918, the revolution rose in Germany and the whole country was covered with a network of Soviets. But the revolutionary vanguard, the Spartacists, were unprepared. They had not yet forged a genuine revolutionary party, closely tied to the working class and capable of leading it in action. The revolution inevitably rolled over their heads and the Social Democratic traitors were able to deflect and abort the revolution. It was different in Russia. A year before in 1917, when revolutionary conditions ripened, Lenin was ready. The Bolsheviks under Lenin seized the favorable opportunity and led the greatest revolution in the history of mankind. Marxism found its highest historical expression and vindication in Bolshevism.
—“The Heritage of Lenin,” Fourth International, January 1945

*****One More Time Down 1950s Record Memory Lane

******One More Time Down 1950s Record Memory Lane


Sam Lowell, considered himself a corner boy from the time in the early 1960s when in the working-class neighborhoods of America were filled to the brim with such guys hanging out on the corners, in his case North Adamsville not far from urban Boston at Jack Slack’s bowling alleys. Places like South Boston (an all Irish enclave then where even those who like Sam’s maternal grandparents had moved out of the enclave to an Irish neighborhood in North Adamsville were considered suspect, were looked at with jaundiced eye even by the relatives left behind), Main Street in Nashua (at the time a dying city what with the mills heading south to cheaper labor and eventually overseas and so a tough place to dream in), New Hampshire, 125th Street in high Harlem (with all the excitement of jazz and be-bop but with all the high segregation of the South except for the formality of Mister James Crow’s laws), New York City, any of a million spots on Six Mile Road in Detroit (never a place of dreams but of steady work in the golden age of the American automobile from Delta Mister James Crow black refugees and the Okie/Arkie white rabble coming out of the hills and dustbowls), the same on Division Street in Chi town (the beat street divide of many of Nelson Algren’s tales of drugs, urban lost-ness, and disappointments), the lower end of North Beach beyond where the “beats” of a few years before did their beat thing (the places where the longshoremen and waterfront workers did their heavy drinking after work and where the sailors off their Pacific ocean ships fought all comers.

At least Jack Slack’s was the last port of call for the crowd, for that motley collection of corner boys picked up and discarded along the way although the core of Frankie, Jack, Jimmy, Allan, Markin and Five-Fingers held throughout which had started at Doc’s Drugstore complete with sofa fountain and shiny glass penny candy-case to draw selections from after  school to energize up for the real world activities of kid-dom in elementary school, Miller’s Diner for the jukebox in junior high when they were just becoming aware of girls, maybe having to dance with them, and maybe trying to figure out, the eternal trying to figure out how to approach them without them giggling back and Salducci’s Pizza Parlor in early high school before the new owners decided that unlike Tonio, the previous owner who sold out to go back to Italy from when he came as a boy they did not want rough-necked boys standing one knee against the wall in front of their family friendly establishment. That time, those early 1960s times for some reason known only to them, was time that you had best have had corner boy comrades when you hung out on date-less, girl-less, dough-less Friday and Saturday nights to have your back if trouble brewed (that “comrade” not a word to be used then in the tail end of the height of the red scare Cold War night not if you want knuckle sandwiches from the unthinking patriotic guys but that does convey the sense of “having your back” critical to your place in those woe begotten streets.

That corner boy business extended through the 1960s after high for a couple of years when in addition to being a corner boy he became a “flower child” along with his long mourned and lamented friend the late Peter Paul Markin (who met a horrible end down in sunny Mexico after the fresh breeze of the 1960s turned in on itself and he got flat-footed by the backlash and could no longer hold back his “from hunger”  wanting habits and made the fatal, very fatal, mistake of trying to broker an independent drug deal and got two slugs to the back of his head for the attempt) heading out west on the hitchhike roads when the world turned upside down later in the decade. Sam, now a sedate grandfatherly semi-retired lawyer filled with respectability and memories had to laugh about how much he of late had been thinking about the 1950s, about not just those corner boy days but about the music that drove every corner boy, including Markin, make that perhaps most of all Markin, to distraction as they tried to eke out a sound that they could call their own.

Thinking about the 1950s when he came of age, came of musical age, an age very mixed up with that corner boy comradery, that hanging at Doc’s and Miller’s Diner when he started noticing girls and their charms, started his life-long journey of trying to figure out what made them tick, what they wanted, wanted of him, from a girl-less family making everything that much harder, noticing that they too hung around Miller’s in order to play that fantastic jukebox which had all the latest tunes and plenty of oldies too (oldies being let’s say we are talking about 1958 then maybe 1955 hits like Eddie, My Love, Rock Around The Clock, and Bo Diddley showing that teen time, youth time anyway is measured differently from old man lawyerly time) drawing away from the music on his parents’ family living room radio and their cranky old record player music. Music   emphatically not on Miller’s jukebox or there would have been a civil war no question, a civil war avoided in the home after his parents had bought, to insure domestic peace and tranquility if he remembered correctly, his first transistor radio down at the now long gone Radio Shack store and he could sit up in his room and dream of whatever coming of age boys dreamed about, mainly how those last year bothersome girls became this year’s interesting objects of discussion (by the way in that small crowded room, shared with his two brothers, he found out he could discover the beauty of the “hold up to your ear”  transistor radio and drown out the world of brotherly scuffings). 

More than that though, more than just thinking about the old days like every old guy probably does, even guys who had not been lawyers as a professional career, guys who you see sitting on park benches, a little disheveled, maybe some crumbs in their unkempt beards, feeding the birds and half-muttering to themselves about how when FDR was around everybody stood tall, every country bent it knees in homage to America, or else, or old bag ladies rummaging through trash barrels looking for long lost lovers or their faded beauty Sam had been purchasing compilations of what are commercially called “oldies but goodies” CD. Doing so via the user-friendly confines of the Internet, at Amazon if you need a name like today anybody, except maybe three people up in heathen Alaska or the Artic,  doesn’t know that is the site to get such material these days instead of traipsing over half the East Coast trying to cadge a few examples, and  purchasing several record compilations of the “best of” that period from a commercial distributor (and also keeping up to date on various versions of the songs on YouTube) and through his friend and old corner boy Frankie Riley been spilling plenty of cyber-ink on Frankie’s blog, In The Be-Bop ‘50s Night, going back to the now classic age of rock and roll.

Sam had to laugh about that situation back then as well since he had been well known back on the corner, back holding up the wall in front of Salducci’s Pizza Parlor, on many of those date-less, date-less because although he might have been all “hail fellow, well met” hard-assed corner boy full of bluster and blah he was sister-less and hence baffled by girls and their ways and very shy around the question of asking for dates although he was quite willing to tell each and every girl who would listen to him about ten thousand fact on any of sixteen subjects, not excluding science, philosophy, and the poor fate of the Red Sox then. Although those ten thousand facts would come in handy when he got to college a couple of years later and he had girls hanging off the walls in debate class waiting for him to ask them out then those precious facts did not add up to a date by osmosis but rather incomprehension even by girls like Patty Lewis and Mary Shea who liked him and would have be glad if he asked them for a date without the ten thousand facts, thank you. Here though in something about the mores of the time that young people today might not comprehend girls just waited for guys to make a move, or moved on to the next guy who would, especially if he had a boss ’55 Chevy, like Patty and Mary did). Also girl-less (already explained but here the question is having a serious girl and the just mentioned facts will hold here as well), and dough-less (self-explanatory in working-class North Adamsville, the sorry fate of the working poor, the marginally employed like his father, no money when the rent was due and Ma had not money for the damn rent collector much less discretionary money for dates with girls) on Friday and Saturday nights when he  proclaimed to all who would listen (mainly Frankie, Markin, Jimmy Jenkins, Jack Callahan, Kenny Hogan and Johnny “Thunder” Thornton and an occasional girl who wondered what he was talking about) that “rock and roll will never die.”

Mainly, through the archival marvels of modern technology, pay-per-song, look on YouTube, check out Amazon Sam had been right, rock and roll had not died although it clearly no longer provided the same fuel for later generations more into hip-hop-ish, techno music, or edge city rock. But Sam always though it funny when kids, his grandkids, for example, heard (and saw) Elvis, all steamy, smoldering and swiveling in some film clip to make the older almost teenage girls among them almost react like the girls in his time did when they saw him on the Ed Sullivan Show and had half-formed girlish dreams about personally erasing that snarl from his face, especially that flip clip of the prison number in Jailhouse Rock. Bo Diddley proclaiming to the whole wide world that he in fact had put the rock in rock and roll and who could dispute that claim when he went bongers in some Afro-Carib number with that rectangular guitar. Say too Chuck Berry telling a candid world, a candid teenage world which after all was all that counted then, now too from what he had heard, that Mister Beethoven from the old fogy music museum had better take himself and his cronies and move over because a new be-bop daddy, a new high sheriff was in town was taking the reins, making the kids jump on jump street. Ditto curl-in-hair Buddy Holly pining away for his Peggy Sue. Better mad monk swamp rat Jerry Lee Lewis sitting, maybe standing for all Sam knew telling that same candid world that Chuck was putting on fire everybody had to do the high school hop bop, confidentially. And how about Wanda Jackson proclaiming that it was party time and an endless host of one hit wonders and wanna-bes they went crazy over. Yeah, those kids, those for example grandkids jumping around just like the young Sam who could not believe his ears when he had come of age and, yeah, jumping around for those same guys who formed his musical tastes back in the 1950s when he had come of age, musical age anyway. Jesus, Jesus too when he came of teenage age and all that meant of angst and alienation something no generation seems to be able to escape since the world had no less dangerous, no less incomprehensible today.

Sam had thought recently about going back to those various commercially-produced compilations put out by demographically savvy media companies that he had purchased on Amazon to cull out the better songs, some which he had on the tip of his tongue almost continuously since the 1950s (the Dubs Could This Be Magic the great last chance dance song that bailed him out of being shut out of more than one dance night although his partner’s feet borne the brunt of the battle, and the Teen Queens Eddie My Love, where Eddie took advantage of the girl and she is wondering when he is coming back, a great love ‘em and leave ‘em song and the answer is still he’s never coming back, are two examples that quickly came to his mind). Others like Johnny Ace’s Pledging My Love or The Crows Oh-Gee though needed some coaxing by listening to the compilations to be remembered.

But Sam, old lawyerly Sam, had finally found a sure-fire method to aid in that memory coaxing. Just go back in memory’s mind and picture scenes from teenage days and figure the songs that went with such scenes (this is not confined to 1950s aficionados anybody can imagine their youth times and play). But even using that method Sam believed that he was cheating a little, harmlessly cheating but still cheating. When he (or anybody familiar with the times) looked at the artwork on most of the better 1950s CD compilations one could not help but notice the excellent artwork that highlights various institutions illustrated back then. The infamous drive-in movies where you gathered about six people (hopefully three couples but six anyway) and paid for two the other four either on the back seat floor or in the trunk. They always played music at intermission when that “youth nation” cohort gathered at the refreshment stand to grab inedible hot dogs, stale popcorn, or fizzled out sodas, although who cared, especially if that three couples thing was in play, and that scene had always been associated in Sam’s mind with Frankie Lyman and the Teenager’s Why Do Fools Fall In Love.

That is how Sam played the game. Two (or more) can play so he said he would just set the scenes and others could fill in their own musical selections. Here goes: the first stirrings of interest in the opposite sex at Doc’s Drugstore with his soda fountain AND jukebox; the drive-in restaurant with you and yours in the car, yours or father borrowed for an end of the night bout with cardboard hamburgers, ultra-greasy french fries and diluted soda; the Spring Frolic Dance (or name your seasonal dance) your hands all sweaty, trying to disappear into the wall, waiting, waiting to perdition for that last dance so that you could ask that he or she that you had been eyeing all evening to dance that slow one  all dreamy; down at the beach on day one of out of school for the summer checking out the scene between the two boat clubs where all the guys and gals who counted hung out; the night before Thanksgiving football rally where he or she said they would be there, how about you; on poverty nights sitting up in your bedroom listening to edgy WMEX on your transistor radio away from prying adult eyes; another poverty night you and your boys, girls, boys and girls sitting in the family room spinning platters; that first sixth grade “petting” party (no more explanation needed right); cruising Main Street with your boys or girls looking for, well, you figure it out listening to the radio in that “boss” Chevy, hopefully; and, sitting in the balcony “watching” the double feature at the Strand Theater on Saturday afternoon when you were younger and at night when older. Okay, Sam has given enough cues. Fill in the dots, oops, songs and add scenes too.                      


Scenes From An Ordinary 1960s Be-Bop Life-Scene Twelve-Postscript- The Torch Is Passed?- February 2011

Scenes From An Ordinary 1960s Be-Bop Life-Scene Twelve-Postscript- The Torch Is Passed?- February 2011

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of the California night calling after too long an absence, the California be-bop late 1960s night, the eternal California be-bop night after years of Maine solitude, of Maine grey-blue-white washed, white-crested, white-capped, foam-flecked Atlantic ocean-flotsam and jetsam strewn waters. After all no all oceans are created the same, not all oceans speak to one in the same way, although they are all old Father Neptune’s thoughtful playgrounds. California’s, yes, white-washed, yes, white-crested, yes, white-capped, yes, foam-flecked speak to gentle, warm lapis lazuli blue wealth dreams of the quest, the long buried life long quest for the great blue-pink great American West night, blue-pinked skies of course. Yes maybe it was just that sheer hard fact that pushed me out of Eastern white, white to hate the sight of white, snowed-in doors, Eastern gale winds blowing a man against the sand-pebbled seas, and into the endless starless night. Yes, maybe just a change of color, or to color, from the white white whiteness of the sea walk white-etched night. Right down to the shoreline white.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of preparing, against the timetable of that Eastern white night, this and that for the winter California day, and night, the ocean California that set the thoughts of the be-bop night, and the quest for the blue-pink skies humming once again in the, admittedly, older-boned voyager, voyeur of dreamed once sultry, steamy nights. A different proposition, a different proposition, on most days, from preparing to face fierce Maine winter mornings, unaided by the graces and forms nature provides its hardier creations. No thoughts today of heavy woolen coats, double-stitched, double-plied, doubled-vested, old nor’ easter worthy, or heavy woolen pants, same chino pants of youth, same black chino pants, no cuffs, except winter weight, not the always summer weight on no knowledge youth, or heavy boots, heavy clunky rubberish boots mocking against the snow-felt, ocean-edged soft sand streets, or maybe, more in tune with aged-bone recipes heavy-soled, heavy-rubber soled (or was it rubber souled) running shoes (also known in the wide world of youth as sneakers, better Chuck’s). Of scarves, and caps, full-bodied caps, better seaman’s caps, heavy, wool, dark blue, built to stand against the ocean-stormed waves crashing and thrashing against ships hulls, and gloves, gloves to keep your hands from frosty immobility I need not speak. Or will not speak.

No, today we think of great controversies of age, well, mini-controversies anyway, between hi-tech-derived aero-flow, toe-fitted, sheer meshed sneakers, or just old-fashioned, Velcro-snapped criss-cross leather sandals, toe-dangling in the sand streets ready. Or between jungle-fitted, twelve-pocketed (or so it seems), straight from the Ernest Hemingway African safari night ( so it seems, again) else, maybe, out of mad man gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson in full loathing regalia, or Reebok, Nike, Adidas, New Balance free-for-all athletic shorts. Or between hearty windbreakers, fit for eastern gales and western el ninos, versus light denim, light blue, tight fit, well, maybe tight fit, be young Marlon Brando or James Dean-worthy in some motorcycle hidden fantasy, jackets. All decisions, all timed but irrevocable once inside the airport terminal, and its maze, no beyond maze, beyond rate maze, of security and scrutiny.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of just that airport invasion, the hard fact of the post-9/11 travel world. The running the gauntlet of checkpoints, charts, human body scanning screens, magic forgery detecting pens, bells, whistles, and surly, or maybe better, indifferent, human scanners, human searchers, human checkers. The piles of thrown away, seemingly harmless, harmless to these eyes, water bottles, pure-springed water bottles (Evian, Poland Springs, Belmont Springs, home-filled reusable, filtered tap water L.L. Bean bottles, whatever) which now are deadly weapons, or could be, are a twisted metaphor for the scene. All in order to get from point A (east coast angry ocean waters) to point B (west coast, or hipper, at least used to be hipper, left coast gentle, spa-like, or faux spa waters) in less than six hours. No more of timeless trips, or at least of months long trips, aimless but aim-full in their purposeful search. No more of Boston to Angelica Steubenville to roots Prestonsburg to Lexington (Kentucky that is, not revolutionary battlefield Lexington, not that trip anyway). No more Moline meltdowns and Neola corn field nights and Aunt Betty lazy, crazy, hazy suppers or solidarity rides to the desert Native American ghost sky night, drums beating back to primal times, and then over the last mountains down into California blue-pink haze. No, six hours, no more, or else breakdown against those bone-aged facts, and bone-aged stiffness rebellions. Or worst surrender to the think better, or at least twice, of such a trip gods, Egad has it come to that.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of riding a rental car, a rental car, my god, a mid-sized, almost brand new, gadget-filled lights, horns, windshield wipers all controlled, whiplash computer-controlled, at the touch power steering. And I like a kid, a dumb, no California hot-rod head under the hood kid with car-ness in the very blood, but more of a youth spent no car, not dough for a car, miles walked, sneaker miles walked, kid, scratching my head to figure out what goes where and screaming onto that good night about how the hell have we come to such a complicated place where it requires seven degrees in astro-physics, at least, to get the damn thing started. No more of drowsy early morning truck stop diner pick-ups by benny-high, reds-low, mortgaged to the teeth zen truck-driving road masters carrying freights from here to there (I would say from point A to point B but that is used up already). No more of psychedelic- painted, further night, magical tour buses, old time yellow brick road school buses converted to living, breathing space on the endless hippie hitchhike 1960s road. No more even of old country hay wagons named, or misnamed, trucks picking up likely farm hands, penny-poor likely farm hands, to work for a few days before moving on. No more of that, indeed.

Maybe, and here we are reaching some home truths, it was the sheer, hard fact of seeing the azul ocean sea coming over the horizon at Laguna Hills or one of those endless, one-name-fits-all or should fit all Southern California beach towns filled with the mandatory fake, yes, fake Spanish d├ęcor. Of the ticky-tack rows (thanks Malvina Reynolds via Pete Seeger) of “Spanish” houses, oh, I mean, estates, where I see kids, kids no different than I was just waiting for the jail-break event of their generation, if it comes, and if they want long enough but not too long. Of the million and one surf shops for the youngsters to wax and wane on seeking of their own blue-pink nights (or days, more likely), the endless quest for the perfect wave. Of the strip mall rows of fast food eateries, fast clothes chanceries (swim suits a specialty), of sun-free indoor tanning against the rages of father sun. Of the quaint (nice word, right?), yes, quaint lobster dinner (lobster flown in from, from, ah, Maine), California fresh fish of the day, freshly caught, beach view restaurants or other finery, and of cruising (no, not that cruising) pedestrians of all sizes and shapes. Shapes including show-off lovely formed younger girls, ah, women, maybe a young Angelica waiting to splash her first splash in mother Pacific, peaceful mother pacific. And all races and languages and ethnicities trying to figure out the lure of the heathered (almost like Scotland, Scotland of no burr) coastal shore to the Okies, Arkies and Texies, who descended here a couple of generations ago, planted roots, their migratory roots, not Eastern forever and a day roots, and never left. But still the gnawing question, the question of questions-where to go west from here. Not back to the okie dust bowl, that is for sure, not for those now corn-fed, yellow-haired (maybe genetically yellow from that corn) beauties of both sexes who are tied to the sea, to the endless quest for the perfect wave sea, even though from the look of them if I posed the question that way, that perfect wave search way, I would shunted away screaming in that previously mentioned good night.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of walking ancient shoreline walks, soft sand kicking, shodless feet kicking, tracing new written configurations to ancient gods in the previously clean-slated sand surface, occasionally pebble-dotted, seashell-scattered, as the ocean screams for quiet from those walking in its space and pleads, like some latter day librarian, not to disturb others. Of thoughts of ancient sorrows, and ancient laughters.

Remembrances of Angelica first time ocean splashes, of riptide saves, of hero’s rewards for heroic saves, rewards better left to the imagination, ancient imagination. Of scaled seawalls that hold back tide, time and the brick-a-brack whims of fickle man, of humankind. Of squirrels, everlasting, ever-present seashore-loving burrowing squirrels filching, filching and begging, begging for human food against all good nature’s wisdom. And getting it. The food that is. Of ocean side night campfires to protect against the force of the ocean chill, of ocean shadows, and of ocean smokes, thinking back to the days when cigarette smokes filled many pubic spaces. But better smells now of mesquite wood smells, of charcoals broils smells, of sea-drug up woods smoothed from ocean pounds smells. Of high ganja smells, of pellets and pills to ward off the ocean calls to the endless sleep, of the return to the homeland, of the homeland seas. And of skies of daytime blue, blue, blue enough to make a pair of pants out of, cloudless in afternoon after fogged-down mornings. Ah, but you what’s coming, what the whole shore line walk means. Yes, the night, no, not the night night, the dark, starless night of the poet’s lament, of ancient times wonder, and of modern no night human-crafted light beams breaking the will of the dark night. No, not that night but rather the earlier part, the part after the sun goes on its business below the horizon and leaves as a reminder the blue-pink night hanging over the ocean, tourist taking pictures, taking camera, digital camera pictures today, instant, mainly, but, hell who need such tacky reminders when the mind’s eye reeks of blue-pink memory, ancient blue-pink memories.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of leaving, of returning east fast, faster as it turns out that heading west, west to the blue-pink night, to the be-bop night. I will not speak of that airport maze, rat-like or not, again it does not vary on the way back any more than going to. Now I speak of those haunts, those dreaded ancient haunts of having to return to eastern concerns, eastern worries, eastern woes, and a feeling, an old feeling an old Joyel-time feeling of having to go back to routines, not the regular routines that make life bearable but the routines of routines that drive one out on the midnight run to wherever, whenever. And to see, although see only in a flash, the contours of the American night, of the sense of the American landscape, of roads and rivers it took months for ancient pioneer Conestoga wagons to traverse, and weeks for ancient hitchhike roads to swallow.

All blaze past in a flash, all lighted strange patterns civilization.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of grabbing a midnight-like cab for the ride home, eastern home, eastern snow-drenched home that had not changed in sight but changed from still present blue-pink memories as always, from leaving but still necessary to face. On such cab rides, such youthfully scorned cab rides, and truth be known youthfully unaffordable rides, I now take when language is no barrier to asking for cabbie stories (although many times such is a problem as this is now a profession, a city profession, by recent immigrants, dominated, seemingly oxymoronic, since how would such fellows know the ancient trails of the east, at least in pre-techno- GPS days) in the hopes of finding some gem story to feed the literary lights, not blue-pink lights by any means, just fill-in road stories.

And this night, this night when thoughts have been whirling for weeks about ancient things, ancient things described above, I find a kindred. Cabbie X, ancient cabbie X, fires back in full-bodied, “I don’t have any cabbie stories to tell, but I have some hitchhike stories.” Hell, hell on wheels, be still my heart, tell, brother, tell kindred tell all, and drive slow, stop at every traffic light slow, I have dough in my pocket and a hunger, an unspeakable, unquenchable just now hunger, to hear your tales, your ancient 1960s hitchhike road tales. Tales about his road from Missoula, Montana to New Haven, Connecticut. (Yes, avoid hitching on those Connecticut roads, and Arizona’s too. Agreed). Of Truckee truck stops. Of truck stop road side diners, and endless cups of coffee, and badgering truckers for long-haul rides. Of hard driving, get to the coast, benny-high truckers seeking to spill their guts to some lone stranger in order to keep awake and pass the hard highway mile. Of Pacific Coast highways brimming with converted magical mystery tour school buses, converted to living housing for the broken-hearted, the love-lorn, the be-bop nighters. Ah, memory. “Hey, you almost didn’t stop at that last traffic light, brother.”

More, more please. Of Nevada desert stops, waiting by lonely crossroads for hours, reading scrawled signs from ancient forbears, maybe those very Conestoga folk, warning that one may wait for a ride to perdition there. Of dope smoke, of friendships, many fleeting, but a feel for that good moment. And at the close of that cabbie night a thought , a cabbie thought- we made it, we were better for it, and we can survive in this old world because we made that venture. No need to speak of the blue-pink night to this brother, such words would be wasted. This is that now dwindling fraternity that sought, maybe still seeks that good night, and that is all that needs to be said. A revolutionary brotherhood handshake, a handshake too hard to describe here but fraught with meaning back in those days, at my door seals our night’s work. Yes, memory almost like a yesterday memory, finely-etched in our collective minds, recallable at an instant.

Maybe it was the sheer, hard fact of carrying around , winter long, winter, snow-blasted long, a song/story in my head, a story recorded by Red Sovine and which I heard by way of the inscrutable Tom Waits, Big Joe and Phantom 309. A story of a fellow hitchhike roader caught out in one of those lonely crossroads to nowhere that every seeker knows about, although they are not always windswept and rain-drenched. Sometimes they are snow-frozen, sometimes, heat-drowned, sometimes, not enough times, just plain, ordinary sunny-dayed. Out of the mist comes the mythical trucker, Big Joe will serve as well any other name, although when I think trucker I always think Denver Slim as he was neither slim (far from it) nor from Denver, and that tells a tale right there. So they ride the night away telling lies and other stories until they come near a truck stop and Big Joe freaks, and the hitchhiker is left, after Big Joe pitches him a dime, to go in for a cup of coffee on Big Joe. Said hitchhiker goes in and tells his story of the ride and with whom and gets the lowdown from a waiter. See Big Joe died, truck-faithful, Phantom 309 faithful died, when he avoided a school bus filled with kids out on that lonely pick-up crossroad. But see Big Joe did another favor, a hitchhike brotherhood favor as the waiter says “have another cup of coffee and keep the dime, keep the dime as a souvenir of Big Joe and Phantom 309.” Great story and I have my own just like it, and Brother Cabbie X had his own, and every man and woman who ever hit the road, by force or desire, has that same story just mix it up a little.

Maybe it was just the sheer, hard fact of listening, listening attentively, listening eagerly on the rented car California roads to old road warrior, Wobblie, kindred of tramps, bums, and hoboes of an earlier age, an age which intersected with the hippie hitchhike road of the 1960s, the late folksinger/songwriter Bruce “Utah” Phillips and his definite Songbook. Listening to old songs of struggle from prairie days, of hobo jungles by the railroad tracks (not today’s high speed ones, no way), and train-jumpers (a different breed that we highway hitchhikers but still searchers. I never had much luck on the trains, and got tossed off a few by the railroad bulls, so I will leave that mode of transportation alone), skid row nights, sidewalk sneers, and destruction of the western hobo night by gentrification. Of paperless street benches, of paper-filled bus depot benches, of public bathroom stenches, of half-way house snores and hostels bland food that dotted the old transient landscape, and have seemingly faded from memory, except on twilight California streets as the homeless hoboes make way to the beach and night time sleeps, sleep it offs, mainly.

Ya, maybe it was all those sheer, hard facts, collectively or individually, that brought me back to memories of the ancient hitchhike road, especially that brother cabbie scene but, finally, here is the real reason. Let me go back to those California roads for a minute, no, not the Pacific Coast highway freedom road (Routes 1 and 101) but the high volume, hard-driving, eighty billion-laned (okay, I exaggerate) Interstate 5 that, one way or another, goes up and down the length of the state. Actually let me go back to the one of the entrances, one of the Oceanside entrances, where beyond belief I spy two youths, a male and female, two youthful Markins and Angelicas maybe, standing on the corner, waiting, waiting for a what. A hitchhike ride of course. In the second it took me to realize that this is what they were doing (they held out no thumb, nor had a sign indicating where they were heading, obviously “green” at this work) and slammed on the brakes I was beside them. “Where are you heading?” asks ancient seeker narrator of this tale. “L.A.,” they shoot back. “Get in.” And they do, the guy (Brandon) in the front and the gal (Lillian) in back. At least they have enough sense to make that configuration, that pair male –female configuration, like we did in the old days just in case things got weird. And I had no intention, no intention in hell, of going back to L.A. that day, except one million questions about their purpose, their reasons for being on the road, and ancient courtesies that dictated that I pick up hitchhikers, a rare, incredibly rare occurrence these days. I will let them tell their stories some other time because this after all is my story but their quest, in any case, involves nothing as grandiose as the search for the blue-pink night although it involved Generation X dreams, and that will have to do.

So the torch is passed, maybe…

Or maybe it is the sheer, hard fact of that knapsack, old Army surplus olive green knapsack, moth-eaten, maybe, moldy, well hitchhike-traveled, well-worn, a lasting memento to that 1969 Angelica-paired road trip sitting in some back closet, up in the attic, or worst, down in the forlorn cellar crying to get out, or maybe some old sea shell of infamous origin also back there calling me back, back to our homeland the road, and the eternal, now I know it is eternal, search for that blue-pink great American West night.

As We Honor The Three L’s –Lenin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht-Honor An Historic Leader Of The American Abolitionist Movement-John Brown Late Of Harper's Ferry

As We Honor The Three L’s –Lenin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht-Honor An Historic Leader Of The American Abolitionist Movement-John Brown Late Of Harper's Ferry  


Chapter Thirteen
Toward Civil War

"I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land:
will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think:
vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed;
it might be done."
- John Brown's last words

Unless otherwise noted, all images are from the Boyd B. Stutler Collection

Irrepressible Conflict
The Irrepressible Conflict. Source:
Frank Leslie's Illustrated
, November 19, 1859,
Periodicals Collection
In the aftermath of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, many of his closest supporters sought to evade possible arrest. Frederick Douglass fled to Canada before sailing for England, and Samuel G. Howe and George L. Stearns stayed in Canada for several weeks. Frank Sanborn also went to Canada for a few days before returning to his home in Concord, Massachusetts. Gerrit Smith, suffering an apparently legitimate mental breakdown, was hospitalized in a mental institution. Of the “Secret Six,” only Thomas W. Higginson stayed in Massachusetts throughout the months that followed. He even gave assistance to raiders Frances Merriam and Charles Tidd on their way to Canada and plotted rescues of Brown and other raiders. Theodore Parker, dying in Europe, was far removed from the panic that afflicted other supporters. Conservative northerners held Union meetings denouncing John Brown’s actions at Harpers Ferry. Ardent abolitionists worked to depict Brown as a martyr to a noble cause, gathering in various towns on the day of his execution and ringing bells in honor of their fallen warrior. Among southerners, the terror that swept the South in the immediate aftermath of John Brown’s raid became a fierce determination to blot out any suspected disloyalty in the South to slavery, to create a united South ready to withstand any aggression from the North, and to fight more vigorously for federal protection of territorial slavery.
Meanwhile, agitation over the Harpers Ferry affair took hold in Congress, reinforcing the divisiveness over slavery that increasingly dominated the political discussion. For two months after convening in December 1859, the House of Representatives was unable to elect a Speaker of the House. John Sherman, the Republican candidate, was unacceptable to southern representatives because he had endorsed Hinton Helper’s anti-slavery book The Impending Crisis. Southerners denounced the book, the position of Republicans and northerners in general on slavery, and the reaction in the North to John Brown’s raid. One of the congressman who spoke on the subject was Alexander Boteler, who represented the district that included Harpers Ferry: “in my opinion, the leaders of the Abolition party, who are seeking to control the organization of this House, and to obtain possession of the Government, are as much the murderers of my friends at Harper’s Ferry as were old John Brown and his deluded followers; and I think that the committee engaged in the investigation in my State, and the investigation on the part of the Senate, will prove that the agitation of the slavery question by the great leaders of the Republican party has been the direct cause of the Harper’s Ferry invasion.” Alexander Boteler
Hon. Alexander Boteler
from Virginia. Source:
Archives Collection
James M. Mason
James M. Mason
Arrest of Frank Sanborn
Arrest and Rescue of Frank Sanborn
While the House fought over the speakership, the Senate created a select committee chaired by James M. Mason of Virginia to investigate the raid. Wielding a questionable power to summon witnesses and compel them to testify, the committee heard the testimony of thirty-three men between January and May. The committee also summoned several others and issued arrest warrants for John Brown Jr., Thaddeus Hyatt, James Redpath, and Frank Sanborn when they failed to appear. Hyatt, the former head of the National Kansas Committee, was held in jail for four months while he refused to testify. When officials attempted to arrest Sanborn in April, they were met with the successful intervention of his family and neighbors. Federal marshals apparently could not find Redpath, while, fearing armed resistance, they did not try to arrest John Brown Jr. in Ohio.Summons for John Brown Jr.
Summons for
John Brown Jr.
With political party conventions in the late spring and a presidential election in the fall of 1860, the country quickly moved toward disunion. Divisions among Democrats produced two Democratic candidates for president—Stephen A. Douglas in the North and John C. Breckinridge in the South. These two men, plus John Bell, representing the Constitutional Union Party, and Abraham Lincoln, for the Republican Party, were put before the electorate in the November elections. In the wake of Lincoln’s victory, the most committed disunionists pushed southern states toward secession. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first of eleven states to secede, propelling the United States into four years of civil war.

Primary Sources:

Letter, Lydia Maria Child to Mary Stearns, November 3, 1859
Letter, A Martyr's Friend to Governor Wise, November 22, 1859
Message of Gov. Henry A. Wise to the General Assembly of Virginia, December 1859
Speech, J. M. L. Curry, on Anti-slaveryism, December 10, 1859
Speech, M. J. Crawford, on the Election of the Speaker, December 15, 1859
Letter, James M. Mason to Andrew Hunter, December 20, 1859
Speech, Benjamin F. Wade on Invasion of Harpers Ferry, December 24, 1859
Correspondence between Lydia Maria Child and Governor Wise and Mrs. Mason, of Virginia, 1860
Letter, Samuel May to Lydia Maria Child, January 13, 1860
Speech, Alexander R. Boteler on the Organization of the House, January 25, 1860
Report, Joint Committee of the Two Houses of the General Assembly of Virginia on the Harpers Ferry Outrages, January 26, 1860
Speech, Stephen A. Douglas on the Invasion, January 28, 1860
Clipping, Thaddeus Hyatt Summons, January 1860
Letter, George L. Stearns to S. G. Howe, February 27, 1860
Speeches, Charles Sumner on the Imprisonment of Thaddeus Hyatt, March 12 and June 15, 1860
Speech, Owen Lovejoy, on Slavery, April 5, 1860
Sanborn Arrest, New York Herald, April 7, 1860
Letter, Joseph P. Fessenden to William Pitt Fessenden, April 14, 1860

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- Honor French Revolutionary Louis-Antoine St. Just

Click on the title to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Robespierre associate of Robespierre and member of the Committee of Public Safety at the high point of the French revolution.

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Leibknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Futre Are Kindred Spirits- Honor French Revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre

Click on the title to link to an "American Left History" blog entry reviewing a biography of Maximilien Robespierre.

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Leibknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.

*****Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-The International Working Class Anthem The Internationale

*****Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-The International Working Class Anthem The Internationale

Introducing The Committee For International Labor Defense

Mission Statement

The Committee for International Labor Defense (CILD) is a legal and political defense organization working on behalf of the international working class and oppressed minorities providing aid and solidarity in legal cases. We stand today in the traditions of the working-class defense policies of the International Labor Defense (ILD) 1925-1946, the defense arm of the American Communist Party which won its authority as a defense organization in cases like Sacco and Vanzetti, the Scottsboro Boys, defense of Black Sharecropper’ Union and Birmingham steelworkers union efforts in the South in the 1930s and 1940s, and garnering support in the United States for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. 

The ILD takes a side. In the struggles of working people to defend their unions and independent political organizations and to organize themselves we stand in solidarity against their exploiters. In the struggles of the oppressed and other socially marginalized peoples to defend their communities and to organize themselves we stand in solidarity with their efforts against their oppressors.  While favoring all possible legal proceedings for the cases we support, we recognize that the courts, prisons and police exist to maintain the ruling class’ dominance over all others. To paraphrase one of the founding members of the original ILD said “we place 100% of our faith in the power of the masses to mobilize to defend their own and zero faith, none, in the ‘justice’ of the courts or other tribunals.”

As we take the side of working people and oppressed minorities we also strive to be anti-sectarian. We will, according to our abilities, critically but unconditionally support movements and defend cases of organizations or individuals with whose political views we do not necessarily agree. We defend, to paraphrase the original statement of purpose of the old ILD, “any member of the workers and oppressed movement, regardless of their views, who has suffered persecution by the capitalist courts and other coercive institutions because of their activities or their opinions.” As the old labor slogan goes-“an injury to one is an injury to all.”

A YouTube film clip of a performance of the classic international working class song of struggle, The Internationale.

Ralph Morris comment:

“Never in a million years” if you had asked me the question of whether I knew the words, melody or history of The Internationale before I linked up in 1971 with my old friend and comrade, Sam Eaton, asked me whether I had known how important such a song and protest music in general was to left-wing movements as a motivating force for struggle against whatever the American government is down on in the war or social front to squeeze the life out of average Joes and Joanne. To the contrary I would have looked at you with ice picks in my eyes wondering where you fit into the international communist conspiracy if you has asked me that question say in 1964, 1965 maybe later, as late as 1967. Then living in Troy, New York I imbibed all the working class prejudices against reds (you know communist dupes of Joe Stalin and his progeny who pulled the strings from Moscow and made everybody jumpy), against blacks (stood there right next to my father, Ralph, Sr., when he led the physical opposition to blacks moving into the Tappan Street section of town and had nothing, along with me and my corner boys at Van Patten’s Drugstore, but the “n” word to call black people sometimes to their faces), against gays and lesbians (you know fag and dyke baiting them whenever the guys and I went to Saratoga Springs where they spent their summers doing whatever nasty things they did to each other), against uppity woman (servile, domestic women like my good old mother and wanna-bes were okay). Native Americans didn’t even rate a nod since they were not on the radar. But mainly I was a red, white and blue American patriotic guy who really did have ice picks for anybody who thought they would like to tread on old Uncle Sam (who had been “invented” around our way).

But things sometimes change in this wicked old world, change when some big events force everybody, or almost everybody since some people will go on about their business as if nothing had happened even come judgment day. That event for me was the Vietnam War, the war that tore this nation, my generation and a whole lot more asunder and has not really been put back together even now. And that Vietnam War was not an abstract thing like it was for a lot of guys who opposed it on principle, or were against the draft at least for themselves since once I got my draft notice in early 1967 I decided to enlist to avoid being cannon fodder for what looked to me a bloodbath going on over there. But I did that enlistment out of patriotic reasons since my idea also was to use some skills I had in the electrical field to aid the cause. When I got my draft notice I was working in my father’s high skill electrical shop where he did precision work for the big outfit in the area, General Electric (which was swamped with defense contract work at the time) and figured that is what I could do best. My recruiting sergeant in Albany led me to believe that as well. Silly boy (silly boy now but then he promised the stars and I taken in by his swagger bought the whole deal).

Pay attention to that year I got my draft notice, 1967. What Uncle was looking for that year (and in 1968 as well) were guys to go out in the bush in some desolate place and kill every commie they could find (and as I know from later experience if you didn’t have a commie to count just throw a red star on some poor son of a peasant who had just been mowed down in the crossfire and claim him, hell, claim her as an enemy kill, Jesus). So I wound up humping the hills of the Central Highlands of Vietnam not just for a year like most guys but I extended for six month to get out a little earlier when I got back to the “real” world. This is not the place to tell what I did, what my buddies did, and what the American government made us do, made us in nothing but animals but whatever you might have heard about atrocities and screw ups is close enough to the truth for now.

All of that made me a very angry young man when I got out of the Army in late 1969. I tried to talk to my father about it but he was hung up in a combination “good war, World War II, his war where America saved international civilization from the Nazis and Nips (my father’s term since he fought in the Pacific with the Marines) and “my country, right or wrong.” All he really wanted me to do was get back to the shop and help him fill those goddam GE defense contract orders. And I did it, for a while.

One day in1970 though I was taking a high compression motor to Albany and had parked the shop truck on Van Dyke Street near Russell Sage College. Coming down the line, silent, silent as the grave I thought later, were a ragtag bunch of guys in mismatched (on purpose I found out later) military uniforms carrying signs but with a big banner in front calling for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and signing the banner with the name of the organization-Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). That was all, and all that was needed. Nobody on those still patriotic, mostly government worker, streets called them commies or anything like that but you could tell some guys in white collars and who never came close to a gun, except maybe to kill animals or something defenseless really wanted to. One veteran as they came nearer to me shouted out for any veterans to join them, to tell the world what they knew first-hand about what was going on in Vietnam. Yeah, that shout-out was all I needed, all I needed to join my “band of brothers.”                                

I still worked in my father’s shop for a while but our relationship was icy (and would be for a long time after that although in 1991 when he retired I took over the business) and I would take part in whatever actions I could around the area (and down in New York City a couple of times when they called for re-enforcements to make a big splash). Then in the spring of 1971, the year that I met Sam Eaton, I joined with a group of VVAWers and supporters for an action down in Washington, D.C.

The idea, which will sound kind of strange today in a different time when there is very little overt anti-war activity against the current crop of endless wars but also shows you how desperate we were to end that damn war, was to on May Day shut down the government if it did not shut down the war. Our task, as part of the bigger scheme, since we were to form up as a total veterans and supporters contingent was to symbolically shut down the Pentagon. Wild right, but see the figuring was that they, the government, would not dare to arrest vets and we figured (we meaning all those who planned the events and went along with the plan) the government would treat it somewhat like the big civilian action at the Pentagon in 1967 which Norman Mailer won a literary prize writing a book about, Armies of the Night. Silly us. 

Naturally we were arrested well before we even got close to the place and got a first-hand lesson in what the government was willing to do to maintain itself at all costs. And in the RFK Stadium that day where we had been herded little cattle by the forces of order since we had thousands of people being arrested is where I met Sam who, for his own reasons which he has, I think, described elsewhere on his own hook, had come down from Boston with a group of radicals and reds whose target was to “capture” the White House. And so we met on that forlorn summertime football and formed our lifelong friendship. Sam, I know, if I know anything has already told you about all of that so I will skip past the events of those few days to what we figured out to do afterwards.      

No question we had been spinning our wheels for a long time in trying to oppose the war (and change other things as well as we were coming to realize needed changing as well) and May Day made that very clear. So for a time, for a couple of years after that say until about 1974, 1975 when we knew the high tide of the 1960s was seriously ebbing,  we joined study groups and associated with “red collectives” in Cambridge where Sam lived in a commune at the time. The most serious group “The Red October Collective,”  a group that was studying Marxism in general and “Che” Guevara and Leon Trotsky in particular, is where we learned the most in the summer of 1972 when Sam asked me to join him (my father was pissed off, went a little crazy but I wanted to do it and so I did). The thing was that at the end of each class, each action, each meeting the Internationale, or some version of it would be sung in unison to close the event and express solidarity with all the oppressed.

At the beginning some of my old habits kind of held me back, you know the anti-red stuff, Cold War enemy stuff, just like at first I had trouble despite all I knew about calling for victory to the Viet Cong (who in-country we called Charlie in derision although in Tet 1968 with much more respect when he came at us and kept coming despite high losses). But I got over it, got in the swing. Funny not long after that time and certainly since the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellites when socialism took a big hit out of favor to solve world’s pressing problems I very seldom sing it anymore, in public anyway. 

Sam, who likes to write up stuff about the old days more than I do, writes for different blogs and websites on the Internet and he asked me to do this remembrance about my experience learning the Internationale as part of a protest music series that a guy he knows named Fritz Jasper has put together. So I have done my bit and here is what Sam and Fritz want to convey to you:                          

Fritz  Jasper comment:
In this series, presented under the headline Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our socialist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.