Saturday, July 01, 2017

When Mike Hammer Prowled The Slumming Streets Of LA Town-With The Film Adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s “Kiss Me Deadly” In Mind

When Mike Hammer Prowled The Slumming Streets Of LA Town-With The Film Adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s “Kiss Me Deadly” In Mind

By Social Critic Donald MacDonald 
“Don’t let anybody tell, anybody from LA, Los Angeles which what we who were actually born call our town out of respect, anyhow tell you that my man, my lover, my boss Mike Hammer isn’t the straightest daddy who ever put on shoe leather.” Those words from Mike’s long time “secretary,” confidante, bait and whatever else Mike Hammer needed on either side of the satin sheets Velma, Velma Proust which is as a good a name as any to call her since under Mike’s expert guidance she had assumed many names in their little bait and switch divorce case work. See Mike had been for those who have been on some other planet for the last fifty years or so the max daddy private investigator in LA, bar none back in the 1950s when such professionals were worth their salt before they all got boggled up with high technology gadgetry and the professional lost it high-end soul. Mike’s specialty, very profitable specialty, taking whichever side paid the most in divorce cases where adultery was the hook to freedom day. Adultery being the most common but mostly the only way to get a fucking divorce before in those marriage forever bullshit days. And Velma, luscious Velma, who could make a dead man rise from his condition was the bait on the male side, the opposite as a rule of his clients who were mainly women who were to gain by the alimony settlement and thus produced nice numbers for the operation.

Velma continued, “I don’t give a fuck about all that noise about Mike screwing every available dame, meaning every dame, in LA just for the sake of doing the deed. When the deal went down, when it looked like curtains for both of us, my daddy only had thoughts of me, me and the danger I was in. You might have remembered the Albert case, the case where a guy was trying to steal our, America’s, atomic secrets, weapons too for some third party, probably the Russian red bastards and my daddy had to step in and save me, and America. No, it was not the case of those goddam commies, the ones they put in the big step off ‘lectric chairs in New York, those Uncle Joe red bastards the Rosenbergs or whatever their names were, Jews though too. This was about Carl Albert the big art dealer who somehow figured that one big atomic score was worth ten million silly commissions for art’s sake. By the way I might as well tell you right now in case I forget to tell after I tell you my daddy’s off-hand heroics just so all you girls out there know the night my daddy saved me I showed him the best time he ever had, played the flute for him all night until he cried “uncle.” So even if he messes around sometimes like all virile men do you know he has my brand on him, has me deep inside him.

“The case was kind of strange from the get-go. Mike, my daddy, I will probably call him both and maybe a couple of times “that bastard” when he is lifting some other girl’s skirt was coming down the Pacific Coast Highway one night late from up in Monterrey where he had just scored on a big settlement for the wife of Harry Brant, yeah, that Brant, the one rolling in brewery dough who was so easy for me to pick up and get between the sheets that for once I felt sorry for a sucker. I offered after Mike got his nasty photographs of me going down on Harry to do him again I was so sorry for him. He turned me down flat but the offer still holds if he ever gets down Los Angeles way. Mike had also scored some serious “tea” so we could get high as kites when he got back into town.      

“Problem was he never got back that night, at least not in one piece. The way he told the story which at the time I found hard to believe but which later events proved to be true, even if not every bit of the truth came out of his beautiful two-timing mouth. As he was cruising down the ocean fresh highway some blonde dish, Cloris something, maybe Leachman, a Texas place of birth on her death certificate who turned out to have no clothes on under her raincoat stopped him in the middle of the road and gave him a story about how she had been held in Encino, in some funny farm for flipped out drug addicts and hard to handle dames whose husbands have them locked up and the key thrown away so they can go play daddy with some less hard to handle honey.                       

“Mike was non-plussed by her story, thought she was crazy and was going to let her off at her request at the Greyhound Bus Station over in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. Her story was that she was being held at the funny farm because she knew too much, knew about some secret stuff that would blow the lid off of the town if it ever got out. Knew the players and the bad guys as well. Turned out she was not bullshitting Mike because before they got within a mile of that bus station they were cut off by some bad guys and taken out in the desert and beaten for information. Cloris wouldn’t talk so she took the big kiss-off and Mike didn’t know a damn thing so before the night was out Mike, this Cloris, and Mike’s beautiful car were found in an arroyo. Cloris long dead, the car totaled and Mike all big wounds and broken ego.    

 “That broken ego part would not last for long because as Mike said no self-respecting private eye could let it go for professional reasons. He always would bring up the famous, maybe infamous, Miles Archer case where he took the big step-off from some dizzy dame up in Frisco and it was touch and go whether his partner, Sam, Sam Spade, was going to avenge his death or go along with the dizzy dame. Sam set the gold standard for P.I.s on that one when he turned the frill over and didn’t think twice about whether she would fry or not after she had led him a merry chase and had been the one who had actually pulled the trigger on skirt-crazy Miles. He said he would cry some tears on lonely winter nights over her but would get over it, get over it fast I figured. I often wondered whether Mike would feel the same way, move on fast if something happened to me but now I know that my daddy would cry real tears and that makes me feel good-and kind of horny.         
“Naturally Mike had to find out more about this Cloris, where she lived, who she was connected with. You know the ABCs that every serious P.I. figures out along the way-or gets bounced more often than not. Mike doesn’t mind tangling with bad guys but he is a sucker for even bad dames and that held him back for a while. Seems this Cloris lived in Los Angeles, in that Bunker Hill section of town, run down with whorehouses, strip joints and B-girl lure low-life bars complete with con artists and an occasional hipster who wanted to get kicks, dope or whatever else he or she might be into. I had a short time job at Eddie’s Bar, a famous hang-out for hipsters but I left shortly thereafter because as much as I like kicks just like the next girl the scene was too weird for me. I went over to Santa Monica near the pier working at The Grille where I picked Mike up one night and he took me out of that life-and put me in this crazy gumshoe life as it turned out.   

“This Cloris had a roommate, or who claimed to be her roommate, Gabby, who turned out to be the bad girl that Mike got caught up with before he found out who she really was, found out she was working for a guy named Sobern, Sobel something like that we never did find out his real name until after the fire when it came out Albert. Her play was to get Mike to protect her from the same bad guys as were after Cloris. She played Mike like a fiddle, he says no but I am sure she took him under the sheets before he consummated the contract, the job. The whole caper involved finding this small box that was supposed to be valuable and would put whoever had possession of it on easy street. Mike figured it was worth a shot and maybe he would get some serious dough for once without having to dirty his (and my) hands with low-rent dirty pictures in a divorce proceeding. To me it sounded like the same bullshit that Mary, Mary Astor I think her name was, threw at Sam Spade about a valuable bird, maybe a falcon, that was just there for the plucking. 

“This Gabby (and Sobel too) thought Cloris had given the box to Mike while she was in the car or at some point so Mike became a central target for the bad guys to follow. Eventually they got tired of following Mike and they picked me up, kidnapped me and took me to a beach house up near Malibu. That got my daddy’s attention alright, got how he felt about me straight for once in his crooked life. He found the small box in some gym locker but before he could do anything about it somebody, one of the bad guys grabbed it. So before the end the small box and I were in the same beach-house. One night Mike tailed Gabby there and that was that that. Well not quite. It seems that Gabby had as big eyes for the easy street as Sobel and she tried to get the damn thing away from him. What she didn’t know, maybe Sobel either, was the thing was radioactive, was a small sample of what any government, any rich individual would pay plenty for to have such power.

“The problem was that if anybody opened the box fully the damn thing would ignite. That is what happened when Gabby and Sobel were wrestling for control. The house began to burn, burn fast. My daddy yelled his head off to find where they had stashed me and he eventually found me. Found me and we ran like crazy away from that blazing inferno. I already told you what I did for my daddy that night. But you know I still wonder about that Gabby, about what she did to get Mike to do her dirty work for her. Maybe I will ask him someday, yeah, maybe.    


In Honor Of Our Class-War Prisoners- Free All The Class-War Prisoners!- Haki Malik Abdullah, (s/n Michael Green)

In Honor Of Our Class-War Prisoners- Free All The Class-War Prisoners!- Haki Malik Abdullah, (s/n Michael Green)


Click on the link for more information about the class-war prisoner honored in this entry.


Make June Class-War Prisoners Freedom Month

Markin comment (reposted from 2010)


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

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


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

Veterans For Peace: No More Troops in Afghanistan

Veterans For Peace: No More Troops in Afghanistan

The Trump Administration announced it has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troops levels in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that Mattis favors sending several thousand more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Why? Perhaps to break the “stalemate” as described by the Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson when describing the war to the Senate Armed Services Committee. In his June 13th testimony, Secretary Mattis told the same committee, “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now.”
Veterans For Peace calls for a different direction than more war. We call on Congress to stop funding war and demand a plan for a peaceful solution. We call on the President to immediately begin withdrawal of U.S. troops and take a new direction towards diplomacy and peace. And we call on the people of the U.S. to resist war and demand policies that foster peace and prosperity at home and in Afghanistan.
It should be clear after 16 years and the death of tens of thousands of people that no one is a winner in Afghanistan. There is no clear concept of what it means to win there. In fact, it is no longer clear why the U.S. continues to keep troops in Afghanistan and now is on the brink of increasing the number of men and women in harm's way.
The U.S. has claimed to be at war in Afghanistan to deny “terrorists” training and staging areas to attack the United States and to protect the people of Afghanistan. After this long period of war, what does the U.S. have to show for its military efforts? 
Since the horror of September 11, 2001, the U.S. has been on a path of war, wreaking havoc on millions of people around the globe. Because of displacement, death and maiming of loved ones by U.S. wars, animosity towards the U.S. has increased and the world has become less safe.  The animosity caused by the wars has created a larger pool of people willing to fight the U.S. In 2001 al Qaeda had limited influence and ISIL did not exist. Now Al Qaeda and ISIL have affiliated groups and sympathetic supporters around the globe.
The protection of the Afghan people has been a total failure. It has been widely reported that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan found that there were 11,418 civilian casualties (3,498 deaths and 7,920 injured) between January and December 2016, an overall increase of 3 percent. An appalling number of those casualties were children – 923 deaths, and 2,589 injured – a 24 percent increase over record-high numbers from 2015. In addition, 3,535 coalition forces have died; three of which were recently killed as a result of an insider attack fire from an Afghan soldier. We must add to these losses all the people who are physically and psychologically broken and families torn apart.The human cost is immeasurable. But there is also a dollar cost to war. The U.S. has spent over $1 trillion in this failed and depraved effort in Afghanistan. These dollars represent lost opportunities to repair U.S. infrastructure, pay for healthcare, create jobs and address a host of human needs.
It is not too late  for a different direction. War was always the wrong option. Perhaps it was not clear 16 years ago. It should be clear now more than ever!

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels-*The Roots Of The Roots- The Old Country (Somebody’s) Roots Music of Scotland’s Jean Redpath

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels-*The Roots Of The Roots- The Old Country (Somebody’s) Roots Music of Scotland’s Jean Redpath

CD Review

Jean Redpath, Jean Redpath, Philo Records, 1975

Not every roots artist that I review in this space as part of my task of doing my part to preserve and keep alive some of those traditions is on my A-list. Nor is every such artist someone who I have taken notice of from my own personal researches or predilections. That is the case with the Scottish balladeer under review, Jean Redpath. Of course I knew her name, as one must who knows something about the origins of the Child Ballads that form the basis of the music that was brought over to American in the initial WASP waves of immigration, especially after the victory in the American revolution. I also, vaguely, remember hearing her back in the days on those woe begotten Sunday nights when I scrumptiously listened to those folk radio shows I that became addicted to in my youth. What got me thinking about reviewing her work now, however, was a little more indirect, as sometimes happens in tracing the roots of American music.

I have just finished up reviewing a six series set (two one hour shows per set) of Pete Seeger’s 1960s black and white television folk show “Rainbow Quest”. The format of that show was, aside form some stellar solo performances by Pete, to bring in a guest, or guests, from some up and coming “rediscovered” traditional music genre. On one particular show he featured the legendary Kentucky mountain music banjo/guitar/vocalist Roscoe Holcomb (then recently discovered by Pete’s half-brother, the late Mike Seeger, I believe). Old Roscoe put on one hell of a show doing old time, but seemingly familiar, mountain tunes.

Familiar in the sense that one knew the lyrics (or some part of them) or the melody, or something about the songs. And then Pete brings out Jean Redpath who then proceeds to sing the same kind of songs as old Roscoe. You see that part of the American songbook that he was singing from came from his old country, the Scottish/Irish tradition reflecting the backgrounds of those who long, long ago came over stopped for a minute on the crowded coast then moved on and started their westward treks. In a sense then, as you will note here, Ms. Redpath is singing part of the American songbook. Or Roscoe was singing part of the Scottish songbook. Either way this is good stuff. Listen up.

Barbara Allen-Child Ballad-Variation

In Scarlet town where I was born
There was a fair maid dwelling
And every youth cried well away
For her name was Barbara Allen

Twas in the merry month of May
The green buds were a swelling
Sweet William on his deathbed lay
For the love of Barbara Allen

He sent a servant unto her
To the place she was dwelling
Saying you must come to his deathbed now
If your name be Barbara Allen

Slowly slowly she got up
Slowly slowly she came nigh him
And the only words to him she said
Young man I think you're dying

As she was walking oer the fields
She heard the death bell knelling
And every stroke it seemed to say
Hardhearted Barbara Allen

Oh mother mother make my bed
Make it long and make it narrow
Sweet William died for me today
I'll die for him tomorrow

They buried her in the old churchyard
They buried him in the choir
And from his grave grew a red red rose
From her grave a green briar

They grew and grew to the steeple top
Till they could grow no higher
And there they twined in a true love's knot
Red rose around green briar

Why Communists Do Not Celebrate July 4th- A Guest Commentary

Why Communists Do Not Celebrate July 4th- A Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary:

"Why We Don't Celebrate July 4-Marxism and the "Spirit Of '76"- Workers Vanguard, Number 116, July 2, 1976

The burned-out tenements of America's decaying slums are plastered with red, white and blue posters celebrating a 200-year-old revolution. From factory bulletin boards and the walls of unemployment offices, patriotic displays urge American working people to join with Gerald Ford and the butchers of Vietnam in commemorating the "Spirit of '76." Class-conscious workers and militant blacks, like the colonial masses ground down under the economic and military heel of arrogant American imperialism, must recoil in revulsion from the U.S. bourgeoisie's hypocritical pieties about "liberty."

The Fourth of July is not our holiday. But the chauvinist ballyhoo of the "People's Bicentennial" does not negate the need for a serious Marxist appreciation of colonial America's war of independence against monarchical/ mercantilist England. Marxists have always stressed the powerful impact of the classic bourgeois-democratic revolutions in breaking feudal-aristocratic barriers to historical progress.

In appealing for support for the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin in his Letter to American Workers (1918) wrote:

"The history of modern, civilized America opened with one of those really great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars of which there have been so few compared to the vast number of wars of conquest which, like the present imperialist war, were caused by squabbles among kings, landowners or capitalists over the division of usurped land or ill-gotten gains. That was the war the American people waged against the British robbers who oppressed America and held her in colonial slavery. "

It is also legitimate for revolutionaries to appeal to the most radical-democratic traditions of the great bourgeois revolutions. Yet the fact remains that the Fourth of July is a fundamentally chauvinist holiday, a celebration of national greatness. In no sense does it commemorate a popular uprising against an oppressive system, or even pay tribute to democratic principles and individual freedom. Attempts to lend the Fourth of July a populist coloration (or the Communist Party's popular-front period slogan that "Communism is 20th century Americanism") only express the capitulation of various fake-socialists to the democratic pretensions of American imperialism.

But neither can the traditions of 1776 justly be claimed by the imperialist bourgeoisie. Compared to the leadership of the colonial independence struggle, the present American capitalist class is absolutely degenerate. One has only to think of Franklin or Jefferson, among the intellectual giants of their time, and then consider Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter. The twentieth-century United States is the gendarme of world reaction, the backer of every torture-chamber regime from Santiago to Tehran.

The "founding fathers" would have been revolted by the men who today represent their class. The degeneration of the American bourgeoisie is appropriate to the passing of its progressive mission. The attitude toward religion is a good indicator. Virtually none of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were orthodox Christians; they held a rationalist attitude toward the concept of god. Jefferson would have walked out in protest at today's prayer-intoning presidential inaugurations.

The America of 1976 is the contemporary analogue of the tsarist Russia which the "founding fathers" held in contempt as the bastion of world reaction—the tsarist Russia against whose tyranny Lenin and the Bolsheviks organized the proletariat. It is to the world working class that the liberating mission now falls.

Was the War of Independence a Social Revolution?

Like the Fourth of July, Bastille Day in France is an official, patriotic holiday, replete with military marches and chauvinist speeches. Yet the events Bastille Day commemorates retain a certain revolutionary significance to this day. The French people's understanding of 1789 is as a violent overthrow by the masses of an oppressive ruling class. The French imperialist bourgeoisie's efforts to purge the French revolution of present-day revolutionary significance have not succeeded. A Charles De Gaulle or a Valery Giscard d'Estaing cannot embrace Robespierre or Marat, for the latter stand too close to the primitive communist Gracchus Babeuf, who considered himself a true Jacobin.

The American war of independence was also a classic bourgeois-democratic revolution, but it was not really a social revolution which overthrew the existing ruling class. The British loyalists were largely concentrated in the propertied classes and governing elite. However pro-independence forces among the planters and merchants were strong enough to prevent any significant class polarization during the war.

The English and French bourgeois-democratic revolutions had to destroy an entrenched aristocratic order. That destruction required a radical, plebeian terrorist phase associated with the figures of Cromwell and Robespierre. For the American colonies, winning independence from England did not require a regime based on plebeian terror. The war of independence did not produce a Cromwell or a Robespierre because it did not need one. Nor did it give rise to radical egalitarian groups like the Levellers and Diggers, or the Enrages and Babouvists. It never remotely threatened the wealthiest, most conservative planters and merchants who supported secession from Britain.

The consolidation of bourgeois rule in the Puritan and French revolutions required a political counterrevolution in which the Cromwellians and Jacobins were overthrown, persecuted and vilified. The radical opposition which sprung up in resistance to this counterrevolution became part—through the Babouvists in France—of the revolutionary tradition which Marx embraced.

Because the American war of independence did not experience a plebeian terrorist phase, neither did it experience a conservative bourgeois counterrevolution. The leaders of the independence struggle went on to found and govern the republic; greatly venerated, they died of old age.

The men who met in Philadelphia's Convention Hall 200 years ago realized their aims more satisfactorily than any other similarly placed, insurrectionary group in history. This achievement does not bespeak their greatness, but the limited, essentially conservative nature of their goals. The legitimization of black chattel slavery in the Constitution, without significant opposition, demonstrates the bourgeois conservatism of the leaders of the American Revolution. The "founding fathers" had no children who could claim that the principles of 1776 had been betrayed in the interests of the rich and powerful. The era of the war of independence did not give rise to a living revolutionary tradition.

John Brown's Body

There is a social revolution in American history which troubles the imperialist bourgeoisie to this day. It did not begin in 1776, but in the anti-slavery confrontations. The issue rose by the civil war and particularly the period of Radical Reconstruction—the intimate relationship between capitalism in America and racial oppression—awaits its fundamental resolution in future revolutionary struggle. The wasn't-it-tragic attitude of the bourgeoisie to the civil war era contrasts sharply with their celebratory attitude toward the war of independence. The signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, unlike the Declaration of Independence, will never be a holiday in racist, imperialist America.

It is in the civil war era that there are parallels with the plebeian component of the French Revolution. The contemporary bourgeois treatment of John Brown resembles the French ruling class attitude toward Robespierre. They cannot disown the anti-slavery cause outright, but they condemn John Brown for his fanatical commitment and violent methods. The Reconstruction era of 1867-1877 is the only period in U.S. history which the present ruling class rejects an un-American extremism. Two important films, D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation and the later Gone With the Wind, are outright apologies for white supremacist terror against the only radical-democratic governments this country has ever experienced. The Compromise of 1877, when the black freedmen were abandoned to the merciless regimes of the ex-slaveholders, was the American bourgeois-democratic revolution betrayed. And the reversal of that historic betrayal awaits the victory of American communism.

Because of the American revolution's limited social mobilization, those whose principles ultimately clashed with bourgeois rule—the likes of Tom Paine and Sam Adams—were easily disposed of. The radical abolitionists—John Brown, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass— are the only figures in American history before the emergence of the workers movement whose commitment to democratic principles actually threatened bourgeois rule. For the same reason that the present-day bourgeoisie denounces John Brown as a dangerous extremist, we communists can claim the radical abolitionists as ours. Only a victorious American socialist revolution can give to the heroes and martyrs of Harper's Ferry and the "underground railway" the honor that is their historic right.

On The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"(1957)- "A Confederate General From Big Sur"-A Book Review

On The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"(1957)- "A Confederate General From Big Sur"-A Book Review

Book Review

A Confederate General From Big Sur, Richard Brautigan, Grove Press, 1964

Recently, in reviewing another more well-known book, “Trout Fishing In America”, by the 1960s counterculture writer, Richard Brautigan, I wrote the following paragraph that applies to the book under review here, “A Confederate General From Big Sur”, as well:

“I noted in a recent review of a film documentary about the literary exploits and influences of the “beat” generation of the 1950s on my generation, the “Generation of ‘68”, that we were a less literary generation. That was one of the things that drew me to the beat literary figures like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs, among others. Our generation was driven more by the sound of music and fury. Although I believe that statement holds up over time it is not true that there were no literary figures who tried to express for us what the landscape of mainstream American was like, and why it desperately needed to be changed. Enter one Richard Brautigan and his exploration on that theme, “Trout Fishing In America”.”

As I also pointed out there I was drawn to “Trout Fishing” originally based on the photograph on the cover, of all things. Once inside, however, it was clear that Brautigan had the “gift”, the madman’s gift for telling some truths about mainstream American society that the “beat” writers also tried to make us “hip” to. And, as is my wont, once I have “discovered” a writer I tend to want read everything else of value that they have written. This brings us to “Confederate General”.

The plot here centers on one Lee Mellon who is searching, in this case literally, for a Confederate general form Big Sur who may be a forbear. Along the way he has a series of adventures trying to get to the truth of the matter and also finds that others are interested in seeking the truth surrounding this figure. The hard truth is that no real records exist for this general, although then, as now, that is hardly cause for disqualification. This one is quirkier than “Trout Fishing” and in the end less satisfying. Sometimes a writer “speaks” to me more than once with his work, and sometimes not. The latter applies here.

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love-"To Be Young Was Very Heaven"-NPR Report

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love-To Be Young Was Very Heaven-NPR Report 

link to NPR report on the Summer of Love, 1967

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels-Labor’s Untold Story- A Personal View Of The Class Wars In The Kentucky Hills And Hollows-"The Children Of The Coal"-The Music Of Kathy Mattea

For The Late Rosalie Sorrels-Labor’s Untold Story- A Personal View Of The Class Wars In The Kentucky Hills And Hollows-"The Children Of The Coal"-The Music Of Kathy Mattea

The Children Of The Coal- The Music Of Kathy Mattea


By Fritz Taylor

Coal, Kathy Mattea, Captain Potato Records, 2008

Several time over the past year or so I have mentioned in this space, as part of my remembrances of my youth and of my political and familial background, that my father was a coal miner and the son of a coal miner in the hills of Hazard, Kentucky in the heart of Appalachia. I have also mentioned that he was a child of the Great Depression and of World War II. He often joked that in a choice between digging the coal and taking his chances in war he much preferred the latter. Thus, it was no accident that when war came he volunteered for the Marines and, as fate would have it despite a hard, hard life after the war, he never looked back to the mines.

All of this is by way of an introduction to this unusual tribute album. Of all the subjects that one could think of in the year 2008 fit for a full exposition the unsung life, trials and tribulations, and grit of those who, for generations, mined the coal (and other minerals) and passed unnoticed in the hollows and hills of Appalachia (and the West) does not readily come to mind. Even for this long time labor militant. But Ms. Mattea, who has her own roots to the coal, has done a great service here. Kudos are in order.

Now politically the coal story is today a very disturbing one. For one, the strip-mining of significant portions of places like Kentucky and West Virginia goes on unabated and essentially unchecked. For another, the number of miners has dwindled to a very few and are getting fewer. As a labor militant I have feasted on the heroics of the Harlan and Hazard miners, the exploits of Big Big Haywood and the Western Federation of Miners, and the class-war battles from any number of isolated locales where men (mainly) dug the coal and fought for some sense of dignity. The dignity and sense of social solidarity may still remain but the virtues of the lessons of the class struggle- picket lines mean don’t cross and class solidarity is essential- have clearly been eroded. That is the political part that cannot be separated from the musical part of this story. Why?

The songs selected for inclusion here spell out the condition of life for the miners, in short, as the English political theorist Thomas Hobbes put it centuries ago- life is "short, nasty and brutish" in the mines and the mining communities. The songs like You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive and the choice of material by well-known mountain music songwriters Jean Ritchie, Billy Edd Wheeler, and Hazel Dickens reflect that. Theses simple mountain tunes, as performed by Ms. Mattea and her fellow musicians, spell out the story with soft guitar, fiddle, mandolin and other instruments that create the proper mood. Probably it is very hard for those not familiar with the coal, the isolated communities, and the sorrow of the mountains to listen to this compilation in one sitting. For that it probably takes the children of the coal. For the rest please bear with it and learn about an important part of American history and music.

“You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive”

In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
That's the place where I trace my bloodline
And it's there I read on a hillside gravestone
You will never leave Harlan alive

Oh, my granddad's dad walked down
Katahrins Mountain
And he asked Tillie Helton to be his bride
Said, won't you walk with me out of the mouth
Of this holler
Or we'll never leave Harlan alive

Where the sun comes up about ten in the morning
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinking
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away

No one ever knew there was coal in them mountains
'Til a man from the Northeast arrived
Waving hundred dollar bills he said I'll pay ya for your minerals
But he never left Harlan alive

Granny sold out cheap and they moved out west
Of Pineville
To a farm where big Richland River winds
I bet they danced them a jig, laughed and sang a new song
Who said we'd never leave Harlan alive

But the times got hard and tobacco wasn't selling
And ole granddad knew what he'd do to survive
He went and dug for Harlan coal
And sent the money back to granny
But he never left Harlan alive

Where the sun comes up about ten in the morning
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinking
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away

Where the sun comes up about ten in the morning
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinking
And you spend your life digging coal from the bottom of your grave

In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
That's the place where I trace my bloodline
And it's there I read on a hillside gravestone
You will never leave Harlan alive

"The L & N Don't Stop Here Anymore"

When I was a curly headed baby
My daddy sat me down on his knee
He said, "son, go to school and get your letters,
Don't you be a dusty coal miner, boy, like me."

I was born and raised at the mouth of hazard hollow
The coal cars rolled and rumbled past my door
But now they stand in a rusty row all empty
Because the l & n don't stop here anymore

I used to think my daddy was a black man
With script enough to buy the company store
But now he goes to town with empty pockets
And his face is white as a February snow


I never thought I'd learn to love the coal dust
I never thought I'd pray to hear that whistle roar
Oh, god, I wish the grass would turn to money
And those green backs would fill my pockets once more


Last night I dreamed I went down to the office
To get my pay like a had done before
But them ol' kudzu vines were coverin' the door
And there were leaves and grass growin' right up through the floor

Labels: Big Bill Haywood, COALMINERS, HarLan County, Hazel Dickens, IWW, mountain music, United Mine Workers, UTAH PHILLIPS

From the Archives of Marxism-Friedrich Engels' “From the Kingdom of Necessity to the Kingdom of Freedom”

From the Archives of Marxism-Friedrich Engels' “From the Kingdom of Necessity to the Kingdom of Freedom”

Workers Vanguard No. 1096

23 September 2016

From the Archives of Marxism-Friedrich Engels' “From the Kingdom of Necessity to the Kingdom of Freedom”

We publish below excerpts from Friedrich Engels’ 1880 work Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. In explaining scientific socialism, Engels makes clear that only through the conquest of power by the working class and the expropriation of the capitalist class can the benefits of science, technology and education be available to all, laying the material basis for the full liberation of humanity. The excerpts below are taken from the Marx and Engels Selected Works (Progress Publishers, 1976).

The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch. The growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, that reason has become unreason and right wrong, is only proof that in the modes of production and exchange changes have silently taken place with which the social order, adapted to earlier economic conditions, is no longer in keeping. From this it also follows that the means of getting rid of the incongruities that have been brought to light must also be present, in a more or less developed condition, within the changed modes of production themselves. These means are not to be invented by deduction from fundamental principles, but are to be discovered in the stubborn facts of the existing system of production.

What is, then, the position of modern socialism in this connection?

The present structure of society—this is now pretty generally conceded—is the creation of the ruling class of today, of the bourgeoisie. The mode of production peculiar to the bourgeoisie, known, since Marx, as the capitalist mode of production, was incompatible with the feudal system, with the privileges it conferred upon individuals, entire social ranks and local corporations, as well as with the hereditary ties of subordination which constituted the framework of its social organisation. The bourgeoisie broke up the feudal system and built upon its ruins the capitalist order of society, the kingdom of free competition, of personal liberty, of the equality, before the law, of all commodity owners, of all the rest of the capitalist blessings. Thenceforward the capitalist mode of production could develop in freedom. Since steam, machinery, and the making of machines by machinery transformed the older manufacture into modern industry, the productive forces evolved under the guidance of the bourgeoisie developed with a rapidity and in degree unheard of before. But just as the older manufacture, in its time, and handicraft, becoming more developed under its influence, had come into collision with the feudal trammels of the guilds, so now modern industry, in its more complete development, comes into collision with the bounds within which the capitalistic mode of production holds it confined. The new productive forces have already outgrown the capitalistic mode of using them. And this conflict between productive forces and modes of production is not a conflict engendered in the mind of man, like that between original sin and divine justice. It exists, in fact, objectively, outside us, independently of the will and actions even of the men that have brought it on. Modern socialism is nothing but the reflex, in thought, of this conflict in fact; its ideal reflection in the minds, first, of the class directly suffering under it, the working class....

The perfecting of machinery is making human labour superfluous. If the introduction and increase of machinery means the displacement of millions of manual by a few machine-workers, improvement in machinery means the displacement of more and more of the machine-workers themselves. It means, in the last instance, the production of a number of available wage-workers in excess of the average needs of capital, the formation of a complete industrial reserve army, as I called it in 1845, available at the times when industry is working at high pressure, to be cast out upon the street when the inevitable crash comes, a constant dead weight upon the limbs of the working class in its struggle for existence with capital, a regulator for the keeping of wages down to the low level that suits the interests of capital. Thus it comes about, to quote Marx, that machinery becomes the most powerful weapon in the war of capital against the working class; that the instruments of labour constantly tear the means of subsistence out of the hands of the labourer; that the very product of the worker is turned into an instrument for his subjugation. Thus it comes about that the economising of the instruments of labour becomes at the same time, from the outset, the most reckless waste of labour power, and robbery based upon the normal conditions under which labour functions; that machinery, the most powerful instrument for shortening labour time, becomes the most unfailing means for placing every moment of the labourer’s time and that of his family at the disposal of the capitalist for the purpose of expanding the value of his capital. Thus it comes about that the overwork of some becomes the preliminary condition for the idleness of others, and that modern industry, which hunts after new consumers over the whole world, forces the consumption of the masses at home down to a starvation minimum, and in doing thus destroys its own home market. “The law that always equilibrates the relative surplus population, or industrial reserve army, to the extent and energy of accumulation, this law rivets the labourer to capital more firmly than the wedges of Vulcan did Prometheus to the rock. It establishes an accumulation of misery, corresponding with accumulation of capital. Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time, accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital.” (Marx’s Capital, p. 671)....

The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers—proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head. But, brought to a head, it topples over. State ownership of the productive forces is not the solution of the conflict, but concealed within it are the technical conditions that form the elements of that solution.

This solution can only consist in the practical recognition of the social nature of the modern forces of production, and therefore in the harmonising of the modes of production, appropriation, and exchange with the socialised character of the means of production. And this can only come about by society openly and directly taking possession of the productive forces which have outgrown all control except that of society as a whole. The social character of the means of production and of the products today reacts against the producers, periodically disrupts all production and exchange, acts only like a law of Nature working blindly, forcibly, destructively. But with the taking over by society of the productive forces, the social character of the means of production and of the products will be utilised by the producers with a perfect understanding of its nature, and instead of being a source of disturbance and periodical collapse, will become the most powerful lever of production itself....

Since the historical appearance of the capitalist mode of production, the appropriation by society of all the means of production has often been dreamed of, more or less vaguely, by individuals, as well as by sects, as the ideal of the future. But it could become possible, could become a historical necessity, only when the actual conditions for its realisation were there. Like every other social advance, it becomes practicable, not by men understanding that the existence of classes is in contradiction to justice, equality, etc., not by the mere willingness to abolish these classes, but by virtue of certain new economic conditions. The separation of society into an exploiting and an exploited class, a ruling and an oppressed class, was the necessary consequence of the deficient and restricted development of production in former times....

Division into classes has a certain historical justification, it has this only for a given period, only under given social conditions. It was based upon the insufficiency of production. It will be swept away by the complete development of modern productive forces. And, in fact, the abolition of classes in society presupposes a degree of historical evolution at which the existence, not simply of this or that particular ruling class, but of any ruling class at all, and, therefore, the existence of class distinction itself has become an obsolete anachronism. It presupposes, therefore, the development of production carried out to a degree at which appropriation of the means of production and of the products, and, with this, of political domination, of the monopoly of culture, and of intellectual leadership by a particular class of society, has become not only superfluous but economically, politically, intellectually, a hindrance to development.

This point is now reached. Their political and intellectual bankruptcy is scarcely any longer a secret to the bourgeoisie themselves. Their economic bankruptcy recurs regularly every ten years. In every crisis, society is suffocated beneath the weight of its own productive forces and products, which it cannot use, and stands helpless, face to face with the absurd contradiction that the producers have nothing to consume, because consumers are wanting. The expansive force of the means of production bursts the bonds that the capitalist mode of production had imposed upon them. Their deliverance from these bonds is the one precondition for an unbroken, constantly accelerated development of the productive forces, and therewith for a practically unlimited increase of production itself. Nor is this all. The socialised appropriation of the means of production does away, not only with the present artificial restrictions upon production, but also with the positive waste and devastation of productive forces and products that are at the present time the inevitable concomitants of production, and that reach their height in the crises. Further, it sets free for the community at large a mass of means of production and of products, by doing away with the senseless extravagance of the ruling classes of today and their political representatives. The possibility of securing for every member of society, by means of socialised production, an existence not only fully sufficient materially, and becoming day by day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all the free development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties—this possibility is now for the first time here, but it is here.

With the seizing of the means of production by society, production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears. Then for the first time man, in a certain sense, is finally marked off from the rest of the animal kingdom, and emerges from mere animal conditions of existence into really human ones. The whole sphere of the conditions of life which environ man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the dominion and control of man, who for the first time becomes the real, conscious lord of Nature, because he has now become master of his own social organisation. The laws of his own social action, hitherto standing face to face with man as laws of Nature foreign to, and dominating him, will then be used with full understanding, and so mastered by him. Man’s own social organisation, hitherto confronting him as a necessity imposed by Nature and history, now becomes the result of his own free action. The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will man himself, more and more consciously, make his own history—only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom....

To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and thus the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed proletarian class a full knowledge of the conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific socialism.

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love- Botticelli’s 115th Dream-With Botticelli’s “Venus” In Mind

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love- Botticelli’s 115th Dream-With Botticelli’s “Venus” In Mind

By Special Guest Alex James

[Frankly my oldest brother Alex, who after all is over ten years older than I am, and I have never been all that close. Maybe that is natural due our age differences and of his decided and vocally not wanting to have an unruly younger brother tagging along while he and his vaunted corner boys did their thing. Later the gap widened as his lawyerly pursues were far removed as a rule from my own social and cultural concerns. A few weeks ago though, knowing that I write for a number of blogs, including here at American Left History, and in various smaller print journals he approached me on behalf of he and his “corner boys,” at least the ones still standing some fifty years later, to help organize and write a small tribute booklet in honor of their fallen comrade and fellow corner boy, Peter Paul Markin, who led them west in the great Summer of Love, San Francisco, 1967 explosion. I took on the tasks after Alex explained to me that he had been smitten with a nostalgia bug when he had gone to a legal conference out there by an exhibit at the deYoung Museum out in Frisco town, The Summer of Love Experience, being presented to honor the 50th anniversary of the events of that summer.

Fair enough. I was glad to help out since I only knew the events second-hand and have always been interested in writing about and have written extensively about that period. As a result I had thought that the experience of putting out a small publication where we had to maybe for the first time in our lives work closely together “bonded” Alex and me somewhat. Fair enough again. Now though the guy is all hopped up, maybe showing signs of senility for all I know, about an exhibition he had seen at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts where they have Botticelli’s Venus on display. As far as I know Alex could have given a rat’s ass about art, about the Renaissance back in the day or anything since not connected with his law practice. But the other day he asked me for some space here to talk about how that Botticelli painting at the exhibition reminded him about some love interest he had had during that summer of love period. What can I say. He is after all my brother.  Zack James]       
[I had written the basics of the small piece I wished to present here about a young girl that I had met out in San Francisco, Jewel Night Star, when I was out there after the Scribe [Peter Paul Markin] got a bunch of us to head out west in late summer 1967. (I will explain that whole moniker business, that serious need to “reinvent” ourselves below but just know now that I was always known out there as Cowboy, or Cowboy Angel, depending on my mood, the day, hell maybe the drug intake) That was before I read my youngest brother Zack’s introduction. I felt compelled to add a note here to announce to what he always likes to call a “candid world” that I am neither senile nor have I been in the past, a past Zack, tied up with his various writing projects about times that he has only lived through vicariously totally oblivious to the call of culture, to the call of art and artifact. What more can I say though as he is my host here. Oh, yes, he is also after all my brother. Alex James.]

I would be the last person in the world to deny that memories, good and bad, creep up on a person sometimes in unusual ways. (Of course in my law practice I have had to pay short shrift in general to anything to do with memory on behalf of my clients but that is out of professional necessity to keep the buggers from huge jail time or cash outlays.) Recently this came home to me in a very odd way. I had been out in San Francisco to attend a law conference which I do periodically to confer with other lawyers in my special areas of concern when as I was entering the BART transit station on Powell Street I noticed on a passing bus an advertisement for an exhibition called The Summer of Love Experience being put on at the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that wild west experiment. That set off the first series of memory bells which forced me to take some time out to go see what they had produced about those long ago times.                    

See, strange as it may seem given my subsequent total emergence into my law practice (at times just to keep afloat with three unhappy ex-wives and a parcel of kids, some happy some not, to support which almost killed me about ten years ago with a crush of college tuitions) I had been one of those tens of thousands of young people who drifted west to see what the whole thing was all about in San Francisco in the summer of love, 1967. Zack has probably told you that when I came back from this recent Frisco trip I gathered those of my old hometown corner boys from the Acre section of North Adamsville who as Zack stated were “still standing” to put together a small tribute book in honor of the event dedicated to the memory of the late Peter Paul Markin, the guiding spirit who led us out West like some latter day prophet.  

Mad monk Markin (and he really was we all called him the Scribe after our leader Frankie Riley gave him that moniker  in junior high school after Markin once had written some total bullshit homage to him and it hit the school newspaper and ever after the Scribe was his “flak” writing some stuff that was totally unbelievable about the real Frankie Riley whom we knew was seven kinds of a bastard even then) had gone out in the spring of 1967 after dropping out of Boston University in his sophomore year and had come back in late summer telling us the “newer world” he was always yakking about (and which we previously had given a rat’s ass about) was “happening” out there. He conned, connived, and begged but six of us beside him (and ever after also including Josh Breslin from up in Olde Sacco, Maine whom the Scribe met out in Frisco who was not a North Adamsville corner boy but whom we made one since he was clearly a kindred spirit)   went out and stayed for various lengths of time. I had gone back out with Markin after his “conversion” plea and stayed for about a year, mostly, as with all of us one way or another riding Captain Crunch’s “merry prankster” converted yellow brick road bus (the latter Markin’s term).     

While out there I had many good sexual and social experiences but the best was with a young gal whom I stuck with most of the time who went by the name Jewel Night Star as I went by the names Cowboy or Cowboy Angel depending on my mood. I make no pretense to know all of the psychological and sociological reasons at the time or thereafter but these monikers we hung on ourselves were an attempt to “reinvent” ourselves. Break out of the then conventional nine to five, beat the commies, and buy lots of stuff world our parents tried to drive a nail in our hearts about. Some people changed their monikers, their personas every other week but I stuck with my based on the simple love that I had had for Westerns growing up and since we were in the West it seemed right. Markin’s Be-Bop Kid was an overlay from his hearty interest in the “beats” who by 1967 were passe, who were being superseded by what was beginning to be called the “hippies.” Such were the times. The Jewel Night Star moniker when she told me about it one night was based on her eyes which in a certain light looked like diamonds, like twinkling stars. As long as I knew her she stuck with that moniker as well.            

Funny when I was out in Frisco for the conference and went to the museum I didn’t think anything about her. Had been through a small succession of women after she left the bus and as I have mentioned have had a whole raft of women since then, married and unmarried. I just mainly “dug” the scene at the museum and thought about the great music we heard (when they played White Bird by It’s a Beautiful Day I freaked out since I had not heard that song in ages), about the plentiful and mostly safe dope we did (we had an unwritten pact among the North Adamsville corner boys not to do LSD, “acid” after Markin explained his “bad trip” on the substance and after we had seen more than a few people going crazy at concerts and need medical attention), and about how we could “outrage” bourgeois society by our dress, our free spirits and, well, our goofiness if it came right down to it. (Tweaking those who were trying to drive those nails into our hearts.)

Then last week, or the week before, I got this postcard advertisement from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston asking me to join their membership. (I assume somehow that having paid my admission to the deYoung on-line I had become a prime target for every museum from Portland East to Portland West). The ‘hook” on the other side of the postcard was that with a paid up membership I could see Botticelli’s Venus up close and personal. A view of that image on that postcard lead me directly, I say straight line directly, to my first memories of Jewel Night Star in maybe the fifty years since that summer of 1967 time.         

In the early fall of 1967 Markin and I had hitchhiked out across the whole country to Frisco. (I can see every mother grimace at that idea now, or then for that matter.) I won’t go into the details about how we got out there which I have written about in that tribute book the guys and I put together and Zack edited. Besides this is about Jewel not about some Jack Kerouac On The Road -influenced fling on our parts. Markin had had some contact with this guy, this wild man, Captain Crunch, who had somehow, most people who knew anything about it agreed that it was through a dope deal, gotten a yellow brick road converted school bus which he was travelling on up and down the West Coast picking up kindred spirits and letting them stay in and around the bus. (The attrition rate was pretty high most people staying a few weeks and then getting off or told to find another way to travel by Mustang Sally, the Captain’s sort of girlfriend, I never did figure out their actual relationship in all the time I was on the bus, if they stole stuff, didn’t keep fairly decent personal hygiene or let the drugs make them too weird and in need of some medical help.) When we got out West the Captain’s bus was stationed in Golden Gate Park and after the Scribe (then going under the moniker the Be-Bop kid-no more Scribe okay) introduced us and the Captain thought I was cool (and I thought he was as well) I was “on the bus.”              

A couple of weeks later the Captain was talking about taking a slow trip south to a place in La Jolla for the winter where he had a friend. The idea was that we would “house-sit” what turned out to be a mansion since that friend was one of the first serious high distribution drug dealers getting his product directly from south of the border only thirty or forty miles away in Tijuana.  We were all for it (me since every place was a new place for me in California and I was curious). It was on that trip as we headed toward Big Sur down the Pacific Coast Highway, a place called Todo el Mundo that I met Gail Harrington, Jewel Night Star.

We had stopped at a campsite where there was a party that was still going after about the six days before we got there so everybody was, using a term of art from those days “wasted.” I was grabbing a joint from somebody when this young woman came up to me and asked for a hit, for a “toke” for some grass. Her look. Well just check out the Botticelli Venus above that accompanies this piece and you get an idea. Tall, thin, hair braided, as was the style when a lot of young woman were on the road and didn’t want to, or couldn’t hassle with that daily chore to look beautiful stuff. Just as we guys grew our hair long and grew beards to avoid having the hassle of shaving. She had on a diaphanous kind of granny dress that showed her shape in detail. Nice. The granny dresses also a question of convenience and an expression that a woman’s shape was not as important as whether she was “cool” or not. But the best thing about her beyond being a Botticelli vision, a dream, what did I call it in the title to this piece. Yes, his 115th dream, was that she was very friendly, and a little flirty, in a nice way unlike all the girls from North Adamsville that I knew who might be nice but who thought sex was a mortal sin before marriage, maybe ever.

At first I was a little disoriented when we hit Frisco and joined up with the bus since the girls were really without much guile friendly in a way that it was easier talking to them than the Bible between the knees girls I was used to. By the time we got to Todo el Mundo I had had a few dalliances, a few what we called back in the neighborhood, “one night stands” which didn’t go anywhere and nobody worried about it but I was still unsure about what to expect from the young women who were travelling that same “road” we were travelling. So I was kind of shy a little around Jewel at first since she struck me as something out of the Renaissance, something out a painting by Botticelli who before he “got religion” later in his life under the influence of Savonarola which I had seen in an art book when I was taking an art course in high school (and have been unable to find in recent Internet searches looking for that exact painting). They were mostly young countesses and merchants’ daughters who had time on their hands and whom Botticelli was interested in painting for profit and for a different look than the inevitable Holy Family, Jesus, religious paintings that were becoming overdone and passe. (I thought it was funny how many of his young women looked like Northern European women since I had a fixed idea of dark-eyed, dark haired, dark complexion Italian women who I saw at school or in the Little Italy neighborhood that started about ten blocks from the Irish-dominated Acre.)              

Well Jewel was not from Renaissance Italy but from Grand Rapids in Michigan. Had come west when she finished her first year at Michigan after she had heard one night on a date what the folk singer at the club she was attending talked about the music explosion going on out there. She had been out for several months and had headed south to Todo el Mundo when she thought things had gotten too weird in San Francisco. She had hitchhiked down with a guy who was heading further south to Los Angles but she was just then content to stay along the rugged rural coast for a while. Which she would have done for longer she said except when I asked to travel south on the bus she agreed. But that was a few weeks later.           

I suppose I have been somewhat beaten down in the women department because I had forgotten how easy to be with. Jewel was, I guess, thinking back she was one of those “flower children” that we kept hearing about. Meaning nothing more than she was whimsical, was relatively hassle-free and liked nothing better than to roam the hills around Todo el Mundo and the hardscrabble beaches in the area. With me in tow.  All of this may sound kind of simple-minded, kind of what is the big deal about his woman. But look at the look of Venus above, look at that faraway look and that twisting of her braids and you will get an idea of what Jewel was like. Look at Botticelli’s Venus eyes and you will see the same night star that I finally saw in Jewel’s.     

Like I said we stayed together more or less for most of that year I was out there until in the spring of 1968 Jewel said she was getting tired of the road and wanted to either settle down out in the desert, out in Joshua Tree where several communal groups were being formed or head back home to school. I didn’t like either idea although a few months later I would head back east to finish college. We agreed that our paths were going in different directions and one day she told me that she had purchased a bus ticket to Joshua Tree (actually when I went out there many years later Twenty-nine Palms the nearest bus stop then). The next day was the last day I saw her. Although we had agreed to keep in touch that like a lot of things in those days it never happened.  I wonder if she is still alive wherever she is if those eyes of hers still sparkle in a certain angle like a night star. I hope so.