Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The Face (Book) Photo That Launched A Thousand Clicks- Or “Foul-Mouth” Phil Hits Pay-Dirt-Finally-With The Coasters Under The Boardwalk In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The Face (Book) Photo That Launched A Thousand Clicks- Or “Foul-Mouth” Phil Hits Pay-Dirt-Finally-With The Coasters Under The Boardwalk In Mind

By Allan Jackson

[Once a corner boy always a corner boy as it turns out as the sketch below amply demonstrates. One of the pinnacles of corner boy-dom being always, and now apparently forever until some dying breathe, ready for the main chance-the main chance to grab (not literally in these #MeToo times-okay) some woman out of nowhere. Funny when I conceived of the rock and roll series I had expected the whole thing to revolve around the past and not have the fate of those characters still standing fifty years later come into play. So of course along the period of the two or three years that the series ran a few OMG situations cried out for coverage. Naturally Phil Larkin, a still standee, was a prime candidate if something weird turned up. And old brother Phil, a stand up corner boy in his day, did not fail us. Allan Jackson]          


Yes, I know. I know damn well that I should not indulge my seemingly endlessly sex-haunted old-time corner boys. After all this space is nothing but a high-tone “high communist” propaganda outlet on most days –good days (“red” according to those very same corner boys who thought anything to the left of Genghis Khan in the old days was redder than the sun echoing an old history teacher of mine who unhappy with a surly answer I had given him had called me a “Bolshevik,” or rather asked that as question and Timmy Murphy one of the corner boys who was there in the class after he said that never let me live that one down so I am used to that velvet-handed red-baiting). I should, moreover, not indulge a “mere” part-timer at our old North Adamsville Salducci’s Pizza Parlor hang-out be-bop night “up the Downs” like one “Foul-Mouth” Phil Larkin. (For those who do not know what that reference refers to don’t worry you all had your own “up the Downs” and your own corner boys, or mall rats as the case may be, who hung out there.) Despite his well-known, almost automatic, foul mouth in the old days Phil had his fair share, more than his fair share given that mouth, of luck with the young women (girls, in the old days, okay). I am still mad at him for “stealing” my old-time neighborhood heartthrob, Millie Callahan, right from under my nose. (And right in the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church after Mass to boot. If he is still a believer he stands condemned. No mercy. As for me, an old heathen, I was just glad that I stared at her ass during Mass. I stand condemned anyway, if things get worked out that way).

Well, that was then and now is now and if you read about “poor” Phil Larkin’s trials and tribulations with the ladies recently in a sketch entitled Sexless sex sites you know that his old Irish blarney ( I am being kind to the old geezer here) had finally given out and that he was scoreless lately. That is he was scoreless as of that writing. As Phil pointed out to me personally as part of our conversations while I was editing his story on that one he felt that he would have had better luck with finding a woman companion (for whatever purpose) by just randomly calling up names in the telephone directory than from that “hot” sex site that he found himself embroiled in. And, in an earlier time, he might have been right.

But we are now in the age of so-called “social networking” (of which this space, as an Internet-driven format is a part) and so, by hook or by crook, someone placed his story (or rather, more correctly, my post from this blog) on his Facebook wall. As a result of that “click” Phil is now “talking” to a young (twenty-something) woman graduate student from Penn State (that is why just a few minutes ago he was yelling “Go, Nittany Lions” in my ear over the cell phone) and is preparing to head to the rolling Appalachian hills of Pennsylvania for a “date” with said twenty-something. Go figure, right? So my placement of this saga, or rather part two of the saga (mercifully there will be no more), is really being done in the interest of my obscure sense of completeness rather than “mere” indulgence of an old-time corner boy. As always I disclaim, and disclaim loudly for the world to hear, that while I have helped edit this story this is the work of one “Foul-Mouth” Phil Larkin, formerly of North Adamsville and now on some twisted, windy road heading to central Pennsylvania.

Phil Larkin comment:

Jesus, that Peter Paul Markin is a piece of work. Always rubbing in that “foul-mouth” thing. But I guess I did get the better of him on that Millie Callahan thing back in the day and he did provide me a “life-line” just now with his posting of my story on his damn communist-addled blog. It is a good thing we go back to “up the Downs” time and that I am not a “snitch” because some of the stuff that I have read from him here should, by rights, be reported directly to J. Edgar Hoover, or whoever is running the F.B.I., if anybody is. We can discuss that another time because I don’t have time to be bothered by any such small stuff. Not today. Not since I hit “pay-dirt” with my little Heloise. Yes, an old-fashioned name, at least I haven’t heard the name used much lately for girls, but very new-fashioned in her ideas. 
She is a twenty-five graduate student from Penn State and I am, as I speak, getting ready to roll out down the highway for our first “in person” meet.
You all know, or should be presumed to know to use a Markinism (Christ, we still call his silly little terms that name even forty years later), that I was having a little temporary trouble finding my life’s companion through sex sites. I told that story before and it is not worth going into here. [Markin: Fifty years Phil, and every other guy (or gal) from the Class of 1964. Do the math. I hope you didn’t try to con Heloise with that “youthful” fifty-something gag-christ, right back to you, Phil.] Let me tell you this one though because it had done nothing but restore my faith in modern technology.

Little communist propaganda front or not, Peter Paul’s blog goes out into the wilds of cyberspace almost daily (and it really should be reported to the proper authorities now that I have read his recent screeds on a Russian Bolshevik guy named Trotsky who is some kind of messiah to Markin and his crowd). So a few weeks ago somebody, somehow ( I am foggy, just like Markin, on the mechanics of the thing, although I know it wasn’t some Internet god making “good” cyberspace vibes or anything like that) picked it up and place it (linked it) on his Facebook wall ( I think that is the proper word). Let’s call him Bill Riley (not his real name and that is not important anyway) Now I don’t know if you know how this Facebook thing works, although if you don’t then you are among the three, maybe four, people over the age of five that doesn’t.

Here’s what I have gathered. Bill Riley set up an account with his e-mail address, provided some information about himself and his interests and waited for the deluge of fan responses and “social-connectedness” (Markin’s word). Well, not exactly wait. Every day in every way you are inundated with photos of people you may know, may not know, or may or may not want to know and you can add them to your “friends” pile (assuming they “confirm” you request for friendship). Easy, right?

Well, yes easy is right because many people will, as I subsequently found out, confirm you as a friend for no other reason than that you “asked” them to include you. Click- confirm. Boom. This, apparently, is what happened when Bill “saw” Heloise’s photo. I found out later, after “talking” to Heloise for a while, that she did not know Bill Riley or much about him except that he has a wall on Facebook. So the weird part is that Bill “introduced” us, although neither Heloise nor I know Bill. This has something Greek comedic, or maybe a Shakespeare idea, about it, for sure. In any case Heloise, as a sociology graduate student at Penn State, took an interest in the “sexless” sex site angle for some study she was doing around her thesis and, by the fates, got hooked into the idea that she wanted to interview me about my experiences, and other related matters.

Without going into all the details that you probably know already I “joined” Bill Riley’s Facebook friends cabal and through him his “friend” Helosie contacted me about an interview. Well, we “chatted” for a while one day and she asked some questions and I asked others in my most civilized manner. What I didn’t know, and call me stupid for not knowing, was that Heloise not only was a “friend” of Bill’s but, unlike me (or so I thought), had her own Facebook page with photos. Now her photo on Bill’s wall was okay but, frankly, she looked just like about ten thousand other earnest female twenty-something graduate students. You know, from hunger. But not quite because daddy or mommy or somebody is paying the freight to let their son or daughter not face reality for a couple more years in some graduate program where they can “discover” themselves. Of course, naturally old cavalier that I am said, while we were chatting, that she was attractive, and looked energetic and smart and all that stuff. You know the embedded male thing with any woman, young or old, that looks the least bit “hit-worthy.” (Embedded is Markin’s word, sorry.)That photo still is on Bill’s wall and if I had only seen that one I would still be sitting in some lounge whiskey sipping my life away.

Heloise’s “real” photos, taken at some Florida beach during Spring break, showed a very fetching (look it up in the dictionary if you don’t know what that old-time word means) young woman that in her bikini had me going. Let’s put it this way I wrote her the following little “note” after I got an eyeful:

“Hi Heloise - Recently I made a comment, after I first glanced at your photo wall, that you looked fetching (read, attractive, enchanting, hot, and so on). On that first glance I, like any red-blooded male under the age of one hundred, and maybe over that for all I know, got a little heated up. Now I have had a change to cool down, well a little anyway, and on second peek I would have to say you are kind of, sort of, in a way, well, okay looking. Now that I can be an objective observer I noticed that one of your right side eyelashes is one mm, or maybe two, off-balance from the left side. 

Fortunately I have the “medicine” to cure you. If you don’t mind living with your hideous asymmetrical deformation that is up to you. I will still be your friend. But if you were wondering, deep in the night, the sleepless night, why you have so few male Facebook friends or why guys in droves are passing your page by there you have it. Later-Phil.”

The famous old reverse play that has been around for a million years, right? Strictly the blarney, right? [Markin: Right, Phil, right as ever]. That little literary gem however started something in her, some need for an older man to tell her troubles to or something. And from there we started to “talk” more personally and more seriously. See I had it all wrong about her being sheltered out there in the mountains by mom and dad keeping her out of harm’s way until she “found” herself. No, Heloise was working, and working hard, to make ends meet and working on her doctorate at the same time. Her story, really, without the North Adamsville corner boy thing, would be something any of us Salducci’s guys would understand without question. (I was not a part-time corner boy by the way, except by Frankie Riley’s 24/7/365 standards and The Scribe’s). [Markin: Watch it, Phil. I told you not to use that nickname anymore.] I’ll tell you her story sometime depending on how things work but right now I am getting ready to go get a tank full of gas and think a little about those photos that launched a thousand clicks.

Markin comment:

Phil, like I said to Johnny Silver about what people might say about his little teeny-bopper love. Go for it. Don’t watch out. And like I said before we had better get to that “communist” future you keep thinking I think we all need pretty damn quick if for no other reason than to get some sexual breathes of fresh air that such a society promises.

Life According To The Mayfair Swells-Dick Powell’s “Happiness Ahead” (1934)-A Film Review

Life According To The Mayfair Swells-Dick Powell’s “Happiness Ahead” (1934)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Frank Jackman

Happiness Ahead, starring crooner cum actor Dick Powell, Josephine Hutchison, 1934

I am not exactly sure why I drew this film review assignment, an area which I haven’t dealt with much over the past several years doing mostly political commentary during that time. I have a sneaking suspicion current site manager Greg Green, who is the guy who after all makes the assignments of late, has an idea that I will make some pithy social and political comments about the time frame and content of this Happiness Ahead I am stuck with reviewing. A title which while it was produced in the heart of the 1930s Great Depression (I noted the National Recovery Act, NRA, logo a sure fire way to tell the times) could have been the campaign theme of any President or presidential candidate from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Donald J. Trump.

In any case I am sure Greg was not under the impression that he was trying to “broaden my horizons” with this assignment like he had increasingly tried to use as a reason among the younger writers. He knows, and if he does not I am here to tell him, that I was looking to mine political gold from such socially conscious 1930s films which were a specialty of Warner Brother films when he was reviewing B-film horror movies as a stringer for the American Film Gazette. Now if he assigned this beast under the sign of a 1930s “slice of life” nugget to be gleaned then all is forgiven and he will have hit the nail on the head as to why today’s readers would give a damn about this soapy romance posing as a tribute to the possibilities of the American Dream even when the soup kitchens were lengthening, banks were going bust, houses where being foreclosed, shanty camps were establishing new postal zones, and most germane, New York City financiers were jumping out of freshly “massaged” skyscraper windows.         

Wow the reader might ask all out of a film which is about the budding romance of a daughter of the Mayfair swells out slumming and an up and coming white collar go-getter and side door Johnny crooner in the pocket of Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jack Sampson and the like. Well, yes, since as I mentioned Warner Brothers was in love with these social uplift sagas as long as they had enough boy meets girl, or is it girl meets boy here, to avoid some right-wing agents’ accusations of Communist International allegiance. Ms. Smith, in really Joan Bradford, played by 1930s film sweetheart Josephine Hutchison, of the very, very Mayfair swells Bradfords who first reached these shores on the old tug The Mayflower and who had ridden out the first rush of the Great Depression pretty well since Father Bradford not only did not jump out of some Windex skyscraper window but is around to advise his young daughter on the dangers of upsetting high society mother and her “plans” for an upscale marriage and doing what she damn well pleased attempts a jail break-out from the stifling confines of New York high society and a horrible marriage to some male scion of another such family. Fair enough.    

One New Year’s night Joan goes slumming amongst the ordinary folk and winds alone in a Chinese jazz joint where she “meets” Bob, get this Bob Lane, all-American Bob Lane, played by crooner Dick Powell last seen in this space as Phillip Marlowe getting knocked around, drugged and kicked in the teeth by some evil high society forces who don’t want him to find his Velma for the Moose in the film adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely dubbed Murder, My Sweet on the screen. One thing leads to another and they get dated up although dear Joan has to go through about six ruses to “prove” she is just ordinary folk. Joan is so starved for reasonable social interaction she plays along for a while even going with Bob to totally plebian roller skating and such holy goof stuff to be at one with the masses.  

Naturally, and that is exactly the right word, this pair are smitten. Big problem though is that while Bob is a go-getter right at that moment he is nothing but a cheapjack office manager for a company who washes the windows of half the skyscrapers in New York City. He has dreams though of running his own window washing company and there is the rub. No dough, or not enough dough and Mother Bradford of the very, very Bradfords is not going to have a window-washer for a son-in-law. That is when Joan to help things along made what looked like a fatal mistake by getting her Daddy Warbucks father to front the necessary dough and thereby incurring the manly wrath on one Robert Lane who finally gets wise to who his sweetie really is. I hope you were paying attention because I already told you this was a boy meets girl story and therefore requires the adequate happy ending, here happiness ahead ending of the title. Bob a little miffed but still head over heels for Joan (which you can tell is true since every once in a while a song telegraphs his desires) and after working out man to man a deal with her father the deal is done. Hope this has broadened your horizons.  

Celebrate May Day-The International Workers Holiday-Boston Common-Tuesday May 1st-5 PM

Celebrate May Day-The International Workers Holiday-Boston Common-Tuesday May 1st-5 PM   

Songwriters' Corner- Spain 1936- The Irish Connection In Honor Of The Anniversary Of the Easter Uprising

Songwriters' Corner- Spain 1936- The Irish Connection

In Honor Of The Anniversary Of the Easter Uprising

A word on the Easter Uprising

In the old Irish working-class neighborhoods where I grew up the aborted Easter Uprising of 1916 was spoken of in mythical hushed reverent tones as the key symbol of the modern Irish liberation struggle from bloody England. The event itself provoked such memories of heroic “boyos”  (and “girlos” not acknowledged) fighting to the end against great odds that a careful analysis of what could, and could not be, learned from the mistakes made at the time entered my head. That was then though in the glare of boyhood infatuations. Now is the time for a more sober assessment. 

The easy part of analyzing the Irish Easter Uprising of 1916 is first and foremost the knowledge, in retrospect, that it was not widely supported by people in Ireland, especially by the “shawlies” in Dublin and the cities who received their sons’ military pay from the Imperial British Army for service in the bloody trenches of Europe which sustained them throughout the war. That factor and the relative ease with which the uprising had been militarily defeated by the British forces send in main force to crush it lead easily to the conclusion that the adventure was doomed to failure. Still easier is to criticize the timing and the strategy and tactics of the planned action and of the various actors, particularly in the leadership’s underestimating the British Empire’s frenzy to crush any opposition to its main task of victory in World War I. (Although, I think that frenzy on Mother England’s part would be a point in the uprising’s favor under the theory that England’s [or fill in the blank of your favorite later national liberation struggle] woes were Ireland’s [or fill in the blank ditto on the your favorite oppressed peoples struggle] opportunities.

The hard part is to draw any positive lessons of that national liberation struggle experience for the future. If nothing else remember this though, and unfortunately the Irish national liberation fighters (and other national liberation fighters later, including later Irish revolutionaries) failed to take this into account in their military calculations, the British (or fill in the blank) were savagely committed to defeating the uprising including burning that colonial country to the ground if need be in order to maintain control. In the final analysis, it was not part of their metropolitan homeland, so the hell with it. Needless to say, cowardly British Labor’s position was almost a carbon copy of His Imperial Majesty’s. Labor Party leader Arthur Henderson could barely contain himself when informed that James Connolly had been executed. That should, even today, make every British militant blush with shame. Unfortunately, the demand for British militants and others today is the same as then if somewhat attenuated- All British Troops Out of Ireland.

In various readings on national liberation struggles I have come across a theory that the Easter Uprising was the first socialist revolution in Europe, predating the Bolshevik Revolution by over a year. Unfortunately, there is little truth to that idea. Of the Uprising’s leaders only James Connolly was devoted to the socialist cause. Moreover, while the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army were prototypical models for urban- led national liberation forces such organizations, as we have witnessed in later history, are not inherently socialistic. The dominant mood among the leadership was in favor of political independence and/or fighting for a return to a separate traditional Irish cultural hegemony. (“Let poets rule the land”).

As outlined in the famous Proclamation of the Republic posted on the General Post Office in Dublin, Easter Monday, 1916 the goal of the leadership appeared to be something on the order of a society like those fought for in the European Revolutions of 1848, a left bourgeois republic. A formation on the order of the Paris Commune of 1871 where the working class momentarily took power or the Soviet Commune of 1917 which lasted for a longer period did not figure in the political calculations at that time. As noted above, James Connolly clearly was skeptical of his erstwhile comrades on the subject of the nature of the future state and apparently was prepared for an ensuing class struggle following the establishment of a republic.

That does not mean that revolutionary socialists could not support such an uprising. On the contrary, Lenin, who was an admirer of Connolly for his anti-war stance in World War I, and Trotsky stoutly defended the uprising against those who derided the Easter rising for involving bourgeois elements. Participation by bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements is in the nature of a national liberation struggle. The key, which must be learned by militants today, is who leads the national liberation struggle and on what program. As both Lenin and Trotsky made clear later in their own experiences in Russia revolutionary socialists have to lead other disaffected elements of society to overthrow the existing order. There is no other way in a heterogeneous class-divided society. Moreover, in Ireland, the anti-imperialist nature of the action against British imperialism during wartime on the socialist principle that the defeat of your own imperialist overlord in war as a way to open the road to the class struggle merited support on that basis alone. Chocky Ar La.

Peter Paul Markin Commentary

I have spilled no small amount of ink, and gladly, writing about the heroic military role of those Americans who fought in the American-led Abraham Lincoln Battalion of 15th International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. The song "Viva La Quince Brigada" can apply to those of other nationalities who fought bravely for the Republican side in that conflict. Here's a take from the Irish perspective. Note the name Frank Ryan included here, a real hero of that operation.

Viva La Quince Brigada
(Christy Moore)

Ten years before I saw the light of morning

A comradeship of heroes was laid.

From every corner of the world came sailing

The Fifteenth International Brigade.

They came to stand beside the Spanish people.

To try and stem the rising Fascist tide

Franco's allies were the powerful and wealthy,

Frank Ryan's men came from the other side.

Even the olives were bleeding

As the battle for Madrid it thundered on.

Truth and love against the force af evil,

Brotherhood against the Fascist clan.

Vive La Quince Brigada!

"No Paseran" the pledge that made them fight.

"Adelante" was the cry around the hillside.

Let us all remember them tonight.

Bob Hillard was a Church of Ireland pastor;

From Killarney across the Pyrenees ho came.

From Derry came a brave young Christian Brother.

Side by side they fought and died in Spain.

Tommy Woods, aged seventeen, died in Cordoba.

With Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun.

From Dublin to the Villa del Rio

Where he fought and died beneath the Spanish sun.

Many Irishmen heard the call of Franco.

Joined Hitler and Mussolini too.

Propaganda from the pulpit and newspapers

Helped O'Duffy to enlist his crew.

The word came from Maynooth: 'Support the Fascists.'

The men of cloth failed yet again

When the bishops blessed the blueshirts in Dun Laoghaire

As they sailed beneath the swastika to Spain.

This song is a tribute to Frank Ryan.

Kit Conway and Dinny Coady too.

Peter Daly, Charlie Regan and Hugh Bonar.

Though many died I can but name a few.

Danny Doyle, Blaser-Brown and Charlie Donnelly.

Liam Tumilson and Jim Straney from the Falls.

Jack Nally, Tommy Patton and Frank Conroy,

Jim Foley, Tony Fox and Dick O'Neill.

Written in 1983

Copyright Christy Moore


Here are a couple more Yeats classics.


by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

"The Second Coming" is reprinted from Michael Robartes and the Dancer. W.B. Yeats. New York: Macmillan, 1921.


by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

HE that but little patience knew,

From childhood on, had now so much

A grey gull lost its fear and flew

Down to her cell and there alit,

And there endured her fingers' touch

And from her fingers ate its bit.

Did she in touching that lone wing

Recall the years before her mind

Became a bitter, an abstract thing,

Her thought some popular enmity:

Blind and leader of the blind

Drinking the foul ditch where they lie?

When long ago I saw her ride

Under Ben Bulben to the meet,

The beauty of her country-side

With all youth's lonely wildness stirred,

She seemed to have grown clean and sweet

Like any rock-bred, sea-borne bird:

Sea-borne, or balanced in the air

When first it sprang out of the nest

Upon some lofty rock to stare

Upon the cloudy canopy,

While under its storm-beaten breast

Cried out the hollows of the sea.

"On a Political Prisoner" is reprinted from Michael Robartes and the Dancer. W.B. Yeats. New York: Macmillan, 1921.

An Encore Presentation-The Big Sur Café- With The “King Of The Beats” Jean-bon Kerouac In Mind

An Encore Presentation-The Big Sur Café- With The “King Of The Beats” Jean-bon Kerouac In Mind  

From The Pen Of Zack James

Josh Breslin, as he drove in the pitch black night up California Highway 156 to connect with U.S. 101 and the San Francisco Airport back to Boston was thinking furious thought, fugitive thoughts about what had happened on this his umpteenth trip to California. Thoughts that would carry him to the  airport road and car rental return on arrival there and then after the swift airbus to his terminal the flight home to Logan and then up to his old hometown of Olde Saco to which he had recently returned. Returned after long years of what he called “shaking the dust of the old town” off his shoes like many a guy before him, and after too. But now along the road to the airport he had thought that it had been a long time since he had gotten up this early to head, well, to head anywhere.

He had in an excess of caution decided to leave at three o’clock in the morning from the hotel he had been staying at in downtown Monterrey near famous Cannery Row (romantically and literarily famous as a scene in some of John Steinbeck’s novels from the 1920s and 1930s, as a site of some of the stop-off 1950s “beat” stuff if for no other reason than the bus stopped there before you took a taxi to Big Sur or thumbed depending on your finances and as famed 1960s Pops musical locale where the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin rose to the cream on top although now just another tourist magnet complete with Steinbeck this and that for sullen shoppers and diners who found their way east of Eden) and head up to the airport in order to avoid the traffic jams that he had inevitably encountered on previous trips around farm country Gilroy (the garlic or onion capital of the world, maybe both, but you got that strong smell in any case), and high tech Silicon Valley where the workers are as wedded to their automobiles as any other place in America which he too would pass on the way up.

This excess of caution not a mere expression of an old man who is mired in a whole cycle of cautions from doctors to lawyers to ex-wives to current flame (Lana Malloy by name) since his flight was not to leave to fly Boston until about noon and even giving the most unusual hold-ups and delays in processings at the airport he would not need to arrive there to return his rented car until about ten. So getting up some seven hours plus early on a trip of about one hundred miles or so and normally without traffic snarls about a two hour drive did seem an excess of caution.

But something else was going on in Josh’s mind that pitch black night (complete with a period of dense fog about thirty miles up as he hit a seashore belt and the fog just rolled in without warnings) for he had had the opportunity to have avoided both getting up early and getting snarled in hideous California highway traffic by the expedient of heading to the airport the previous day and taken refuge in a motel that was within a short distance of the airport, maybe five miles when he checked on his loyalty program hotel site. Josh though had gone down to Monterey after a writers’ conference in San Francisco which had ended a couple of days before in order travel to Big Sur and some ancient memories there had stirred something in him that he did not want to leave the area until the last possible moment so he had decided to stay in Monterrey and leave early in the morning for the airport.

That scheduled departure plan set Josh then got an idea in his head, an idea that had driven him many times before when he had first gone out to California in the summer of love, 1967 version, that he would dash to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun came up and then head to the airport. He had to laugh, as he threw an aspirin down his throat and then some water to wash the tablet down in order to ward off a coming migraine headache that the trip, that this little trip to Big Sur that he had finished the day before, the first time in maybe forty years he had been there had him acting like a young wild kid again.        

Funny as well that only a few days before he had been tired, very tired a condition that came on him more often of late as one of the six billion “growing old sucks” symptoms of that process, after the conference. Now he was blazing trails again, at least in his mind. The conference on the fate of post-modern writing in the age of the Internet with the usual crowd of literary critics and other hangers-on in tow to drink the free liquor and eat the free food had been sponsored by a major publishing company, The Globe Group. He had written articles for The Blazing Sun when the original operation had started out as a shoestring alternative magazine in the Village in about 1968, had started out as an alternative to Time, Life, Newsweek, Look, an alternative to all the safe subscription magazines delivered to leafy suburban homes and available at urban newsstands for the nine to fivers of the old world for those who, by choice, had no home, leafy or otherwise, and no serious work history.

Or rather the audience pitched to had no fixed abode, since the brethren were living some vicarious existences out of a knapsack just like Josh and his friends whom he collected along the way had been doing when he joined Captain Crunch’s merry pranksters (small case to distinguish them from the more famous Ken Kesey mad monk Merry Pranksters written about in their time by Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson) the first time he came out and found himself on Russian Hill in Frisco town looking for dope and finding this giant old time yellow brick road converted school bus parked in a small park there and made himself at home, after they made him welcome (including providing some sweet baby James dope that he had been searching for since the minute he hit town).

Still the iterant, the travelling nation hippie itinerants of the time to draw a big distinction from the winos, drunks, hoboes, bums and tramps who populated the “jungle” camps along railroad tracks, arroyos, river beds and under bridges who had no use for magazines or newspapers except as pillows against a hard night’s sleep along a river or on those unfriendly chairs at the Greyhound bus station needed, wanted to know what was going on in other parts of “youth nation,” wanted to know what new madness was up, wanted to know where to get decent dope, and who was performing and where in the acid-rock etched night (groups like the Dead, the Doors, the Airplane leading the pack then).

That magazine had long ago turned the corner back to Time/Life/Look/Newsweek land but the publisher Mac McDowell who still sported mutton chop whiskers as he had in the old days although these days he has them trimmed by his stylist, Marcus, at a very steep price at his mansion up in Marin County always invited him out, and paid his expenses, whenever there was a conference about some facet of the 1960s that the younger “post-modernist”  writers in his stable (guys like Kenny Johnson the author of the best-seller Thrill  were asking about as material for future books about the heady times they had been too young, in some cases way to young to know about personally or even second-hand). So Mac would bring out wiry, wily old veterans like Josh to spice up what after all would be just another academic conference and to make Mac look like some kind of hipster rather than the balding “sell-out" that he had become (which Josh had mentioned in his conference presentation but which Mac just laughed at, laughed at just as long as he can keep that Marin mansion. Still Josh felt he provided some useful background stuff now that you can find lots of information about that 1960s “golden age” (Mac’s term not his) to whet your appetite on Wikipedia or more fruitfully by going on YouTube where almost all the music of the time and other ephemera can be watched with some benefit.

Despite Josh’s tiredness, and a bit of crankiness as well when the young kid writers wanted to neglect the political side, the Vietnam War side, the rebellion against parents side of what the 1960s had been about for the lowdown on the rock festival, summer of love, Golden Gate Park at sunset loaded with dope and lack of hubris side, he decided to take a few days to go down to see Big Sur once again. He figured who knew when he would get another chance and at the age of seventy-two the actuarial tables were calling his number, or wanted to. He would have preferred to have taken the trip down with Lana, a hometown woman, whom he had finally settled in with up in Olde Saco after three, count them, failed marriages, a parcel of kids most of whom turned out okay, plenty of college tuitions and child support after living in Watertown just outside of Boston for many years.

Lana a bit younger than he and not having been “washed clean” as Josh liked to express the matter in the hectic 1960s and not wanting to wait around a hotel room reading a book or walking around Frisco alone while he attended the conference had begged off on the trip, probably wisely although once he determined to go to Big Sur and told her where he was heading she got sort of wistful. She had just recently read with extreme interest about Big Sur through her reading of Jack Kerouac’s 1960s book of the same name and had asked Josh several times before that if they went to California on a vacation other than San Diego they would go there. The long and short of that conversation was a promise by Josh to take her the next time, if there was a next time (although he did not put the proposition in exactly those terms).            

Immediately after the conference Josh headed south along U.S. 101 toward Monterrey where he would stay and which would be his final destination that day since he would by then be tired and it would be nighttime coming early as the November days got shorter. He did not want to traverse the Pacific Coast Highway (California 1 for the natives) at night since he had forgotten his distance glasses, another one of those six billion reasons why getting old sucks. Had moreover not liked to do that trip along those hairpin turns which the section heading toward Big Sur entailed riding the guardrails even back in his youth since one time having been completely stoned on some high-grade Panama Red he had almost sent a Volkswagen bus over the top when he missed a second hairpin turn after traversing the first one successfully. So he would head to Monterrey and make the obligatory walk to Cannery Row for dinner and in order to channel John Steinbeck and the later “beats” who would stop there before heading to fallout Big Sur.

The next morning Josh left on the early side not being very hungry after an excellent fish dinner at Morley’s a place that had been nothing but a hash house diner in the old days where you could get serviceable food cheap because the place catered to the shore workers and sardine factory workers who made Cannery Row famous, or infamous, when it was a working Row. He had first gone there after reading about the place in something Jack Kerouac wrote and was surprised that the place actually existed, had liked the food and the prices and so had gone there a number of times when his merry pranksters and other road companions were making the obligatory Frisco-L.A. runs up and down the coast. These days Morley’s still had excellent food but perhaps you should bring a credit card with you to insure you can handle the payment and avoid “diving for pearls” as a dish-washer to pay off your debts.      

As Josh started up the engine of his rented Acura, starting up on some of the newer cars these days being a matter of stepping on the brake and then pushing a button where the key used to go in this keyless age, keyless maybe a metaphor of the age as well, he had had to ask the attendant at the airport how to start the thing since his own car was a keyed-up Toyota of ancient age, he began to think back to the old days when he would make this upcoming run almost blind-folded. That term maybe a metaphor for that age. He headed south to catch the Pacific Coast Highway north of Carmel and thought he would stop at Point Lobos, the place he had first encountered the serious beauty of the Pacific Coast rocks and ocean wave splash reminding him of back East in Olde Saco, although more spectacular. Also the place when he had first met Moonbeam Sadie.

He had had to laugh when he thought about that name and that woman since a lot of what the old days, the 1960s had been about were tied up with his relationship to that woman, the first absolutely chemically pure version of a “hippie chick” that he had encountered. At that time Josh had been on the Captain Crunch merry prankster yellow brick road bus for a month or so and a couple of days before they had started heading south from Frisco to Los Angeles to meet up with a couple of other yellow brick road buses where Captain Crunch knew some kindred. As they meandered down the Pacific Coast Highway they would stop at various places to take in the beauty of the ocean since several of the “passengers” had never seen the ocean or like Josh had never seen the Pacific in all its splendor.

In those days, unlike now when the park closes at dusk as Josh found out, you could park your vehicle overnight and take in the sunset and endlessly listen to the surf splashing up to rocky shorelines until you fell asleep. So when their bus pulled into the lot reserved for larger vehicles there were a couple of other clearly “freak” buses already there. One of them had Moonbeam as a “passenger” whom he would meet later that evening when all of “youth nation” in the park decided to have a dope- strewn party. Half of the reason for joining up on bus was for a way to travel, for a place to hang your hat but it was also the easiest way to get on the dope trail since somebody, usually more than one somebody was “holding.” And so that night they partied, partied hard. 

About ten o’clock Josh high as a kite from some primo hash saw a young woman, tall, sort of skinny (he would find out later she had not been so slim previously except the vagaries of the road food and a steady diet of “speed” had taken their toll), long, long brown hair, a straw hat on her head, a long “granny” dress and barefooted the very picture of what Time/Life/Look would have used as their female “hippie” poster child to titillate their middle-class audiences coming out of one of the buses. She had apparently just awoken, although that seemed impossible given the noise level from the collective sound systems and the surf, and was looking for some dope to level her off and headed straight to Josh.

Josh had at that time long hair tied in a ponytail, at least that night, a full beard, wearing a cowboy hat on his head, a leather jacket against the night’s cold, denim blue jeans and a pair of moccasins not far from what Time/Life/Look would have used as their male “hippie” poster child to titillate their middle-class audiences so Moonbeam’s heading Josh’s way was not so strange. Moreover Josh was holding a nice stash of hashish. Without saying a word Josh passed the hash pipe to Moonbeam and by that mere action started a “hippie” romance that would last for the next several months until Moonbeam decided she was not cut out for the road, couldn’t take the life, and headed back to Lima, Ohio to sort out her life.

But while they were on their “fling” Moonbeam taught “Cowboy Jim,” her new name for him, many things. Josh thought it was funny thinking back how wedded to the idea of changing their lives they were back then including taking new names, monikers, as if doing so would create the new world by osmosis or something. He would have several other monikers like the “Prince of Love,” the Be-Bop Kid (for his love of jazz and blues), and Sidewalk Slim (for always writing something in chalk wherever he had sidewalk space to do so) before he left the road a few years later and stayed steady with his journalism after that high, wide, wild life lost it allure as the high tide of the 1960s ebbed and people drifted back to their old ways. But Cowboy Jim was what she called Josh and he never minded her saying that.

See Moonbeam really was trying to seek the newer age, trying to find herself as they all were more or less, but also let her better nature come forth. And she did in almost every way from her serious study of Buddhism, her yoga (well before that was fashionable among the young), and her poetry writing. But most of all in the kind, gentle almost Quaker way that she dealt with people, on or off drugs, the way she treated her Cowboy. Josh had never had such a gentle lover, never had such a woman who not only tried to understand herself but to understand him. More than once after she left the bus (she had joined the Captain Crunch when the bus left Point Lobos a few days later now that she was Cowboy’s sweetheart) he had thought about heading to Lima and try to work something out but he was still seeking something out on the Coast that held him back until her memory faded a bit and he lost the thread of her).          

Yeah, Point Lobos held some ancient memories and that day the surf was up and Mother Nature was showing one and all who cared to watch just how relentless she could be against the defenseless rocks and shoreline. If he was to get to Big Sur though he could not dally since he did not want to be taking that hairpin stretch at night. So off he went. Nothing untoward happened on the road to Big Sur, naturally he had to stop at the Bixby Bridge to marvel at the vista but also at the man-made marvel of traversing that canyon below with this bridge in 1932. Josh though later that it was not exactly correct that nothing untoward happened on the road to Big Sur but that was not exactly true for he was white-knuckled driving for that several mile stretch where the road goes up mostly and there are many hairpin turns with no guardrail and the ocean is a long way down. He thought he really was becoming an old man in his driving so cautiously that he had veer off to the side of the road to let faster cars pass by. In the old days he would drive the freaking big ass yellow brick road school bus along that same path and think nothing of it except for a time after that Volkswagen almost mishap. Maybe he was dope-brave then but it was disconcerting to think how timid he had become.

Finally in Big Sur territory though nothing really untoward happen as he traversed those hairpin roads until they finally began to straighten out near Molera State Park and thereafter Pfeiffer Beach. Funny in the old days there had been no creek to ford at Molera but the river had done its work over forty years through drought and downpour so in order to get to the ocean about a mile’s walk away Josh had to take off his running shoes and socks to get across the thirty or forty feet of rocks and pebbles to the other side (and of course the same coming back a pain in the ass which he would have taken in stride back then when he shoe of the day was the sandal easily slipped off and on) but well worth the effort even if annoying since the majestic beauty of that rock-strewn beach was breath-taking a much used word and mostly inappropriate but not this day. Maybe global warming or maybe just the relentless crush of the seas on a timid waiting shoreline but most of the beach was un-walkable across the mountain of stones piled up and so he took the cliff trail part of the way before heading back the mile to his car in the parking lot to get to Pfeiffer Beach before too much longer. 

Pfeiffer Beach is another one of those natural beauties that you have to do some work to get, almost as much work as getting to Todo El Mundo further up the road when he and his corner boys from Olde Saco had stayed for a month after they had come out to join him on the bus once he informed them that they needed to get to the West fast because all the world was changing out there. This work entailed not walking to the beach but by navigating a big car down the narrow one lane rutted dirt road two miles to the bottom of the canyon and the parking lot since now the place had been turned into a park site as well. The road was a white-knuckles experience although not as bad as the hairpins on the Pacific Coast Highway but as with Molera worth the effort, maybe more so since Josh could walk that wind-swept beach although some of the cross-currents were fierce when the ocean tide slammed the defenseless beach and rock formation. A couple of the rocks had been ground down so by the relentless oceans that donut holes had been carved in them.                          

Here Josh put down a blanket on a rock so that he could think back to the days when he had stayed here, really at Todo el Mundo but there was no beach there just some ancient eroded cliff dwellings where they had camped out and not be bothered  so everybody would climb on the bus which they would park by the side of the road on Big Sur Highway and walk down to Pfeiffer Beach those easy then two miles bringing the day’s rations of food, alcohol and drugs (not necessarily in that order) in rucksacks and think thing nothing of the walk and if they were too “wasted” (meaning drunk or high) they would find a cave and sleep there. That was the way the times were, nothing unusual then although the sign at the park entrance like at Point Lobos (and Molera) said overnight parking and camping were prohibited. But that is the way these times are.

Josh had his full share of ancient dreams come back to him that afternoon. The life on the bus, the parties, the literary lights who came by who had known Jack Kerouac , Allan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the remnant of beats who had put the place on the map as a cool stopping point close enough to Frisco to get to in a day but ten thousand miles from city cares and woes, the women whom he had loved and who maybe loved him back although he/they never stayed together long enough to form any close relationship except for Butterfly Swirl and that was a strange scene. Strange because Butterfly was a surfer girl who was “slumming” on the hippie scene for a while and they had connected on the bus except she finally decided that the road was not for her just like Moonbeam, as almost everybody including Josh figured out in the end, and went back to her perfect wave surfer boy down in La Jolla after a few months.

After an afternoon of such memories Josh was ready to head back having done what he had set out to which was to come and dream about the old days when he thought about the reasons for why he had gone to Big Sur later that evening back at the hotel. He was feeling a little hungry and after again traversing that narrow rutted dirt road going back up the canyon he decided if he didn’t stop here the nearest place would be around Carmel about twenty-five miles away. So he stopped at Henry’s Café. The café next to the Chevron gas station and the Big Sur library heading back toward Carmel (he had to laugh given all the literary figures who had passed through this town that the library was no bigger than the one he would read at on hot summer days in elementary school with maybe fewer books in stock). Of course the place no longer was named Henry’s since he had died long ago but except for a few coats of paint on the walls and a few paintings of the cabins out back that were still being rented out the place was the same. Henry’s had prided itself on the best hamburgers in Big Sur and that was still true as Josh found out.

But good hamburgers (and excellent potato soup not too watery) are not what Josh would remember about the café or about Big Sur that day. It would be the person, the young woman about thirty who was serving them off the arm, was the wait person at the joint. As he entered she was talking on a mile a minute in a slang he recognized, the language of his 1960s, you know, “right on,” “cool,” “no hassle,” “wasted,” the language of the laid-back hippie life. When she came to take his order he was curious, what was her name and how did she pick up that lingo which outside of Big Sur and except among the, well, now elderly, in places like Soho, Frisco, Harvard Square, is like a dead language, like Latin or Greek.

She replied with a wicked smile that her name was Morning Blossom, didn’t he like that name. [Yes.] She had been born and raised in Big Sur and planned to stay there because she couldn’t stand the hassles (her term) of the cities, places like San Francisco where she had gone to school for a while at San Francisco State. Josh thought to himself that he knew what was coming next although he let Morning Blossom have her say. Her parents had moved to Big Sur in 1969 and had started home-steading up in the hills. They have been part of a commune before she was born but that was all over with by the time she was born and so her parents struggled on the land alone. They never left, and never wanted to leave. Seldom left Big Sur and still did not.

Josh said to himself, after saying wow, he had finally found one of the lost tribes that wandered out into the wilderness back in the 1960s and were never heard from again. And here they were still plugging away at whatever dream drove them back then. He and others who had chronicled in some way the 1960s had finally found a clue to what had happened to the brethren. But as he got up from the counter, paid his bill, and left a hefty tip, he though he still had that trip out here next time with Lana to get through. He was looking forward to that adventure now though.               

On The Anniversary Of The Fall Of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)-Vietnam At The End- The American End- An Insider’s Story- Frank Snepp’s “Decent Interval”- A Book Review

On The  Anniversary Of The Fall Of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)-Vietnam At The End- The American End- An Insider’s Story- Frank Snepp’s “Decent Interval”- A Book Review

Book Review

Decent Interval: An Insider’s Account Of Saigon’s Indecent End Told By The CIA’s Chief Strategy Analyst In Vietnam, Frank Snepp, Random House, New York, 1977

Sometimes a picture is in fact better than one thousand words. In this case the famous, or infamous depending on one’s view, photograph of the last American “refugees” being evacuated from the American Embassy in Saigon (now, mercifully, Ho Chi Minh City) tells more about that episode of American imperial hubris that most books. Still, as is the case with this little gem of a book, ex- CIA man Frank Snepp’s insider account of that fall from the American side, it is nice to have some serious analytical companionship to that photo. Moreover, a book that gives numerous details about what happened to who in those last days in a little over five hundred pages. Naming names about who the good guys and bad guys really were (from the American imperial perspective. Especially now, as two or three later generations only see Vietnam through the hoary eyes of old veterans, both military and radical anti-war, from that period like me (a veteran in both senses) to tell the tale.

Naturally, a longtime CIA man who in a fit of his own hubris decided, in effect, to blow the whistle on the American fiasco, has got his own axes to grind, and his own agenda for doing so. Bearing that in mind this is a fascinating look at that last period of American involvement in Vietnam from just after the 1973 cease-fire went into place until that last day of April in 1975 when the red flag flew over Saigon after a thirty plus year struggle for national liberation. For most Americans the period after the withdrawal of the last large contingents of U.S. troops from combat in 1972 kind of put paid to that failed experiment in “nation-building”-American-style.

For the rest of us who wished to see the national liberation struggle victorious we only had a slight glimmer that sometime was afoot until fairly late- say the beginning of 1975, although the rumor mill was running earlier. So Mr. Snepp’s book is invaluable to fill in the blanks for what the U.S., the South Vietnamese and the North Vietnamese were doing, or not doing.

Snepp’s lively account, naturally, centers on the American experience and within that experience the conduct of the last ambassador to Saigon, Graham Martin. Snepp spares no words to go after Martin’s perfidious and maniacal role, especially in the very, very last days when the North Vietnamese were sweeping almost unopposed into Saigon. But there is more, failures of intelligence, some expected, others just plain wrong, some missteps about intentions, some grand-standing and some pure-grade rancid anti-communist that fueled much of the scene.

And, of course, no story of American military involvement any place is complete without plenty of material about, well the money. From Thieu’s military needs (and those of his extensive entourage) to the American military (and their insatiable need for military hardware), to various American administrations and their goals just follow the money trail and you won’t be far off the scent. And then that famous, or infamous, photograph of that helicopter exit from the roof of the American Embassy in just a nick of time makes much more sense. Nice work, Frank Snepp. The whistleblower’s art is not appreciated but always needed. Just ask heroic convicted whistle-blower Private Chelsea Manning or exiled Edward Snowden.