Saturday, June 02, 2018

***Sagas Of The Irish-American Diaspora- Albany-Style- William Kennedy's "Very Old Bones"

***Sagas Of The Irish-American  Diaspora- Albany-Style- William Kennedy's "Very Old Bones"

Book Review

Very Old Bones, William Kennedy, Viking Press, New York, 1992

Recently, in reviewing an early William Kennedy Albany-cycle novel, “Ironweed” I mentioned that he was my kind of writer. I will let what I stated there stand on that score here. Here is what I said:

“William Kennedy is, at least in his Albany stories, my kind of writer. He writes about the trials and tribulations of the Irish diaspora as it penetrated the rough and tumble of American urban WASP-run society, for good or evil. I know these people, my people, their follies and foibles like the back of my hand. Check. Kennedy writes, as here with the main characters Fran Phelan and Helen Archer two down at the heels sorts, about that pervasive hold that Catholicism has even on its most debased sons and daughters, saint and sinner alike. I know those characteristics all too well. Check. He writes about that place in class society where the working class meets the lumpen-proletariat-the thieves, grifters, drifters and con men- the human dust. I know that place well, much better than I would ever let on. Check. He writes about the sorrows and dangers of the effects alcohol on working class families. I know that place too. Check. And so on. Oh, by the way, did I mention that he also, at some point, was an editor of some sort associated with the late Hunter S. Thompson down in Puerto Rico. I know that mad man’s work well. He remains something of a muse for me. Check.”

Although “Very Old Bones” is structurally part of Kennedy’s Albany-cycle of novels it is far more ambitious than the other novels in the cycle that I have read. Those previous efforts, led by the premier example, “Ironweed” set themselves the task of telling stories about particular characters in the Phelan clan and their neighbors in particular periods of the cycle that runs from approximately the 1880s to, as in the present novel, the late 1950s. Here we get a vast view of the clan, its trials and tribulations and its cursedness as a result of the insularity of the Irish diaspora, Albany style.

I am, frankly, ambitious about the success of this endeavor. While it is very good to have a summing up of the history of the Phelan clan, it struggle for "lace curtain" respectablity, and its remarkable stretch of characters from the cursed Malachi generation through to Fran (of “Ironweed”), and here his brother Peter as well, and on to Orton, the narrator’s generation (and Billy Phelan’s) there is almost too much of this and it gets in the way of the plot line here, basically the current survivors trying to cope with the traumas brought on by those previous generations. Conversely, I ran through the book at breakneck speed. Why? Change the names and a few of the incidentals, and a few f the specific pathologies, and this could have been the story of my Irish-derived family in that other diaspora enclave, Boston. Hence the ambiguity. Moreover, there is just a little too much of that “magical realism” in the plot that was all the rage in the 1990s in telling the sub-stories here and then expecting us the sober, no nonsense reader to suspend our disbelieve. Is this effort as good as "Ironweed"? No, that is the standard by which to judge a Kennedy work and still the number one contender from this reviewer's vantage point.

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love (1967)-In The Time Of Hunter Thompson’s Time –Hey, Rube- A Short Book Clip

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love (1967)-In The Time Of Hunter Thompson’s Time –Hey, Rube- A Short Book Clip 

Short Book Clip

Hey, Rube, Hunter Thompson, 2004

Make no mistake the late, lamented Hunter Thompson was always something of a muse for me going way back to the early 1970’s when I first read his seminal work on the outlaw bikers The Hell’s Angels. Since then I have devoured, and re-devoured virtually everything that he has written. However the present book leaves me cold. This is a case where ‘greed’ (on whose part I do not know although the proliferating pile of remembrances of Thompson may give a hint) got the better of literary wisdom. This compilation of articles started life as commentary on the, part of the cable sports network. And perhaps that is where the project should have ended. Hey, this stuff has a half-life in cyberspace so nothing would have been lost.

So what is the basis for my objection? Part of Hunter’s attraction always has been a fine sense of the hypocrisy of American politics. Although we marched to different drummers politically I have always appreciated his ability to skewer the latest political heavyweight- in- chief, friend or foe. That is missing here although he does get a few whacks in on the then current child-president Bush. But this is not enough. What this screed is really about is the whys and wherefores of his lifelong addiction to sports betting and particularly professional football, the NFL. A run through the ups and downs of previous seasons’(2000-2003) gambling wins and losses, however, does not date well. Hell, I can barely remember last week’s bets.

But the real problem is that like in politics we listen to different drummers. I am a long-time fan of‘pristine and pure’ big time college football and would not sully my hands to bet on the NFL so his whining about the San Francisco 49’ers or the Denver Broncos is so much hot air. However, I will take Notre Dame and 3 points against Alabama in the2012 major college national championship game. That’s the ticket. I miss Hunter and his wild and wooly writing that made me laugh many a time when I was down and needed a boost but not here. Enough said.

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love-Ivan Koop Kuper : Ken Kesey's Houston Acid Test

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love-Ivan Koop Kuper : Ken Kesey's Houston Acid Test

01 December 2010

Ivan Koop Kuper : Ken Kesey's Houston Acid Test 
The original "Furthur," the magic bus of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, on the road. Photo from NoFurthur.

Paying Larry McMurtry a visit:
The Merry Pranksters' last acid test

By Ivan Koop Kuper / The Rag Blog / December 1, 2010

HOUSTON -- In the heat of a July Houston morning in 1964, residents of the quiet Southampton neighborhood woke up to find a strangely painted school bus parked in front of an unassuming two-story brick house in the middle of the block.

The vintage 1939 International Harvester with its passengers of “Merry Pranksters” drove half way across the United States and was now parked in front of the house of novelist and Rice University professor, Larry McMurtry. The Southampton neighbors would learn that the brightly painted bus whose destination plate read “FURTHUR,” with two u's, was filled with strangely acting and even stranger looking people from California.

The leader of the Merry Pranksters was author Ken Kesey, whose novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, had just been published that summer. Their cross-country road trip to New York City was in part a celebration to commemorate the publication of his second novel, as well as the fulfillment of a request by his publisher for a personal appearance and an excuse to visit the World’s Fair taking place in the borough of Queens.

Fueled by the then-legal hallucinogenic drug LSD, Kesey and the Pranksters stopped in Houston along the way to visit McMurtry, who Kesey knew from their days at Stanford.

McMurtry lived with his 2-year-old son, James, on the oak-lined street near Rice University, where he taught undergraduate English.

Larry McMurtry and son, James, 1964. Photo from The Magic Bus.

McMurtry was also experiencing success in his life during this time. His inaugural novel, Horseman, Pass By, had been adapted into a screenplay and released as the feature-length movie, Hud, staring Paul Newman and Melvyn Douglas, the previous year.

“I remember walking down Quenby Street one afternoon and seeing the school bus parked in front of the McMurtry’s house,” said Kentucky-based artist Joan Wilhoit. “It was very atypical and pretty damn psychedelic with lots of colors. The Pranksters were very accommodating and invited us on the bus. They were very different, sort of proto-hippies, and I remember they painted their sneakers with Day-Glo paint. My parents befriended them and brought old clothes and hand-me-downs to those who needed it. My parents weren’t rude like some of the other neighbors were.”

Wilhoit, who was nine at the time. remembers that not all the neighbors were as welcoming as her parents and that some made sarcastic remarks about the Pranksters.

“’Do you have a bathroom on that bus?’ I remember one our neighbors asking the Pranksters through the school bus window,” the former Houstonian recounted. “I also remember hearing about the ‘naked girl’ and I thought it was the strangest thing how the police were called and how she had to be admitted to a psych ward of some Houston hospital.”

“Stark Naked,” as she was referred to in Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the novel that chronicled the exploits of Kesey and the Pranksters in the 1960s, was a bus passenger apparently “tripping” throughout her bus ride to Houston, who discarded her clothing in favor of a blanket that she wore for the duration of the journey. Upon her arrival in Houston, she experienced an episode of “lysergically-induced” psychosis, and confused McMurtry’s toddler son with her own estranged child, “Frankie.”

"Stark Naked" (aka "The Beauty Witch") wore nothing but a blanket. Photo from The Magic Bus.

Three years later, the brightly painted bus was parked once again in front of McMurtry’s house on the oak-lined street near Rice Village. Kesey and the Pranksters returned to Houston in March 1967 to visit their old friend and to conduct what is purported to have been the last “acid test.” The social experiment was staged in the dining room of Brown College, a residential facility on the campus of Rice University, with McMurtry acting as faculty sponsor.

“I would have been 14 years old when they returned,” said Pricilla Boston (nee Ebersole), an employee of the department of state health services in Austin and the mother of two teen-aged sons.
I remember getting off the school bus from junior high one afternoon and seeing that the painted bus was parked in front of Mr. McMurtry’s house again. It was immensely colorful and there was no missing it, that’s for sure. All the kids in the neighborhood used to play street games at night a lot and it was almost like there was another set of kids in the neighborhood.

They had a youthful, fun vibe about them. I remember this one skinny guy in particular who would interact with us; he was younger than the others and he showed us the inside of the bus. He once asked us to go home and look in our parents’ medicine cabinet to see if they had any bottles of pills and bring them to him. I was asking myself "Why would he want those?"
Boston recounted following the skinny Prankster’s instructions and looking in her parent’s cabinet. “I don’t remember whether I brought him anything or not,” she said, “I just remember having a sense of what I was doing as being a little bit naughty.”

Although Kesey’s arrival and the ensuing acid test were promoted as a “concert” in the March 9 issue of the Rice Thresher, the campus student newspaper, this non-event turned out to be an acid test in name only. The promise of a reenactment of the “tests” conducted in California between 1965 and 1966 never materialized. Absent was the liquid light show, the live, amplified rock music, the pulsating strobe lights and movie projector images on the walls.

Also conspicuously absent was the mass dispensation and ingestion of psychotropic drugs by the Rice student body and other “assorted weirdos” in attendance. Instead, the Pranksters indulged the more than 200 attendees with a “madcap improvisation” of toy dart-gun fights, human dog piles, deep breathing demonstrations by Kesey himself, and rides on the “magic bus” around the Rice campus.

“The great Kesey affair was an absolute dud,” reported the Houston Post on March 21. “Some of the kids hissed while he [Kesey] read some kind of incantation, and others just left talking about what a drag it was.”

[Ivan Koop Kuper is a graduate student at the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas, and maintains a healthy diet of music, media, and popular culture. He can be reached at]

Merry Pranksters in the news, 1964. Top, in Houston, and below, in Springfield, Ohio.

Prankster Hermit and the original bus. Photo from Lysergic Pranksters in Texas.

Top, Ken Kesey with restored bus, by then renamed "Further" with an "e". Below, the 1939 International Harvester, before restoration, at the Kesey family farm in Pleasant Hill, Oregon, after being stored in the swamp for 15 years. Photo by Jeff Barnard / AP

The Rag Blog

Posted by thorne dreyer at 10:50 AM
Labels: American History, Drug Culture, Houston, Ivan Koop Kooper, Ken Kesey, Larry McMurtry, LSD, Merry Prankstes, Psychedelics, Rag Bloggers, Rice University, Sixties, Tom Wolfe

June Is Class-War Prisoners Month-Free The Jericho Movement Prisoners-Free All The Class-War Prisoners!

June Is Class-War Prisoners Month-Free The Jericho Movement Prisoners-Free All The Class-War Prisoners!  

Chelsea Manning, Albert Woodfox and Oscar Lopez Rivera are out let's get the rest out as well  

From Veterans For Peace

If you'd like to view this email in a Web browser, please click here.

Thursday, May 31st
This week, across the country, members of Veterans For Peace were out in full force.  Many of you held moving ceremonies for Memorial Day and brought attention to the overwhelming costs of war.  The very next day, chapters in many states participated in Week 3 of the 40 Days of Action of the Poor People's Campaign. 
It was an inspriational week to see so many Veterans For Peace members stand up to challenge Militarism and the Culture of Violence in multiple states and willingness to put your bodies on the line. 
For this week's ENews, we made two short compilation videos to highlight the overwhelming amount of activism that happened this week.  Together, with this spirit, we can End War.
Click on Image for Poor People's Campaign Video and to see how many VFP Chapters Particiapted!
Click on Image for Memorial Day Video
ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) make sure to check out these amazing videos that Chris Smiley put together of the Swords to Plowshares and Letters to the Wall!
Veterans For Peace, 1404 N. Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63102

Veterans For Peace appreciates your tax-exempt donations.
We also encourage you to join our ranks.


Ancient dreams, dreamed-The Risen People? May Day 1971- Magical Realism 101-Build The Resistance 2018

Ancient dreams, dreamed-The Risen People? May Day 1971- Magical Realism 101-Build The Resistance 2017

Endless, dusty, truck heavy, asphalt steaming hitchhike roads travelled, Route 6, 66, maybe 666 and perdition for all I know, every back road, every Connecticut highway avoiding back road from Massachusetts south to the capital for one last winner-take-all, no prisoners taken show-down to end all show-downs. And maybe, just maybe, finally some peace and a new world a-borning, a world we had been talking about for at least a decade (clueless, as all youth nations are clueless, that that road was well-travelled, very well- travelled, before us). No Jack Kerouac dharma bum easy road (although there were dharma bums, or at least faux dharma bums, aplenty on those 1971 roads south, and west too) let her rip cosmic brakeman Neal Cassady at the wheel flying through some wheat field night fantasy this trip.

No this trip was not about securing some cultural enclave in post-war (World War II so as not to confuse the reader) in break-out factory town Lowell or cold water tenement Greenwich Village/Soho New Jack City or Shangri-La West out in the Bay area, east or west, but about mucking up the works, the whole freaking governmental/societal/economic/cultural/personal/godhead world (that last one, the godhead one, not thrown in just for show, no way) and maybe, just maybe sneaking away with the prize. But a total absolute, absolutist, big karma sky fight out, no question. And we, I, am ready. On that dusty road ready.

More. See all roads head south as we, my girlfriend of the day, maybe more, maybe more than a day, Joyell, but along this time more for ease of travelling for those blessed truck driver eye rides, than lust or dream wish and my sainted wise-guy amigo (and shades of Gregory Corso, sainted, okay), Matty, who had more than a passing love or dream wish in her and if you had seen her you would not have wondered why. Not have wondered why if your “type” was Botticelli painted and thoughts of butterfly swirls just then or were all-type sleepy-eyed benny-addled teamster half-visioned out of some forlorn rear view mirror.

Ya, head south, in ones, twos, and threes (no more, too menacing even for hefty ex-crack back truckers to stop for) travelling down to D.C. for what many of us figure will be the last, finally, push back against the war, the Vietnam War, for those who have forgotten, or stopped watching television and the news, but THEY, and you knew (know) who they were, had their antennae out too, they KNEW we were coming, even high-ball fixed (or whiskey neat she had the face for them) looking out from lonely balconies Martha Mitchell knew that much. They were, especially in mad max robot-cop Connecticut, out to pick off the stray or seven who got into their mitts as a contribution to law and order, law and order one Richard Milhous Nixon-style (and in front of him, leading some off-key, off-human key chorus some banshee guy from Maryland, another watch out hitchhike trail spot, although not as bad as Ct, nothing except Arizona is). And thus those dusty, steamy, truck heavy (remind me to tell you about hitchhiking stuff, and the good guy truckers you wanted, desperately wanted, to ride with in those days, if I ever get a chance sometime).

The idea behind this hitchhiked road, or maybe, better, the why. Simple, too simple when you, I, thought about it later in lonely celled night but those were hard trying times, desperate times really, and just free, free from another set of steel-barred rooms this jailbird was ready to bring down heaven, hell, hell if it came down to it to stop that furious war (Vietnam, for the later reader) and start creating something recognizable for humans to live in. So youth nation, then somewhat long in the tooth, and long on bad karma-driven bloody defeats too, decided to risk all with the throw of the dice and bring a massive presence to D.C. on May Day 1971.

And not just any massed presence like the then familiar seasonal peace crawl that nobody paid attention too anymore except the organizers, although the May Day action was wrapped around that year’s spring peace crawl, (wrapped up, cozily wrapped up, in their utopian reformist dream that more and more passive masses, more and more suburban housewives from New Jersey, okay, okay not just Jersey, more and more high school freshman, more and more barbers, more and more truck driver stop waitresses, for that matter, would bring the b-o-u-r-g-e-o-i-s-i-e (just in case there are sensitive souls in the room) to their knees. No, we were going to stop the government, flat. Big scheme, big scheme no question and if anybody, any “real” youth nation refugee, excepting, of course, always infernal always, those cozy peace crawl organizers, tried to interject that perhaps there were wiser courses nobody mentioned them out loud in my presence and I was at every meeting, high or low. Moreover I had my ears closed, flapped shut closed, to any lesser argument. I, rightly or wrongly, silly me thought “cop.”

So onward anti-war soldiers from late night too little sleep Sunday night before Monday May Day dawn in some vagrant student apartment around DuPont Circle (I think, but it may have been further up off 14th Street, Christ after eight million marches for seven million causes who can remember that much. No question though on the student ghetto apartment locale; bed helter-skelter on the floor, telephone wire spool for a table, orange crates for book shelves, unmistakably, and the clincher, seventeen posters, mainly Che, Mao, Ho, Malcolm etc., the first name only necessary for identification pantheon just then, a smattering of Lenin and Trotsky but they were old guys from old revolutions and so, well, discounted) to early rise (or early stay up cigarette chain-smoking and coffee slurping to keep the juices flowing). Out into the streets, out into the small collectives coming out of other vagrant apartments streets (filled with other posters of Huey Newton , George Jackson, Frantz Fanon, etc. from the two names needed pantheon) joining up to make a cohorted mass (nice way to put it, right?). And then dawn darkness surrounded, coffee spilled out, cigarette bogarted, AND out of nowhere, or everywhere, bang, bang, bang of governmental steel, of baton, of chemical dust, of whatever latest technology they had come up with they came at us (pre-tested in Vietnam, naturally, as I found out later). Jesus, bedlam, mad house, insane asylum, beat, beat like gongs, defeated.

Through bloodless bloodied streets (this, after all, was not Chicago, hog butcher to the world), may day tear down the government days, tears, tear-gas exploding, people running this way and that coming out of a half-induced daze, a crazed half-induced daze that mere good- will, mere righteousness would right the wrongs of this wicked old world. One arrested, two, three, many, endless thousands as if there was an endless capacity to arrest, and be arrested, arrest the world, and put it all in one great big Robert F. Kennedy stadium home to autumn gladiators on Sunday and sacrificial lambs this spring maypole may day basket druid day.

And, as I was being led away by one of D.C.s finest, I turned around and saw that some early Sunday morning voice, some “cop” voice who advised caution and went on and on about getting some workers out to join us before we perished in an isolated blast of arrests and bad hubris also being led away all trussed up, metal hand-cuffs seemingly entwined around her whole slight body. She said she would stick with us even though she disagreed with the strategy that day and I had scoffed, less than twenty-four hours before, that she made it sound like she had to protect her erring children from themselves. And she, maybe, the only hero of the day. Righteous anonymous sister, forgive me. (Not so anonymous actually since I saw her many times later in Boston, almost would have traded in lust for her but I was still painted Botticelli-bewitched and so I, we, let the moment passed, and worked on about six million marches for about five millions causes with her but that was later. I saw no more of her in D.C. that week.)

Stop. Brain start. Out of the bloodless fury, out of the miscalculated night a strange bird, no peace dove, these were not such times even with all our unforced errors, and no flame-flecked phoenix raising but a bird, maybe the owl of Minerva came a better sense that this new world a-bornin’ would take some doing, some serious doing. More serious that some wispy-bearded, pony-tailed beat, beat down, beat around, beat up young stalwart road tramp acting in god’s place could even dream of. But that was later. Just then, just that screwed-up martyr moment, I was longing for the hot, dusty, truck driver stop meat loaf special, dishwater coffee on the side, road back home even ready to chance Connecticut highway dragnets to get there.

Massachusetts Poor Peoples Campaign via

Hi Alfred,
Earlier this week, we honored veterans and people who died at the hands of police by holding America accountable to the highest standard of patriotism and insisting that this country become a more perfect union. Thank you to everyone who made it to the encampment on Boston Common and to the rally and into the Statehouse.
In Boston, 16 people were arrested. Jullian Lopez-Leyva, a Student organizer and initiator for March for our lives, Boston said “We need to push beyond poverty and the violence we see in Santa Fe and Parkland and Las Vegas. We are here to reject violence. This is what we are here for.”

Savina Martin, US Army Veteran and tri-chair of the Massachusetts Poor People's Campaign said "You can see the war on the poor all around us. Militarism defines us as a nation when we spend 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar on the military and only 15 cents on anti-poverty programs. Enough!
When over 20 veterans a day die by suicide, something needs to be done to stop militarism and the war economy.
We’re showing up because in 2016, 73% of adults cut back on basic needs and food so they could pay their medical bills. Because when General Motors complained Flint’s water was rusting their car parts, they were allowed to switch their water source, while the children of Flint are still without clean water.
Health care and ecological devastation are both critical issues to our members, so we’re expecting a big turnout.
Hope to see you there.
In solidarity,
Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign Coordinating Committee

Action Network
Sent via Action Network, a free online toolset anyone can use to organize. Click here to sign up and get started building an email list and creating online actions today.
Action Network is an open platform that empowers individuals and groups to organize for progressive causes. We encourage responsible activism, and do not support using the platform to take unlawful or other improper action. We do not control or endorse the conduct of users and make no representations of any kind about them.
You can unsubscribe or update your email address or change your name and address by changing your subscription preferences here.

Questions for my government-Grace Bell Hardison Unitarian Universalist Minister and member of About Face: Veterans Against the War

Dear Alfred,
When I served as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Specialist in the U.S. National Guard, I made a pledge to protect my country like my parents and grandparents before me. But in 2006, I refused deployment after the Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
As we remembered on Memorial Day, patriotism can mean serving and dying for your country. It can also mean telling hard truths about our government. When I refused deployment, I had hard questions.
How could we wage a fruitless war when so many veterans return home without the full benefits they were promised? When PTSD and poor access to healthcare have caused their suicide rates to rise? How can we give away billion-dollar military contracts when servicemembers’ families must live on food st…
Twelve years later, I’m still asking these questions.
My mother and father met in the U.S. Air Force. They joined because they believed America’s principle of freedom for all was worth upholding despite its flaws. But their full-time employment didn’t keep me from growing up on food stamps. It was 1984. We lived in a trailer park near Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina because the military would not provide us housing.
In 2018, our country is trillions of dollars in debt from waging the longest wars in our history—wars that benefit weapons manufacturers while deepening poverty in the U.S. and abroad. Military families here still need food stamps, while 10 million people in Afghanistan and Pakistan are homeless due to war.
It’s time we demand an exit strategy.
This is what patriotism looks like.
Thank you,
Grace Bell Hardison
Unitarian Universalist Minister and member of About Face: Veterans Against the War