Saturday, January 05, 2019

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-*From The Pen Of Karl Liebknecht- His Famous Slogan "The Main Enemy Is At Home"

Click on title to link to Karl Liebknecht's famous leaflet "The Main Enemy Is At Home" distributed In Germany in the heat of World War I and under penalty of arrest. For that alone Karl stands as a hero of the international working class movement.

By Frank Jackman

History in the conditional, what might have happened if this or that thing, event, person had swerved this much or that, is always a tricky proposition. Tricky as reflected in this piece’s commemorative headline. Rosa Luxemburg the acknowledged theoretical wizard of the German Social-Democratic Party, the numero uno party of the Second, Socialist International, which was the logical organization to initiate the socialist revolution before World War II and Karl Liebknecht, the hellfire and brimstone propagandist and public speaker of that same party were assassinated in separate locale on the orders of the then ruling self-same Social-Democratic Party. The chasm between the Social-Democratic leaders trying to save Germany for “Western Civilization” in the wake of the “uncivilized” socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 had grown that wide that it was as if they were on two different planets, and maybe they were.

(By the way I am almost embarrassed to mention the term “socialist revolution” these days when people, especially young people, would be clueless as to what I was talking about or would think that this concept was so hopelessly old-fashioned that it would meet the same blank stares. Let me assure you that back in the day, yes, that back in the day, many a youth had that very term on the tips of their tongues. Could palpably feel it in the air. Hell, just ask your parents, or grandparents.)

Okay here is the conditional and maybe think about it before you dismiss the idea out of hand if only because the whole scheme is very much in the conditional. Rosa and Karl, among others made almost every mistake in the book before and during the Spartacist uprising in some of the main German cities in late 1918 after the German defeat in the war. Their biggest mistake before the uprising was sticking with the Social Democrats, as a left wing, when that party had turned at best reformist and eminently not a vehicle for the socialist revolution, or even a half-assed democratic “revolution” which is what they got with the overthrow of the Kaiser. They broke too late, and subsequently too late from a slightly more left-wing Independent Socialist Party which had split from the S-D when that party became the leading war party in Germany for all intents and purposes and the working class was raising its collective head and asking why. 

The big mistake during the uprising was not taking enough protective cover, not keeping the leadership safe, keeping out of sight like Lenin had in Finland when things were dicey in 1917 Russia and fell easy prey to the Freikorps assassins. Here is the conditional, and as always it can be expanded to some nth degree if you let things get out of hand. What if, as in Russia, Rosa and Karl had broken from that rotten (for socialism) S-D organization and had a more firmly entrenched cadre with some experience in independent existence. What if the Spartacists had protected their acknowledged leaders better. There might have been a different trajectory for the aborted and failed German left-wing revolutionary opportunities over the next several years, there certainly would have been better leadership and perhaps, just perhaps the Nazi onslaught might have been stillborn, might have left Munich 1923 as their “heroic” and last moment.  

Instead we have a still sad 100th anniversary of the assassination of two great international socialist fighters who headed to the danger not away always worthy of a nod and me left having to face those blank stares who are looking for way forward but might as well be on a different planet-from me. 

Down And Dirty In Intel World-Jeremy Renner’s “The Bourne Legacy” (2012)-A Film Review

Down And Dirty In Intel World-Jeremy Renner’s “The Bourne Legacy” (2012)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Seth Garth

The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, 2012

Funny how changes of regime as has happened here at this site (and at the on-line American Film Gazette) recently with the departure of Allan Jackson as site manager to parts unknown, although rumor has it that he is either in retirement or exile out in Utah, after a fierce internal fight and the installation of Greg Green, formerly of American Film Gazette, in that position. Since Greg’s takeover of the day to day operations he has assigned various writers, young the ones who brought him to power and old who for the most part stood by Allan, including me, many more movie reviews than Allan who was partial to music and book reviews ever did. Everybody was amazed when we found out that the AFG had in its long existence in hard copy and on-line published reviews of over forty thousand films as against the roughly fifteen hundred that had been posted under the deposed Jackson regime.

But that is not the main point since one would expect AFG as a specialty publication to have many more film reviews as here under Allan, who whatever our old-time friendship, really limited the types of films that he would assign or people would suggest. I think in Allan’s heart of hearts he would have been happy if all the films assigned or suggested were straight-documentaries. Since the purge he has been in secluded exile out in Utah so I don’t know that preference for sure but that is my take. Whatever his wish Allan most certainly would not as Greg Green has done assign zombie films, those super-hero flicks like Superman and Batman from some ill-spent childhoods that kids these days flock to in droves. Allan did not particularly like reviews of films after about 1952 (or music after about 1970) which was one of the reasons for the revolt of the “Young Turks” who were stymied in their efforts to write stuff they knew or cared about and not the leavings of guys like me from the old days (old in time and age here and in our interests mostly centered on the 1960s and the immediate aftermath).       
Allan would have hollered bloody murder if he knew that Greg had assigned writers, young and old, to do such things as spy thrillers like the James Bond series now getting a hard work-out at this site. Would have flipped out and maybe needed hospitalization if he knew that Greg was passing out assignments like the film under review The Bourne Legacy. Although he would have given the Robert Ludlum Bourne novel series that this film is based on although not written by him a go ahead no problem. Alan’s main idea, main political idea was not to encourage belief in the omnipresent spy agencies from MI5-MI6 to CIA and NSA and whatever else the governments of the world have established to decrease enormously our privacy, our “right” to be left alone. That was why he always highlighted and profiled whistle-blower cases like those of the heroic and now released from jail Chelsea Manning and as of early 2018 the still Russia-exiled Edward Snowden.

Initially before he became site manager and was just in charge or the day to day operation Greg had assigned young writer Lance Lawrence to do the trilogy of Bourne movies starring Matt Damon who created the role and made the most of it. Lance, however, was among the leaders of the now emergent “Young Turks” who gutted Allan and sent him into something like a no-name non-person land showing that even young people who can retrace history a bit resembles nothing so much as Uncle Joe Stalin trying to wipe out the name Leon Trotsky from the annals of the Russian Revolution when he won the internal battle inside the Bolshevik Party. So Lance’s series took a back seat. Meanwhile Greg had assigned me to this film. Since it does not depend either on the Jason Bourne character or Matt Damon as actor Greg decided that I should post this now.

Although this version of the Bourne saga starts a bit slowly by the time it moves into gear about a third of the way through the movie it is another classic spy-thriller. Spy-thriller of the Bourne type meaning that the CIA (and its’ even more secretive sub-divisions in that murky shadow world) had no problem working very close to the Nuremburg Nazi –trial conviction standards in attempting to create genetically-enhanced  humans who were nothing, literally nothing, but effective killing machines to be placed wherever the CIA chieftains and their minions deem necessary. Scary thought. As long as the drug regime held out. Certainly their creature Arron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner, was built for that task. That, what do they call such actions now down in Washington-deep state, yes, deep state work which all the conspiracy theorists, pro and amateur, live to chatter in cyberspace about while trolling along in their lives.       

But what if things go wrong. No, not wrong with the high tech experiments that is easy enough just waste your no-name agents, but when such programs see the light of day, get known about outside the inner circle. That is Arron Cross’ problem from about minute one once the spook bureaucrats decided to pull the plug on all the nefarious operations so they could, something out of the Vietnam War terminology, have plausible deniability (which in the end they rammed down some Senate sub-committee’s throat.) So the chase is on, the elusive and apparently too well trained killer, Aaron, becomes the subject of a massive manhunt to kill him and ask questions later. That is the plan of chief liquidator ex Col. Byer, played by Edward Norton, in any case and while as we know he will not be successful against the free spirit Cross (after his cold turkey from his jones on those green and blue pills) he is as determined as any real CIA/NSA bureaucrat to make the problem go away.

Cross is up to the task, more than up to the task but as a rogue, as a renegade he has lost access to the genetic pills which give him his strength and intelligence. In desperation he seeks out one of his handlers, a doctor, Doctor Shearing, who may have some pills. This Doctor Shearing though is a pure researcher so no drugs. Moreover dear Mister Byer is intent on covering all tracks from agents to researchers and so she must be eliminated. Once Cross makes contact with the good doctor, played by fetching Rachel Weisz who almost anybody would go to great efforts protect so he is no fool moving mountains to aid her escape the rest of the film centers on getting him those damn drugs (creating an international chase to Manila) and avoiding almost every minute all the bad guys, crooks, agents and cops that Byer and company can throw at him and her.             

Kicking, jumping, hard-riding you name it to get out of the bullseye on his back. After the murder, mayhem and frenzy settle down in their favor Cross and the Doc “disappear.” End of story-maybe.

You Got That Right Brother-The Blues Ain’t Nothing But A Good Woman On Your Mind -With Arthur Alexander's Anna In Mind

You Got That Right Brother-The Blues Ain’t Nothing But A Good Woman On Your Mind -With Arthur Alexander's Anna In Mind 

By Seth Garth 

[I will have more to say about the matter presently once I get 
more details about what is a very disturbing situation if it pans out to be true. I had heard rumors that some of the "Young Turks" who were instumental in what was supposed to be, and was advertised as, the well-desered retiremment of the long time site manager here Allan Jackson (who for those not in the know went under the moniker Peter Paul Markin in the blogosphere) once a vote of no confidence did not go his way have been letting it out that what really happened was a full-fledged purge in the old-fashioned political sense. That would acount for the rumored whereabouts of Allan being in self-imposed exile out in Utah trying to hustle up copy from the Mormon newspapers. Strange, very strange since Allan is the most irrelgious man I know and that word is exactly  appropriate. More later when I actually can find time to contact my old friend and doping and drinking partner to get at the truth. WTF Seth Garth]   


YouTube film clip of Arthur Alexander performing his classic Anna later coveted on a cover by the Beatles.

Johnny Prescott daydreamed his way through the music that he was listening to just then on the little transistor radio that Ma Prescott, Martha to adults, and Pa too, Paul to adults, but the main battles over the gift had been with Ma, had given him for Christmas. In those days we are talking about, the post-World War II red scare Cold War 1950s in America, the days of the dreamy man in the family being the sole provider fathers didn’t get embroiled in the day to day household kids wars and remained a distant and at times foreboding presence called in only when the dust-up had gotten out of hand. And then Papa pulled the hammer down via a classic united front with Ma. Johnny had taken a fit around the first week in December in 1960 when Ma quite reasonable suggested that a new set of ties to go with his white long-sleeved shirts might be a better gift, a better Christmas gift and more practical too, for a sixteen year old boy. Reasonable since alongside Pa being that sole provider, being a distant presence, and being called in only when World War III was about to erupt in the household he also worked like a slave for low wages at the Boston Gear Works, worked for low wages since he was an unskilled laborer in a world where skills paid money (and even the skills that he did have, farm hand skills, were not very useful in the Boston labor market). So yes ties, an item that at Christmas time usually would be the product of glad-handing grandmothers or maiden aunts would in the Prescott household be relegated to the immediate family. And that holiday along with Easter was a time when the Prescott boys had in previous years had gotten their semi-annual wardrobe additions, additions provided via the Bargain Center, a low-cost, low rent forerunner of the merchandise provided at Wal-Mart.                

This year, this sixteen year old year, Johnny said no to being pieced off with thick plaid ties, or worse, wide striped ties in color combinations like gold and black or some other uncool combination, uncool that year although maybe not in say 1952 when he did not know better, uncool in any case against those thin solid colored ties all the cool guys were wearing to the weekly Friday night school dances or the twice monthly Sacred Heart Parish dances the latter held in order to keep sixteen year old boys, girls too, in check against the worst excesses of what the parish priests (and thankful parents) thought was happening among the heathen young.

No, that is not quite right, that “Johnny said no” part, no, he screamed that he wanted a radio, a transistor radio, batteries included, of his own so that he could listen to whatever he liked up in his room, or wherever he was. Could listen to what he liked against errant younger brothers who were clueless, clueless about rock and roll, clueless about what was what coming through the radio heralding a new breeze in the land, a breeze Johnny was not sure what it meant but all he knew was that he, and his buddies, knew some jail-break movement was coming to unglue all the square-ness in the over- heated night. Could listen in privacy, and didn’t have to, understand, didn’t have to listen to some Vaughn Monroe or Harry James 1940s war drum thing on the huge immobile RCA radio monster downstairs in the Prescott living room. Didn’t have to listen to, endlessly Saturday night listen, captive nation-like listen to WJDA and the smooth music, you know, Frank Sinatra, Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, and so on listen to the music of Ma and Pa Prescott’s youth, the music that got them through the Depression and the war. Strictly squaresville, cubed.

Something was out of joint though, something had changed since he had begun his campaign the year before to get that transistor radio, something or someone had played false with the music that he had heard when somebody played the jukebox at Freddy’s Hamburger House where he heard Elvis, Buddy, Chuck, Wanda (who was hot, hot for a girl rocker, all flowing black hair and ruby red lips from what he had seen at Big Max’s Record Shop when her Let’s Have A Party was released), the Big Bopper, Jerry Lee, Bo, and a million others who made the whole world jump to a different tune, to something he could call his own. But as he listened to this Shangra-la by The Four Coins that had just finished up a few seconds ago and as this Banana Boat song by The Tarriers was starting its dreary trip through his brain he was not sure that those ties, thick or uncool as they would be, wouldn’t have been a better Christmas deal, and more practical too.

Yeah, this so-called rock station, WAPX, that he and his friends had been devoted to since 1957, had listened to avidly every night when Johnny Peeper, the Midnight Creeper and Leaping Lenny Penny held forth in their respective DJ slots, had sold out to, well, sold out to somebody, because except for late at night, midnight late at night, one could not hear the likes of Jerry Lee, Carl, Little Richard, Fats, and the new rocker blasts, now that Elvis had gone who knows where. Killer rocker Chuck Berry had said it best, had touched a youth nation nerve, had proclaimed the new dispensation when he had proclaimed loud and clear that Mr. Beethoven had better move alone, and said Mr. Beethoven best tell one and all of his confederates, including Mr. Tchaikovsky, that rock ‘n’ roll was the new sheriff in town. But where was Chuck, where was that rock blaster all sexed up talk and riffs to match now that everybody was reduced to Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell, and Bobby, hell, they were all Bobbys and Jimmys and Eddies and every other vanilla name under the sun now not a righteous name in the house. As Johnny turned the volume down a little lower (that tells the tale right there, friends) as Rainbow (where the hell do they get these creepy songs from) by Russ Hamilton he was ready to throw in the towel though. Ready to face the fact that maybe, just maybe the jail-break that he desperately had been looking forward to might have been just a blip, might have been an illusion and that the world after all belonged to Bing, Frank, Tommy and Jimmy and that he better get used to that hard reality.   

Desperate, Johnny fingered the dial looking for some other station when he heard this crazy piano riff starting to breeze through the night air, the heated night air, and all of a sudden Ike Turner’s Rocket 88 blasted the airwaves. Ike whose Rocket 88 had been the champion choice of Jimmy Jenkins, one of his friends from after school, when they would sit endlessly in Freddy’s and seriously try to figure out whose song started the road to rock and roll. Johnny had latched onto Big Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle and Roll which Elvis did a smash cover of but who in Joe’s version you can definitely heart that dah-da-dah beat that was the calling card of his break-out generation, as well as the serious sexual innuendo which Frankie Riley explained to one and all one girl-less Friday night at the high school hop. Billy Bradley, a high school friend who had put an assortment of bands together and so knew more than the rest of them combined, had posited Elmore James’ Look Yonder Wall as his selection but nobody had ever heard the song then, or of James. Johnny later did give it some consideration after he had had heard the song when Billy’s band covered it and broke the place up.

But funny as Johnny listened that night it didn’t sound like the whinny Ike’s voice on Rocket 88 so he listened for a little longer, and as he later found out from the DJ, it had actually been a James Cotton Blues Band cover. After that band’s performance was finished fish-tailing right after that one was a huge harmonica intro and what could only be mad-hatter Junior Wells doing When My Baby Left Me splashed through. No need to turn the dial further now because what Johnny Prescott had found in the crazy night air, radio beams bouncing every which way, was direct from Chicago, and maybe right off those hard-hearted Maxwell streets was Be-Bop Benny’s Chicago Blues Radio Hour. Be-Bop Benny who everybody who read the rock and roll magazines found easier at Doc’s Drugstore over on Hancock Street knew, had started Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Fats Domino on their careers, or helped.

Now Johnny, like every young high-schooler, every "with it" high schooler in the USA, had heard of this show, because even though everybody was crazy for rock and roll, just now the airwaves sounded like, well, sounded like music your parents would dance to, no, sit to at a dance, some kids still craved high rock. So this show was known mainly through the teenage grapevine but Johnny had never heard it before because, no way, no way in hell was his punk little Radio Shack transistor radio with two dinky batteries going to ever have enough strength to pick Be-Bop Benny’s show out in Chicago. So Johnny, and maybe rightly so, took this turn of events for a sign. When Johnny heard that distinctive tinkle of the Otis Spann piano warming up to Spann’s Stomp and jumped up with his Someday added in he was hooked. You know he started to see what Billy, Billy Bradley who had championed Elmore James way before anybody knew who he was, meant when at a school dance where he had been performing with his band, Billie and the Jets, he mentioned from the stage before introducing a song that if you wanted to get rock and roll back from the vanilla guys who had hijacked it while Jerry Lee, Chuck and Elvis had turned their backs then you had better listen to the blues. And if you wanted to listen to blues, blues that rocked then you had very definitely had better get in touch with the Chicago blues as they came north from Mississippi and places like that.

And Johnny thought, Johnny who have never been too much south of Gloversville, or west of Albany, and didn’t know too many people who had, couldn’t understand why that beat, that dah, da, dah, Chicago beat sounded like something out of the womb in his head. But when he heard Big Walter Horton wailing on that harmonica on Rockin’ My Boogie he knew it had to be in his genes.

Here’s the funniest part of all though later, later in the 1960s after everybody had become a serious aficionado of the blues either through exposure like Johnny to the country blues that got revived during the folk minute that flashed through the urban areas of the country and got big play at places like the Newport Folk Festival or like Jimmy Jenkins through the British rock invasion the blues became the dues. It was especially ironic that a bunch of guys from England like the Stones and Beatles were grabbing every freaking 45 RPM record they could get their mitts on. So if you listened to the early work of those groups you would find thing covered like Shake, Rattle and Roll (Big Joe’s version), Arthur Alexander’s Anna, Howlin’ Wolf’s Little Red Rooster and a ton of stuff by Muddy Waters. Yeah, the drought was over. 

Once Again- The Young Women With Long-Ironed Hair- With Joan Baez, Mimi Farina, And Judy Collins In Mind

Once Again- The Young Women With Long-Ironed Hair- With Joan Baez, Mimi Farina, And Judy Collins In Mind

By Bart Webber 

[Some stories and the one concerning the 1960s trend by folkie-influenced young women to no matter their hair-string, short, curly, kinky wanted to look like the queens of the folk  scene much as every self-respecting guy a half decade or so before (although it probably seemed like a half century before things were moving just that fast in those times) had to have longish sideburns whether that condition could prevail or not in order to get anywhere with the young girls who would not look twice at you much less dance with you unless you lived in the image of Elvis. Some guys never got over that make-over other moved on to long hair and beards when the sea-change occurred about 1964. I know since I had both sideburns, flinty ones and later ling stringy hair and a whispy beard since I did't start shaving for real until I was about twenty. Bartlett Webber[   

Funny how trends get started, how one person, or a few start something and it seems like the whole world follows, or the part of the world that hears about the new dispensation anyway, the part you want to connect with. That new dispensation for my generation began back in the late 1950s, early 1960s so maybe it was when older guys started to lock-step in gray flannel suits (Mad Men, retro-cool today, okay) and before Jack and Bobby Kennedy put the whammy on the fashion and broke many a haberdasher’s heart topped off by a soft felt hat. It would be deep into the 1960s before open-necks and colors other than white for shirts worked in but by then a lot of us were strictly denims and flannel shirts or some such non-suit combination. Maybe it was when one kid goofing off threw a hard plastic circle thing around his or her waist and every kid from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon had to have one, to be tossed aside in some dank corner of the garage after a few weeks when everybody got into yo-yos or Davey Crockett coonskin caps. Or maybe, and this might be closer to the herd instinct truth, it was after Elvis exploded onto the scene and every guy from twelve to two hundred in the world had to, whether they looked right with it or not, wear their sideburns just a little longer, even if they were kind of wispy and girls laughed at you for trying to out-king the “king” who they were waiting for not you.  

But maybe it was, and this is a truth which I can testify to, noting the photograph above, when some girls, probably college girls (now called young women but then still girls no matter how old except mothers or grandmothers, go figure) having seen Joan Baez on the cover of Time (or perhaps her sister Mimi on some Mimi and Richard Farina folk album cover)got out the ironing board at home or in her dorm and tried to iron their own hair whatever condition it was in, curly, twisty, flippy, whatever  don’t hold me to hairstyles to long and straight strands. (Surely as strong as the folk minute was just then say 1962, 63, 64, they did not see the photo of Joan on some grainy Arise and Sing folk magazine cover the folk scene was too young and small then to cause such a sea-change).

Looking at that photograph now, culled from a calendar put out by the New England Folk Archive Society, made me think back to the time when I believe that I would not go out with a girl (young woman, okay) if she did not have the appropriate “hair,” in other words no bee-hive or flip thing that was the high school rage among the not folk set, actually the social butterfly, cheerleader, motorcycle mama cliques. Which may now explain why I had so few dates in high school and none from Carver High (located about thirty miles south of Boston). But no question you could almost smell the singed hair at times, and every guy I knew liked the style, liked the style if they liked Joan Baez, maybe had some dreamy desire, and that was that.                   

My old friend Sam Lowell, a high school friend who I re-connected with via the “magic” of the Internet a few years ago, told me a funny story when we met at the Sunnyville Grille in Boston one time about our friend Julie Peters who shared our love of folk music back then (and later too as we joined a few others in the folk aficionado world after the heyday of the folk minute got lost in the storm of the British invasion). He had first met her in Harvard Square one night at the Café Blanc when they had their folk night (before every night was folk night at the place when Eric Von Schmidt put the place on the map by writing Joshua Gone Barbados which he sang and which Tom Rush went big with) and they had a coffee together, That night she had her hair kind of, oh he didn’t know what they called it but he thought something like beehive or flip or something which highlighted and enhanced her long face. Sam thought she looked fine. Sam (like myself) was not then hip to the long straight hair thing) and so he kind of let it pass without any comment. 
Then one night a few weeks later after they had had a couple of dates she startled him when he picked her up at her dorm at Boston University to go over the Club Blue in the Square to see Dave Van Ronk hold forth in his folk historian gravelly-voiced way. She met him at the door with the mandatory long-stranded hair which frankly made her face even longer. When Sam asked her why the change Julie declared that she could not possibly go to Harvard Square looking like somebody from some suburban high school not after seeing her idol Joan Baez (and later Judy Collins too) with that great long hair which seemed very exotic, very Spanish. 
Of course he compounded his troubles by making the  serious mistake of asking if she had it done at the beauty parlor or something and she looked at him with burning hate eyes since no self-respecting folkie college girl would go to such a place where her mother would go, So she joined the crowd, Sam got used to it and after a while she did begin to look like a folkie girl (and started wearing the inevitable peasant blouses instead of those cashmere sweaters or starched shirt things she used to wear).     
By the way let’s be clear on that Julie thing with Sam back the early 1960s. She and Sam went “dutch treat” to see Dave Van Ronk at the Club Blue. Sam and Julie were thus by definition not on a heavy date, neither had been intrigued by the other enough to be more than very good friends after the first few dates but folk music was their bond. Despite persistent Julie BU dorm roommate rumors what with Sam hanging around all the time listening to her albums on the record player they had never been lovers. A few years later she mentioned that Club Blue night to Sam as they waited to see Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie with me and my companion, Laura Talbot, to see if he remembered Van Ronk’s performance and while he thought he remembered he was not sure. 
He asked Julie, “Was that the night he played that haunting version of Fair and Tender Ladies with Eric Von Schmidt backing him up on the banjo?” Julie had replied yes and that she too had never forgotten that song and how the house which usually had a certain amount of chatter going on even when someone was performing had been dead silent once he started singing.

As for the long-ironed haired women in the photograph their work in that folk minute and later speaks for itself. Joan Baez worked the Bob Dylan anointed “king and queen” of the folkies routine for a while for the time the folk minute lasted. Mimi (now passed on) teamed up with her husband, Richard Farina, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle crash in the mid-1960s, to write and sing some of the most haunting ballads of those new folk time (think Birmingham Sunday). Julie Collins, now coiffured like that mother Julie was beauty parlor running away from and that is okay, still produces beautiful sounds on her concert tours. But everyone should remember, every woman from that time anyway, should remember that burnt hair, and other sorrows, and know exactly who to blame. Yeah, we have the photo.            

From The Archives Of “American Left History”-An Analysis And A Summing Up After His First Year By Site Manager Greg Green

From The Archives Of “American Left History”-An Analysis And A Summing Up After His First Year By Site Manager Greg Green

November 14, 2018 marked the first anniversary of my officially becoming site manager at this publication and in acknowledgement of that tight touch first year I started going back to the archives here from the time this publication went to totally on-line existence due to financial considerations in 2006. (Previously from its inception in 1974 it had been hard copy for many years and then in the early 2000s was both hard copy and on-line before turning solely to on-line publication.) This first year has been hard starting with the residue of the “water-cooler fist fight” started by some of the younger writers who balked at the incessant coverage of the 1960s, highlighted in 2017 by the 50th anniversary commemorations of the Summer of Love, 1967 ordered by previous site manager Allan Jackson. 

They had not even been born, had had to consult in many cases parents and the older writers here when Allan assigned them say a review of the Jefferson Airplane rock band which dominated the San Francisco scene at the height of the 1960s. That balking led to a decisive vote of “no confidence” requested by the “youth cabal” in the Jackson regime and replacement by me. You can read all about the various “takes” on the situation in these very archives from the fall of 2017 on if you can stand it. If you want to know if Allan was “purged,” “sent into exile,” variously ran a whorehouse in San Francisco with old flame Madame LaRue or shacked up with a drag queen named Miss Judy Garland or sold out to the Mormons to get a press agent job with the Mitt Romney for Senate campaign after he left here it is all there. I, having been brought in by Allan from American Film Gazette to run the day to day operations as he concentrated on “the big picture” stayed on the sidelines, didn’t have a vote in any case since I was only on “probation.”        

A lot of the rocky road I faced was of my own making early on since to make my mark, and to look toward the future I came up with what even I now see as a silly idea of trying to reach a younger demographic (than the 1960s devotees who have sustained this publication since its founding). I went on a crash program of having writers, young and old, do reviews of Marvel/DC cinematic comic book characters, graphic novels, hip-hop, techno music and such. The blow-back came fast and furious by young and old writers alike and so the Editorial Board that had been put in place in the wake of Allan’s departure called a halt to that direction. A lot of the reasons why I am presenting the archival material along with this piece is both to see where we can go from here that makes sense to the Ed Board and through that body the cohort of writers who grace this publication and which deals with the reality of a fading demographic as the “Generation of ’68” passes on. Additionally, like every publication hard copy or on-line, we receive much material we can’t or won’t use although that too falls into the archives so here is a chance to give that material a “second life.”    
When one, me, glanced through the archives I was struck almost immediately that the ghost of Peter Paul Markin hovers over this publication and won’t give up, at least it appears until the older writers who knew him, who caught the fresh breeze he had early on in 1960s predicted was on its way and acted with him on it pass on. At least one, Sam Lowell, who had known Markin from elementary school days  (they always call him the Scribe among themselves , a corner boy nickname, moniker they gave him for always writing something down on the tattered notepad he carried in his out of fashion plaid shirts along with some wizened pencil but I will stick with Markin to avoid confusion ) has been working his ass off since the founding to link Markin to the purpose of this publication-the preservation of the memories of the political, social, economic and cultural movements that animated their times, that “Generation of’ 68” that caught Allan Jackson short when he tried to single-handedly revive the times out of some serious hubris, earlier and later movements which linked into that time.

A lot of “water cooler” talk, first heard by me from Laura Perkins, Sam’s long-time companion and a recent and welcome addition to the writers’ stable here, was that the whole idea of a then hard copy publication had been hatched in one last desperate effort to save Markin’s sagging life by letting him write reviews, music, film, books, cultural events which they would “piggyback” onto. Stuff they all were in varying degrees good at. It was not to be, as looking at a small memorial book in Markin’s honor put together by younger writer Zack James in the summer of 2017 at the urging of his oldest brother Alex, another close Markin friend, after he had come back from viewing a Summer of Love, 1967 exhibition at the de Young Museum out in San Francisco graphically illustrated. There, almost to a man, and it was a man’s recollections memoir, Markin’s corner boys from the growing up Acre section of North Adamsville and a few others like Josh Breslin met along the way, comment on Markin’s deterioration, his increasing addition to cocaine when that became the drug of the month among the “hip” in the mid-1970s. Sam commented that Markin, and to a certain extent the other Acre corner boys as well including himself, never got over their military experiences in Vietnam and maybe a bigger push his from hunger “wanting” habits from growing up dirt poor down in the mud of society. I won’t go into the details, such as they are since everybody who has tried was warned off so the details are to say the least sketchy, of Markin’s end except he now is down in some potters’ field plot in Sonora, Mexico after having been murdered in some dirty dusty back road over what is still presumed to have been a busted drug deal Markin was trying to put together to get on “easy street” once he saw what was good about the 1960s fading before his very eyes.         

I have not gone through the hard copy archives and I am not sure I will get a chance to since they are located in New York City and I am not sure when I will be able to spent at least a week looking through them, dusting off old year volumes and other materials so I will let it rip in no particular order but what comes to mind about what has been written, political clearing house advertised, and commemorated in this space as I have ventured to gather what the heck has gone on here for the past decade plus of the on-line work. The overarching comment though is that patchwork quilt or not it has stayed pretty close to what it had in the masthead stated it intended to do-without much, or too much bloodshed.    

You can tell, number-wise and number of pages that 2006 was a year when the financial crunch which necessitated the complete switch-over to on-line publication really was a wrenching process. The pieces are too-heavily weighted toward book, film, music reviews and an overlay of political commentary when Frank Jackman had to take a part-time job working at National Commentary. I can disclose here that many of the writers, guys like Si Lannon, Seth Garth, Fritz Taylor, even Josh Breslin were “moonlighting” when I ran things over at American Film Gazette which despite its’ name reviewed all kind of things including consumer products (not my decision but that was that). Or they were submitting the reviews they wrote here for free (no money in any case) and then submitting them over to me for cold hard cash. I was going to say they were double-dipping but that would imply they were being paid here for their work which generally was hit or miss. I did not know the financial situation here although I was glad to have the reviews whatever was happening here. Paid my cash and got my due.

I am not exactly sure when the shift toward lots of personal pieces about the 1960s and reviews of earlier books, films music connected with those times became a serious trend under the former head, Allan Jackson, but you can see by browsing the archives that 2006 is definite trend-setter. Not only that but once again by virtue of “water-cooler” gossip shifting slightly that way grabbed a spike in readership and more revenue. So Allan, who later, who in 2017 would be skewered for his 24/7/365 nostalgia blanket coverage, made a good decision then to move away from reviews of more contemporary cultural events. Interestingly he got into a “pissing” contest when he had Si Lannon, sorry Si if I am mistaken, do a series of 1960s folksingers who were “not Bob Dylan,” did not go on to what has become a never-ending concert tour schedule and career but moved elsewhere or kept their ambitions low when the so-called folk minute passed by and it did not look like they could survive on the thin gruel left. I heard that there was almost an insurrection with say Seth Garth wondering why his old sidekick folksinger/songwriter Erick Saint Jean was not highlighted (meaning what didn’t he get that assignment to explain why Erick went on to a successful art career rather than grind out the dimes and donuts coffeehouse circuit rapidly fading away in the acid rock night). Half these guys, according to Sam, hated folk music when, guess who, Markin is right, started going to Harvard Square on the low to get the hell out of his horrible homelife and really only accidently gravitated to the coffeehouse when guys and gals he would meet late at night at the Hayes-Bickford told him that was where the action was. Not the H-B itself though which was for winos and con men, maybe a hang-out for a while after the coffeehouses closed down and you still were trying to figure out what was what with some girl you wanted to take down to the Charles River to see what was really what.

From what I can gather Markin was a guy who was all in or forget it so once he had some dough, some dough when the guy caddied for some swanks at some country club to get dough to meet the cover charge, grab some coffee, grab a date’s bill and throw some money in the basket for the performer whose life depended on those proceeds then tried to get everybody in. Seth Garth to this day cannot stand the Dylan voice, cannot stand the silly lyrics about lost loves and doing bodily harm if some dish did not reciprocate your devotion and you dunked her in say the Ohio River. Be that as it may I noticed a definite spike in sales and ad revenue when that series ran since Allan must have highlighted every guy who could handle three chords and some basic melody-guys like Lemon Lewis and Ben Amos, guys who about three people have heard of. He had though as Sam loves to say a “hook” no question as even people who never heard the singers took interest in where they landed, if they landed. Maybe this says it better than anything else Allan decided to run the distaff side, okay, woman of folk playing off of the anointed queen, anointed at least in the tabloids, Joan Baez.       

It is hard to say what will drive the nuts and bolts of a publication but I think I can see something like a clear line when Allan decided to do “nostalgia” and let the writers he had at the time who were all, I think all, veterans of the 1960s or like beautiful Zack James were influenced by older brother Alex who was knee-down into that period which created some stability for the publication in the post-2006 period. That Bob Dylan-Joan Baez spike got the ball rolling even further back to the time of classic rock and roll and all that meant to the veteran writers who sucked up the air with their recollections and received plenty of attention (and a couple of awards) for their work. How much of it was to gather in their regrets about Markin and how much was natural going back to the music you grew up with which never really leaves you is hard to say but the spike in interest of the old Acre section of North Adamsville where most of the action takes place is interesting.

It must have been exciting, separate, hard-scrabble, cagey in those days when each guy, and it was all guys in those days, the girls, young women were kind of appendages, important appendages but appendages nevertheless reflecting not only that coming of age awkwardness but a kind of unwritten law established by Markin who was trying even then, even in high school to emulate the “beats” the guys who came up the line just before them and who were popular figures like Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg even as the “beats” were in retreat. (Seth Garth told me that Markin never mentioned those guys when they were out in the corner boy night but he was reading their stuff, including pretty openly gay Ginsberg which would have closed the door if he had mentioned that to the boyos.) These guys from nowhere had a certain routine, a certain laundry- list of things they talked about, adventures they got into (including the always veiled mention of certain burglaries to get dough which was one way they did it). Rock and roll, music, music that spoke to that generation perhaps more than any earlier one and certainly more than in my own generation one generation removed from the classic days of the genre.

No question these guys lived and died for the music, hanging out not by chance at a pizza parlor where the owner had installed a jukebox with all the latest hits to draw the kids in-and he did. Taking the boys in because if boys were hanging around then girls, the ones with money, the ones who came in and played the machine would come by too. Nice move but also the source of many interesting stories about how the guys would con the girls to play music they, the guys wanted to hear. Conned them, the girls out of other stuff too if you believe half of what memories they have decided to share knowing from my own experiences in a very different environment that lying was a matter of honor on the question of sexual conquests. The funniest part is that for all his leadership, so-called, his intelligence about what was going on in school, with girls with, guys who had girlfriends, more importantly, girls with boyfriends, invaluable intelligence no question and would make any such person if he or she had existed in my crowd a leader, never really had dates with Acre or North Adamsville girls when he was a corner boy. He would find companionship in Harvard Square or some such place but not at home.         

As anybody with eyes can see, even with the temporary disaster of the “dumbing down” action I initiated and blew off when the deal went down this past year has been heavy with political material, some additional art material and a big push on commemorating 100th anniversary the last year of the horrendous World War I and the armistice which put everything on hold as it turned out. Since I agree that we are essentially in the middle of a cold civil war which may very likely turn hot before our eyes we will be amping up our political coverage anchored by award-winning Frank Jackman interspersed with additional art and poetry reviews to augment the films, music and book reviews the reader is already familiar with and will hopefully appreciate with our stable of younger writers taking the lead.      

While You Were Sleeping-Not-Jeff Goldblum And Michelle Pfeiffer’s “Into The Night” (1985) A Film Review

While You Were Sleeping-Not-Jeff Goldblum And Michelle Pfeiffer’s “Into The Night” (1985) A Film Review  

DVD Review

Into The Night, Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer,  

Having just finished my 27th mid-life crisis gag I can relate to Jeff Goldblum’s angst and aggravation and alienation from his wife, his wife’s so-called clandestine affair with some workmate, from his own work as a worker bee in some aerospace operation, and from his drumbeat existence. Although I can’t get my head around what our boy did to resolve his crisis as detailed in the film under review Into The Night. Can’t figure to go to the mat with scads of bad guys, a few shots fired in anger, murder and mayhem no matter how foxy the damsel in distress to work out that mid-life dilemma.
Angst and alienation driven Jeff who can’t seem to sleep during his crisis, not a good thing for the fast judgements he will face, decided that he will take that trip out of town to work on his issues as suggested by a friend and does it on the fly. He gets to the airport but then gets cold feet and is ready to head home. But in a split second his fate gets whacked around by a decision he makes to help Michelle Pfeiffer out of what appears to be a serious jam of unknown original but of pressing concern since the bad guys who will help drive the film-and Jeff’s decisions are on the march. Of course, along the way it does not hurt that the gal Jeff is helping out of whatever jam she is in is drop-dead beautiful but that will keep for another time since the forces of evil are coming down on her head. 

What is driving Michelle to desperate acts and Jeff to decisions which put him in deeper and deeper into her life is that she had been the “mule” smuggler of a precious jewelry theft where the delivery got botched, get banged around and she was left with the goods running for her life after the guy she was to transfer the goods too was wasted by competitors also interested in the goods. We are off and running to beat the band. It appears that the final destination for the jewels was to be an Iranian agent, female, who had her henchmen running ragged over the damn thing. Like I said I would have thought twice about getting knee-deep into this one just to be able to sleep at night without sedatives no matter how foxy the damsel in distress was. But maybe that is because I resolved my own mid-life crisis, resolved it in a very different way.      

"A Poor Wretch Like Me"-William Wilberforce’s “Amazing Grace” (2006)-A Film Review

"A Poor Wretch Like Me"-William Wilberforce’s “Amazing Grace” (2006)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

Amazing Grace, starring Iaon Gruffudd, Romola Garai, Albert Finney, 2006   
More than one commentator, especially economic historians not all of them neo-Marxists or leftists, has noted that the bedrock of the American capitalist system was built on the bondage of slavery. Meaning that peculiar combination of slave labor, various plantation products, and mercantile commerce contributed to the accumulation of capital to push the system forward to the next level. Of course if those conditions were truth then since black slavery was introduced into the North American continent early in the 17th century then the mother country, Britain, can also have been to have founded on the lucrative slave trade. All of this to introduce the idea put forth in the film under review, Amazing Grace, of the struggle to abolish the trade in Britain. As the film makes pains to point out even in vaunted democratic countries that abolition would be no easy task when special interests benefited enormously from the trade, directly or indirectly. In America a bloody civil war was necessary and at point that was a close thing as well.           

Like many historic movements the struggle to abolish the slave trade had very few adherents at first for a whole lot of political, economic, and social reasons. In this film a key figure, as in the history books, who helped stop the trade in the British Empire was William Wilberforce played here by Iaon Gruffudd. Wilberforce had been just another promising parliamentary politician, a rising star in the ebb and flow of British politics in the late 18th century until he “got religion,” literally got religion through an evangelical conversion since usually when I use this term in quotes I am using it to signal a secular conversion like going from pro-war to an anti-war position, things like that. The key figure in pushing his conversion was the evangelic leader John Newton, played by Albert Finney, a former slave ship captain turned righteous slave trade opponent. Newton was the man who wrote the poem Amazing Grace of the title which later became a hymn among the evangelicals signifying a spiritual conversion-having been lost but now found.             

Of course in late 18th Britain, having shortly before lost the key colonial possession of what would become the United States, there were many opponent to the idea of stopping the slave trade from the actual slave-traders to shippers to plantation owners to merchants all well represented in Parliament so Wilberforce and his few early allies were up against some mighty interests. Those interest pushed back, pushed back hard, aided by various court figures who also had an interest in the trade, and so Wilberforce was continually up against it for a long time. Of course at points the success or failure of the effort was driven by other forces as well as when his friend Pitt, the Prime Minister, told him to back off in the 1790s when the British were going toe to toe with French revolutionary forces and needed a united country to beat back the enemy.  

This film also deals with various crises of confidence on Wilberforce’s part as he ebbed and flowed in his efforts to stop the trade. Part of his crises stemmed from his chronic ill health and part his desired marriage to Barbara Spooner, played by Romola Garnai, who in the end encouraged him to keep up the fight. So Wilberforce plugged on and in the end through a clever parliamentary ploy was able to get passage of his bill in 1807. Yeah he was blind but now he saw, got that religion I mentioned before. Kudos Brother Wilberforce.   

Scenes In Search Of The Blue-Pink Great American West Night-Scene Four: Sweet, Moonless Ohio Dreams, Early Summer 1969

Scenes In Search Of The Blue-Pink Great American West Night-Scene Four: Sweet, Moonless Ohio Dreams, Early Summer 1969 

Scene Four: Sweet, Moonless Ohio Dreams, Early Summer 1969

The 1960s asphalt-driven, white-lined, hitchhike road, the quest for the blue-pink great American West night, the eternal midnight creep of over-weight trucks with their company-seeking, benny-high, overwrought teamster drivers, and the steam-driven, onion-filled meatloaf-milk-heavy mashed potatoes-and limpid carrots daily special diner truck stop are all meshed together. You could say that there was no hitchhike road, and no blue-pink dreams, if the old-fashioned caboose (sometimes literally) diner was not part of the mix that glued things together out on that lonely highway.

No, I do not speak of the then creeping family-friendly one-size-fits-all but still steamed meats-milky starches-sogged vegetable franchise interstate restaurants that now dot the roads from here to ‘Frisco but back road, back hitchhike road if you were smart, back old time route one, or sixty-six or twenty road where you had a chance for pushing distance and for feeling America in the raw. Hey, I have a million diner stories, diners with and without truck stops, diners famous and obscene, diners of every shape and composition to tell about. Or rather I have about three basic diner stories with a million steamed meat loaf-mashed taters-carrots (okay, maybe string beans, steamed, for a change-up)-bread pudding for dessert variations. I want to tell you one, one involving a young woman, and involving the great American night that drives these scenes. The other variations can wait their turns for some other time.

Car-less, and with no hope for any car any time soon, but with enough pent-up energy and anger to built a skyscraper single-handedly, I set out for the early May open roads, thumb in good working order, bedroll on one shoulder, life’s worldly goods in a knapsack on the other. It was that simple in those days. Today, sadly, it would take my rental of a major U-Haul truck, for starters. As always in those days as well, and some of you may know the spot if you have ever been in Boston (or, better, Cambridge) there was (and is) an old abandoned railroad yard that was turned into a truck depot near the entrance to the Massachusetts Turnpike where most of the truckers, the big diesel-fuelled ones, the doubled-wheeled, eight, sixteen-wheeled and eighteen wheeled ones, picked up or unloaded their goods for further transport. That was the place to check first if you were heading west on the off chance that some mad man trucker was looking for company on that white-lined, hard-scrabble road, and did not mind bedraggled, bearded, long-haired, hippie boy company, at that. As luck would have it I caught a guy who heading out to Chicago with a load of widgets (or whatever, even these guys didn’t know, or want to know, what was on the manifest half the time, especially if they were running “heavy”).

And why, by the way, although it is not germane to the story, was I heading out on that old California road at that time. Why all that pent-up energy and skyscraper-building anger. Well, the cover story was so that I can get my head straight but you know the real reason, and this is for your eyes only, I had just broken up, for the umpteenth plus time, with a women who drove me to distraction, sometimes pleasantly but on that occasion fitfully, who I could not, and did not, so I thought, want to get out of my system, but had to put myself a little distance away from, again. You know that story, boys and girls, in your own lives so I do not have to spend much time on the details here. Besides, if you really want to read that kind of story the romance novel section of any library or the DVD film section, for that matter, can tell the story with more heart-throbbing panache that you could find here.

Now there were a million and one reasons that long-haul drivers back then would take hitchhikers on board, even hippies who represented most of what they hated about what was happening in, and to, their America in those days (in the days before the trucking companies, and the insurance companies, squashed that traveler pick-up idea and left the truckers to their own solitary devises). Some maybe were perverse but usually it was just for sheer, human companionship, another voice, or more usually someone to vent to at seventy or seventy-five miles an hour, especially at night when those straight white lines started to get raggedy looking.

This guy, this big-chested, brawny, beef-eating teamster guy, Denver Slim by name (really, I heard other truckers call him that at truck stops when they gave each other the nod, although as described he was neither slim nor, as he told me, from Denver), was no different except the reason, at least the reason that he gave me, was that I reminded him of his goddam son (I am being polite here) whom he loved/hated. Loved, because that is what a father was expected to feel toward kin, son kin especially and hated because he was showing signs or rebellion (read: becoming a hippie). I, needless to say, was a little queasy and sat close to the door handle for a while until I realized that it was more about love than hate. Old Denver Slim just didn’t get what was happening to his world, especially the part, the huge part, that he had no control over.

Hey, I had countless hitchhike rides in all kinds of vehicles, from the Denver Slim big wheels to Volkswagen bugs (look that up) but the common thread was that there were some interesting (if disturbing and hopeless) stories out there. Let me fill you in on Denver Slim’s story both because it helps explain what is coming up in my own quest and the hard, hard fact that there was a malaise, a palpable malaise, in the land and his story was prima facie evidence for that notion. Denver Slim had gone, like a million other members of my parent’s generation, through his childhood in the Great Depression (Chicago) and did his military in the throes of World War II (Corporal, U.S. Army, European Theater, and proud of it). After the war he started driving trucks, finally landing unionized teamster jobs as an over-the-road long haul driver based in Chicago. As was not unusual then, and maybe not now either, he married a local woman he knew from the old neighborhood, had several children, moved out of Chicago proper to a suburban plot house (“little boxes”, from the description he gave) and bought into the mortgaged, green-grassed lawn, weekly mowed (when he was not on the road), television-watching, neighbor-averting (except for the kids when young) routine that was a blueprint for America 1950s life in the lower-middle classes.

Here is where Slim’s story gets tricky though, and interesting. Of course being on the road, being mortgaged up to the neck on the road, he was never home enough to make the word family stick. He, as he admitted, when talking about his son Jamie, the rebellious son (read: becoming a hippie son), didn’t really know the kids (the other three were daughters whom he , as he said, wouldn’t have known anyway past the age of ten or so the way things work in girl world). But here is the kicker, the kicker for me back then although I get it better now, much better. The wife, Ruth, the ever-loving wife, had along the way taken a boyfriend and, off and on, lived with that boyfriend. Slim went crazy at first about it but somehow got through it and accepted that situation. Oh, you though that was the kicker. No, that was just the prelude to the kicker. Here it is. Denver Slim, old proud soldier-warrior, old mortgaged to the neck teamster, old work and slave on the road for the kids that he doesn’t know had a girlfriend, and had said girlfriend way before his wife took her lover. A beautiful family values story out of the age of Ozzie and Harriet, right?

But this is the real kicker for your harried hippie listener, old salt of the earth Denver Slim in relating his life story gets a little bit lovesick for his honey (no, not the wife, the girlfriend, silly reader) who lived in Steubenville, Ohio. And that, my friends, is where we are heading as we are making tracks to Youngstown on Interstate 70 and so instead of getting a ride through to Chicago (a place where I knew how to catch a ride west, no problem, almost like out of Boston) I am to be left off, and good luck, at the diner truck stop just off Route 7 outside of Steubenville, Ohio. Right near the Ohio River, at the eastern end that I was not familiar with. Christ, I never even heard of the place before, never mind trying to get a ride out of there, getting out of there at night as it looked like was going to happen by the time we got to the stop. Well, such is the road, the hitchhike road, and I hope old Slim had a good time with his honey, maybe, maybe I hope he did that is.

Slim must have had it bad, love bug-bitten bad, because he no sooner left me off at the diner than he then barrel-assed (nice term, right?) that big rig back, that big sixteen wheeler, onto the love-night road and to his own dream sleep. So here I am doing graduate-level diner study by my lonesome. Look, I am no stranger, by this time in my wanderings, to the diners, trucks stops, cafes, and hash houses of this continent. From the look of this one (and one judged these things by the number of big rigs idling near by) it was something of a Buckeye institution, maybe not like the football team or various legendary football coaches but busy (ya, see I know a little about Ohio, although not much outside the bigger cities and campus towns).

As I go inside through the glass-plated double doors I can practically inhale the steam from the vegetables, the dank, faded glory of the taters, and the inevitable onion smell than can only mean meat loaf. Hey, this is what passes for home-cooking on the road. And be glad of it, friend. As a single I would not be so uncool as to take a booth, although at this time of day there are some empties here, but rather hop right up on that old stool at the Formica-top red counter replete with individual paper mat and dinner setting, spoons, folks, knives, various condiments and plastic-entombed menu that every self-respecting diner has for those caught by their lonesome. Their sincere, if futile, attempt at home-away from homeyness. It’s not like this is a date-taking place (or at least I hope nobody thinks along those lines, but you never know, maybe people celebrate their anniversaries here) although it is okay out here abandoned in the neon-lighted wilderness of a back road truck stop.

Okay, at long last here is the part that you have been waiting for, the girl in the story part. Well, wait a minute, let me hold forth on waitresses because that is important to the girl part (and it was almost always waitresses in those days, or in a pinch, the owner/short order cook) who served them off the arm. In college towns and big cities, waitresses were (and are) just doing that job to mark time while going to college or some other thing but in the hash houses, the road side diners, the hole-in-the-wall faded restaurants of this continent it was (is) almost universally true that in this type of establishment this was an upwardly-mobile career move (or, maybe, just a lateral move). You have all seen and heard about the typical career waitress- surly, short-tempered, steam-pressed uniform, steamed by the proximity to the food trays that is, hardly has time to take your order because that party of six in the booths is waiting on dessert (and her big tip for this evening, she hopes, although if she thought about it the hard facts should have told her that old lonesome single male trucker was the best tipper). There is a smidgen of truth in those old hoary stories about waitresses but there is also some very hard-pressed, ill-fated bad luck thrown in as well. They all had stories to tell, at least the ones who didn’t scurry away like rats from “hippies.”

Okay, okay I can now tell you about angelic Angelica. That name, the smell of that name, the swirl around the tongue speaking that name, the touch of that name, still evokes strong memories even after all this time. But enough of nostalgia. Let’s get down to cases. First of all she was young, very young for a truck stop diner waitress so at first I thought that she was a career waitress-in-training or that there was a college nearby that I might not have heard of. I will describe her virtues in a second but let me tell you right off that the minute I sat down, and although there were several others at the counter who had come in before me, she came right over to my stool and asked if I wanted coffee. Well, kind of sleepy that I was at the time, I said yes and she went right off, got it, and came right back. And then, while the others at the counter were cooling their heels, she took my order, and as she moved away to put that order in (No, I do not remember what it was but, probably, since I was counting pennies, a burger and fries, meat loaf and other such high-end cuisine was saved for serious hungers) she slightly turned to give me another look and a sly smile.

In those days I was susceptible, very susceptible, to that winsome sly smile that some women know exactly how to throw (hell, I am still a sucker for that one, and don’t tell me you aren’t, or couldn’t be, too, male or female, it works both ways on this one). That sly smile and her, well, looks. Forget that endless physical description stuff about soft auburn hair, full ruby-red lips, bright, fresh, naïve blue eyes, nicely-shaped hips and well-formed legs. Very good legs. Okay, forget all that. I will describe her looks in “on the road” terms because when you were on the road and trying to get across the country the rules, the rules of the road, were a little different. Your take on life and your usually transient relationships with passing strangers, male or female, got a little twisted. Not necessarily in a bad way, but twisted.

There were different protocols for different situations when you were hitchhiking. A lone male hitching was usually not a bad proposition, especially if you stayed close to the highways and knew the truck stops, and appeared to be drug free, or at least that you were not in the throes of a terminal drug experience while trying to hitch a ride. This Hunter Thompson Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas drug stuff is good road fiction, but fiction nevertheless, if you were trying to get from point A to point B before your old age set in. The same with goofy Dennis Hooper Easy Rider stuff. Good cinema, bad, real bad road stuff. The main problem then, and probably would be today as well, is single middle-age guys, maybe desperate for a little company, picking you up with the idea of making advances. I don’t know about anybody else, as least I never heard anybody talk much about it then, but a simple "no" usually was enough to stop that(and not infrequently got you dumped in some odd spot between exits to thumb down some flying-by traffic). It’s only later, in the early 1970s when I wasn’t on the road so much that things started to get hairy, and the talk turned to weirdness, serious weirdness, out on the white-lined lanes.

In the late 1960s a pair of males was not a bad combination either. Not so much for getting rides from truckers who usually did not have room for two (or, if so, it was uncomfortable as hell) but for the plethora of Volkswagen vans, converted school buses, campers, and pick-up trucks that were out there on the blue-pink seeking road. There were times on the Pacific Coast Highway out in California that you barely got your thumb out and some vehicle stopped, especially if you looked like you were part of “youth nation.” Two more guys in back, sure thing, no problem. Those were good days to travel the roads, and another time I will tell you about some of those experiences but right now I have to get back to describe Angelica, or her road-worthy attributes anyway.

The optimal road set-up though, the one that got you rides the fastest, usually was to be paired up with a woman, truth be told, preferable a good-looking young woman. Ya, it’s not good form today, it’s certainly not politically correct or socially useful today to work from this premise, but back then the idea was that a guy and girl were safe from the driver’s perspective. And it was almost always guys, truckers or loners, or an occasional man and woman, who picked you up. Not single women drivers, young or old. For my perspective, the hitcher’s perspective, a good-looking woman, with good legs, made the road easier. And other delights, of course.

And it did no harm to have the woman act as an upfront side-of-the-road decoy for that same reason. Maybe not in the desert tumbleweed badlands of Arizona or Nevada where the hot sun, or dust, got you a ride from people who knew that area and knew they had to stop as a matter of your survival, and who knows their own sense of survival as well, but between exits on Interstate 80, let’s say, it helped, hell it helped a lot. Maybe not old Denver Slim, high on benny and moaning and groaning for his honey (the girlfriend not the wife remember) in dark night, white-lined blur but a guy like me would have made those lonesome highway brakes squeal to high heaven, and gladly. Angelica, at first glance, would certainly make the road easier, although this little detour is strictly for descriptive purposes in this part of the story. Put a simpler way, she was fetching.

But all of that is music for the future. Needless to say making any kind of move toward continuing the conversation with Angelica required a certain diligence and patience in the middle of diner traffic. As it turned out the diligence was only partially necessary because she was more than willing to talk to me while taking orders all around us. Her story was that she had been enrolled in some local Podunk (her term) business school (Muncie Business College for Women,or something like that) in her hometown of Muncie, Indiana but now wanted to be a medical technician of some sort (radiologist is what it was, I think). But most of all she wanted to get away from home (be still my heart) and had wound up in Steubenville as some kind of way station between dreams. Yes, I can hear the snickers now about some small-town girl seeing the bright lights of Steubenville and going all a-flutter. Stop it. Stop it right now.

In the dark of that night I was obviously not in any particular rush to leave, and as the dinner crowd thinned out we talked some more, as she filled my coffee cup repeatedly so that I could look like I was a "real" paying customer. To say this gal was innocent in some ways would be an understatement, and on the face of it a Midwest naïve and an East Coast hippie just would not make sense, no sense at all. But so would the fact, the hard fact that I would be in Steubenville, Ohio as part of a search for the great American night. Let’s just call it the times, and leave it at that.

And the times here included a very convenient fact. Angelica, as occurred more often than one would have thought out in those highway stops, as part of her job resided in one of the diner owner's motel cabins that dotted the outside ring of the truck stop. These single units provided cheap lodging for someone new, or transient, in town and were basically provided to the help so the newer help could be readily available on call when the inevitable call came in from the drunken cook, the moving-on dishwasher, or when one of the love-smitten senior career waitresses called in “sick”. Mainly though these cabins were for over-weary transcontinental truckers to grab a little sleep before pushing on. Thus they weren’t, at least these weren’t, your basic family-friendly digs that made you feel that you were in some room at home but rather that you were on that hell-bent, weary road, and this is the best you could do to rest those weary bones.

Well, yes we got around to leaving after her shift was over about 11:00 PM and did the ceremonial dancing around that generations, no, generations of generations, have pursued in the “courting ritual” on that initial question of whether, and when, a smitten pair get together for the night. If they do. But this time there is no story if they don’t, right?

Well, to spare any more suspense dear Angelica asked me into her digs. Just to talk, okay, and frankly I was so tired from my long day’s journey that just talk seemed about right then. I will describe that talk in a minute but let me describe this cabin homestead as we approached it on our one hundred, or one hundred and fifty, yard walk from the diner. Now that I think about it though I really shouldn’t have to describe it to you because you have all seen them, that is if you have been on the back roads of America a little, especially out on those one-lane country roads where working class people who don’t have much money go out to the country to get away from the city and this is what they can afford. There are about fifteen or twenty barely whitewashed cabins in a semi-circle, or maybe a few degrees over. If they were not numbered or if you came to them unknowingly on a dark, moonless night like tonight I guarantee that you would be hard-pressed to tell your new-found home away from home from any other in that arc.

The telltale old-fashioned, green oil-based painted screened door tells you immediately that you are not at the Ritz, or even its fifth cousin. As we enter amid the inevitable light-drawn flies, or moths, or whatever those insects are that you need to swat away to get in the door, or else you have to deal with them inside all night. Like I say these places are built for the moment and so the amenities are on the Spartan side.

As we walk inside, if I were to hazard a guess, and I was a professor in some upscale home interior design school, if someone presented this layout in a portfolio I would sent them, and sent them quickly, to remedial work. Or to a job at Sears Roebuck. But we are here and here the basic bed, bureau, kitchenette with a small table and a couple of wooden chairs, small sleeper sofa, and tiny shower ¾ bathroom fill the room. The only things personal about this place are Angelica’s alternate uniform that matches the one that she has on hanging to one side, drying out for her next bout with the ham-fisted crowd at the diner, and a small open suitcase that has her clothes neatly packed in it. On the bureau her “making my face” fixings and a few gee gads that everyone throws on the bureau when they want to unload their pockets. Hey, I have placed my head down to sleep on paper-strewn park benches and under paperless bridges on up to downy-pillowed, vast, roomy, and leafy suburban estates so a highway motel cabin is hardly down at the low end of my sleeping quarters resume. This, my friends, will be just fine for the night.

So we start the "just talk" that Angelica promised. I don’t and, frankly, no one should expect me to, remember most of what we talked about but here is my lingering impression. Turnabout is fair play. I thought that I was going to get an in-depth view of what “square” small-town Midwest girls dreamed of, or what drove them from the Lynds’ Middletown (that’s Muncie, okay, the subject of a famous study in sociology), to the wilds of Ohio. Instead I was the interrogated. It seems that Angelica had been so “brain-washed” (her term) about “hippies” or what the old town folks thought was hippiedom (basically a variant of their mid-country fears of the “Bolsheviks” under every bed) that she was crazy to “capture” (my term) one. And, as it turned out, in the course of events, I was the one. And on top of that and here is a direct quote from her, “You seemed nice, right from the time you sat down.” (Well, of course, without question, without a doubt, it’s a given, and so on).

But here is the unexpected part, or at least the somewhat unexpected part. Off the top of my head I would not then, in the 1960s, bet my last dollar that a young woman from Muncie (town used here for convenience only) would be coy (nice word, right?) on her first “date.” Coyness here signifying her willingness to gather me to her bed at about 3:00 AM as we both were trying to fight off the sleep that was descending on us. But get this, and I will sign any notarized document necessary in support of this, she asked, yes, asked me into her bed. Well, as I mentioned above, she said I seemed nice, and there you have it. Of course, being “nice” I couldn’t say no. Yes, the gentleman “hippie”, that’s me.

You know the boy meets girl plot lines of most movies have it all messed up. Either they meet, give each other lecherous stares (hell, not even winsome smiles) and proceed to tear each other clothes off in an act of sexual frenzy then spent the rest of the movie justifying their eternal love by that first edenic act. Or, and this is truer of older films (and prudish modern comic book-based superhero flicks), the “foreplay” lasts so long that by the time that they hit the downy billows you go ho-hum and are more interested in returning to the unfolding plot. Novels follow a lot of the same paths except, mostly the sexual scenes are about a paragraph or so and reflect the wisdom of the parties involved more than raw sexual energy. Romance novels, a category that would seem to be made for sexual exploits, using don’t get around to hitting the pillows until about page 323 and by then all you care about is whether the sheets are pastel or designer prints.

Real life, real life first encounter romances (read: sexual encounters) are more halting and, frankly, timid. Except, of course, those phantom Herculean and nubile sex-crazed teeny-boppers of urban legend that we have heard about. Ya, I have heard about them too. But that’s about it, heard about them. Think about the awkwardness of that first touch reflecting those ancient memories of being kissed back in about sixth grade, or about those gone wrong affairs that have piled up in your life’s memory bank, or that intense moment when both parties look downward in trepidation at what may come ahead. Or, and here is where memory plays no trick, that woman back home, that woman of one thousand frustrations that you needed to get some distance from, and that set you on this blue-pink road, but whose 999 delights have now surfaced and clouded all thinking. I nevertheless plunge recklessly onward.

For those pruriently-inclined readers who now expect a touch by touch, feel by feel, clothes taking-off by clothes taking-off, flesh against flesh description of our precious, sweet, private, very private love-making look elsewhere. Wait a minute. Look elsewhere, unless you have a written book (and/or movie rights) contract in hand. In that case I will be more than happy to fill in the sweaty, steamy, lurid, blood-pressure-rising details. I will make the earth under that old cabin shake, and the rafters too. I will give details that would make the Marquis de Sade blush, blush profusely. If you have no contract then let’s leave it at this; something deep in that moonless Ohio night, that times out of joint, moonless Ohio night, created a passion, or better, a moment of passion that we both could have bet our last dollars on. Something that it seemed we had both been waiting all our lives for, although we didn’t use those words. Just a couple of sly, knowing smiles, and then sleep.

Suddenly, we are awaken with a start. A still dark of night start and a hard rapping on the door, that damn, fly-flecked, oil-based painted green door. And a voice, a female voice. “Angelica, one of Penny’s kids is sick, you’ll have to take her shift.” Even a night of passion, a moonless Ohio sly-smiled night of passion, cannot fend off the day’s realities, Angelica’s day realities. She says: “Yes, I’ll be there in a little while,” almost automatically. But just as automatically she says to me: “Don’t go out on the highway yet.”

Humble, barely whitewashed cabin or exotic, leafy country estate if a woman jumps out of bed and orders me to stay put who am I to disobey, at least until I see what my next move is. I agree and turn over. A few hours later she returns and we mess up her bed sheets again, and again. Then, after some Angelica sleep, and some kitchenette supper she says to me, just as boldly as when she invited me to her bed, that she wanted to go “on the road” with me.

My heart is racing for a thousand reasons, one of them included the thought that our little romance would lead to this although I didn't put it that way in my answer. More like: “Ya, I guess I was kind of thinking, maybe, a little about that idea.” A couple of days later, after she had worked some double-shifts and I did my bit doing some off-hand dish washing for meals and wages we gathered up her stuff off the bureau, place it in that orderly small suitcase, shut that damn, moth-crusted oil-based painted green door and head for the trucks a couple of hundred yards away and our ride out. Our ride out in search of the blue-pink great American West night that I have not told her about, at least not in those exact words, but that that she will find out about in her own good time and in her own way.