Saturday, April 27, 2019

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

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

By Allan Jackson

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


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

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

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

Phil Larkin comment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Markin comment:

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

*The Anniversary Of The Irish Republican Hunger Strikers-ALL HONOR TO THE MEMORY OF BOBBY SANDS, MP- The Struggle Continues

Click on title to link to YouTube film clip on Bobby Sands and the Ten Irish Hunger Strikers of 1981



This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the deaths of Bobby Sands and the 10 Irish Republican Freedom Fighters as a result of their hunger strikes against the British Occupation. Hunger strikes are a way, and justifiably so, of gaining the world’s attention to an injustice done to downtrodden and unequally matched people struggling against occupation. That was certainly the situation in the North at that time. Unfortunately there still is no peace in the North nor can there be until the bloody British Army gets out. That is the primary condition necessary before real peace will come. Nationalists, Republicans and Socialists may disagree on the political configurations of the future governments in Ireland but all can, and should, demand the end of the occupation. To really honor these heroes raise the demand- ALL BRITISH TROOPS OUT OF IRELAND (and get the hell out of Iraq while we are at it). And to honor James Connolly, Commandant, Irish Citizens Army, an earlier Irish martyr, let us fight for socialist solutions to the “Troubles”. Chocky Ar la (Our Day Will Come).

"Easter, 1916"-William Butler Yeats

I HAVE met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

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

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

DVD Review

By Frank Jackman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poet's Corner- William Butler Yeats' "Leda And The Swan"

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of a recital of William Butler Yeats' Leda and the Swan.

Leda And The Swan- William Butler Yeats

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still

Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed

By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,

He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?

And how can body, laid in that white rush,

But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower[20]

And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

*The Unwritten American Civil War Saga- A Literary View

Click On Title To Link To Wikipedia's Entry For Ambrose Bierce An Important Post-Civil War Writer Now Somewhat Forgotten In Literary Circles And Who Is Mentioned In The Book Reviewed Below.


The Unwritten War: American Writers And The Civil War, Daniel Aaron, The University Of Wisconsin Press, 1987

As we approach the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War one would be hard pressed to find a subject related remotely to the war and its outcome that has not been covered by one or another Civil War buff. Needless to say the various major military and civilian figures have been covered ad nauseaum. Ditto for the main military strategies and their outcomes. Hardly a skirmish in some god forsaken hollow has been left untouched. And it goes on from there. The songs of both sides, the fashions of the day, the religions of the hour, the sacrifices on the home fronts and the financial credit ratings of both sides, just to pick some random examples, have all in their turn had their day in court. Lately, as the search for new material has gotten more doggedly elusive in the face of such scarcity factors such as the army morale, soldiers’ morality and the meaning of life (or the afterlife) for both sides have come in for inspection. In short, there is no lack of information about almost any facet of the struggle. Yet, this book under review, published originally some twenty years ago, concerning the way the American literary set at the time or since then have, or have not, written the definitive sage of the conflict is well worth the read, and as a very good source for further exploration on the subject as well.

Professor Aaron has taken as his thesis the notion that although the American Civil War would seem to have been a natural subject for some literary figure to attain immortality by writing the its definitive saga. He argues, for several reasons, that this did not occur, or if did it was by someone like William Faulkner who was substantially removed from any serious direct link to the struggle. Fair enough, More than one author, and here I am thinking of Norman Mailer, has broken his literary teeth trying, unsuccessfully, to write the great American novel, Thus that the same frustration may have occurred over a titanic human struggle by those who fought in or had the conflict touch their lives even indirectly does not come as a surprise. What is interesting here is the professor’s extensive overview of his subject and of the structure of his argument.

The professor has divided his book in several sections that reflect various applications of his overall theme. I will not go into detail here on each section but just say that a litany of the names that he evokes form a veritable who’s who of the American literary scene, some very familiar (Faulkner, James, Twain) others lost in the mist of time (DeForest, Tourgee, Cable), over the 100 years after the war (he basically ends his work after looking at Faulkner’s influence). I will, taking my hints from this book, spend more time in this space later going into more depth on many of these authors. For now though it is enough to summarize the sections.

Professor Aaron starts out by looking at the literary divide first- for or against one side or the other (or an off-hand indifference, as in the case of Melville). This tends toward a not unexpected divide between hot Northern “abolitionists” and Southern “fire-eaters”. He goes on to look at Hawthorne, Whitman, and the above-mentioned Melville. He thereafter gives space, but literary short shrift to the “malingerers” those who sat out the war, one way or another. Here Henry James, Mark Twain and Henry Adams get their just dessert. No one expects a literary figure to be a fighter or brave, but it helps when the subject is war, especially a war that will define a new age (successfully or not).

Actual combatant writers come under fire as well. Most of these writers are not memorable and Ambrose Bierce is the only one I have even seen anthologized. The second hand warriors are best represented by Stephen Crane His “Red Badge Of Courage”, required reading in high school certainly had the grit of the battlefield down but I agree with the professor that such a narrow scope is hardly the stuff of the “great” Civil War novel. Southern writers come in for some attention, especially the now well-known name of Sidney Lanier. Part of Professor Aaron argument is an assumption that while the South lost the war it “won” the literary battle. Certainly that was true until recently on the history front on the subjects of the fate of the slave under slavery and Radical Reconstruction. I am not as sure that this premise applies on this question.

Finally, the professor ends with a look at the Agrarians, a revisionist political/literary trend that took to defending the “old regime” in the South. The names Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren (of “All The King’s Men” fame) and John Crow Ransome are associated most closely with this endeavor. And of course at the tag end of that movement, although a literary force in his own right, William Faulkner who put the South, at least in fiction, back on the map. We have nothing common, as far as I can tell, politically or socially but, damn, he could write. As one can see a mere summary leads to many tempting ideas and precludes anything other than a summary to be followed up. In the meantime read this book. It is worth the time.

This is Walt Whitman's well-known homage to the fallen Civil War President Abraham Lincoln. It deserves space in any left history blog. For an excellent musical rendition of this poem (and the inspiration for placing the poem here) listen to Carolyn Hester's "Carolyn Hester At Town Hall" recording from 1965.

O Captain! My Captain!

Walt Whitman


O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart! 5
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills; 10
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck, 15
You’ve fallen cold and dead.


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; 20
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d


WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west, 5
And thought of him I love.


O powerful, western, fallen star!
O shades of night! O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear’d! O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless! O helpless soul of me! 10
O harsh surrounding cloud, that will not free my soul!


In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle......and from this bush in the door-yard, 15
With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.


In the swamp, in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

Solitary, the thrush, 20
The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.

Song of the bleeding throat!
Death’s outlet song of life—(for well, dear brother, I know
If thou wast not gifted to sing, thou would’st surely die.) 25


Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes, and through old woods, (where lately the violets peep’d from the ground, spotting the gray debris;)
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes—passing the endless grass;
Passing the yellow-spear’d wheat, every grain from its shroud in the dark-brown fields uprising;
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards; 30
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.


Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night, with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop’d flags, with the cities draped in black, 35
With the show of the States themselves, as of crape-veil’d women, standing,
With processions long and winding, and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit—with the silent sea of faces, and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn; 40
With all the mournful voices of the dirges, pour’d around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—Where amid these you journey,
With the tolling, tolling bells’ perpetual clang;
Here! coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac. 45


(Nor for you, for one, alone;
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring:
For fresh as the morning—thus would I carol a song for you, O sane and sacred death.

All over bouquets of roses,
O death! I cover you over with roses and early lilies; 50
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious, I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes;
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you, and the coffins all of you, O death.)


O western orb, sailing the heaven! 55
Now I know what you must have meant, as a month since we walk’d,
As we walk’d up and down in the dark blue so mystic,
As we walk’d in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell, as you bent to me night after night,
As you droop’d from the sky low down, as if to my side, (while the other stars all look’d on;) 60
As we wander’d together the solemn night, (for something, I know not what, kept me from sleep;)
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west, ere you went, how full you were of woe;
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze, in the cold transparent night,
As I watch’d where you pass’d and was lost in the netherward black of the night,
As my soul, in its trouble, dissatisfied, sank, as where you, sad orb, 65
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.


Sing on, there in the swamp!
O singer bashful and tender! I hear your notes—I hear your call;
I hear—I come presently—I understand you;
But a moment I linger—for the lustrous star has detain’d me; 70
The star, my departing comrade, holds and detains me.


O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be, for the grave of him I love?

Sea-winds, blown from east and west, 75
Blown from the eastern sea, and blown from the western sea, till there on the prairies meeting:
These, and with these, and the breath of my chant,
I perfume the grave of him I love.


O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls, 80
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?

Pictures of growing spring, and farms, and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking sun, burning, expanding the air;
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific; 85
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a wind-dapple here and there;
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and shadows;
And the city at hand, with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys,
And all the scenes of life, and the workshops, and the workmen homeward returning.


Lo! body and soul! this land! 90
Mighty Manhattan, with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships;
The varied and ample land—the South and the North in the light—Ohio’s shores, and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies, cover’d with grass and corn.

Lo! the most excellent sun, so calm and haughty;
The violet and purple morn, with just-felt breezes; 95
The gentle, soft-born, measureless light;
The miracle, spreading, bathing all—the fulfill’d noon;
The coming eve, delicious—the welcome night, and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.


Sing on! sing on, you gray-brown bird! 100
Sing from the swamps, the recesses—pour your chant from the bushes;
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.

Sing on, dearest brother—warble your reedy song;
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.

O liquid, and free, and tender! 105
O wild and loose to my soul! O wondrous singer!
You only I hear......yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart;)
Yet the lilac, with mastering odor, holds me.


Now while I sat in the day, and look’d forth,
In the close of the day, with its light, and the fields of spring, and the farmer preparing his crops, 110
In the large unconscious scenery of my land, with its lakes and forests,
In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb’d winds, and the storms;)
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the voices of children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides,—and I saw the ships how they sail’d,
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy with labor, 115
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its meals and minutia of daily usages;
And the streets, how their throbbings throbb’d, and the cities pent—lo! then and there,
Falling upon them all, and among them all, enveloping me with the rest,
Appear’d the cloud, appear’d the long black trail;
And I knew Death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death. 120


Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,
And I in the middle, as with companions, and as holding the hands of companions,
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night, that talks not,
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the dimness, 125
To the solemn shadowy cedars, and ghostly pines so still.

And the singer so shy to the rest receiv’d me;
The gray-brown bird I know, receiv’d us comrades three;
And he sang what seem’d the carol of death, and a verse for him I love.

From deep secluded recesses, 130
From the fragrant cedars, and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.

And the charm of the carol rapt me,
As I held, as if by their hands, my comrades in the night;
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird. 135



Come, lovely and soothing Death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later, delicate Death.

Prais’d be the fathomless universe, 140
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious;
And for love, sweet love—But praise! praise! praise!
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding Death.

Dark Mother, always gliding near, with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome? 145

Then I chant it for thee—I glorify thee above all;
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.

Approach, strong Deliveress!
When it is so—when thou hast taken them, I joyously sing the dead,
Lost in the loving, floating ocean of thee, 150
Laved in the flood of thy bliss, O Death.

From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose, saluting thee—adornments and feastings for thee;
And the sights of the open landscape, and the high-spread sky, are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night. 155

The night, in silence, under many a star;
The ocean shore, and the husky whispering wave, whose voice I know;
And the soul turning to thee, O vast and well-veil’d Death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.

Over the tree-tops I float thee a song! 160
Over the rising and sinking waves—over the myriad fields, and the prairies wide;
Over the dense-pack’d cities all, and the teeming wharves and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee, O Death!


To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird, 165
With pure, deliberate notes, spreading, filling the night.

Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist, and the swamp-perfume;
And I with my comrades there in the night.

While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed, 170
As to long panoramas of visions.


I saw askant the armies;
And I saw, as in noiseless dreams, hundreds of battle-flags;
Borne through the smoke of the battles, and pierc’d with missiles, I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody; 175
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter’d and broken.

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men—I saw them;
I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war; 180
But I saw they were not as was thought;
They themselves were fully at rest—they suffer’d not;
The living remain’d and suffer’d—the mother suffer’d,
And the wife and the child, and the musing comrade suffer’d,
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d. 185


Passing the visions, passing the night;
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades’ hands;
Passing the song of the hermit bird, and the tallying song of my soul,
(Victorious song, death’s outlet song, yet varying, ever-altering song,
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding the night, 190
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy,
Covering the earth, and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,)
Passing, I leave thee, lilac with heart-shaped leaves;
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring, 195
I cease from my song for thee;
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with thee,
O comrade lustrous, with silver face in the night.


Yet each I keep, and all, retrievements out of the night;
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird, 200
And the tallying chant, the echo arous’d in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star, with the countenance full of woe,
With the lilac tall, and its blossoms of mastering odor;
With the holders holding my hand, nearing the call of the bird,
Comrades mine, and I in the midst, and their memory ever I keep—for the dead I loved so well; 205
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands...and this for his dear sake;
Lilac and star and bird, twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines, and the cedars dusk and dim.

*From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal-C.L.R. James on the Paris Commune

*From The Archives Of The “Revolutionary History” Journal-C.L.R. James on the Paris Commune
Markin comment:

This is an excellent documentary source for today’s militants to “discovery” the work of our forbears, whether we agree with their programs or not. Mainly not, but that does not negate the value of such work done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.
C.L.R. James on the Paris Commune

Revolutionary History is grateful to Scott McLemee for permission to use his transcription of this and other C.L.R. James texts. Standard American spellings have been retained here, on the assumption they were used in the original publication.

The following article by C.L.R. James appeared under a pseudonym in the 18 March 1946 issue of LABOR ACTION, newspaper of the Workers Party of the United States.


They Showed the Way to Labor Emancipation:
On Karl Marx and the 75th Anniversary of the Paris Commune
by C.L.R. James
The American working class is not yet as familiar as the European working class with the history and traditions of the revolutionary socialist movement. March 14, anniversary of the death of Karl Marx, and March 18, anniversary of the Paris Commune will be celebrated by only a small minority.

U.S. Workers and Marx’s Heritage
As the international crisis deepens, the American proletariat will rapidly increase its interest in the great thinker whose whole work was based upon the proletariat as the most progressive force in modern society and the irreconcilable enemy of capitalist barbarism. As the class struggle sharpens in the U.S. Marxism will come into its own as a great popular study. The American proletariat will then learn to celebrate in its own vigorous style the anniversary of those workers in Paris who in 1871, to use Marx’s phrase, stormed the heavens. They gave to the world, for the first time, the “political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labor.”

Karl Marx’s life was all of a piece. He devoted himself to a scientific demonstration of the inevitable decline of capitalist society. But side by side with this decline there emerged the socialist proletariat, the class destined to overthrow capitalism, establish the socialist society, and wipe away for good and all the exploitation of man by man.

In Marx there was not the slightest trace of mysticism. He was a master of English political economy, German philosophy, and French political science. These he used in his monumental labors to establish that the social movement had the inevitability of a process of natural history, that it was “governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness, and intelligence, but rather on the contrary determining that will, consciousness., and intelligence.” By this he did not mean to say that the future of human society was predestined in all its events and occurrences. He knew that men made their own history. He knew that social life proceeded by the conflict of interests and passions, complicated by all the bewildering phenomena which attend the daily activity of hundreds of millions of human beings. But he, more than any other thinker, established the fact that all these multitudinous actions took place according to certain laws. For him the most important law was the organic movement of the proletariat to overthrow bourgeois society.

Perhaps today it would be as well to recall an aspect of his doctrine too often forgotten. No man had a more elevated conception of the destiny of the human race. This for him was the greatest crime of capitalism, that while, on the one hand, it created the possibility of a truly human existence for all mankind, by the very nature of the process of capitalist production, it degraded the individual worker to the level of being merely an appendage to a machine.

A New Vision for the Working People
In his great work, CAPITAL, over and over again, he pointed out that as capitalist production became more scientific, the actual labor of the worker was more and more deprived of intellectual content and educational potentiality. So far was Marx from being a vulgar materialist that in his denunciation of the evils of capitalist production, he did not hesitate (for the moment) to brush aside the wages of the worker. “In proportion as capital accumulates,” he insisted, “the lot of the laborer, be his payment high or low, must grow worse.” On the basis of economic analysis he drew the conclusion that modern society would perish if it did not replace the worker of today, condemned to automatic repetition of mechanical movement, by the highly developed individual. Such a man, according to Marx, would be fit for a variety of labors, ready to face any change of production, a man to whom the different social functions he performed were but so many means of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers. This for him would be a workers in a civilized society but that could come only by the destruction of capital.

Such was his vision that this student of political economy and the labor process has unfolded perhaps the most poetic and far- seeing perspective for human society ever propounded by any philosopher or poet. According to him it was only with the creation of the socialist society that the real history of humanity would begin. Thus at a single stroke, he thrust into insignificance the painfully acquired knowledge and culture of thousands of years of civilization, which he, more than most other men, had studied and understood. All this, he said, would be as nothing in comparison with the perspective which would be opened to human society by the abolition of the exploitation of classes on the basis of a world-wide cooperation. Yet scientist and philosopher as he was, with the unquenchable faith in the inevitability of socialism, Marx was no mere man of the study. He took part in the German revolution of 1848, was active in the preparation of the revolution of that year, and to the end of his days participated, whenever possible, in the workers struggles against capitalism which he always knew as preparation for social revolution. In 1871, when the workers of Paris established the Commune, Marx hailed it as one of the greatest events in human history. Let us briefly recall the circumstances.

The First Working-Class Government
France had been defeated by the armies of Germany which stood at Versailles, a few miles away from Paris. The leaders of French capitalism, statesmen, and soldier, were on their knees before the German conquerors, anxious to save their hides and the plunder that they had accumulated during the war. They were ready to sell out France to the conquered. The French people had proclaimed the French republic, and these capitalist politicians knew that one great obstacle stood in the way of their conspiracy with Bismarck. This obstacle was the armed republicans of Paris. Working in the closest association with the German invader, the French ruling class attempted to disarm the Parisians but the workers of Paris, emaciated by a five months’ famine, did not hesitate for a single moment. They seized the power in Paris and established the Paris Commune. What exactly was this Commune? There have been many interpretations. The interpretation of Karl Marx remains unchallenged in its simplicity and its penetration. “It was essentially a working class government, the product of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of man.”

What the Paris Commune Symbolized
The Paris Commune was first and foremost a democracy. The government was a body elected by universal suffrage. None of its functionaries was paid more than the wages of a skilled worker. It did not expropriate the property of the bourgeoisie, but it handed to associations of workingmen all closed workshops and factories, whether the capitalist owners had run away or simply had decided to stop work. It lasted for 71 days. It was destroyed by a combination of its own weaknesses, chiefly a lack of decision, and the treacheries of the French bourgeoisie in shameless alliance with the German army. The murderous brutality with which the fighters of the Commune were shot, tortured, and deported, remained a landmark in European civilization, until the days of Hitler and Stalin. Today, to the American proletariat, there are many lessons to be drawn for the history of the Commune. Perhaps the most important for the advanced workers are the methods by which Marx approached its study and conclusions which he drew. For him, the Commune, despite its failure, was a symbol of inestimable value. It was a symbol in that it showed the real women of Paris – heroic, noble, and devoted like the women of antiquity. It was a symbol in that it showed to the world: “working, thinking, fighting, bleeding Paris – almost forgetful, in its incubation of a new society, of the cannibals at its gates – radiant in the enthusiasm of its historical initiative.” It was a symbol in that it admitted all foreigners to the honor of dying for the immortal cause. It was a symbol because even before peace had been signed with Germany, the Commune made a German working man the Minister of Labor. It was a symbol because under the eyes of the conquering Prussians on the one hand, and the Bonapartist army on the other, it pulled down the great Vendome column which stood as a monument to the martial glory of the first Napoleon. Marx saw in these actions not accidental gestures but organic responses of the revolutionary proletariat to the barbarous practices and ideology of bourgeois society.

The Important Conclusion
Most important, however, Marx drew a great theoretical conclusions from the experience of the Commune. He showed that the capitalist army, the capitalist state, the capitalist bureaucracy, cannot be seized by the revolutionary proletariat and used for its own purposes. It had to be smashed completely and a new state organized, based upon the organization of the working class. In 1871, he drew this as a theoretical conclusion. In 1905, and later in 1917, the Russian working class, by the formation of Soviets, or workers councils, laid the basis of a new type of social organization. It was by his studies of Marx’s analysis of the Commune that Lenin able to recognize so quickly the significance of the Soviets and to establish them as the basis of the new workers’ state. Today the advanced American worker needs to know the history of the international struggles of the proletariat. From these he will most quickly learn to understand his own. Marx’s pamphlet on the Commune, THE CIVIL WAR IN FRANCE, is a profound and moving piece of writing. The worker who has not yet begun the study of Marxism will never forget this double anniversary if he celebrates it by reading what Karl Marx had to say about the great revolution of the Paris working-class.

From The Archives-The Latest From The “Occupy May Day" FaceBook Page- March Separately, Strike Together –International General Strike- Down Tools! Down Computers! Down Books!- All Out On May Day 2012

Click on the headline to link to updates from the Occupy May Day Facebook Page website. Occupy May Day has called for an international General Strike on May Day 2012. I will post important updates as they appear on that site.
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend The Occupation Movement And All The Occupiers! Drop All Charges Against All Occupy Protesters Everywhere!

Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It, It’s Ours! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule!
OB Endorses Call for General Strike

January 8th, 2012 • mhacker •

Passed Resolutions No comments The following proposal was passed by the General Assembly on Jan 7, 2012:

Occupy Boston supports the call for an international General Strike on May 1, 2012, for immigrant rights, environmental sustainability, a moratorium on foreclosures, an end to the wars, and jobs for all. We recognize housing, education, health care, LGBT rights and racial equality as human rights; and thus call for the building of a broad coalition that will ensure and promote a democratic standard of living for all peoples.
Markin comment:

Wage cuts, long hours, steep price rises, unemployment, no pensions, no vacations, cold-water flats, homelessness, wide-spread sicknesses as a result of a poor medical system. Sound familiar? Words, perhaps, taken from today’s global headlines. Well, yes. But these were also the conditions that faced our forebears in America back in the 1880s when the “one percent” were called, and rightly so, “the robber barons,” and threatened, as one of their kind stated in a fit of candor, to hire one half of the working class to kill the other half, so they could maintain their luxury in peace. That too has not changed. What did change then is that our forebears fought back, fought back long and hard, starting with the fight for the eight-hour day symbolized each year by a May Day celebration of working class power. We need to reassert that claim. This May Day let us revive, revive big time, that tradition as we individually act around our separate grievances and strike, strike like the furies, collectively against the one percent.

No question over the past several years (really decades but it is just more public and in our face now) American working people, the so-called middle class for those who frown upon that previous more truthful designation, has taken it on the chin, taken it on the chin big time. What with job losses, heavy job losses in the service and manufacturing sectors (and jobs not coming back), paying for the seemingly never-ending bank bail-outs, home foreclosures, effective tax increases (since the rich refuse to pay, we pay), mountains of consumer debt for everything from modern necessities to just daily get-bys, and college student loan debt as a lifetime deadweight around the neck of the kids there is little to glow about in harsh light of the American Dream. Add to that the double (and triple) troubles facing immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities and women and the grievances voiced in the Declaration of Independence seem like just so much whining. In short, it is not secret that the working class and its allies have faced, are facing and, apparently, will continue to face an erosion of their material well-being for the foreseeable future something not seen by most people since the 1930s Great Depression, the time of our grandparents (or, ouch, great-grandparents).

That is this condition will continue unless we take some lessons from those same 1930s and struggle, struggle like demons against the imperial capitalist monster that seems to have all the card decks stacked against us. Struggle like they did in places like Minneapolis San Francisco, Toledo, Flint, and Detroit. Those labor-centered struggles demonstrated the social power of working people to hit the “economic royalists” (the name coined for the one- per centers of that day) to shut the capitalist down where it hurts- in their pocketbooks and property. The bosses will let us rant all day, will gladly take (and throw away) all our petitions, will let us use their “free-speech” parks (up to a point as we have found out), and curse them to eternity as long as we don’t touch the two “p’s.” Moreover a new inspired fight like the action proposed for this May Day 2012 can help inspire new generations of working people, organized, unorganized, unemployed, homeless, houseless, and just plain desperate, to get out from under. Specific conditions may be different just now from what they were in the 1930s but there is something very, very current about what our forebears faced down there and then.

We ask working people to join us this day in solidarity by stopping work for the day, and if you cannot do that reasonably for the day then for some period. Students-out of the class rooms and into the streets. The unemployed, homeless and others who have been chewed up by this system come join us on the Boston Common. Watch this site for further specific details of events and actions. All out on May Day 2012.

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- An Encore -James Connolly-Irish Citizens Army- A Critical Appreciation Of Easter, 1916

Click on title to link to "Workers Hammer" (International Communist League/Great Britain newspaper) critical appreciation of James Connolly, a hero of the Irish rebellion of Easter , 1916.

"James Connolly"

The man was all shot through that came to day into the Barrack Square

And a soldier I, I am not proud to say that we killed him there

They brought him from the prison hospital and to see him in that chair

I swear his smile would, would far more quickly call a man to prayer

Maybe, maybe I don't understand this thing that makes these rebels die

Yet all men love freedom and the spring clear in the sky

I wouldn't do this deed again for all that I hold by

As I gazed down my rifle at his breast but then, then a soldier I.

They say he was different, kindly too apart from all the rest.

A lover of the poor-his wounds ill dressed.

He faced us like a man who knew a greater pain

Than blows or bullets ere the world began: died he in vain

Ready, Present, and him just smiling, Christ I felt my rifle shake

His wounds all open and around his chair a pool of blood

And I swear his lips said, "fire" before my rifle shot that cursed lead

And I, I was picked to kill a man like that, James Connolly

A great crowd had gathered outside of Kilmainham

Their heads all uncovered, they knelt to the ground.

For inside that grim prison

Lay a great Irish soldier

His life for his country about to lay down.

He went to his death like a true son of Ireland

The firing party he bravely did face

Then the order rang out: Present arms and fire

James Connolly fell into a ready-made grave

The black flag was hoisted, the cruel deed was over

Gone was the man who loved Ireland so well

There was many a sad heart in Dublin that morning

When they murdered James Connolly-. the Irish rebel

"James Connolly"

Marchin' down O'Connell Street with the Starry Plough on high
There goes the Citizen Army with their fists raised in the sky
Leading them is a mighty man with a mad rage in his eye
"My name is James Connolly - I didn't come here to die

But to fight for the rights of the working man
And the small farmer too
Protect the proletariat from the bosses and their screws
So hold on to your rifles, boys, and don't give up your dream
Of a Republic for the workin' class, economic liberty"

Then Jem yelled out "Oh Citizens, this system is a curse
An English boss is a monster, an Irish one even worse
They'll never lock us out again and here's the reason why
My name is James Connolly, I didn't come here to die....."

And now we're in the GPO with the bullets whizzin' by
With Pearse and Sean McDermott biddin' each other goodbye
Up steps our citizen leader and roars out to the sky
"My name is James Connolly, I didn't come here to die...

Oh Lily, I don't want to die, we've got so much to live for
And I know we're all goin' out to get slaughtered, but I just can't take any more
Just the sight of one more child screamin' from hunger in a Dublin slum
Or his mother slavin' 14 hours a day for the scum
Who exploit her and take her youth and throw it on a factory floor
Oh Lily, I just can't take any more

They've locked us out, they've banned our unions, they even treat their animals better than us
No! It's far better to die like a man on your feet than to live forever like some slave on your knees, Lilly

But don't let them wrap any green flag around me
And for God's sake, don't let them bury me in some field full of harps and shamrocks
And whatever you do, don't let them make a martyr out of me
No! Rather raise the Starry Plough on high, sing a song of freedom
Here's to you, Lily, the rights of man and international revolution"

We fought them to a standstill while the flames lit up the sky
'Til a bullet pierced our leader and we gave up the fight
They shot him in Kilmainham jail but they'll never stop his cry
My name is James Connolly, I didn't come here to die...."

Friday, April 26, 2019

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac- The Fire This Time With Kudos To James Baldwin-

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac- The Fire This Time With Kudos To James Baldwin-  

By Lance Lawrence

Sometimes you just cannot win. Sometimes you just let it pass and other times as now anything less than incarceration, some black hole op, or the bastinado will not stop me from saying some words on a subject that I care about. Attentive readers of Growing Up Absurd In The 1950s or its sister publications where such material is something like syndicated know that I, and most of the older writers here and for that matter other publications who grew up in the 1950s have some relationship to “the Beats” to Jack Kerouac and the mad monk poet Allan Ginsberg although maybe not as familiar with the lesser lights stationed in North Beach, San Francisco and Greenwich Village, New York City and other sullen outposts. Guys like Gary Snyder, Phil Larkin, Gregory Corso, Mike Macklin, and maybe Diane Johnson although there were not nearly enough women recognized as part of that movement and only now are a few getting the notice they deserve. Know that although we were way too young or too interested in our generation’s salvation-rock and roll music-to be washed clean by the Beats that by some process of osmosis we picked up some of the ideas, words, be-bop, lust, gangster hep talk, that mainly through endless Saturday afternoon matiness though, homosexual slang, road terminology. Courtesy of Jack Kerouac and the crowd whether he accepted the honorific “King of the Beats” or like Bob Dylan dubbed by the mass media always looking for a hook “King of the Folkies” for the next generation, a title of the folkie-hippie counterculture from which he consciously abdicated as Jack had done going down Florida way with Mere, with mother to drink himself to death after writing that two million words he kept in notebooks in his flannelled shirt pockets. Jesus, imagine if he had, or Fitzgerald or Hemingway had, word processors to glide the way-we would still be reading their stuff first time through now and never get finished.         

Personally, and I have the scars and restless writerly nights to prove it, I was very second-wave influenced by Kerouac and not only by his most famous book On The Road. When the time to learn how to fly on your own came and the house you grew up in and its denizens didn’t fit so well anymore. Maybe in the long haul though less than books like Big Sur which got me to Todo el Mundo just south of Big Sur and some wild escapades and near fatal escapes toked to the gills on weed or whatever came through the very open door. (And where one night after Jack passed I met Jan his daughter also a budding writer but just then hurt beyond belief that Jack never claimed her as his own.) Influences which have made it natural to recount some of those adventures in print of one sort or another. Natural as well this 50th anniversary year since Jack Kerouac’s death in 1969 to make a big deal out of that milestone. To write some fresh material as below or to republish some older material. And not just memories of Kerouac’s influence but what I called in one article the “assistant king of the beats” Allan Ginsberg’s as well.    

That is where the sometimes you can’t win comes in and the have to “speak to the issue” rears its head as well. Recently both to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of Kerouac’s passing and to honor Allan Ginsberg as well I had an article Hard Rain’s A Going To Fall originally published in Poetry Today in 1997 republished in several publications under the title For Ti Jean Kerouac On The 50th Anniversary Of His Death And The “Assistant King Of The Beats” Allan Ginsberg-Hard Rain’s A Going To Fall With Kudos To Bob Dylan “King Of The Folkies."   

In a new introduction to the piece I mentioned that in the interest of today’s endless pursue of transparency which in many cases covers up the real deal with a few fake pieces of fluff admitted that I knew Jack Kerouac’s daughter, always called by me and my crowd Jan, his now late daughter whom he never recognized for whatever cramped reason and which took its toll on her with an also early death, met out in Todo el Mundo south of Big Sur off the famous Pacific Coast Highway. Those were the fast and loose days when everybody wanted to be out somewhere around Big Sur and one day I happened to be in The Lost Way restaurant (now still open under another name serving wholesome food unlike the burgers and fries and beer that sustained us then) and somebody mentioned that Jack’s daughter, unacknowledged daughter as I said, Jan was sitting a few tables away having as I learned later from her just come from  Pfeiffer Beach which played a role in a few of Jack’s books, especially Big Sur. One thing led to another and we wound up taking Jan with us to our digs (house) in Todo el Mundo several miles away.    

That simple fact has now led in 2019 to some fool, a fool with a name very familiar in the age of the Internet of Anonymous, to assume without proof that Jan and I, or Jan and somebody in the house were having an affair, and most probably me. The only “proof” given, maybe asserted is better was that a guy by the name of Johnny Spain told him that he had been there at our house when Jan came tumbling in and that we had a party for about four days when booze, sex, and drugs flowed freely. I knew Johnny Spain back in those days so that part is real. He was on the run from the coppers for either drug possession or for assault I forget which since we had a few such characters come our way and since we were not fond of the coppers then, maybe not now either, we gave him shelter. Johnny probably saw many things as he imbibed in whatever was around the place, but he would not have seen me hanging with Jan. Simple reason: one Carol Riley forever known as Butterfly Swirl in those times when many of us, including me the Duke of Earl (yes from the 1950s hit single), were carrying monikers to reflect our new-found freedoms was slumming from her perfect wave boyfriend existence down in Carlsbad in the days before young women took to the surf themselves and had come north to see what was happening. Butterfly was very possessive which I didn’t mind but would have ditched me and/or has it out with Jan if we had been having an affair. End of story, well, not quite the end Butterfly returned to Carol and her perfect wave surfer before long after finding out “what was what.”          

This is really where my real ire is hanging though. In that same introduction I mentioned that I also knew Allan Ginsberg in his Om-ish days long before he became a professor when we fired up more than one blunt (marijuana cigarette for those who are clueless or use another term for the stick) to see what we could see out in the D.C. National Mall and later Greenwich Village night. Like I said that piece which formed the basis for republication first appeared in Poetry Today shortly after Allan Ginsberg’s Father Death death and caused a great deal of confusion among the readers. I gave a few examples of what went awry in the responses. Some readers thought because I mentioned the word “cat” I was paying homage to T.S. Eliot generally recognized in pre-Beat times as the ultimate modernist poet. That reference actually referred to “hep cats” as in a slang expression from the 1940s and 1950s before Beat went into high gear not a cat. In any case there was no way the staid and high Victorian sensibilities Eliot would know anything about the bohemia of his day except maybe knowing some bonkers Bloomsbury cadre. One would be totally remiss to call him the max daddy of anything as I called Allan in my homage. Maybe “square” if that old term does not confuse anybody.

Some readers, and I really was scratching my head over this one since this was published in a poetry magazine for aficionados and not for some dinky survey freshman college English class, that because I mentioned the word “homosexual” and some jargon associated with that sexual orientation when everybody was “in the closet” except maybe Allan Ginsburg thought I was referring to W.H. Auden. Jesus, Auden, a great poet no question if not a brave one slinking off to America when things got too hot in his beloved England in September 1939 and a self-confessed homosexual in the days when that was dangerous to declare in late Victorian public morality England especially after what happened to Oscar Wilde when they pulled down the hammer was hardly the only homosexual possibility despite his game of claiming every good-looking guy for what he called the Homintern. Frankly I didn’t personally think anybody even read him anymore once the Beats be-bopped.

There were a few others who were presented as the person I was championing. James Lawson because some of his exploits were similar to the ones I described but those events were hardly rare in the burned over 1950s down in the mud of society. If anybody recalls Lawson is the guy who first used the word “beat” to describe the post-World War II malaise affecting the young who either didn’t serve in the war or who as a result of serving were not ready to go back to what Sam Lowell called for his Vietnam War “the real world.” His poetry though was good enough for Village jazz clubs and coffeehouses, the main hang-out venues for beats but hardly the epic stuff that would stir youth nation. Young nation which had had it with normalcy. The flight from downtrodden home life made worse by plodding square parents whose dreams for their off-spring were life-deadening civil servant jobs although admittedly a step up from the dregs down at the working poor base of society.  Jack Weir because of some West Coast references, the usual suspects North Beach, Big Sur, Todo el Mundo (where Allan Ginsberg never went or never went while I was there hanging his hat in Big Sur a stop on the Greyhound bus line unlike Todo with Jack), Fillmore Street dreams and drugs, the inevitable Golden Gate reference. Jeffery Stein, the poet of the new age shtetl because of the dope and self-identification with the downtrodden and the caged inmates at the mental hospitals which he frequented more times than he liked to admit.

All wrong. That poet had a name an honored name Allan Ginsberg who howled in the night at the oddness and injustice of the world after saying Kaddish to his mother’s memory and not be confused with this bag of bones rough crowd readership who refused to learn from the silly bastard. This piece was, is for ALLAN GINSBERG who wrote for Carl Solomon in his hours of sorrow just before he went under the knife and I for him, for Allan the sad day when he went under the ground.

That all was twenty some years ago and while those readers responses were stone-cold crazy they at least had the virtue of ignorance since I did not mention the name Allan Ginsberg in the title nor in the piece. Frankly I did not think I had to do so. What, however, is to be made of readers in 2019 who I assume had read my introduction and its named poet in bold print who still believe that I am referring to some other poet, some of them pretty obscure and old school which makes me think these readers were maybe college freshman survey course takers. I won’t go through them all since unlike 1997 where people actually had to write and mail with proper postage whatever was on their minds today they can just flail away and done so many more responses showed up at my in-box.

Here is today’s list of scratching my head entries. What Sam Lowell a fellow writer here has seen it all in his forty plus years as a film critic calls trolls since they are tied to alternate facts and more importantly whatever they have on their minds, if that is what they have. Maybe they just don’t read introductions or are among the dwindling few who still take umbrage that someone would tout the virtues of a long-time known homosexual when everybody else has moved on, has bought into a very sensible idea that it is nobody else’s business who you love-and now wed. So a few of the rabid went along that line but rather than grab onto Ginsberg have assumed that I was writing about Walt Whitman, since I mentioned the grand civil war and the fate of boys and men including a semi-erotic paean to Abe Lincoln by Walt. Of course they got that wrong since Whitman’s ode to Lincoln Oh Captain, My Captain is one of the few truly chaste and un-coded poems he wrote. But that is a classic example of this troll contingent’s faking reality to suit some odd-ball political agenda from we should all run like hell.

It only got worse after Greg Green, site manager for the on-line publications here who in the old hard copy days would have been called the editor, started publishing some of the e-mails which only fueled the flames. Declared open season on reason until on advice of wise Sam Lowell mentioned above who chairs the Editorial Board that sits to clamp down on an editor’s more off-the-wall decisions told him to stop giving these lonely hearts a platform. To continue though a vague off-hand reference to the various Eggs off Long Island Sound got one F. Scott Fitzgerald the brass ring mainly so that Jay Gatsby could be extolled as the upwardly mobile paragon of American virtue for a new century (that is exactly what was said if you can believe that since in the unlamented Jazz Age except for the jazz Jay got himself shot and dumped in some coal bin.) A couple more to make my point since I suddenly realized that to even present these holy goofs, an expression learned at the feet of one Jack Kerouac who had I believe more talented types in mind, but the expression just popped out at me. Yeats, Yeats of all poets drew some fan-dom based on talk of Irish girls losing their virtues in sullen Cape Cod gin mills. How that goes with muse Maude Gonne escapes me. Finally, and at least this person had some literary sense he thought because I mentioned Time Square hipsters, drifters and grifters waking up in sullen midnight sweats looking for some savior not the Lord fixer man to get them well and ready to do an occasional soft-core armed robbery or jack-roll (I was impressed with the use of that term since nobody uses that expression for a very old trick of taking a slender club or maybe a roll of fisted quarters and bopping some drunk or old lady for their ready cash I was speaking of one Gregory Corso the bandit-poet. Sorry I was reaching for the big Howl and Kaddish master and beautiful lumpen dream Corso was a secondary player back in those long-gone daddy days. Enough. Lance Lawrence]

“Advertisements for Myself”-Introduction by Allan Jackson, a founding member of the American Left History publication back in 1974 when it was a hard copy journal and until 2017 site manager of the on-line edition.      

[He’s back. Jack Kerouac, as described in the headline, “the king of the beats” and maybe the last true beat standing. That is the basis of this introduction by me as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of his untimely death at 47. But before we go down and dirty with the legendary writer I stand before you, the regular reader, and those who have not been around for a while to know that I was relieved of my site manage duties in 2017 in what amounted to a coup by the younger writers who resented the direction I was taking the publication in and replaced me with Greg Green who I had brought on board from American Film Gazette to run the day to day operations while I oversaw the whole operation and planned my retirement. Over the past year or so a million rumors have, had mostly now, swirled around this publication and the industry in general about what had happened, and I will get to that in a minute before dealing with Jack Kerouac’s role in the whole mess.

What you need to know first, if you don’t know already is that Greg Green took me back to do the introductions to an encore presentation of a long-term history of rock and roll series that I edited and essentially created after an unnamed older writer who had not been part of the project balled it all up, got catch flat-footed talking bullshit and other assorted nonsense since he knew nada, nada nunca and less, about the subject having been apparently asleep when the late Peter Markin “took us to school” that history. Since then Greg and I have had an “armed truce,” meaning I could contribute as here to introductions of some encore and some origin material as long as I didn’t go crazy, his term, for what he called so-called nostalgia stuff from the 1950s and 1960s and meaning as well that Greg will not go crazy, my term, and will refrain from his ill-advised attempt to reach a younger audience by “dumbing down” the publication with odd-ball comic book character reviews of films, graphic novels and strange musical interludes. Fair is fair.

What I need to mention, alluded to above, is those rumors that ran amok while I was on the ropes, when I had lost that decisive vote of no confidence by one sullen vote. People here, and my enemies in the industry as well, seeing a wounded Allan Jackson went for the kill, went for the jugular that the seedy always thrive on and began a raggedy-ass trail of noise you would not believe. In the interest of elementary hygiene, and to frankly clear the air, a little, since there will always be those who have evil, and worse in their hearts when “the mighty have fallen.”  Kick when somebody is down their main interest in life.

I won’t go through the horrible rumors like I was panhandling down in Washington, D.C., I was homeless in Olde Saco, Maine (how could that be when old friend and writer here Josh Breslin lives there and would have provided alms to me so at least get an approximation of the facts before spinning the wild woolly tale), I had become a male prostitute in New York City (presumably after forces here and in that city hostile to me put in the fatal “hard to work with” tag on me ruining any chances on the East Coast of getting work, getting enough dough to keep the wolves from my door, my three ex-wives and that bevy of kids, nice kids, who nevertheless were sucking me dry with alimony and college tuitions), writing press releases under the name Leonard Bloom for a Madison Avenue ad agency. On a lesser scale of disbelief I had taken a job as a ticket-taker in a multi-plex in Nashua, New Hampshire, had been a line dishwasher at the Ritz in Philadelphia when they needed day labor for parties and convention banquets, had been kicking kids out of their newspaper routes and taking that task on myself, and to finish off although I have not given a complete rundown rummaging through trash barrels looking for bottles with deposits. Christ.

Needless to say, how does one actually answer such idiocies, and why. A couple of others stick out about me and some surfer girl out in Carlsbad in California who I was pimping while getting my sack time with her and  this one hurt because it hurt a dear friend and former “hippie girl” lover of mine, Madame La Rue, back in the day that I was running a whorehouse with her in Luna Bay for rich Asian businessmen with a taste for kinky stuff. I did stop off there and Madame does run a high-end brothel in Luna Bay but I had nothing to do with it. The reason Madame was hurt was because I had lent her the money to buy the place when it was a rundown hotel and built it up from there with periodic additional funds from me so she could not understand why my act of kindness would create such degenerate noise from my enemies who were clueless about the relationship between us.

I will, must deal with two big lies which also center of my reluctant journey west (caused remember by that smear campaign which ruined by job opportunities in the East, particularly New York City). The first which is really unbelievable on its face is that I hightailed it directly to Utah, to Salt Lake City, when I busted out in NYC looking for one Mitt Romney, “Mr. Flip-Flop,” former Governor of Massachusetts, Presidential candidate against Barack Obama then planning on running for U.S. Senator from Utah (now successful taking office in January) to “get well.” The premise for this big lie was supposedly that since I have skewered the guy while he was governor and running for president with stuff like the Mormon fetish for white underwear and the old time polygamy of his great-grand-father who had five wives (and who showed great executive skill I think in keeping the peace in that extended family situation). The unbelievable part is that those Mormon folks, who have long memories and have pitchforks at the ready to rumble with the damned, would let a sinner like me, a non-Mormon for one thing anywhere the Romney press operation. Christ, I must be some part latter day saint since I barely got out of that damn state alive if the real truth were known after I applied for a job with the Salt Lake Sentinel not knowing the rag was totally linked to the Mormons. Pitchforks, indeed.    

The biggest lie though is the one that had me as the M.C. in complete “drag” as Elsa Maxwell at the “notorious” KitKat Club in San Francisco which has been run for about the past thirty years or so by Miss Judy Garland, at one time and maybe still is in some quarters the “drag queen” Queen of that city. This will show you how ignorant, or blinded by hate, some people are. Miss Judy Garland is none other than one of our old corner boys from the Acre section of North Adamsville, Timmy Riley. Timmy who like the rest of us on the corner used to “fag bait” and beat up anybody, any guy who seemed effeminate, at what cost to Timmy’s real feelings we will never really know although he was always the leader in the gay-bashing orgy. Finally between his own feeling and Stonewall in New York in 1969 which did a great deal to make gays, with or with the drag queen orientation, a little less timid Timmy fled the Acre (and his hateful family and friends) to go to friendlier Frisco. He was in deep personal financial trouble before I was able to arrange some loans from myself and some of his other old corner boys (a few still hate Timmy for what he has become, his true self) to buy the El Lobo Club, his first drag queen club, and when that went under, the now thriving tourist trap KitKat Club. So yes, yes, indeed, I stayed with my old friend at his place and that was that. Nothing more than I had done many times before while I ran the publication.                   

But enough of this tiresome business because I want to introduce this series dedicated to the memory of Jack Kerouac who had a lot of influence on me for a long time, mostly after he died in 1969 

All roads about Jack Kerouac, about who was the king of the beats, about what were the “beats” lead back to the late Pete Markin who, one way or another, taught the working poor Acre neighborhood of North Adamsville corner boys what was up with that movement. Funny, because we young guys were a serious generation removed from that scene, really our fathers’ contemporaries and you know how far removed fathers were from kids in those days especially among the working poor trying to avoid going  “under water” and not just about mortgages but food on tables and clothing on backs, were children of rock and roll, not jazz, the Beat musical medium, and later the core of the “Generation of ‘68” which took off, at least partially, with the “hippie” scene, where the dying embers of the beat scene left off. Those dying embers exactly the way to put it since most of our knowledge or interest came from the stereotypes-beards before beards were cool and before grandfather times -for guys, okay, berets, black and beaten down looks. Ditto on black for the gals, including black nylons which no Acre girl would have dreamed of wearing, not in the early 1960s anyway. Our “model” beatnik really came, as we were also children of television, from sitcom stories like Dobie Gillis with stick character Maynard G. Krebs standing in for all be-bop-dom.        

So it is easy to see where except to ostracize, meaning harass, maybe beat up if that was our wont that day, we would have passed by the “beat” scene, passed by Jack Kerouac too without the good offices, not a term we would have used then, if not for nerdish, goof, wild and woolly in the idea world Markin (always called Scribe for obvious reasons but we will keep with Markin here). He was the guy who always looked for some secret meaning to the universe, that certain breezes, winds, metaphorical breezes and winds, were going to turn things around, were going to make the world a place where Markin could thrive. Markin was the one who first read Kerouac’s breakthrough travelogue of a different sort novel On The Road.
Now Markin was the kind of guy, and sometimes we let him go on and sometimes stopped him in his tracks, who when he was on to something would bear down on us to pay attention. Christ some weekend nights he would read passages from the book like it was the Bible (which it turned out to be in a way later) when all we basically cared about is which girls were going to show up at our hang-out spot, the well-known Tonio’s Pizza Parlor and play the jukebox and we would go from there. Most of us, including me, kind of yawned at the whole thing even when Markin made a big deal that Kerouac was a working-class guy like us from up in Lowell cut right along the Merrimac River.

The whole thing seemed way too exotic and moreover there was too much homosexual stuff implied which in our strict Irish-Italian Catholic neighborhood did not go down well at all -made us dismiss the whole thing and want to if I recall correctly “beat up” that Allan Ginsberg character. Even Dean Moriarty, the Neal Cassidy character, didn’t move us since although we were as larcenous and “clip” crazy as any character in that book we kind of took Dean as a tough car crazy guide like Sonny Jones from our neighborhood who was nothing but a hood in Red Riley’s bad ass motorcycle gang which hung out at Harry’s Variety Store. We avoided him and more so Red like the plague. Both wound up dead, very dead, in separate attempted armed robberies in broad daylight if you can believe that.    

Our first run through of our experiences with Kerouac and through him the beat movement was therefore kind of marginal-even as Markin touted for a while that whole scene he agreed with us that jazz-be-bop jazz always associated with the beat-ness was not our music, was grating to our rock and roll-refined and defined ears.

Here is where Markin was always on to something though, always had some idea percolating in his head. There was a point where he, we as well I think, got tired of rock and roll, a time when it had run out of steam for a while and along with his crazy home life which really was bad drove him to go to Harvard Square and check out what he had heard was a lot of stuff going on. Harvard Square was, is still to the extent that any have survived like Club Passim, the home of the coffeehouse. A place that kind of went with the times first as the extension of the beat generation hang-out where poetry and jazz would be read and played. But in Markin’s time, our time there was the beginnings of a switch because when he went to the old long gone CafĂ© Nana he heard folk music and not jazz, although some poetry was still being read. I remember Markin telling me how he figured the change when I think it was the late Dave Von Ronk performed at some club and mentioned that when he started out in the mid-1950s in the heat of beat time folk singers were hired at the coffeehouses in Greenwich Village to “clear the house” for the next set of poetry performers but that now folk-singing eclipsed poetry in the clubs. Markin loved it, loved the whole scene of which he was an early devotee. Me, well, strangely considering where I wound up and what I did as a career, I always, still do, hated the music. Thought it was too whinny and boring. Enough said though.                   

Let’s fast forward to see where Kerouac really affected us in a way that when Markin was spouting forth early on we could not appreciate. As Markin sensed in his own otherworldly way a new breeze was coming down the cultural highway, a breeze push forward by the beats I will confess, by the folk music scene, by the search for roots which the previous generation, our parents’ generation, spent their adulthoods attempting to banish and become part of the great American vanilla melt, and by a struggling desire to question everything that had come before, had been part of what we had had no say in creating, weren’t even asked about. Heady stuff and Markin before he made a very bad decision to quit college in his sophomore years and “find himself,” my expression not his, spent many of his waking hours figuring out how to make his world a place where he could thrive.

That is when one night, this is when we were well out of high school, some of us corner boys had gone our separate ways and those who remained in contact with the brethren spent less time hanging out at Tonio’s, Markin once again pulled out On The Road, pulled out Jack’s exotic travelogue. The difference is we were all ears then and some of us after that night brought our own copies or went to the Thomas Murphy Public Library and took out the book. This was the spring of the historic year 1967 when the first buds of the Summer of Love which wracked San Francisco and the Bay Area to its core and once Markin started working on us, started to make us see his vision of what he would later called, culling from Tennyson if I am not mistaken a “newer world.” Pulling us all in his train, even as with Bart Webber and if I recall Si Lannon a little, he had to pull out all the stops to have them, us, join him in the Summer of Love experience.

Maybe the whole thing with Jack Kerouac was a pipe dream I remember reading about him in the Literary Gazette when he was down in Florida living with his ancient mother and he was seriously critical of the “hippies,” kind of banged on his own beat roots explaining that he was talking about something almost Catholic beatitude spiritual and not personal freedom, of the road or anything else. A lot of guys and not just writing junkies looking for some way to alleviate their inner pains have repudiated their pasts but all I know is that when Jack was king of the hill, when he spoke to us those were the days all roads to Kerouac were led by Markin. Got it. Allan Jackson    


In Honor Of Jean Bon Kerouac On The 60th Anniversary Of “On The Road” (1957)

By Book Critic Zack James

To be honest I know about On The Road Jack Kerouac’s epic tale of his generation’s search for something, maybe the truth, maybe just for kicks, for stuff, important stuff that had happened down in the base of society where nobody in authority was looking or some such happening strictly second-hand. His generation’s search looking for a name, found what he, or someone associated with him, maybe the bandit poet Gregory Corso, king of the mean New York streets, mean, very mean indeed in a junkie-hang-out world around Times Square when that place was up to its neck in flea-bit hotels, all-night Joe and Nemo’s and the trail of the “fixer” man on every corner, con men coming out your ass too, called the “beat” generation. (Yes, I know that the actual term “beat” was first used by Kerouac writer friend John Clemmon Holmes in an article in some arcane journal but the “feel” had to have come from a less academic source so I will crown the bandit prince Corso as genesis)

Beat, beat of the jazzed up drum line backing some sax player searching for the high white note, what somebody told me, maybe my oldest brother Alex who was washed clean in the Summer of Love, 1967 but must have known the edges of Jack’s time since he was in high school when real beat exploded on the scene in Jack-filled 1957, they called “blowing to the China seas” out in West Coast jazz and blues circles, that high white note he heard achieved one skinny night by famed sax man Sonny Johns, dead beat, run out on money, women, life, leaving, and this is important no forwarding address for the desolate repo man to hang onto, dread beat, nine to five, 24/7/365 that you will get caught back up in the spire wind up like your freaking staid, stay at home parents, beaten down, ground down like dust puffed away just for being, hell, let’s just call it being, beatified beat like saintly and all Jack’s kid stuff high holy Catholic incense and a story goes with it about a young man caught up in a dream, like there were not ten thousand other religions in the world to feast on- you can take your pick of the meanings, beat time meanings. Hell, join the club they all did, the guys, and it was mostly guys who hung out on the poet princely mean streets of New York, Chi town, Mecca beckoning North Beach in Frisco town cadging twenty-five cents a night flea-bag sleeps (and the fleas were real no time for metaphor down in the bowels where the cowboy junkies drowse in endless sleeps, raggedy winos toothless suck dry the dregs and hipster con men prey on whoever floats down), half stirred left on corner diners’ coffees and groundling cigarette stubs when the Bull Durham ran out).

I was too young to have had anything but a vague passing reference to the thing, to that “beat” thing since I was probably just pulling out of diapers then, maybe a shade bit older but not much. I got my fill, my brim fill later through my oldest brother Alex. Alex, and his crowd, more about that in a minute, but even he was only washed clean by the “beat” experiment at a very low level, mostly through reading the book (need I say the book was On The Road) and having his mandatory two years of living on the road around the time of the Summer of Love, 1967 an event whose 50th anniversary is being commemorated this year as well and so very appropriate to mention since there were a million threads, fibers, connections between “beat” and “hippie” despite dour grandpa Jack’s attempts to trash those connection when the acolytes and bandit hangers-on  came calling looking for the “word.” So even Alex and his crowd were really too young to have been washed by the beat wave that crashed the continent toward the end of the 1950s on the wings of Allan Ginsburg’s Howl and Jack’s travel book of a different kind (not found on the AAA, Traveler’s Aid, Youth Hostel brochure circuit if you please although Jack and the crowd, my brother and his crowd later would use such services when up against it in let’s say a place like Winnemucca in the Nevadas or Neola in the heartlands).
Literary stuff for sure but the kind of stuff that moves generations, or I like to think the best parts of those cohorts. These were the creation documents the latter of which would drive Alex west before he finally settled down to his career life as a high-road lawyer (and to my sorrow and anger never looked back which has caused more riffs and bad words than I want to yell about here).             

Of course anytime you talk about books and poetry and then add my brother’s Alex name into the mix that automatically brings up memories of another name, the name of the late Peter Paul Markin. Markin, for whom Alex and the rest of the North Adamsville corner boys, Frankie, Jack, Jimmy, Si, Josh (he a separate story from up in Olde Saco, Maine and so only an honorary corner boy after hitching up with the Scribe out on a Russian Hill dope-filled park), Bart, and a few others still alive recently had me put together a tribute book for in connection with that Summer of Love, 1967, their birthright event, just mentioned.  Markin was the vanguard guy, the volunteer odd-ball unkempt mad monk seeker, what did Jack call his generation’s such, oh yeah, holy goofs, who got several of them off their asses and out to the West Coast to see what there was to see. To see some stuff that Markin had been speaking of for a number of years before 1967 (and which nobody in the crowd paid any attention to, or dismissed out of hand, what they called “could give a rat’s ass” about in the local jargon which I also inherited in those cold, hungry bleak 1950s cultural days in America) and which can be indirectly attributed to the activities of Jack, Allen Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, that aforementioned bandit poet who ran wild on the mean streets among the hustlers, conmen and whores of the major towns of the continent, William Burroughs, the Harvard-trained junkie  and a bunch of other guys who took a very different route for our parents who were of the same generation as them but of a very different world.

But it was above all Jack’s book, Jack’s travel adventure book which had caused a big splash in 1957(after an incredible publishing travail since the story line actually related to events in the late 1940s and which would cause Jack no end of trauma when the kids showed up at his door looking to hitch a ride on the motherlode star, and had ripple effects into the early 1960s and even now certain “hip” kids acknowledge the power of attraction that book had for their own developments, especially that living simple, fast and hard part). Made the young, some of them anyway, like I say I think the best part, have to spend some time thinking through the path of life ahead by hitting the vagrant dusty sweaty road. Maybe not hitchhiking, maybe not going high speed high through the ocean, plains, mountain, desert night but staying unsettled for a while anyway.    

Like I said above Alex was out on the road two years and other guys, other corner boys for whatever else you wanted to call them that was their niche back in those days and were recognized as such in the town not always to their benefit, from a few months to a few years. Markin started first back in the spring of 1967 but was interrupted by his fateful induction into the Army and service, if you can call it that, in Vietnam and then several more years upon his return before his untimely and semi-tragic end down some dusty Jack-strewn road in Mexico cocaine deal blues. With maybe this difference from today’s young who are seeking alternative roads away from what is frankly bourgeois society and was when Jack wrote although nobody except commies and pinkos called it that for fear of being tarred with those brushes. Alex, Frankie Riley the acknowledged leader, Jack Callahan and the rest, Markin included, were strictly “from hunger” working class kids who when they hung around Tonio Pizza Parlor were as likely to be thinking up ways to grab money fast any way they could or of getting into some   hot chick’s pants any way they could as anything else. Down at the base of society when you don’t have enough of life’s goods or have to struggle too much to get even that little bit “from hunger” takes a big toll on your life. I can testify to that part because Alex was not the only one in the James family to go toe to toe with the law back then when the coppers were just waiting for corner boy capers to explode any Friday or Saturday night, it was a close thing for all us boys as it had been with Jack when all is said and done. But back then dough and sex after all was what was what for corner boys, maybe now too although you don’t see many guys hanging on forlorn Friday night corners anymore.

What made this tribe different, the Tonio Pizza Parlor corner boys, was mad monk Markin. Markin called by Frankie Riley “Scribe” from the time he came to North Adamsville from across town in junior high school and that stuck all through high school. The name stuck because although Markin was as larcenous and lovesick as the rest of them he was also crazy for books and poetry. Christ according to Alex, Markin was the guy who planned most of the “midnight creeps” they called then. Although nobody in their right minds would have the inept Markin actually execute the plan. That was for smooth as silk Frankie now also like Alex a high-road lawyer to lead. That operational sense was why Frankie was the leader then (and maybe why he was a locally famous lawyer later who you definitely did not want to be on the other side against him). Markin was also the guy who all the girls for some strange reason would confide in and thus was the source of intelligence about who was who in the social pecking order, in other words, who was available, sexually or otherwise. That sexually much more important than otherwise. See Markin always had about ten billion facts running around his head in case anybody, boy or girl, asked him about anything so he was ready to do battle, for or against take your pick.

The books and the poetry is where Jack Kerouac and On The Road come into the corner boy life of the Tonio’s Pizza Parlor life. Markin was something like an antenna for anything that seemed like it might help create a jailbreak, help them get out from under. Later he would be the guy who introduced some of the guys to folk music when that was a big thing. (Alex never bought into that genre, still doesn’t, despite Markin’s desperate pleas for him to check it out. Hated whinny Bob Dylan above all else.) Others too like Kerouac’s friend Allen Ginsburg and his wooly homo poem Howl from 1956 which Markin would read sections out loud from on lowdown dough-less, girl-less Friday nights. And drive the strictly hetero guys crazy when he insisted that they read the poem, read what he called a new breeze was coming down the road. They could, using that term from the times again, have given a rat’s ass about some fucking homo faggot poem from some whacko Jewish guy who belonged in a mental hospital. (That is a direct quote from Frankie Riley at the time via my brother Alex’s memory bank.)

Markin flipped out when he found out that Kerouac had grown up in Lowell, a working class town very much like North Adamsville, and that he had broken out of the mold that had been set for him and gave the world some grand literature and something to spark the imagination of guys down at the base of society like his crowd with little chance of grabbing the brass ring. So Markin force-marched the crowd to read the book, especially putting pressure on my brother who was his closest friend then. Alex read it, read it several times and left the dog- eared copy around which I picked up one day when I was having one of my high school summertime blues. Read it through without stopping almost like Jack wrote the final version of the thing on a damn newspaper scroll in about three weeks. So it was through the Scribe via Alex that I got the Kerouac bug. And now on the 60th anniversary I am passing on the bug to you.           

Book Review

Atop The Underwood: Early Stories And Other Writings, Jack Kerouac, edited by Paul Marion, Viking Press, New York, 1999

For starters, for the benefit of the younger set, I should explain the word Underwood used in the title of this compilation refers to a typewriter, an ancient tool used by writers and others in pre-historical times (before the digital age) in order to more quickly tell what they had to say to the world. How primitive, right? Except, typewriter or word processor, a writer is still obliged to have a plan (or plans) to tell his woes to the world. Now I have spent considerable time in this space reviewing many of the major works of the “beat writer Jack Kerouac, including masterpieces of his generation (and my later one) like “On The Road”, “Dharma Bums”, and “Desolation Angels”. And rightly so. Now we come to a compilation of his early writings, thoughts, half –thoughts, sketches for thoughts and a few poems thrown in. In short, we are now in the stage of interest to the aficionado.

The editor of the compilation, Paul Marion, a younger fellow Lowell compatriot and writer of Kerouac’s has what can only be described as a labor of love in organizing this work. Jack Kerouac may not have always written material that was unalloyed gold but he wrote a ton of stories and ideas for stories starting from his youth in junior high school in Lowell. Marion has separated out the best or otherwise most representative of the work from about 1936 to 1943 (just before the decisive meetings with the New York crowd, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lucien Carr, etc., with whom he would make literary history as the core of the “beat” generation writers). For those who want to trace Kerouac’s evolution as a writer, what animated him at any given time, how he created that spontaneous writing form that he became famous for, or those who just want to be entertained by stories form the old days of the 1930s and 1940s this is good stuff to run through. For the rest us you NEED to read those three novels listed in the first paragraph, and you had better get to it.