Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love -Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- When The Music’s Over-On The Anniversary Of Janis Joplin’s Death-Magical Realism 101

The Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love -Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- When The Music’s Over-On The Anniversary Of Janis Joplin’s Death-Magical Realism 101

From The Pen Of Sam Lowell

Scene: Brought to mind by the cover art on some deep fogged memory producing, maybe acid-etched flashback memory at the time, accompanying CD booklet tossed aside on the coffee table by a guy from the old days, the old New York University days, Jeff Mackey, who had been visiting Sarah, Josh Breslin’s wife of the moment. Jeff had just placed the CD on the CD player, the intricacies of fine-tuned down-loading from YouTube beyond anybody’s stoned capacity just then and so the “primitive” technology (stoned as in “turned on,” doped up, high if you like just like in the old days as well although Josh had gone to State U not NYU but the times were such that such transactions were universal and the terms “pass the bong” and “don’t bogart that join” had passed without comment). Don’t take that “wife of the moment” too seriously either since that was a standing joke between Sarah and Josh (not Joshua, Joshua was dad, the late Joshua Breslin, Jr.) since in a long life they had managed five previous  marriages (three by him, two by her) and scads of children and two scads of grandchildren (who had better not see this piece since grandma and grandpa have collectively expended many jaws-full hours of talk  about the danger of demon drugs, the devil’s work even if only with a half-hearted sincerity since they fully expected that those younger kids like their own kids would experiment, would "puff the magic dragon" and then move on).

When Josh had picked up that tossed aside booklet he noticed a  wispy, blue-jeaned, blouse hanging off one shoulder, bare-foot, swirling mass of red hair, down home Janis Joplin-like female performer belting out some serious blues rock in the heat of the “Generation of ‘68” night. (The Generation of "68 designation a term of art among the brethren still standing who had faced down that seminal year in the history of the 1960s, some calling it the ebb tide year although Josh had pushed that forward over the years to 1971 the year when they had utterly failed to shut down the government if it would not shut the Vietnam War.) The woman maybe kin to Janis, maybe not, but certainly brethren who looked uncannily like his first ex-wife, Laura, who had taught him many little sex things learned from a trip to India and close attention to the Kama Sutra which he had passed on to everybody thereafter including Sarah. And no again don’t take that wistful though about Laura as anything but regret since their civil wars had passed a long time before and beside Laura had not been heard from since the time she went down to Rio and was presumably shacked up with some dope king or diamond king or something probably still earning her keep with those little India tricks. (Strange to think that straight-laced Forest Lawn-raised Laura knew all the tricks that some courtesans would blush at sine a look at her would say virgin until marriage. No way. 

Still looking at the tantalizing artwork Josh thought of the time of our time, passed. Of wistful women belting out songs, band backed-up and boozed-up, probably Southern Comfort if the dough was tight and there had been ginger ale or ice to cut the sweet taste or if it was late and if the package store was short of some good cutting whiskey, but singing, no, better evoking, yes, evoking barrelhouse down-trodden black empresses and queens from somewhere beyond speaking troubled times, a no good man taking up with that no good best girlfriend  of hers who drew a bee-line to him when that empress advertised his charms, no job, no prospect of a job and then having to go toe to toe with that damn rent collector man on that flattened damn mattress that kept springing holes, maybe no roof over a head and walking the streets picking up tricks to pass the time, no pocket dough, no prospects and a ton of busted dreams in some now forgotten barrelhouse, chittlin’ circuit bowling alley complete with barbecued ribs smoking out back or in a downtown “colored” theater. Or the echo of that scene, okay. Jesus, maybe he had better kick that dope thing before he actually did start heading to Rio.


Josh Breslin (a. k. a. the Prince of Love, although some merry prankster yellow brick road bus wit made a joke of that moniker calling him the Prince of Lvov, some Podunk town in Poland, or someplace like that, maybe Russia he was not sure of the geography all he knew was that he had made a wag wiggle a little for his indiscretion)  was weary, weary as hell, road- weary, drug-weary, Captain Crunch’s now Big Sur–based magical mystery tour, merry prankster, yellow brick road bus-weary, weary even of hanging out with his “papa,” “Far-Out” Phil Larkin who had gotten him through some pretty rough spots weary. Hell, he was girl-weary too, girl weary ever since his latest girlfriend, Gypsy Lady (nee Phyllis McBride but in a time when everyone in youth nation was shedding "slave" names the moniker of the day or week was the way that you identified most fellow travelers-that was just the way it was and kind of nice when you thought about it-wouldn't you rather be Moonbeam than some Susan something), decided that she just had to go back to her junior year of college at Berkeley in order to finish up some paper on the zodiac signs and their meaning for the new age rising.

Yeah, okay Gypsy, do what you have to do, the Prince mused to himself. Chuckled really, term paper stuff was just not his “thing” right then. Hell, he had dropped out of State U, dropped out of Laura Perkin’s life, dropped out of everything to chase the Western arroyo desert ocean washed dream that half his generation was pursuing just then.

Moreover this summer of 1968, June to be exact, after a year bouncing between summers of love, 1967 version to be exact, autumns of drugs, strange brews of hyper-colored experience drugs and high shamanic medicine man aztec druid flame throws, winters of Paseo Robles brown hills discontent, brown rolling hills until he sickened of rolling, the color brown, hills, slopes, plains, everything, and springs of political madness what with Johnson’s resignation, Robert Kennedy’s assassination piled on to that of Martin Luther King’s had taken a lot out of him, including his weight, weight loss that his already slim former high school runner’s frame could not afford.

Now the chickens had come home to roost. Before he had joined Captain Crunch’s merry prankster crew in San Francisco, got “on the bus,” in the youth nation tribal parlance, last summer he had assumed, after graduating from high school, that he would enter State U in the fall (University of Maine, the Prince is nothing but a Mainiac, Olde Saco section, for those who did not know). After a summer of love with Butterfly Swirl though before she went back to her golden-haired surfer boy back down in Carlsbad (his temperature rose even now every time he thought about her and her cute little tricks to get him going sexually and she had never heard of the Kama Sutra) and then a keen interest in a couple of other young women before Gypsy Lady landed on him, some heavy drug experiences that he was still trying to figure out, his start–up friendship with Phil, and the hard fact that he just did not want to go home now that he had found “family” decided that he needed to “see the world” for a while instead. And he had, at least enough to weary him.

What he did not figure on, or what got blasted into the deep recesses of his brain just a couple of days ago, was a letter from his parents with a draft notice from his local board enclosed. Hell’s bells he had better get back, weary or not, and get some school stuff going real fast, right now fast. There was one thing for sure, one nineteen-year old Joshua Lawrence Breslin, Olde Saco, Maine High School Class of 1967, was not going with some other class of young men to ‘Nam to be shot at, or to shoot.

Funny, Josh thought, as he mentally prepared himself for the road back to Olde Saco, how the past couple of months had just kind of drifted by and that he really was ready to get serious. The only thing that had kind of perked him up lately was Ruby Red Lips (nee Sandra Kelly), who had just got “on the bus” from someplace down South like Georgia, or Alabama and who had a great collection of blues records that he was seriously getting into (as well as seriously into Miss Ruby, as he called her as a little bait, a little come on bait, playing on her somewhere south drawl, although she seemed slow, very slow, to get his message).

Josh, all throughout high school and even on the bus, was driven by rock ‘n’ roll. Period. Guys like Elvis, Chuck, Jerry Lee, even a gal like Wanda Jackson, when they were hungry, and that hunger not only carried them to the stars but slaked some weird post-World War II, red scare, cold war hunger in guys like Josh Breslin although he never, never in a million years would have articulated it that way back then. That was infernal Captain Crunch’s work (Captain was the “owner” of the “bus” and a story all his own but that is for another time) always trying to put things in historical perspective or the exact ranking in some mythical pantheon that he kept creating (and recreating especially after a “dip” of Kool-Aid, LSD for the squares, okay).

But back to Ruby love. He got a surprise one day when he heard Ruby playing Shake, Rattle, and Roll. He asked, “Is that Carl Perkins?” Ruby laughed, laughed a laugh that he found appealing and he felt was meant to be a little coquettish and said, “No silly, that's the king of be-bop blues, Big Joe Turner. Want to hear more stuff?” And that was that. Names like Skip James, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Son House, Muddy Waters and Little Walter started to fill his musical universe.

What got him really going though were the women singers, Sippie Wallace that someone, Bonnie Raitt or Maria Muldaur, had found in old age out in some boondock church social or something, mad Bessie Smith squeezed dry, freeze-dried by some no account Saint Louis man and left wailing, empty bed, gin house wailing ever after, a whole bunch of other barrelhouse blues-singers named Smith, Memphis Minnie, the queen of the double entendre, sex version, with her butcher, baker, candlestick-maker men, doing, well doing the do, okay, and the one that really, really got to him, “Big Mama” Thornton. The latter belting out a bluesy rendition of Hound Dog made just for her that made Elvis' seem kind of punk, and best of all a full-blast Piece Of My Heart.

Then one night Ruby took him to club over in Monterrey just up the road from the Big Sur merry prankster yellow bus camp, the Blue Note, a club for young blues talent, mainly, that was a stepping-stone to getting some work at the Monterrey Pop Festival held each year. There he heard, heard if you can believe this, some freckled, red-headed whiskey-drinking off the hip girl (or maybe some cheap gin or rotgut Southern Comfort, cheap and all the in between rage for those saving their dough for serious drugs).

Ya just a wisp of a girl, wearing spattered blue-jeans, some damn moth-eaten tee-shirt, haphazardly tie-dyed by someone on a terminal acid trip, barefoot, from Podunk, Texas, or maybe Oklahoma, (although he had seen a fair share of the breed in Fryeburg Fair Maine) who was singing Big Mama’s Piece of My Heart. And then Ball and Chain, Little School Girl, and Little Red Rooster.

Hell, she had the joint jumping until the early hours for just as long as guys kept putting drinks in front of her. And maybe some sweet sidle promise, who knows in that alcohol blaze around three in the morning. All Josh knew was this woman, almost girlish except for her sharp tongue and that eternal hardship voice, that no good man, no luck except bad luck voice, that spoke of a woman’s sorrow back to primordial times, had that certain something, that something hunger that he recognized in young Elvis and the guys. And that something Josh guessed would take them over the hump into that new day they were trying to create on the bus, and a thousand other buses like it. What a night, what a blues singer.

The next day Ruby Red Lips came over to him, kind of perky and kind of with that just slightly off-hand look in her eye that he was getting to catch on to when a girl was interested in him, and said, “Hey, Janis, that singer from the Blue Note, is going to be at Monterrey Pops next month with a band to back her up, want to go? And, do you want to go to the Blue Note with me tonight?” After answering, yes, yes, to both those questions the Prince of Love (and not some dinky Lvov either, whoever that dull-wit was) figured he could go back to old life Olde Saco by late August, sign up for State U., and still be okay but that he had better grab Ruby now while he could.

Death, Be Not Proud-With The 17th Century Poet John Donne’s “Death, Be Not Proud” In Mind

Death, Be Not Proud-With The 17th Century Poet John Donne’s “Death, Be Not Proud” In Mind  

Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud

Related Poem Content Details

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. 
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, 
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, 
And soonest our best men with thee do go, 
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. 
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, 
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, 
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then? 
One short sleep past, we wake eternally 
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die. 

By Seth Garth

[Usually music critic Seth Garth confines himself to reviews of CDs and other related subjects like the history behind various musical genre but today he has asked for space to speak about poetry or rather the effect that a poem, 17th century poet John Donne’s Death, Be Not Proud, has had on his old schoolboy friend Luther Larsen who is going through some tough times these days. He begs your indulgence. Ben Goldman]   

My schoolboy friend from old Riverdale High Luther Larsen is dying. I cannot put the matter anymore gently. Luther Larsen is dying. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but his ticket has been punched.  He is a “dead man walking” to use a term from death penalty cases as he himself put it to me the other night on the cellphone when he called me from Boston where he is stating for a few days and where he has of late been a patient at Massachusetts General Hospital. Early last year after complaining for several months of serious bladder problems (let’s just leave it at seriously increased urgency and frequency problems and the reader can figure it out from there on the ravages of a seventy-five year old man) and seeking various treatments that did not relieve his condition one biopsy taken to see what the real problem was he was informed by the doctor that he had bladder cancer.  

After the initial shock, no, denial had worn off (he did not tell me about his condition until several months after the diagnosis) Luther began what are called BCG treatments, not the dreaded chemotherapy he was at pains to tell me and others whenever anybody made that mistake about the nature of the procedure.  I will not go into the graphic aspects of the procedure but they included a series of treatments projected to be over a two plus year duration in order to control the spread of cancerous cells by throwing a toxic cocktail into his body to “harden” up the walls of the bladder. His urologist touted the procedure as a very successful way to control the disease. Luther was all in even though he hated the periodic procedure days like the plague for it left him depleted and very tired although the actual procedure time was fairly short the life-cycle of the chemicals was not.

Luther went through the first couple of series with flying colors after he was “scoped,” after the doctor did another procedure to see what his bladder looked like and after he got the results of a urine sample back. Then after the last series and “scope” the other shoe dropped. The urologist informed him that his bladder was inflamed again, the cancerous cells were making a comeback. The problem, the ‘dead man walking” problem, remember that is Luther’s term not mine, is that due to other medical problems including prostate issues he was not a candidate for a bladder replacement, the next step if the BCG procedure was unsuccessful  in holding back the cancerous cells. Meaning, according to the doctor, that while they would continue the periodic BCGs that realistically he had only a couple of years before he would be overcome by the cancer. Would be a “dead man dead” as Luther put it in one of his more sardonic moments.                      

Luther’s initial reaction to the news from the doctor once he returned from Boston to the apartment that he was renting in a small fishing village in Maine was denial and fear, not uncommon among people who have gotten this kind of terminal notice. (The “why” of the apartment in a small Maine fishing village for a man who has all his life feared to be more than a mile from city street lights will be dealt with in a minute.). He became reclusive, a condition made worse by the isolation and emptiness of that small Maine fishing village in winter until that other night when he told me his fate (again it had been a month after the doctor’s bad news before he made that call to me to tell me about his condition).   

But enough of the sad medical prognostication because if you have been playing attention the topic is about John Donne’s poem Death, Be Not Proud which is really what Luther wanted to talk about for the hour and one half that we were on the phone (he, self-admittedly, not much of a phone person so you can get the tenor of his concerns). Luther had ever since we met in English class freshman year at old Riverdale High been mad for poetry, would read poems out loud even when we were hanging around pizza parlor corners on windswept and girl-less Friday nights much to the rest of us's annoyance and to our prospects for “picking up” stray girls who were guy-less and knew that the pizza parlor was the “spot” to meet and see what happened. In those days I was trying to get all the guys interested in the folk minute that was brewing in the land and which I had heard girls, the kind of girls I, we, would be interested in were getting into so I was not really paying attention to what Luther was spouting forth as far as poetry went. The one poem I was crazy about mad man Allen Ginsberg’s Howl Luther, to use an expression that made the pizza parlor rounds, could have given a rat’s ass about.                   

The exception to my disinterest in Luther’s foolish poems was John Donne’s Death, Be Not Proud which Luther lived by, still does which will come again in a minute as well and then mainly on religious grounds. See Luther was brought up a Protestant, a Lutheran and hence his name, who were not as hung about getting to heaven as I as a Roman Catholic devotee was then. Luther always said, now remember he was only maybe fifteen or sixteen at the time and not any more worried about the grim reaper than I was, that he would not worry about dying, would face it as bravely as he could when his time came. Saw death not as an enemy but as just the “big sleep” (my term from that last paragraph of Raymond Chandler’s crime novel The Big Sleep), no better or worse. He had picked up that idea from Donne’s poem and anytime we talked of the subject that would always come up.  I then, and now too, feared death, feared not being, feared losing the battle, feared winding up outside the gates of Eden. The other night Luther quoted for the first time in a long time that poem and said that he was still resolved as he had been as a schoolboy when the matter was not quite so pressing to face his impending death as bravely as he could. He made short work of the few feeble arguments I made to carry on until the bitter end.            

Then, as his voice became noticeably less audible over that damn phone, Luther kind of whispered what did bother him, was agitating him in the light of his recent news. He had begun to become afraid that at the end he would die alone, alone with nobody to see him through at the end. Now of course I and a bunch of other guys will be there when that hopefully faraway day comes but you have to know Riverdale schoolboy “speak” to know what Luther really meant. He meant that there would be no female companion to see him off. I knew exactly what he meant because poetry –addled or music-addled we were, are, skirt-addled. And that brings us back to that point about why he was tucked away in some godforsaken small isolated Maine fishing village in winter. A couple of years ago his long-time companion, Stephanie, Stephanie Murphy, told Luther she had found another man, had found somebody more in tune with her musical and artistic interests than he and that she was leaving him and the home they had shared for the previous ten years (Luther had been twice divorced, not nice divorces before meeting Stephanie). 

Once she left, once she left even knowing that he had serious health issues, Luther could not face staying in their place and took off for Maine which in sunnier times had been a place of refuge for both of them. And there he has stayed although recently he has made noises about going back to his roots, going back to Riverdale to face the end in a place that he knew would provide some mental relief. 

As we finished that long conversation Luther signed off by reaffirming that he was not afraid to die, and was hopeful that maybe he could find someone (remember read some woman) who would be there for him at the end.  I do give a rat’s ass about that and I told him I hope that he does find somebody. Enough said.              

In The Age Of A Cold Civil War-Immigrant Or Citizen- Know Your Rights From The ACLU-Short Course

In The Age Of A Cold Civil War-Immigrant Or Citizen- Know Your Rights From The ACLU-Short Course 

          In the age of Trump no matter how many generations you and yours have been here in America the beginning of wisdom is to know your rights such as they are and who to contact if they “come in the morning” for you and yours.


From The Archives-he 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love -The Heart Of The San Francisco Fillmore Night, Circa 1967

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love -The Heart Of The San Francisco Fillmore Night, Circa 1967

Scene: Brought to mind by one of the songs in this compilation, The Jefferson Airplane’s Fillmore West-driven classic wa-wa song, Someone To Love.

It wasn’t my idea, not the way I was feeling then although I had “married” them under the stars one night, one late June night, in this year of our summer of love 1967. Married Prince Love (a.k.a. Joshua Breslin, late of Olde Saco High School Class of 1967, that’s up in Maine) and Butterfly Swirl (a.k.a. Kathleen Clarke, Carlsbad High School Class of 1968, that’s down south here in California), my “family” as such things went on the merry prankster yellow brick road bus that brought us north to ‘Frisco. I had only “adopted” the Prince here on Russian Hill one day when he was looking for dope. Before that I had traveled all through the great western blue-pink night, as my North Adamsville corner boy friend, Peter Paul Markin, would say from Ames, Iowa where I got “on the bus,” the Captain Crunch merry prankster bus).

I brought Butterfly and Lupe Matin (her Ames “road” name then although now she is going under the name Lance Peters. No, don’t get the idea she has gone male, no way, no way in freaking hell and I have the scars on my back to prove it. It’s just her, well, thing, the name-changing thing, and her real name anyway is Sandra Sharp from Vassar, that’s a high–end New York college for women, okay) up here for a serious investigation of the summer of love we kept hearing about down in Carlsbad where we camped out (actually we looked out for the estate of a friend, or maybe better an associate, of our “leader,” Captain Crunch, as care-takers). Yes, the “old man,” me, Far-Out Phil (a. k. a. Phil Markin, North Adamsville Class of 1964, that’s in Massachusetts, okay) married them but I was not happy about it because I was still not done with Butterfly myself. Only the residual hard-knocks North Adamsville corner boy in me accepted, wise to the ways of the world, that Butterfly had flown from me.

It was all Captain Crunch’s idea, although Mustang Sally (a. k. a. Susan Stein), if she was talking to the Captain (a. k. a Samuel Jackman) just then, which was always a sometime thing lately since she had taken up with a drummer from one of the myriad up-and-coming “acid rock” bands that had sprouted out of the Golden Gate night, The Magic Mushrooms, and the Captain was not pleased, not pleased at all, probably was the real force behind the idea. The idea? Simple enough, Now that they, the they being the thousands of young people who had fled, fled a millions ways, west, were about creating a merry prankster yellow bus world on the hills of San Francisco the notion that Prince Love and Butterfly Swirl were “married” under the sign of “Far-Out Phil and would have now have a proper bourgeois “wedding reception” was impossible. Celebrate yes, no question. Celebrate high and hard, no question. But the times demanded, demanded high and hard, some other form of celebration. And that is where the Captain (or, as seemed more and more likely once more facts came out, Mustang Sally) hit his stride.

Here is the “skinny.” The Captain knew somebody, hell the Captain always knew somebody for whatever project he had in mind, connected to the Jefferson Airplane, a hot band that was going to be playing at the Fillmore that next Saturday night. And that somebody could get the Captain twenty prime tickets to the concert. [Everybody suspected that the deal was more nuanced than that, probably the tickets for a batch of Captain-produced acid, or in a two-fisted barter, a big pile of dope, mary jane most likely, from somebody else for something else and then a trade over for the tickets. That high finance stuff was never very clear but while nobody worried much about money, except a few hungry times out in some god-forsaken desert town or something, there usually was plenty of Captain dough around for family needs.] So the Captain’s idea was that this concert would be an electric kool-aid acid test trip that was now almost inevitably part of any 1967 event, in lieu of that bourgeois (the Captain’s word, okay) wedding reception. And, see, the Prince and Butterfly, were not to know because this was going to be their first time taking some of that stuff, the acid (LSD, for the squares, okay). And once the acid hit the Captain said, and the rest of us agreed, there would be no sorrow, no sorrow at all, that they had not had some bogus old bourgeois wedding reception. 

Saturday night came, and everybody was dressed to the nines. (Ya, that’s an old Frankie Riley, North Adamsville corner boy leader, thing that I held onto, still do, to say hot, edgy, be-hop.) Let’s just concentrate on the “bride” and “groom” attire and that will give an idea of what nines looked like that night. Butterfly, a genuine West Coast young blonde beauty anyway, formerly hung-up on the surfer scene (or a perfect-wave surfer guy anyway), all tanned, and young sultry, dressed in a thin, almost see-through, peasant blouse. According to Benny Buzz, a kind of connoisseur on the subject, it wasn’t really see-through but he lied, or close to it, because every guy in the party or later, at the concert, craned his neck to look at the outline of her beautiful breasts that were clearly visible for all to see. And while she may have been “seek a new world” Butterfly Swirl she was also an old-fashioned “tease,” and made no apologies for being so. She also wore a short mini-skirt that was de rigueur just then that highlighted her long well-turned legs (long flowing skirts were to come in a little later) and had her hair done up in an utterly complicated braid that seemed impossible to have accomplished piled high on her head, garlands of flowers flowing out everywhere, and silvery, sparkling, starry mascara eyes and ruby-red, really ruby red lips giving a total effect that even had the Captain going, and the Captain usually only had his eyes, all six of them, fixed on Mustang Sally.

And the “groom”? Going back to Olde Saco roots he wore along with his now longer flowing hair and less wispy beard an old time sea captain’s hat, long flared boatswain's whites, a sailor’s shirt from out of old English Navy times and a magical mystery tour cape in lieu of the usual rough crewman's jacket. A strange sight that had more than one girl turning around and maybe scratching her head to figure out his “statement.” That didn’t however stop them from looking and maybe making a mental note to “try him out” sometime. (By the way, I told the Captain later that the Prince had no idea of making a statement and, being more than a little stoned on some leftover hash that he found around he just grabbed what was at hand).

Now back to the action. In order to “fortify” everyone for the adventure the Captain proposed a “toast” to the happy couple before we left the merry prankster yellow bus to make the one mile trip to the Fillmore. So everybody, including the bride and groom toasted with Dixie cups of kool-aid. The Prince and Butterfly were bemused that, with all the liquor available around the bus, the Captain proposed to use kool-aid for the toast. Well, we shall see. And they shall see.

And they “saw,” or rather saw once the acid (LSD) kicked in about an hour later, more or less. Now what you “see” on an acid trip is a very individual thing, moreover other than that powerful rush existential moment that you find yourself living in it defies description, literary niceness description, especially from a couple of kids on their “wedding night.” So what is left? Well, some observations by “father” Far-Out Phil, now a veteran acid-eater, as I hovered over my new-found “family” to insured that they made a safe landing.

The first thing I noticed was that Butterfly Swirl was gyrating like crazy when the female singer in front of Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick, started up on their acid rock anthem, White Rabbit. Some of Butterfly’s moves had half the guys in the place kind of male hippie “leering” at her (mainly giving her a sly nod of approval, and making a mental note to check her out later when the dope hit her at the high point in another couple of hours or so). (Remember she had on that diaphanous peasant blouse, and also remember that sexual thoughts, leering sexual thoughts or not, did not fade away when under the influence of LSD. In many cases the sexual arousal effect was heightened, particularly when a little high- grade herb was thrown into the mix.) I thought nothing in particular of her actions just then, many guys and girls were gyrating, were being checked-out and were making mental notes of one kind or another. It is only when Butterfly started to “believe” that she was Alice, the Alice of the song and of wonderland, and repeated “I am Alice, I am alive,” about thirteen times that I moved over to her quickly and gave her a battle-scarred veteran’s calming down, a couple of hits off the Columbia Red that I had just coped from some freak.

And where was Prince Love during the trial by fire honeymoon night? Gyrating with none other than Lance Peters, who you may know as Luscious Lois or seven other names, by who was my main honey now that Butterfly has flown my coop. But don’t call her Lance Peters this night because after a tab of acid (beyond her congratulations kool-aid cup earlier) she is now Laura Opal in her constant name-game change run through the alphabet. Prince Love had finally “seen” the virtues of being with older woman like I had learned back in Ames Iowa time, an older voluptuous woman and although she was wearing no Butterfly diaphanous blouse Prince felt electricity running through his veins as they encircled each other on the dance floor. Encircled each other and then, slyly, very slyly, I thought when I heard the story the next day, backed out of the Fillmore to wander the streets of Haight-Ashbury until the dawn. Then to find shelter in some magic bus they thought was the Captain’s but when they were awoken by some tom-toms drumming out to eternity around noontime found out that they were in the “Majestic Moon” tribe’s bus. No hassle, no problem, guest always welcome. Ya, that is the way it was then. When I cornered, although corned may be too strong a word, the Prince later all that he would commit to was that he had been devoured by Mother Earth and had come out on the other side. That, and that he had seen god, god close up. Laura Quirk, if she is still running under that name now, merely stated that she was god. Oh ya, and had seen the now de rigueur stairway to heaven paved with brilliant lights. She certainly knew how to get around her Phil when the deal went down, no question.

And how did the evening end with Butterfly and me, after I “consoled” her with my ready-teddy herbal remedy? After a search for Prince and Lance, a pissed off search for me, we went over into a corner and started staring at one of the strobe lights off the walls putting ourselves into something of a trance-like mood. A short time later, I, formerly nothing but a hard-luck, hard-nosed, world-wide North Adamsville corner boy in good standing started involuntarily yelling, “I am Alice, I am alive,” about ten times. Butterfly though that was the funniest thing she had ever heard and came over to me and handed me a joint, a joint filled with some of that same Columbia Red that settled her down earlier. And I, like Butterfly before me, did calm down. Calmed down enough to see our way “home” to Captain Crunch’s Crash-Pad where we, just for old time’s sake, spend the hours until dawn making love. (I send my apologies to those two thousand guys at the Fillmore who had made notes to check on Butterfly later. Hey, I was not a king hell corner boy back in the North Adamsville be-bop night for nothing. You have to move fast sometimes in this wicked old world, even when the point was to slow the circles down.) Asked later what her “trip” had felt like all Butterfly could utter was her delight in my antics. That, the usual color dream descriptions, and that she had climbed some huge himalaya mountain and once on top climbed a spiraling pole forever and ever. I just chuckled my old corner boy chuckle.

And what of Butterfly and Prince’s comments on their maiden voyage as newlyweds? They pronounced themselves very satisfied with their Fillmore honeymoon night. They then went off for what was suppose to be a few days down to Big Sur where Captain Crunch had some friends, Captain had friends everywhere, everywhere that mattered, who lent them their cabin along the ocean rocks and they had a “real” honeymoon. A few weeks later Prince Love, now a solo prince, came back to the bus. It seems that Butterfly had had her fill of being “on the bus,” although she told the Prince to say thanks to everybody for the dope, sex, and everything but that at heart her heart belonged to her golden-haired surfer boy and his search for the perfect wave.

Well, we all knew not everybody was build for the rigors of being “on the bus” so farewell Kathleen Clarke, farewell. And just then, after hearing this story, I thought that Prince had better keep his Olde Saco eyes off Lannie Rose (yes she has changed her name again) or I might just remember, seriously remember, some of those less savory North Adamsville be-bop corner boy nights. Be forewarned, sweet prince.

Exclusion Redux-On The Anniversary Of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order Rounding Up Japanese-Americans For The Concentration Camps

Exclusion Redux-On The Anniversary Of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order Rounding Up Japanese-Americans For The Concentration Camps

And just in case you think today's arguments are new here's a little government propaganda piece...

By Frank Jackman

History is sometimes a mischievous muse. It was 75 years ago that another President of the United States (POTUS in tweet speak), a wild man left-wing Democratic to hear the American-Firsters of that day tell it signed an executive rounding up another minority of the myriad that have passed through this country. And 75 years later … (hey you know) 

The Max Daddy Of The Concord Woods-The Bicentennial Of The Birth Of Walden’s Henry David Thoreau

The Max Daddy Of The Concord Woods-The Bicentennial Of The Birth Of Walden’s Henry David Thoreau

By Fritz Taylor   

I came to the mad monk of the Concord (Ma) woods, the prophet seeker of Walden Pond late, too late when the deal went down. Too late to help me get through the draft/Army war-circus that was for my generation called Vietnam, the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War where we torched, burned, blasted, bombed, belched seven shades of hell against people, excuse my English, who never did a fucking thing to me or mine. To anybody else’s “me and mine” in this country as I learned later, later when I started to connect, started to dig what this mad monk of the Walden had to say about bothering or not bothering other people just because some, excuse my English again, fucking jerk decided that he needed to prove who was king of the hill. Yeah, so you know I was incensed after I did my Vietnam torching, burning, blasting, bombing and belching seven shades of hell against people I had no quarrel with. I didn’t get “religion” until later.           

Now there are many things that this mad monk of the woods taught a candid world (candid when that word had some meaning) about how to preserve the earth, about taking about six steps back and chilling out in your over-stressed life but what grabbed me about the guy was that time when he went crazy over that bastard Jimmy Polk running his ass ragged going to war with the Mexicans. Another people we had no quarrel with and still don’t just because they want to come north to their homeland when you thing about the matter. Yeah, Henry David drove them crazy back in the day when he said he wasn’t pitching in dollar number one for that damn war. Took some jail time for his act of civil disobedience, for speaking truth to power, for setting an example that others later when they took a look at history and guys who did what they had to do did what they had to do.

Yeah left a legacy for later generations. Left it for guys like me who took a wrong turn-for a while. The other day thought I think I might have done old Brother Thoreau proud though. I and a group of Vietnam veterans who I associate were arrested for protesting and protecting some Mexican immigrants who the bastards were trying to deport even though they have been in Estados Unidos all their lives almost. That was my seventeenth arrest for an act of civil disobedience. Henry David your act back in the day did not go unremarked- Thanks Brother.    

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer of Love-This Land IS Your Land- With Folk Troubadour Woody Guthrie In Mind

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer of Love-This Land IS Your Land- With Folk Troubadour Woody Guthrie In Mind         


By Bradley Fox

Back in 2014, the summer of 2014 to hone in on the time frame of the story to be told, Josh Breslin the then recently retired old-time alternative newspaper and small journal writer for publications like Arise Folk and Mountain Music Gazette who hailed from Olde Saco, Maine was sitting with his friend Sam Lowell from Carver down in cranberry bog country out in Concord in the field behind the Old Manse where the Greater Boston Folk Society was holding its annual tribute to folksinger Woody Guthrie he had thought about all the connections that he, they had to Woody Guthrie from back in the 1960s folk minute revival and before. He mentioned that orphan thought to Sam whom he queried on the subject, wanted to know his personal take on when he first heard Woody. And as well to Laura Perkins, Sam’s long-time companion who had been sitting between them and whom Josh had an on-going half flame going back who knows how far but who had made it clear to Josh on more than one occasion that she was true blue to Sam although she had thanked him for the attention compliment. Sam was aware of Josh’s interest but also of Laura’s position and so he and Josh got along, had in any case been back and forth with some many collective wives and girlfriends that attracted both of them since they had similar tastes going back to ex-surfer girl Butterfly Swirl that they just took it in stride.  Here is what Sam had to say:   

Some songs, no, let’s go a little wider, some music sticks with you from an early age which even fifty years later you can sing the words out to chapter and verse. Like those church hymns like Mary, Queen of the May, Oh, Jehovah On High, and Amazing Grace that you were forced to sit through with your little Sunday best Robert Hall white suit first bought by poor but proud parents for first communion when that time came  complete with white matching tie on or if you were a girl your best frilly dress on, also so white and first communion bought, when you would have rather been outside playing, or maybe doing anything else but sitting in that forlorn pew, before you got that good dose of religion drilled into by Sunday schoolteachers, parents, hell and brimstone reverends which had made the hymns make sense.

Like as well the bits of music you picked up in school from silly children’s songs in elementary school (Farmer In The Dell, Old MacDonald, Ring Around Something) to that latter time in junior high school when you got your first dose of the survey of the American and world songbook once a week for the school year when you learned about Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, classic guys, Stephen Foster and a lot on stuff by guys named Traditional and Anonymous. Or more pleasantly your coming of age music, maybe like me that 1950s classic age of rock and roll when a certain musician named Berry, first name Chuck, black as night out of Saint Lou with a golden guitar in hand and some kind of backbeat that made you, two left feet you, want to get up and dance, told Mr. Beethoven, you know the classical music guy, and his ilk, Mozart, Brahms, Liszt, to move on over there was a new sheriff in town, was certain songs were associated with certain rites of passage, mainly about boy-girl things.

One such song from my youth, and maybe yours too, was Woody Guthrie surrogate “national anthem,” This Land is Your Land. (Surrogate in response to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America in the throes of the Great Depression that came through America, came through his Oklahoma like a blazing dust ball wind causing westward treks to do re mi California in search of the Promise Land). Although I had immersed myself in the folk minute scene of the early 1960s as it passed through the coffeehouses and clubs of Harvard Square that is not where I first heard or learned the song (and where the song had gotten full program play complete with folk DJs on the radio telling you the genesis of a lot of the music if you had the luck to find them when you flipped the dial on your transistor radio or the air was just right some vagabond Sunday night and for a time on television, after the scene had been established in the underground and some producer learned about it from his grandkids, via the Hootenanny show, which indicated by that time like with the just previous “beat” scene which scared the wits of square Ike American that you were close to the death-knell of the folk moment).

No, for that one song the time and place was in seventh grade in junior high school, down at Myles Standish in Carver where I grew up, when Mr. Dasher would each week in Music Appreciation class teach us a song and then the next week expect us to be able to sing it without looking at a paper. He was kind of a nut for this kind of thing, for making us learn songs from difference genres (except the loathed, his loathed, our to die for, rock and roll which he thought, erroneously and wastefully he could wean us from with this wholesome twaddle) like Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific, Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home, or Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade and stuff like that. So that is where I learned it.

Mr. Dasher might have mentioned some information about the songwriter or other details on these things but I did not really pick up on Woody Guthrie’s importance to the American songbook until I got to that folk minute I mentioned where everybody revered him (including most prominently Bob Dylan who sat at his knee, literally as he lay wasting away from genetic diseases in Brooklyn Hospital, Pete Seeger, the transmission belt from the old interest in roots music to the then new interest centered on making current event political protest songs from ban the bomb to killing the Mister James Crow South, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott who as an acolyte made a nice career out of continued worshipping at that shrine) not so much for that song but for the million other songs that he produced seemingly at the drop of a hat before that dreaded Huntington’s disease got the better of him.

He spoke in simple language and simpler melody of dust bowl refugees of course, being one himself, talked of outlaws and legends of outlaws being a man of the West growing up on such tales right around the time Oklahoma was heading toward tranquil statehood and oil gushers, talked of the sorrow-filled deportees and refugees working under the hot sun for some gringo Mister, spoke of the whole fellahin world if it came right down to it. Spoke, for pay, of the great man-made marvels like dams and bridge spans of the West and how those marvels tamed the wilds. Spoke too of peace and war (that tempered by his support for the American communists, and their line which came to depend more and more on the machinations of Uncle Joe Stalin and his Commissariat of Foreign Affairs), and great battles in the Jarama Valley fought to the bitter end by heroic fellow American Abraham Lincoln Battalion International Brigaders in civil war Spain during the time when it counted. Hell, wrote kids’ stuff too just like that Old MacDonald stuff we learned in school.     

The important thing though is that almost everybody covered Woody then, wrote poems and songs about him (Dylan a classic Song to Woody well worth reading and hearing on one of his earliest records), affected his easy ah shucks mannerisms, sat at his feet in order to learn the simple way, three chords mostly, recycled the same melody on many songs so it was not that aspect of the song that grabbed you but the sentiment, that he gave to entertain the people, that vast fellahin world mentioned previously (although in the 1960s folk minute Second Coming it was not the downtrodden and afflicted who found solace but the young, mainly college students in big tent cities and sheltered college campuses who were looking for authenticity, for roots).                 

It was not until sometime later that I began to understand the drift of his early life, the life of a nomadic troubadour singing and writing his way across the land for nickels and dimes and for the pure hell of it (although not all of the iterant hobo legend holds up since he had a brother who ran a radio station in California and that platform gave him a very helpful leg up which singing in the Okie/Arkie “from hunger” migrant stoop labor camps never could have done). That laconic style is what the serious folk singers were trying to emulate, that “keep on moving” rolling stone gathers no moss thing that Woody perfected as he headed out of the played-out dustbowl Oklahoma night, wrote plenty of good dustbowl ballads about that too, evoking the ghost of Tom Joad in John Steinbeck’s’ The Grapes Of Wrath as he went along. Yeah, you could almost see old Tom, beaten down in the dustbowl looking for a new start out in the frontier’s end Pacific, mixing it up with braceros-drivers, straw bosses, railroad “bulls,” in Woody and making quick work of it too.      

Yeah, Woody wrote of the hard life of the generations drifting West to scratch out some kind of existence on the land, tame that West a bit. Wrote too of political things going on, the need for working people to unionize, the need to take care of the desperate Mexico braceros brought in to bring in the harvest and then abused and left hanging, spoke too of truth to power about some men robbing you with a gun others with a fountain pen, about the beauty of America if only the robber barons, the greedy, the spirit-destroyers, the forever night-takers would let it be. Wrote too about the wide continent from New York Harbor to the painted deserts, to the fruitful orchards, all the way to the California line, no further if you did not have the do-re-mi called America and how this land was ours, the whole fellahin bunch of us, if we knew how to keep it. No wonder I remembered that song chapter and verse.             

From The Archives -The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love -Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- When The Music’s Over, Really Over

The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love -Out In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- When The Music’s Over, Really Over

Classic Rock: 1968: various artists, Time-Life Music, 1987

Scene: Brought to mind by a the cover art on this CD of a Stepphenwolf-like mushroom-headed band getting ready to belt out some serious rock in the heat of the “Generation of ‘68” night once the "high" wears off, a little.

"That Mustang Sally is a real piece of work," the Prince of Love (a. k. a . Josh Breslin from out of Olde Saco, Maine) thought to himself as he sat in the back of the bus, the magical mystery tour, merry prankster, yellow brick road bus that he had been “on” since the summer of love, last summer, the summer of 1967, the summer of his high school graduation, as the bus headed to their spring encampment down at Big Sur. Yes, Sally, (a. k. a. Susan Sharpe, Michigan Class of 1959, and a couple of other degrees to boot) sure had Captain Crunch (a. k. a. Robert Hutchins, Columbia, Class of 1958), the “owner” and all-around mentor of one and all, except to Sally, of course, over a barrel. See, Captain was the wizard king of the “on the bus” scene but he was nuts about Sally and went blind every time she took a new lover. Sally, in her way, was true to the Captain too, except that she liked to “play the field” a little. Yes, she had the Captain over a barrel alright, and she made him like it.

Sally’s specialty was befriending younger, usually younger, guys although she never thought to give me a tumble but that may have been out of respect for Butterfly Swirl who was my first "bus" love and who had flown the coop last fall to go back to Carlsbad High and her golden-haired surfer boy. And inside that specialty Sally was really friendly toward young rock and rock musicians. Right now she was “dating” Jimmy Jakes, the drummer from the new rage band at the Fillmore West, the Magic Mushrooms. And making the Captain like it. Ya, she is some piece of work.

But the Captain, if you can believe this, is just a little less mad at this Jimmy affair than Sally thinks because Jimmy’s Mushrooms not only make the room jump for the “acid freaks” that every San Francisco night group has to cater to but have a political message too. A hard political message about youth waking up and learning about how those who came to America in the old days just raped the land, raped anything they could get their hands on and then moved on, and that their progeny were still doing. Their best song, which the Captain loved enough to keep playing over and over on the bus’s amped up stereo system, Mickey Mouse Monster, was deep into that message. The Captain, when he wasn’t stoned, angry at Sally, or just cynical that day started this whole bus thing just to search for a ‘new world” and he was still searching.

Funny that the Captain would grant “absolution” to Sally for Jimmy over a simple song but Jimmy, in addition, actually talked politics, real world politics to the Captain. Stuff like how music could be the driving force of the revolution, and that John Lennon should be the head of it, and everybody should go back to the land for a while, all kinds of wild ideas like that. Ideas that for “acid” rock guys were too profound, especially when the high wore off. But the Captain listened, sometimes attentively and sometimes with a smirk. Except when that smirk turned to a big-time frown, when the Captain noticed that Sally was now hovering around a guy playing an electric flute. Ya, Sally had the Captain over a barrel, no question.

From The Be-Bop Archives- Be-Bop, Be-Bop Daddy-In Honor Of The Centennial Of The Birth Of The Mad Monk- Thelonious Monk

Be-Bop, Be-Bop Daddy-In Honor Of The Centennial Of The Birth Of The Mad Monk- Thelonious Monk- (2017) 

By Zack James

No question I was (and still am on nostalgia late nights) a child of rock and roll and while I was just a shade too young to appreciate what was driving my older brothers and sisters to blow their socks off screaming about the new dispensation brought forth by Carl, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Buddy and a fistful of other (and earlier influences like Big Joe Turner, Warren Smith, Smiley Jackson) I was washed clean in the afterglow of that time. Then the music died, got stale for a time and I, along with a billion other lost tween and teen souls, was looking for something to take the pain away from having to listen to Conway Twitty, Fabian, and Bobby Dee and Sandra Dee(I won’t even get into the beef I have with those guys who “stole” the hearts of the very girls I was interested in who would not give me a tumble since I was not their kind of “cute”). Later before the rock revival of the 1960s-the British Invasion for one thing I feasted on the folk minute.

But that was later. In between those times during the drought I got “hip” to jazz, to the cool ass max daddy of cooled-off jazz not the stuff that my parents were crazy for-you know Harry James, Jimmy Dorsey, the Duke, the Count, the Big Earl beautiful Fatah Hines (I would appreciate those pioneers a little late-about fifty years late). What caught my ear one night when I was flipping the dial on my transistor radio (look it up on Wikipedia if you don’t know what that life-saver was) and I caught a few strands of a piece on Bill Marlowe’s Be-Bop Jazz Hour (it was really two hours but hour probably sounded better in the show’s title). After that piece was over, really after several pieces were completed since the show unlike rock and roll shows was not inundated with commercials after every song Bill mentioned that those pieces had been performed by a guy he called the Mad Monk. Mentioned Thelonious Monk in a loving awestruck way as a max daddy of cool, very cool, maybe ice cold jazz. This I could listen to. Moreover the whole show was filled with cool jazz including guys like Charley Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charley Christian, the Prez, sweet Billy Holiday when she blasted outside the big band sound.

Get this though the real hook was that some guys like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burrows and a bunch of sidekicks were setting the cool ass jazz to poetry, to “beat” poetry that I was beginning to hear about. Started talking in clipped voices about there being new sheriffs in town-about the time of the hipsters come down to earth- that the thaw was on and that you had better get on board and some of us did-did catch the tail end of beat fever. But you cannot understand “beat”  without paying dues to guys like the Monk who was born a hundred years ago this year. Could not understand “beat” if you didn’t “dig” the Monk on the piano searching for that high white note to blow the world out into the China seas. Thanks-brother.              

50 Years Gone The Father We Almost Knew One Jack Kerouac Out Of Merrimack Nights-Searching For The Father We Never Knew-Scenes In Search Of The Blue-Pink Great American West Night

50 Years Gone The Father We Almost Knew One Jack Kerouac Out Of Merrimack Nights-Searching  For The Father We Never Knew-Scenes In Search Of The Blue-Pink Great American West Night

By Seth Garth, known as Charles River Blackie for no other reason than he slept along those banks, the Cambridge side and some raggedy ass wino who tried to cut him under the Anderson Bridge one night called him that and it stuck. Those wino-sapped bums, piss leaky tramps and poet-king hoboes all gone to some graven spot long ago from drink, drug, or their own hubris which they never understood gone and the moniker too.  

These old time lonesome hobo flash scenes from the time before hoboing became my way of life, my Charles River Blackie’s on the bum moniker please to meet you way of life, told around hobo, bum, tramp camp fires and every hobo, bum, tramp knew the distinctions and they were fought over, broken bottle in hand like knights of old defending sullen moat-filled sinkholes of turf, along railroad sidings, along ravines, or under bridges when lies were being swapped to keep the chill off (and scratch pad note written down) well after I left the road (although not the life, I just stopped my nomadic roaming and bumming and settler-ed in as stationary flop house denizen), were originally conceived (born in some drift-less night, virginally born, hah, Catholic-showered Ti Jean would know my reference and let it go at that,  nights really, memory high, blasted on sixteen old time highs, benny, miff, sister, brother, boy, girl, jesus, sweet jesus, weed, and mary jane bless her heated heart was the least of it), as separate entries, as separate dream thoughts, and they can be read as such. They can also be read, collectively in sequence, as part of a greater experience and thus I have gathered them together here in one place.

The genesis of these bump in the night scenes, or sketches if you insist, initially came together, as will be noted further below, as a result of a question, no, not a question really but a sense of bewilderment, a “what the hell are you trying to tell us, why, and what for,” that a young friend of mine, a cosmic traveler in his own right from what I have gleaned from the times that I have had occasion to speak to him, speak in his dream words neo-hobo want-to-be vocabulary and thus comprehend a little, had about my use of the term “in search of the blue-pink great American West night” in many of the sketches that I was camp fire swapping some time back. That point-blank query lead to some necessary introspection on my part about the great 1960s hitchhike highway, physical, mental and spiritual of my youth and I belted out a scratch pad short reply. But that was hardly the end of it. The reply triggered further remembrances and, as such things do, triggered some more after that and led to this stream of be-bop road scenes.

Of course that young friend’s spark only tells part of the story. No question that I had already been thinking a lot, sitting up in my room, my spartan bed, bureau, small table, single chair room where I have of late been stationary roaming and bumming, about those 1960s days, and the influence of re-re-reading Jack Kerouac’s “beat” travelogues, especially On The Road during that period is, or should be, obvious as well. I made many trips across the country in those days, mostly through use of the hitchhike thumb, for lack of cash if no other reason, but the choice of the mainly 1969 sweet youth, sweet youth love, sweet Angelica-laced company trip scenes here are calculated to give the best sense of those trips, and the closest I every came to finding out some truth on that damn blue –pink quest. And if all those reasons individually, or collectively, do not tell the story behind the scenes then let’s just leave it as this-the restlessness that drove that youthful quest is still in my bones, still driving my old bones enough to keep me restless forty years later. Hey there is still some of that lonesome hobo wandering left, left unresolved, left thumb-less in the gentle rain good night. Enough said.
There is no question that over the past year or so I have been deep in remembrances of the influences, great and small, of the 1950s“beats” on my own sorry teen-aged alienation and teen-aged angst (sometimes they were separate anguishes, sometimes tied together like inseparable twins, mostly the later) and the struggle to find my place in the sun, to write in bright lights my own beat plainsong. Of course, that "beat" influence was blown over me second-hand as I was just a little too young, or a little too wide-world unconscious, to be there at the creation, on those first roads west, those first fitfully car-driven, gas-fuelled, thumb hanging-out, sore-footed, free exploration west roads, in body and mind that exploded in the immediate post-World War II walking daddy walk world. And of that first great rush of the adrenal in trying to discover, eternally discover as it has turned out, the search for the meaning of the great blue-pink American West night. Ah, pioneer-boys, thanks.

I just got a whiff, a passing whiff of that electric-charged air, the sweet “be-bop”, bop-bop, real gone daddy, cooled-out, pipe-filled with whatever (hash, the O , sweet jesus weed, blessed mary jane, blessed Immaculate Conception Mary and whore around town Mary Mags who got to heaven on the layaway plan and Ti Jean would know exactly what that meant), jazz-sexed (Charley, Dizzy, Miles, and Lester when in his groove blowing that big fat sexy sad-eyed sax at the end behind the our lady of the flowers and other the Prez need know  what that meant when she was in her final sorrows), high white note-blown (blown out the first heard time on some warm, drink sweaty, weather sweaty, sweet jimson in the incense-filled North Beach Frisco sweaty air night, blown out in honor of, come on now, in lure of, that blonde twist (always Saturday afternoon matinee addicted to film noir and the lingo so twist or frill come naturally if not correctly in these deadened times) sitting alone in the alabaster white skin, ruby red lips (I swear out of the high tide of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his brother, his lover and the whole kettle of fish Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who blew opium dreams and wet red lips), black beret atop looking like Jean Genet’s lost mother, black eye-liner eyes, black bump out sweater, black form-fitting skirt, black stockings, black shoes, and wonder, I then Be-Bop Benny monikered in the 1967 summer of love night wonder (long before the down trail knife cut Anderson Bridge Charles River Blackie human sink), woman mystery wonder I would bet six-two and even black undergarments too, howling in the wind plainsong afterglow.

Moreover, Jesus that moreover that has saved more ships wreaked than old Jesus playing Jesus saved sinners and Mary Mag whores, that whiff was somewhat tarnished, a little sullen and withdrawn, and media-used up by my time. (Christ, every television show, every mainstream media outlet it seemed had it mock-“beat” as counter-point to the sober real world, Ike’s sober real world of bombs and psychic beatings remember Carl Solomon and his sorrows before the knife and before a howling poet caused him pain.) More than one faux black chino-wearing, black beret’d, stringy-bearded; nightshade sun-glassed, pseudo-poetic-pounding, television-derived fakir crossed my path in Harvard Square in those high stakes early 1960s high school days. A few real ones as well. (A couple, whom I still pass occasionally, pan-handling occasionally, giving a quick nod to, have never given up the ghost and still haunt the old square looking for the long-gone, storied 1962 Hayes-Bickford, a place where the serious and the fakirs gathered in the late night before dawn hour to pour out their souls, via mouth or on paper fortified with Ti Jean’s Tokay cheapjack wine. Good luck in your search, men for blessed are the earth seekers and alms-seekers too.). More to the point, I came too late to be able to settle comfortably into that anti-political world that the “beats” thrived in. Great political and social events were unfolding, and I wanted in, feverishly wanted in, with both hands (and, maybe, feet too).

You know some of the beat leaders, the real ones, don’t you? Remembered, seemingly profusely remembered now, by every passing acquaintance with some rough-hewn writing specimen or faded photograph to present. Hell people who after giving the best summer of their lives to the Village (or North Beach) and to beat life and then after that minute graduating to stockbroker Wall Street are glutting the market with their minute pictures with the father we almost knew Jack, deeply homosexual Allen whom they would not bring home to mother, or mad monk gangster poet Corso, steamy affairs (all sexes), and take on that lost minute. (Just check E-bay or Amazon if you think I am kidding although I have yet to see some Elvis-divined Velco styled hanging of Allan bopping Neal Cassidy in front of some downtown Denver department store window.) Worse. Now merely photo-plastered, book wrote, college english department deconstruction’d , academic journal-debated. Ah, but then in full glory plaid shirt, white shirt, tee shirt, dungarees, chinos, sturdy foot-sore cosmic traveler shoes, visuals of heaven’s own angel bums, if there was a heaven and there were angels and if that locale needed bums.

Jack, million hungry word man-child sanctified, Lowell mills-etched and trapped and mother-fed, Jack Kerouac. Allen, om-om-om, bop, bop, mantra-man, mad Paterson-trapped, New Jersey, natch, modern plainsong-poet-in-chief, Allen Ginsberg. William, sweet opium dream (or, maybe, not so sweet when the supply ran out and the sickness came on looking fast and hard for that fixer man who would get him well, old tired in the eyes Nelson Algren’s Frankie Machine could have told him there was not enough sorrow opium in the world to staunch that dream-sore), needle-driven, sardonic, ironic, chronic, Tangiers-trapped, Harvard man (finally, a useful one, after all those winos and junkies still bopping for that insane Hayes-Bickford, oops, sorry), Williams S. Burroughs. Neal, wild word, wild gesture, long-donked to fever Allan dreams Adonis golden boy-dropped out of ashcan all-America dream man, tire-kicking, oil-checking, gas-filling, zen master wheelman gluing the enterprise together, Neal Cassady. And a whirling crowd of others, including mad, street-wise, saint-gunsel, Gregory Corso. I am a little fuzzy these days on the genesis of my relationship to this crowd (although a reading of Ginsberg’s Howl was probably first in those frantic, high school, Harvard Square-hopping, poetry-pounding, guitar-strummed, existential word space, coffee, no sugar, I’ll have a refill, please, fugitive dream’d, coffeehouse-anchored days). This I know. I qualified, in triplicate, teen angst, teen alienation, teen luddite as a card-carrying member in those days.

More recently that old time angst, that old time alienation and a smidgen of that old-time luddite has cast its spell on me. I have been held hostage to, been hypnotized by, been ocean-sized swept away by, been word ping-pong bounced off of and collided into by, head over heels language-loved by, word-curled around and caressed by the ancient black night into the drowsy dawn 1950s child view vision Kerouac/Ginsberg/Burroughs/Corso-led “beats” homage to the great American West night. (Beat: life beat-up, fellaheen and fellaheena beat-down, beat around, be-bop jazz beat, beatified church beat, howl poem beat, beat okay, anyway you can get a handle on it, beat.). The great American West “beat” breakout from the day weary, boxed-in, shoulder-to-the-wheel, eyes forward, hands to the keyboard, work-a-day-world, dream-fleshed-out night. Of leaving behind on the slow-fast, two-lane, no passing, broken-lined old Route 6, or 66, or 666, or whatever route, whatever dream route, whatever dream hitchhike gas station/diner highway beyond the Eastern shores night, of the get away from the machine, the machine-making machines, the “little boxes” machine night, and also of the reckless breakout of mannered, cramped, parlor-fit language night. Whoa!

This Kerouacian wordplay on-the-road’d, dharma-bummed, big sur’d, desolation angel’d night, this Ginsberg-ite trumpet howl, cry-out to the high heavens against the death machine night, this Burroughs-ish languid, sweet opium-dreamed, laid-back night, this Neal Cassady-driven, foot-clutched, brake-pedaled, wagon-master of the to and fro of the post-World War II American West night, was not my night but close enough so that I could touch it, and have it touch me even half a century later. So blame Jack and the gang, okay and I will give you his current Lowell, Massachusetts home address upon request so that you can direct your inquiries there.

Blame Jack, as well, for the busting out beyond the factory lakes, corn-fed plains, get the hell out of Kansas flats, on up into the rockiesmountainhigh (or is it just high) and then straight, no time for dinosaur lament Ogden or tumbleweed Winnemucca, to the coast, come hell or high water. Yah, busting out and free. Kid dream great American West night, car-driven (hell, old pick-up truck-driven, English racer bicycle-driven, hitchhike thumbed, flat-bed train-ridden, sore-footed, shoe-beaten walked, if need be), two dollar tank-filled, oil-checked, tires-kicked, money pocket’d, surf’s up, surf’s crashing up against the high shoulder ancient seawalls, cruising down the coast highway, Pacific Coast Highway One, the endlessly twisting jalopy-driven pin-turned coast highway, down by the shore, sand swirling, bingo, bango, bongo with your baby everything’s alright, go some place after the bango, some great American West drive-in place. Can you blame them or me?

So as for that hobo angel comrade, that well-respected young cosmic traveler, what would he know, really, of the great blue-pink American West night that I, and not I alone, were searching for back in those halcyon days of my youth in the early 1960s. What would he know, for example, except in story book or oral tradition from parents or, oh no, maybe, grandparents, of the old time parched, dusty, shoe-leather-beating, foot-sore, sore-shouldered, backpacked, bed-rolled, going-my-way?, watch out for the cops over there (especially in Connecticut and Arizona), hitchhike white-lined road. The thirsty, blistered, backpacked, bed-rolled, thumb-stuck-out, eternally thumb-stuck-out, waiting for some great savior kindred-laden Volkswagen home/collective/ magical mystery tour bus or the commandeered rainbow-marked, life-marked, soul-marked yellow school bus, yellow brick road school bus. Hell, even of old farmer-going-to-market, fruit and vegetable-laden Ford truck, benny-popping, eyes-wide, metal-to-the-petal, transcontinental teamster-driving goods to some westward market or kid Saturday love nest, buddy-racing cool jalopy road. Yah, what would he know of that.

Of the road out, out anywhere, anywhere west, from the stuffy confines of worn-out, hard-scrabble, uptight, ocean-at-you-back, close-quartered, neighbor on top of neighbor, keep your private business private, used-up New England granite-grey death-chanting night. Of the struggle, really, for color, to change the contour of the natural palette to other colors brighter than the New England leafy greens and browns of the trees and the blues, or better blue-greens, or even better yet of white-flecked, white- foamed, blue-greens of the Eastern oceans. (Yah, I know, I know, before you even start on me about it, all about the million tree flaming yellow-red-orange autumn leaf minute and the thousand icicle-dropped, road strewn dead tree branch, white winter snow drift eternity, on land or ocean but those don’t count, at least here, and not now)

Or of the infinite oil-stained, gas-fumed, rag-wiped, overall’d, gas-jockey, Esso, Texaco, Mobil, Shell stations named, the rest lost too lost in time to name, two dollar fill-up-check-the-oil, please, the-water-as-well, inflate the tires, hit the murky, fetid, lava soap-smelled bathrooms, maybe grab a Coke, hey, no Hires Root Beer on this road. This Route 66, or Route 50 or Route you-name-the route, route west, exit east dream route, rolling red barn-dotted (needing paints to this jaded eye), rocky field-plowed (crooked plowed to boot), occasionally cow-mooed, same for horses, sheep, some scrawny chickens, and children as well, scrawny too. The leavings of the westward trek, when the westward trek meant eternal fields, golden fields, and to hell with damned rocks, and silts, and worn-out soils absent-mindedly left behind for those who would have to, have to I tell you, stay put in the cabin'd hollows and lazily watered-creeks. On the endlessly sulky blues-greens, the sullen smoky grey-black of mist-foamed rolling hills that echo the slight sound of the mountain wind tunnel, of the creakily-fiddled wind-song Appalachian night. 

[A dream song of pre-natal longing for the sound of that wild ravine, hills and hollows included , music embedded riding mother womb in some father’s borrowed beat-up Packard as he, the father, showed his bride, his yankee bride if you can believe it in those southern-drenched hills,  his place in the sun, his faded no account place, kicking the dirt, the muck, the coal dust, the slag, the cabin fever, unrequited, from his shoeless feet, and at the first sign of deliverance (those war clouds that haunted his generation) bought himself a one-way, one-way did you hear, for the wide world, no looking back. And so from that one-way ticket his son, like ten thousand ten thousand other restless mid-century (20th, okay) sons, forced himself to wander aimlessly searching for some mythic unpainted red barn (desperately in need of paints, black trim might be nice in contrast) hidden in some unnamed wind-swept valley, complete with Saturday night fiddlers, mandolin players, guitar-pickers, maybe a bass, fortified with Billy Jack’s white lightning, to quell that mountain wind-song longing.]        

Or of diner stops, little narrow-aisled, pop-up-stool’d, formica counter-topped, red (mostly) imitation leather booth seats, smoked-filled cabooses of diners. Of now anchored, abandoned train porter-serviced, off-silver, off-green, off-red, off any faded color “greasy spoon” diners. Of daily house special meat loaf, gravy-slurp, steam-soggy carrots, and buttered mashed potato-fill up, Saturday night pot roast special, turkey club sandwich potato chips on the side, breakfast all day, coffee-fill-up, free refill, please, diners. Granddaddies to today’s more spacious back road highway locales, styled family-friendly but that still reek of meat loaf-steamed carrots- creamed mashed tater-fill. Spots then that spoke of rarely employed, hungry men, of shifty-eyed, expense account-weary traveling men, of high-benny, eyes-wide, mortgaged to the hilt, wife ran off with boyfriend, kids hardly know him, teamsters hauling American product to and fro and of other men not at ease in more eloquent, table-mannered, women-touched places. Those landscape old state and county side of the highway diners, complete with authentic surly, know-it-all-been-through-it-all, pencil-eared, steam-sweated uniform, maybe, cigarette-hanging from tired ruby red lips, heavily made-up waitress along the endless slag-heap, rusting railroad bed, sulphur-aired, grey-black smoke-belching , fiery furnace-blasting, headache metal-pounding, steel-eyed, coal dust-breathe, hog-butcher to the world, sinewy-muscled green-grey, moonless, Great Lakes night.

[Some great Sandburg hog butcher to the world, great grain elevator to the paying world, great machine monster devouring the earth, building, building steel, building tractors, building buildings, building automobiles in the fugitive night. “Howdy do, what’s yours, brother,” no from hunger brother, get lost, but step right up, that lost age America, lost about the time the Northwest Territories closed up and divided themselves up. And of that waitress in Muncie, or was she from Muncie, and found in Steubenville down on some American river, on some Ohio River fugitive night (yah, fugitive, fugitive everything then in that great jail-break),  and she, the waitress she, no threadbare, seen it all, heard it all waitress, but just a wanderlust angel young woman (not all wanderlust leads to New Jack City, ‘Frisco town, Hollywood dreams, come on) feeling her legs on that first shot away from home trip  decided, decided do you hear me , that she needed to try a “hippie” gentleman, and she did, and he was, for as long as they could travel that hitchhike blue-pink American West night-seeking highway before the whole thing ebbed but that was another story.]   

Or of two-bit road intersection stops, some rutted, pot-holed country road intersecting some mud-spattered, creviced backwater farm road, practically dirt roads barely removed from old time prairie pioneer day times, west-crazy pioneer times, ghost-crazy-pioneer days. Of fields, vast, slightly rolling, actually very slightly rolling, endless yellow, yellow–glazed, yellow-tinged, yellow until you get sick of the sight of yellow, sick of the word yellow even, acres under cultivation to feed hungry cities, as if corn, or soy, or wheat, or manna itself could fill that empty-bellied feeling that is ablaze in the land. But we will deal with one hunger at a time. And dotted every so often with silos and barns and grain elevators for all to know the crops are in and ready to serve that physical hunger. Of half-sleep, half hungry-eye, city boy hungry eyes, unused to the dark, dangerous, sullen, unknown shadows, bed roll-unrolled, knapsack-pillowed, sleep by the side of the wheat, soy, corn road ravine, and every once in a blue moon midnight car passings, snaggly blanket-covered, knap-sack head rested, cold-frozed, out in the great day corn yellow field beneath the blue black, beyond city sky black, starless Iowa night.

[Of that sweet Neola night, sleeping along some cow-mooed ravine, half dazed from too many days on back roads and too few miles west , and then they waking to some sullen hot, hot as blazes Neola sun, trucks, mainly pick-ups passing by that forlorn road loaded with farm stuff (jesus, don’t ask what, hoes, maybe, maybe rakes). Suddenly a pick-up stops and an ancient (ancient by silly young eyes) angel woman, later identified as Aunt Betty, no Saint Betty, stopped, back-up and asked, asked in that sweet lost Iowa nasal, whether they, the pair of them, him and her, needed anything, needed a corn-fed meal. Later at Aunt Betty’s Diner, fed, fed to high heaven, she sensing a kindred in the she, gave her view, her view that the grand-daughters, hell, great grand-daughters of those first trek pioneers were good for citified eastern boys, in short doses. And she saint aunt angel Betty had it down, down just like that earth perfect apple pie of hers. Bringing infinite sadnesses.]       

Or of the hard-hilled climb, and climb and climb, breathe taken away magic climb, crevice-etched, rock-interface, sore-footed magic mountain that no Thomas Mann can capture. Half-walked-half-driven, bouncing back seat, back seat of over-filled truck-driven, still rising up, no passing on the left, facing sheer-cliff’d, famous free-fall spots, still rising, rising colder, rising frozen colder, fearful of the sudden summer squalls, white out summer squalls. Shocking, I confess, beyond shocking to New England-hardened winter boy, then sudden sunshine floral bursts and jacket against the cold comes tumbling off. And I confess again, majestic, did I say majestic and beats visions of old Atlantic Ocean swells at dawn crashing against harmless seawalls. Old pioneer-trekked, old pioneer-feared, old rutted-wheeled, two-hearted remembrances, two-hearted but no returning back (it would be too painful to do again) remembrances as you slide out of Denver into the icy-white black rockymountainhigh night.

[Walking daddy walked down Larimer Street, thousand flavor western cowboy hats strewn on thousand cowboy heads against his eastern Jack Kennedy-flavored bare head, barrooms on every corner not seen since Southie drunks before the high tide swept drunks away and brought forth weed, sister, cousin, what did the poet call it, god peyote, no wines but whiskey straights, maybe a water chaser (or beer chaser if in the chips) also like old times, pool-halls, slender, lanky cowboys, one foot up against the wall yelling “shoot pools.”  Betting dollars and drinks, and in walks the ghost of Neal Cassidy, all golden- boy good looks, cowboy hatted, twirling a key chain with about sixteen car keys like he was some big- time car dealer, or hot rod daddy. And she, some blond out of Lizabeth Scott Hollywood, all husky- voiced and soft contours hanging on his arm.  She unhinged herself from golden cowboy, gave him sweet kisses good luck and headed walking daddy’s way. And with no eastern shynesses, no coynesses, she sidled up to walking daddy and said “Walking daddy, do you want to walk with me?”  And far out in the Denver night the ghost of Neal Cassidy, the ghost voice of Ms. Lizabeth Scott, and walking daddy took off in the frozen western night, friends, friends for wherever the road would take them.]         

Of foot-swollen pleasures in some arid back canyon arroyo, etched in time told by reading its face, layer after layer, red, red-mucked, beige, beige-mucked, copper, copper-mucked, like some Georgia O'Keeffe dream painting out in the red, beige, copper black-devouring desert night. Sounds, primal sounds, of old dinosaur laments and one hundred generations of shamanic Native American pounding, crying out for vengeance against the desecrations of the land. Against the cowboy badlands takeover, against the white rampages of the sacred soil. And of canyon-shadowed, flame-shadowed, wind- swept, canteen stews simmering and smoky from the jet blue, orange flickering campfire. Of quiet, desert quiet, high desert quiet, of tumbleweed running dreams out in the pure sandstone-edged, grey-black Nevada night.

[A god peyote vision- a starless night, camp fire flamed against the infinite colors of the canyon night barely seen, Jack and Mattie playing some ethereal music on flute and fiddle, the wind begins to howl, they pass pipes filled with dream dust, and hear ten thousand -year old sounds, sounds like ancient apache warriors, untamed, undefeated, spreading their rage as they moved, moved west, then the mystery sounds of tom-toms, warrior- ready beats, warriors ready to take what the earth has deemed theirs before the beggared white man came and killed time and land and whatever else he could use, Jack , Mattie, and walking daddy, now permanently named walking daddy, get up and begin a warrior dance, out of step, out of synch, out of beat with the wind and tom-toms until they get up to speed, then, warrior proud they are ready to avenge history, then suddenly the winds die down, the tom-toms fade and the trio fall in a heap, exhausted . An omen?]      

And then....

the great Western shore, surf’s up, white, white wave-flecked, lapis-lazuli blue-flecked ocean, rust golden-gated, no return, no boat out, land’s end, this is it coast highway, heading down or up now, heading up or down gas stationed, named and unnamed, side road diners, still caboose’d, ravine-edged sleep and beach sleeped, blue-pink American West night.

Yes, but there is more. No child vision but now of full blossom American West night, the San Francisco great American West night, of the be-bop, bop-bop, narrow-stepped, downstairs overflowed music cellar, shared in my time, the time of my time, by “beat” jazz, “hippie’d folk”, and howled poem, but at this minute jazz, high white note-blown, sexed sax-playing godman, unnamed, but like Lester Young’s own child jazz. Smoke-filled, blended meshed smokes of ganja and tobacco (and, maybe, of meshed pipe smokes of hashish and tobacco), ordered whisky-straight up, soon be-sotted, cheap, face-reddened wines, clanking coffee cups that speak of not tonight promise. High sexual intensity under wraps, tightly under wraps, swirls inside its own mad desire, already spoken of black-dressed she (black dress, black sweater, black stockings, black shoes, black bag, black beret, black sunglasses, ah, sweet color scheme against white Madonna, white, secular Madonna alabaster skin. What do you want to bet black undergarments too, ah, but I am the soul of discretion, your imagination will have to do), promising shades of heat-glanced night. And later, later than night just before the darkest hour dawn, of poems poet’d, of freedom songs free-verse’d, of that sax-charged high white note following out the door, out into the street, out into the eternity lights of the great golden-gated night. I say, can you blame them or me?

[And down on Bay Street, heading to some sleek Embarcadero rendezvous, maybe grab a room, a flop, or just head to the aquarium break-water jut, hunkered down against the fierce bay winds, the dead- celled Alcatraz  beacon, endlessly shining on the innocent, against Bay mists and fogs, fog- horned tankers gliding unseen beneath rusted golden gates, or the look of rusted gates in daytime, and Japan currents, she, mary mack all dressed in black, or something like that, undergarments included, she and he try to follow that high white note heading out to some final bay funeral, try to follow that place where nirvana lived, where the jailbreak 1960s led them, and for a while they avidly pursued that be-bop night, maybe spending a little too much time at the doors of perception, maybe, hell. not maybe, ingesting just too many drugs to catch that sainted sax player’s note without complications and so they drifted apart, back, apart, back, nobody says that Alcatraz jail-break was going to easy and then after a while the music could not sustain that ragged night.]              

Of later roads, the north Oregon hitchhike roads, the Redwood-strewn road not a trace of black-dressed she, she now of blue serge denim pants, of brown plaid flannel long-sleeved shirt, of some golfer’s dream floppy-brimmed hat, and of sturdy, thick-heeled work boots (undergarments again left to your imagination) against the hazards of summer snow squall Crater Lake. And now of slightly sun-burned face against the ravages of the road, against the parched sun-devil road that no ointments can relieve. And beyond later to goose-down bundled, hunter-hatted, thick work glove-clad, snowshoe-shod against the tremors of the great big eternal bump of the Alaska highway. Can she blame me? Guess.

[Everybody took that ‘Frisco road, and took that ‘Frisco road out when the weirdness started, when the freak- outs came a mile a minute, when the bad ass cartel hermanos came norte, when the black brothers determined who was cool in the fogged night (and who was not) and poetry and posters and slogans and banners and, and whatever, lost their way and called for westward ho but there was no westward ho so they, he and she, headed out of cramped ‘Frisco, looked to the north, Eureka  north, Roseburg north, Portland north, almost to Seattle north and then all bleeding and bruised Mount Rainier in front of them she heard her own high white note, heard some strange mountain wind of her own, some, what did she call it, some Jack London call of the wild, and he went with her, went with her for a while anyway, and then, city boy afraid of no city lights, afraid of the silence (no cars, jesus, no cars), and turned back … alone, and he never saw that black Madonna again.]         

Yah, put it that way and what does that young hobo angel, a dreamer of his own dreams, and rightly too, know of an old man’s fiercely-held, fiercely-defended, fiercely-dreamed beyond dreaming blue-pink dreams. Or of ancient blue-pink sorrows, sadnesses, angers, joys, longings and lovings, either.