Saturday, June 01, 2019
Ruth’s Remembrances-With The Film Adaptation Of Larry McMurtry’s “The Last Picture Show” In Mind
By Josh Breslin
Ruth Snyder had all the prejudices of any West Texas girl growing up in the hard-scrabble Great Depression of the 1930s when money had been scarcer, maybe more so, than hen’s teeth. Had all the so-called secrets of such girls as well. She had been Anchor City born and raised out in the places where the oilfields out-numbered the number of residents. As part of that Anchor City (silly nautical name for a town out in the middle of Blue Norther country but there you have it. Legend had it that some restless Yankee sea captain who had had enough of the sea had founded the place and in a fit of nostalgia named the town that rather than after himself like half the foolish towns in the state). Prejudice number one, aside from not allowing the “colored” to get a toehold in the town but that was usual all over the South and not Anchor City-bound, was drilled into her by her hard-shell Pentecostal parents who had gotten religion when West Texas was burned over in the Third Awakening, third Texas Awakening and that was marriage was forever. Forever meaning until one or the other of the two contracted parties kick-off. Not before.
So Ruth Snyder, not the prettiest girl in town, not by a long shot, in fact rather plain like some Grant Wood painting, pure prairie plain which was in man-short West Texas (marrying man-short West Texas the other kind as everywhere were plentiful enough) good enough with proper household training to get a man. But get this Ruth Snyder, Plain Jane Ruth Snyder snagged herself a football player, Tom Snyder, who starred for the Anchor City Hawks before heading to Texas A&M and a short career made shorter by a crippling knee injury. Who would have figured that Tom in those brave football days would court Ruth Snyder. Ruth would come to try to figure that one out herself. Tried to figure out that all Tom wanted from a woman, no, a wife, was to just keep his house clean, his socks darned and his rifles well-oiled. While Tom in very West Texas good old boys fashion would head out with his fellow good old boys and proceed to get well-oiled in another way or too.
Married at just short of twenty years of age Ruth was now reaching that funny quirky time, forty. Things had only gotten worse as time went by and after several serious campaigns by alumni Tom had cornered himself into being both the football and basketball coach at old Anchor City High. Thus not only did Ruth suffer the pangs of loneliness during his weekly hunting and fishing trips but for well over half the year he would be too busy with his coaching to pay even minimal attention to Ruth. Not a good thing, not a good thing at all for somebody who was entering funny quirky time.
One of the things that was required of a coach’s wife in those days, those early 1950s days when all the way from kid sandlot football to University of Texas University all Texas was aflutter in football was to attend the Friday night games. Ruth unlike other mothers and wives rather enjoyed watching the game which had been part of the reason that she had grabbed onto Tom with both hands when he first asked her out those many years before. Of late, this season, this season of her reaching forty she found herself looking rather longingly at the young men on the field and thinking of those days when her own heart had been all aflutter when she spied Tom Snyder doing his pre-game warm-ups. In particular this year, this 1951 year when the team was pretty poor even by Anchor City standards she was drawn to two players, Duane, Duane Wilson, and Sonny, Sonny Burgess. Not because they were any great shakes as football players, they seemed to be in way over their heads when matched up against any decent teams but because they had similar physiques to her Tom’s when he was a star (the years of good old boy-dom had not been kind to Tom and he was now a certified member of the pot-bellied, sloughing forty something guys who could not have gotten out of their own ways if something had come up to startle them). Here’ the point though our Ruth started to have certain “improper” fantasies about those two young men. Yeah, that funny quirky forty thing.
Ruth also knew that Duane had this thing, this crush on Jackie, Jackie Germaine, the head cheer leader who in that day, in her day when she was younger, and to her now even was nothing but a cock-teaser, a femme or whatever they called such “come hither” to be sliced and diced girls. She would lead him a merry chase, make him cry “Uncle,” literally since in the end he volunteered like a good West Texas young man back then to join the Army to get the taste of Jackie out of his system (as he told Sonny in one of his more candid and reflective moments was that he would never totally short of the grave get her out of his system and years later would say the same thing even when by that time she had been married three times, had a parcel of kids and even at the high side of forty was making guys make sophomoric fools out of themselves). As he also told Sonny he would rather just then face the red hordes in Korea than to see her with another man. That “another man” in the space of a few short months between the end of high school and going off to college entail screwing Duane, screwing rich boy Randy, his friend Tom, who wanted to marry her, Adonis one of her father’s wild-call oil riggers, hell, even Sonny which is where Duane and Sonny’s friendship since elementary school was sorely tested. Yeah, thought Ruth who would get her information about the younger set, older set, every set from Jennie who ran the Last Chance Café one of the few reasons to stop in the pass through town.
So Ruth almost by default kept her eye of Sonny Burgess, looking for a way to get to him in a proper manner, at least for public consumption. As it turned out Tom, her no bullshit husband who was the vehicle for bringing Ruth and Sonny together. Out of pure laziness or cussedness, take your pick. One day Tom asked Sonny to take Ruth to the nearest hospital in Waverly some fifty miles away in order for her to check up on some “female” problem she was having. Tom’s reason for not taking her himself was that he was too busy with basketball practice to do so. The lure for Sonny was that Coach would get him out of classes for the remainder of the day. The trip started out uneventfully enough with Sonny doing chauffer duty-and acting that way. After getting Ruth home safe and sound though she asked him if he would like something to eat. Sure, like any growing kid, and teenage kid. Noting happened that day but between whatever mother hunger mother-less Sonny had and whatever real man hunger Ruth had a few weeks later they would met at the annual town Christmas Party (the same party where the perfidious Jackie blew Duane off for some party with Randy) and gave each other such looks that when Ruth asked Sonny if he would take her to her doctor’s appointment the next time he answered with yes without hesitation. And so Ruth and Sonny would start an affair, an affair of the heart which would last on and off again for several years. That open secret would keep the customers at the Last Chance Café going for many months once Jennie retailed the story. Funny nobody took umbrage that Ruth was bedding a young man half her age. But here is where we get into Ruth’s knowledge of the West Texas girl-woman prejudices. The reason that the Ruth-Sonny affair was the hot topic for only a few months was that Ellie, Jackie’s mother had started an affair with a young oil well driller employed by her husband. So Ruth was just following West Texas girl prejudice. What do think about that.
From The Archives- The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love- Botticelli’s 115th Dream-With Botticelli’s “Venus” In Mind
From The Archives- The 50th Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love- Botticelli’s 115th Dream-With Botticelli’s “Venus” In Mind
By Special Guest Alex James
[Frankly my oldest brother Alex, who after all is over ten years older than I am, and I have never been all that close. Maybe that is natural due our age differences and of his decided and vocally not wanting to have an unruly younger brother tagging along while he and his vaunted corner boys did their thing. Later the gap widened as his lawyerly pursues were far removed as a rule from my own social and cultural concerns. A few weeks ago though, knowing that I write for a number of blogs, including here at American Left History, and in various smaller print journals he approached me on behalf of he and his “corner boys,” at least the ones still standing some fifty years later, to help organize and write a small tribute booklet in honor of their fallen comrade and fellow corner boy, Peter Paul Markin, who led them west in the great Summer of Love, San Francisco, 1967 explosion. I took on the tasks after Alex explained to me that he had been smitten with a nostalgia bug when he had gone to a legal conference out there by an exhibit at the deYoung Museum out in Frisco town, The Summer of Love Experience, being presented to honor the 50th anniversary of the events of that summer.
Fair enough. I was glad to help out since I only knew the events second-hand and have always been interested in writing about and have written extensively about that period. As a result I had thought that the experience of putting out a small publication where we had to maybe for the first time in our lives work closely together “bonded” Alex and me somewhat. Fair enough again. Now though the guy is all hopped up, maybe showing signs of senility for all I know, about an exhibition he had seen at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts where they have Botticelli’s Venus on display. As far as I know Alex could have given a rat’s ass about art, about the Renaissance back in the day or anything since not connected with his law practice. But the other day he asked me for some space here to talk about how that Botticelli painting at the exhibition reminded him about some love interest he had had during that summer of love period. What can I say. He is after all my brother. Zack James]
[I had written the basics of the small piece I wished to present here about a young girl that I had met out in San Francisco, Jewel Night Star, when I was out there after the Scribe [Peter Paul Markin] got a bunch of us to head out west in late summer 1967. (I will explain that whole moniker business, that serious need to “reinvent” ourselves below but just know now that I was always known out there as Cowboy, or Cowboy Angel, depending on my mood, the day, hell maybe the drug intake) That was before I read my youngest brother Zack’s introduction. I felt compelled to add a note here to announce to what he always likes to call a “candid world” that I am neither senile nor have I been in the past, a past Zack, tied up with his various writing projects about times that he has only lived through vicariously totally oblivious to the call of culture, to the call of art and artifact. What more can I say though as he is my host here. Oh, yes, he is also after all my brother. Alex James.]
I would be the last person in the world to deny that memories, good and bad, creep up on a person sometimes in unusual ways. (Of course in my law practice I have had to pay short shrift in general to anything to do with memory on behalf of my clients but that is out of professional necessity to keep the buggers from huge jail time or cash outlays.) Recently this came home to me in a very odd way. I had been out in San Francisco to attend a law conference which I do periodically to confer with other lawyers in my special areas of concern when as I was entering the BART transit station on Powell Street I noticed on a passing bus an advertisement for an exhibition called The Summer of Love Experience being put on at the deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that wild west experiment. That set off the first series of memory bells which forced me to take some time out to go see what they had produced about those long ago times.
See, strange as it may seem given my subsequent total emergence into my law practice (at times just to keep afloat with three unhappy ex-wives and a parcel of kids, some happy some not, to support which almost killed me about ten years ago with a crush of college tuitions) I had been one of those tens of thousands of young people who drifted west to see what the whole thing was all about in San Francisco in the summer of love, 1967. Zack has probably told you that when I came back from this recent Frisco trip I gathered those of my old hometown corner boys from the Acre section of North Adamsville who as Zack stated were “still standing” to put together a small tribute book in honor of the event dedicated to the memory of the late Peter Paul Markin, the guiding spirit who led us out West like some latter day prophet.
Mad monk Markin (and he really was we all called him the Scribe after our leader Frankie Riley gave him that moniker in junior high school after Markin once had written some total bullshit homage to him and it hit the school newspaper and ever after the Scribe was his “flak” writing some stuff that was totally unbelievable about the real Frankie Riley whom we knew was seven kinds of a bastard even then) had gone out in the spring of 1967 after dropping out of Boston University in his sophomore year and had come back in late summer telling us the “newer world” he was always yakking about (and which we previously had given a rat’s ass about) was “happening” out there. He conned, connived, and begged but six of us beside him (and ever after also including Josh Breslin from up in Olde Sacco, Maine whom the Scribe met out in Frisco who was not a North Adamsville corner boy but whom we made one since he was clearly a kindred spirit) went out and stayed for various lengths of time. I had gone back out with Markin after his “conversion” plea and stayed for about a year, mostly, as with all of us one way or another riding Captain Crunch’s “merry prankster” converted yellow brick road bus (the latter Markin’s term).
While out there I had many good sexual and social experiences but the best was with a young gal whom I stuck with most of the time who went by the name Jewel Night Star as I went by the names Cowboy or Cowboy Angel depending on my mood. I make no pretense to know all of the psychological and sociological reasons at the time or thereafter but these monikers we hung on ourselves were an attempt to “reinvent” ourselves. Break out of the then conventional nine to five, beat the commies, and buy lots of stuff world our parents tried to drive a nail in our hearts about. Some people changed their monikers, their personas every other week but I stuck with my based on the simple love that I had had for Westerns growing up and since we were in the West it seemed right. Markin’s Be-Bop Kid was an overlay from his hearty interest in the “beats” who by 1967 were passe, who were being superseded by what was beginning to be called the “hippies.” Such were the times. The Jewel Night Star moniker when she told me about it one night was based on her eyes which in a certain light looked like diamonds, like twinkling stars. As long as I knew her she stuck with that moniker as well.
Funny when I was out in Frisco for the conference and went to the museum I didn’t think anything about her. Had been through a small succession of women after she left the bus and as I have mentioned have had a whole raft of women since then, married and unmarried. I just mainly “dug” the scene at the museum and thought about the great music we heard (when they played White Bird by It’s a Beautiful Day I freaked out since I had not heard that song in ages), about the plentiful and mostly safe dope we did (we had an unwritten pact among the North Adamsville corner boys not to do LSD, “acid” after Markin explained his “bad trip” on the substance and after we had seen more than a few people going crazy at concerts and need medical attention), and about how we could “outrage” bourgeois society by our dress, our free spirits and, well, our goofiness if it came right down to it. (Tweaking those who were trying to drive those nails into our hearts.)
Then last week, or the week before, I got this postcard advertisement from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston asking me to join their membership. (I assume somehow that having paid my admission to the deYoung on-line I had become a prime target for every museum from Portland East to Portland West). The ‘hook” on the other side of the postcard was that with a paid up membership I could see Botticelli’s Venus up close and personal. A view of that image on that postcard lead me directly, I say straight line directly, to my first memories of Jewel Night Star in maybe the fifty years since that summer of 1967 time.
In the early fall of 1967 Markin and I had hitchhiked out across the whole country to Frisco. (I can see every mother grimace at that idea now, or then for that matter.) I won’t go into the details about how we got out there which I have written about in that tribute book the guys and I put together and Zack edited. Besides this is about Jewel not about some Jack Kerouac On The Road -influenced fling on our parts. Markin had had some contact with this guy, this wild man, Captain Crunch, who had somehow, most people who knew anything about it agreed that it was through a dope deal, gotten a yellow brick road converted school bus which he was travelling on up and down the West Coast picking up kindred spirits and letting them stay in and around the bus. (The attrition rate was pretty high most people staying a few weeks and then getting off or told to find another way to travel by Mustang Sally, the Captain’s sort of girlfriend, I never did figure out their actual relationship in all the time I was on the bus, if they stole stuff, didn’t keep fairly decent personal hygiene or let the drugs make them too weird and in need of some medical help.) When we got out West the Captain’s bus was stationed in Golden Gate Park and after the Scribe (then going under the moniker the Be-Bop kid-no more Scribe okay) introduced us and the Captain thought I was cool (and I thought he was as well) I was “on the bus.”
A couple of weeks later the Captain was talking about taking a slow trip south to a place in La Jolla for the winter where he had a friend. The idea was that we would “house-sit” what turned out to be a mansion since that friend was one of the first serious high distribution drug dealers getting his product directly from south of the border only thirty or forty miles away in Tijuana. We were all for it (me since every place was a new place for me in California and I was curious). It was on that trip as we headed toward Big Sur down the Pacific Coast Highway, a place called Todo el Mundo that I met Gail Harrington, Jewel Night Star.
We had stopped at a campsite where there was a party that was still going after about the six days before we got there so everybody was, using a term of art from those days “wasted.” I was grabbing a joint from somebody when this young woman came up to me and asked for a hit, for a “toke” for some grass. Her look. Well just check out the Botticelli Venus above that accompanies this piece and you get an idea. Tall, thin, hair braided, as was the style when a lot of young woman were on the road and didn’t want to, or couldn’t hassle with that daily chore to look beautiful stuff. Just as we guys grew our hair long and grew beards to avoid having the hassle of shaving. She had on a diaphanous kind of granny dress that showed her shape in detail. Nice. The granny dresses also a question of convenience and an expression that a woman’s shape was not as important as whether she was “cool” or not. But the best thing about her beyond being a Botticelli vision, a dream, what did I call it in the title to this piece. Yes, his 115th dream, was that she was very friendly, and a little flirty, in a nice way unlike all the girls from North Adamsville that I knew who might be nice but who thought sex was a mortal sin before marriage, maybe ever.
At first I was a little disoriented when we hit Frisco and joined up with the bus since the girls were really without much guile friendly in a way that it was easier talking to them than the Bible between the knees girls I was used to. By the time we got to Todo el Mundo I had had a few dalliances, a few what we called back in the neighborhood, “one night stands” which didn’t go anywhere and nobody worried about it but I was still unsure about what to expect from the young women who were travelling that same “road” we were travelling. So I was kind of shy a little around Jewel at first since she struck me as something out of the Renaissance, something out a painting by Botticelli who before he “got religion” later in his life under the influence of Savonarola which I had seen in an art book when I was taking an art course in high school (and have been unable to find in recent Internet searches looking for that exact painting). They were mostly young countesses and merchants’ daughters who had time on their hands and whom Botticelli was interested in painting for profit and for a different look than the inevitable Holy Family, Jesus, religious paintings that were becoming overdone and passe. (I thought it was funny how many of his young women looked like Northern European women since I had a fixed idea of dark-eyed, dark haired, dark complexion Italian women who I saw at school or in the Little Italy neighborhood that started about ten blocks from the Irish-dominated Acre.)
Well Jewel was not from Renaissance Italy but from Grand Rapids in Michigan. Had come west when she finished her first year at Michigan after she had heard one night on a date what the folk singer at the club she was attending talked about the music explosion going on out there. She had been out for several months and had headed south to Todo el Mundo when she thought things had gotten too weird in San Francisco. She had hitchhiked down with a guy who was heading further south to Los Angles but she was just then content to stay along the rugged rural coast for a while. Which she would have done for longer she said except when I asked to travel south on the bus she agreed. But that was a few weeks later.
I suppose I have been somewhat beaten down in the women department because I had forgotten how easy to be with. Jewel was, I guess, thinking back she was one of those “flower children” that we kept hearing about. Meaning nothing more than she was whimsical, was relatively hassle-free and liked nothing better than to roam the hills around Todo el Mundo and the hardscrabble beaches in the area. With me in tow. All of this may sound kind of simple-minded, kind of what is the big deal about his woman. But look at the look of Venus above, look at that faraway look and that twisting of her braids and you will get an idea of what Jewel was like. Look at Botticelli’s Venus eyes and you will see the same night star that I finally saw in Jewel’s.
Like I said we stayed together more or less for most of that year I was out there until in the spring of 1968 Jewel said she was getting tired of the road and wanted to either settle down out in the desert, out in Joshua Tree where several communal groups were being formed or head back home to school. I didn’t like either idea although a few months later I would head back east to finish college. We agreed that our paths were going in different directions and one day she told me that she had purchased a bus ticket to Joshua Tree (actually when I went out there many years later Twenty-nine Palms the nearest bus stop then). The next day was the last day I saw her. Although we had agreed to keep in touch that like a lot of things in those days it never happened. I wonder if she is still alive wherever she is if those eyes of hers still sparkle in a certain angle like a night star. I hope so.
From The Marxist Archives- Labor and Capital Have No Common Interests
Workers Vanguard No. 1133
4 May 2018
Labor and Capital Have No Common Interests
(Quote of the Week)
The trade unions are the mass defensive organizations of the working class. The trade-union bureaucracy undermines the power of the unions by its allegiance to the U.S. capitalist order, particularly expressed through support to the Democratic Party. In a 1942 lecture, James P. Cannon emphasized that the Trotskyists who led the successful 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters strikes fought against illusions in the politicians and government agencies of the capitalist class enemy. The understanding that the interests of the workers and bosses are counterposed is vital to reviving the unions as battalions of class struggle and to the fight to forge a new leadership of labor.
All modern strikes require political direction. The strikes of that period brought the government, its agencies and its institutions into the very center of every situation. A strike leader without some conception of a political line was very much out of date already by 1934. The old fashioned trade union movement, which used to deal with the bosses without governmental interference, belongs in the museum. The modern labor movement must be politically directed because it is confronted by the government at every turn. Our people were prepared for that since they were political people, inspired by political conceptions. The policy of the class struggle guided our comrades; they couldn’t be deceived and outmaneuvered, as so many strike leaders of that period were, by this mechanism of sabotage and destruction known as the National Labor Board and all its auxiliary setups. They put no reliance whatever in Roosevelt’s Labor Board; they weren’t fooled by any idea that Roosevelt, the liberal “friend of labor” president, was going to help the truck drivers in Minneapolis win a few cents more an hour. They weren’t deluded even by the fact that there was at that time in Minnesota a Farmer-Labor Governor, presumed to be on the side of the workers.
Our people didn’t believe in anybody or anything but the policy of the class struggle and the ability of the workers to prevail by their mass strength and solidarity. Consequently, they expected from the start that the union would have to fight for its right to exist; that the bosses would not yield any recognition to the union, would not yield any increase of wages or reduction of the scandalous hours without some pressure being brought to bear. Therefore they prepared everything from the point of view of class war. They knew that power, not diplomacy, would decide the issue. Bluffs don’t work in fundamental things, only in incidental ones. In such things as the conflict of class interests one must be prepared to fight.
—James P. Cannon, The History of American Trotskyism (1944)
June Is Class-War Prisoners Month-Free The Jericho Movement Prisoners-Free All The Class-War Prisoners!
How The West Was Won-Again-The Film Adaptation Of Cormac McCarthy’s “All The Pretty Horses” (2000)-A Review
How The West Was Won-Again-The Film Adaptation Of Cormac McCarthy’s “All The Pretty Horses” (2000)-A Review
[When I, we, were kids in the old 1950s growing up poor black and white television neighborhood we were always looking for that cowboy angel Adonis that we kept seeing flickering on the screen. Now we were far from being able to articulate our dreams, too say cowboy angel Adonis, maybe our hurts too since we were pretty hard scrabble kids but we kept wondering about the times when serious cowboy angels roamed the earth, roamed the West chasing bad guys and saving towns, and later damsels. Mainly we were looking for somebody, some adult who was not relative or one of the seemingly bland working- class stuffs outside of the old neighborhood to look up to. Funny that quest lasted far longer than we, I would have thought which is something that that film under review made me think about, think about the bad boys, the golden-haired Adonis.
That figure ultimately had a name, the name Dean Moriarty who went under many aliases mostly usually Neal Cassady or Cassidy you would see it both ways depending on the scam he was running. John Carter, Bill Cadger, Reed Wade and a few other names come back from memory depending on time and place, but he was the real deal back when I came of age and was looking for the father I never knew, literally. Dean, let’s use that since a novelist, a “beat” novelist Jack Kerouac used it for his mad daddy character in a few of his travelogues was born in the West, born of woman it was said on the Denver and Rio Grande which may tell something about that wild boy streak we all put up with just to be around the guy, or be around guys who had been around him later after he fell down, after he was no longer on the bus as the expression went. Hoboes call it “catching the Westbound” but anyway you call it still means going under the cold, cold ground. Before your time.
I met Dean on Larimer Street in Denver as he was hustling some young woman who looked like a college student, far from a person you would expect from his demeanor and looks to be bothered with.
Beyond that she seemed far too young for him, although I later learned he was only in his late 20s but already the drugs and booze were showing some early signs of dissipation. He had been coming out of the Cattlemen’s Hotel which back in the 19th century was the place where all serious cattle deals were flushed out. Now it was a place for cheapjack winos, con men, failed at something guys, a few house hookers and guys on the lam like Dean. But that later. He came out all dressed in cowboy hat, blonde if dirty hair, dungarees, a well-worn work shirt and rounded heels cowboy boots of no distinction. So naturally being a naïve Easterner who cowboy ideas were grafted from television once Dean got the brush-off from that co-ed I went up to him and asked him if he was a cowboy. (By the way that so-called brush-off was just that he was to meet her later in the day after she finished classes, yeah, Dean had his ways with women that is for sure).
That was how I met Dean. Here is how he became a friend, although not always a purebred one from his end that is for sure (“that is for sure” a good expression whenever you mention his name to me):
Dean said “yep” to the cowboy question and started giving a whole line of ragtime about how he had just gotten in from Wyoming (which he had) bringing in a heard of cows and all that kind of cowboy thin talk. As I kept asking more questions, how it was to run cattle, ride a horse, sleep in the cold outdoors overnight with just a bedroll, city-slicker stuff like that he got more pronounced in what his cowboy career was about. Before long though we were sitting in Larimer Lou’s Bar with him sucking down whiskies straight-at my expense. (That endless “no dinero” his constant expression even when he had money meant me, with “poco dinero” paid and after a while I didn’t even bother to ask him to pay and even if I had no money I would just put the bite on the next guy with some kale). That went on for a few hours until he popped up with the idea of “hot-wiring” a car so we could go up to Boulder to meet a couple of gals he knew there (he had apparently, at least this was his line, already had his way with that co-ed) and did I want to come along.
Sure. Dean eyed some car, a fast one, maybe a souped-up Mustang I am not that good even now on model identification and within about two seconds he was done. I wondered that night, maybe still do, how a lonesome trail cowboy knew how to do such an urban kind of trick. As I recall we went to Boulder, fast, always fast, met the girls, did our thing with them, and headed back to Denver. I stayed in Dean’s room at the Cattlemen for a few days, he was in and out like a bird of prey. One afternoon he said he was heading for California to get some dope, to make a score in Santa Rosa and be on something like easy street for a while. Did I want to go. Sure. I had done more than my share of dope at that time so that was no problem but I was surprised that cowboy angel Dean who had previously given no indication he was even interested in dope was up to this. Some kind of what would be called later a drugstore cowboy, things like that.
Some time I will go into various trips to the coast, up and down the coast, maybe Mexico too although I still feel I need to be cautious telling those latter tales. There are too many of them to fit in what is essentially an introduction to a film about modern day cowboys and cowboy angels. Once we hit Santa Rosa, once we made score and Dean made some money (remember never shared with me-ever) one night when he, maybe me too, was high he let out a great big roar of a laugh that his cowboy angel talk was all bullshit, all an act. The only truthful part was that he was born on the Denver & Rio Grande by a woman who would abandon him to a drunken father who put him into an orphanage. He knew nothing about horses, never ridden one, or any of the other tall tales he had laid on me that first night and later. What he was and had served various terms in reform school in different states for stealing cars, “the greatest car driver in the world,” his term and mechanic too. That was probably closer to the truth, but you never knew with Dean when he was being straight with you, or blasting your brain. Sam Lowell]
By Film Critic Sam Lowell
All The Pretty Horses, starring Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, Penelope Cruz, directed by Billy Bob Thornton, based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy
Unlike another tale, a coming of age tale if you like, of the modern American West, of the Texas west, The Last Picture Show, where I read the novel by Larry McMurtry first then viewed the film I have seen the film under review the adaptation of Cormac Mc Carthy’s All The Pretty Horses without having read the novel. But after watching the film I will make it my business to read the novel which deals with a different aspect of the West, the cowboy West when ranch life goes south on its main characters and they are left to fend for themselves. A task which in true Western fashion has them groping to stay alive, although that was a close thing.
John Grady Cole (hey that is the way he introduced himself to one and all), played by Matt Damon, was career-less, cowboy career-less after his grandfather died and his mother decided to sell the ranch leaving this young cowboy with horses in his blood with no place to go. No place but to go looking for work south of the Rio Grande, south of the border down Mexico way with his longtime fellow cowboy Lacey played by Henry Thomas.
Whatever adventure, whatever expectations they had about making a living as ranch hands down in Mexico were disturbed along the way when they met a vagabond Blevens who was strange to say the least. Along the way Blevens losed his horse and then finds it again at a ranch. This brings in the factor of horse-stealing which will drive a lot of the action in the film, and which is as heinous a crime in modern day Mexico (and Texas too) as in the old days when horse thieves were strung up in an age when to take a man’s horse was to take away his livelihood, his means of travel and his manhood. Along the way because John Grady and Lacey are tarred with the same brush as Blevens they will see just what that meant. They were able to get work at a huge ranchero where John Grady got special recognition by the owner for his keen eye for horse flesh. Along the way as well they wind up because of Bleven’s actions in custody and eventually in the “you don’t want to go there” penitentiary after a corrupt Mexican cop wasted the unfortunate Blevens while John Grady and Lacey watched helplessly. They survive the prison ordeal somehow and Lacey decides to head home. John Grady decided he had some unfinished business and was staying to pursue that.
That unfinished business was as to be expected getting his girlfriend to go back to Texas with him. This girlfriend Alejandra, played by fetching Penelope Cruz, a firebrand and well worth taking some grief for was unfortunately for John Grady the daughter of the ranchero owner and so they were fated to part, fated in part because the price of getting John Grady and Lacey out of that “you don’t want to go there” prison was that she would not see him again, certainly would not go away with him. That was that.
On his way back home across the border with his horse, Lacey’s and the late Bleven’s in tow as some sort of symbol of the experiences he had down south of the border he is stopped in Texas and essentially accused of that same horse-stealing charge. He got out of trouble once he told his story to a judge and then meandered back to Lacey’s place with those three damn horses. Yeah, the modern West is a tough dollar for a cowboy loving man just like in the Old West. See this one for the pretty horses, pretty scenery and pretty Cruz.
On The 50th Anniversary Of Doctor Martin Luther King’s Riverside Church “Beyond Vietnam” Speech (1967)
On The 50th Anniversary Of Doctor Martin Luther King’s Riverside Church “Beyond Vietnam” Speech (1967)
By Political Commentator Frank Jackman
I have mentioned a number of times earlier in this space that I have been at times annoyed by the proliferation of celebrations and commemoratives of events that don’t, to my mind at least, rate either celebration or odd-ball year observance. You know like the 38th anniversary of some unremarkable space flight or the 10th anniversary of the demise of some event faded from memory except in some fill-in starved newsroom. On the other hand some events in my left-wing calendar are worthy like the anniversaries of the Paris Commune uprising of 1871 and the Russian Revolution of 1917 are worthy of orderly and odd-ball yearly observance. Then there is the subject today (see above) the commemoration of Doctor Martin Luther King’s important speech to the congregation at the Riverside Church in Manhattan in April of 1967 where he decisively broke with the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration’s Vietnam War policy. No question that the speech is in many quarters and maybe objectively worthy of a fiftieth anniversary commemoration but for personal reasons I had been ambiguous about placing it in this space.
In my high school days I was a lonely ardent defender in my Irish Catholic enclave in North Adamsville of the black civil rights struggle down south in this country. A struggle that was strongly identified with the personage and non-violent strategies of Doctor King. That defense was one that placed me in an extreme minority both in my Northern lily white school and in the community at large. I was called, falsely at the time, seven kinds of commie red and a n----r loving for the simple acts of heading to Boston several times to join picket lines at the downtown Woolworth’s department store in support of the attempts to integrate the lunch counters down South (and maybe up North as well) and heading down to join the freedom riders trying to integrate the buses. Simple democratic and civil demands. Thus I, of necessity, had a great admiration for both the personal courage of Doctor King (and his supporters in the field in the front line battles of the South) and of his philosophy of non-violent direct action.
As is well known those action were directly responsible for various pieces of civil rights legislation and attempts to integrate various social institutions highlighted by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That year was kind of watershed on two fronts. It spelled the demise of the intensity of the civil rights struggle and the emergence of the Vietnam War as the decisive social battle of the time. Opposition to the Vietnam War in 1965 was an extremely small and radical position as the start of a seemingly endless war unfolded. Doctor King in many ways was a natural leader for such opposition as more and more people began to protest. Yet for those various reasons just mentioned he held his fire, held it after lesser public figures began to openly oppose the war, until the major Riverside speech. Some of that had to do with pushing the civil rights agenda forward but it also had to do with that latent anti-communism still alive in the land and the politics of the “domino” theory attached to it.
Here is where my personal dilemma comes in dealing with presenting this commemoration. I too was late, very late, in opposition to the Vietnam War for those same domino theory adherence reasons that drove Doctor King. Except mine lasted at least until the Tet offensive of 1968. With that caveat though I present the rightly commemorated speech. Despite the subsequent political gulf that has separated me from Doctor King’s philosophy and strategies the ideas presented still retain their power.