Saturday, June 08, 2019

“Even The President Of The United States Sometimes Must Have To Stand Naked”- Tales From The “Pennsylvania Avenue Bunker”-In Defense Of Science

“Even The President Of The United States Sometimes Must Have To Stand Naked”- Tales From The “Pennsylvania Avenue Bunker”-In Defense Of Science

By Political Commentator Frank Jackman

Yeah, the legendary now Nobel Literature Laureate Bob Dylan had it right way back in 1965, in the time of Lyndon Johnson, President of the United States and major war criminal when he wrote as part of the lyrics to the early folk rock song It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) the following “… even the president of the United States must have to sometimes stand naked.” Maybe he was thinking LBJ but somehow the current occupant of the White House seems more appropriate. See it took LBJ almost four years to get down into the bunker and today’s occupant, do I need to mention his name, has gone down into the bowels of the Pennsylvania Avenue bunker after only four months. That is newsworthy, worthy moreover of some extended commentary in this space as we begin the “death watch” that has become something of a familiar part of the modern American presidential landscape.     

My, our, motivation on this site for this new series of commentaries is that we are truly worried about the fate of the Republic, the American Republic, republican government, these days. That overarching fear is something that even in the darkest days of the Lyndon Baine Johnson administration and the criminally dark days of his successor one Richard Milhous Nixon, a lowly common criminal as it turned out we did not see tattering. I have “confessed” elsewhere that I had seriously underestimated the differences between the wretch Hillary Clinton and this sociopath we are contenting with now and that underestimation has only led me to become haunted by the specter of having to fight in the streets to defend the hard-fought democratic gains of the past couple of centuries that are now on the chopping block. We are in hard and troubled times and as much as I like to give conventional bourgeois politics the back of my hand the times demand more-demand some contributions to build the resistance, build it right now as a firewall against the time when these guys come up and out of the bunker one more time. Starting with the commentary below we will occasionally chronicle this cheapjack soap opera unfolds before our disbelieving eyes. I can only add where is “Doctor Gonzo,” the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson when you need him. He would have jack-hammered this thing picked lean already. Stay tuned for the, maybe, next four year of the race to the bottom.              

In Defense of Science-June 2, 1917
I really, really and truly, believed that somewhere in say the 18th century we began to put our “faith” increasingly in scientific investigation of whatever ailed us, whatever mysteries of the universe which seemed inexplicable needed some rational explanation. And that was a move forward for humankind.  I was, having been steeped in that tradition, prepared to let fact and figures, real facts and figures, not stuff found on the ground, taken from some fortuneteller’s table (sorry fortunetellers of the world this diatribe is not directed at your profession), or made up to score points in a governmental policy argument drive my own sense of the world. Apparently that admittedly quaint notion has taken a beating of late in many quarters from those who found those “facts” on the ground.

That is the only way to explain the inexplicable announcement by one Donald J. Trump, President of the United States in the year 2017, to take this country, America, out of the Climate Change Accords (I will not preface that title with Paris since it was never about the country where the damn thing was hammered out, and that term is no hyperbole as the infighting was fierce). Apparently the nationalist America First wing of what passes for the White House governing group has won the day based on from all reports bad information, spurious arguments, cooked data and that stuff just mentioned found on the ground. Not on any look at scientific evidence. Of course if the “rapture” is your frame of reference then fact and figures are silly. 


This is not the place to detail the manifold reasons why an even non-binding treaty should or should not be adhered to but rather what the withdrawal means about a trend that had previously been slowly (and now more rapidly) creeping up on us about the value of the scientific method that guys like Galileo went to the mat trying to defend. Tried to take out of snake charmer realm and put the evidence from nature, society, on firmer footing. Not infallible, or at least I do not believe that was the intent of those who strove to create what we have come to call what seemingly is also a quaint idea-The Enlightenment. Unfortunately that progressive trend is under assault and while if I had my druthers I would prefer to fight from a more socialistic perspective I am more than willing to fight for the heritage of that very Enlightenment that has gotten us pretty far in the past couple of centuries. If you fear for the Republic, the American Republic, then you too should join and built the resistance. The fight is on and you had better start taking an active side before the waters, winds, fires, and the deluge that we will now stand even more defenseless against take us all down.            

*****When The Pictures Got Small-With Gloria Swanson and William Holden’s Sunset Boulevard In Mind

*****When The Pictures Got Small-With Gloria Swanson and William Holden’s Sunset Boulevard In Mind

From The Pen Of Sam Lowell
Yeah, Joe, Joe Anybody if you really want to know, Joe just another guy who went through the traumas of World War II like a lot of other guys although don’t ask him about those traumas because you will get the pat “I did my duty, I did what had to be done and that is that,” yeah, a pat answer if that is what you want, if anybody in this cuckoo world is asking about yesterday’s news. Yesterday’s news is exactly the way Joe expressed it one time back in 1947 to a guy he worked with, a sports writer a couple of years older than Joe but who somehow ducked out of the war like a lot of guys for reasons they are not discussing, not discussing this side of a bottle, so a guy whose closest call to combat was the battle of the barroom stool he fought most nights after work dribbling down low-shelf whiskies in order to come up with yet another superlative to fawn over some Triple A baseball prospect, on the Daily Tribune, a newspaper, or rather the newspaper of record if you will in Lima, Ohio where Joe landed feet first after he got his discharge papers and headed home.
Yeah in this cuckoo world only supply sergeants, class clowns, and barroom stool heroes tried to trade off their war experiences for so much as a drink when things were back to normal, normal as they were going to be, tried to bring what they did or did not do up from the dregs now that everybody else, everybody including our own Joe Average, don’t worry we will give Joe a last name in a minute, once we get this issue of what we are never going to know about what Joe did in the war, beyond what he had to. Yeah, stick with the pat answer, brother, stick with the pat answer. See though back in 1941, and maybe I don’t need to say more than that but if I do let’s say after Pearl, Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 for the forgetful, or those too young to have remembered what that was all about a lot of Joe Average guys, guys who were working out in some factory making whatever they were making, other guys were plowing fields for hungry mouths out in the plains, and guys like Joe, literary types, were going to places like Big Ten Ohio State where they expected to move up in the world, move past those parents who got their dreams decapitated, there is no other word for what happened and if Joe had written that word he would not have been far off in his own family history. 
But Pearl put the world on hold for Joe Average guys who flocked to the recruiting stations forming big long lines to get into uniform just like our Joe Average did when he got the word, when Roosevelt put the word out. Not that they, those Joes, expected to get a hell of a lot of whatever the war’s conclusion would bring but they were kind of funny about a bunch of night-takers in places like Tokyo and Berlin trying to crowd them, trying to make them cry “uncle” and holler. Yeah, they whatever else they ready to they were ready to lay down their heads in some mephitic swamp, on some salted atoll, storming some heavily defended beach, traipsing through the dusty roads of wherever they had to go to give the night-takers the short stick. That is the stuff that our Joe Average was made of, don’t mistake that by his cavalier attitude now that the war was yesterday’s news. If you don’t believe me a quick look at the fruit salad on that laid away uniform up in the closet of his parents’ house in Lima, Ohio will disabuse you of that notion.               
All that said now is time to take our Joe Average out of the shapeless clay of Joe Average-dom, give him a name, a name   fit for a guy on the move in the hustle-bustle. Joe Gillis is the name he went by, Joseph Francis Gillis is what it said on the birth certificate, later adding an Xavier when the Bishop came down from Cleveland to confirm him so he was brought up at least that far Catholic but don’t to run that Joseph Francis Xavier Gillis by him, not if you don’t want a ration of shit like that drunken sports writer did one night to bait Joe when he got a commendation from Charley Squire, the city editor, for a big story he did on returning veterans who had no place to live, had not housing except the damn county farm after all they went through in the Atlantic and Pacific wars. Don’t ask him either, except maybe if his mother was around, if he still had the religion, still was a believer in the message of the Roman Catholic Church because you will get another pat answer, one you may not like if you are sensitive about your religion, or anybody’s.
So Joe Gillis, to bring everything and everybody up to speed,   is the name that the studio, or better studios since he was strictly a free-lancer, strictly on “spec” in those days put on the couple of screenplays he got some credit for anyway, although the story lines he had submitted had been totally flipped by the screen-writers from what he had originally written. Don’t ask him the wrong way what he thought of that maneuver, not if you want the same fate as that ill-advised sports writer back in Lima. See before the war, while Joe was at Ohio State he majored in English (mainly because in high school he could tell stories in English class that both the teachers and his fellow students were spell-bound by and he was nobody from nowhere in math, science and history but he certainly had literary ambitions). Of course the war had put a big detour on that vocation, except Joe would write like crazy when he had five minutes to collect his thoughts and the bullets were not whizzing over his head. So when the war ended he landed that job in Lima, a job that was practically promised him at the time of his enlistment. Joe though only thought of that assignment, that city desk assignment, as a stepping-stone to becoming a serious writer, a screen-writer at least. Like a lot of young men who served their country in the war, who had left their small towns, city neighborhoods, villages, who had lost their moorings once out in the big world, and who could no longer be contained in the Limas of the country Joe drifted West, drifted to see what a couple of guys in his unit were talking about when they said that California was the future, and by that Joe took what they said to mean for him the dazzle of Hollywood, to see if he was made of the right stuff. He sold some stuff, some “spec” stuff but as we pick him up on in Hollywood he is trying to figure if he can borrow another ten bucks from his old buddy Artie who had showed the ropes when he hit town and was clueless how the “system” worked except stay by the phone, stay healthy and stay ready to eat crow to get off the ground.
Here is the funny about Joe, maybe about a lot of guys like Joe, he wouldn’t give you the time of day about his war record, about his bouts of religious faith and faithlessness but given the slightest encouragement and maybe a nice shot of high-shelf liquor to tide him over, in short set him up the right way, he would give you chapter and verse about the ups and downs of his life in Tinsel-town. Some guys are funny like that, the literary types are built that way, no question. They say with Hemingway and Fitzgerald it didn’t even have to be high-shelf liquor if there was no quality around, with younger guys like Norman Mailer and Jack Kerouac slip them a joint andthey would go on and on.           
So you would, will, get a full answer from Joe about that little tragedy, small size in the great movies scheme of things but meaning a lot to a guy like Joe who just knew he had the stuff to make it, after all his schoolmates and his city editor tapped him on the head, people who go to movies in any case if not interested in great literary squabbles, about the miserable fate of his scripts though, and a little harangue about Hollywood, its producers, directors, assistant directors, not a few stars, or starlets (although he, a good-looking guy, with that Gary Cooper “ah shucks” handsomeness one would expect from a corn-fed Midwestern boy that the jaded ladies of Hollywood were eager to try on so he had had had a few rather nice casual affairs on some very downy billows with a few on the way up,  his way up, theirs they were on their own about but mainly they would go back to Davenport, or whatever Lima they had to get the dust off their shoes from), hell, even the best boy and grip not knowing true literature, true art if it hit them in the face with a cannon (and wouldn’t he just like to). Apparently nobody told Joe, or he didn’t listen, probably the latter if he was invoking his heroes Hemingway and Fitzgerald as literary giants and not just their skills with the bottle, that “the cinema” was filled to the rafters with guys and dolls who had that right stuff, join the line brother, join the line.
Joe had a little system about how much he would tell you depending, no matter how good the scotch, on whether he was on an “up” or on a “down” meaning that he was either borrowing or not borrowing money from Artie, this according to Artie who had a pretty good idea what Joe was about since he had done everything from nurse-maid him when he, a raw kid out of the sticks Lima came to town with googly eyes to getting him laid from among the bevy of starlets he knew from the casting couches of the studios since Artie had with lots of hard work raised his own position in the Hollywood firmament meaning that he did all the real work on the birthing of a film.
If Joe was the chips he would give you every detail of his time in the town, “in the chips” meaning he had some gainful work and was not collecting that measly unemployment that barely got him by in that crummy two-bit rooming house and that junk heap of a car he was still paying money on, and was found at The River, a favorite watering hole for the Hollywood back lot crowd either on their way up or down because the booze was cheap and Hank, the bar-tender owner, was not stingy with his drinks, or with credit if you had some decent hard-luck story to throw his way, once or twice no more.  
One of Joe’s stories, his baby, From Hell and Back, that he had brought out to Hollywood with him, had written the piece while at that city desk during slack time to reflect what Tinsel town was buying and producing just then, had written the outline under fire in Europe when the 1st Division, the Big Red One, his division, was on the move east, ever east, male-centered war movies or Westerns which were really the same thing except taking play about one hundred years earlier but with that same male lonely introspective brooding to capitalize on the good feelings for the guys coming out of the war and the women who continued to fill the seats with their guys in tow were looking to see what it was all about since their guys were as silent as the grave, as silent as  Joe Gillis about what they had done for Uncle and home (one guy from Joe’s unit passing through Lima on his way to the West s had over drinks at Harry’s across the street from the Daily Tribune told Joe that it was almost like every guy signed a pact that they would keep their wounds, physical and mental, to themselves as one final act of “being buddies,”). Joe’s baby was a Western since it was easier to deal with that a war movie where his own emotions but bungle the plotline beyond repair was about a high plains drifter, a guy who came out from the East to see what the West was all about and got his fill of it, just wanted to stay in one town long enough to see his shadow, who came into some wild ass desert town, maybe a town like Tombstone the way Joe had it figured in his head, and tamed it like some old Wild West desperado character or some long-bearded biblical prophet who could call the judgement day, call the angels home (and bed the local whorehouse owner, Ella, a good-looking redhead, too but that was a shadow he was willing to cut if it did not make it by Hayes) turned into a romance about a minister (with Henry Fonda in the lead) and the virginal but fetching girl next door (Priscilla Ford, the classic “girl next door” even if she was turning the high side of thirty).
The other script, Two To Go, started out as romance, always worth a try if you are short of script ideas as Joe was then, from hunger in other ways too when he hatched that one, about two writers, one a she, the other a he, who worked together in the script rooms of Hollywood film mill of the 1940s, fell in love after the usual boy meets girl stormy arguments before they realized, happy-ending Hollywood realized that they were meant for each other and thereafter produced great story lines. That perfectly serviceable script, maybe with a little work on the background of the two writers, he had in mind a Waspish guy from the Midwest and a Jewish girl from Brooklyn maybe with the two worlds colliding, maybe work through some deeper issues about literature and life before they hit the sheets got turned into a murder mystery based on one of the stories Joe had them working on in the script about some failed fading actress from the 1920s, from the silent movie days when good looks and gestures carried the day but whose voice turned out to sound a train horn and she was unceremoniously dumped by MGM, who had a thing for younger men, had had a notorious stable of them to keep her young while “keeping” the guys since she had a ton of dough made and invested when that was easier to do to avoid taxes,   and who was insanely jealous when the younger women came around was just “keeping a soda jerk” she ran into at Liggett’s, the one over on Hollywood and Vine naturally since “from hunger” writers could make a milkshake or a cheese sandwich as well as anybody else and off-handedly shot him on the rumor that blew her way that he was seeing somebody in wardrobe, also a job that “from hunger” writers could do as well as anybody else.
Here’s how weird the revised plot got though they, the coppers when they came to the faded actresses house up in the secluded hills, since there were no witnesses, any that would come forward once the studios pulled the hammer down, never did find out who killed the soda jerk although every teenager in America, the audience the studio was going for with the gratuitous violence since the studio bosses felt that they were losing older women, those women who would have a few years before gone for the original script and brought their ex-servicemen with them, to motherhood and the newly emerging television, could see plain as day on the screen that it was that faded actress who did the deed. The old dame must have still had some great connections to pull the tent down on that one.
Joe swore to himself on more than one occasion that he should have done like Jack Donne and Joan Ditto, a couple of top shelf screen-writers on the lot had done (the models for his small idea movie) who he would have drinks with in their Malibu cottage and walked away from their own stories when they became unrecognizable in the “mill.”  But because he was three months behind on his rent, a fatal two on his car with the repo man breathing down his back, the cupboard was bare and because he no longer had stardust in his eyes he, what did he call it to a co-worker, Betty Smith, you might have seen some of her work on Some Came Running a while back, a fellow screen-writer working in the word “sweatshop” on the United Majestic (U/M) studio lot he let those “revisions” go by since he had to “make a living.”
Funny the original stories Joe had submitted and which had been reworked out of existence by the time he got his moment in the sun credit later, later after he was long gone and wouldn’t be around to fuss over copyrights and royalties won a few art house kind of awards and nominations (the coveted Globe among the literary set and the Lawrence from the high-brow cinema set). But by then the scripts were the property of U/M and some smart guy in accounting figured that the studio could cash in to on the notoriety around Joe’s name. Still when the deal went down Joe Anybody, no, Joe Gillis buckled under, got in the payroll line on pay day. This is how a guy who knew Joe, pieced the price that Joe would wound up paying for getting in line like a million other hard-bitten guys:
Yeah, Joe Gillis, Joe from Anywhere Ohio, Lima, to give the place a name, the guy with the stardust in his eyes coming out of World War II all alive and everything, a college boy after all was said and done on the big ass GI Bill finishing out at Ohio State that was the ticket out of the doldrums night city desk reporter for the Daily Tribune and later the Steubenville Sentinel had dreams just like every other guy (girls too if anybody was asking although not that many were then, not after that boomerang of guys coming off the troops ships needed jobs and space). See Joe saw what a lot of guys and gals saw, saw that there was nothing but gold waiting for them in the hills above Hollywood, gold sitting there just waiting for them to come west and pick it up.
Hell Joe had said to himself more than once, and told the guys on the night desk too when around two in the morning the bottom drawer whiskey bottles came out that he could out write whatever hacks wrote up the screenplays passing for good work in the studios in a day and still have time for cocktails and diner. Could write, for example, one he always liked to give, circles around whoever wrote that silly story about some smart-ass detective out in Frisco town back about 1930 whose partner got iced on a case out job getting taken in, getting blind-sided about six different ways by some bimbo wearing some jasmine scent that had him up in the clouds and who admittedly had some charms got him all worked up about some statute worth a mint and figured to use his services to get the damn thing. And then flee leaving him to take the fall, maybe take the big step off if it came to that. Kids’ stuff.        
And so our boy Joe borrowed fifty bucks from his mother (promising to have her paid back in a month, a long month as it turned out since Joe never got around to paying her back), another twenty-five from his brother Jim on the sly (ditto on the payback), and took another twenty five from his old sweetie, Lorraine (no need to pay that back she said after he had taken her down to the river front shoreline one Saturday night and gave her a little something to remember him by if you got his drift when he told the boys at the news desk about his conquest)  he was off and running to sunny California. Got himself a room, small but affordable filled with many, too many, people who had the same stardust in their eyes as Joe (and if any of them had bothered to look closely many, the rooming house not only had the latest immigrants but too many long in the tooth denizens who had missed the big show only they were not smart enough to know it. Or if smart enough decided the stardust was better to live with than what beckoned in Tulsa, Odessa, Kansas City. Moline.)
Got himself a typewriter too, rented, and re-wrote those two stories that U/M hired him to work the screenplays on. And so our Joe was on his way. Onward and upward. Then the roof caved in, not literally but it might as well have. See U/M and a lot of places made plenty of room for returning GIs and so Joe squeezed through the door on that basis (and the fact, which had not come out until later, until that too late mentioned before that his stories were excellent and that some reader, a reader being a smart Seven Sisters college girl who could sniff out a few gems among the million scripts left at the studios’ doors from hungry guys like Joe, had recommended to her boss that they go with those original stories as is but he too could see their possible later value and see that Joe was from hunger enough to stand the gaff for the big rewrites that would turn his work into dross).
But that door only remained open long enough for the studio to “fill their quota,” take the government heat off, and once those conditions were smoothed over they began laying off writers (and others too). And Joe found that he was just another payroll number to be blanked out, pushed out on to the mean streets of Hollywood, the streets of surly repo men, sullen landlords and sharp-eyed grocers. So Joe sat, sat like the thousand other guys looking for work, at Liggett’s Drugstore, the one near Hollywood and Vine, close to the studio lots just in case job calls came in while Mister Liggett was getting rich off of selling cups of coffee to the “from hunger” clientele hanging out.
And then she came in, came in like a rolling cloud of thunder, she who he would later find out, later when it was almost too late that those who had been around a while, had been long in the tooth on those stardust dreams maybe turned to cocaine sister dreams if you asked a certain night pharmacist nicely and were discrete enough to keep that information on the QT, called the Dragon Queen, came in with her teeth bared that night. Joe, a movie buff of long standing from the Lima Theater re-rerun Saturday afternoon black and white double features from the 1930s just after they started to talk on the screen days when he and his other from hunger friends would sneak in the back door and slip up into the balcony and while away a lazy afternoon (and later when he came of age taking that same Lorraine mentioned above for some heavy petting although they did not sneak in the back door then), though he recognized her, but for a moment could not place her name.
Then Artie, a fellow screen-writer whom he would pal around with when Artie was not out with his girlfriend, Sarah, also a writer although over on the Paramount lot, said in a low voice “Here comes the Dragon Lady she must be on the prowl.” Joe asked “Who is the Dragon Lady, I recognize her but I can’t place her name.” Artie answered that Joe must be losing it, whatever stuff was in his brain because the Dragon Lady was none other than the legendary actress Norma Desmond who won three, count them, three golden boy awards back in the day. Joe turned red not knowing her since while she had in her turn gotten long in the tooth there was some kind of commanding presence about her still, the way she carried herself, the way the room hushed a bit when she breezed in along with her “secretary” Maxine, a real terror in the old days protecting Miss Desmond, no question (rumored to be her lover, her Boston marriage partner, her Isle of Lesbos companion, her Sapphic muse, you know her “love that cannot speak its name friend, hell, her dyke pal, although that information would also come a bit too late).
Joe should have taken that hushed room lack of sound and the silent actions of lots of the guys drinking up their last gulps of coffee (or bit of sandwich because under the circumstances of being reduced to Liggett’s luncheonette fare one was not sure when or where the next meal would come from), of the sudden need to head to the telephone booth with a bag full of dimes to check with your merciless agent, your merciful mother, your have mercy baby, or heading toward  the magazine section with bended head looking at the latest from the scandal sheets more seriously, or making it look that way. Or he at least have checked with Artie who knew what she was there for. But no stardust boy had to step forward to “impress” Miss Desmond with his arcane knowledge of every film she ever starred in back in those re-run 1930s Strand days and asked her-“Aren’t you Miss Desmond.” And she returned his question with her brightest viper smile with a simple “yes.” Then to go in for the kill he asked “Haven’t seen you in a picture lately, too bad for you were a big star.” Of course vanity personified (and maybe necessary to get through the day when you have convinced yourself that film studios and the “day of the locust” common clay depend on seeing your every feature) Norma answered “she was still big, it was the pictures that had gotten smaller.” And with that Joe Anybody, yes, I know, Joe Gillis got caught up in the spider’s web. (What he didn’t see that night were the daggers in Maxine’s eyes once Norma began her peacock dance.)       
Nothing happened that night except upon request about his employment status Joe had answered Norma that he was a writer, currently unemployed (later she would tell him she already knew he was not working since why else would he be at Liggett’s at nine in the evening rather than slaving away trying to save some stinks-to-high-heaven script at one of the studio writers’ cubbyholes and why else would she go into Liggett’s on her own when she could buy and sell Mister Liggett ten times over), that he had a couple of scripts to his credit (he did not mention the butcher job done on them and she did not ask), and that “no” he was not looking for work as a reader for some seemingly corny sounding script about some gypsy woman with seven veils that Norma said she wanted help on in order to make her big comeback on the screen. Frankly as she got more animated about her project, got more flirtatious for an old dame (he at twenty-five, good-looking and despite his Hollywood stardust eyes with many sexual conquests under his belt was fairly repulsed by the thought of an old dame of at least fifty if he figured her career right, he was only off by a couple of years when the deal went down, coming on to him so graphically and sexually), and more urgent in the need to have him come out to her place on the high number end of Sunset Boulevard (the numbers where the mansions begin and the hills rise away from the heat of the city but he did not know either fact then) and at least read the script before he refused her offer he seriously balked. Told her he was not the boy for her.                    
And for a few weeks that resolve held out, until that inevitable wave of bill notices, rent due, repo man madness and food hunger got in the way and he  made his way to Sunset Boulevard. He hadn’t bothered calling because until Maxine answered the door with a vagrant smile he was not at all sure he was going to go through with the whole thing. Artie had filled him in on what he knew about the Dragon Lady which while correct as far as it went was far from being very knowledgeable although toward the end he did not blame Artie who was after all deeply in love with Sarah, hell, Joe was half in love with Sarah himself since she had said some very kind things about a few sketches of his Artie had shown her and although he was not usually attracted to the Sarah “ girl next door” type there was something very refreshing, not all jaded and facing the world just for kicks, about her even though she had been born in the devil’s kitchen, born on Vine Street a few blocks from Liggett’s. So when that Maxine door opened he was on his own.
Sure when the blats got a hold of the story later when it really didn’t matter, or would not have helped they drew a bee-line picture that Joe, a war veteran and not some skimpy-kneed kid like a few of the “soda jerks” (literally) that Norma had picked up over the years and threw over like some much trash when their number was up, knew the “score” all along and just got on the gravy train and rode, took the ticket, took the ride so no one should bleed for him, except maybe Artie who took it hard (and apparently Sarah too who Artie suspected was half in love with Joe too although he never mentioned that idea to her, and they did in the end get married so make of that what you will).
Forget about the blats, forget about what Hedda Hopper had to say about the whole mess, and that was plenty, none of it having Joe as anything as just another gone boy on the hustle from nowhere Ohio (hah, and her out on Podunk Indiana) here is  how it came down though. Joe went into that open door, into that opulent if run down mansion with his eyes open, once he figured out the score, figured it to his advantage. And for a while it worked, worked out kind of nice. That script of Norma’s, her ticket back to the top was a stinker, strictly nothing except a poor rehash of half the films she had ever been in back in the days when her every expression was plastered over every newspaper review and imitated by every young girl (and not a few boys) who had nothing but stardust in their eyes. But Joe figured that the “salary” she was giving him made it easy to believe that he was working “legit” that he was not just a “kept man,” Miss Desmond’s pet poodle. And for a while that illusion held up, although Artie began to suspect when he showed up at a New Year’s Eve party all decked out in fine top shelf Hollywood clothing that something more than earning a screen-writer’s salary was going on up in high number Sunset Boulevard.
And there was. Joe could see after a few weeks that Norma was going for him in a big romantic way, and he was playing into that a little, playing into her vanity that she still had something that a younger man would want. Although at first he was repelled by the idea that he would bed somebody his mother’s age he began to get a feel for the moral climate of Hollywood where the stage hands might titter over the age difference but would just nod it off as another gold-digger story like ten thousand others up in the hills, and on the lots. And so one night he took the plunge, went walking slowly to her sullen bedroom and to his fate.
Here is where the story got mixed up, got all balled up if you believed the blats who had their own reasons to play the story as a gigolo playing way over his head. After they “did the do” Joe no longer figured in the script-writing for Norma business but rather they made the rounds among her old time friends in the new Hudson she had custom-fitted for him so she could show off her new trophy. And for a while, a long while, that worked out just fine but Norma, maybe as a former actress used to getting whatever outlandish wishes of hers met, maybe just as a woman of a certain age who knew her limited appeal over the long haul or maybe that crazy streak that she had which drove more than one producer crazy in her wake Joe could not keep up, could not phantom the idea of forever being Norma’s fancy man, never to get out from under that decaying set she was parading him around to.
So Joe started taking long rides out to Malibu at night in his new Hudson to get the “stink blowed off” as his farmer grandfather used to say. That is where he met Cara, young sweet new star on the horizon Cara. And that was his fatal mistake, or part of it.  One night along the Pacific Coast Highway parked in a parking lot who came up to them in her own Hudson (or rather Norma’s) but Maxine. Maxine told the startled pair that she has been following them for weeks and that they had better break it off or she would tell Norma. Fair enough if the world ran in Norma time, Joe was no longer happy with being Norma’s pet poodle now that the wrinkle-free Cara (and gymnast in bed which he appreciated since Norma was like a corpse one minute and then “do this, do that” the next) but Joe was tired of Norma time.
That tiredness is what really did Joe in. When Joe would not break it off with Cara (and from her description in the papers and a quick glance off her going to court on the television why would he, why would any guy) then Maxine told Norma the tale. Norma was livid, was ready to kill the ingrate, ready to ship him back to Steubenville or wherever he hailed from in a body bag-minus the three piece suit she had just purchased for him- let him go back in that foolish Robert Hall’s sport jacket he showed up at her door in. But here is where things got dicey. Norma for all her Dragon Lady reputation, all the headaches she gave every even sympathetic director had portrayed every kind of villainous woman from axe murderer to midnight poisoner hated the sight of blood. The sight of blood sickened her and maimed bodies revolted her, even stage dummies. So she held her grief in, almost.
Here is where the rumors about her and Maxine and their illicit love nest got all kinds of play. Although the rumor about their love was false, at least on Norma’s side, Maxine really did love Norma in that straight Boston marriage way and once Norma seemed so prostrate that she could barely move, seemed like she would never get over the Joe betrayal (that is the way Norma constantly pitched her grief) Maxine went into action. She had a final confrontation with Joe, told him to break off with Cara or she would personally do something about it. Joe, now ready to leave, ready to face the scorn of society about being an older woman’s kept man, was now ready to laugh in Maxine’s pathetic face as he walked out the door to his room toward the swimming pool to take his daily exercise.
This last part is under any theory of the story that Norma and Maxine would later tell other than as an “act of god” which in high Babylon got no play is frankly filled with too many holes, has too many moving parts to make sense. Allegedly Maxine, in broad daylight, heard noises coming from the pool area, loud noises which frightened her and she grabbed the gun that Norma kept in the house to prevent burglaries (although how a pearl-handled .38 was going to stop serious breaking and enterings raised a few eyebrows. Out of her wits she saw what looked like a huge man in the shadows and just fired, fired five times in that direction. Then she called the cops who found one Joe Gillis in the pool face down with five, count them, five slugs in his body. That is the story she swore to and no one could shake her, or Norma’s story then or later at the inquest. So Joe Anybody, no, no definitely no, Joseph Gillis, Junior went to sleep as another killing, a domestic dispute after the papers got through with the war-circus that ensued like a million others nothing more.
Nothing more except to Artie, Artie Shaw to give him a name the only guy who every tried to stop Joe Gillis in his tracks, in his wrong tracks. One day a few weeks after they laid Joe to rest and went to put some flowers on his poor misbegotten grave out in the hills Artie said to Sarah that although he knew that there would never be an end to the stardust eyed kids coming to Hollywood to pursue whatever dreams they were dreaming for God’s sake Joe’s story should get out there in the hinterlands. And so it has. That and Artie’s reminder for all that stardust to keep the hell away from the high numbers on Sunset Boulevard.                            

On The 50th Anniversary Of The “Summer Of Love, 1967”- “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle For Utopia” At The Berkeley Art Museum

On The 50th Anniversary Of The “Summer Of Love, 1967”- “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle For Utopia” At The Berkeley Art Museum

By Special Guest Social Commentator Alex James 

[Recently, under the aegis of my oldest brother Alex, today’s special guest commentator, I have been “commissioned” to do a wide ranging series of writings, sketches really, around the theme of the “Summer of Love, 1967” to be made into a small tribute book in honor of his and his “corner boys” from the Acre section of North Adamsville long departed friend Peter Paul Markin. It was Markin who was the main connection between them and the events which transpired in the Bay Area that long ago and which arguably changed their lives forever. Of if not changed forever put a big kink in the way that they were originally heading. The impetus for the project had come about after Alex had gone on a business trip to San Francisco and almost by happenstance noticed an advertisement on a passing Muni bus for an exhibit at the de Young Art Museum on entitled The Summer of Love Experience. That perked his interest enough to take sneak time from his conference business to attend. And will be the subject of an up-coming sketch. Today’s commentary is along those same lines because not only was the de Young having its version of celebrating that event but over on the East Bay in Berkeley, another center of that summer’s “youth nation” surge, the University Art Museum had mounted an exhibition with the intriguing title-Hippie Modernism; the Struggle for Utopia. Alex jumped on the BART one day after his business was finished up for the day to check this display out. Zack James]               


I am not usually much for writing outside of my business interests or I should say my law practice which is my business interest and leave the biting or witty social commentary to my youngest brother, there were six of us to divvy up the social chores, Zack, who has made a career out of such endeavors. Except events this spring around the almost half-forgotten Summer of Love, 1967 which I, and the rest of the guys I hung around with all through public school, were as Zack said one time “washed clean” by that extraordinary “new breeze” that got a big tailwind from that happening. “Happening” a word very closely associated with all the crazy, goofy, outlandish and in some sad instances pathetic things that went on when we were forced to head west and see what it was all about. Forced by one mad monk of a man, Peter Paul Markin, known as the “Scribe” from junior high school on. A small letter “prophet” unlike a capital letter prophet like Allan Ginsberg who blew Markin away with his Howl in high school which he would recite to us when he was half drunk (or later half-stoned) and which we could have given a fuck about at the time all we cared about was grabbing petty larceny dough, girls, and fast cars not always in that order, after all was said and done, what little good it ever did him in the long haul to “check out the new breeze coming over the land.”

All that will be, or already has been, detailed in the little tribute book we asked Zack to put together with his sketches on those times and our, the surviving corner boys’ remembrances, in honor of Markin. Like Zack said in his introduction I had been in San Francisco for a law conference and was walking up Geary Street and noticed an advertisement for the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park which was presenting an exhibition titled The Summer of Love Experience. I did attend that exhibition and will give my take on that emotional experience shortly. While at that exhibition one late afternoon after the conference was over for the day I overheard a conversation between two old geezers (yeah, like me, like me) about an exhibit over in Berkeley at the University art museum. They didn’t give the title of the exhibition at the time. Had just said it was about hippies. But when I went to look it up it had the title, the very interesting title-Hippie Modernism: the Struggle for Utopia I couldn’t resist before I left Frisco taking that exhibit in on two counts; it was an unusual way to describe a certain modernist artistic sensibility that I think we were trying to create and a very apt way to describe what the whole “seek a newer world” experience (a term Markin used incessantly via Robert Kennedy when it counted) was about, or what we thought we were trying to do. Zack has mentioned in a few of his sketches that we have faced more than forty years of blow-back from the Molochs (thanks Allan Ginsburg’s Howl for that) which show no signs of abating soon for not creating that utopia, or something close to it. He was right as rain on that score.                

I have already given Zack notes and paragraphs of information with my take on how we lost dog corner boys from the nowhere Acre section, the dirt poor working class section of North Adamsville, under the whip of one mad monk Markin wound up spending various amounts of time working through the implications of the Summer of Love which kind of brought all the tattered remnants of “youth nation,” and it really was that, at least it is no misnomer to call it that when the sons of working stiffs met up with the scions of the Mayfair swells to give the Molochs a run for their money for a while anyway. What came to mind viewing this Hippie Modern exhibit is how varied the ideas were that we were trying to get people, and frankly “people” then was just shorthand for youth nation for we were in a serious confrontational battle with our parents’ generation and their leaders over these proposed changes. A very unusual time in that respect since generations since have developed their own styles but have not come to blows with their parents’ generations in quite the same way. My three twenty somethings still living at home with seemingly no immediate prospects of leaving to fly on their own against my leaving home as a teenager tell the reader all he or she needs to know about that difference.      

Of course a University museum, especially at an elite school which was probably the overall cultural if not political epicenter of the times, is going to highlight some of the ideas and creations which its alumnus or those who hung around the school there produced. And there really was an amazing amount of printed material produced then detailing everything from how to build an environmentally sustainable house to the outer edges of rational social and political theory (think Marcuse, McLuhan, guys like that). The Chinese only half-seriously had called such a movement in their own country in the late 1950s “let one hundred flowers bloom” and in those na├»ve blessed hippie days there were many more than that number of ides floating around in the space we had created. Whoever could put pen to ink, or to the drawing board had space to work in. Frankly some of the ideas seem today, today when we are not under the influence of strong drugs, sexual desire, or some odd-ball background music which colored most of our thinking back then, crackpot but others are as fresh as whatever Silicon Valley is pressing on the public these days. I had a thought that maybe, just maybe if we had done more organizing around some simple things instead of creating full-blown manifestos for every occasion we might had struck a deeper chord. Maybe though that time, our print-driven time, was the last gasp of print, of literary means of effective persuasion.

The heart of the exhibit though, the part that along with the de Young exhibit pieces got me on the phone, the cellphone, to all the surviving corner boys who went West at Markin’s beck and call were the photographs and poster art that brought back so many memories. I might as well put in here that not everybody went, wanted to go, or could go like Ricky Russo who got wasted in some fucking rice paddle in Vietnam for no good reason and never even had a chance to have Markin work his words on him to go out like he did with the rest of us.

Memories of going with Markin on the road, yeah, the hitchhike road since I had no real dough, both of us with knapsacks and slim bedrolls, grabbing long and short haul rides, sleeping in ravines and in the back of trucks, getting rides all the way from every kind of traveler from hardened truck-drivers who thought we looked like their wayward sons back home who they did not understand any longer to welcome wagon Volkwagen minibuses filled with “freak” who pulled up and cried jump in and getting to the fresh smell of the bay in anywhere between six days and two weeks. What was time anyway once you were on that road. Sleeping in all kinds of communal flops in or near Haight-Ashbury, panhandling or working day labor for food, and smoking and ingesting every kind of drug except maybe booze which had been our natural “high” around the block but which seemed passe out in the new wilderness where we were to be “washed clean” as Markin when he was the beautified saint of our mission used to say. Most strikingly though were the posters and other artwork that at the time were just “commercial” efforts to let people know when a “happening” or a concert was coming up. I was surprised by how grand the artwork was for items that were just then advertisement but turned out to have been genuine works of art as seen as such by their creators. No one can argue against that point now, or should.

I freaked out when I saw a photograph of an old time school bus, what Markin used to call the yellow brick road magical mystery flying carpet, converted to a moving living communal set-up pioneered by max daddy Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters and which travelled up and down the Coast. We had travelled while on the Coast in a caravan like that with a guy named Captain Crunch that one of the guys will talk about in the tribute book who as well as personally knowing Kesey (we had gone to one of those famed be-ins at his La Honda digs) was nothing but the king hell king of our existence for a couple of years. That travelling caravan would be the way we would have gone to this or that concert by the Doors or the Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore or in Golden Gate Park. Playing for free or a couple of bucks. (I did a double take when I saw those ticket prices beyond the many free concerts by the big name Bay-based bands including one poster which advertised a three day concert for five dollars for the whole thing. Jesus, some things were righteous then when I think I have paid many hundreds of dollars in recent years to go to a Stones concert). Yeah, as Zack said, to be young was very heaven.

The only thing that did not ring true, or was outside our purview, was a section dedicated many photographs of a group of drag queens called the Cockettes (draw whatever conclusion you like about that moniker) and which later morphed into another such group with a different name which I don’t remember. Sure we would see drag queens, “dykes” and “faggots” around the concerts and festivals after all San Francisco even then was a safe haven for same-sex seekers (and other misfits like communists, beat poets, and runaways from North Adamsville and all such places in between). Nowadays in the new sensibility nobody gives a fuck who you love or why, how you want to dress yourself before the world or why but then we sons of the working class had very backward views about the sexually different and those who identified that way. I can remember one time when we went down to Provincetown, Markin included, just to bait the “fags” that made the place then notorious for us straights. But you know you can learn something in this wicked old world as Markin used to say and after “getting religion” as Markin also used to say when we got hip to the world a little better when my son came out of the closet I wish we had gotten to know those “dames” and their hangers-on better because from the photographs some of them looked kind of foxy and probably fun to be around. Yeah, I looked it up, looked up the full Wordsworth quote that Zack is using for the series-the other part applies too-“Twas bliss to be alive.”              

*In Honor Of Our Class-War Prisoners- Free All The Class-War Prisoners!- Reverend Joy Powell

*In Honor Of Our Class-War Prisoners- Free All The Class-War Prisoners!- Reverend Joy Powell

A link above to more information about the class-war prisoner honored in this entry.

Make June Class-War Prisoners Freedom Month 

Markin comment (reposted from 2010)

In “surfing” the National Jericho Movement Website recently in order to find out more, if possible, about class- war prisoner and 1960s radical, Marilyn Buck, whom I had read about in a The Rag Blog post I linked to the Jericho list of class war prisoners. I found Marilyn Buck listed there but also others, some of whose cases, like that of the “voice of the voiceless” Pennsylvania death row prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, are well-known and others who seemingly have languished in obscurity. All of the cases, at least from the information that I could glean from the site, seemed compelling. And all seemed worthy of far more publicity and of a more public fight for their freedom.

That last notion set me to the task at hand. Readers of this space know that I am a longtime supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, a class struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which supports class war prisoners as part of the process of advancing the international working class’ struggle for socialism. In that spirit I am honoring the class war prisoners on the National Jericho Movement list this June as the start of what I hope will be an on-going attempt by all serious leftist militants to do their duty- fighting for freedom for these brothers and sisters. We will fight out our political differences and disagreements as a separate matter. What matters here and now is the old Wobblie (IWW) slogan - An injury to one is an injury to all.

Note: This list, right now, is composed of class-war prisoners held in American detention. If others are likewise incarcerated that are not listed here feel free to leave information on their cases in the comment section. Likewise any cases, internationally, that come to your attention. I am sure there are many, many such cases out there. Make this June, and every June, a Class-War Prisoners Freedom Month- Free All Class-War Prisoners Now!

  • On The Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love 1967-Riverdale Blues-For Allen Ginsburg On The 60th Anniversary Of “Howl” (1956)

    On The Anniversary Of The Summer Of Love 1967-Riverdale Blues-For Allen Ginsburg On The 60th Anniversary Of “Howl” (1956)

    By Lance Lawrence

    A sad-eyed dope hung around the back of the old-fashioned framed schoolhouse lazily drawing the summer breeze (he lied since the school had only recently been constructed in the big post World II baby boom and he had gone to school here since the place opened-he lied for the sake of lying,  lying to himself mostly especially about his sexual longing just then as he hoped to get some chick who was hanging out by the bushes to give him a hand job, give him one like Lucinda had given him that time at the movies when sitting up in the balcony she had unzipped his pants and let her hand move so fast he jerked off after about a minute he was so excited and she only twelve imagine what she will be like when she gives it all up but fat chance he would have to grab that piece since his quick spurt, his sperm, his cum,  had gotten all over her dress and she was pissed off at him when it dried and got all crusty on the way home so some other guy would grab her cherry-that  was only a matter of time), wished he could get “washed clean,” washed clean real clean which is what the guys around school called it when their Lucindas moved their hands fast, get his sperm count down, his hot flash temperature, whatever that was.

    Cock sore, cock was what the guys called their hanging things, their pulsating penises, so he followed although he got flushed when some guy maybe Billy, Billy Bradley the guy who always seemed to be the first guy with the sex knowledge, first said the word and he had asked what that was-damn. Cock and cocksuckers, waiting on his corner boy, waiting on Billy, waiting on his secret comrade in arms the hazy night as he looked around over heaven’s nightshade (and the guy who would probably be the first to get into Lucinda’s panties since she had already given him her fast hand action and according to Billy something more although Billy wouldn’t  specify but at least that action which is why he had, on Billy’s solemn advise taken Lucinda to the movies in the first place, had asked if she wanted to go to the balcony and when she said yes he knew he was going to get his clock cleaned-he just wished he hadn’t gotten off so fast with Lucinda since Billy’s older brother, Max, had given them a vivid description of what was what when you got a girl all wet and then stuck your stick in her and listened to her moan, moan like humankind had been doing for a million years, and he sure could have put his stick wherever she wanted it-probably laugh at him if he got off too fast-again).

    Billy at first nowhere to be found, nowhere to be found that is if he did not want to be found and then the next thing you knew Billy, secret comrade in arms, came sauntering, his style just then before puberty would turn his feet around and he would thereafter walk like some Western movie cowboy would now sing his life-song, what did the poet, the old Solomonic poet call to the high heaven’s, oh yes, plainsong for a candid world, a world before massive bombings, massive unacknowledged deaths for shady ladies and other figment s of his imagination. Come sauntering in the bejesus night looking both ways to see some straggling ungainly girls, some young 

    Lucinda who knew the score, knew if they had hung around that back of the school just then that they had heard about Lucinda, had maybe asked their older sisters or brothers what a hand job was and how to do that. They were eager if they were hanging in the shadows and the dope was hoping that some innocent would get moved by the Billy plainsong (he would learn later that plainsong was more religious that any old rock song even big bop doo wop song but by then rock and roll was his religion anyway) hovering around the fence waiting for something, anything to happen and then a word, a sullen word came off his tongue and the night’s work had begun, maybe a generation was on its way to immortality, was ready to break out of the quiet of the 1950s night without shame and without confession.

    Tripping over “she’s so fine, so fine, wish she were mine doo lang doo lang” or the corner boys, the male version of He’s So Fine by the Chiffons, the big bopping song of 1956, the guys, including the dope, backing Billy up in the doo wop frenzy that had swept tween and teen just then and the scent of the jasmine coming from the girl-shadows by the harbor, the marsh’s fetid mephitic smell giving way to the night’s splendor, maybe stolen perfumes from mother’s dresser or some girlish bath-soap all fresh and dewy. Doo lang, doo lang  along with Eddie, Jason, Frank and beloved Peter Paul slapping time and those wanderlust girls along the fences came drifting to the scent of Old Spice that the boys had splashed on father’s bureau, father’s time, father’s sweat but not to  be thought of in the hazy summer night. And as the moon hovered against the sun the girls got closer and closer, one Lucinda’s younger sister, Laura, all the sisters in that family playing off mother Lottie having “L” –encrusted first letter names,  aimed his way and he waved her over to head toward old dead sailors’ graveyard down the far corner of the school lot (oh what those sailors could have told those young bucks from their rotted graves and pock-marked burial stones about hand jobs and blow jobs too when the ante was up about what a girl had to come across with-and if out to sea some young sailor boy plaything but that latter knowledge would not click until later).  A few minutes later the dope came back out of the sailor shadows looking like the king of the hill and Laura wiping her hand with a handkerchief with a faint smile (they had already agreed to meet that next night down at that sailors’ last rest, down among the mortal stone forsaking the last ship out  and by-past the foreplay plainsong-the young learn fast so maybe those sailors would have been stating the obvious when the poured forth in their dank, damp waterfront taverns about blow jobs and hand jobs). 

    But hell all that was coming of age, coming of age in a time when things were moving too fast even for quick learners and the corner boys got further and further along in their primitive sex lessons and no more stupid thoughts of red scares, Uncle Joe’s scourge in Moscow town, and Cold War down in the basement hide your ass under some oaken desk and somebody said that was real, that was okay but that scent lingered against the jimson in the jeans from Satan’s tower, look homeward, look homeward angels. Ecstasy-pure ecstasy in the hazy night of some youthful dream. 

    Billy would declare (and the dope would secretly agree and write every word down to be passed around later like some latter day glad tiding-like some Mount Sinai-filched grainy stone tablet) that they were in a spin, the world was changing and although he had no empirical evidence, when did the king of the hill need hard-boiled evidence going back to Adam’s time, facts,  he had heard from his oldest brother who already had graduated from high school that not only was the music changing, not only were people, and not just kids, starting to laugh at the idea that going down some rat hole of a basement and hiding under some rotten oaken desk when the big one came [the bomb] would do anybody any good. Started to challenge everything from the whole idea of the red scare night, the whole idea that everybody needed to live their ticky-tacky lives in dread of the reds, having a big ass finned gas-eating car and not “keeping up with the Jones.” Especially day to day the latter.

    Billy didn’t get most of what that oldest brother said (and neither did the dope who dutifully wrote it all down anyway which he had “contracted” with his secret comrade Billy to do, to act as scribe which became his nickname at first resented as part of the price of Billy letting a dope hang around with him and his boys and through that circumstance to get to the girls already mentioned above) but he did get that the way things were couldn’t be the future, couldn’t be the way they would have to operate in the world. Couldn’t be the down at the heel existence that he, his family and all the poor bedraggled families that resided in the Five Points “wrong side of the tracks” neighborhood. His oldest brother, Jack to give him a name, the guy telling him all this stuff with the idea of making him wise to the world he was about to face in the not too distant future, had been something of the family rebel.

    Jack was always heading to Harvard Square even in high school which was no mean task by bus and later by car when he came of age for a driver’s license, since that place was about forty miles from Riverdale to soak up whatever rebellion was going down (that family rebel designation would fall on Billy later in a very different way when it came his turn to figure out the freaking world and after a short attempt at a break-out rock and roll musical career turned to armed robberies and such eventually getting killed in a shoot- out with cops down in North Carolina trying to all doped up rob a White Hen convenience store). Jack was always talking about “beat” this, “beat” that, some kind of fraternity of rebels who wanted to turn the world upside down (and it was mostly a fraternity the women were mainly around for decoration and whatever sex they wanted to provide). Or maybe better resign from the “square” world and find a little breathing space to do their thing-to write, drink, travel, do dope, have sex but mostly to write for a candid world, a world where the rules didn’t make sense-no way.      

    One night when Jack was home for minute during summer semester break from college-he went on a scholarship, how else would the family get the money to send the first in the family to go to college, to Boston University, Class of 1959- he decided to tell Billy and his boys in an excited manner his latest tale “what was what,” the expression all the guys used then to signify, well, they had an idea of what was what. Tell them what it was to be a “beat daddy” (not literally a daddy okay but Jack had had to make the distinction because you never knew when somebody in the neighborhood might be a daddy having knocked up some older Lucinda and had to head out of town or get hitched under the sign of the paternal shotgun). Said it was all summed up, everything that was pushing the world forward in a poem, a “beat” poem not like those rhyming simon poems Mister Riley, the old-time Jazz Age English teacher at Riverdale High  a would spout forth from some old Englishman’s pen, Alfred Lord Tennyson or Byron or Browning, guys like that, a guy named Ginsburg, Allen Ginsburg, a smart Jewish guy who was the chief propagandist for the beat-ness thing in a poem, Howl,  that was making the rounds in Harvard Square and would have its fair share of legal problems but that was later. (Jack was not exactly right about who had been the “real” max daddy of the beats-influence wise it was probably Jack Kerouac when he boiled the 1950s youth nation with his wild men travelogue On The Road, the immediate post-war whirlwind adventures of him and his buddy, Adonis personified Neal Cassady with Ginsburg playing a bit role in that one. But Ginsburg was right in the mix with that fucking long mad monk poem-Brother Jack’s exact words remembered by the Scribe-written down).              

    Jack said that Ginsburg had had it right-had seen in the great American blue-pink western night stuff that would drive a guy crazy with what was happening to the world as the machine was getting the upper-hand. Ginsburg had had some kind of vision, one of the guys who hung around the Hayes-Bickford in Harvard claiming that it was dope, marijuana favored by the down-trodden cold fields braceros from old Mexico, or peyote buttons, the stuff favored by the Hopis and the “ghost dancers” out where the states are square that fueled the visions. Visions of an unkempt, unruly world where the philosopher-king was a guy named Carlo Solomon who had the whole thing down cold. Knew the West had been saturated, that there was nowhere else to go but the China seas and so he hammered home the idea that out in the Coast was where humankind had to make a last stand against the Molochs, against the fucking night-takers who have been with us forever. Only the righteous warrior-poets would enter the garden. That Hayes-Bickford clarion calling claimed Ginsburg was talking about the Garden of Eden before the Fall.   

    The madness, the sheer madness making everybody from the hunger days of the 1930s and the rat rationing days of World War II hustle to the sound of steel and iron and not the freaking sound of waves slashing timidly to shore. Started ripping up words a minute not all complete phrases and without some kind of formal pacing sense, although if you heard the thing out loud it would have its own jazz-like cadence somebody who was at the recital in Frisco town had been quoted in a newspaper as saying, jazz cadence and stoned on dope or liquor was all you needed that same source ventured. Ginsburg was not hung up on form, like those old fart Englishman who were totally hung up on form almost as bad as those sonnet bastards Riley made the class memorize but talking about post-war modern minds beaten down by the sound of industry humming away talking about a meltdown, talking crazy stuff about angel hipsters (portraying a sentence of 1940s pre-beat daddies hanging around Times Square hustling and conning an unsuspecting world), talking about Negro streets which they all knew as “n----r streets” over in the Acre section of Boston, a place to stay away from, talking about taking on the monster in the mist Moloch mano y mano, talking about the new heroes of the American night all-American swordsman Jack and secret love that dare not speak its name crush on Adonis of the New Western night courtesy of Laramie Street in mile-high Denver Neal Cassady to be exact the new model of the  last cowboy standing. Neal some amazing cocksman to be envied and emulated screwing every honey who was not tied down to a chastity belt on farms, in the restrooms of diners and out in the back alley if the restroom was occupied. Damn. 

    Ginsburg had actually been in the nut house in New York someplace, had dedicated the poem to some fellow inmate who was crazier that he was or dedicated to all the crazies, the looney bin Jack had called the place like the place all the guys in Riverdale did when they talked about where screwballs and goofs, even Kerouac’s holy goofs learned about later, should have landed, so he knew what deal was going down, knew that America had turned into a cesspool even if nobody else saw the drain coming. Jack had made Billy and the dope laugh when he told them the reason Ginsburg was in the looney bin was he had been sent there by some judge after he got into legal trouble, committed or was present at some unknown crime, an event which made the pair respect this Ginsburg more since cons in the old Riverdale neighborhood were looked up to with respect and admiration, to try to get rid of his faggot-ness, his homosexuality, his liking boys and not girls. (They laughed not because they knew that Jack hated fags and queers which he did and had put paid to that idea having gone down to Provincetown where all the fags and queers hung out all dressed up and all leering at anybody who came off the Provincetown boat from Boston with his own boys and raised hell with them-more than once. Beat a couple up who were eyeing him too closely and one in drag whom he thought was a girl until he got close enough to see some slight stubble on “her” face. Seems that Jack was giving Ginsburg a pass on his sexual preference just because he was a beat guy-Billy and the dope wouldn’t have given the fucker the time of day even if the guy was a prophet if he hadn’t been a con when they talked about it later since they shared Jack’s hatred of fags-and dykes like every red-blooded guy did then.)     

    Jack knew what the unholy kid goofs were laughing about, about his seeing literary merit even if the guy was a faggot. The minute he said “faggot” he knew they would goof but he thought they should know what else the guy had to say. He told them a lot of good writers and poets were “light on their feet” and that was something you had to deal with if you wanted to read anything worth reading and let the faggot stuff slide, you don’t have to meet them in person anyway. So he told Billy and the dope to forget the stuff he said about Ginsburg’s queer as a three dollar bill situation and “dig” (that was the word Jack used) what he had to say to the world, to the young really. The stuff about machines devouring humankind and making the world crazier than it already was. That maybe the guys in mental hospitals like the ones who were his comrades at the time were the sane ones-that what they knew was too powerful to let them stay out on the mean streets for long. That the Molochs were in charge (“what the fuck is a Moloch,” Billy asked, interrupting, not comprehending what Jack was talking about as he droned on about stuff that seemed weird). Tried to tell the kids that this thing was Ginsburg plainsong, his way of putting in raw language his spiritual trip, his karma on the world. (the dope would run into Ginsburg later at an anti-war rally in New York City in his later incantation as a Buddhist so karma was the right word even though they were clueless about what it really meant in Buddhist traditions).

    After about fifteen minutes Jack could see his audience’s eyes glazing over and so he stopped, stopped and told them that when they got his age they would be thinking about all the stuff Ginsburg laid out in that not-fit-for-public-school-classrooms poem. They laughed, snickered really and wondered what Lucinda and Laura were up to just then. The hell with Jack and his fucking homo poem.            

    *Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street"

    *Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street"

    In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.

    Positively 4th Street

    You got a lotta nerve
    To say you are my friend
    When I was down
    You just stood there grinning

    You got a lotta nerve
    To say you got a helping hand to lend
    You just want to be on
    The side that’s winning

    You say I let you down
    You know it’s not like that
    If you’re so hurt
    Why then don’t you show it

    You say you lost your faith
    But that’s not where it’s at
    You had no faith to lose
    And you know it

    I know the reason
    That you talk behind my back
    I used to be among the crowd
    You’re in with

    Do you take me for such a fool
    To think I’d make contact
    With the one who tries to hide
    What he don’t know to begin with

    You see me on the street
    You always act surprised
    You say, “How are you?” “Good luck”
    But you don’t mean it

    When you know as well as me
    You’d rather see me paralyzed
    Why don’t you just come out once
    And scream it

    No, I do not feel that good
    When I see the heartbreaks you embrace
    If I was a master thief
    Perhaps I’d rob them

    And now I know you’re dissatisfied
    With your position and your place
    Don’t you understand
    It’s not my problem

    I wish that for just one time
    You could stand inside my shoes
    And just for that one moment
    I could be you

    Yes, I wish that for just one time
    You could stand inside my shoes
    You’d know what a drag it is
    To see you

    Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music