Saturday, July 27, 2019

It Happened One Night-Indeed-Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” (1934)- A Film Review

It Happened One Night-Indeed-Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” (1934)- A Film Review   

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

[As most readers of this blog (and the American Film Gazette) know former chief film reviewer Sam Lowell has given up the day to day chores of the job to do occasional pieces. This review was one that he had left in a drawer when he retired and only recently found it when he was cleaning out his desk. Pete Markin]

It Happened One Night, starring Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable, directed by Frank Capra, 1934  

There is no question in my mind that the 1930s and 1940s were the Golden Age of screwball comedies with the likes of the director of the film under review the Oscar-heavy It Happened One Night  Frank Capra, Preston Sturgis, hell, even Howard Hawks taking a run at it, leading the way. Maybe it was the Great Depression and people needed a little welcome relief from their pressing daily troubles putting one foot in front of the other, and putting food on the table (one later screwball comedy Sullivan’s Travels made basically that same point). Maybe it was just the shear acting talent, direction, and script-writing coming together to form a perfect storm during the period. Whatever it was It Happened One Night was the benchmark for later efforts.

Here’s Oscar why. Ellen, played by Claudette Colbert, is a spoiled socialite who for kicks, or just to tweak her father elopes with a gold-digger from her circle and runs away, or tries to, when her stern father wants the whole affair annulled. The “run away” part is to reunite with that gold-digging husband in New York while she is stuck in Miami. Since her father, once Ellen flew the coop, had put an all-points bulletin for her return with a reward attached she surreptitiously sneaked passage on a plebian travel bus (figuring rightly that somebody born with a silver spoon in their mouth would rather die than have to rub shoulders with heavy people or heavy snorers in the next sear-smart girl). That bus trip with accompanying antics is where Ellen meets the wandering ex-newsman Peter, played by Clark Gable, who will provide plenty of action in trying to have her come off her high horse and get down in the mud with regular folk.

Of course the hi-jinx also include plenty of tensions between the pair as they do their dance around each other for a while getting in and out of scrapes which showed Ellen at least that he was a real man, a man to challenge her in plenty of ways including her virtue. I wonder what really went on that night they spent in the cabin with the skimpy clothesline and a ratty blanket the only thing separately them. Might that be the “it happened one night?” See this film and make your judgment.     

In Honor of Anniversary Of The July 26th Movement-From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-On The 50th Anniversary-Bay of Pigs: Cuban Revolution Defeated U.S.-Backed Invasion

In Honor of Anniversary Of The July 26th Movement-From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-On The 50th Anniversary-Bay of Pigs: Cuban Revolution Defeated U.S.-Backed Invasion

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman (2015)

Every leftist, hell, everybody who stands on the democratic principle that each nation has the right to self-determination should cautiously rejoice at the “defrosting” of the long-time diplomatic relations between the American imperial behemoth and the island of Cuba (and the freedom of the remaining Cuban Five in the bargain). Every leftist militant should understand that each non-capitalist like Cuba going back to the establishment of the now defunct Soviet Union has had the right (maybe until we win our socialist future the duty) to make whatever advantageous agreements they can with the capitalist world. That despite whatever disagreements we have with the political regimes ruling those non-capitalist states. That is a question for us to work out not the imperialists.

For those who have defended the Cuban Revolution since its victory in 1959 under whatever political rationale (pro-socialist, right to self-determination, or some other hands off policy) watching on black and white television the rebels entering Havana this day which commemorates the heroic if unsuccessful efforts at Moncada we should affirm our continued defense of the Cuban revolution. Oh yes, and tell the American government to give back Guantanamo while we are at it.    

Workers Vanguard No. 978
15 April 2011

April 1961

Bay of Pigs: Cuban Revolution Defeated U.S.-Backed Invasion

This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the defeat of the CIA-organized Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) invasion of Cuba, an attempt to overturn the social revolution that overthrew capitalism in 1960. The attack, launched on 17 April 1961 by counterrevolutionaries and mercenary ground troops using U.S.-equipped bombers, amphibious assault ships and tanks, was defeated within three days by heroic Cuban fighters. The social composition of the invading forces, documented by Cuban authorities, was revealing: 100 plantation owners, 67 landlords, 35 factory owners, 112 businessmen, 179 people living off unearned income, 194 former soldiers of the Batista dictatorship that had been overthrown by Castro’s guerrilla forces.

The Bay of Pigs operation was ordered by Democratic president John F. Kennedy at the beginning of his term as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. imperialism. JFK never forgave the CIA for the fiasco, whose planning had been authorized by the Republican Eisenhower administration a year earlier. Kennedy went on to tighten the U.S. embargo of Cuba and put his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, in charge of “Operation Mongoose”—a campaign of sabotage, destabilization and terror mobilizing the CIA and a range of government departments. The operation included repeated assassination plots against Castro and massive funding for a spy base in Miami involving Cuban counterrevolutionary gusanos (worms) and Mafiosi. In the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy took the world to the brink of nuclear war over Soviet nuclear missiles that were placed in Cuba, although later pulled out.

The intrigues and assassination attempts continued under both Democratic and Republican presidents. Last week, an El Paso federal court acquitted 83-year-old Cuban CIA-operative Luis Posada Carriles, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs, of charges of lying at an immigration hearing. This assassin is wanted by both Cuba and Hugo Chávez’s populist capitalist government in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner, which killed all 73 people aboard, and for masterminding hotel bombings in Cuba in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and wounded 12 other people. The Feds prosecuted Posada Carriles on immigration charges as a way to circumvent extradition attempts by Venezuela. We say: Extradite Posada Carriles to Cuba!

Although under the rule of a nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy, the workers and peasants of Cuba have gained enormously from the overthrow of capitalist rule on the island. When Castro’s petty-bourgeois guerrilla forces marched into Havana in January 1959, the army and the rest of the capitalist state apparatus of the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship shattered. The new government had to confront U.S. imperialism’s mounting attempts to bring it to heel through economic pressure. When Eisenhower sought to lower the U.S. quota for Cuban sugar in January 1960, Castro signed an agreement to sell one million tons yearly to the Soviet Union. Refusal by imperialist-owned oil refineries to process Russian crude led to the nationalization of U.S.-owned properties in Cuba in August 1960, including sugar mills, oil companies, and the power and telephone companies. By October of that year, 80 percent of the country’s industry had been nationalized. Cuba became a deformed workers state with these pervasive nationalizations, which liquidated the bourgeoisie as a class.

The elimination of production for profit and the introduction of a semblance of centralized planning on the island provided jobs, housing and education for everyone. To this day, Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and a renowned health care system, with more teachers and doctors per capita than anywhere else. Infant mortality is lower than in the U.S., the European Union and Canada. We stand for the unconditional military defense of the Cuban deformed workers state while calling for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy, whose nationalist program of “socialism in one country” is an obstacle to the necessary extension of socialist revolution to the Latin American mainland and, crucially, to the U.S. imperialist heartland. 

The fight to defend and extend the Cuban Revolution has been a hallmark of our tendency from its inception as the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Against the SWP majority, which equated the Castro regime with the revolutionary Bolshevik government of Lenin and Trotsky, the RT fought for the understanding that Cuba had become a bureaucratically deformed workers state. Indeed, following the Bay of Pigs, the Castro regime tightened its political grip on the country. The Trotskyist press was suppressed, key labor leaders were replaced by Stalinist hacks, a one-party system was instituted, etc. The RT upheld the need to build Leninist-Trotskyist parties in Cuba and in the U.S., where the SWP majority was increasingly abandoning a revolutionary perspective, instead tailing Castroism and black nationalism.

Based on our analysis of the Cuban Revolution, the SL was able to extend Marxist theory to encompass how bureaucratically deformed workers states were created (see Marxist Bulletin No. 8, “Cuba and Marxist Theory”). In Cuba, a petty-bourgeois movement under exceptional circumstances—the absence of the working class as a contender for social power in its own right, the flight of the national bourgeoisie, hostile imperialist encirclement, a lifeline thrown by the Soviet Union—was able to eventually smash capitalist property relations. But Castroism (like other peasant-based guerrilla movements) could not bring the working class to political power. As stated in the International Communist League’s “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program”:

“Under the most favorable historic circumstances conceivable, the petty-bourgeois peasantry was only capable of creating a bureaucratically deformed workers state, that is, a state of the same order as that issuing out of the political counterrevolution of Stalin in the Soviet Union, an anti-working-class regime which blocked the possibilities to extend social revolution into Latin America and North America, and suppressed Cuba’s further development in the direction of socialism. To place the working class in political power and open the road to socialist development requires a supplemental political revolution led by a Trotskyist party.”

The Soviet Union, which provided Cuba with crucial military support and economic aid, is no more, destroyed in 1991-92 by capitalist counterrevolution after decades of Stalinist misrule and imperialist pressure. The Cuban economy has suffered massively in the aftermath, although not evenly and uniformly. While the predominant section of the U.S. capitalist ruling class seeks to keep a stranglehold on the island through the trade embargo, some elements seek to relax the embargo along with Cuba’s diplomatic isolation from the U.S., seeing this as a more effective means of subverting the gains of the revolution. Meanwhile, Cuba remains in the imperialists’ military crosshairs, a fact that its people are reminded of every day by the presence of the U.S. naval base (and detention-torture center) at Guantánamo Bay. U.S. out of Guantánamo Bay now! Our defense of the Cuban deformed workers state against the class enemy is an integral part of our program for the overthrow of bloody U.S. imperialism through proletarian revolution here, in the “belly of the beast.”
On The 50th Anniversary- Honor The Heroic Cuban Defenders At The Bay Of Pigs-Defend The Cuban Revolution!

Markin comment:

Those of us who came of age in the 1960s, especially those of us who cut our political teeth on defending, under one principle or another (right to national self-determination, socialist solidarity, general anti-imperialist agenda, etc.), the Cuban revolution that we were front row television witnesses to, cherish the memory of the heroic Cuban defenders at the Bay of Pigs. No one cried when the American imperial adventure was foiled and President John Kennedy (whatever else we felt about him then), egg on face, had to take responsibility for the fiasco.

Those of us who continue to adhere to the anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, pro-socialist agenda, whatever our differences with the Cuban leadership, today can join in honoring those heroic fighters. Today is also a day to face the hard fact that we have had too few victories against the imperialist behemoth. The imperial defeat at the Bay of Pigs was however our victory. As today’s imperialist activity in Libya, painfully, testifies to those forces, however, have not gotten weaker in the past 50 years. So the lesson for today’s (and future) young militants is to honor our fallen forebears and realize that the beast can be defeated, if you are willing to fight it. Forward! Defend the Cuban Revolution! Defend Libya against the imperialist onslaught! 

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

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.            

The Nighttime Is The Right Time-With Fritz Lang’s Film Adaptation Of Clifford Odets’ “Clash By Night” In Mind

The Nighttime Is The Right Time-With Fritz Lang’s Film Adaptation Of Clifford Odets’ “Clash By Night” In Mind  

By Film Critic Emeritus Sam Lowell

No I am not here to look over somebody’s, some other reviewer’s shoulder now that Peter Paul Markin, the moderator on this site has let the cat out of the bag and told one and all that with my review of 1956’s Giant I was, as he put it, putting myself to pasture. Although I would not have put it that way a few more or less serious medical problems have required to back off a little on reviewing films, a task I have done now for over forty years-and will continue periodically to continue doing. Today though I am here to comment on a review of Clash By Night by one of the in-coming reviewers, Sandy Salmon, whom I have known for at least thirty years and have respected for his work as my co-worker at the American Film Gazette almost as long. At fitting commentary to that respect is that I have freely “stolen” plenty of stuff from his pithy reviews over years. So enough said about that.  

After reading Sandy’s review I also realized that I was not familiar with the film that was under review although as the regular readers know I live for film noir, or variations of it which I think is closer to the nut in Clash. So naturally I called him up to ask to borrow his copy of the DVD which he sent me a few days later and which I viewed a couple of days after that. No question as Sandy pointed out Clash is a little hidden gem of a film with the standout cast of Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan, and a pre-iconic Marilyn Monroe. With top notch direction by Fritz Lang who knew how to set a mood from the beginning of a film to the end here with a close up look at the shoreline of Monterrey setting us up for the clashing waves to come-human clashing waves and with a screenplay by my old friend Artie Hayes from the hot pen of playwright Clifford Odets who before he turned 1950s red scare fink, snitch, sell-out did some very good work (interesting that most of the finks and slinkers like Elia Kazan, Langston Hughes, Josh White and a million others never did produce that much good work after they  went down on their knees before the American mammon  and guys like Dalton Trumbo, Dashiell Hammett and Howard Fast who carried their toothbrushes with them into the House Un-American Activities Committee’s witch-hunt tribunals lived to do some good work after the red scare blew away like dust).   

No question this film had a good pedigree, had the stuff that kept things moving along in the funny little human drama being played out among ordinary folk with ordinary dreams which got smashed up against  the real world. Sandy made some good points as he summarized the ploy-line for the reader.  I have no quarrel with that but what I want to do is highlight some things that Sandy, the soul of discretion, kind of fluffed. My take on what was going on with all that high-end dialogue that Artie produced to throw in the main characters’ mouths. 

For openers let’s call things by their right name, this Mae Doyle, the role played by Barbara Stanwyck, was nothing but a tramp, a drifter and nighty-taker. Sure she had some femme fatale qualities, Sandy was right to make a comparison with Phyllis, the wanton femme and man trap who put Walter Neff through the wringer in Double Indemnity also played by Ms. Stanwyck, but she was strictly from the wrong side of the tracks. Was bound to let some guy who just wanted a good-looking woman to fill his house with kids take the gaff.  Mae had come home to working class Monterrey after having been out in the big wide world and gotten her younger years dreams crushed. She was now world weary and wary looking for a safe port. Call me politically incorrect or culturally insensitive but once a tramp always a tramp.

Mae knew it, knew it all the time she was leading poor sap Jerry, the role played by Paul Douglas. She took a supposed tough guy, a guy who had been hardened by the sea and twisted him around in and out in two second flat once she got her hooks into him. Earl knew that, Earl played by Robert Ryan, knew from minute one that whatever play Jerry was making for Mae he, Earl, was going to go down and dirty under the silky sheets with her before he was done-wedding ring or no wedding ring. And guess what as you already know she, when she got bored with the frankly boring Jerry and his fucking fish smells, his goddam sardine aura, she was ready to blow town with the hunky Earl. Didn’t think twice about it even with a little child in the way. Yeah, Jerry was made for the role of cuckold, maybe deserved it for having, what did Sandy call him, oh yeah, the blinders on way before he found some silky negligees and come hither perfumes, gifts from Earl, hidden in her bureau drawer.       

Then he man’s up, man’s up when it is too late as they, Mae and Earl are ready to take a hike with that little baby in tow. Then Mae got cold feet, supposedly was mother-hungry for the child and was ready to do penance for her indiscretions. Earl had it right though, had Mae pegged as a tramp, as someone looking for next adventure. That is what makes the end of the film run false as she practically begs Jerry to take her back now that she had seen the light. Jesus what a sap. Earl said it best. If she didn’t go away with him then it would only be a matter of time before she got bored again with Jerry and took a walk, maybe came running back to him, him and the wild side of life. I bet six, two and even and will take on all-comers that she blows town before the next year is out. You heard it here first- a tramp is always a tramp-end of discussion. Nice first review here Sandy, good luck.      

In Honor Of Jean Bon Kerouac On The 60th Anniversary Of “On The Road” (1957)-An Encore Presentation-The Big Sur Café

In Honor Of Jean Bon Kerouac On The 60th Anniversary Of “On The Road” (1957)-An Encore Presentation-The Big Sur Café

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

By Book Critic Zack James

To be honest I know about On The Road Jack Kerouac’s epic tale of his generation’s search for something, maybe the truth, maybe just kicks, stuff, important stuff has happened or some such happening strictly second-hand. His generation’s search looking for a name, found what he, or someone associated with him, maybe the bandit poet Gregory Corso, king of the mean New York streets, mean, very mean indeed in a junkie-hang-out world around Times Square when that place was up to its neck in flea-bit hotels, all night Joe and Nemo’s and the trail of the “fixer” man on every corner, con men coming out your ass too, called the “beat” generation.  Beat, beat of the jazzed up drum line backing some sax player searching for the high white note, what somebody told me, maybe my older brother Alex thy called “blowing to the China seas” out in West Coast jazz and blues circles, dead beat, run out on money, women, life, leaving, and this is important no forwarding address for the desolate repo man to hang onto, dread beat, nine to five, 24/7/365 that you will get caught back up in the spire wind up like your freaking staid, stay at home parents, beaten down, ground down like dust puffed away just for being, hell, let’s just call it being, beatified beat like saintly and all high holy Catholic incense and a story goes with it about a young man caught up in a dream, like there were not ten thousand other religions in the world to feast on- you can take your pick of the meanings, beat time meanings. Hell, join the club they all did, the guys, and it was mostly guys who hung out on the mean streets of New York, Chi town, North Beach in Frisco town cadging twenty-five cents a night flea-bag sleeps, half stirred left on corner coffees and cigarette stubs when the Bull Durham ran out).

I was too young to have had anything but a vague passing reference to the thing, to that “beat” thing since I was probably just pulling out of diapers then, maybe a shade bit older but not much. I got my fill, my brim fill later through my oldest brother Alex. Alex, and his crowd, more about that in a minute, but even he was only washed clean by the “beat” experiment at a very low level, mostly through reading the book (need I say the book was On The Road) and having his mandatory two years of living on the road around the time of the Summer of Love, 1967 an event whose 50th anniversary is being commemorated this year as well. So even Alex and his crowd were really too young to have been washed by the beat wave that crashed the continent toward the end of the 1950s on the wings of Allan Ginsburg’s Howl and Jack’s travel book of a different kind. The kind that moves generations, or I like to think the best parts of those cohorts. These were the creation documents the latter which would drive Alex west before he finally settled down to his career life (and to my sorrow and anger never looked back).             

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

But it was above all Jack’s book, Jack’s book which had caused a big splash in 1957, and had ripple effects into the early 1960s (and even now certain “hip” kids acknowledge the power of attraction that book had for their own developments, especially that living simple, fast and hard part). Made the young, some of them anyway have to spend some time thinking through the path of life ahead by hitting the vagrant dusty sweaty road. Maybe not hitchhiking, maybe not going high speed high through the ocean, plains, mountain desert night but staying unsettled for a while anyway.    

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

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

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

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


From The Pen Of Zack James

Josh Breslin, as he drove in the pitch black night up California Highway 156 to connect with U.S. 101 and the San Francisco Airport back to Boston was thinking furious thought, fugitive thoughts about what had happened on this his umpteenth trip to California. Thoughts that would carry him to the  airport road and car rental return on arrival there and then after the swift airbus to his terminal the flight home to Logan and then up to his old hometown of Olde Saco to which he had recently returned. Returned after long years of what he called “shaking the dust of the old town” off his shoes like many a guy before him, and after too. But now along the road to the airport he had thought that it had been a long time since he had gotten up this early to head, well, to head anywhere.

He had in an excess of caution decided to leave at three o’clock in the morning from the hotel he had been staying at in downtown Monterrey near famous Cannery Row (romantically and literarily famous as a scene in some of John Steinbeck’s novels from the 1920s and 1930s, as a site of some of the stop-off 1950s “beat” stuff if for no other reason than the bus stopped there before you took a taxi to Big Sur or thumbed depending on your finances and as famed 1960s Pops musical locale where the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin rose to the cream on top although now just another tourist magnet complete with Steinbeck this and that for sullen shoppers and diners who found their way east of Eden) and head up to the airport in order to avoid the traffic jams that he had inevitably encountered on previous trips around farm country Gilroy (the garlic or onion capital of the world, maybe both, but you got that strong smell in any case), and high tech Silicon Valley where the workers are as wedded to their automobiles as any other place in America which he too would pass on the way up.

This excess of caution not a mere expression of an old man who is mired in a whole cycle of cautions from doctors to lawyers to ex-wives to current flame (Lana Malloy by name) since his flight was not to leave to fly Boston until about noon and even giving the most unusual hold-ups and delays in processings at the airport he would not need to arrive there to return his rented car until about ten. So getting up some seven hours plus early on a trip of about one hundred miles or so and normally without traffic snarls about a two hour drive did seem an excess of caution.

But something else was going on in Josh’s mind that pitch black night (complete with a period of dense fog about thirty miles up as he hit a seashore belt and the fog just rolled in without warnings) for he had had the opportunity to have avoided both getting up early and getting snarled in hideous California highway traffic by the expedient of heading to the airport the previous day and taken refuge in a motel that was within a short distance of the airport, maybe five miles when he checked on his loyalty program hotel site. Josh though had gone down to Monterey after a writers’ conference in San Francisco which had ended a couple of days before in order travel to Big Sur and some ancient memories there had stirred something in him that he did not want to leave the area until the last possible moment so he had decided to stay in Monterrey and leave early in the morning for the airport.

That scheduled departure plan set Josh then got an idea in his head, an idea that had driven him many times before when he had first gone out to California in the summer of love, 1967 version, that he would dash to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun came up and then head to the airport. He had to laugh, as he threw an aspirin down his throat and then some water to wash the tablet down in order to ward off a coming migraine headache that the trip, that this little trip to Big Sur that he had finished the day before, the first time in maybe forty years he had been there had him acting like a young wild kid again.        

Funny as well that only a few days before he had been tired, very tired a condition that came on him more often of late as one of the six billion “growing old sucks” symptoms of that process, after the conference. Now he was blazing trails again, at least in his mind. The conference on the fate of post-modern writing in the age of the Internet with the usual crowd of literary critics and other hangers-on in tow to drink the free liquor and eat the free food had been sponsored by a major publishing company, The Globe Group. He had written articles for The Blazing Sun when the original operation had started out as a shoestring alternative magazine in the Village in about 1968, had started out as an alternative to Time, Life, Newsweek, Look, an alternative to all the safe subscription magazines delivered to leafy suburban homes and available at urban newsstands for the nine to fivers of the old world for those who, by choice, had no home, leafy or otherwise, and no serious work history.

Or rather the audience pitched to had no fixed abode, since the brethren were living some vicarious existences out of a knapsack just like Josh and his friends whom he collected along the way had been doing when he joined Captain Crunch’s merry pranksters (small case to distinguish them from the more famous Ken Kesey mad monk Merry Pranksters written about in their time by Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson) the first time he came out and found himself on Russian Hill in Frisco town looking for dope and finding this giant old time yellow brick road converted school bus parked in a small park there and made himself at home, after they made him welcome (including providing some sweet baby James dope that he had been searching for since the minute he hit town).

Still the iterant, the travelling nation hippie itinerants of the time to draw a big distinction from the winos, drunks, hoboes, bums and tramps who populated the “jungle” camps along railroad tracks, arroyos, river beds and under bridges who had no use for magazines or newspapers except as pillows against a hard night’s sleep along a river or on those unfriendly chairs at the Greyhound bus station needed, wanted to know what was going on in other parts of “youth nation,” wanted to know what new madness was up, wanted to know where to get decent dope, and who was performing and where in the acid-rock etched night (groups like the Dead, the Doors, the Airplane leading the pack then).

That magazine had long ago turned the corner back to Time/Life/Look/Newsweek land but the publisher Mac McDowell who still sported mutton chop whiskers as he had in the old days although these days he has them trimmed by his stylist, Marcus, at a very steep price at his mansion up in Marin County always invited him out, and paid his expenses, whenever there was a conference about some facet of the 1960s that the younger “post-modernist”  writers in his stable (guys like Kenny Johnson the author of the best-seller Thrill  were asking about as material for future books about the heady times they had been too young, in some cases way to young to know about personally or even second-hand). So Mac would bring out wiry, wily old veterans like Josh to spice up what after all would be just another academic conference and to make Mac look like some kind of hipster rather than the balding “sell-out" that he had become (which Josh had mentioned in his conference presentation but which Mac just laughed at, laughed at just as long as he can keep that Marin mansion. Still Josh felt he provided some useful background stuff now that you can find lots of information about that 1960s “golden age” (Mac’s term not his) to whet your appetite on Wikipedia or more fruitfully by going on YouTube where almost all the music of the time and other ephemera can be watched with some benefit.

Despite Josh’s tiredness, and a bit of crankiness as well when the young kid writers wanted to neglect the political side, the Vietnam War side, the rebellion against parents side of what the 1960s had been about for the lowdown on the rock festival, summer of love, Golden Gate Park at sunset loaded with dope and lack of hubris side, he decided to take a few days to go down to see Big Sur once again. He figured who knew when he would get another chance and at the age of seventy-two the actuarial tables were calling his number, or wanted to. He would have preferred to have taken the trip down with Lana, a hometown woman, whom he had finally settled in with up in Olde Saco after three, count them, failed marriages, a parcel of kids most of whom turned out okay, plenty of college tuitions and child support after living in Watertown just outside of Boston for many years.

Lana a bit younger than he and not having been “washed clean” as Josh liked to express the matter in the hectic 1960s and not wanting to wait around a hotel room reading a book or walking around Frisco alone while he attended the conference had begged off on the trip, probably wisely although once he determined to go to Big Sur and told her where he was heading she got sort of wistful. She had just recently read with extreme interest about Big Sur through her reading of Jack Kerouac’s 1960s book of the same name and had asked Josh several times before that if they went to California on a vacation other than San Diego they would go there. The long and short of that conversation was a promise by Josh to take her the next time, if there was a next time (although he did not put the proposition in exactly those terms).            

Immediately after the conference Josh headed south along U.S. 101 toward Monterrey where he would stay and which would be his final destination that day since he would by then be tired and it would be nighttime coming early as the November days got shorter. He did not want to traverse the Pacific Coast Highway (California 1 for the natives) at night since he had forgotten his distance glasses, another one of those six billion reasons why getting old sucks. Had moreover not liked to do that trip along those hairpin turns which the section heading toward Big Sur entailed riding the guardrails even back in his youth since one time having been completely stoned on some high-grade Panama Red he had almost sent a Volkswagen bus over the top when he missed a second hairpin turn after traversing the first one successfully. So he would head to Monterrey and make the obligatory walk to Cannery Row for dinner and in order to channel John Steinbeck and the later “beats” who would stop there before heading to fallout Big Sur.

The next morning Josh left on the early side not being very hungry after an excellent fish dinner at Morley’s a place that had been nothing but a hash house diner in the old days where you could get serviceable food cheap because the place catered to the shore workers and sardine factory workers who made Cannery Row famous, or infamous, when it was a working Row. He had first gone there after reading about the place in something Jack Kerouac wrote and was surprised that the place actually existed, had liked the food and the prices and so had gone there a number of times when his merry pranksters and other road companions were making the obligatory Frisco-L.A. runs up and down the coast. These days Morley’s still had excellent food but perhaps you should bring a credit card with you to insure you can handle the payment and avoid “diving for pearls” as a dish-washer to pay off your debts.      

As Josh started up the engine of his rented Acura, starting up on some of the newer cars these days being a matter of stepping on the brake and then pushing a button where the key used to go in this keyless age, keyless maybe a metaphor of the age as well, he had had to ask the attendant at the airport how to start the thing since his own car was a keyed-up Toyota of ancient age, he began to think back to the old days when he would make this upcoming run almost blind-folded. That term maybe a metaphor for that age. He headed south to catch the Pacific Coast Highway north of Carmel and thought he would stop at Point Lobos, the place he had first encountered the serious beauty of the Pacific Coast rocks and ocean wave splash reminding him of back East in Olde Saco, although more spectacular. Also the place when he had first met Moonbeam Sadie.

He had had to laugh when he thought about that name and that woman since a lot of what the old days, the 1960s had been about were tied up with his relationship to that woman, the first absolutely chemically pure version of a “hippie chick” that he had encountered. At that time Josh had been on the Captain Crunch merry prankster yellow brick road bus for a month or so and a couple of days before they had started heading south from Frisco to Los Angeles to meet up with a couple of other yellow brick road buses where Captain Crunch knew some kindred. As they meandered down the Pacific Coast Highway they would stop at various places to take in the beauty of the ocean since several of the “passengers” had never seen the ocean or like Josh had never seen the Pacific in all its splendor.

In those days, unlike now when the park closes at dusk as Josh found out, you could park your vehicle overnight and take in the sunset and endlessly listen to the surf splashing up to rocky shorelines until you fell asleep. So when their bus pulled into the lot reserved for larger vehicles there were a couple of other clearly “freak” buses already there. One of them had Moonbeam as a “passenger” whom he would meet later that evening when all of “youth nation” in the park decided to have a dope- strewn party. Half of the reason for joining up on bus was for a way to travel, for a place to hang your hat but it was also the easiest way to get on the dope trail since somebody, usually more than one somebody was “holding.” And so that night they partied, partied hard. 

About ten o’clock Josh high as a kite from some primo hash saw a young woman, tall, sort of skinny (he would find out later she had not been so slim previously except the vagaries of the road food and a steady diet of “speed” had taken their toll), long, long brown hair, a straw hat on her head, a long “granny” dress and barefooted the very picture of what Time/Life/Look would have used as their female “hippie” poster child to titillate their middle-class audiences coming out of one of the buses. She had apparently just awoken, although that seemed impossible given the noise level from the collective sound systems and the surf, and was looking for some dope to level her off and headed straight to Josh.

Josh had at that time long hair tied in a ponytail, at least that night, a full beard, wearing a cowboy hat on his head, a leather jacket against the night’s cold, denim blue jeans and a pair of moccasins not far from what Time/Life/Look would have used as their male “hippie” poster child to titillate their middle-class audiences so Moonbeam’s heading Josh’s way was not so strange. Moreover Josh was holding a nice stash of hashish. Without saying a word Josh passed the hash pipe to Moonbeam and by that mere action started a “hippie” romance that would last for the next several months until Moonbeam decided she was not cut out for the road, couldn’t take the life, and headed back to Lima, Ohio to sort out her life.

But while they were on their “fling” Moonbeam taught “Cowboy Jim,” her new name for him, many things. Josh thought it was funny thinking back how wedded to the idea of changing their lives they were back then including taking new names, monikers, as if doing so would create the new world by osmosis or something. He would have several other monikers like the “Prince of Love,” the Be-Bop Kid (for his love of jazz and blues), and Sidewalk Slim (for always writing something in chalk wherever he had sidewalk space to do so) before he left the road a few years later and stayed steady with his journalism after that high, wide, wild life lost it allure as the high tide of the 1960s ebbed and people drifted back to their old ways. But Cowboy Jim was what she called Josh and he never minded her saying that.

See Moonbeam really was trying to seek the newer age, trying to find herself as they all were more or less, but also let her better nature come forth. And she did in almost every way from her serious study of Buddhism, her yoga (well before that was fashionable among the young), and her poetry writing. But most of all in the kind, gentle almost Quaker way that she dealt with people, on or off drugs, the way she treated her Cowboy. Josh had never had such a gentle lover, never had such a woman who not only tried to understand herself but to understand him. More than once after she left the bus (she had joined the Captain Crunch when the bus left Point Lobos a few days later now that she was Cowboy’s sweetheart) he had thought about heading to Lima and try to work something out but he was still seeking something out on the Coast that held him back until her memory faded a bit and he lost the thread of her).          

Yeah, Point Lobos held some ancient memories and that day the surf was up and Mother Nature was showing one and all who cared to watch just how relentless she could be against the defenseless rocks and shoreline. If he was to get to Big Sur though he could not dally since he did not want to be taking that hairpin stretch at night. So off he went. Nothing untoward happened on the road to Big Sur, naturally he had to stop at the Bixby Bridge to marvel at the vista but also at the man-made marvel of traversing that canyon below with this bridge in 1932. Josh though later that it was not exactly correct that nothing untoward happened on the road to Big Sur but that was not exactly true for he was white-knuckled driving for that several mile stretch where the road goes up mostly and there are many hairpin turns with no guardrail and the ocean is a long way down. He thought he really was becoming an old man in his driving so cautiously that he had veer off to the side of the road to let faster cars pass by. In the old days he would drive the freaking big ass yellow brick road school bus along that same path and think nothing of it except for a time after that Volkswagen almost mishap. Maybe he was dope-brave then but it was disconcerting to think how timid he had become.

Finally in Big Sur territory though nothing really untoward happen as he traversed those hairpin roads until they finally began to straighten out near Molera State Park and thereafter Pfeiffer Beach. Funny in the old days there had been no creek to ford at Molera but the river had done its work over forty years through drought and downpour so in order to get to the ocean about a mile’s walk away Josh had to take off his running shoes and socks to get across the thirty or forty feet of rocks and pebbles to the other side (and of course the same coming back a pain in the ass which he would have taken in stride back then when he shoe of the day was the sandal easily slipped off and on) but well worth the effort even if annoying since the majestic beauty of that rock-strewn beach was breath-taking a much used word and mostly inappropriate but not this day. Maybe global warming or maybe just the relentless crush of the seas on a timid waiting shoreline but most of the beach was un-walkable across the mountain of stones piled up and so he took the cliff trail part of the way before heading back the mile to his car in the parking lot to get to Pfeiffer Beach before too much longer. 

Pfeiffer Beach is another one of those natural beauties that you have to do some work to get, almost as much work as getting to Todo El Mundo further up the road when he and his corner boys from Olde Saco had stayed for a month after they had come out to join him on the bus once he informed them that they needed to get to the West fast because all the world was changing out there. This work entailed not walking to the beach but by navigating a big car down the narrow one lane rutted dirt road two miles to the bottom of the canyon and the parking lot since now the place had been turned into a park site as well. The road was a white-knuckles experience although not as bad as the hairpins on the Pacific Coast Highway but as with Molera worth the effort, maybe more so since Josh could walk that wind-swept beach although some of the cross-currents were fierce when the ocean tide slammed the defenseless beach and rock formation. A couple of the rocks had been ground down so by the relentless oceans that donut holes had been carved in them.                          

Here Josh put down a blanket on a rock so that he could think back to the days when he had stayed here, really at Todo el Mundo but there was no beach there just some ancient eroded cliff dwellings where they had camped out and not be bothered  so everybody would climb on the bus which they would park by the side of the road on Big Sur Highway and walk down to Pfeiffer Beach those easy then two miles bringing the day’s rations of food, alcohol and drugs (not necessarily in that order) in rucksacks and think thing nothing of the walk and if they were too “wasted” (meaning drunk or high) they would find a cave and sleep there. That was the way the times were, nothing unusual then although the sign at the park entrance like at Point Lobos (and Molera) said overnight parking and camping were prohibited. But that is the way these times are.

Josh had his full share of ancient dreams come back to him that afternoon. The life on the bus, the parties, the literary lights who came by who had known Jack Kerouac , Allan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the remnant of beats who had put the place on the map as a cool stopping point close enough to Frisco to get to in a day but ten thousand miles from city cares and woes, the women whom he had loved and who maybe loved him back although he/they never stayed together long enough to form any close relationship except for Butterfly Swirl and that was a strange scene. Strange because Butterfly was a surfer girl who was “slumming” on the hippie scene for a while and they had connected on the bus except she finally decided that the road was not for her just like Moonbeam, as almost everybody including Josh figured out in the end, and went back to her perfect wave surfer boy down in La Jolla after a few months.

After an afternoon of such memories Josh was ready to head back having done what he had set out to which was to come and dream about the old days when he thought about the reasons for why he had gone to Big Sur later that evening back at the hotel. He was feeling a little hungry and after again traversing that narrow rutted dirt road going back up the canyon he decided if he didn’t stop here the nearest place would be around Carmel about twenty-five miles away. So he stopped at Henry’s Café. The café next to the Chevron gas station and the Big Sur library heading back toward Carmel (he had to laugh given all the literary figures who had passed through this town that the library was no bigger than the one he would read at on hot summer days in elementary school with maybe fewer books in stock). Of course the place no longer was named Henry’s since he had died long ago but except for a few coats of paint on the walls and a few paintings of the cabins out back that were still being rented out the place was the same. Henry’s had prided itself on the best hamburgers in Big Sur and that was still true as Josh found out.

But good hamburgers (and excellent potato soup not too watery) are not what Josh would remember about the café or about Big Sur that day. It would be the person, the young woman about thirty who was serving them off the arm, was the wait person at the joint. As he entered she was talking on a mile a minute in a slang he recognized, the language of his 1960s, you know, “right on,” “cool,” “no hassle,” “wasted,” the language of the laid-back hippie life. When she came to take his order he was curious, what was her name and how did she pick up that lingo which outside of Big Sur and except among the, well, now elderly, in places like Soho, Frisco, Harvard Square, is like a dead language, like Latin or Greek.

She replied with a wicked smile that her name was Morning Blossom, didn’t he like that name. [Yes.] She had been born and raised in Big Sur and planned to stay there because she couldn’t stand the hassles (her term) of the cities, places like San Francisco where she had gone to school for a while at San Francisco State. Josh thought to himself that he knew what was coming next although he let Morning Blossom have her say. Her parents had moved to Big Sur in 1969 and had started home-steading up in the hills. They have been part of a commune before she was born but that was all over with by the time she was born and so her parents struggled on the land alone. They never left, and never wanted to leave. Seldom left Big Sur and still did not.

Josh said to himself, after saying wow, he had finally found one of the lost tribes that wandered out into the wilderness back in the 1960s and were never heard from again. And here they were still plugging away at whatever dream drove them back then. He and others who had chronicled in some way the 1960s had finally found a clue to what had happened to the brethren. But as he got up from the counter, paid his bill, and left a hefty tip, he though he still had that trip out here next time with Lana to get through. He was looking forward to that adventure now though.               

On The Sixtieth Anniversary Of Her Death-Lady Day-Billie Holiday- She Took Our Pain Away Despite Her Own Pains- *For Sax Man Johnny Hodge's 112th Birthday-Blowing The High White Note- When The Jazz Age Was In Full Bloom- Duke Ellington At Harlem’s Cotton Club

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the Cotton Club in New York mentioned below, including information about its racial profile.

CD Review

Jungle Nights In Harlem, Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra: 1927-1933, Bluebird, 1991

As I have mentioned in previous reviews of various classical jazz artists I came to an appreciation of that musical art from one source, and one source only- Lady Day, Billie Holiday. Along the way I started to get interested in her various back-up musicians which led me to the likes of Lester Young, Johnny Hodges, Artie Shaw and others. And, of course, when you get to Johnny Hodges you naturally have to think of the Duke- Ellington that is. And there you have it, except, that I doubled, no I tripled, my appreciation of the Duke around the time of the centenary of his birthday in 1999.

And I was not wrong to do so, although the CD under review falls more into a piece of jazz history, black musical history, Jazz Age history, Harlem history and, most importantly, Cotton Club history than a source of understanding his huge place in the jazz pantheon. For those unfamiliar with that New York City venue, the Cotton Club, that is the place when all the jazz greats of the 1920s and 1930s aspired to perform- and whites, at least certain whites like those rich ones that the author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about, went to “kick up their heels”, “get their kicks”, and, maybe, get “kicked” away from the downtown squares. And Duke and his orchestra (including the afore-mentioned Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard, Harry Carney, and Cootie Williams among others) was the most serious feature in those days. Wouldn’t you pay big money, and gladly, to hear that sound in those surroundings? I think so.

Now, just a note for history's sake, or for the sake of a nod to political correctness. The term “jungle music” has always, as far as I know, had negative connotations about black music or black-related music like rock and roll, and still does. But, my friends, these were the terms of usage for what was going on then so accept it as a piece of history. But, also know this: do not miss out on a piece of our common history, jazz, racial, and social by missing Duke and the guys performing “Mood Indigo”, “Black and Tan Fantasy”, or “The Duke Steps Out” and the others here.