Saturday, August 17, 2019

Happy Birthday Jim Kweskin-The Max Daddy Of Jug- Once More Into The Time Capsule, Part Three- The New York Folk Revival Scene in the Early 1960’s-Jim Kweskin&The Jug Band

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band in performance. Listen for that old kazoo.

CD Review

Washington Square Memoirs: The Great Urban Folk Revival Boom, 1950-1970, various artists, 3CD set, Rhino Records, 2001

Except for the reference to the origins of the talent brought to the city the same comments apply for this CD. Rather than repeat information that is readily available in the booklet and on the discs I’ll finish up here with some recommendations of songs that I believe that you should be sure to listen to:

Disc Three: Phil Ochs on “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, Richard &Mimi Farina on “Pack Up Your Sorrows”, John Hammond on “Drop Down Mama”, Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band on “Rag Mama”, John Denver on “Bells Of Rhymney”, Gordon Lightfoot on "Early Morning Rain”, Eric Andersen on “Thirsty Boots”, Tim Hardin on “Reason To Believe”, Richie Havens on “Just Like A Woman”, Judy Collins on “Suzanne”, Tim Buckley on “Once I Was”, Tom Rush on “The Circle Game”, Taj Mahal on “Candy Man”, Loudon Wainwright III on “School Days”and Arlo Guthrie on “The Motorcycle Song”

Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band on “Rag Mama”. Jim Kweskin, Geoff Muldaur and Maria Muldaur, three of the leading lights of this seminal 1960s jug band are still, mainly separately, performing. I have spilled plenty of ink on their later works so I need not spend much time here on that. “Rag Mama” was their anthem (and displayed the full range of possibilities of jug music- who would have thought that a kid’s kazoo could make so much fun music, right?). A note: in the booklet there is a reference to a belief that if it had not been for the British invasion led by the Beatles taking all of the air out of the then popular music world that jug music was going to be the next big wave. Hey, I like jug music as well as the next guy or gal but I think somebody was smoking “something” on making that comment.

Rag Mama rag

I can't believe its true
Rag Mama rag
What did you do
I go on up to the railroad track
Let the 4:19 scratch my back
Sag Mama sag
What's come over you
Rag Mama rag
I'm pullin out your gag
Gonna turn you loose
Like an old caboose
Got a tail I need to drag

I ask about your turtle
And you ask about the weather
I can't jump the hurdle
And we can't get together
We could be relaxin'
In my sleepin' bag
But all you want to do for me Mama is
Rag Mama rag
There's no where to go
Rag mama rag
Come on resin up the bow

Rag Mama rag
Where do you run
Rag Mama rag
Bring your skinny little body back home
It's dog it dog
Cat eat mouse
You can rag Mama rag
All over my house

Hail stones beatin' on the roof
The bourbon is hundred proof
It's you and me and the telephone
Our destiny is quite well known
We don't need to sit and brag
All we gotta do is rag Mama rag Mama rag

Rag Mama rag
Where do you roam
Rag Mama rag
Bring your skinny little body back home

*The Nitty- Gritty Folk (Oops) Jazz Voice Of Dave Van Ronk- The Traditional Mountain Ballad “Green, Green Rocky Road"

Happy Birthday To You-

By Lester Lannon

I am devoted to a local folk station WUMB which is run out of the campus of U/Mass-Boston over near Boston Harbor. At one time this station was an independent one based in Cambridge but went under when their significant demographic base deserted or just passed on once the remnant of the folk minute really did sink below the horizon.

So much for radio folk history except to say that the DJs on many of the programs go out of their ways to commemorate or celebrate the birthdays of many folk, rock, blues and related genre artists. So many and so often that I have had a hard time keeping up with noting those occurrences in this space which after all is dedicated to such happening along the historical continuum.

To “solve” this problem I have decided to send birthday to that grouping of musicians on an arbitrary basis as I come across their names in other contents or as someone here has written about them and we have them in the archives. This may not be the best way to acknowledge them, but it does do so in a respectful manner.   

Click on title to link to the late folk singer/historian Dave Van Ronk performing in his patented nitty-gritty manner the classic old Kentucky Mountain BALLAD “Green, Green Rock Road” that I first heard Dave do over forty years ago and started a lifetime interest. Dave insisted, right up until the end on both his last CD (…and the tin can bended, and the story ended) and DVD concert ("Dave Van Ronk At The Bottom Line In 2001”) that he was informed by jazz and considered himself a jazz vocalist. You be the judge, folk or jazz. This ain’t no opera singer though, right?

Green, Green Rocky Road

When I go to Baltimore
Got no carpet on my floor
Come along and follow me
We’ll go down in history
Chorus :Green green rocky road
Promenade in green
Tell me who d’ you love
Tell me who d’ you loveS
ee that crow up in the sky
He don’t crow nor can he fly
He can’t walk nor can he run
He’s black paint slattered on the sun
Chorus :Green green rocky road
Promenade in green
Tell me who d’ you love
Tell me who d’ you love
Little Miss Jane runnin’ to the ball
Don’t you stumble don’t you fall
Don’t you sing and don’t you shout
When I sing come runnin’ out
Chorus :Green green rocky road
Promenade in green
Tell me who d’ you love
Tell me who d’ you love
Hooka tooka soda cracker
Does your mama chew tobacco
If your mama chew tobacco
Hooka tooka soda cracker
Chorus :Green green rocky road
Promenade in green
Tell me who d’ you love
Tell me who d’ you love
When I go to Baltimore
Got no carpet on my floor
Please get up and follow me
We’ll go down in history
Chorus :Green green rocky road
Promenade in green
Tell me who d’ you love
Tell me who d’ you love

"Come all ye fair and tender ladies"

Come all ye fair and tender ladies
Take warning how you court young mn
They're like a bright star on a cloudy morning
They will first appear and then they're gone

They'll tell to you some loving story
To make you think that they love you true
Straightway they'll go and court some other
Oh that's the love that they have for you

Do you remember our days of courting
When your head lay upon my breast
You could make me believe with the falling of your arm
That the sun rose in the West

I wish I were some little sparrow
And I had wings and I could fly
I would fly away to my false true lover
And while he'll talk I would sit and cry

But I am not some little sparrow
I have no wings nor can I fly
So I'll sit down here in grief and sorrow
And try to pass my troubles by

I wish I had known before I courted
That love had been so hard to gain
I'd of locked my heart in a box of golden
And fastened it down with a silver chain

Young men never cast your eye on beauty
For beauty is a thing that will decay
For the prettiest flowers that grow in the garden
How soon they'll wither, will wither and fade away


Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for Professor Irving Howe.



I have reviewed the two volume set on the history of the early American Communist Party by Theodore Draper elsewhere in this space. There I noted that as an addition to the historical record of the period from the Russian Revolution of 1917 to the formation and consolidation of the legal, above ground party in 1923 The Roots of American Communism and its companion volume detailing the period from 1923 to 1929-American Communism and Soviet Russia are the definitive scholarly studies on the early history of the American Communist Party through the Stalinization of the American party.

The present volume by Irving Howe, who had been long time editor of the social democratic journal Dissent, and fellow professor Lewis Coser took that story up to 1957. Although Howe and Coser also covered the early period covered by Draper including the pre-World War I radical milieu, the split of the left wing of the Socialist Party, the creation of two communist parties, the underground period , the eventual reunion of the two parties, the resurfacing and finally the Stalinization of the party since I believe that Draper did an extremely thorough job on the early period I therefore will limit my comments on this book to the period after that from the ‘third period’ Communist policy of about 1929 through the Popular Front, the Stalin-Hitler Pact, and the various makeshift popular front policies of the World War II and post-war period.

That said, I will pose the same question here that I did in the Draper reviews. Why must militants read these works today? After the demise of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe anything positively related to Communist studies is deeply discounted. Nevertheless, for better or worse, the American Communist Party (and its offshoots) needs to be studied as an ultimately flawed example of a party that failed in its mission to create a radical version of society in America when it became primarily a tool of Soviet diplomacy. Now is the time for militants to study the mistakes and draw the lessons of that history.

Needless to say the very title of this study gives its perspective-a critical study- and that attitude, sometimes mockingly, sometimes with disgust at Communist strategy and tactics mars this work as one would expect from a political opponent of communism. But we are after all political people (assuming that today’s reader of such material has to be political) and we know how to take those kinds of opponent's remarks in stride. The book nevertheless provides a wealth of information about what was going on in the American Communist party, how subservient it was to Moscow at any particular time and the difficulties inherent in a radical approach to American labor politics during that period (and now, for that matter).

For my money the most important contribution in this volume is the study of the ‘third period’. For those unfamiliar with the terminology Communist International language, codified in its theses and tactics, had set 1917-1924, the first period, as one of revolutionary opportunities, 1924-28, the second period, of capitalist stabilization and beginning about 1929 the ‘third period’-the collapse of capitalism and the final confrontation between the two main forces in world politics- the bosses and the workers. A good shorthand way to describe this period was the slogan- Class Against Class. Well we all know the results- the most important being the victory of Hitler in Germany without so much as a fight by the working class. I will confess that in my youth I was intellectually very drawn to ‘third period’ Comintern politics, that is, until I got hold of a copy of Leon Trotsky’s The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany and realized that the whole Stalinist policy was a house of cards. There were no places of exile for the mass of the German working class who borne the brunt of Hitler’s vengeance as a result of this strategy. They took it on the chin and never really recovered from that defeat. So much for ultra-radical sloganeering. Although the effects on the American scene were not as traumatic it was nevertheless a period of isolation and some very serious labor defeats in struggles here.

If in my youth I was enamored of the ‘third period’ that was not the case of the next period-the period of the popular front. As a reaction to the sterility and foolishness of the ‘third period’ and the isolation internationally of the Soviet Union in the face of the Hitler menace the class against class approach was abandoned to be replaced by one in which the communists were basically undifferentiated from the mass of bourgeois politics- they were just the ‘guys and gals’ next door. Although this was the period of greatest influence for the American party in the unions, in the universities, in cultural life and in American politics in general it too proved a house of cards when the Moscow line changed during the time of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939-41. The authors present a very interesting description of how the party maneuvered through ‘front’ groups during the popular front period to gain apparent influence on the cheap. They list a whole catalogue of organizations that the party controlled, a few that I was not previously aware of, and what happened went the deal went sour in 1939. In short, a lesson that latter radicals, including today’s radicals, should have permanently etched in their brains when one counts how much influence we really have in such things as the current anti-Iraq war movement.

After the Soviet Union was invaded in 1941 the party’s influence grew but for all the wrong reasons- it was the most patriotic and conservative factor in labor politics, all ostensibly in the interest of defending the Soviet Union. In the post-war period, however, the party reaped what it had sown as it faced a steep decline of influence in the labor movement due to its own policies and the ‘red scare’ that developed during the Cold War build up. It is during the discussion of this period that the authors show their greatest degree of contempt for the American party mainly arguing that that party was solely an agent for the Soviet Union and therefore not part of the labor movement. While those of us today who are anti-Stalinist can quote chapter and verse the crimes of Stalinism as well as Howe and Coser could it is a very grave mistake to have assumed that Stalinism was not a current of the international labor movement and therefore did not have to be defended. We have paid a steep price for that social democratic view. It was necessary to defeat Stalinism within the labor movement but not by 'outsourcing' that task to American imperialism. Read this book with a very jaded eye.

*From The Archives -Obama-Immediate Uncondtional Withdrawal From Afghanistan- Gearing Up For The Fall Anti-War Season-An October 7 Anti-War Action

Click on title to link to site that has in the past covered the opposition to the Bush/Obama Afghan War policies. This site is linked for informational purposes only.

Below is information, recently received by e-mail, pertaining to some upcoming Fall 2009 actions planned by forces sympathetic to various United For Justice With Peace (UJP)organizations. I am passing it on for informational purposes only. I do not, make that definitely do not, agree with UJPs premises, slogans or strategy. The only agreement I have at this point is on the need to take to the streets to oppose the Obama war policies, including this latest round of escalations in troop numbers (as well as the projections of Afghan Commander General McCrystal for more troops). The time to give Obama a pass on his war policies is long over. Forward.

Peace NO War Network
War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate
Not in our Name! And another world is possible!
Tel: (213)403-0131

Please Join PeaceNoWar Listserv, send e-mail to:

End the War in Afghanistan and Pakistan!
Change ≠ War!

President Barack Obama was elected on a platform of CHANGE and with hopes for diplomacy, not war! As the war in Iraq winds down, more troops have been sent to Afghanistan. Some in the Pentagon are calling for more!

Now, 54% of the people believe the Afghanistan war is a mistake. The peace movement is challenged to organize the hope for CHANGE into a movement to end the war in Afghanistan as one of the big steps towards addressing the crisis in our communities.

Our best interests and the interests of the Afghanistan people lie in the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces. With every bomb dropped and every civilian and military death, we are no closer to helping the Afghan people and the region to grapple with their problems. In fact, the U.S. presence is the biggest obstacle to doing so.

On October 7, the beginning of the 9th year of occupation and war in Afghanistan, we must mobilize nationwide a call for diplomacy, not war. Change ≠ War!

United For Peace and Justice is calling on the grassroots movements for peace and economic and social justice to gather in their cities and towns on October 7 for action, dialog, and reflection on the 8 years of death and dying in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan.

United For Peace and Justice is calling on its member groups across the country to initiate local actions or educational events in your community on October 7:

Teach-Ins on the costs, human and economic, of the occupation and war in Afghanistan and impact on the region.

Vigils, pickets and delegations to Congressional offices, as well as faxes, emails and calls.

Rallies, demonstrations, vigils and marches to bring the peace and justice message into the streets.

House parties to raise money for Afghanistan relief or other aid to the Afghan people.

Creative actions to highlight the devastating effects of the Drone air strikes.
In the month of October, many activities are being planned here and around the world. On October 5, a coalition led by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) will have a procession to the White House, deliver a petition and hold a non-violent direct action in Washington, DC. It is urgent that we also bring our message to Washington and we hope you will join this initiative.

The Iraq Moratorium has called for local actions on October 17 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam War Moratorium. The Iraq Moratorium says, "Over 2 million people participated in thousands of communities [during the Vietnam War] and brought the anti-war movement into the political mainstream of American society. The lessons from that event in 1969 can help us strengthen the antiwar movement today."

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin-Out In The Be-Bop 1960's Night- The Salducci's Pizza Toss Bet

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin-Out In The Be-Bop 1960's Night- The Salducci's Pizza Toss Bet

You all know Frankie, right? Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, map of Ireland, fierce Frankie when necessary, and usually kind Frankie by rough inclination when it suits his purposes. Yah, Frankie from the old North Adamsville neighborhood. Frankie to the tenement, the cold-water flat tenement, born. Frankie, no moola, no two coins to rub together except by wit or chicanery, poor as a church mouse if there ever was such a thing, a poor church mouse that is. Yes, that Frankie. And, as well, this writer, his faithful scribe chronicling his tales, his regal tales. Said scribe to the public housing flats, hot-water flats, but still flats, born. And poorer even than any old Frankie church mouse. More importantly though, more importantly for this story that I am about to tell you than our respective social class positions, is that Frankie is king, the 1960s king hell king of Salducci’s Pizza Parlor, if not then North Adamsville’s finest still the place where we spent many a misbegotten hour, and truth to tell, just plain killed some time when we were down at our heels, or maybe down to our heels.

Sure you know about old Frankie’s royal heritage too. I clued you in before when I wrote about my lost in the struggle for power as I tried to overthrow the king when we entered North Adamsville High in 1960. By wit, chicanery, guile, bribes, threats, physical and mental, and every other form of madness he clawed his way to power after I forgot the first rule of trying to overthrow a king- you have to make sure he is dead. But mainly it was his "style,” his mad-hatter “beat” style, wherefore he attempted to learn, and to impress the girls (and maybe a few guys too), with his arcane knowledge of every oddball fact that anyone would listen to for two minutes. After my defeat we went back and forth about it. He said, reflecting his peculiar twist on his Augustinian-formed Roman Catholicism, it was his god-given right to be king of this particular earthy kingdom but foolish me I tried to justify his reign based on that old power theory (and discredited as least since the 17th century) of the divine right of kings. But enough of theory. Here’s why, when the deal went down, Frankie was king, warts and all.

All this talk about Frankie royal lineage kind of had me remembering a story, a Frankie pizza parlor story. Remind me to tell you about it sometime, about how we used to bet on pizza dough flying. What the heck I have a few minutes I think I will tell you now because it will also be a prime example, maybe better than the one I was originally thinking about, of Frankie’s treacheries that I mentioned before. Now that I think about it again my own temperature is starting to rise. If I see that bastard again I’m going to... Well, let me just tell the story and maybe your sympathetic temperature will rise a bit too.

One summer night, yah, it must have been a summer night because this was the time of year when we had plenty of time on our hands to get a little off-handedly off-hand. In any case it would have had to be between our junior and senior years at old North Adamsville High because we were talking a lot in those days about what we were going to do, or not do, after high school. And it would have had to have been on a Monday or Tuesday summer night at that as we were deflated from a hard weekend of this and that, mainly, Frankie trying to keep the lid on his relationship with his ever lovin’ sweetie, Joanne. Although come to think of it that was a full-time occupation and it could have been any of a hundred nights, summer nights or not.

I was also trying to keep a lid on my new sweetie, Lucinda, a sweetie who seemed to be drifting away, or at least in and out on me, mostly out, and mostly because of my legendary no dough status (that and no car, no sweet ride down the boulevard, the beach boulevard so she could impress HER friends, yah it was that kind of relationship). Anyway it's a summer night when we had time on our hands, idle time, devil’s time according to mothers’ wit, if you want to know the truth, because his lordship (although I never actually called him that), Frankie I, out of the blue made me the following proposition. Bet: how high will Tonio flip his pizza dough on his next pass through.

Now this Tonio, as you know already if you have read the story about how Frankie became king of the pizza parlor, and if you don’t you will hear more about him later, was nothing but an ace, numero uno, primo pizza flinger. Here’s a little outline of the contours of his art, although minus the tenderness, the care, the genetic dispositions, and who knows, the secret song or incantation that Tonio brought to the process. I don’t know much about the backroom work, the work of putting all the ingredients together to make the dough, letting the dough sit and rise and then cutting it up into pizza-size portions.

I only really know the front of the store part- the part where he takes that cut dough portion in front of him in the preparation area and does his magic. That part started with a gentle sprinkling of flour to take out some of the stickiness of the dough, then a rough and tumble kneading of the dough to take any kinks out, and while taking the kinks out the dough gets flattened, flattened enough to start taking average citizen-recognizable shape as a pizza pie. Sometimes, especially if Frankie put in an order, old Tonio would knead that dough to kingdom come. Now I am no culinary expert, and I wasn’t then, no way, but part of the magic of a good pizza is to knead that dough to kingdom come so if you see some geek doing a perfunctory couple of wimpy knead chops then move on, unless you are desperate or just ravenously hungry.

Beyond the extra knead though the key to the pizza is the thinness of the crust and hence the pizza tosses. And this is where Tonio was a Leonardo-like artist, no, that’s not right, this is where he went into some world, some place we would never know. I can still see, and if you happened to be from old North Adamsville, you probably can still see it too if you patronized the place or stood, waiting for that never-coming Eastern Mass. bus, in front of the big, double-plate glass pizza parlor windows watching in amazement while Tonio tossed that dough about a million times in the air. Artistry, pure and simple.

So you can see now, if you didn’t quite get it before that Frankie’s proposition was nothing but an old gag kind of bet, a bet on where Tonio will throw, high or low. Hey, it’s just a variation on a sports bet, like in football, make the first down or not, pass or rush, and so on, except its pizza tosses, okay. Of course, unlike sports, at least known sports, there are no standards in place so we have to set some rules, naturally. Since its Frankie’s proposition he gets to give the rules a go, and I can veto.

Frankie, though, and sometimes he could do things simple, although that was not his natural inclination; his natural inclination was to be arcane in all things, and not just with girls. Simply Frankie said in his Solomonic manner that passed for wisdom, above or below the sign in back of Tonio’s preparation area, the sign that told the types of pizza sold, their sizes, their cost and what else was offered for those who didn’t want pizza that night.

You know such signs, every pizza palace has them, and other fast eat places too, you have to go to “uptown” eateries for a tabled menu in front of your eyes, and only your eyes, but here’s a list of  Tonio’s public offerings. On one side of the sign plain, ordinary, vanilla, no frills pizza, cheap, maybe four or five dollars for a large, small something less, although don’t hold me to the prices fifty years later for christ sakes, no fixings. Just right for “family night”, our family night later, growing up later, earlier in hot-water flats, public housing hot-water flats time, we had just enough money for Spam, not Internet spam, spam meat although that may be an oxymoron and had no father hard-worked cold cash for exotic things like pizza, not a whole one anyway, in our household. And from what Frankie told me his too.

Later , when we had a little more money and could “splurge” for an occasional take-out, no home delivery in those days, when Ma didn’t feel like cooking, or it was too hot, or something and to avoid civil wars, the bloody brother against brother kind, plain, ordinary vanilla pizza was like manna from heaven for mama, although nobody really wanted it and you just feel bloated after eating your share (and maybe the crust from someone who doesn’t like crust, or maybe you traded for it); or, plain, by the slice, out of the oven (or more likely oven-re-heated after open air sitting on some aluminum special pizza plate for who knows how long) the only way you could get it after school with a tonic (also known as soda for you old days non-New Englanders and progeny), usually a root beer, a <i>Hires</i> root beer to wash away the in-school blahs, especially the in-school cafeteria blahs.

Or how about plump Italian sausage, Tonio thickly-sliced, or spicy-side thinly-sliced pepperoni later when you had a couple of bucks handy to buy your own, and to share with your fellows (those fellows, hopefully, including girls, always hopefully, including girls) and finally got out from under family plain and, on those lucky occasions, and they were lucky like from heaven, when girl-dated you could show your stuff, your cool, manly stuff, and divide, divide, if you can believe that, the pizza half one, half the other fixing, glory be; onion or anchovies, oh no, the kiss of death, no way if you had the least hope for a decent night and worst, the nightmarish worst, when your date ordered her portion with either of these, although maybe, just maybe once or twice, it saved you from having to do more than a peck of a kiss when your date turned out not to be the dream vision you had hoped for; hams, green peppers, mushrooms, hamburg, and other oddball toppings I will not even discuss because such desecration of Tonio’s pizza, except, maybe extra cheese, such Americanized desecration , should have been declared illegal under some international law, no question; or, except, maybe again, if you had plenty of dough, had a had a few drinks, for your gourmet delight that one pig-pile hunger beyond hunger night when all the fixings went onto the thing. Whoa. Surely you would not find on Tonio’s blessed sign this modern thing, this Brussels sprouts, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, wheat germ, whole wheat, soy, sea salt, himalaya salt, canola oil, whole food, pseudo-pizza not fit for manly (or womanly) consumption, no, not in those high cholesterol, high-blood pressure, eat today for tomorrow you may die days.

On the other side of the sign, although I will not rhapsodize about Tonio’s mastery of the submarine sandwich art (also known as heroes and about seventy-six other names depending on where you grew up, what neighborhood you grew up in, and who got there first, who, non-Puritan, got there first that is) are the descriptions of the various sandwich combinations (all come with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, the outlawed onions, various condiment spreads as desired along with a bag of potato chips so I won’t go into all that); cold cuts, basically bologna and cheese, maybe a little salami, no way, no way in hell am I putting dough up for what Ma prepared and I had for lunch whenever I couldn’t put two nickels together to get the school lunch, and the school lunch I already described as causing me to run to Tonio’s for a sweet reason portion of pizza by the slice just to kill the taste, no way is right; tuna fish, no way again for a different reason though, a Roman Catholic Friday holy, holy tuna fish reason besides grandma, high Roman Catholic saint grandma, had that tuna fish salad with a splash of mayo on oatmeal bread thing down to a science, yah, grandma no way I would betray you like that; roast beef, what are you kidding; meatballs (in that grand pizza sauce); sausage, with or without green peppers, steak and cheese and so on. The sign, in all it beatified Tonio misspelled glory.

“Okay,” I said, that sign part seemed reasonable under the circumstances (that’s how Frankie put it, I’m just repeating his rationalization), except that never having made such a bet before I asked to witness a few Tonio flips first. “Deal,” said Frankie. Now my idea here, and I hope you follow me on this because it is not every day that you get to know how my mind works, or how it works different from star king Frankie, but it is not every day that you hear about a proposition based on high or low pizza tosses and there may be something of an art to it that I, or you, were not aware of. See, I am thinking, as many times as I have watched old saintly Tonio, just like everybody else, flip that dough to the heavens I never really thought about where it was heading, except those rare occasions when one hit the ceiling and stuck there. So maybe there is some kind of regular pattern to the thing. Like I say, I had seen Tonio flip dough more than my fair share of teenage life pizzas but, you know, never really noticed anything about it, kind of like the weather. As it turned out there was apparently no rhyme or reason to Tonio’s tosses just the quantity of the tosses (that was the secret to that good pizza crust, not the height of the throw), so after a few minutes I said "Bet." And bet is, high or low, my call, for a quarter a call (I have visions of filling that old jukebox with my “winnings” because a new Dylan song just came in that I am crazy to play about a zillion times, <i>Mr. Tambourine Man</i>). We are off.

I admit that I did pretty well for while that night and maybe was up a buck, and some change, at the end of the night. Frankie paid up, as Frankie always paid up, and such pay up without a squawk was a point of honor between us (and not just Frankie and me either, every righteous guy was the same way, or else), cash left on the table. I was feeling pretty good ‘cause I just beat the king of the hill at something, and that something was his own game. I rested comfortable on my laurels. Rested comfortably that is until a couple of nights later when we, as usual, were sitting in the Frankie-reserved seats (reserved that is unless there were real paying customers who wanted to eat their pizza in-house and then we, more or less, were given the bum’s rush) when Frankie said “Bet.” And the minute he said that I knew, I knew for certain, that we are once again betting on pizza tosses because when it came right down to it I knew, and I knew for certain, that Frankie’s defeat a few nights before did not sit well with him.

Now here is where things got tricky, though. Tonio, good old good luck charm Tonio, was nowhere in sight. He didn’t work every night and he was probably with his honey, and for an older dame she was a honey, dark hair, good shape, great, dark laughing eyes, and a melting smile. I could see, even then, where her charms beat out, even for ace pizza flinger Tonio, tossing foolish old pizza dough in the air for some kids with time on their hands, no dough, teenage boys, Irish teenage boys to boot. However, Sammy, North Adamsville High Class of ’62 (maybe, at least that is when he was supposed to graduate, according to Frankie, one of whose older brothers graduated that year), and Tonio’s pizza protégé was on duty. Since we already knew the ropes on this thing I didn’t even bother to check and see if Sammy’s style was different from Tonio’s. Heck, it was all random, right?

This night we flipped for first call. Frankie won the coin toss. Not a good sign, maybe. I, however, like the previous time, started out quickly with a good run and began to believe that, like at Skeet ball (some call it Skee-ball but they are both the same–roll balls up a targeted area to win Kewpie dolls, feathery things, or a goof key chain for your sweetie) down at the amusement park, I had a knack for this. Anyway I was ahead about a buck or so. All of a sudden my “luck” went south. Without boring you with the epic pizza toss details I could not hit one right for the rest of the night. The long and short of it was that I was down about four dollars, cash on the table. Now Frankie’s cash on the table. No question. At that moment I was feeling about three feet tall and about eight feet under because nowadays cheap, no meaning four dollars, then was date money, Lucinda, fading Lucinda, date money. This was probably fatal, although strictly speaking that is another story and I will not get into the Lucinda details, because when I think about it now that was just a passing thing with her, and you know about passing things- what about it.

What is part of the story though, and the now still temperature-rising part of the story, is how Frankie, Frankie, king of the pizza parlor night, Frankie of a bunch of kindnesses, and of a bunch of treacheries, here treachery, zonked me on this betting scandal. What I didn’t know then was that I was set up, set up hard and fast, with no remorse by one Francis Xavier Riley, to the tenements, the cold-water flat tenements, born and his cohort Sammy. It seems that Sammy owed Frankie for something, something never fully disclosed by either party, and the pay-off by Sammy to make him well was to “fix” the pizza tosses that night I just told you about, the night of the golden fleecing. Every time I said "high" Sammy, taking his coded signal from Frankie, went low and so forth. Can you believe a “king”, even a king of a backwater pizza parlor, would stoop so low?

Here is the really heinous part though, and keep my previous reference to fading Lucinda in mind when you read this. Frankie, sore-loser Frankie, not only didn’t like to lose but was also low on dough (a constant problem for both of us, and which consumed far more than enough of our time and energy than was necessary in a just, Frankie-friendly world) for his big Saturday night drive-in movie-car borrowed from his older brother, big-man-around- town date with one of his side sweeties (Joanne, his regular sweetie was out of town with her parents on vacation). That part, that unfaithful to Joanne part I didn’t care about because, once again truth to tell, old ever lovin’ sweetie Joanne and I did not get along for more reasons than you have to know. The part that burned me, and still burns me, is that I was naturally the fall-guy for some frail (girl in pizza parlor parlance time) caper he was off on. Now I have mentioned that when we totaled up the score the Frankie kindnesses were way ahead of the Frankie treacheries, no question, which was why we were friends. Still, right this minute, right this 2010 minute, I’m ready to go up to his swanky downtown law office (where the men’s bathroom is larger than his whole youth time old cold- water flat tenement) and demand that four dollars back, plus interest. You know I am right on this one.

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin-Scenes From The Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night-The Ghost Dance-Late 1969

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin-Scenes From The Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night-The Ghost Dance-Late 1969

Scene Nine: Scenes From Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night- The Ghost Dance-Late 1969</b>

Damn, already I missed Angelica, road-worthy, road-travel easy, easy on the eyes and easy getting us a ride Angelica as I traveled down Interstate 80 onto the great prairie Mid-American hitchhike road after we parted at the Omaha bus station, she heading home East, at least Indiana east from Nebraska, and I to the savage search for the blue-pink great American West night. And I will tell you true that first ride and every ride after that, every miserable truck stopped or sedan ride, it didn’t matter, made me utter that same missed Angelica oath.

Right then though I was on my first connection ride out of Omaha and as luck would have it this big bruiser, full tattoo armed with snakes, roses and lost loves names, truck driver who was obviously benny-ed, benny-ed to perdition and was talking a blue streak was driving right through to Denver, my next destination. All I wanted was the ride but I knew enough of the road, enough of the truck driver come-on part of it anyway to know that this guy’s blue streak was a small price to pay for such a lucky break.

See, some guys, some guys like Denver Slim, who left me off at that long ago (or it seemed like long ago) Steubenville truck stop and Angelica (hey, now I know who to blame for my miseries, if I ever get my hands on that damn Denver Slim… Yah, yah, what are you going to do, big boy?), wanted to talk man to man. Back and forth like real people, especially as I reminded him of his errant (read: hair growing long , full-bearded hippie –swaying) son. Other guys are happy for the company so they can, at seventy or seventy-five miles an hour with the engine revved high and where conversation is made almost painful and chock-filled with the “what did you says?”, spout forth on their homespun philosophy and take on this wicked old world. With these guys an occasional “Yah, that’s right,” or a timely “What did you mean by that?” will stand you in good stead and you can nod out into your own thoughts.

And that is exactly where I wanted be, as old Buck (where do they get these names out in Mid-America anyway) droned on and on about how the government was doing, or not doing this or that for, or to, the little guy who helped build up, not tear down, the country like him. Thinking about what Aunt Betty, sweet Neola, Iowa grandmotherly Aunt Betty, said as she left me off at the Interstate 80 entrance still rings in my ears. I was good for Angelica. Hell, I know I was. Hell, if I had any sense I would admit what I know inside. Angelica was good for me too. But see certain times were funny that way. No way in 1962, or ‘64, or ’66, let’s say, that I would have run into an Angelica. I was strung out, strung out hard on neurotic, long black-haired (although that was optional), kind of skinny (not thin, not slender, skinny, wistfully skinny, I say), bookish, Harvard Square, maybe a poet, kind of girls. If I said beatnik girls, and not free-form, ethereral, butterfly breeze “hippie” girls you’d know what I mean.

As a kid I was cranked on pale, hell wan was more like it, dark-haired, hard Irish Catholic girls, and I mean hard Irish Catholic girls with twelve novena books in their hands, and unrequited lust in their hearts. So, I swear, when Angelica’s number turned up I was clueless how to take just a plain-spoken, says what she means, means what she says young woman who had dreams (unformed, mainly, but dreams nevertheless) that also were plain-spoken. Ah, I can’t explain it now, and I doubt I ever will. Just say I was stunted, stunned, and smitten, okay and let me listen to old Buck’s drone.


I have now put many a mile between me and Omaha and here I am well clear of that prairie fire dream now in sweet winter desert night Arizona not far from some old now run down, crumbling Native American dwellings that keep drawing my attention and I still want to utter that oath, that Angelica oath. Sitting by this night camp fire casting its weird ghost night-like shadows just makes it worst. And old now well-traveled soldiers turned “hippies”, Jack and Mattie, playing their new-found (at least to me) flute and penny whistle music mantra to set the tone.

Hey, I just remembered, sitting here wrapped up in Angelica and ancient primal tribal memories out of the whistling black star-filled night that I haven’t filled you in on where I have been, who I have seen (like John and Mattie), and how I got here from that star-crossed Neola night, at least the past Denver part. Jesus, and here we are only a few hundred miles from the ocean. I can almost smell, smell that algae sea- churned smell, and almost see the foam-flecked waves turn against the jagged-edged La Jolla rocks and mad, aging surfer boys from another time looking for that perfect wave. Yah, another more innocent time before all hell broke loose on us in America and crushed our innocent youthful dreams in the rice paddies of Asia, our Angelica plain-spoken dreams, but not our capacity to dream. That only makes the Angelica hurt worst as I remember that she had never seen the ocean, the jagged edged, foam-flecked ocean that I went on and on about. I was to be her Neptune on that voyage west to the rim of the world. Well let me get to it, the filling you in part..

After grabbing that straight ride from blue streak talkin’ old Buck I did tell you about, and a short but scary two day delay by a serious snow squall hurricane-wind tumult just before the Rocky Mountain foothills leading into Denver I got there in good order. If I didn’t tell you before, and now that I think about it I didn’t, I was to hook up with my now traveling companions, Jack and Mattie, there for the final trip west to the ocean and serious blue-pink visions. If you don’t remember Jack and Mattie, they are two guys that I picked up on the Massachusetts highways heading south in the days when I had a car in the early spring. We had some adventures going south, that I will tell you about another time, before I left them off in Washington, D.C. so they could head west from there. We agreed then to meet up in Denver later in the year where they expected to stay for a while. My last contact with them in late summer had them still there but when I arrived at the communal farm on the outskirts of Denver where they had been staying I was informed that they had gotten nervous about being stuck in the snow-bound Rockies and wanted to head south as fast as they could. They had left a Phoenix address for me to meet them at. I stayed at the commune for a few days to rest up, doing a little of this and that, mostly that, and then headed out myself on what turned to be an uneventful and mercifully short hitchhike road trip to Phoenix to connect with them.

And so here we are making that last push to the coast but not before we investigate these Native American lands that, as it turns out, we all had been interested in ever since our kid days watching cowboys and Indians on the old black and white 1950s small screen television. You know Lone Ranger, Hop-along Cassidy, Roy Rogers and their sidekicks’ fake, distorted, prettified Old West stuff. Stuff where the rich Native American traditions got short shrift.

Earlier today we had been over to Red Rock for an Intertribal celebration, a gathering of what was left of the great, ancient warrior nations that roamed freely here not all that long ago but who are now mere “cigar store” Indian characters to the public eye. The sounds, the whispering shrill canyon sounds and all the others, the sights, the colors radiant as they pulled out all the stops to bring back the old days when they ruled this West, the spirit, ah, the spirit of our own warrior shaman trances are still in our heads. I am still in some shamanic-induced trance from the healing dances, from warrior tom-tom dances, and from the primal scream-like sounds as they drove away the evil spirits that gathered around them (not hard enough to drive the marauding “white devil” who had broken their hearts, if not their spirits though). Not only that but we scored some peyote buttons (strictly for religious purposes, as you will see) and they have started to kick in along with the occasional hit from the old bong hash pipe (strictly for medicinal purposes).

So right now in this dark, abyss dark, darker than I ever saw the night sky in the East even though it is star-filled, million star-filled, in this spitting flame-roared campfire throwing shadow night along with tormented pipe-filled dreams of Angelica I am embedded with the ghosts of ten thousand past warrior- kings and their people. And if my ears don’t deceive me, and they don’t, beside Jack’s flute and Mattie’s penny whistle I hear, and hear plainly, the muted gathering war cries of ancient drums summoning paint-faced proud, bedecked warriors to avenge their not so ancient loses, and their sorrows as well.

And after more pipe-fillings that sound got louder, louder so that even Jack and Mattie seem transfixed and begin to play their own instruments louder and stronger to keep pace with the drums. Then, magically, magically it seemed anyway, I swear, I swear on anything holy or unholy, on some sodden forebear grave, on some unborn descendent that off the campfire- reflected red, red sandstone, grey, grey sandstone, beige (beige for lack of better color description), beige sandstone canyon echo walls I see the vague outlines of old proud, feather-bedecked, slash mark-painted Apache warriors beginning, slowly at first, to go into their ghost dance trance that I had heard got them revved up for a fight. Suddenly, we three, we three television-sotted Indian warriors got up and started, slowly at first so we are actually out of synch with the wall action to move to the rhythms of the ghosts. Ay ya, ay ya, ay ya, ay ya,…..until we speed up to catch the real pace. After what seems an eternity we are ready, ready as hell, to go seek revenge for those white man injustices.

But just as quickly the now flickering camp fire flame goes out, or goes to ember, the shadow ghost dance warriors are gone and we crumble in exhaustion to the ground. So much for vengeance. We, after regaining some strength, all decide that we had better push on, push on hard, to the ocean. These ancient desert nights, sweet winter desert nights or not, will do us in otherwise. But just for a moment, just for a weak modern moment we, or at least I knew, what it was like for those ancient warriors to seek their own blue-pink great American West night.

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin- Out In The Jukebox Saturday Night-With The Platters "Only You" In Mind

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin- Out In The Jukebox Saturday Night-With The Platters "Only You" In Mind  

Recently I, seemingly, have endlessly gone back to my early musical roots in reviewing various compilations of a classic rock series that goes under the general title <i>The Rock ‘n’ Roll Era</i>. And while time and ear have eroded the sparkle of some of the lesser tunes it still seems obvious that those years, say 1955-58, really did form the musical jail break-out for my generation, the generation of ’68, who had just started to tune into music.

And we had our own little world, or as some hip sociologist trying to explain that <em>Zeitgeist</em> today might say, our own sub-group cultural expression. I have already talked about the pre 7/11 mom and pop corner variety store hangout with the tee-shirted, engineered-booted, cigarette (unfiltered) hanging from the lips, Coke, big sized glass Coke bottle at the side, pinball wizard guys thing. And about the pizza parlor jukebox coin devouring, playing some “hot” song for the nth time that night, hold the onions I might get lucky tonight, dreamy girl might come in the door thing. Of course, the soda fountain, and…ditto, dreamy girl coming through the door thing, merely to share a sundae, natch. And the same for the teen dance club, keep the kids off the streets even if we parents hate their damn rock music, the now eternal hope dreamy girl coming in the door, save the last dance for me thing.

Needless to say you know more about middle school and high school dance stuff, including hot tip “ inside” stuff about manly preparations for those civil wars out in the working class neighborhood night, than you could ever possibly want to know, and, hell, you were there anyway (or at ones like them). Moreover, I clued you in, and keep this quiet, about sex; or rather I should say “doin’ the do” in case the kids are around, and about the local “custom” (for any anthropologists present) of ocean-waved Atlantic “watching the submarine races.”

Whee! That’s maybe enough memory lane stuff for a lifetime, especially for those with weak hearts. But, no, your intrepid messenger feels the need to go back indoors again and take a little different look at that be-bop jukebox Saturday night scene as it unfolded in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Hey, you could have found the old jukebox in lots of places in those days. Bowling alleys, drugstores (drugstores with soda fountains- why else would healthy, young, sex-charged high school students go to such an old-timer-got-to-get-my- medicine-for-the-arthritis place. Why indeed, although there are secrets in such places that I will tell you about some other time when I’m not jazzed up to go be-bop juke-boxing around the town.), pizza parlors, drive-in restaurants, and so on. Basically any place where kids were hot for some special song and wanted to play it until the cows came home. And had the coins to satisfy their hunger.

A lot of it was to kill time waiting for this or that, although the basic reason was these were all places where you could show off your stuff, and maybe, strike up a conversation with someone who attracted your attention as they came in the door. The cover artwork on this compilation that I am thinking of just now shows dreamy girls waiting for their platters (records, okay) to work their way up the mechanism that took them from the stack and laid them out on the player. There is your chance, boy, grab it. Just hanging around the machine with some cashmere-sweatered, beehive-haired (or bobbed, kind of), well-shaped brunette (or blond, but I favored brunettes in those days) chatting idly was worth at least a date (or, more often, a telephone number to call). Not after nine at night though or before eight because that was when she was talking to her boyfriend. Lucky guy, maybe.

But here is where the real skill came in. Just hanging casually around the old box, especially on a no, or low, dough day waiting on a twist (one of eight million guy slang words for girl in our old working class neighborhood) to come by and put her quarter in (giving three or five selections depending what kind of place the jukebox was located in) talking to her friends as she made those selections. Usually the first couple were easy, some old boyfriend memory, or some wistful tryst remembrance, but then she got contemplative, or fidgety, over what to pick next.

Then you made your move-“Have you heard <em>Only You</em>? NO! Well, you just have to hear that thing and it will cheer you right up.” Or some such line. Of course, you wanted to hear the damn thing. But see, a song like that (as opposed to Chuck Berry’s <em>Sweet Little Rock and Roller</em>, let’s say) showed you were a sensitive guy, and maybe worth talking to … for just a minute, I got to get back to my girlfriends, etc., etc. Oh, jukebox you baby. And guess what. On that self-same jukebox you were very, very likely to hear some of the songs from that compilation I am thinking about. Here are the stick outs (and a few that worked some of that “magic” mentioned above on tough nights):

<em>Oh Julie</em>, The Crescendos (a great one if you knew, or thought you knew, or wanted to believe that girl at the jukebox’s name was Julie); <em>Lavender Blue</em>, Sammy Turner (good talk song especially on the word play); <em>Sweet Little Rock and Roller</em>, Chuck Berry (discussed above, and worthy of consideration if your tastes ran to those heart-breaking little rock and rollers. I will tell you about the ONE time it came in handy sometime); <em>You Were Mine</em>, The Fireflies; <em>Susie Darlin’,</em> Robin Luke (ditto the Julie thing above); <em>Only You</em>, The Platters (keep this one a secret, okay, unless you really are a sensitive guy).

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin- Nah, I Couldn’t Keep Her, My Little Rock ‘n’ Roller-With The Late Chuck Berry, The Father of Us All In Mind r ry

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin- Nah, I Couldn’t Keep Her, My Little Rock ‘n’ Roller

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of mad man rock and roller Chuck Berry performing his classic Sweet Little Rock and Roller.

Sweet Little Rock and Roller-Chuck Berry

Nineteen years old and sweet as she can be.
All dressed up like a downtown, Christmas tree.
Dancin' an' hummin' a rock-roll melody.

She's the daughter of a well-respected man.
Who taught her how to judge and understand.
Since she became a rock-roll music fan.

Sweet little rock 'n' roller.
Sweet little rock 'n' roller.
Her daddy don't have to scold her.
Her partner can't hardly hold her.
She never gets any older.
Sweet little rock 'n' roller.

Instrumental break.

Should have seen her eyes when the band began to play.
And the famous singers sang and bowed away.
When the star performed she screamed and yelled, "Hooray!"

Ten thousand eyes were watchin' him leave the floor.
Five thousand tongues were screamin', "More! More!"
And about fifteen hundred waitin' outside the door.

Sweet little rock 'n' roller.
Sweet little rock 'n' roller.
Sweet little rock 'n' roller.
Sweet little rock 'n' roller.
Sweet little rock 'n' roller.
Sweet little rock 'n' roller.
Sweet little rock 'n' roller.

Joshua Lawrence Breslin is a natural born liar so what he says, sometimes, can be, and should be, taken with a very large grain of Himalaya salt. The current cause for my characterization is a recent little dispute that we had about women who, well, were little rock and rollers back in the day. And what effect they had on us, then and now. For those not in the know, and there may be a few not familiar with the specific term  although once described it will sent bells of recognition ringing through your head, she (and she here is meant to be nothing more than the proper pronoun designation for the subject of two women-loving guys. Women and other combinations choice your own pronoun) was that little “hot” flirt that you (and about one hundred other guys in town or school) had no shot, nada nunca nada shot, at. And if you did then about a week later she left you for the next best thing on her next best thing list of conquests. And you? Well, you were left with either eternal regret that you didn’t at least take a chance and take a run at her or eternal pining away that that you did take a run at her and didn’t have what it took to keep her. Yah, I thought you would recognize the situation once I clued you in. 

And that is where my liar accusation comes in. Josh Breslin (hell, nobody called him that three name monte thing back in the day he just picked that up when he started writing because he thought it sounded “cool” and distinguished him for other average joe writers) when I first met him introduced himself (without one bit of self-consciousness) as the Prince of Love in those summer of love, circa 1967, San Francisco love-in nights. He had just graduated from high school up in Olde Saco, Maine and was looking, well, looking for something like we all were that year and had hitchhiked across the country in that quest before starting off to college in the fall. Well, one thing led to another and that college thing got pushed back a couple of years when  he decided to tag along with us on Captain Crunch’s merry pranskster-ish, yellow brick road bus as we headed up and down the West Coast looking, well, looking for the great American West night if nothing else.

 I have now known Josh for over forty years through thick and thin and while we parted ways for a while, he off to write and I to do this and that, the last few years have brought us together like that sneak thief (love variety) pair we were back in the day so I can call him a liar. And I can say so (actually call him out is what I am trying to) in the public prints a place where his is (or was until his recent retirement) well-known as journalist for various left-wing and progressive magazines and newspapers, the ones that wind up in the back hall recycle bin half-read (or unread).

The subject of our current “dispute” centers on whether one “Butterfly Swirl” (real name Karen Riley, Carlsbad [CA] High Class of 1968 the last we saw of her) was a little rock ‘n’ roller heartbreaker, or rather THE rock and roll heartbreaker of his life. Of course Ms. Butterfly was my girlfriend before Josh “stole” her away from me on that merry prankster bus trip but that is not, or only a little, of what burns me up this moment. See I said Butterfly was the heartbreaker of his life and quoted chapter and verse the number of times HE said she was but now Josh has conveniently nominated another girl (young woman) from up in Olde Saco where he grew up (and moved back to several years ago) whom he met when he left the prankster bus and headed home. He met her over at the Sea and Surf Club in Old Orchard and he said that Butterfly was nothing but a surfer girl and not much of one at that compared to one Allison D’Amboise, the heartbreak girl of the ocean night according to Josh. He can tell you about Allison’s virtues sometime but I want to speak of Ms. Butterfly Swirl right now.    

Let me explain how things happened with Butterfly that little rock and roll heartbreaker. Captain Crunch (real name Steve Silverman, Columbia Class of ’58) was a friend, not close as I recall, but a friend of the main merry prankster in those days, Ken Kesey (you can read about him and the whole merry prankster experience in Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test),    
and had put together his own merry prankster expedition which was running up and down the West Coast in 1966 and 1967. I had picked up the bus ride accidently when I was hitch-hiking up from Mexico and met them on the Pacific Coast Highway at LaJolla just north of San Diego in the spring of 1967. They were heading north toward San Francisco for some big bust out jail-break cultural thing that was going to change all of us forever (the”summer of love,” and maybe it did). Like I said from then on for a few years I was “on the bus.”

That is where Butterfly Swirl comes in, or rather the times, maybe. Butterfly (like I said before real name Karen Riley, but we were not into real names that year, or for a few years after that either, I was then calling myself The Be-Bop Kid) was nothing but a young girl getting ready to go into her senior year in high school in Carlsbad and that summer, but like a million others then, she was looking, well, looking for something. Now Carlsbad was (is) one of those eternal surfer towns where all the young guys “hang five” or ten or whatever looking for the perfect wave. And in those days all the “hot’ chicks (term of art used then, okay) sat on the sand waiting for those “hot” surfer guys to find the damn thing. Yes, as one can readily see boring, especially if you are waiting on the beach, “hot,” know it, and are looking to break out of the waves yourself and interested in taking no prisoners. That is what drove Karen to our prankster bus when we parked on Carlsbad Boulevard one beautiful blue sky day to take in the view of mother Pacific splashing fiercely to shore.

Butterfly was drawn like a magnet to the by then psychedelically-painted bus.  She talked to a couple of guys, including the Captain, and the rest was history. She came with us up the highway and after a week or so although she was a few years younger than I we were “married,” meaning whatever that meant on any given day on the bus. (I did not find out until later as I was involved with another woman when Butterfly came “on the bus,” a woman who called herself Madame DeFarge in honor of the revolution, French she said, that Butterfly had twisted a couple of other guys on the bus around her finger before she go to me just for a little practice.)

That “marriage” lasted until we hit ‘Frisco and the Prince of Love showed up at a park on Russian Hill where we were parked and was also drawn to the bus, and eventually to my “wife” Butterfly. That affair lasted, hot and heavy lasted, for a couple of weeks and then Butterfly just disappeared one night leaving a short note saying she had to get back to her boyfriend, some golden-tanned, golden-haired water-pruned surfer boy she had left on the beach at Carlsbad forlorn and contrite.

Yah, that was the last we saw of her and Josh was crestfallen for a while. In those days crestfallen was a couple of weeks max, although I sensed for the many months after that while we were together travelling he had something eating at him. Later, like I said, when we talked it over finally he made his first confession, and would do so periodically for many years, years that encompassed three marriages and several other relationship combinations.   But that was then. Now, over forty years later, he comes up with this Old Orchard flame burn-out story. This mermaid from the sea saga about Ms. Alison D’Amboise. And you wonder why I have to call him out publicly on this one.

The thing that Josh said knocked him out about Butterfly was that she was a tall, thin, sandy blond with plenty of personality, especially around guys. Fetching is the word we used at the time (and still do). She would flirt like crazy whenever a guy was within about ten feet of her [maybe five if I recall]. And she knew it, although not in a calculating way but more “here I am boys, take a chance on paradise if you dare.” And that got every guy’s blood up; especially once she got a guy in her sights but wasn’t going to let him get to first base. Jesus, and just 17. Like I said now Josh is calling her just another faded bleach blond sex trap bimbo. Nah, she was nothing but a little rock and roller. Hell, I was glad to get her off my hands at some point (to go back to Madame DeFarge) but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t glad, glad as hell to take a run at her even if I couldn’t keep her. And I still think that.            

From The Archives Of The Carter’ Variety Store 1950s Corner Boys-The “From Hunger” Boys Do, Well, Do The Best They Can-When The Scribe Called The New Breeze Coming To The Land-And We Didn’t Give A Rat’s Ass

From The Archives Of The Carter’ Variety Store 1950s Corner Boys-The “From Hunger” Boys Do, Well, Do The Best They Can-When The Scribe Called The New Breeze Coming To The Land-And We Didn’t Give A Rat’s Ass

By Sam Lowell

Seth Garth from the old Tonio’s Pizza Parlor corner boys from the Acre section of North Adamsville back in the early 1960s probably said it best about Peter Paul Markin, the Scribe (that name used by me in earlier pieces was not his moniker until Tonio times when Frankie Riley bestowed it on him after writer some press agent bullshit about him for the high school newspaper. One night after the Scribe had gone on and on about some “fag” (then “fag” in our neighborhood, maybe worse) poem by a guy named Allen Ginsberg called Howl* and then switched gears on the turn of a dime about the plan for that night’s “midnight creep” (read: burglary of some Mayfair swell house, or what passed for such in North Adamsville) Seth called him a “walking contradiction.” I think that fit the Scribe perfectly and I have already given a classic example of my own earlier experience with the Janus-like Scribe personality (Seth did not meet the Scribe until eight- grade in junior high after his family had moved across town. That was when he, secretly, very secretly trusting on me with the secret, worked with some Jewish guy from Adamsville Center to send books to black children in Alabama in the late 1950s when they were trying break vicious Mister James Crow down there (the Scribes term). All the while acting as Carter corner boy leader Ronnie Mooney’s shill doing the big “clip” operations that started our illegal careers in sixth grade and seventh grades.    

(* The breakthrough “beat” poem which made Ginsberg’s career and which, get this, the Scribe would later read sections of only lonely Friday nights in front of Toni’s when we had no dough. Did that until guys, guys including me, who could have given a rat’s ass about the “fag” poem threatened to throw him off the roof of the high school gratis if he did not stop. That would stop him for the night, but he would be back. Funny even now I go to YouTube every now and again when I need some poetic boost to listen to Ginsberg howling forth when the world was young, and we were warrior-kings.)  

I have given some play to later versions of that contradiction but this day my mind is on that good angel part of the Scribe, or at least the part that saw some way out of the hole we were in down in the mud, down in what I call now (what the heck would I have known of such a word then) the totally destructive Hobbesian world of all against all down at the base of society where social solidarity is seen as a sign of weakness, or simple prey for the predators.

I am not sure when he first said the expression probably in early 1960, might have been late 1959 in case when we were still in the projects (my family would to the Bottoms, which is just what it was of the Acres, a year after the Scribe’s at the beginning of ninth grade) but whenever I was blue, or he was, he would say that he sensed “ a new breeze blowing in the land,” that we might after all get out from under. He didn’t exactly explain it in specific terms but I believe that it animated the better angel of his nature for as long as that projected breeze had some promise when it did finally fully unfold in the mid-1960s. He would at least through high school carry that larcenous heart around but it was more like baggage from the past than anything else as long as he felt the uptick.

I think I wrote one time about a bet that the Scribe made with our Tonio’s  corner boy leader Frankie Riley about whether he, the Scribe, would have “the balls” (or some term like that) to go, as he intended, to the Boston Common in the fall of 1960, October I think before the elections which brought our own Jack Kennedy to the White House, to participate in a demonstration called by then famed baby doctor, Doctor Spock, and an organization called SANE to protest nuclear weapons proliferation. Frankie baited him mercilessly on that one since he saw guys like Spock, the Quakers and other bleeding hearts afraid to go toe to toe with the Russians as dupes, commies, and fairies. (That would be a fair estimate of the attitudes of the rest of us except I never took the Scribe as a dupe except maybe to those furious wanting habits that would lay him low over a decade later). The Scribe took the bait, took the bet, a five dollar bet big money in those tight Acre days, (had to take the bet in any case since to not do so meant you lost and had to pay anyway in the ethos of the corner days.) Frankie would have egg all over his face, the Scribe would have his five dollars (and money for a date) and would “win his spurs” in that event (one of the few times he would tell me later when he was really afraid that he would be wasted by a bunch of hoboes and rednecks from South Boston who were egging on the crowds to attack the small demonstration of Quakers, pacifists and other do-gooders in the world).   

That is just the clearest early example of what the Scribe got into. He would lead, try to lead some of us into the coffeehouse folk scene over in Cambridge when rock and roll had kind of gone into hiatus and folk seemed to give some evidence of that new breeze, and girls liked it too. There were other movements and such which the Scribe would bore us with on some desolate Friday night when we could have yet again given a rat’s ass about such things. The big turning point the biggest feather in the Scribe’s cap was his projection of the Summer of Love brewing out in the California sun in 1967 and him jumping into that craziness with all arms, all everything. More importantly dragged me, sensible me, rough and ready Frankie Riley and every other corner boy except Rick Rizzo and David White who had already laid down their heads in bloody Vietnam and now are remember in town square and black granite in Washington out to San Francisco when he came back to get us moving there to see what was what.  

The Scribe had gotten lots of scholarship help when he was accepted to Boston University after graduation in 1964 (I had too at Tufts and Frankie at Boston College). In the spring of junior year though he decided that he had to see what was going on out in Frisco and dropped out of school right after finals I think. That would later prove to be a fateful decision since in the heart of the Vietnam War when the generals were screaming for foot soldiers a student deferment kept you away from the wolves for a while and no deferment leave you at the mercies of your friends and neighbors at the draft board which would snag him in 1969, sent him to Vietnam and create a situation in his head that he never really recovered from. But in the spring of 1967 he was in full blossom to his dream breeze coming true and got so tied up in it that he made special trip back to the Acre to get reinforcements.

We would all go for varying times (I stayed out there until 1970 when that devil draft board began to call my sweet number and I hightailed it back to Tufts, fast) and while series of adventures up and down the West Coast which Seth, Jack Callahan, hell, even straight-laced Frankie Riley have written about a while back when Alex James had his youngest brother Zack write and produce a small tribute booklet to the Scribe on the 50th anniversary of that Summer of Love. I went through many ups and downs with the Scribe (and on my own as well0 before he fell down in the end but I will always think kindly of the times we spent out West deep in that new breeze he saw coming way before the rest of us did (or gave a rat’s ass about, okay)

The constant reader already knows that I have been teasing the readers of this series with a promise to speak of one Billy Bradley who along with the now well-reported Ronnie Mooney led the Carter’s Variety Store corner boys for good or evil but I have to tell a few stories about the Scribe, about Peter Paul Markin. A guy who off and on for the next twenty years before he fell down, went down hard in Mexico trying to “cure” his eternal wanting habits with a quick score was my best friend, and on good days would acknowledge that on his part, whom I met on the first day of class at Snug Harbor Elementary School in Miss Sullivan’s fourth grade class after we had moved to Adamsville from Riverdale. The Markin stories will help set up the link to Billy Bradley, in fact I would argue that you cannot understand Billy without knowing more about the Scribe (and the tangled three-way relationship between us not always good).

Not so strangely the Scribe was a nerdish combination of mad hatter plans to get out from under the projects life which he was far more sensitive about than the rest of us (although I still feel marked heavily by those formative experiences) and bookish, serious bookish babble of ideas like some ill-regarded prophet related to nothing at all that was crushing our spirits in the projects. I learned that about him the very first day of school by my observing the Scribe the next row over reading a book on American revolutionary Samuel Adams which I said looked interesting. That set the frame rolling as we talked until battered down by old biddy Sullivan’s wrath. That cost us a first day, first day of school if you can believe it, after school detention, the first of many. The Scribe would blow that detention business off (and I would a little toward the end of the year) as some kind of overhead to finding interesting things to talk about in school since nothing like that existed in his household (nor mine either fore that matter. Over the years he would make many calculated decisions in the same holy goof manner (thanks Jack Kerouac) from which way the cultural winds were blowing to how to work the plan for the latest “midnight creep.”    

As unbelievable as I thought it was at the time because I was somewhat shy and a little socially backward that first day the Scribe mentioned that he hung out with a bunch of guys, projects guys all, fourth and fifth grade guys, at Carter’s Variety Store which then (and if you can believe this now as well) was the only place in the whole area to shop for those without cars or who needed a quick item or two.

[My family had moved in a few weeks before school opened in September, so I knew what Carter’s was, had been there getting milk and stuff my mother but I think I only saw the corner boys hanging out maybe once as I scurried home. They looked about my age but I knew from a roughed up experience with the 12th Street corner boys in Riverdale when I tried to engage a couple of them that you do not talk to corner boys, do not join up on your own but need to be “sponsored” and so I kept my distance.]   

That first day of school was the day I met Ronnie Mooney who I have spilled ink about in five previous installments of this series and who was at the time was becoming the recognized leader of the Carter corner boys. In some funny ways, the Scribe, and me a little less so, didn’t seem to fit the mold of these guys, thugs like Rodger the Dodger, Lenny who would later lay down his head in Vietnam, George, Tiny John and a revolving cast of guys for he was way too “intellectual” for what these guys were about or so I thought. The other side of the Scribe, the screwy gene side, the missing link side, was a truly larcenous heart. Using plenty of his “intellectual” energy to plan and plot, along with Ronnie, various capers, mostly small time but all illegal.

Even that first day the reason the Scribe was so hopped up to meet his corner boys was because he needed a look-out for a clip he was planning at Kaye’s Jewelry near Bert’s Market to grab some stuff and get it converted to cash (fencing it I guess we would call it today). Like I say small time stuff, small down at the base of society where there is never enough of anything and family-sized “no, we can’t afford it” coexist with some furious wanting habits.    

He always had a million schemes going and always a mix between his good instincts like when he proposed to sent books to Alabama so some black children could read* and planning a “midnight creep” to rob some house of its worldly possessions, sell them and live on what he called, we called, easy street for a while.    

(*The Scribe actually acted on that book proposal a little latter on the quiet since the white bread projects were a hotbed of racial animosity for the simple reason, no maybe not so simple reason, that no matter how bad things were in a place like the projects at least the denizens were white and the kids, us, imbibed that idea for the most part even if we did not understand it. Another situation where the Scribe committed me to silence although I have mentioned that episode many times over the years explaining the Scribe’s motions. Guys like Ronnie, Billy too would have crucified him if they had known probably about that project run him out of the projects.

The way the thing worked was that he actually put a small ad in the local newspaper asking for books (he also asked the local branch of the public library, but they turned him down cold). He got a response from a Jewish kid, also a no-no grouping in the projects life where anti-Semitism was more visceral than the black experience since a number of Jewish people lived in the new single-family houses up the road. That kid has some connections, so some books made their way south.)

At the same time, although I don’t remember if that was true with his working the books idea, he would be setting up a scheme to rob a house. Cool as a cucumber. This is where Adamsville Beach comes in again. The first time he proposed the idea to me (I was something like a sounding board for all he listened to me when he was hellbent on an idea) we were sitting at the seawall on the beach, what he called his office. It was in sixth grade, probably the spring, early summer when people would be away, would be away from those newly built single-family homes up the road.

This section, then anyway, was not well-policed (although the Scribe had the police patrol routine worked out) had some distance between houses ( a selling point for crammed in urban dwellers) and each as in all such developments in those days had similar set-ups, including bulkhead entry into the cellars and a breezeway between house and garage that was a joke to break into. The Scribe’s idea was to try the breezeway first, usually the easiest entry since as with many such quickly built structures the thing was flimsy (and probably no developer thought about corner boy midnight creep robbers. If that failed then the bulkhead was the target, an easy target since he had figured out a way to unlatch the doors with a device wedged between the doors, easy stuff really.               

Here it is best to give another contradiction of the Scribe. He was a nerd, was clueless about how to organize such a plan, the working parts. Once he presented the idea to Ronnie and Billy, and then the rest of the guys and suggested he would lead the first raid they balked, were ready to hang his ass in the grass. Christ, he could hardly keep his hands steady doing the “clip” (as I was so we both were lookouts in that juvenile caper). So Ronnie, and then when Ronnie grew away from the crowd Billy, later at Doc’s Harry Devine and at Tonio’s Frankie Riley would be the operational chiefs of such projects.

The one time the Scribe had the bright idea to do a creep on his own he almost got us all arrested when he both miscalculated the police patrol schedule and that the house selected was not empty but had somebody baby-sitting a child inside. Jesus, but when he was “on” his ideas were on point.  Hey, we never got caught for nothing he set up. Maybe it was that beach air that drove him on.