Saturday, October 12, 2019

On The 160th Anniversary -In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859- From The Bob Feldman 68 Blog- "Old John Brown"- In Honor Of The Union Side On The 150th Anniversary Of The Start Of The Second Year Of The American Civil War

On The 160th Anniversary -In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859- From The Bob Feldman 68 Blog- "Old John Brown"- In Honor Of The Union Side On The 150th Anniversary Of The Start Of The Second Year Of  The American Civil War

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Bob Feldman performing his Old John Brown.
Here are other tributes to John Brown from older times.
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, /|
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah, /|
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
His soul goes marching on.

He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord, /|
He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
His soul goes marching on.

John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back, /
John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back,
His soul goes marching on.

John Brown died that the slaves might be free, /
John Brown died that the slaves might be free,
His soul goes marching on.

The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down, /
The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down,
His soul goes marching on.

Written: 1861 (The song originated with soldiers of the Massachusetts 12th Regiment and soon spread to become the most popular anthem of Union soldiers during the Civil War. Many versions of the song exist. One particularly well written version came from William W. Patton, and is reproduced below. The Brown tune inspired Julia Ward Howe, after she heard troops sing the song while parading near Washington, to write her lyrics for the same melody, "The Battle Hymm of the Republic." Lyrics to Howe's moving lyrics are also posted below.)

History of the Song

John Brown by William W. Patton

Old John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave,
While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save;
But tho he lost his life while struggling for the slave,
His soul is marching on.

John Brown was a hero, undaunted, true and brave,
And Kansas knows his valor when he fought her rights to save;
Now, tho the grass grows green above his grave,
His soul is marching on.

He captured Harper’s Ferry, with his nineteen men so few,
And frightened "Old Virginny" till she trembled thru and thru;
They hung him for a traitor, themselves the traitor crew,
But his soul is marching on.

John Brown was John the Baptist of the Christ we are to see,
Christ who of the bondmen shall the Liberator be,
And soon thruout the Sunny South the slaves shall all be free,
For his soul is marching on.

The conflict that he heralded he looks from heaven to view,
On the army of the Union with its flag red, white and blue.
And heaven shall ring with anthems o’er the deed they mean to do,
For his soul is marching on.

Ye soldiers of Freedom, then strike, while strike ye may,
The death blow of oppression in a better time and way,
For the dawn of old John Brown has brightened into day,
And his soul is marching on.

Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He has loosed the fateful lightening of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps
His day is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnish`d rows of steel,
"As ye deal with my contemners, So with you my grace shall deal;"
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel
Since God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

The 50th Anniversary Of His Death- The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"-Ain't Got No Time For Corner Boys, Down In The Streets Making All That Noise”-The Mean Streets Of Working Class Times- “The Fighter”- A Film Review

The 50th Anniversary Of His Death- The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road"-Ain't Got No Time  For Corner Boys, Down In The Streets Making All That Noise”-The Mean Streets Of Working Class Times- “The Fighter”- A Film Review

DVD Review

The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, Paramount Pictures, 2010

I know the mean streets of Lowell, Massachusetts, although of late that geographical reference point would center on a more literary sense of the place around the figure of 1950s beat novelist/poet Jack Kerouac. I do not, by the way, mean that I know Lowell from actually growing up in that old-time textile mill town that has seen better days, mainly. I mean I know Lowell because I know the double-deckers, the triple-deckers, the seedy bowling alleys, the back lot gyms, the mom and pop variety stores, the ethnically-tinged bars, biker hang-outs, and flop houses that dot that working class town and form the backdrop to the cultural life of that place. I grew up on the southern side of Boston in North Adamsville. That past its prime working class town (formerly a shipbuilding center rather than Lowell's textile but they shared the same ethos) had its full compliment of tight housing, rundown stores, sparse entertainment possibilities and cramped view of life’s prospects just like Lowell.

I know Mickey Ward (Wahlberg) and, more importantly, I know Dickie Eklund (Bale) and their mother Alice (Leo). I do not mean that I know any of them personally but I know their ilk. See North Adamsville also had its fair share of club fighters (or other sports king wanna-bes), working out of some third floor back door gym that smelled of tiger’s balm and other liniments, looking to make it out of the dead-end town and on to the big tent, whether they actually left North Adamsville or not. And most didn’t and most did not even get a shot at hitting someone like Sugar Ray Leonard down on some matted ring floor like Dickie did. Frankly, I spent most of my time as a youth being attracted too but ultimately trying to run, run very hard, away from the Dickie guys, the street-wise corner boys who fall sort of catching the brass ring. While they may be street-wise corner boys, unlike in this film, they are strictly bad-ass cut your throat for a dime characters best left behind. That was hard lesson to learn back in the day, and as the film makes clear, now too.

That said about the social realities of working class life what is there not to like about a film that highlights, Mickey Ward, one of our own getting out from under by sheer perseverance, wit, and his own sense of street smarts, mainly on his own terms. And to be a bloody stubborn Irishman to boot. Some of the stuff concerning his family connections, his eight million family connections, the “us against the world (you do not air your dirty linen in public, period)” while hard to take at points rang true. As did many of the confrontation scenes with Mickey’s high-flying girlfriend Charlene, when she tried to break her man out of the family’s grip. Finally, the acting from Wahlberg’s conflicted (between family and career, between being a “stepping stone” and a champ) boxer, to Bale’s mad monk ex-boxer who had gone a long way down from those Sugar Ray days (a not uncommon fate for those who are just not good enough to wear the crown, whatever the crown might be) to Leo’s (Alice)one-dimensional family worldview (with nine kids, seven of them girls, that might have been the beginning of wisdom in her case) was uniformly fine. Still, I am glad, glad as hell that I made a left turn away from those corner boys down in the streets making all that noise. But it was a close thing, no question.

Strike The Blow -The Legend Of Captain John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-W.E.B DuBois' John Brown

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Captain John Brown.

Please note that the substance of the following review has been used in the review of Stephen Oates’s book on John Brown reviewed elsewhere. Both books offer a good prospective on the life of John Brown and can be profitably read together. Dubois’s book is a decent historical narrative of Brown’s life from an earlier time and in a more partisan perspective. Oates book reflects more modern academic methods of analysis and research and tackles the weaknesses in other interpretations. In that sense, Oates book is close to the definitive study of John Brown’s life. Most importantly, both books reflect a Northern view of Brown exploits previously long absent from the historical record. My review reflects the need to study an important American fighter for justice and for today’s generation to learn some lessons from his life.

I would like to make a few comments on the role of Captain John Brown and his struggle at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 in the history of the black liberation struggle. This appropriate as I am writing this review during Black History Month of 2006. Unfortunately John Brown continues to remain one of the very few white heroes of the struggle for black liberation.

From fairly early in my youth I knew the name John Brown and was swept up by the romance surrounding his exploits at Harpers Ferry. For example, I knew that the great anthem of the Civil War -The Battle Hymn of the Republic had a prior existence as a tribute to John Brown. I, however, was then neither familiar with the import of his exploits for the black liberation struggle nor knew much about the specifics of the politics of the various tendencies in the struggle against slavery. I certainly knew nothing then of Brown’s (and his sons) prior military exploits in the Kansas wars against the expansion of slavery. If one understands the ongoing nature of his commitment to struggle one can only conclude that his was indeed a man on a mission. Those exploits also render absurd a very convenient myth about his ‘madness’. This is a political man and to these eyes a very worthy one. In the context of the turmoil of the times he was only the most courageous and audacious revolutionary in the struggle against the abolition of slavery in America.

Whether or not John Brown knew that his strategy would, in the short term, be defeated is a matter of dispute. Reams of paper have been spent proving the military foolhardiness of his scheme at Harper’s Ferry. This missing the essential political point that militant action not continuing parliamentary maneuvering advocated by other abolitionists had become necessary. What is not in dispute is that Brown considered himself a true Calvinist avenging angel in the struggle against slavery and more importantly acted on that belief. In short, he was committed to bring justice to the black masses. This is why his exploits and memory stay alive after over 150 years.

Brown and his small integrated band of brothers fought bravely and coolly against great odds. Ten of Brown's men were killed including two of his sons. Five were captured, tried and executed, including Brown. These results are almost inevitable when one takes up a revolutionary struggle against the old order and one is not victorious. One need only think of, for example, the fate of the defenders of the Paris Commune in 1871. One can fault Brown on this or that tactical maneuver. Nevertheless he and the others bore themselves bravely in defeat. As we are all too painfully familiar there are defeats of the oppressed that lead nowhere. One thinks of the defeat of the Chinese Revolution in the 1920’s. There other defeats that galvanize others into action. This is how Brown’s actions should be measured by history.

Militarily defeated at Harpers Ferry, Brown's political mission to destroy slavery by force of arms nevertheless continued to galvanize important elements in the North at the expense of the pacifistic non-resistant Garrisonian political program for struggle against slavery. Many writers on Brown who reduce his actions to that of a ‘madman’ still cannot believe that his road proved more appropriate to end slavery than either non-resistance or gradualism. That alone makes short shrift of such theories. Historians and others have misinterpreted later events such as the Bolshevik strategy which led to Russian Revolution in October 1917. More recently, we saw this same incomprehension concerning the victory of the Vietnamese against overwhelming military superior forces. Needless to say, all these events continue to be revised by some historians to take the sting out of there proper political implications.

From a modern prospective Brown’s strategy for black liberation, even if the abolitionist goal he aspired to was immediately successful reached the outer limits within the confines of capitalism. Brown’s actions were meant to make black people free. Beyond that goal he had no program. Unfortunately the Civil War did not provide fundamental economic and political freedom. That is still our fight. Moreover, the Civil War, the defeat of Radical Reconstruction, the reign of ‘Jim Crow’ and the subsequent waves of black migration to the cities changed the character of black oppression in the U.S. from Brown’s time. Black people are now a part of "free labor," and the key to their liberation is in the integrated fight of labor against the current one-sided class war and establishing a government of workers and their allies. Nevertheless, we can stand proudly in the revolutionary tradition of John Brown (and of his friend Frederick Douglass). We need to complete the unfinished democratic tasks of the Civil War, not by emulating Brown’s exemplary actions but to moving the multi-racial American working class to power. Finish the Civil War.

Live Fast, Steal Cars, Die Young And You Figure The Rest Of It-Nick Cage’s "Gone In Sixty Seconds" (2000)-A Film Review

Live Fast, Steal Cars, Die Young And You Figure The Rest Of It-Nick Cage’s "Gone In Sixty Seconds" (2000)-A Film Review  

DVD Review

By Josh Breslin

Gone in Sixty Seconds, starring Nick Cage, 2000

It will do no disservice to his memory that the late Peter Paul Markin, forever known in his old neighborhood as Scribe after one Frankie Riley knighted him with that title after he wrote about ten thousand words describing his, Frankie’s, exploits as leader of the corner boys in the Acre section of humble pie working-class North Adamsville that he, Scribe was the greatest “hot wire” guy I ever met. And that includes Johnny Blade, not his real name, but the name everybody knew him by up in Olde Saco in Maine where I grew up and where I hung out with him as he made his legend. I refuse to give his real name because I still owe him fifty bucks for fifty years for spilling coffee all over his 1957 two-toned, red and white, Chevy to die for passenger seat. He might still be looking for me, he was that kind of guy but the last I heard he was doing a nickel at Saw Ridge for grand theft auto when he got caught stealing a Mercedes for a guy who left him in the lurch. Something that definitely would not have happened in his prime, in the days when he could steal five cars in a row and not work up a sweat.

But enough of Johnny B. because this is about Scribe, actually it is not about him either but a strictly from nowhere film review of Nick Cage’s epic boost film Gone in Sixty Seconds where he plays the legendary Memphis Raines a guy that even I had heard of working some devilish magic out in West Coast high end luxury car heaven. I had admired his work and work ethic from afar once he retired unscathed and unrepentant. The Scribe part is important though because the film doesn’t make sense, or rather why I grabbed this assignment doesn’t make sense since while I have nothing but respect for the real Memphis Raines, the role Nick Cage made his own, I was never that car mad that I would want to write about freaking cars, or guys who loved them more than girls maybe. Although I did do a short piece on Lonesome Slim who was the greatest “chicken run” guy in the back roads of Maine who grabbed all the chicks when he went toe to toe with some reckless farm boy who lost his girl even before he put his pedal to the floor.

Here is the Scribe conundrum though, maybe two. To look at Scribe, to know him as I did when we met out in San Francisco in the Summer of Love, 1967 no way would you think this guy could open his front door without drama much less boost any car he wanted to, if he wanted to, in the days when hot-wiring cars was a lot easier than today with all the computer wrap around before you can even jimmy the door.  I didn’t know this until many years later but when I met Scribe on Russian Hill in Frisco town he was sitting in a Camaro which I though was odd for a guy who looked like your mother’s worst son nightmare “hippie.” Especially true after I asked him if he had a joint and he gave me a huge blunt telling me not to Bogart the thing which na├»ve as I was I didn’t know meant basically not to throw the damn thing away when I was done. That car thing was pure Scribe, who was running under the moniker Be-Bop Benny out there just then. He had hot-wired the Camaro against all probabilities in broad daylight right at the summit of the Golden Gate Bridge (I laughed when Sam, the guy who told me about this Scribe exploit, the guy was probably then still looking for it in that parking lot, maybe thinking the cops had grabbed it). The other part of the Scribe mystery was that he couldn’t drive worth a damn, got more dings in more cars than you would believe possible. Thankfully when we were on Captain Crunch’s transformed yellow school bus he had his own bus driver, a guy who was a cousin of another legendary auto guy Neal Cassady.  

But like Seth Garth, who told me once he was afraid of automobiles, afraid to be in them, likes to say enough of cutting up old touches even if it about mad monk Scribe who we all seriously still miss after he fell down young, too young. Just figure in your head that this is in honor of hot-wire Scribe, who could have been in the crew Memphis put together to grab 50, count them, fifty cars in one holy goof of a night. Probably would have had the whole thing figured in about an hour-see that was the contradiction-you wouldn’t want the guy to drive anything except maybe a tricycle, but you would give your whole share for him to plan the capers. Right up there with Memphis who like most boosters who don’t do serious time had to retire when the adrenaline rushes didn’t do it any more and the hands got a little shaky, maybe he started missing a step or two.

Car-stealing let’s call it boosting like they do in the profession, like bank-robbing, hell, like jack-rolling and like stealing kids’ milk money abhors a vacuum. Somebody will step up to be the next legend, the guy young guys talk about. That is what happened when Memphis put away his tools, went straight. Problem though was his half-ass younger brother, Kip, was the guy who wanted to be the next legend. But boosting stuff is not in the genes, DNA or whatever you call it. It is all about cool nerves and taking care of business-first. Kip fell down just like Scribe in his time did. Fucked up a boost for a hard-ass gangster named Raymond or Ralph something, a guy out of England who was looking to run the rackets stateside and was going to be pressed as thin as a pancake if Memphis didn’t come out of retirement to grab that 50- car run-and not 48, 49 either 50 or Kip was dust. Memphis might not have loved his younger brother, but blood is blood and that Raymond or Ralph whatever knew it.

Retired or active though to do a job as big as this you need a crew and need some serious inside connections to find out where the luxury cars are being held in a big city like LA. They are there in such a rich car-necessary and loved town but you have to dig them out. Memphis reassembled his old crew together and along with the remnants of Kip’s cowboys they had a team. They also had an idea that the whole thing had to be done in one night and fast because once the stolen vehicles started being reported the booster cops would be on the scent, would be dogging the whole operation. Not good.          

Game on. The night time is the right time and Memphis and his savvy crew including an ex-lover gal who got off on boosting cars and not just sitting in boss cars with some bozo showed some real skills in grabbing that first easy twenty-five just waiting to be picked off. The next twenty-five though required plenty of work-and nerves since the booster cops were hot on the trail. Finally they grabbed 49, not fifty and that Raymond or Ralph whatever said no go-short meant one dead Kip. Of course that would never happen when brother Memphis was on the case. The bad bad guy took a fall-literally and because bad guy Memphis saved a booster cop’s life he and the crew walked. Scribe showed me many of the techniques of the trade, of the art of the boost I am sure if he had been around to see the film in 2000 he would have had a max daddy critique. Pound for pound though Scribe was the greatest hot-wire guy I ever saw-no doubt.    

“Shoot Pools ‘Fast Eddie,’ Shoot Pools”-With Paul Newman’s “The Hustler” In Mind

“Shoot Pools ‘Fast Eddie,’ Shoot Pools”-With Paul Newman’s “The Hustler” In Mind

By Lance Lawrence

“Fast Eddie” Felson was the greatest pool player to ever put chalk to stick and you had better believe that hard fact because I know from whence I speak. In most quarters, among the serious followers of the game, I, Jackie “Big Man” Gleason think that title belongs to me. Think an old tub who learned the game in Hell’s Kitchen at Jackie Kane’s dimly lit pool hall from guys who would break your knuckles if they even had seen a breath of air that you might be hustling them. I never had my knuckles broken but they also never knew when I hustled their carfare home if I had the chance. I was that raw and thought I was that good. Until “Fast Eddie” came strolling in the door one day all hungry and eager to take on “Big Man,” make a name for himself and put me on cheap street. I knew that I would take that strutting bastard down at first but I also knew deep down that whatever the “official” rankings which in those days was how much jack you took from the competition I also knew that someday I would be uttering those words that I just said to start my story about “Fast Eddie”

Maybe you never heard of “Fast Eddie,” never knew the story behind the story of how for a couple of years anyhow, maybe three, he ruled the roost, he was the king of the hill. All I know is from the first moment Eddie entered Sharkey’s Pool Hall, the place where my manager, Bart, and I hustled all comers at the sport of kings, down on 12th Avenue in the teeming city of New York I was afraid to play him. Afraid he would damage my reputation as the king of the hill. I had never played game one against him but still I sensed something in his swagger, in his bravado that made my hands shake. Shaky hands the kiss of death in our profession.

I don’t know if I can explain that pit in my stomach feeling I am not much given to introspection a word I never heard of before the guy who I first told this story, a journalist, he called himself, and as long as he was not blowing smoke my way I believe him and if this little story ever gets published that my view of fucking hard luck sports reporters who get assigned to interview “retired” sports figure like me will improve greatly. If not, fuck it I just wanted to get the tale told and that is that. This introspection stuff, this thinking about why I had that pit in the stomach and why I worried about cheap street like a lot of other guys, Willie Hoppe, the legendary “Minnesota Fats, “Jersey Fats,” guys like that who had to hang up their hats when they magic left their when a guy like me, like “Big Man” or then “Fast Eddie” came up and took at the dingy pool hall air away. Let me try to give you an idea, okay. I was a guy, a wiseass guy no question, laughing at the idea that some two bit strong arms would miff my play, would do my knuckles in when I was in my Jake. But see I had learned the game, learned all angles and hustles by putting what they nowadays call doing the 10,000 hours of work to perfect whatever skill you were trying to perfect. I knew at any given time on any given night what I could and could not do with the rack when they spread their wings. That and maybe a cynical hustler’s sense of another man’s weaknesses (woman as far as I knew did play, play high stakes pool then at least I never ran across and who wanted to play although I ran into plenty of women was wanted to help me spend my money, and they did).

“Fast Eddie” though the minute he came in the door, the minute he put chalk to stick just had a feel for what to do. Maybe he spent about five minutes doing the work I spent those lonely 10, 000 hours and the rest was pure spirit, karma, Zen whatever the fuck you want to call it. Made me almost pee my pants when he strutted up the table all lean and hungry, a guy named Shakespeare I remember from school or maybe my father who loved the cat, told everybody to watch out for those kinds and avoid them like the plague. Yeah, strutted right up to the table knowing that I was sitting right there with my manager Bart and proceeded to run the rack without stopping to look, closing those damn blue eyes before every fucking shot. So I knew I was done except I also knew, or maybe Bart had a better handle on it just then that I would take him down the first time he wanted to challenge me. He had to be bloodied first before he took over the kingship. There was no other way. Bart and I laughed, maybe a cynical laugh, how we would skin that cat before he even knew what hit him. See young lean and hungry guys, blue eyes or not forget about the barrelful of tricks an old pro had accumulated to keep the landlord from the door.                       

In case you don’t know, and maybe some readers might not having decided to read my homage to “Fast Eddie” based on the “hook” that this was about Paul Newman the movie actor shooting big-time pool, hustling pool in the old days before Vegas, Atlantic City, Carson City started putting up money to have high dollar championships was about more that learning technique, having a vision of where the fucking balls would enter the pockets like your mother’s womb. A lot more. It was about having heart, about something that they would call Zen today but which we called “from hunger” in my day. Eddie’s too. That’s what Eddie had, that is what I sensed, what brought me to cold sweats when that swaggering son of a bitch came looking for me like I was somebody’s crippled up grandfather. It took a while, Eddie took his beatings before he understood what drove his art but he got it, got it so good that I left the game for a couple of years and went out West to hustler wealthy Hollywood moguls who loved the idea of “beating” “Big Man” Gleason at ten thousand a showing just for the sake of playing will a big time pool hustler.             

But forget about me and my troubles once Fast Eddie came through that long ago door after all this is about how the best man who ever handled a stick got to earn that title in my book. Like a lot of guys after the war, after World War II, after seeing the world in one way Eddie was ready to ditch his old life, was ready to take some chances and say “fuck you” to the nine to five world that would be death to a free spirit like him (that “free spirit” would put a few daggers in his heart before he was done but that is for later). Eddie, against my doughty frame, my big man languid frame, was a rangy kid, kind of tall, wiry, good built and Hollywood bedroom eyes like, well, like Paul Newman when he was a matinee idol making all the women, girls too, wet. Strictly “from hunger” just like in my time, the Great Depression, I had been the same before I left Minnesota for the great big lights of the city and “action.” Like I said raw and untamed but I could tell that very first time he put the stick to the green clothe he had the magic, had that something that cannot be learned but only come to the saints and those headed for the sky.           

So Eddie came in with a few thousand ready to take on the “Big Man.” While I feared this young pup I sensed that I could teach him a lesson, maybe a lesson that would hold him in good stead, maybe not, but which would at least give me enough breathing room to figure out what I would do when Eddie claimed his crown. His first mistake, a rookie error that I myself had committed was not having a partner, a manager to rein him in, to hold him back in tough times. He had some old rum dum, Charley, Billy, something like that, who cares except this rum dum was a timid bastard who couldn’t hold up his end. His end being strictly to estimate his opponent and rein the kid in when he was off his game like we all get sometimes. Me, like I said after I wised up, teamed up with Bart, Bart who knew exactly who and who was not a “loser” and who didn’t lose my money by making bad matches or bad side bets (those side bets were the cushion money that got us through hard times and many times were more than whatever we won at straight up games).      

All I am saying is that this kid’s manager did Fast Eddie wrong, let him go wild that first night when he was all gassed up to beat the Big Man. You already know that I whipped his ass or you haven’t been paying close enough attention. But that was all a ruse like I said, all kid bravado and swagger added in so it was like taking candy from a baby that first night. But I knew I was beat, beat bad in a straight up contest. What saved me that night was two things, no three. First, Fast Eddie like lots of kids figured that he could beat an old man with his hands tied behind his back and so he started his “victory lap” drinking, drinking hard high-end scotch even before the match had started. Second, he was cocky enough to declare that the only way to determine the winner was who cried “uncle” first (Bart smiled and whispered “loser” in my ear at hearing that). Third and last he had picked up this broad, some boozer and maybe a hooker named, Sandy, Susie, no, Sarah whom he was trying to impress somehow. She looked like a lost kitten but I didn’t give a damn about that just that Fast Eddie’s mind would be half on getting her down under the sheets, maybe had dreams of getting a blow job for his efforts she looked the type who was into some kinky stuff just for kicks. At least that was the way it looked at the time. As I will tell you later it was very different and I was totally wrong about the dame.          

It took almost twenty-eight hours in that dark dank smelly booze-strewn Sharkey pool hall which looked like something out of the movies’ idea of what a low rent pool hall should look like complete with low-lifes but eventually between the booze, the bravado, and the broad I took Eddie down, left him about two hundred bucks “walking around” money. Left him to cry “uncle.” Cry it for the last time. Between grabbing Fast Eddie’s money and the side bets Bart made I, we were able to lay off for a couple of months (usually after a big score that was standard practice since the one-time suckers who want to brag to the hometown folks that they played hard and fast with the Big Man and almost won scatter to the winds for a while before they inevitably come back for their well-deserved beatings). Bart said, no crowed, that he had had Fast Eddie’s number, a “loser.” Was another gone guy, forget him.  But I had seen some moves, some moves especially before the booze got the better of the kid that I could only dream of trying without looking like a rube.         

This part of the story coming up I pieced together from what Bart told me, what Sharkey had heard, and what little Fast Eddie let on when he came back at me in earnest, in that Zen state or whatever the fuck you want to call it when a guy is “walking with the king.” Eddie went into “hiding,” went licking his wounds, which in the pool world meant that he was trying to put a stake together hustling at pool halls in bowling alleys, places like that where the rubes are dying to lose a fin or double sawbuck and not cry about it. A player at the kid’s level though would have a hard time of making much scratch with the carnival-wheelers so unbeknownst to me Eddie got in touch with Bart who staked him to some dough for a big cut of the proceedings. They made money, a fair amount, but Bart, at least this is what he told me later after I pistol-whipped him before I left for Hollywood and the big beautiful suckers there figured that would just come back to me in the end because Bart still had the kid down as a loser, a big bad loser.         

This part is murkier still. Along the way on this trip that Bart and Fast Eddie took to fleece the rubes this Sarah started to get religion, started wanted to settle down with Eddie, make Eddie settle down. After I had beaten him when he was laying low he moved in with her, they got along okay until Eddie connected with Bart whom Sarah definitely did not like, I guess she was off the bottle for a while but started in again once she saw that Eddie wouldn’t give up his dream, his dream of beating the Big Man. This part is even murkier but one night Eddie was hustling some Bourbon king and Bart and Sarah were left behind to drink the night away. Somehow Bart, who except when negotiating bets and matches was a pretty smooth talker, conned Sarah who was miffed at Eddie like I said into bed. Got her to either take him around the world or let him take her anally (or he forced the issue figuring she was just a bent whore anyway he had odd sexual desires from what I was able to figure out after a few years with him). The boozy haze, the rough sex, being unfaithful to Eddie, maybe her whole fucking life marching before her left her with who knows what angry feelings. In any case that night before Eddie got home she had slit her wrists.     

This last part is not murky, not murky at all. After beating the hell out of Bart he took the bus back to New York and one night he came through Sharkey’s door and I knew I was roasted (Bart had telegramed about what had happened and told me that he would put up fifty thousand dollars against Fast Eddie’s luck). I had no choice but to play the play out. After Fast Eddie took that fifty thousand and another twenty-five that I had put up I cried “uncle.” Cried uncle and left for Hollywood and the bright lights. Left Fast Eddie to play out his string, left Eddie to “shoot pools, ‘Fast Eddie’, shoot pools.”     

In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859- *From The Annals Of New England History- "New Englands's Hidden History"- The Slave Connection- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a Boston Sunday Globe article, dated September 26, 2010, concerning the links between New England merchant capitalist trading and the slavery trade in its early history.

Markin comment:

This is an interesting little article about the interconnectedness between New England merchant capital and the slave trade. For those who know a little history about the “triangle trade” (slaves, sugar, rum, as an example), this should not come as a surprise. Nor for those who are familiar with the story of stalwart Boston anti-slavery man, John Quincy Adams, and the plight of the slaves on the Amistad in the mid-1800s. And certainly not for those who saw the Boston tensions explode around the Anthony Burns Fugitive Slave Law case in the 1850s. There was a reason for the name “Conscience” Whigs, mainly Northerners, who eventually broke from that party to form the nucleus of the Republican Party in the immediate pre-Civil War period.

Those “Conscience” Whigs” were a minority in Boston for a long time, the others, the traditional commerce-oriented Whigs, gladly getting fat off of the booming cotton trade. For every radical anti-slavery Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Theodore Parker or other of the Boston supporters of John Brown (the Secret Six connection) there were plenty who sat on their hands, at least until their bluff was called by the South. We will not even speak of the post-Civil War era and the abandonment of the freedman in the Northern scramble to buy up the South. That is its own worthy subject for commentary in another article.

Channeling The Lost Ghost Of Ti Jean Kerouac- In Honor Of the 60th Anniversary Of The Publication Of “On The Road” (1957)

Channeling The Lost Ghost Of Ti Jean Kerouac- In Honor Of the 60th Anniversary Of The Publication Of “On The Road” (1957)

By Gordon Gleason   

Even Phil Larkin could not remember when he first heard the name Jack Kerouac mentioned in his presence. Jack, his muse since early adult days in the late 1960s, was like a book sealed with seven seals in the Larkin household in the early 1960s when Rose Larkin prohibited any talk of atheist rabble commie unwashed beatniks in the house (the latter not the least in the list of Rose sins although atheist in the high holy Roman Catholic Larkin household where Jack apostate had some consideration). So it must have been sometime before that. Maybe name heard on a vagrant television show, The Steve Allen Show, which he sneak watched at midnight hours to see what was what and which Phil in perusing YouTube has noticed that hipster in exile Steve and “king of the beats” Jack bantered around many subjects of mutual interest under the sign of cool ass jazz and word play aficionado-hood. (One such clip of the show showed Jack reading the famous last page of his On The Road where he and Dean Moriarty are searching, endlessly searching, for the father they never just like Phil looked for literary father Jack when the time came among other things but that clip did not ring a bell when he tried to date that first heard name question ringing in his brain one Jack October in the railroad dream night.)     

Phil, never much for deep introspection although overloaded with surface introspection like any half-arsed speculator writer (Irish expression check James Joyce if you please), in any case abandoned that endless thought, that father, literary father remember thought, as he tried to place Jack’s name in his head. A thought which was triggered once he read in  a small publication magazine that the year 2017 would be the 60th anniversary of the publication of the sensational On The Road which would get many a young man and some young women on the road, on the car highway, bus sweat, freight train hobo, hitchhike thumb road, no question.

He guessed not having any success at pinpointing some exact event or date that the first time would have had to be about 1962 when his old high school friend from his growing up town, the Acre neighborhood of North Adamsville, Peter Paul Markin always known since junior high school as “Scribe” forced all the corner boys to read the damn thing under penalty that he would read it to them on those forlorn Friday and Saturday nights when without money, without a car to flee the burg, without some girl willing to go on a date via public transportation or walking and maybe willing to do the “dutch treat” number (and thus no hope, no fucking hope for testosterone-hammered boys, of coping feels, snatch, blowjobs since any girl who consented under those conditions saw the guy, saw Phil before he became known as Foul-Mouthed Phil which is a whole story for another time since is about father Jack time not Phil schemes for those feels, snatches, blowjobs) they would be huddled against the wall in front of Tonio’s Pizza Parlor. Hoping, endlessly cold-nosed hoping when first starting out in late freshman year that some girl (or girls) would come by and maybe go into Tonio’s and play the jukebox and that would get things started. At worst start the “con,” low con for sure about what songs those chicks played which was an art-form first perfected by shy-boy Scribe as his “come on” to the girls when he was too nervous to sweet baby talk them like any other guy, like Phil when he found out that some girls, some social butterfly girls and not just the school sluts liked to hear what in “polite” society would be considered vulgar language worthy if you were a Catholic boy, a Rose Larkin Catholic boy confession worthy and a hell of a lot of hail marys and acts of contrition.        

On those nights when that low slung prospect did not look promising, Jesus were times that bad that some sweet thing come Friday night didn’t at least risk a fucking slice of pizza and iced Coke to at least tempt their fates and keep the Scribe from his altar, say around 10 PM, maybe a little later, which meant that whatever girls were going out had gone out for the night or were down Squaw Rock freely parting with feel, snatches and blowjobs and not just the school sluts either remember those social butterflies, the Scribe would take out his tattered and well-worn copy of the book and start reading. A book which he in high holy Roman Catholic Delores Markin household had to sneak buy over in Harvard Square at some dimly-lit bookstore (a bookstore that a couple of years later would be a place like lemmings to the sea where shy-boy Scribe would find the slightly neurotic, slim, okay skinny, black-attired girls that drove him wild and provide him with those freely given feels, snatches, blowjobs that he longed for in hometown high school).

Before long he would be stopped, usually by the naturally selected leader of this motley crew, Frankie Riley, who threatened murder and mayhem if the Scribe continued. Those guys were no surplus literary bums or wannabe dharma bums of some later Phil dream but hard-nosed corner denizens who were as likely to jack-roll some “faggy” guy, some punk kid or some father/uncle/older brother drunken sot paycheck fresh (and short) from Irish Grille/Dublin Pub/ Johnny Murphy’s and you don’t have to consult Mister James Joyce as look at you. Whatever short-comings the Scribe had in the manly prowess province the long and short of it was that at some point Phil and almost every other guy on the stoop read the book if only to see what the Scribe was talking about or just to keep him quiet on those depressing empty nights.

It took a long time for Phil to realize that what drew the Scribe to Jack Kerouac (the Scribe would always call him Ti Jean once he heard somebody in school who knew French call out John name that way) was that there were many affinities between the way Jack grew up a generation before them in factory-strewn Merrimack River textile heavy from Frenchie/ Irish/ Hungary/Italy Lowell about sixty miles away and working-class ship-building North Adamsville. Knew want and hungry a bit, knew more importantly “wanting habits” which drove a lot of the Scribe’s (and the rest of the Tonio corner boys) baser instincts. Knew that same craving for privacy that never came in cold water flats above vacant stores with mother hectoring and crying out one venial and about seven mortals sins per hour 24/7/365. No room to breathe. Knew that desire to break out from the tedium of what was to be scheduled fate wrapped in a big fat package box unless the break-out came and soon.

(Prelude to Jack breakout aside from vivid memory black and white film Majestic Theater Saturday afternoon haunts and hanging with the boys cool daddy jazz, big swing jazz big bad ass bands led by guys named Duke, Count, Earl, hell, maybe Emperor with some snow white song-bird fronting except when black as coal Billie fronted and blown them snowbirds all away even before the “fixer” man came calling around midnight and later, late 1940s later cool as a cucumber jazz with plenty of variations and riffs, riff to blow that high white note out to the Frisco Bay China seas like happened one night in North Beach by some unknown cat who just blew and blew  and maybe is still blowing that one time high white note and is dead ass dead having run himself raged and culled looking for that sequel in some dead night fog horn freighter of the world. Prelude to Tonio boys breakout aside from vivid memory black and white film Strand Theater Saturday afternoon matinees double-features and hanging with the boys hot off the presses big daddy rock and roll music any old way you use it proclaimed by the President, President of rock and roll Chuck Berry that one Mister Mozart and his crew (Bach, Brahms, that Russian guy) that they had best leave town because a new high sheriff was in town to shake, rattle and roll and later when the sniff of Jack dope, tea-head dope turned to modern Moloch chemical madness cloud-covered French curves and swirls acid rock.)      

The funny thing about the Scribe’s crazed campaign was that Phil, beside his lack of deep introspection then, was not any kind of bookworm-then  (a pejorative term on the Tonio corner which would usually have banned a guy like the Scribe from that place except he had a double-heart, had as well as that literary funk an exceptionally larcenous heart and produced in quality well-thought out plans to grab dough, grab it any way they could although nobody in their right mind would let him carry out those plans that was left to the clever Frankie Riley already mentioned). The funny part was that later, several years later when he was in the Army and confined to the base for disciplinary reasons, he ambled into the base library one afternoon and noticed that On The Road and several other books by Kerouac were on a bookshelf he was perusing looking for something by sci-fi writer Kenneth Koch. And that was that. That was that being he re-read Road and scampered through such Jack works as Dharma Bum and Desolation Angels (and in the end much more than that but check some Jack bibliography and you will have pretty much encompassed what Phil read before the fall).              
The Scribe and Jack connection would intersect Phil’s life several times before The Scribe’s early violent death down in Mexico from still unknown and uninvestigated by the Federales causes around a busted drug deal. Probably the most dramatic connection driven by Jack hitchhike road dreams in the late 1940s before Interstate Route 66 car-hopping night had been Phil’s involvement through the Scribe in the westward trek to what has been called the Summer of Love out mainly in San Francisco in 1967 (although some action happened in Monterey at the first Pops Festival but that was before Phil headed out and in Todo el Mundo south of Big Sur when he/they hitched a ride from a moving house of a converted yellow school bus). The Scribe, partially influenced by Jack’s book and partially by his own endless predictions that things were going to go through a sea-change especially among the young in this country and had dropped out of college in Boston his sophomore year to see what was what out west. A couple of months later the Scribe came back and practically force-marched all the corner boys still around to head west as soon as they could. Phil under the Jack spell (and having no money a la Jack most of the time as well and no permission a la Rose Larkin who had a bloody fit when she found out where he was and had Father Lally say about ten prayers for Phil’s already damned soul) hitchhiked out with Frankie Riley in a spasm of high adventure. Phil, not in school, no money, working at some madness Robert Hall men’s clothing store to kill time and make some college-bound dough,  at the height of the madness in foreign country Vietnam would only stay out there a couple of months since he received a draft notice in late August to report for a physical in September. But while he was out west he imbibed in all the dope, music, sex and whatnot available that Mother Larkin had railed against citing one John Kerouac, lapsed Catholic sweet cherib big tubby Buddha in his brain now as correspondent. Even went to Jack beat down, beat around beatitude if you want to call it that spots in North Beach like Eddy’s and Big Max’s (where that skinny kid blew the high white note out into the Frisco Bay China seas and never looked back) to see what that earlier cultural scene had been all about.          

This year’s (2017) 50th anniversary commemoration of the Summer of Love out again mainly in San Francisco which Phil had not been aware of until Alex James, one of his old corner confederates, had been out there and seen an art exhibition all about the music, fashion, poster art (advertising upcoming concerts in Golden Gate Park, the Avalon, Fillmore and so on) and photography and when he came back to Boston  had gathered all the remaining corner boys who had gone out in ’67 together to write their memoirs for a small Scribe tribute book had sparked some remembrances beyond that event. Got him thinking about how much Jack Kerouac, his dog-ear short life (Kerouac had died at 47), had influenced him. How episodes in Jack’s life had some meaning. One night Phil was sitting with Alex in Jimmy’s Irish Pub in downtown Adamsville (an old haunt of theirs where the drinks were cheap for no money boys when they came of drinking age just like their fathers, uncles and older brothers before them) ostensibly to talk the talk about the mad monk Scribe when he laid out to Alex what he was thinking about. Mainly thinking about from having in the subsequent years read most of Jack’s books (and remember check out some Jack bibliography and you will have an idea of how cuckoo Phil Jacked).      

Phil, a fairly well-known writer himself for a while for alternative newspapers when they were in vogue and small literary magazines when they were not, startled Alex by saying that most of what he wrote, had written in the past, sketches and articles for magazines and journals about his early youth and young adulthood, had been fired in his imagination by Jack. He then began a long screed (that was Alex’s expression when he mentioned it to a couple of guys later reflecting that Phil had gon eon about two hours without stop) about Jack starting from some mystical river (the Merrimack) which gave Jack life and which he compared with his own river experience at the local Adamsville River. Talked of Jack boyhood Tom Sawyer-like river adventures up among the Dracut woods, about those boyhood bonding experiences and visions and about Sampas, the ghost of Sampas, the holy goof who was to do so much  in the literary world but who laid his head down in World War II. Saw the Scribe as such a kindred holy goof also laid low as a result of war.

It was at that point, after Alex had flipped out over what Phil had been blasting into his head for a couple of hours, that Phil went into cruise control about the nodal points of Jack’s life as related through books and what others had grabbed onto about him. Some of it commonplace, working class 1930s commonplace, Lowell Merrimack River textile pile up for want of customers where that other want and hunger had a field day and wanting habits, wanting habits from notebook-clutched writings to visions of unclad maidens, got great gobs of reinforcement from that want and hunger, made a small-time, small-town mill boy reach up big-handed for the stars, took notes in dime-store notebooks (Woolworth’s on Merrimack Street remember, or Hancock Street in North Adamsville where hungry boys waited on lunch counter waitresses to cook up melted chesses sandwiches the cheapest thing on the menu and later downtown Boston the scene of picket lines by young white people mainly supporting the right, Jesus yes, the right of black people down South and not just down South to have that same melted cheese sandwiches at those same lunch counters cooked by those same waitresses the cheapest thing on the menu).

Thought long and hard Jack thoughts from early childhood about the mysteries of life, about later lionized beat down beatitudes driven by station of the cross images and desires, from early on about redemption and mystery of life, of birth and of dead and older brother passed to the heavens and why and why papa died so young and such as befell Kerouac family linen (and like Irish also a Catholic thing not in public washed, fuck no, even though every other family had black sheep and secret woes). The Scribe beautiful in his chaste desires not worrying about beatitudes worrying more about Minnie Murphy’s well-turned ass sitting three rows behind her in lascivious church pews) Mentioned cannibal mother, maybe eternal cannibal mothers, mere, who make a big deal of strictly venial sins and let the older brother whoopers pass in silence) who nose-dived him every chance she could get yet he in the end, get this, could never cut that string that bound the two generations like some naughty Greek myth, mentioned not fit for work father (no, not the father searched for and never known he died in some abandoned freight yard bludgeoned by some railroad bull or from an overdose of sterno you can take your pick of the accumulated legends of the road when Neal/Dean blew out of reform school blues and hitched to Denver to begin that search that would never end unto the grave, a sullen grave down in Mexico or Florida) who died young from misery and his own small-hood hubris. 

Passed the passing time of young boy Catholic schools at old Saint Joseph’s the church of good immigrant clans from up north in the North Country over the border in Quebec who came down a few generations back to get off of starvation farms, seriously starvation places filled with robust churches and fallow fields, no mercy, have mercy, and look for work in noisy spinning mills until exhaustion set in. 

Transferred over to Acre Bartlett school and all the miseries of junior high school boy and girl hormone troubles from no give French-speaking girls whose no give made those Irish Catholic girls up the street with a Bible tucked between their knees look like street whores and so real miseries until high school track and football hero times when some be-bop girl with a big band swing voice and a flaming red dress which said come thither slaked his thirst. Then back to that Irish cunt up the streets who wouldn’t give anything and she didn’t even have a Bible between her knees. Hell he wrote a whole book about it, about her, hell, never really got over her every time he hit mother Lowell town he would ring the ring but not tot to be under some civil servant dream cloud when the age demanded, not craved unto civic death mad monk poets and guys who could make sense of what was what in the jungle of post-war America, yeah as would soon be found out craved poets, junkies, surfers, dead-of-night hot rod hipsters and outlaw motorcyclists with big cajones, called it Mary Magdalen or something like that whose younger sister who had not use for Bibles between her knees and a mouth made for carnal knowledge knowing Jack value would have given whatever she had to give if he looked her way once-thems the breaks.            

Roll Columbia, roll on all up in arms bigtime when Columbia New York City was big time and football hero Saturday afternoon dreams which would make that famous Lawrence hero game laughable but he couldn’t give up the time to pass some science test and then he broke his fucking bones and so long big time Columbia when Columbia was big time granite grey autumn afternoon gridiron exploits with crazy New York jacks and jills to make the Barnard co-ed wet. Sorry Jack but Time Square hipsters, con men, fags, yes that is what they called them then like now in hidden rooms fags, fairies, queens, queers, drags, fixer man junkies, wide-eyed dope fiends sucking benny tablets from Rexall drug store pharmacies, bent whores who for the price of once around the world would take you for a ride, would later put you up in Mexico City junkie whorehouses with short side clap and leave you restless and broke howling at some ill-spent moon-some later day be-bop world  king said that. Learned to navigate with the dime store junkies (not Woolworth’s this time but some Bargain Basement hooker hang-out doing dime needles and back street blowjobs for room and board) and street wise bandit gangster poets and Harvard-trained morphine madmen.

Most importantly maybe not recognized then but would play later when he was gone (at freaking 47 just when his juices should have been flowing, when that great big American anti-novel could have been written, hell, the material was there for it all the way from Lowell town via Quebec provinces to Denver nights and San Fran hump big high white note to the Japan seas swales) a faggy Jew boy who could croon with the Molochs, fathom up hipster angels and dank negro streets or knew the magic of medieval kabala, said high Kaddish when the time came, could sing of the long gone Whitman night with that same sadness, a fag but what of it as long as he didn’t try any rough stuff, did try to break your crack. Howled at San Fran winds and blew his own high white note and drove everybody, every square-assed poet bleeping about some bull flowers, love, romance, bugs, lepers, and gone daddies and mommies to the showers-gone. Yes, he would deliver the totem to a disbelieving world, a reckless dangerous world not looking for second –hand second-coming Messiahs.                

Start to write like some dervish mad man on any available surface.  Skip a few our mother the sea scenes and cabin fever pitches up in Artic waters near death from drowning Greenland waters and bring in the new world a-borning. A time with acre lots and ranch house breezeways and dishwaters coveted by men in grey flannel suits taking gobs of liquid medicine and headache wives all in one. Cheap jack stuff, stuff not fit for flannel-shirted, moccasin-shod, dungaree-panted Jack swilling wine in North Beach lots and new age poem reads.  And he, Jack he, looking for the meaning of existence thinking that it was on some lame Robert Frost road less travelled so crisscrossed the continent looking for what the Scribe called in his time the great blue-pink American West night (strangely both city boys, both welded Eastern city boys and so of the same mesh when all was said and done the Scribe too Jack-like done in by pitching his wanting habits to far above). A time when Jack tired of same old, same old traversed and trailed around looking for some model father Adonis Oedipus mother and wound up in a Latimer Street junkie wino hotel with wheelman to the Gods Dean Moriarty and you know how that storied began (and ended). Ended in balmy San Fran nights listening to the willows belch and cool daddies take big brass and blow baby blow, benny, sister, brother, cousin high to make tea-head moan and moan. Wrote about it on all those well-kept and organized notebooks and blasted out in some speed demon time a paper roll of words and adventures.

...Then hiatus, writing ever writing but not hip enough to make the New York publishing industry cut until the time of his time came (although he would always groan it was well pass his time, pass the time of Mexican whores, New York City weirdos and father pimps, dope-chokers and wino flippers and he may have been right who knows) Known: Jack caught some pregnant fever pitch among the young post-war maddened atomic bomb death walk-outs who took up surfing, hot cars, wandering, outlaw motorcycles and to while their times and forget those bomb shelter Hiroshima dead. The rest would be history.

Strangely the rest would be played out in small coffeehouses and cabarets, out in open air parks and other greenspaces by guys like now straight as an arrow if not straighter Alex James and bent out of shape Scribe seeking that newer world that he never was able to catch up to. Caught in notoriety and big bang televisions shows with guys asking him about why if he was looking for that lost father he was father to hell-bent stragglers and misfits, the lord of the misfits he was called and maybe they were right. When the deal went south though he was blocked up with wifey, mere, and a junkie’s gin bottle all for a candid world to see. Sixty years later it still beats a quickened heartbeat to a sullen world. Thanks Ti Jean               

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac-On The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" -A "Beat" Hero- The Legendary Dean Moriarty (Oops) Neal Cassady

On The 60th Anniversary Of Jack Kerouac's  "On The Road" -A "Beat" Hero- The Legendary Dean Moriarty (Oops) Neal Cassady

Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for the model for " the king of the beat writers" Jack Kerouac's Dean Moriarty in the classic "On The Road", Neal Cassady.

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 for kicks, for stuff, important stuff that had happened down in the base of society where nobody in authority was looking 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. (Yes,  I know that the actual term “beat” was first used by Kerouac writer friend John Clemmon Holmes in an article in some arcane journal but the “feel” had to have come from a less academic source so I will crown the bandit prince Corso as genesis) 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 they called “blowing to the China seas” out in West Coast jazz and blues circles, that high white note he heard achieved one skinny night by famed sax man Sonny Johns, 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 diners’ 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 and so very appropriate to mention since there were a million threads, fibers, connections between “beat” and “hippie” despite dour grandpa Jack’s attempts to trash those connection when they acolytes came calling looking for the “word.” 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 (not found on the AAA, Traveler’s Aid, Youth Hostel brochure circuit if you please although Jack and the crowd, my brother and his crowd later would use such services when up against it in let’s say a place like Winnemucca in the Nevadas or Neola in the heartlands). Literary stuff for sure but the kind of stuff that moves generations, or I like to think the best parts of those cohorts. These were the creation documents the latter of which would drive Alex west before he finally settled down to his career life as a high-road lawyer (and to my sorrow and anger never looked back).             

Of course anytime you talk about books and poetry and then add my brother’s Alex 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, Frankie, Jack, Jimmy, Si, Josh (he a separate story from up in Olde Saco, Maine),   Bart, and a few others still alive recently had me put together a tribute book for in connection with that Summer of Love, 1967, their birthright event, 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 any 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(after an incredible publishing travail since the story line actually related to events in the late 1940s and which would cause Jack no end of trauma when the kids showed up at his door looking to hitch a ride on the motherlode star, 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, like I say I think the best part, 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 on the road 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 and semi-tragic 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 for fear of being tarred with those brushes. 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 any way they could 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 bit “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 now also a high-road lawyer 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 Bob 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 Jack wrote the final version of the thing on a damn newspaper scroll in about three weeks. 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.           

The Golden Age Of The B-Film Noir- “The Black Glove” (1954)

The Golden Age Of The B-Film Noir- “The Black Glove” (1954)

DVD Review

By Film Editor Emeritus Sam Lowell

The Black Glove, starring Alex Nichol, Hammer Productions, 1954

Recently in a review of the British film Terror Street (distributed in Britain as 36 Hours) I noted that long time readers of this space know, or should be presumed to know, of my long-standing love affair with film noir. I went on to mention my introduction to the classic age of film noir in this country in the age of black and white film in the 1940s and 1950s when I would sneak over to the now long gone and replaced by condos Strand Theater in growing up town North Adamsville and spent a long double feature Saturday afternoon watching some then current production from Hollywood or some throwback from the 1940s which Mister Cadger, the affable owner who would let me sneak in for kid’s ticket prices long after I reached the adult price stage at twelve I think it was, would show in retrospective to cut down on expenses in tough times by avoiding having to pay for first –run movies all the time. I further mentioned that on infrequent occasions would attend a nighttime showing (paying full price after age twelve since parents were presumed to have the money to spring  for full prices) with my parents if my strict Irish Catholic mother (strict on the mortal sin punishment for what turned out to have been minor or venial sins) thought the film passed the Legion of Decency standard that we had to stand up and take a yearly vow to uphold and I could under the plotline without fainting (or getting “aroused” by the fetching femmes).
What I did not mention although long time readers should be aware of this as well was that when I found some run of films that had a similar background I would “run the table” on the efforts. That is the case with a recently obtained cache of British-centered 1950s film noirs put out by the Hammer Production Company as they tried to cash in on the popularity of the genre for the British market (and the relatively cheap price of production in England). Terror Street had been the first review in this series (each DVD by the way contains two films the second Danger On The Wings in that DVD not worthy of review) and the film under review the ominously titled The Black Glove is the second such effort. On the basis of these three viewings I will have to admit they are clearly B-productions none of them would make anything but a second or third tier rating.         

After all as mentioned before in that first review look what they were up against. For example who could forget up on that big screen for all the candid world to see a sadder but wiser seen it all, heard it all Humphrey Bogart at the end of the Maltese Falcon telling all who would listen that he, he Sam Spade no stranger to the seamy side and cutting corners, had had to send femme fatale Mary Astor his snow white flame over once she spilled too much blood, left a trail of corpses, for the stuff of dreams over some damn bird. Or cleft-chinned barrel-chested Robert Mitchum keeping himself out of trouble in some dink town as a respectable citizen but knowing he was doomed and out of luck for his seedy past taking a few odd bullets from his former femme fatale trigger-happy girlfriend Jane Greer once she knew he had double-crossed her to the coppers in Out Of The Past. Ditto watching the horror on smart guy gangster Eddie Mars face after being outsmarted because he had sent a small time grafter to his doom when prime private detective Phillip Marlowe, spending the whole film trying to do the right thing for an old man with a couple of wild daughters, ordered him out the door to face the rooty-toot-toot of his own gunsels who expected Marlowe to be coming out in The Big Sleep. Those were some of the beautiful and still beautiful classics whose lines you can almost hear anytime you mention the words film noir.

In the old days before I retired I always liked to sketch out a film’s plotline to give the reader the “skinny” on what the action was so that he or she could see where I was leading them. I will continue that old tradition here (as I did with Terror Street and will do in future Hammer Production vehicles to be reviewed over the coming period) to make my point about the lesser production values of the Hammer products. A saving grace of The Black Glove is that the lead guy, the guy whose task it is to solve the mystery of the murder of a London torch-singer whom he barely had known but who had the come hither look that might have played out in pillow talk if she had been not killed with a couple of unexplained slugs is that the “private eye” double-downs as a big time American in London trumpet-player. Yeah, a guy who despite his off-hand detective work is searching for the high white note every jazz guy, hell, maybe everybody involved with music, is looking to corral and sent out into the streets. To make aficionados and amateurs remember his calling card.         

Famous trumpeter James Bradley, known as Brad, played by Alex Nichol, by happenstance hears some torch-singer on his way back to his hotel after a well-received concert in some London large venue. He takes the leap and goes into the place where the music comes from and sees this dishy dame singing torch stuff to beat the band. They meet and between one thing and another they wind up at her apartment although no sexual stuff happened as far as we know. That is when things go awry. That dishy dame torch singer is found dead by gunshot after Brad leaves. Naturally he is the number one suspect for the job, for the frame as could be expected of a guy leaving some dishy dames place late at night and no other candidates for the frame are around. Something about the whole thing didn’t sit right with him once the coppers let him go after they grilled and half-believed his story (although he no-no left his trumpet case in the dishy dames living room). So he began to see if the pieces could be fit together see who put the frame on him and why.         

As expected Brad figures it out. Seems that dishy dame had been part of an up and coming young women trio that never quite got off the ground. Reason, one reason anyway-tangled romances. Tangled romances involving a high-end jazz piano player who really just wanted to play his stuff, another well-known jazz piano player and a record company producer. One way or another they were all involved with that dead dame. Like I said Brad figured it out via his knowledge of music. Figured it out very much like Nick Charles did in The Thin Man series from the 1940s where he brought every possible suspect into a room with coppers at the ready to grab the villain. You know you can never trust a record producer who should have been the prime suspect from minute one. In the end our Brad though gives up the “tec” business and goes back to searching for that high white note every jazz guy is looking for. Better that Terror Street but can’t get pass that Blue Gardenia second tier in the film noir pantheon. Sorry Hammer.