Saturday, December 21, 2019

In The Beginning Was The Jug- The Jim Kweskin Jug Band

In The Beginning Was The Jug- The Jim Kweskin Jug Band

As told to Alex Radley

Who knows how it happened maybe somebody in the band looked up some songs in the album archives, or found some gem in some record store, an institution now on the ropes what with Amazon and every other on-line music site to tear into the very marginal profits of record store brick and mortar operations, that sustained many for hours back then in the cusp of the 1960s folk revival when there were record stores on almost every corner in places like Harvard Square and you could find some gems if you searched long enough. That is where Si Lannon found Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (although sometimes the search was barren or, maybe worse, something by Miss Patti Page or Tennessee Ernie Ford stared you in the face and you got pissed off that those selections were even in a record store). From there they found, maybe Cannon’s Stompers, the Mississippi Sheiks or the Memphis Jug Band, saw they could prosper going back to those days if they kept the arrangements simple, and that was that.

See, everybody then was looking for roots, American music roots, old country roots, roots of some ancient thoughts of a democratic America before the robber barons and their progeny grabbed everything with every hand. And that search was no accident, at least from the oral history evidence, from Si Lannon in this case, having grown up with rock and roll and restless for something new, found in that minute that genre wanting.  Some went reaching South to the homeland of much roots music and found some grizzled old geezers who had made a small name for themselves in the 1920s when labels like RCA and Paramount went out looking for talent in the hinterlands.

So there was history there, certainly for the individual members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Jim, Geoff Mulduar, Mel Lymon, Maria Muldaur, Fritz Richmond , all well-versed in many aspects of the American Songbook (hell, I would say so, even old tacky Tin Pan Alley Irving Berlin and Cole Porter got a hearing), history there for the taking. All they needed was a jug, a good old boy homemade corn liquor jug giving the best sound and so they were off, off to conquer places like Harvard Square, like the Village, like almost any place in the Bay area. (That Bay Area a few years later a hub for all kinds of rock but also saved space for the Kweskin Band as a number of poster art concerts now considered high art would testify even in that Summer of Love craze, maybe because of it.)  And for a while they did, picking up chimes, kazoos, harmonicas, what the heck, even standard guitars and they made great music, great entertainment music, not heavy with social messages but just evoking those long lost spirits from the 1920s when jug music would sustain a crowd on a Saturday night out in the hinterlands. Yeah, in the beginning was the jug…    

The Christmas Truce by Kathryn Louise Sugg Willard

The Christmas Truce by Kathryn Louise Sugg Willard

But the nature of War is to fight,
And it did not stay far from that night.
The Christmas Truce soon became a memory.

100 years hence, and we all now see
They had something special that we must find
For the world to share with all mankind.

Christmas Truce Poem by VFP Member Gerry Kamke

The Holidays are upon us with consumerism and show,
While old-veterans like me are kind of waiting for snow.
It didn’t snow in Southeast Asia and I didn’t get cold,
A big old snow-storm would have felt as special as gold.
We’re into the 100th year of this truce,
That’s special and I wish it could be wrapped all up in Spruce.
In 1914 British and German soldiers on that special day,
Stopped fighting on the western front - just to pray.
The concept caught-on and I wish it could last,
But today’s wars are continuous and seem never in the past.
I pray the tradition continues all over the world,
And bullets plus bombs are no longer hurled!

A Very Different Look at May Day On A Non-May Day- A Personal View

Click on the headline to link to a May Day website that links to the various May Day traditions in history.

Peter Paul Markin, North Adamsville Class Of 1964, comment:

For those of a certain age, who came of age during the now ancient history Cold War, the images of May Day evokes pictures of the latest display of Soviet weaponry and of elite Red Army military units marching in step in Red Square in Moscow before some glowering delegation from the Communist Party Politburo and other invited dignities. Such pictures gave the usually information-starved and speculation-crazy Western Sovietologists plenty of ammunition for figuring out who was “in” and who was “out” in the internal party regime. At least until the next public display on the November 7th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution when the search for the elusive “musical chairs” would start all over again.

For others, more historically-oriented, perhaps, May Day evokes the struggle for the eight hour work day, the class struggle, and the heroic Chicago Haymarket martyrs. Those with a more recent interest in the day may evoke the continuing struggle for the recognition of immigrant rights, for full citizenship rights for those who have made it here, here more recently. Now all of these are worthy, if highly political, views of May Day and I certainly have no quarrel with those evocations. However, just for the few minutes that it takes to write this entry I wish to evoke another, more ancient, more pagan, vision of May Day that, strangely, may dovetail with the motives behind those more political expressions put forth on this day.

I, of course, refer to the ancient roots of the holiday or rather the pre-Christian religious significance of the day as a day of renewal and of homage to the virtues of spring. Especially for those hoary masses whose heritage stems from the British Isles. Under normal circumstances I would not necessarily be in a mood to reflect on this aspect of the day but a couple of things have set me to thinking about it. The first, as a result of having recently read a number of 19th century American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Puritan-etched short stories, including “The May Pole Of Merry Mount,” got me thinking about that May Day pagan scenario and also about how deeply, even now, the formal Puritan ethic that frowned on such celebrations is embedded in our common cultural experiences. The second had to do with childhood reflections of our kid's version of May basket, May Day.

As to the first, whatever the “official” line is on Puritan history here in America and in England as laid down by the likes of Professors Perry Miller and Hugh Trevor-Roper, to name a couple that come mind, I am privy to a “secret” history of the doings of the old Puritan stock. While Hawthorne’s Puritans, as he sternly portrayed them, are no friends to the fun-loving that is rather more his hang up and his way to make a quick dollar on that saga from punishment fetishists who hide his works in some back bureau drawer and only take out on special occasions. The real “skinny” on the Puritans here and back in the old country is that they were not adverse to a little “good times,” just not in excess.

How is one to otherwise make sense of that little ménage of Pricilla and John Alden and Myles Standish down at Plymouth Plantation in the old days? Or the real story about Tommy Wollaston’s wood fetish over at the rolling hills of Merrymount. Or how about Governor’ Winthrop’s private dope stash that he tried to pass off as tobacco (and which he claimed, like some future bourgeois leaders who will remained unmentioned, he in any case did not inhale). And to complete the story on the other side of the ocean, in old Mother England, how about arch-Puritan poet and revolutionary John Milton’s open endorsement of concubinage, including, and I “reveal” this here for the first time, his own bevy of "ladies." “A Paradise within Thee, Happier Far,” indeed. For a long time the poem "Paradise Lost" was a book with seven seals. Now it all fits. And I should not fail to mention the other well-known arch-Puritan Oliver Cromwell whose well-hidden drinking problem (he called it his "tea," high tea, wink-wink) goes a long way to explaining those rash outbursts when Parliament was in session. Rump, indeed.

Okay, I am sure that the reader has had enough of my 'insight' into the rough stuff of the seamy edges of history. I will reprieve you with a final few thoughts about my own childhood relationship to this other May Day. Of course, I am something of a “homer” on this one, at least on the pre and post-Puritan English traditions since I grew up frequently passing the site of the Merry Mount May Pole (now on land used as a cemetery) at Mount Wollaston, which is a part of Adamsville, the town where I grew up. I knew this story as part of Adamsville town history from very early on. I am not sure whether it was through a teacher or by the local city historian, Edward Rowe Snow, but I knew all about old Tommy Wollaston and his crowd of "wild boys and girls". Sounded like fun, and it was.

On kid time May Day, as I recall, we were given little May crepe paper-lined baskets with a chocolate treat in it from one or another source, and in at least one year we danced around the Puritan-forbidden May Pole. I guess, even then, I had a secret desire that old Tommy should have won. Call me a pagan but that is the truth. But also note this, to kind of put this little “fluff” piece in perspective. Isn’t, in the final analysis, either the old pagan ritual or the newer May Pole festivity emblematic of the kind of thing that those of us who are trying to create “a newer world” aiming for. To make the world and its pleasures in common, for everyone. I think that I am on to something here. May Day greetings in advance from this space.

In The Time Of The Second Mountain Music Revival- A Songcatcher Classic Song- "Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies"-Maybelle Carter-Style

In The Time Of The Second Mountain Music Revival- A Songcatcher Classic Song- "Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies"-Maybelle Carter-Style

As told to Si Lannon

A YouTube film clip of a classic Song-Catcher-type song from deep in the mountains, Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies. According to my sources Cecil Sharpe (a British musicologist in the manner of Francis Child with his ballads, Charles Seeger, and the Lomaxes, father and son when they headed south and west to fink the “people’s music”)"discovered" the song in 1916 in Kentucky. Of course my first connection to the song had nothing to do with the mountains, or mountain origins, or so I though at the time but was heard the first time long ago in my ill-spent 1960s youth listening to a late Sunday night folk radio show on WBZ in Boston hosted by Dick Summer (who is featured on the 2012 Tom Rush documentary No Regrets about Tom’s life in the early 1960s Boston folk scene) and hearing the late gravelly-voiced folksinger Dave Van Ronk like some latter-day Jehovah doing his version of the song. I know the next day I rushed over to the now exiled out in Utah somewhere Allan Jackson’s house and asked him if he had heard the song the previous night. He said hell no. This before he became a serious folk aficionado and was still hung up on some lollipop music that all the neighborhood high school girls were going crazy over, a bunch of Bobbies, I forget the last names, and so required some attention if he was to get anywhere with Diana Nelson. 

But that was high school dream stuff so I let it go then. A couple of years later when he was in college at Boston University he took a date to the long gone Club Nana over in Harvard Square to hear Dave Von Ronk play and where he did the song. He called me the next saying that he finally got it. By the way the way that Club Nana date came about was that his date was crazy for Dave Von Ronk. Some things never changed. In all quite a bit different from the Maybelle Carter effort here. I'll say.

[By the way that “or so I thought” about mountain music later turned out to be not quite true. My father from coal country Hazard, Kentucky out by the hills and hollows (I refuse to write “hollas”) and my mother left Boston for a time to go back to his growing up home to see if they could make a go of it there after World War II. They could not but that was a separate story while they were there I was conceived and being carried in my mothers’ womb so it turned out the damn stuff was in my DNA. Go figure, right.]     

(A.P. Carter)
The Carter Family - 1932
Come all ye fair and tender ladies
Take warning how you court young men
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
Come all ye fair and tender ladies
Take warning how you court young men
They're like a star on summer morning
They first appear and then they're gone
They'll tell to you some loving story
And make you think they love you so well
Then away they'll go and court some other
And leave you there in grief to dwell
I wish I was on some tall mountain
Where the ivy rocks are black as ink
I'd write a letter to my lost true lover
Whose cheeks are like the morning pink
For love is handsome, love is charming
And love is pretty while it's new
But love grows cold as love grows old
And fades away like the mornin' dew

And fades away like the mornin' dew

Songs To While The Time By- The Roots Is The Toots-Lead Belly's "Bourgeois Blues"-A Song For Our Times-Build The Resistance

Songs To While The Time By- The Roots Is The Toots-Lead Belly's "Bourgeois Blues"-A Song For Our Times-Build The Resistance   

A YouTube clip to give some flavor to this subject from Leadbelly who may have sang the song seventy or eighty years ago but is not that far off now-except now it is more than just black people.

Over the past several years I have been running an occasional series in this space of songs, mainly political protest songs, you know The Internationale, Union Maid, Which Side Are You On, Viva La Quince Brigada, Universal Soldier, and such entitled Songs To While The Class Struggle By. And those songs provide our movement with that combination entertainment/political message that is an art form that we use to draw the interested around us. Even though today those interested may be counted rather than countless and the class struggle to be whiled away is rather one-sidedly going against us at present. The bosses are using every means from firing to targeting union organizing to their paid propagandists complaining that the masses are not happy with having their plight groveled in their faces like they should be while the rich, well, while away in luxury and comfort.  

But not all life is political, or rather not all music lends itself to some kind of explicit political meaning yet speaks to, let’s say, the poor sharecropper at the juke joint on Saturday listening to the country blues, unplugged, kids at the jukebox listening to high be-bop swing, other kids listening, maybe at that same jukebox now worn with play and coins listening to some guys from some Memphis record company rocking and rolling, or adults spending some dough to hear the latest from Tin Pan Alley or the Broadway musical. And so they too while away to the various aspects of the American songbook and that rich tradition is which in honored here.   

This series which could include some protest songs as well is centered on roots music as it has come down the ages and formed the core of the American songbook. You will find the odd, the eccentric, the forebears of later musical trends, and the just plain amusing here. Listen up. 

These  are the lyrics-take the "n" word part as you will but that is what he wrote.

The Bourgeois Blues
Lord, in a bourgeois town
It's a bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around
Home of the brave, land of the free
I don't wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie
Lord, in a bourgeois town
Uhm, the bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around
Well, me and my wife we were standing upstairs
We heard the white man say "I don't want no niggers up there"
Lord, in a bourgeois town
Uhm, bourgeois town
I got the bourgeois blues
Gonna spread the news all around
Well, them white folks in Washington they know how
To call a colored man a nigger just to see him bow
Lord, it's a bourgeois town
Uhm, the  

The Centennial Of Pete Seeger’s Birthday (1919-2014)- Bob Dylan Is Here- Somewhere - A Film Review Of "I'm Not There"

Click on the title to link to YouTube's interview of the movie "I'm Not There" by Todd Haynes

DVD Review

I’m Not There, starring Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Leger and others, 2007

If you want Bob Dylan at the beginning, the middle (or middles) and as he moves toward the end of his career this film is for you-if you have decoder ring. After having been introduced to Bob Dylan’s music in the early folk revival days of the 1960s, having gone on with him through the folk rock days, moved away during his preacher Bob days and have come back to his music now that he is in his dotage (otherwise known as the endless tour) it is rather nice for someone to be thoughtful enough to do a little cinematic bio of the man who has been hailed as a cultural icon.

And after watching this film is that still true? A bio you say? Of who, you say? Well, I didn’t say that it was a standard cookie- cutter bio sketch of the many lives of a performer who has been doing it for over forty years, warts and all. No, this is more in the realm of high camp, low camp, surrealism, name games and just pure whimsy as director Todd Haynes (apparently with Dylan’s approval) has set up an allegory of the six main lives of Dylan. And it works. Let’s put it this way. If you want a standard bio there are many, many good film documentaries out there (especially from the British) that chronicle one aspect or another of the ups and downs of Dylan’s recording career. Here we have a puzzle to solve, Dylan from bright young talent to old time Western codger (played by Richard Gere).

Although I would not really suggest this thing for novices, every aficionado should be viewing this thing more than once. I might add that between covers of his music by the likes of Richie Havens (a fantastic version of “Tombstone Blues” done with one of Dylan’s personas) and a sound track filled with his own performances is worth the price of admission. Moreover, Cate Blanchett’s performance as Dylan in his turning folk electric period of the mid-1960s is better than… Dylan's. Go figure.

Tombstone Blues

The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course
The city fathers they're trying to endorse
The reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse
But the town has no need to be nervous

The ghost of Belle Starr she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun she violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits
At the head of the chamber of commerce

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

The hysterical bride in the penny arcade
Screaming she moans, "I've just been made"
Then sends out for the doctor who pulls down the shade
Says, "My advice is to not let the boys in"

Now the medicine man comes and he shuffles inside
He walks with a swagger and he says to the bride
"Stop all this weeping, swallow your pride
You will not die, it's not poison"

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, "Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?"

The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, "Death to all those who would whimper and cry"
And dropping a bar bell he points to the sky
Saving, "The sun's not yellow it's chicken"

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

The king of the Philistines his soldiers to save
Puts jawbones on their tombstones and flatters their graves
Puts the pied pipers in prison and fattens the slaves
Then sends them out to the jungle

Gypsy Davey with a blowtorch he burns out their camps
With his faithful slave Pedro behind him he tramps
With a fantastic collection of stamps
To win friends and influence his uncle

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone
Causes Galileo's math book to get thrown
At Delilah who sits worthlessly alone
But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter

Now I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill
I would set him in chains at the top of the hill
Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille
He could die happily ever after

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

Where Ma Raney and Beethoven once unwrapped their bed roll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul
To the old folks home and the college

Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge

Mama's in the fact'ry
She ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley
He's lookin' for the fuse
I'm in the streets
With the tombstone blues

Copyright ©1965; renewed 1993 Special Rider Music

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac-On The 60th Anniversary Of Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl”Out In The Be-Bop 1950s Night-Allen Ginsberg: An Elegy

DVD Review

Allen Ginsberg: An Elegy, Allen Ginsberg and assorted “beat” and non-“beat” modern poets and admirers, 2004

If a rough dictionary definition of an elegy is a poem of lament and praises for the dead then this little documentary tribute to the seemingly very inelegant Allen Ginsberg is the correct term here in celebration of his life that ended in 1997. I have discussed in other entries the central role that Ginsberg played in both the “beat” literary movement of the 1950s and as the godfather of the “hippie” counterculture movement of the 1960s ("flower power" was a term coined by him. Ya, I know dated, very dated). I have also mentioned the influence that he had (and they over him as more material from this period, especially his “Journals” have come to publication) over his fellow literary figures from the earlier period, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Neal Cassady and too many others to list here properly.

I have also spoken about the influence and affect such classic Ginsberg poems as “Howl” and “Kaddish” had on me when I first read and then heard them. No, not at the time they were written and read, especially that famous (or infamous) reading of “Howl” in that ‘garage’ in San Francisco in 1956. What could a ten year old boy from the low rent public housing projects make of Whitmanesque plea to rethink the contours of modern American industrial society. Especially of a pious Catholic boy in regard to a Jewish writer who swore and talked about homosexuality in a positive sense, to boot. Moreover, he did not “speak” to me even during the height of the “hippie” movement but rather a little latter when I actually heard his work read both by himself and others. The essential blues rhythm beat that I believe influenced and drove his work finally meshed with the blues beat in my own head.

And that last point from the last sentence is exactly the point the producers of this effect have tried to reach for by bringing many of the poets from Ginsberg’s time, most importantly Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder, and some of those who were influenced by him to read from his work and share their recollections. Additionally, as seems to be just right for a poet who whatever his vast literary abilities was very aware of the need to play the troubadour to get his work before the public there are plenty of segments of his reading himself, especially the lyrical “death” poem which ends the presentation.

Kudos to all kinds of people here from the readers to those like Anne Charters who have spent their whole academic careers trying to get the word out about the “beats” importance to the modern American literary tradition. Yes, beat and blues that is the essential Ginsberg language. It might be underappreciated now, but we need it more than ever as we face the “monster’ of today’s version of the American post-industrial society.
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)


For Carl Solomon


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,

who passed through universities with radiant eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,

who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,

who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,

who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,

who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night

with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,

incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping towards poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,

Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,

who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,

who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,

who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,

a lost batallion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon

yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,

whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,

who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,

suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,

who wandered around and around at midnight in the railway yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,

who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,

who studied Plotinus Poe St John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah because the universe instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,

who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels,

who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,

who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,

who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,

who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving nothing behind but the shadow of dungarees and the larva and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago,

who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets,

who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism, who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,

who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,

who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,

who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,

who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,

who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,

who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,

who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword,

who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman's loom,

who copulated ecstatic and insatiate and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,

who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but were prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,

who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver—joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses' rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,

who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hungover with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,

who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open full of steamheat and opium,

who created great suicidal dramas on the appartment cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion,

who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of the Bowery,

who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music,

who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts, who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,

who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,

who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom,

who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,

who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for an Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,

who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried,

who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,

who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,

who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,

who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch Birmingham jazz incarnation,

who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,

who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,

who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other's salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,

who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz,

who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave,

who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,

who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturerson Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with the shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,

and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,

who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,

returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,

Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,

with mother finally *****, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger on the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—

ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you're really in the total animal soup of time—

and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrating plane,

who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soulbetween 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus

to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,

the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,

and rose incarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America's naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio

with the absolute heart of the poem butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.


What sphinx of cement and aluminium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?

Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!

Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgement! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovas! Moloch whose factories dream and choke in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!

Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!

Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!

Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!

Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisable suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!

They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!

Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstacies! gone down the American river!

Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!

Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!

Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!


Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland

where you're madder than I am

I'm with you in Rockland

where you must feel strange

I'm with you in Rockland

where you imitate the shade of my mother

I'm with you in Rockland

where you've murdered your twelve secretaries

I'm with you in Rockland

where you laugh at this invisible humour

I'm with you in Rockland

where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter

I'm with you in Rockland

where your condition has become serious and is reported on the radio

I'm with you in Rockland

where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses

I'm with you in Rockland

where you drink the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica

I'm with you in Rockland

where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the harpies of the Bronx

I'm with you in Rockland

where you scream in a straightjacket that you're losing the game of actual pingpong of the abyss

I'm with you in Rockland

where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse

I'm with you in Rockland

where fifty more shocks will never return your soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void

I'm with you in Rockland

where you accuse your doctors of insanity and plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha

I'm with you in Rockland

where you will split the heavens of Long Island and resurrect your living human Jesus from the superhuman tomb

I'm with you in Rockland

where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale

I'm with you in Rockland

where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won't let us sleep

I'm with you in Rockland

where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls collapse O skinny legions run outside O starry-spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here O victory forget your underwear we're free

I'm with you in Rockland

in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night

Transatlantic Howl! A Dedication to Allen Ginsberg
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revised September 2009

Friday, December 20, 2019

Significance of the 1914 Christmas Truce by S. Brian Willson

Significance of the 1914 Christmas Truce by S. Brian Willson

"Thus, humans desperately need to re-discover and nourish examples of disobedience to political authority systems which have created 14,600 wars since the advent of civilization some 5,500 years ago. Over the past 3,500 years there have been nearly 8,500 treaties signed in efforts to end warfare, to no avail because the vertical structures of power have remained intact which demand obedience in their efforts to expand territory, power or resource base. The future of the species, and lives of most other species, are at stake, as we wait for humans to come to our right mind, both individually and collectively.
The 1914 Christmas Truce of one hundred years ago was an extraordinary example of how wars can only continue if soldiers agree to fight. It needs to be honored and celebrated, even if it was only a flash of a moment in time. It represents the potential of human disobedience to insane policies. As German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht proclaimed, 'General, your tank is a powerful vehicle. It smashes down forests, and crushes a Hundred men. But it has one defect: it needs a driver."15 If commoners refused en masse to drive the tank of war, the leaders would be left to fight their own battles. They would be brief."

From The Partisan Defense Committee- Honoring a Class-War Prisoner Tom Manning 1946–2019-All honor to Tom Manning! Free Jaan Laaman- He Must Not Die In Jail ! The Last Of The Ohio Seven -Give To The Class-War Political Prisoners' Holiday Appeal

From The Partisan Defense Committee- Honoring a Class-War Prisoner  Tom Manning  1946–2019-All honor to Tom Manning! Free Jaan Laaman- He Must Not Die In Jail ! The Last Of The Ohio Seven -Give To The Class-War Political Prisoners' Holiday Appeal

Workers Vanguard No. 1159
23 August 2019
Honoring a Class-War Prisoner
Tom Manning
After more than three decades of torment in America’s dungeons, class-war prisoner Tom Manning died on July 30 at the federal penitentiary in Hazelton, West Virginia. The official cause of death was a heart attack, but it was the sadistic prison authorities who were responsible for the death of Manning, one of the last two incarcerated Ohio 7 leftists. In retaliation for his unwavering opposition to racial oppression and U.S. imperialism and his continued political activism, the jailers treated his medical needs with deliberate indifference and delayed necessary medication. His comrade and former prisoner Ray Luc Levasseur bitterly remarked, “Supporters scrambled to get a lawyer in to see him, but death arrived first.” Although we Marxists do not share the political strategy of the Ohio 7, we have always forthrightly defended them against capitalist state repression.
Born in Boston to a large Irish family, Manning knew firsthand the life of working-class misery. In a short autobiographical sketch appearing in For Love and Liberty (2014), a collection of his artwork, he described how his father, a longshoreman and a postal clerk, worked himself to death “trying to get one end to meet the other...he always got the worst end.” A young Tom shined shoes and sold newspapers, while roaming the docks and freight yards looking for anything that could be converted into cash or bartered. Later, he worked as a stock boy and then as a construction laborer. After joining the military in 1963, he was stationed in Guantánamo Bay and then Vietnam.
After returning to the U.S., Manning ended up in state prison for five years. “Given the area where I grew up, and being a ’Nam vet,” he wrote, “prison was par for the course.” There he became politicized, engaging in food and work strikes and reading Che Guevara. As Levasseur observed in 2014, “When Tom Manning and I first met 40 years ago, we were 27 years old and veterans of mule jobs, the Viet Nam war, and fighting our way through American prisons. We also harbored an intense hatred of oppression and a burning desire to organize resistance.”
Moved by these experiences, Manning joined with a group of young leftist radicals in the 1970s and ’80s. Early on, they participated in neighborhood defense efforts in Boston against rampaging anti-busing racists and helped run a community bail fund and prison visitation program in Portland, Maine. They also ran a radical bookstore, which the cops targeted for surveillance, harassment, raids and assault.
The activists, associated with the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Unit in the 1970s and the United Freedom Front in the ’80s, took responsibility for a series of bombings that targeted symbols of South African apartheid and U.S. imperialism, which they described as “armed propaganda.” Some of these actions were directed against Mobil Oil and U.S. military installations in solidarity with the struggle for Puerto Rican independence by the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation). For these deeds, the Feds branded them “terrorists” and “extremely dangerous”—that is, issuing a license to kill.
As targets of a massive manhunt, the young anti-imperialist fighters went underground for nearly ten years and were placed on the FBI’s ten most wanted list. Manning was captured in 1985 and sentenced to 58 years in federal prison. He was also sentenced to 80 years in New Jersey for the self-defense killing of a state trooper in 1981.
The Ohio 7 became the poster children for the Reagan administration’s campaign to criminalize leftist political activity, declaring it domestic terrorism. In 1989, three of them—Ray and Patricia Levasseur and Richard Williams—were tried on trumped-up charges of conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government under the RICO “anti-racketeering” law and a 1948 sedition act. With Ray Levasseur and Williams (who died in prison in 2005) already sentenced to enough years to be locked up for the rest of their lives, the prosecution served no purpose other than to revive moribund sedition laws, which have been used historically to imprison and deport reds and anarchists. Despite the fact that the government spent nearly $10 million on the trial, the jury refused to convict.
Manning spent half a lifetime in prison hell, marked by his torturers as a cop killer and brutalized for his left-wing political views. Stun-gunned, tear-gassed and dragged around by leg irons, he was kept in solitary for extended periods. Shortly after his arrest, he was body-slammed onto a concrete floor while cuffed to a waist chain and in leg irons, resulting in a hip fracture that was not repaired until years later. On a separate occasion, his right knee was permanently injured when five guards stomped on it. Yet another beating with his hands behind his back severely injured his shoulders. All in all, he had a total of 66 inches of scar tissue. But Manning remained unbroken. Among other things, he spoke out on behalf of other class-war prisoners, and he was also an accomplished artist behind bars.
The actions of the Ohio 7 were not crimes from the standpoint of the working class. However, their New Left strategy of “clandestine armed resistance” by a handful of courageous leftists despaired of organizing the proletariat in mass struggle against the bourgeoisie. The multiracial working class, under the leadership of a revolutionary party fighting for a socialist future, is the central force capable of sweeping away the capitalist system and its repressive state machinery, not least the barbaric prisons.
The Ohio 7 differed from the bulk of 1960s New Left radicals by their working-class origins and dedication to their principles; they never made peace with the capitalist order. Unlike most of the left, which refused to defend the Ohio 7 against government persecution, the SL and the Partisan Defense Committee have always stood by them, including through the PDC’s class-war prisoner stipend program.
In an August 2 letter to the PDC, Manning’s lifelong comrade-in-arms Jaan Laaman (the last remaining Ohio 7 prisoner) eulogized:
“Now Tom is gone. Our comrade, my comrade, who suffered years of medical neglect and medical abuse in the federal prison system, your struggle and suffering is now over brother. But your example, your words, deeds, even your art, lives on. You truly were a ‘Boston Irish Rebel,’ a life long Man of and for the People, a warrior, a person of compassion motivated by hope for the future and love for the common people, A Revolutionary Freedom Fighter.”
All honor to Tom Manning! Free Jaan Laaman!

Upon The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of "King OF The Beats" Jack Kerouac--On The 60th Anniversary Of Allan Ginsberg’s “Howl” Not Ready For Prime Time Class Struggle-The Baby-Boomer Birth Of The Search For The Blue-Pink American Western Night- “American Graffiti”-Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of a segment of American Graffiti, featuring the lead-up to the hot rod duel.

DVD Review

American Graffiti, starring Richard Dreyfus, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford, Paul LeMat, directed by George Lucas, 1973

Recently in this space I have been deep in remembrances of the influences, great and small, of the 1950s “beats” on my own sorry teen-aged alienation and teen-aged angst (sometimes they were separate anguishes, sometimes tied together like inseparable twins, mostly the later) and the struggle to find my place in the sun, to write in bright lights my own beat plainsong. Of course, that influence was blown over me second-hand as I was just a little too young, or too wide-world unconscious, to be there at the creation, on those first roads west, those first fitfully car-driven, gas-fuelled, thumb hanging-out, sore-footed, free exploration west, in body and mind. That first great rush of the adrenal in trying to discover, eternally discover as it has turned out, the search for the meaning of the great blue-pink American West night. Ah, pioneer-boys, thanks.

I just got a whiff, a passing whiff of that electric-charged air, the sweet “be-bop”, bop-bop, real gone daddy, cooled-out, pipe-filled with whatever, jazz-sexed, high white note blown, howling in the wind plainsong afterglow. Moreover, somewhat tarnished, a little sullen and withdrawn, and media-used up by my time. More than one faux black chino-wearing, black beret’d, stringy-bearded, nightshade sun-glassed, pseudo-poetic-pounding, television-derived fakir crossed my path in Harvard Square in those high stakes early 1960s high school days. And a few real ones, as well. (A couple, whom I still pass occasionally, giving a quick nod to, have never given up the ghost and still haunt the old square looking for the long-gone, storied Hayes-Bickford, a place where the serious and the fakirs gathered in the late night before dawn hour to pour out their souls, via mouth or on paper). More to the point, I came to late to be able to settle comfortably into that anti-political world that the “beats” thrived in. Great political and social events were unfolding and I wanted in, feverishly wanted in, with both hands.

You know some of the beat leaders, the real ones, don’t you? Remembered, seemingly profusely remembered now, by every passing acquaintance with some specimen to present. Now merely photo-plastered, book wrote, college english department deconstruction’d , academic journal-debated, but then in full glory plaid shirt, white shirt, tee shirt, dungarees, chinos, sturdy foot-sore cosmic traveler shoes, visuals of heaven’s own angel bums, if there was a heaven and there were angels and if that locale needed bums.

Jack, million hungry word man-child sanctified, Lowell mills-etched and trapped and mother-fed, Jack Kerouac. Allen, om-om-om, bop, bop, mantra-man, mad Paterson-trapped, modern plainsong-poet-in-chief, Allen Ginsberg. William, sweet opium dream (or, maybe, not so sweet when the supply ran out), needle-driven, sardonic, ironic, chronic, Tangiers-trapped, Harvard man (finally, a useful one, oops, sorry), Williams S. Burroughs. Neal, wild word, wild gesture, out of ashcan all-America dream man, tire-kicking, oil-checking, gas-filling, zen master wheelman gluing the enterprise together, Neal Cassady. And a whirling crowd of others, including mad, street-wise, saint-gunsel, Gregory Corso. I am a little fuzzy these days on the genesis of my relationship to this crowd (although a reading of Ginsberg’s Howl was probably first in those frantic, high school, Harvard Square, poetry-pounding, guitar-strummed, existential word space, coffee, no sugar, I’ll have a refill, please, fugitive dream’d, coffeehouse-anchored days). This I know. I qualified, in triplicate, teen angst, teen alienation, teen luddite as a card-carrying member in those days.

That brings us to the film under review, American Graffiti, and its relationship to the birth of the search for the blue-pink great American West night promised to be discussed in the headline. Well, let me run through the plot line for those who are not familiar with idea behind the film, or are too young to have a clue as to such goings-on but might want to know what the old fogies, their parents or (ouch) grandparents were up to (or thought they were up to) back in the days, or are the peers of those 1960s baby-boomers enshrined in the film, but have forgotten a thing or two since they watched the thing in 1973 (another ouch).

The opening scene sets the whole film up. A very spiffy, well-dressed, well-scrubbed, well-mannered (mostly), middle class crew of 1962-era Southern California suburban valley kids with plenty of disposable income at hands, are gathering for one last tribal meeting before they go their separate ways in the great adult grind-it-out, eyes-straight-forward, shoulder-to-the-wheel, little boxes world at their main club house, Mel’s fast food drive-in (already I have lost the younger set on that last point, on the non-mall food court, drive-in thing, right?). How did they get to said gathering spot, you might ask? Come on now, this is wide open-spaced California suburban valley how else would they get there other that in their own personal “teen mobiles.” Jesus, do I have to tell you everything.

They come in one and twos, mainly, in some of the best-looking “boss” car (excuse my reversion to an old-time term for excellence, automobile division) that you will see these days outside of an automobile museum. And besides that, many of them, the cars that is, are “souped-up” (look that one up yourself), especially valley hot-rod-king of the hill, John (played by Paul LeMat), and his yellow (mustard yellow, wow, can you believe that?) little deuce coup (ditto on the look up). Here is the point though, the main point even in this pre-1960s rebellion period, none of the cars look anything like any parent would drive, or could drive (except the few dweeby cars borrowed for the evening from some plaint, or beaten-down, beaten down by teen argument parent). Yes indeed, this is a gathering of the California branch of “youth nation” in all their tribal finery.

As is to be expected of a teen-centered (amazingly teen-centered, adults get merely cameo appearances in this one, and that seems about right) drama the plot line thins out considerably after the flash at Mel’s. Mainly, it is about a single night’s search for the 1962 version of the California blue-pink night (more on this below). And what drives that search? Cruising, natch. Why spend the time and expense involved in a “boss” car (you know that word now, right?) if you don’t create a stir up and down the main drag boulevard looking for…. , you can easily fill in that blank yourself. The rest of the plot centers on such eternal questions as the young leaving home and hearth to face the great wide world (here to be or not to be a college freshman by stars Ron Howard, as Steve, and Richard Dreyfus, as Curt), the usual boy looking for girl thing (including by oldster hot-rod king, Johnny) that I have endlessly reported on elsewhere in this space and that is not worthy of comment in a teen film. What else could such a film be about? Teen break-ups (Howard and Cindy Williams, as Laurie), cruising, stopping at Mel’s for some car-hopped fast food, cruising, a little hot- rod duel ( between Johnny and, ah, one Harrison Ford) on those open California highways (what else are they for?), and then daylight and the rude old work-a-day world intrudes, even on sanctified teen life.

This is one time though that I do not do justice to a film with a summary because this thing is well-directed, well-produced, and well-acted by a crew of then very young unknowns (mostly) that would go on to all kinds of other cinematic successes (including hot-rod runner-up, ah, Ford). The sense of déjà vu for this Eastern U.S.-born baby-boomer, including a great high school dance segment and a soundtrack that reads out of every classic Oldies But Goodies compilation that I have ever reviewed, was palpable, without being maudlin. Kudos

So what connection can be drawn, one might rightly ask in a review of American Graffiti, a film that depicts a snapshot of a then respectable early 1960s coming-of-age teen-driven culture. With, by then, a respectable post-birth of rock and roll (cleaned up of the “bad boys” like Jerry Lee Lewis) soundtrack. That also pays homage to a then very respectable post-Great Depression Okie-Akie invasion middle class-driven suburban valley life-style, and its respectable (mostly) California teen “boss” car culture. And highlights a then respectable superficial teen angst (“do you like my finger nails painted in crimson red or rose red?”, “do you want Pepsi or Coke with your hamburger, hold the onions?”, or something along those lines) and the search for now respectably beatified “beat” culture great blue-pink American West night? A film which, moreover, has not the slightest reference to, nor can in any way be taken to have been produced under the under the sign of, the “beats.” Hell, not even a Maynard G. Krebs (from the old time media image of beatniks television show, Dobey Gillis) beatnik caricature in the lot. Nada.

The closest that any character comes is my boy John, “greaser”, deuce coup, hot rod-king-of- the-hill, and working class poet (limited lyric car poet, okay)/ existential philosopher. And he doesn’t count because he has been around since Hector was a pup, is seen as an eternal “townie” by his middle class brethren, and is a throwback to James Dean and Marlon Brando 1950s California cool. And those guys (I mean the characters they played in Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One not them as personalities, they were cool, no question) weren’t beat, no way. Beside John’s angst, important but kind of universal as it is, for some dewy-eyed female teeny-bopper to sit next to him in that old jalopy as he cruises those great California valley night highways is not the stuff of tragedy. Not in my book anyway, and I also had more than my share of that kind of teen angst.

No, what this film connects to, and connects to visually in the first instance, is that great big old search for that pink-blue American Western night that the “beats”, at least what I think the beats were searching for when they were doing their breakout from the post- World War II American crank-out death machine night. The shift from the Eastern American dark night westward (mainly, although some of beats were already vanguard- hovering around San Francisco waiting for the boys to come off the roads from the east and establish what was what) serves as a metaphor for much of what they were up to, if only to breakout, a little, from the nine-to-five, waiting for the bomb (atomic bomb) to drop world. That visual sense is most dramatically highlighted in the very first opening shots of this film where the pink-blue sky forms the backdrop to the activity starting up at California teen-hang-out (and elsewhere as well, even stuffy old Boston), fast food drive-in, Mel’s drive-in (A&W, Adventure Car-Hop, Diary Queen, fill in your own named spot), central committee headquarters for valley California teen night. .

Wait, let me detail this a little more so there is no mistake. The film opens with the first few anxious California “boss” cars (you remember what that word means, right?), almost tear-provoking in this reviewer, because I rode in teen cars just like those, rolling into neon-sign lighted Mel’s(lights just turned on against the kitchen-backdrop dark night) just as the sun is going down. There is a big old sun-devouring red devil of a cloud flaming up in the background. That is NOT the part of the pink-blue night I am talking about. Below, just below, nearer the horizon is the one I am talking about, the symbol of the search, and the stuff of dreams, the great American blue-pink dream escape.

I can hear great yawns and see rolled eyes piercing through cyberspace as you say so what is the big deal about some foolish ephemeral passing cloud, blue-pink, pink-blue, or hell, blue-blue. Philistines! Go back now to Mel’s, or wherever the blue-pink sky announces the nights doings, the night’s promises or disappointments. Those promises or those disappointments, great or small, went to make up the birth of the search for the great American Western night, the night of our own circumscribed teen, kiddish break-outs, great or small.

Make no mistake it was not the morning, the morning of school or toil, paid or unpaid. It was not the lazy afternoon, the time of study or of the self-same toil, paid or unpaid (the unpaid kind thanked for or not, or to quote the universal parent god of the time done because we keep a roof over your head). It was the night, no the approach, the blue-pink approach of night that drove our maddened dreams, hopefully signaling good omen for the night’s work. The day was mere preclude to that tiny feverishly sought breakout (now a small thing seen, but not then). The telephoned arrangements, the groomed preparations, the gathering of the odd dollar here or there, in order to first cruise that teen empty highway and then on second pass the filling teen night.

Now do you see how the “beats”, those unnamed, unnamable, sub-consciously-embedded beats drove our bust-out dreams for travel, for adventure, for wine (later, dope),for women (or men) and for song, for shaking off the dust of the old town, great or small, as long as it moving elsewhere, and on a thumb pulled-out, hard-driven, shoe leather-beaten shod foot if need be.

American Graffiti is a snapshot of just exactly that minute, just that historic minute before the great shake-out of the 1960s for the baby-boomer generation, after that minute some of us went left politically and became social activists. We made just about every political, social, and cultural mistake along the way and lost, no, were defeated, no again, were mauled, in the end in our dreams of “seeking that newer world.” (And have spent the past forty or so years having to fight a rear-guard against the straightjacket, death machine-loving yahoos and their consorts). Ya, but hear me out. The search for the blue-pink Great American Western night was not one of those mistakes.