Saturday, April 11, 2020

Yet Again On Bond, James Bond-Will The Real 007 Please Stand Up- Daniel Craig’s “Skyfall” (2012)-A Film Review

Yet Again On Bond, James Bond-Will The Real 007 Please Stand Up- Daniel Craig’s “Skyfall” (2012)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Seth Garth

Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig, Judith Dench, Javier Bardem, 2012

You really have to know how serious the back-biting and jockeying for position is which drives the film review, the film criticism business if you want to get high-blown about the matter, drives film reviewers as a lot, to understand why this reviewer is not regaling you from word one about some aspect of the film under review Skyfall, another in the continuing saga of one 007 James Bond a creature of the mad monk pen of Ian Fleming way back when (in the days when he allegedly was playing footsie with Queen Elizabeth, no not the monarch, not as far as I know although I wouldn’t put it pass the bugger thinking he could get a free ride off of his fake service to her majesty, fake since it was full of holes just ask Kim Philby or his memoirs now that he has gone to the shades,  but the stately queen of England, the drag queen Malcolm Marcy). The latest “civil war” involves two critics who are also working this series longtime critic Phil Larkin and relative newcomer Will Bradley (or have worked on it since both have now finished their respective sections Phil on original 007 Sean Connery’s seven works and Will on Pierce Brosnan’s four). The “controversy” -which of the two Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan is the real Bond, James Bond by temperament and style (they have eliminated the other four who have played the role out of hand as a bunch of sissy boys and drunken sots who couldn’t shoot straight if they tried except getting a lot of civilians killed in the cross-fire which makes the legendary Sherlock Holmes seem a sniper by comparison).        

How does this humble non-partisan reviewer get embroiled in this thicket? Aside from doing the Daniel Craig version of 007 part of the series I made the momentous mortal error of stating in public that I thought picking either of those two candidates seemed to be the best representatives of the character. That started a firestorm on both parts that my non-committal statement meant I “really” sided with one or the other. Hence the donnybrook. The real reason though for their fire and brimstone, and here they take a page from the academy’s handbook for stirring up a hornet’s nest over trifles, was, is to take me down a peg for being “wishy-washy,” for not coming up with some pearls of wisdom to fortify my position. In short to run the sword through my work as so much vanilla, so much getting paid by the word flutter a dirty remark in the industry these days. All to enhance their  slight little junkie and boozehound insights into whatever it is they are arguing about. Jesus.

Laura Perkins, also a film reviewer here, may have put her finger on exactly what is going on of late in the industry among “the boys” as she called us. She was assigned to review a film Dangerous by Bette Davis from 1935. She had watched the film one night with her companion Sam Lowell another long-time film critic who since retirement had become an occasional contributor when he out of the blue belted out that he hated Bette Davis, hated that she always played the untamed shrew, the schoolgirl with the heart of stone, the vampish destroyer of everything around her. This outburst after Sam had almost always given Ms. Davis high marks in his previous work. (Laura had combed the archives to confront him with this truth.) She speculated that the usually placid, even-handed Sam had been bitten by the 007 bug and felt he had to assert himself in some outlandish way to keep his place in the pecking order. Maybe so.           

Certainly Phil and Will still have the bug. In my last review I mentioned that since I couldn’t win against one or the other or both in the one-ups-man-ship contest that I would just tell what I wanted to tell and be done with. Whatever drugs or other dangerous substances they are into they couldn’t let me just go at that. Phil clamored that I had nothing to say about any film which he declared had been true for a long time and Will, younger and maybe not quite as jaded, felt that my not saying anything out of the ordinary meant that I at least realized that Sean Connery was not all he was cracked up to be. By inference Pierce was. So be it although I am sorely tempted to really go after that pair with my razor wit and let them hope they get work out in Utah someplace with the Mormons like Allan Jackson tried to do. And he got nothing but a big laugh from those guys, those guys with the white underwear for crying out loud.   

Back to the film reviewing business. I mentioned in passing
in my last Daniel Craig-etched Bond film Quantum of Solace that it was heavy on action, almost nonstop, and light on plot except for the inevitable beating down of whatever bad guys he was after for M, for MI6, for England and the Queen whatever. (Once again it is not clear whether 007, this 007 was having an affair with Queen Elizabeth, the real queen not the drag queen previously mentioned who strangely enough performed in a statelier manner than Liz ever could. Don’t make light of this charge since it is well known that even a heavy duty rock star like Mick Jagger had entered her chambers in the old days when he was into older women. How do you think he got that freaking knighthood if not for dedicating Sister Morphine to her from their junkie days so don’t think a slick guy like 007 couldn’t take the tumble either on his way up the MI6 bureaucracy).

This Skyfall (named for the estate in Scotland where Bond grew up before his parents were killed and he was left an orphan and to the winds) has much more of a plot aside from the usual ration of mind-numbing action which would put the average human in the hospital for maybe a year-or more. This one gets more personal since it involves the fate of M’s career (played by Dame Judith Dench in this Craig series so far). Involves her maybe needing some retirement time since on her watch an important list of agents who have infiltrated terrorist organizations internationally has been compromised.

By whom? By a former hotshot 00 agent Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem last seen here playing a consummate bureaucrat either for the Inquisition in Spain or for the French when they occupied Spain in the wake of the French Revolution in the 1790s in Goya’s Ghosts, who she had to make a split decision to send over to the enemy for the greater good of saving a slew of others. Tough decision and one which Brother Silva holds a very big grudge over since they worked him over something fierce and that was on the good days. So much so that he has made it his main goal in life to do her harm, slowly, in her profession and in the end physically as well since she winds up dying in Bond’s arms after the usual all hell breaking loose final confrontation. Needless to say after a long period of mayhem and destruction including that final blast from hell that rogue agent goes down, goes down hard. Thems the facts Jack.         

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

“The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strained”-Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman’s Talk Of The Town” (1942)-A Film Review

“The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strained”-Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman’s Talk Of The Town” (1942)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Bart Webber

Talk of the Town, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman, 1942

We, meaning those of us corner boys left from the old Acre working class neighborhood in North Adamsville still standing like Frank Jackman, Jack Callahan and Allan Jackson always talked the talk about a little rough justice in this wicked old world even in high school because when the economic pie was dealt out we sure as hell did get any of the stuff. Whatever gnawed at us it wasn’t always clear what we were trying to get from the lady with the scales (I refuse to say blind because while it may look good on statues it sure as hell isn’t her real condition favoring the Mayfair swells who could buy the justice-could buy the freaking statue too). I don’t know if it was from the law, from society or whatever but it gnawed at us and still does. That is why I grabbed the review of this film under review, the classic Talk of the Town because there is a very interesting tension between the theory of justice and what actually happens out on the streets, the place where we looked for justice in the old days-maybe now too.    

Let me tell you though I had to grab this one right from under Cary Grant-crazed Laura Perkins nose so I could make my points when all she would do is drool or whatever the minute the poor bastard comes on the screen all damned and framed, already to take the big step off if things go another way. There was talk too of Frankie Riley taking a shot at the film since he is a lawyer but I was able to convince Greg Green the guy who hands out the assignments that the points made in the film were too important to let a lawyer within fifty miles of the thing.

Here’s the play as Sam Lowell and now Laura Perkins has picked it up as well. Leopold, Jesus Leopold, Cary Grant’s role is a corner boy in his own right stirring up trouble and trying to get that rough justice that we were always short-end looking for. He has a huge frame built around him from one of the factory town big shots who calls the shots for burning down a factory with the foreman inside. Knowing he is cooked, literally if he stays in jail and let’s that funky lady do her thing he takes a powder, escapes that cellblock. Finds sanctuary in Nora, Miss Stiller’s house, the part played by Jean Arthur, which is to be rented to a big time dean of a law school on sabbatical and which she is preparing for his arrival. Nora and Leopold know each other from town and school where she teaches and he begs her for help, although not too hard in the end since his smooth manner and boyish charm, the qualities Laura Perkins goes crazy over. Won over or at least neutralized big time professor, played by old time matinee idol Ronald Colman, a Harvard Law School graduate, you know the law school where the classmate next to you, maybe you, might sit on the United States Supreme Court, now Scotus in twitter speak, some day, comes through the door all great at legal theory but a little short on that street justice, we, and Leopold, are always craving.

The play then turns to Leopold and Nora keeping him from the gallows and the good professor from turning this damn fugitive from justice in for his day in court. That tension finally gets resolved at least partially by the good professor winking at his theory a little and working as he should have from the get go like seven dervishes to prove Leopold innocent and that the town big wig is the criminal. Of course there has to be a bit of romance and romantic tension with two matinee idols on the bill but youth must be served and Leopold carries off the prize. Oh yeah to prove the quality of mercy is not strained Harvard boy gets that seat on Scotus-figures. Great film which won a fistful of awards.                

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-A Pauper Comes Of Age- For the Seaside Heights South Elementary School Class Of 1958-With Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-A Pauper Comes Of Age- For the Seaside Heights South Elementary School Class Of 1958-With Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen In Mind

By Allen Jackson

[Hell even “the projects” boys, hell, maybe especially projects boys have dreams of grabbing some slumming Cinderella and turning the course of their lives around having that cachet nightingale wrapped around your very live dreams. I know I did, did three times later on when I got the marrying bug and scored three very bright, very pretty but most important very upper- middle class young women, no not rich like in the Scotty Fitzgerald sense that is almost too much to expect from someone born down in the mud, way down like I was. Of course that marrying bug took its toll what with alimonies, pay on time alimonies buster-or else-harsh talk from those so-called gentile Waspish wags and that fistful of nice brood of kids college tuitions that I am still clawing to get under control and which is the undertow of why I was in Frisco last year and why those horrible rumors about me working some whorehouse pimping with Madame La Rue anywhere from Frisco to Buenos Aires, Frisco where she is-without me- and blessed old neighborhood corner boy Timmy Riley known out there in North Beach for many years now as Ms. Judy Garland ( I think Timmy uses Miss to go back to the times but I will keep up with the times on this one.) who was supposed to be my transvestite lover and me high as a kite of sweet boy-girl opium bong pipes. WTF.

Strangely, or maybe not so strangely when I was in high school at North Adamsville High in the early 1960s I had nada, nothing for dates with any girls from high school or even from North Adamsville because of that social stigma which attached to guys down in the mud. The mud that I have never been washed clean from and in some senses, senses about sharing my fate with the poor people of the earth as Cuban nationalist Jose Marti said in his song made famous in America by Pete Seeger and the folk revivalists of the early 1960s, I don’t want washed away. In that former sense the caked mud sense, Markin, the aforementioned Scribe who would also have three marriages, three quick marriages before he went to ground down Sonora way, was ahead of me even though he too never got date number one from high school girl classmates or again from the town. (We didn’t either of us go dateless since under Scribe’s tutelage I got a few dates when we hit the late fading faux beat complete with black beret scene and the early folk scene over in Harvard Square but none of that was for serious dough young women but the arty type which we both fell head over heels for in those days).

So it is a little hard for me to tell a sweet little sixteen story straight up like Fritz Taylor could do up in high school New Hampshire, a guy I, we, met out in Southern California some years after our respective Vietnam War tours of duty. Met through lightening rod Scribe at first when I was just getting started on my series about those lost brothers who were having a tough time, as Fritz was, as I was although I didn’t know it until I went down in the mud again with my fellow soldier brothers who couldn’t adjust to the “real” world after “Nam, and as the most surprising of all the Scribe was but we were clueless about whatever pains and sadnesses possessed his beautiful bastard heart. No question what Fritz had to say below was one hundred percent or close just from seeing him with the young women out West who fell all over him even in his desperation times when he really should not have been dealing with women at all (something he denied at the time but has acknowledged since proving you can learn something in this wicked old world). So when he talks of some Cinderella princess that disturbed his sleep, some virginal sweet sixteen from the early 1960s you know that he was in synch with the times, keep his head down and ready for anything. Allan Jackson] 
They're really rockin Boston
In Pittsburgh, P. A.
Deep in the heart of Texas
And 'round the Frisco Bay
All over St. Louis
Way down in New Orleans
All the Cats wanna dance with
Sweet Little Sixteen
Sweet Little Sixteen
She's just got to have
About half a million
Framed autographs
Her wallet's filled with pictures
She gets 'em one by one
She gets so excited
Watch her look at her run
Oh mommy mommy
Please may I go
It's such a sight to see
Somebody steal the show
Oh daddy daddy
I beg of you
Whisper to mommy
It's all right with you
Cause they'll be rockin on bandstand
In Philadelphia P.A.
Deep in the heart of Texas
And 'round the Frisco Bay
All over St. Louis
Way Down in New Orleans
All the Cats wanna dance with
Sweet Little Sixteen
Sweet Little Sixteen
She's got the grown up blues
Tight dress and lipstick
She's sportin' high heal shoes
Oh, but tomorrow morning
She'll have to chang her trend
And be sweet sixteen
And back in class again
Cause they'll be rockin on bandstand
In Philadelphia P.A.
Deep in the heart of Texas And 'round the Frisco Bay
All over St. Louis Way Down in New Orleans
All the Cats wanna dance with
Sweet Little Sixteen
This is the way my old corner boy, Fritz Taylor, from down in “the projects” told me the story one night years later when we were sitting on the grey granite steps of our high school, Miller High, in Seaside Heights, that’s in New Hampshire. Those projects by the way, all white projects  unlike the ones you hear about lately which are mostly populated by minorities, had originally been build right after World War II to help stem the heavy demand for housing from returning servicemen with young families and not enough dough to finance a house. The original idea as well was that the housing was temporary and had been built with a certain careless abandon by some low-bidder contractors. Fritz’s and my family had been among those families in the 1950s who did not get to participate in the “golden age” and so we were long time tenants all through our school years until we graduated from Miller High. Between the isolated location of the projects and the high number of kids the place had it had its own elementary school, Snug Harbor (sounds nice right, however, that school was also expected to be temporary and built as such by those same low-bidder contractors), where we both had gone through all six grades together (we started in the time before kindergarten became a step in one’s education). I am telling you about this because the story happened down there long before we got to high school.

So there we were sitting there on the steps, no dough in our pockets, our main guy for a ride out of town, Benny, also a corner boy, on a family vacation up in Maine, no girls in hand, or prospects either since any girls we were interested in had no interest us either because we had not car or because we were from the projects, come to think of it forget that last part it was because we were car-less and that world was filled with guys with cars, “boss cars,” swooping down on the interesting girls, talking slowly. Talking kind of softly for us although loudly or softly no one would have been around to heard us that warm summer night with about six weeks to go before school started again and we could go back and start our junior year, kind of dreamy too really about the first times we had been smitten by a girl, not necessarily a forever smitten thing but with a bug that disturbed our sleep (forever then being maybe a month or six weeks, no more except for some oddball couples who found love and stayed together for the next fifty years if you can believe that in this day in age).

Yeah, that is exactly the way to put it, when some frail disturbed our sleep, the first of many sleepless nights on that subject.  (That “frail” a localism for girl, heavily influenced by our corner boy with the car Benny watching too many 1930s and 1940s George Raft or James Cagney gangster and Humphrey Bogart hard-boiled private detective movies.) So we were sitting there thinking about how we were now chasing other dreams, well, maybe not other dreams but older versions, sweet sixteen versions of that same dream.  Of course at sixteen it was all about girls but as it turned out that subject had its own pre-history way back when. Just ask Fritz Taylor if you see him.

Fritz Taylor, if he thought about it at all and at times like that dream vision night at sixteen on the steps in front of the high school he might have, probably would have said that he had his history hat on again like when he was a kid, loving history or even the thought of history since Miss Winot blew him away with talk of ancient Greeks and Romans. Blew him away so that when he got in trouble with that teacher for saying something fresh, and it really was, a swear word expression, “what the fuck,” that he heard all the time around his house which he thought everybody said when they were angry, assigned him a paper to write of five hundred words and he wrote an essay about Greek democracy which she actually read to the class she was so impressed. Miss Winot, blew him away more when she freaked him out with talk of Egypt and Pharaoh times with the Pyramids and the slaves and all the times he had begged his older brother to drive him all the way down to the art museum in Boston to look at old Pharaoh stuff some guys from Harvard had unearthed. But all that is just stuff to let you know what kind of guy Fritz was in elementary school before he wised up, or kind of wised up, in high school. Funny one time when I wanted to take the bus down to Boston when I got the Pharaoh bug in high school he dismissed me out of hand. Done that, he said. So that night he had his history hat on so I knew I was in for a story, a bloody silly story if I knew Fritz but we had nothing better to do so I let him go on. Let him go on that sixteen years old summer night when out of the blue, the memory time blue, he thought about more modern history, thought about her, thought about fair Rosimund.

No, before you get all set to turn to some other thing, some desperate alternate other thing, to do rather than read Fritz’s poignant little story, this is not some American Revolution founding fathers (or mothers, because old-time Abigail Adams may have been hovering in some background granite-chiseled slab grave in a very old-time Quincy cemetery while the events to be related occurred since Fritz was crazy about her too once he figured out she was the real power behind John and John Quincy) or some bold Massachusetts abolitionist regiment, the fighting 54th, out of the American Civil War 150th anniversary memory history like Fritz used to like to twist the tail around when you knew him, or his like. This is about “first love” so rest easy.

Fritz, that early summer’s night, was simply trying to put his thoughts together and figured that he would write something, write something for those who could stand it, those fellow members of our class who could stand to know that story. Although, at many levels that was a very different experience from that of the average, average Miller High class member the story had a universal quality that he thought might amuse them, amuse them that is until the name, the thought of the name, the mist coming from out of his mouth at the forming of the name, holy of holies, Rosimund, stopped him dead in his tracks and forced him to tell me that story and to write that different story later.

Still, once the initial trauma wore off, Fritz thought what better way to celebrate that milestone on the rocky road to surviving childhood than to take a trip down memory lane, that Rosimund-strewn memory lane. Those days although they were filled with memorable incidents, good and bad, paled beside this Rosimund-related story that cut deep, deep into his brown-haired mind, and as it turned out one that he have not forgotten after all. So rather than produce some hokey last dance, last elementary school sweaty-palmed dance failure tale, some Billie Bradley-led corner boy down in the back of Snug Harbor doo wop be-bop into the night luring stick and shape girls like lemmings from the sea on hearing those doo wop harmonies, those harmonies meant for them, the sticks and shapes that is, or some wannabe gangster retread tale, or even some Captain Midnight how he saved the world from the Cold War Russkies with his last minute-saving invention Fritz preferred to relate a home truth, a hard home truth to be sure, but the truth. Here is his say:

At some point in elementary school a boy is inevitably supposed to learn, maybe required to, depending on the whims of your school district’s supervisory staff and maybe also what your parents expected of such schools, to do two intertwined socially-oriented tasks - the basics of some kind of dancing and to be paired off with, dare I say it, a girl in that activity. After all that is what it is there for isn’t it. At least it was that way a few years back, and if things have changed, changed dramatically in that regard, you can fill in your own blanks experience. But here that is where fair sweet Rosimund comes in, the paired-off part.

I can already hear your gasps, dear reader, as I present this scenario. You are ready to flee, boy or girl flee, to some safe attic hideaway, to reach for some dusty ancient comfort teddy bear, or for the venturesome, some old sepia brownie camera picture album safely hidden in those environs, but flee, no question, at the suggestion of those painful first times when sweaty-handed, profusely sweaty-handed, boy met too-tall girl on the dance floor (age too-tall girls hormone shooting up first, later things settled down, a little). Now for those who are hopped up, or even mildly interested, in such ancient rituals you may be thinking, oh well, this won’t be so bad after all since I am talking about the mid-1950s and they had Dick Clark’s American Bandstand on the television to protect us from having to dance close, what with those funny self-expression dance moves like the Stroll and the Hully-Gully that you see on re-runs. And then go on except, maybe, the last dance, the last close dance that spelled success or failure in the special he or she night so let me tell you how really bad we had it in the plaid 1960s. Wrong.

Oh, of course, we were all after school black and white television-addled and addicted making sure that we got home by three in the afternoon to catch the latest episode of the American Bandstand saga about who would, or wouldn’t, dance with that cute girl in the corner (or that leering Amazon in the front). That part was true, true enough. But here we are not talking fun dancing, close or far away, but learning dancing, school-time dancing, come on get with it. What we are talking about in my case is that the dancing part turned out to be the basics of country bumpkin square-dancing (go figure, for a city boy, right?). Not only did this clumsy, yes, sweaty-palmed, star-crossed ten-year-old boy have to do the basic “swing your partner” and some off-hand “doze-zee dozes(sic)” but I also had to do it while I was paired, for this occasion, with the girl that I had a “crush” on, a serious crush on, and that is where Rosimund really enters the story.
Rosimund see, moreover, was not from “the projects” but from one of the new single-family homes, ranch-style homes that the up and coming middle-class were moving into up the road. In case you didn’t know, or have forgotten, I grew up on the “wrong side of the tracks” down at the Seaside Heights Housing Authority apartments. The rough side of town, okay. You knew that the minute I mentioned the name, that SHHA name, and rough is what you thought, and that is okay. Now. But although I had started getting a handle on the stick "projects" girls I was totally unsure how to deal with girls from the “world.” And Rosimund very definitely was from the world. I will not describe her here; although I could do so even today, but let us leave it at her name. Rosimund. Enchanting name, right? 

Thoughts of white-plumed knighted medieval jousts against some black-hooded, armored thug knight for the fair maiden’s hand, or for her favors (whatever they were then, mainly left unexplained, although we all know what they are now, and are glad of it)

Nothing special about the story so far, though. Even I am getting a little sleepy over it. Just your average one-of-the-stages-of-the-eternal-coming-of-age-story. I wish. Well, the long and short of it was that the reason we were practicing this square-dancing was to demonstrate our prowess before our parents in the school gym. Nothing unusual there either. After all there is no sense in doing this type of school-time activity unless one can impress one's parents. I forget all the details of the setup of the space for demonstration day and things like that but it was a big deal. Parents, refreshments, various local dignitaries, half the school administrators from downtown whom I will go to my grave believing could have cared less if it was square-dancing or basket-weaving because they would have ooh-ed and ah-ed us whatever it was. But that is so much background filler. Here is the real deal. To honor the occasion, as this was my big moment to impress Rosimund, I had, earlier in the day, cut up my dungarees to give myself an authentic square-dancer look, some now farmer brown look but back then maybe not so bad.

I thought I looked pretty good. And Rosimund, looking nice in some blue taffeta dress with a dark red shawl thing draped and pinned across her shoulders (although don’t quote me on that dress thing, what did a ten-year old boy, sister-less, know of such girlish fashion things. I was just trying to keep my hands in my pockets to wipe my sweaty hands for twirling time, for Rosimund twirling time) actually beamed at me, and said I looked like a gentleman farmer. Be still my heart. Like I said I thought I looked pretty good, and if Rosimund thought so well then, well indeed. And things were going nicely. That is until my mother, sitting in a front row audience seat as was her wont, saw what I had done to the pants. In a second she got up from her seat, marched over to me, and started yelling about my disrespect for my father's and her efforts to clothe me and about the fact that since I only had a couple of pairs of pants how could I do such a thing. In short, airing the family troubles in public for all to hear. That went on for what seemed like an eternity.

Thereafter I was unceremoniously taken home by said irate mother and placed on restriction for a week. Needless to say my father also heard about it when he got home from that hard day’s work that he was too infrequently able to get to keep the wolves from the door, and I heard about it for weeks afterward. Needless to say I also blew my 'chances' with dear, sweet Rosimund.

Now is this a tale of the hard lessons of the nature of class society that I am always more than willing to put in a word about? Just like you might have remembered about me back in the day. Surely not. Is this a sad tale of young love thwarted by the vagaries of fate? A little. Is this a tale about respect for the little we had in my family? Perhaps. Was my mother, despite her rage, right? Well, yes. Did I learn something about being poor in the world? Damn right. That is the point. …But, oh, Rosimund.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The Real Scoop Behind Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?-With Martha and the Vandellas- Dancing In The Streets In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The Real Scoop Behind Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?-With Martha and the Vandellas- Dancing In The Streets In Mind

By Allen Jackson

[Not everybody including myself from the now halcyon days of the Generation of ’68, those now called baby-boomers and beginning to fade fast had an easy and successful transition when the bright flame that we thought that as the Scribe put it via Robert Kennedy and him via Alfred Lord Tennyson “to seek a newer world” had not arrived, had gone to ground. I have mentioned my own problems coming back from Vietnam to what we called the “real world” as did Scribe and a few others I know. The Scribe, the portent guy, the fortune-teller, the soothsayer around our corner boy way growing up went down in flames early, went to seed in drugs and bullet shells, as has been describe by me and others over the past several years here as well all who mourned that lying, crazy, beautiful son of a bitch and whom we all still miss like crazy even fifty years later. I also did a whole series on that “transition” problem with thoughts of Scribe in mind in the late 1970s after I had gotten through the roughest part of coming to terms with the “real world” and could deal with a bunch of guys, returning veterans who still couldn’t cope and were holed up down in Southern California living as best they could along railroad tracks and under bridges.

Fuck, excuse the language although I don’t swear often this remembrance of fate of Scribe, of the returning veterans from that god awful war which we still don’t have a grip on today as the Ken Burns documentary makes ominously clear, of the children of the light who succumbed to whatever was burning in their mixed-up brains, of the likes of Ellen Carroll who gave all the love she had to anybody who wanted it or could hold her long enough to garner in that love and then wound up turning tricks as Madame La Rue in some souped up whorehouse in Frisco catering to Asian business who wanted to walk on the wild side of her love, of beautiful growing up corner boy Timmy Riley who turned himself into the reincarnation of Miss Judy Garland once he fled that growing up neighborhood and freedom to be what he was, of the million riders on Captain Crunch’s’ yellow brick road school bus buzzing up and down the Pacific Coast Highway looking for that inner light the Quakers were always talking about one time when I went to sanctuary with them in the depths of my despair and I stayed calm for a while as my rages against the night, against the night-takers abated a bit.     

Fuck, and I don’t give a damn if you excuse my swearing twice in one short piece right this minute my inner light which has guided me somewhat has evaporated as I think about those bastard night-takers, those hired guns of the ruling classes, those guys and gals who have spent the past forty or so years fighting a winning battle against all we were trying to do to turn the world upside down, to bring a little rough-hewn justice to this un-sceptered orb. Raging about the beloved Scribe wasted down in Mexico, Lenny whose last name I never did get or if I did it was not his real name who threw himself under a train before my eyes out in that lost brothers under the bridge Southern California land when he thought he was still in ‘Nam and there was in-coming, beautiful Rizzo from our own corner boy nights who was so gung-ho he actually enlisted right out of high school and now holds a place of honor on black granite down in Washington-and in the town square and who never had that chance to go to Frisco with us in the Summer of Love, 1967 and get his head turned around, of all those lost boys down in the sullen nights, of all the lost girls in those same sullen nights, and all the stark naked runaways who photographs dotted the lost and missing bulletin boards, mostly high school graduation pictures all that frantic parents had, of half the police stations from Chicago to the Coast. Of course as well the fate of Billy Bradley who too had his own dreams and now has only fifty year remembrance.

Yes, not all who entered the cave went the distance some were just slumming anyway but damn we have had our share of casualties in that night-taker reckoning. Allan Jackson]  
This sketch takes place in the 1970s at the outer edge of the time of the Generation of ’68 musical jail  break-out  started in the mid-1950s with the roll out of classic rock but is driven, and driven hard, by the music of the early 1960s when the grifter described here first came of age and hence its inclusion.

“Hey, brother, can you spare a dime?,” (or sister now something unheard of back in the day, back in the early 1960s, when some cop might pinch you at her request for disturbing the fair sex  for  being unseemly in public asking a proper lady for anything. Now here in the go-go 70s any human form is qualified for the hustle where every low-rent guy takes a shot figuring maybe to get something so the other party, particularly women, can get you out of their faces and move on) followed by “Got an extra cigarette, pal (or gal, ditto the sister thing except unlike back in the day, pal or gal, in the new age, as likely as not, probably has no butts, has no “cigs,” doesn’t touch the stuff ever since the Surgeon-General’s report put the fear of God into lots of people)?”

Yah, Billy Bailey, William James Bailey, used-to-be brash corner boy, a contender for the title of king hell king of the corner boy night around Salducci’s Pizza Parlor, “up the downs” back in North Adamsville in the old days, the old days these days being the early 1960s before smart and brash corner boy Frankie Riley put an end to that dream by trumping all upstarts since  he was “in” with the shop owner, certainly had the panhandler lingo down, down pat, after only a few days on the bum. Funny during these few days on the bum this time he would almost blush when he thought back to the days when he used to laugh in the faces of swollen-faced raggedy-assed guys trying to pan-handle him for dough, trying to bum a smoke, and here he was with the brethren. Hustling maybe a little cleaner in attire that the brethren since he had not gotten down to second-hand Sally goods yet (that Sally for the clueless is not somebody’s aunt but the Salvation Army which took in many a stew bum without question when they were on the skids and nobody else would take them in so throw some change in the bucket the next time you see them around Christmas time in some shopping mall ringing their ubiquitous bells)although a few more weeks with constant use of the few clothes that he did have might have him howling. Hustling too with cleaner breathe since he did not drink (that jones long over and done with substituted by several subsequent joneses including his current burden. He still felt that contempt for the buggers since he “knew” that a few days of this street work and he would be off the skids, on his feet again and then able to go back to laughing at the brethren, a good laugh too, while they pipe-dreamed their lives away.

Yeah, this was strictly temporary because his ship would come in before he wound up on cheap street like the boyos hanging around the Common swilling rotgut wine (or maybe low-rent whiskey if the day’s take was good) smoking tobacco “roaches,” butt end really off the ground and pissing all over themselves. However every once in a while he would get a funny feeling, kind of turn up his collar a little more, push his baseball cap lower on his head, put on sunglasses ( a real no-no in the pan-handler racket since you want the “marks” to see your desperate eyes, your pleading desperate eyes, to close the deal. Besides sunglasses might make them feel you just blew in from the coast) when he realized that he was on the bum in his own home town, his ever-lovin’ roots, Boston. (His growing up hometown of North Adamsville close enough so that he did not have to tell people who asked the name of the town and could get by with Boston unlike if he was from Lowell or Lawrence or places like that.) Sure he had been on the bum a few times, nothing big, once on the Mission in Frisco (where in the same day he walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and that night slept, slept newspaper for a pillow sleep, under that edifice), a couple of times on Larimer Street in Denver before they gentrified the damn place and along the arroyos down in Los Angeles with a bunch of Vietnam veterans like himself who unlike him couldn’t adjust to the “real” world. 

Yeah, those were a few days’ bums, maybe a week, couple of weeks, no more than a month and then back to the world. Short falls, maybe drunk too much and jobless, later maybe too much gambling on run-out horses and dogs (and no money coming in to feed the habits once he got behind), maybe some twist threw him over for a steady guy after he wore out his welcome (and her pocketbook). On the bum this time, this time though a real fall, in hock and up to his ass in debt, mostly big score no-go dope on credit deal debts,  when he had tired of drunk risks, gambling risks, frail risks,  guys looking for him, not Boston guys thankfully, well, looking for him to pay up. During the long days of pan-handling this time though he would think back to the old days, the days before the “falls” when hustling dough was just for some short money, pick up some spare change, to wander into free campsite, Volkswagen bus pick-up sharing stews, brews and dope hitchhike roads looking for the great blue-pink American West night with some honey, some Angelica honey, bum like a few years back.
Angelica, the proto-type of his sexual desire in those days, all Midwest blonde, slender, frisky, proud and sensible, traipsing after him across half the continent before going home to Indiana and then later joining him in southern California before she decided on white picket fences and kids. Sweet kiss, baby, you were probably right when that last night you said your gallant knight was made of sawdust. Yeah, that was a while back, late 1960s back when even he sensed the world might be turned upside down. Hoped maybe he and his would get a fair shake in the world even though more pressing personal issues drove his days and nights. 

Those days, those days after the hellish army routine, the ‘Nam bummer, the ‘Nam bummer before he hightailed it with the arroyos brothers who couldn’t face the “real” world down in L.A. he practically made a religion, yah a religion out of living “free,” living out of the knapsack(oddly an old World War II surplus job found at Snyder’s Army and Navy the kind which he father had told him he carried all thorough Europe when it was time to kick ass with the Nazi), living under bridges (not “arroyo brother” bridges but nice, meaning girl company nice, sleeping bag also Army surplus and light campfires and fine stews), no sweat, if need be. But those “golden days” dried up a few years back and now here in 1976 he was facing a real skid row choice. How it happened he will get to along the way but first let’s set the parameters of what 1976 panhandling, to put an eloquent name on it for “bumming”, shiftless bumming , looked like and how to survive in the new age of everybody me-ing themselves, even with people who were not on the bum. Christ, lord the times were hard, hard times in old Babylon, no question.

See, a guy, a guy who called himself “Shorty” McGee for obviously physical reasons but who knows what his real name was, maybe he didn’t remember either after all the rum-dum sterno heat years and the endless backsides of skid row haunts, that he had hitched up with for a minute, an overnight minute at the Salvation Army Harbor Lights Center over in the South End kind of hipped him to the obvious tricks of the new down-at the-heels road. Like putting the two requests, got any change and “got a cig,” together when you were panhandling. See, Shorty said it was all a matter of psychology, of working the crowd, the downtown crowd, the bustling workaday Park Street Station crowd hurrying to and fro looking for quick lunches, maybe a minute shopping spree in Jordan Marsh’s or Filene’s, and the Copley Square sunning themselves crowd on the benches across from the library maybe reading a book or feeding the pigeons, right to get you out of their sights and back to whatever sweet thing they were doing. So you endlessly put the two requests together, time after time after time, and always. And what happened was that when they turned you down for the dough ( as happened a lot), or maybe took you literally and pieced you off with just a dime, Christ a dime that wouldn’t even buy a cup of joe, or could feel good about themselves, if they smoked, smoked cigarettes anyway, by passing you a butt. Billy thought, nice, this Shorty really does have it worked out just about right. Of course dimes and drags were not going to get him out from under, not this time.

Well, rather than leaving the reader out in the dark, Billy Bailey this fair 1976 spring was not just on the bum, but on the lam as well, keeping his head very far down just in case there were some guys who were looking for him, or worst, the cops, in case some irate victim of one of his scams took a notion to “fry his ass.” Of course he was counting on them, those victims, being mainly friends and acquaintances, of not putting “the heat” on him since he had already promised through the grapevine that he would make restitution. But we are getting a little ahead of the story, let’s step back.
The early 1970s were not kind to “free spirits” the previous name for what on this day were “free-loaders” and Billy, well, got behind in his expenses, and his bills, his ever expanding bills. But see the transition from free “s” to free “l” caught him off-guard, moreover he was just then in the throes of a fit of “the world owes me a living,” a serious fit. Why? Well see, he as a pauper son of the desperate working poor, “felt” that since he missed out on the golden age benefits of his youth that he was to make up the difference by putting the “touch” on the richer friends that he had acquired through his doing this and that, mainly high-end drug connections (not really rich but richer since the really rich were hunkered down behind about fifteen layers of fortresses, physical and legal, and as some writer who knew what he was talking about really were different that you and me, no question).

The long and short it was that he work the deal this way, this way once he got his hard wanting habits on first he would “borrow” money off Friend A under some scam pretext of putting it to good use, usually using some exotic drug story as the front (yes, his own good use, including several long airplane fight trips to California and other points west-no more hitchhike roads for this moving up the food chain lad) and then borrow dough off Friend B to cover some of his debt to Friend A. Something like an unconscious classic Ponzi scheme, as it turned out. And then when he got to Friend X or somewhere around there things got way too complicated and he started “kiting” checks, and on and on as far deep into his white- collar crime mind as he could think. That could only go on a for a short while and he calculated that "short while" almost to the day when he would have to go “underground” and that day had sprung up a couple of weeks before.

So it took no accountant or smart-ass attorney to know that dimes and drags were not going to get him back on his feet. Nor were many of the schemes that Shorty had outlined over at Harbor Lights as ways to grab quick cash. Hitting the poor boy charity circuit, good mainly one time, grabbing stuff on credit using somebody’s credit card gained through guys who sold fake credit cards and then selling the stuff quick and deeply discounted. Some check finagling. All things that really took sunnier times to work and squeak maximum benefit from. These were chicken feed for his needs, even his immediate needs, although some of the scams would fill the bill for a rum-dum or life-long skid row bum. But here is the secret, the deep secret that Billy Bailey held in his heart, after a few nights on bus station benches, cold spring night park benches, a night bout under the Andersen Bridge over by old haunt Harvard Square (girl-less and with no cozy sleeping and stew campfires), and a few nights that he would rather not discuss just in case, he finally figured out, figured out kicking and screaming, that the world did not owe him a living and that if he wanted to survive past thirty he had better get the stardust and grit out of his eyes. But just this minute, just this undercover spring 1976 minute, he needed to work the Commons. “Hey, brother, hey sister, can you spare a dime?” “Pal, have you got an extra cigarette?”

Postscript: Not all wisdom ends happily, and not all good intentions grow to fruition. Yes, Billy paid off his debts to his friends, mostly. However, Billy Bailey was killed while “muling” in a drug war shoot-out in Juarez, Mexico in late 1979 trying to do an independent score when the bad boy Mexican and South American cartels were bundling things up. Found face down with two in the back of the head. Just like Markin, the Scribe bought it the same way and with the same hubris, no, let’s call it the same fucking wanting habits. Yeah, Billy Bailey had moved down the chain a lot since the days when he was a contender for the king hell king of the corner boy night. So cry a tear for Billy too.

Monday, April 06, 2020


Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of The Wolftones Performing The Song In Honor Of "James Connolly". There are also some very good photographs of the destruction of Dublin after the British shelled the downtown area of "their province" to kingdom come.



A word. They tell a story about James Connolly that just before the start of action on Easter Monday, 1916 he told the members of the Irish Citizen’s Army (almost exclusively workers, by the way) that if the uprising was successful to keep their guns handy. More work with them might be necessary against the nationalist allies of the moment organized as the Irish Volunteers. The Volunteers were mainly a petty bourgeois formation and had no intention of fighting for Connolly's vision of a Socialist Republic. True story or not, I think that gives a pretty good example of the strategy and tactics to be used in colonial and third world struggles by the working class. Would that the Chinese Communists in the 1920’s and other colonial and third world liberation fighters since then had paid heed to that strategic concept. Here is sketch of the life of this Irish freedom fighter

James Connolly, June 5, 1868-May 12, 1916, was of Scottish Irish stock. He was born in Edinburgh of immigrant parents. The explicit English colonial policy of driving the Irish out of Ireland which thus created the Irish diaspora produced many such immigrants from benighted Ireland to England, America, Australia and the far flung parts of the world. Many of these immigrants left Ireland under compulsion of banishment. Deportation and execution was a standard English response in the history of the various “Troubles’ from Cromwell’s time on.

Connolly, like many another Irish lad left school for a working life at age 11. The international working class has produced many such self-taught and motivated leaders. Despite the lack of formal education he became one of the preeminent left-wing theorists of his day in the pre- World War I international labor movement. In the class struggle we do not ask for diplomas, although they help, but commitment to the cause of the laboring masses. Again, like many an Irish lad Connolly joined the British Army, at the age of 14. In those days the British Army provided one of the few ways of advancement for an Irishman who had some abilities. As fate would have it Connolly was stationed in Dublin. I believe the English must rue the day they let Brother Connolly near weapons and near Dublin. As the old Irish song goes- ‘ Won’t Old Mother England be Surprised’.

By 1892 Connolly was an important figure in the Scottish Socialist Federation which, by the way, tended to be more militant and more Celtic and less enamored of parliamentarianism than its English counterpart. Later, the failure to gather in the radical Celtic elements was a contributing factor to the early British Communist Party’s inability to break militants from the British Labor Party. Most of the great labor struggles of the period cam from the leadership in Scotland and Ireland. Connolly became the secretary of the Federation in 1895. In 1896 he left the army and established the Irish Socialist Republican Party. The name itself tells the program. Ireland at that time was essentially a classic English colony so to take the honored name Republican was to spit in the eye of the English. Even today the English have not been able to rise to the political level of a republic. Despite Cromwell’s valiant attempt in the 1600's and no thanks to the British Labor Party’s policies this is sadly the case today. All militants everywhere can and must support this call- Abolish the monarchy, House of Lords and the state Church of England.
In England Connolly was active in the Socialist Labor Party that split from the moribund, above-mentioned Social Democratic Federation in 1903. During the period before the Easter uprising he was heavily involved in the Irish labor movement and acted as the right hand man to James Larkin in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913 when Larkin led a huge strike in Dublin but was forced to leave due to English reprisals Connolly took over. It was at that time that Connolly founded the Irish Citizens Army as a defense organization of armed and trained laboring men against the brutality of the dreaded Dublin Metropolitan Police. Although only numbering about 250 men at the time their political goal was to establish an independent and socialist Ireland.

Connolly stood aloof from the leadership of the Irish Volunteers, the nationalist formation based on the middle classes. He considered them too bourgeois and unconcerned with Ireland's economic independence. In 1916 thinking they were merely posturing, and unwilling to take decisive action against England, he attempted to goad them into action by threatening to send his Irish Citizens Army against the British Empire alone, if necessary. This alarmed the members of the more militant faction- Irish Republican Brotherhood, who had already infiltrated the Volunteers and had plans for an insurrection as well. In order to talk Connolly out of any such action, the IRB leaders, including Tom Clarke and Patrick Pearse, met with Connolly to see if an agreement could be reached. During the meeting the IRB and the ICA agreed to act together at Eastertime of that year.

When the Easter Rising occurred on April 24, 1916, Connolly was Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, and as the Dublin brigade had the most substantial role in the rising, he was de facto Commander in Chief. Following the surrender he was executed by the British for his role in the uprising. Although he was so badly injured in the fighting that he was unable to stand for his execution he was shot sitting in a chair. The Western labor movement, to its detriment no longer produces enough such militants as Connolly (and Larkin, for that matter). Learn more about this important socialist thinker and fighter. ALL HONOR TO THE MEMORY OF JAMES CONNOLLY. Chocky Ar La (Our Day Will Come).


The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-You Got That Right Brother-The Blues Ain’t Nothing But A Good Woman On Your Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-You Got That Right Brother-The Blues Ain’t Nothing But A Good Woman On Your Mind

YouTube film clip of Muddy Water's performing his classic Chicago blues tune, Mannish Child.

By Allan Jackson

[It is funny about musical influences and their effect on the person and the generation. I have noted elsewhere and others in this series have as well that the recording companies have done some serious demographic research to come up with say for the baby-boomer generation endless compilations of classic rock and rock hits from Ike Turner’s 1951 Rocket 88 stuff to maudlin vanilla stuff toward the end of the classic era before the Beatles/Stones saved our asses from boredom. Doo wop, girl groups, Sun Records, one-hit wonders the whole shebang. See what they know and what we know from our intuition “you stay with the gal who brung you” in your musical tastes which allows you to titter such pearls of wisdom as “they don’t make songs like they used to in my day” and “how can these kids stand that noise” both statements stolen from driven crazy parents in their turn.    

Of course later music will have some play if it is good enough and maybe in a retro fit sounded like what you loved as a kid and some music like the blues, the eternal blues which forever speaks to some hidden wound deep in the American psyche given what we owe Africa musically and in that damn slave ship crossing, will transcend time and class for that very reason. Other stuff and what we are talking about here alluded to a minute ago when I talked about the end time of the classic rock and roll era which was dying on the vine through what we did not know until much later when we researched it deeply (researched for various sketches in this series and to put the cultural currents ebbing and flowing in the modern American experience in perspective for this publication) was a conscious cabal. A cabal between our parents who saw our music as the “devil’s music” either from deep bias about the black-etched roots or could not take the swaying, swirly sexually suggestion way that we free-formed danced to our own inner wonders, the greedy and insidious record companies and through them the DJs or the local rock radio stations which controlled the music flow. 

It was a tough time for a few years say from the late 1950s to the early 1960s when most of what we heard was and I have characterized it this way before and others have as well “bubble gum” music. If you are from that baby-boomer generation or you have access to YouTube you can verify this for yourselves. There was the taming of what passed for rock sex symbols from the likes of the departed Elvis, the sullen Jerry Lee, the long gone Buddy Holly, the messing with Mister’s women Chuck Berry and a host of others who we ran upstairs to listen to on our freedom transistor radios which saved many a wretched youth from silence and despair for clean dudes like Fabian, Bobby Dee, Vee and a host of Bobbies and women like Sandra Dee and Leslie Gore. Fuck.

That cabal did us wrong, wronger than they will ever know just to make us vanilla cooperate and buckle down as the endless term of the teen household would have it. The worse of it was we were sabotaged from within since the girls, the ones who had money from somewhere to buy the records thought these stuff was “cute.” Fuck, again. In the end though we sprang like the phoenix from the ashes of that horrible period, dragging some of those Bobby-smitten girls along with us for a while anyway, and really did go our own way when the 1960s heated up in so many ways. I like to think that our “training,” our being present at the creation, of rock and roll had something todo with that. Mercy, please. Allan Jackson]          

Johnny Prescott daydreamed his way through the music that he was listening to just then on the little transistor radio that Ma Prescott, Martha to adults, and Pa too, Paul to adults, but the main battles over the gift had been with Ma, had given him for Christmas. In those days we are talking about, the post-World War II red scare Cold War 1950s in America, the days of the dreamy man in the family being the sole provider fathers didn’t get embroiled in the day to day household kids wars and remained a distant and at times foreboding presence called in only when the dust-up had gotten out of hand. And then Papa pulled the hammer down via a classic united front with Ma. Johnny had taken a fit around the first week in December in 1960 when Ma quite reasonable suggested that a new set of ties to go with his white long-sleeved shirts might be a better gift, a better Christmas gift and more practical too, for a sixteen year old boy. Reasonable since alongside Pa being that sole provider, being a distant presence, and being called in only when World War III was about to erupt in the household he also worked like a slave for low wages at the Boston Gear Works, worked for low wages since he was an unskilled laborer in a world where skills paid money (and even the skills that he did have, farm hand skills, were not very useful in the Boston labor market). So yes ties, an item that at Christmas time usually would be the product of glad-handing grandmothers or maiden aunts would in the Prescott household be relegated to the immediate family. And that holiday along with Easter was a time when the Prescott boys had in previous years had gotten their semi-annual wardrobe additions, additions provided via the Bargain Center, a low-cost, low rent forerunner of the merchandise provided at Wal-Mart.               

This year, this sixteen year old year, Johnny said no to being pieced off with thick plaid ties, or worse, wide striped ties in color combinations like gold and black or some other uncool combination, uncool that year although maybe not in say 1952 when he did not know better, uncool in any case against those thin solid colored ties all the cool guys were wearing to the weekly Friday night school dances or the twice monthly Sacred Heart Parish dances the latter held in order to keep sixteen year old boys, girls too, in check against the worst excesses of what the parish priests (and thankful parents) thought was happening among the heathen young.

No, that is not quite right, that “Johnny said no” part, no, he screamed that he wanted a radio, a transistor radio, batteries included, of his own so that he could listen to whatever he liked up in his room, or wherever he was. Could listen to what he liked against errant younger brothers who were clueless, clueless about rock and roll, clueless about what was what coming through the radio heralding a new breeze in the land, a breeze Johnny was not sure what it meant but all he knew was that he, and his buddies, knew some jail-break movement was coming to unglue all the square-ness in the over- heated night. Could listen in privacy, and didn’t have to, understand, didn’t have to listen to some Vaughn Monroe or Harry James 1940s war drum thing on the huge immobile RCA radio monster downstairs in the Prescott living room. Didn’t have to listen to, endlessly Saturday night listen, captive nation-like listen to WJDA and the smooth music, you know, Frank Sinatra, Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, and so on listen to the music of Ma and Pa Prescott’s youth, the music that got them through the Depression and the war. Strictly squaresville, cubed.

Something was out of joint though, something had changed since he had begun his campaign the year before to get that transistor radio, something or someone had played false with the music that he had heard when somebody played the jukebox at Freddy’s Hamburger House where he heard Elvis, Buddy, Chuck, Wanda (who was hot, hot for a girl rocker, all flowing black hair and ruby red lips from what he had seen at Big Max’s Record Shop when her Let’s Have A Party was released), the Big Bopper, Jerry Lee, Bo, and a million others who made the whole world jump to a different tune, to something he could call his own. But as he listened to this Shangra-la by The Four Coins that had just finished up a few seconds ago and as this Banana Boat song by The Tarriers was starting its dreary trip through his brain he was not sure that those ties, thick or uncool as they would be, wouldn’t have been a better Christmas deal, and more practical too.

Yeah, this so-called rock station, WAPX, that he and his friends had been devoted to since 1957, had listened to avidly every night when Johnny Peeper, the Midnight Creeper and Leaping Lenny Penny held forth in their respective DJ slots, had sold out to, well, sold out to somebody, because except for late at night, midnight late at night, one could not hear the likes of Jerry Lee, Carl, Little Richard, Fats, and the new rocker blasts, now that Elvis had gone who knows where. Killer rocker Chuck Berry had said it best, had touched a youth nation nerve, had proclaimed the new dispensation when he had proclaimed loud and clear that Mr. Beethoven had better move alone, and said Mr. Beethoven best tell one and all of his confederates, including Mr. Tchaikovsky, that rock ‘n’ roll was the new sheriff in town. But where was Chuck, where was that rock blaster all sexed up talk and riffs to match now that everybody was reduced to Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell, and Bobby, hell, they were all Bobbys and Jimmys and Eddies and every other vanilla name under the sun now not a righteous name in the house. As Johnny turned the volume down a little lower (that tells the tale right there, friends) as Rainbow (where the hell do they get these creepy songs from) by Russ Hamilton he was ready to throw in the towel though. Ready to face the fact that maybe, just maybe the jail-break that he desperately had been looking forward to might have been just a blip, might have been an illusion and that the world after all belonged to Bing, Frank, Tommy and Jimmy and that he better get used to that hard reality.   

Desperate, Johnny fingered the dial looking for some other station when he heard this crazy piano riff starting to breeze through the night air, the heated night air, and all of a sudden Ike Turner’s Rocket 88 blasted the airwaves. Ike whose Rocket 88 had been the champion choice of Jimmy Jenkins, one of his friends from after school, when they would sit endlessly in Freddy’s and seriously try to figure out whose song started the road to rock and roll. Johnny had latched onto Big Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle and Roll which Elvis did a smash cover of but who in Joe’s version you can definitely heart that dah-da-dah beat that was the calling card of his break-out generation, as well as the serious sexual innuendo which Frankie Riley explained to one and all one girl-less Friday night at the high school hop. Billy Bradley, a high school friend who had put an assortment of bands together and so knew more than the rest of them combined, had posited Elmore James’ Look Yonder Wall as his selection but nobody had ever heard the song then, or of James. 

Johnny later did give it some consideration after he had had heard the song when Billy’s band covered it and broke the place up.
But funny as Johnny listened that night it didn’t sound like the whinny Ike’s voice on Rocket 88 so he listened for a little longer, and as he later found out from the DJ, it had actually been a James Cotton Blues Band cover. After that band’s performance was finished fish-tailing right after that one was a huge harmonica intro and what could only be mad-hatter Junior Wells doing When My Baby Left Me splashed through. No need to turn the dial further now because what Johnny Prescott had found in the crazy night air, radio beams bouncing every which way, was direct from Chicago, and maybe right off those hard-hearted Maxwell streets was Be-Bop Benny’s Chicago Blues Radio Hour. Be-Bop Benny who everybody who read the rock and roll magazines found easier at Doc’s Drugstore over on Hancock Street knew, had started Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Fats Domino on their careers, or helped.

Now Johnny, like every young high-schooler, every "with it" high schooler in the USA, had heard of this show, because even though everybody was crazy for rock and roll, just now the airwaves sounded like, well, sounded like music your parents would dance to, no, sit to at a dance, some kids still craved high rock. So this show was known mainly through the teenage grapevine but Johnny had never heard it before because, no way, no way in hell was his punk little Radio Shack transistor radio with two dinky batteries going to ever have enough strength to pick Be-Bop Benny’s show out in Chicago. So Johnny, and maybe rightly so, took this turn of events for a sign. When Johnny heard that distinctive tinkle of the Otis Spann piano warming up to Spann’s Stomp and jumped up with his Someday added in he was hooked. You know he started to see what Billy, Billy Bradley who had championed Elmore James way before anybody knew who he was, meant when at a school dance where he had been performing with his band, Billie and the Jets, he mentioned from the stage before introducing a song that if you wanted to get rock and roll back from the vanilla guys who had hijacked it while Jerry Lee, Chuck and Elvis had turned their backs then you had better listen to the blues. And if you wanted to listen to blues, blues that rocked then you had very definitely had better get in touch with the Chicago blues as they came north from Mississippi and places like that.

And Johnny thought, Johnny who have never been too much south of Gloversville, or west of Albany, and didn’t know too many people who had, couldn’t understand why that beat, that dah, da, dah, Chicago beat sounded like something out of the womb in his head. But when he heard Big Walter Horton wailing on that harmonica on Rockin’ My Boogie he knew it had to be in his genes. 

Here’s the funniest part of all though later, later in the 1960s after everybody had become a serious aficionado of the blues either through exposure like Johnny to the country blues that got revived during the folk minute that flashed through the urban areas of the country and got big play at places like the Newport Folk Festival or like Jimmy Jenkins through the British rock invasion the blues became the dues. It was especially ironic that a bunch of guys from England like the Stones and Beatles were grabbing every freaking 45 RPM record they could get their mitts on. So if you listened to the early work of those groups you would find thing covered like Shake, Rattle and Roll (Big Joe’s version), Arthur Alexander’s Anna, Howlin’ Wolf’s Little Red Rooster and a ton of stuff by Muddy Waters. Yeah, the drought was over.               

Sunday, April 05, 2020

***The Roots Is The Toots-The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night -One Night With You- Sam’s Song

***The Roots Is The Toots-The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night -One Night With You- Sam’s Song  

By Allan Jackson

[Hey it is my dime. Okay, here goes why I say that smartass remark just now. As readers may know as about one half dozen sections ago of this seventy-odd sections series hailing the coming of rock and roll age of the baby-boomer generation I have had the by-line to a series that I was instrumental in nurturing after old friend Sam Lowell did some fancy negotiating on my behalf. The idea for me in these introductions was to make comments on some of the action in the sketches or to tell what I or the writer, mostly I, was thinking about putting the piece together.

Today though my dime is floating back to a comment I made when I was spending hard earned time defending myself against half the crazy rumors that surfaced after I was dismissed as site manager here and had gone “underground” for a while. One of the vicious rumors had me living in San Francisco with alternatively either a transvestite, today transgender, or a drag queen not necessarily the same thing and living high off the hog and high on the opium bonk bong.

Christ. I was in San Francisco no question but looking for money from people I know since I was unemployed and needed dough quick to keep up with alimony (three alimonies and collective college tuitions. Looked for some dough from my old friend (and one-time lover) Madame La Rue (her longtime brothel names not her given name) who now runs a high class whorehouse catering mostly to wealthy Asian businessmen with a taste for the wild side. Looking as well for some dough from Ms. Judy Garland, aka, Timmy Riley from the old growing up neighborhood in the Acre section of North Adamsville. He had fled as soon as he could once he knew he had kindred out there trying to collectively survive in a town not unfriendly to the different of all categories. I had helped both out financially and they have subsequently been very successful Timmy running a high end club for the tourist trade featuring the best drag queens on the West Coast. It is Timmy from his time before Ms. Judy Garland I want to talk about today. A worthy dime       

This whole going back to Timmy thing got started when after Frank Jackman, another old Acre neighborhood corner boy, was as Sam Lowell called it “outed” for having been listed as the by-line in the early part of this series by current site manager Greg Green. That was after he decided after several attempts to reach the younger generation by force-marching everybody into doing film reviews of the Marvel and DC comic book super-heroes gone to cinema once the older writers revolted led by Sam Lowell to go back to the real audience-the baby boomers of the 1960s and not having anything current and liking my series from the archives. Of course I was departed, “underground” and the series had a common use copyright so Greg conned Frank into the by-line. I found out about it, was enraged that one of the two or three productions in a long career that I was very proud of was being “stolen” from me and contacted Sam to negotiate a by-line for me to finish the series.

While negotiations were going on, and somewhat stalled at a couple of points, old friend and a financial angel of this publication  Jack Callahan did the by-lines and mainly at my request heroically tried to bat down some of the more wretched and dingbat ones. That is where Jack brought up the rumor that I had been living all doped up with a drag queen in Frisco town. Later when I got my byline I took a little space to give more details of what had really happened when I disappeared in order to give my take on swatting the more egregious rumors down. I mentioned Ms. Judy Garland, aka Timmy from the old neighborhood without going into great detail about a lot of the horror that Timmy had to go through in order to be a corner boy in the old days against his real inner identity. Even twenty years ago I would not whatever abstract feelings I had in support of gay rights, or the more generic right to sexual self-identity have mentioned word one about Timmy, let me call him Timmy but know his persona and singing style are pure Judy Garland, or mentioned that I personally knew and was helping out a drag queen-a flaming one (Timmy’s term which we both laugh about) and an utterly beautiful gay man.     

We have talked about it lately but you would not believe what inner suppressions Timmy had had to go through to stick with the corner boys-including leading the charge against some poor gay guy down in Provincetown when we have our infamous and shameful “kicks” when we were in high school, or just out of high school. All I should really have to say is early 1960s (well before Stonewall made the initial public turn about gay life and gay harassment) working poor Acre corner boys and one should even if not a baby-boomer know what was what concerning “fags” “faggy” behavior, anything that smacked of the feminine or not macho although that word was not used at the time amount sprawling corner boys. Corner boys being corner boys for the fact that they, we held up a corner of some store the most important one for us Tonio’s Pizza Parlor because we didn’t have freaking money a lot of times for cars, girls, dates or much of anything. But a lot of it was the camaraderie, that feeling that thick or thin guys had your back whatever it was. And dear sweet Timmy was right out there with us. Like I said beat that poor gay guy up just to keep up with us. Jesus.

I like to think that maybe I “knew” what Timmy was really about back in those days but that is mainly retroactive bullshitting myself (Timmy will appreciate the term) because I was as homophobic as the next guy. Steered clear of the drag queens (if kind of fascinated by them in that way when something very different comes your way) ever since the day my deeply Roman Catholic mother warned me and my brothers never to go to the Shipwreck, an old abandoned beached cruise ship where the local drag queens performed just outside of Nantasket Beach. Every time we went by there we would get the drill. My slight contention about Timmy’s identity was that I was utterly shocked when one night in sophomore year in high school Timmy was performing in a school play dressed up as, well, Miss Judy Garland and singing Over the Rainbow like he meant it. But that was a school play and right after he was back in boys’ clothing and the next night we were back to hanging at Tonio’s. It was just a freaking play-right. Right there ready to do the midnight creep Markin had planned and Frankie Riley led to grab us some fast dough. (Timmy claims that his performance that play night was not his realization that he was different from us. Said it was not until he went to NYU in the Village and saw both gays as straight gay men and gay men as flaming drag queens that he kind of knew who he was but still tried to deny it for a while. The whole thing was confusing-still is he says.)

Timmy for whatever reason despite having gone out to California with us in the Summer of Love, 1967 basically stayed in North Adamsville with his aging parents until he could not stand it anymore. When he told his parents what he was they kicked him out of the house (recently when I went back to town I heard a similar story about a young gay guy whose father drove him to the MBTA station and told him to never come back to town or he would shoot his own flesh and blood so not everybody has gotten the word or bought into the idea of leaving the sexually different alone).   When he tried to talk about it to whoever was around then Bart Webber I know, probably Jack Callahan too and most certainly Frankie Riley they basically disowned knowing him, maybe were not ready to ride him out of town on a rail but they couldn’t figure out what had happened to the guy who was the biggest gay-basher around. Then he headed to Frisco. (All those guys have changed their positions 180 degrees since then but Timmy is still a little wary when they meet according to Jack. When we heard, and that included me that he was working in Maxie’s, then the primo drag queen review out in the Bay Area we couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that Timmy liked to wear female attire (oops flaming attire).

From what Timmy told me toward the end of the 1970s a few years after Scribe died with a couple of slugs in his head after what we all assume was a busted drug deal and I was out visiting Josh Breslin those years in the late 1960s even out in user-friendly Frisco he struggled to survive since there were about six very good Judy Garland drag queens working the clubs and so he lived on the dole. My attitude had changed some on a little of this but the real reason was Timmy, well, Timmy was Timmy one of the corner boys and the ethos of having the back your corner boys was so strong that I had to help him out. Now with one of my own kids living in an openly gay relationship I have a better grip on the whole thing then I just would sent along some money and then when Timmy made his break-through I helped finance his club and the rest is history. Who would have thought. Allan Jackson]       
 Sam Lowell thought it was funny how things worked out sometimes in such a contrary fashion in this wicked old world. Not his expression that “wicked old world” for he preferred of late the more elastic and ironic “sad old world” but that of his old time North Adamsville corner boy Peter Markin who will be more fully introduced in a moment (Markin aka Peter Paul Markin although nobody ever called him that except his mother, as one would expect although he hated to be teased about it by every kid from elementary school on including girls, girls who liked to tease him, tease him when they wanted to show their interest usually, and his first ill-advised wife, Martha, a heiress of the local Mayfair swells who tried, unsuccessfully since they sensed right away that he was not one of them, to impress her leafy horse country Dover suburban parents with the familiar waspy triple names).

Neither of those expressions referred to however dated back to their youth since neither Sam nor Peter back then, back in their 1960s youth, would have used such old-fashioned religious-drenched expressions to explain their take on the world since as with all youth, or at least youth who expected to “turn the world upside down” (an expression that they both did use although each in very different contexts) they would have withheld such judgments or were too busy doing that “turning” business they had no time for adjectives to express their worldly concerns. No that expression, that understanding about the wickedness of the world had been picked up by Sam from Peter when they had reconnected a number of years before after they had not seen each other for decades to express the uphill battles of those who had expected humankind to exhibit the “better angels of their nature” on a more regular basis. Some might call this nostalgic glancing back, especially by Peter since he had more at stake in a favorable result, on a world that did not turn upside down or did so in a way very different from those hazy days.  

The funny part (or ironic if you prefer) was that back then Sam had been in his youth the least political, the least culturally-oriented, the least musically-oriented of those corner boys like Markin, Jack Dawson, Jimmy Jenkins and “ding-dong daddy” leader Fritz Fallon (that “ding-dong max daddy” another expression coined, or picked up from somewhere by Peter so although he has not even been properly introduced we know plenty about his place in the corner boy life, his place as “flak,” for Fritz’s operation although Fritz always called him “the Scribe” when he wanted something written and needed to play on Peter’s vanity) who kept the coins flowing into the jukebox at Phil’s House of Pizza. That shop had been located down a couple of blocks from the choppy ocean waters of Adamsville Beach (and is still there although under totally different management from the arch-Italian Rizzo family that ran the place for several generations now run by some immigrant Albanians named Hoxha).

That made Phil’s among other things a natural hang-out place for wayward but harmless poor teenage corner boys. The serious “townie” professional corner boys, the rumblers, tumblers, drifters, grifters and midnight sifters hung around Harry’s Variety with leader Red Riley over on Sagamore Street far from beaches. Night haunting boys far from sweated sun, tanned daytime beaches, with their equally pale, black dress-etched “tramps,” well known in the in boyos network at the high school for those few adventurous enough to mess with an off-hand “from hunger” girl looking for kicks and a fast ride in some souped-up Chevy or on back of fat hog Harley, the bike of choice around the town. Although tanned daytime beaches rumors had it that the beach, the isolated Rock Island end, had been the site of more than one nighttime orgy with “nice” publicly virginal girls looking for kicks with rough boys down among the briny rocks. Rumors they remained until Sam ran into Sissy Roswell many years later who confessed that she and the “social butterfly” prom/fall dance/ yearbook crowd of girls that she hung around with on a couple of occasions had been among the briny rocks with the bad ass biker the summer after graduation when school social ladders and girls’ locker room talk didn’t mean a thing. Yeah, just like the Madonna tramps looking for kicks, looking for the minute wild side with guys that they would probably never see again and who could have cared less about their fake virginal status as long as the put out, put out hard and fast, before running off to college or finding some high-end stockbroker to pay the freight.   

Getting back to Harry’s though, a place where cops with their patrol cars parked conspicuously in front of the store during the daytime placed their bets with “connected” Harry who used the store as a shabby front for the bookie operation and to fence Red’s nighttime work (the store had about three cans of beans and a couple of cans of soup on the shelves but did have a great big Coca-Cola ice chest filled with soda and a classic Madame La Rue pinball machine). Fritz and the boys would not have gone within three blocks of that place. Maybe more from fear, legitimate fear as Fritz’s older brother, Timmy, a serious tough guy himself, could testify to the one time he tried to wait outside Harry’s for some reason and got chain-whipped by Red for his indiscretion. So the tame corner boys at Phil’s were more than happy to hang out there where the Rizzos were more than happy to have them spent dough on the jukebox and pizzas except on Friday family pizza night set up to give Mom a rest for once not until after nine (and Tonio Rizzo the zen-master pizza maker secretly, since these corner boys were, if tame, still appealing looking to passing girls glad to have then around at that hour to boost the weekend sales). Moreover this spot provided a beautiful vantage point for scanning the horizon for those wayward girls who also kept their coins flowing into Phil’s jukebox (or maybe a stray “nice” girl turned tramp after Red and his corner boys threw her over).

Sam had recently thought about that funny story that Markin had told the crowd once on a hot night when nobody had any money and were just holding up the wall at Phil’s about Johnny Callahan, the flashy and unstoppable halfback from the high school team (and a guy even Red respected having made plenty of money off of with local sports who bet with him on the strength of Johnny’s prowess any given Saturday although Johnny once confessed that he, rightly, avoided Harry’s after what had happened to Timmy Fallon). See Johnny was pretty poor even by the median working poor standard of the old neighborhoods in those days (although now, courtesy of his incessant radio and television advertising which continues to make everyone within fifty miles of North Adamsville who knew Johnny back in the day aware of his new profession, he is a prosperous Toyota car dealer, called Mr. Toyota,  down across from the mall in Hull about twenty miles from North Adamsville, the town where their mutual friend Josh Breslin soon to be introduced came from). Johnny, a real music maniac who would do his football weight-lifting exercises to Jerry Lee’s Great Balls of Fire, Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula and stuff like that to get him hyped up, had this routine in order to get to hear songs that he was dying to hear, stuff he would hear late at night coming from a rock station out of Detroit and which would show up a few weeks later on Phil’s jukebox just waiting for Johnny and the kids to fill the coffers, with the girls who had some dough, enough dough anyway to put coins into that jukebox.
Johnny would go up all flirty and virile to some “young thing” (a Fritz expression coped from Jerry Lee and not an invention of Markin as Peter would later claim to some “young thing” that he was trying to “score”). 

Maybe, depending on whatever intelligent he had on the girl, maybe she had just had a fight with her boyfriend or had broken up with him Johnny would be all sympathy, or maybe she was just down in the dumps for no articulable reason like every teen goes through every chance they get, whatever it took. Johnny, by the way, would have gotten that intelligence via Peter who whatever else anybody had to say about him, good or bad, was wired into, no, made himself consciously privy to, all kinds of boy-girl information almost like he had a hook into that Monday morning before school girls’ locker room talkfest. Everybody already knew that he was hooked into the boys’ Monday morning version and had started more rumors and other unsavory deeds than any ten other guys.  Spreading ugly rumors about a guy whose girl he was interested in a specialty. But the guy was like Teflon, nobody ever thought to take him out for his actions they were so dependent on his information to keep their place in the social pecking order.

Now here is what Johnny “knew” about almost every girl if they had the quarter which allowed them to play three selections. He would let them pick that first one on their own, maybe something to express interest in his flirtation, maybe her name, say Donna, was also being used as the title of a latest hit, or if broken up some boy sorrow thing. Brenda Lee’s I Want To Be Wanted, stuff like that. The second one he would “suggest” something everybody wanted to listen to no matter what but which was starting to get old. Maybe an Elvis, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee thing still on the jukebox playlist but getting wearisome. Then he would go in for the kill and “suggest” they play this new platter, you know, something like Martha and the Vandelas Dancing in the Streets or Roy’s Blue Bayou both of which he had heard on the midnight radio airwaves out of Detroit one night and were just getting play on the jukeboxes. And bingo before you know it she was playing the thing again, and again. Beautiful. And Johnny said that sometimes he would wind up with a date, especially if he had just scored about three touchdowns for the school, a date that is in the days before he and Kitty Kelly became an item. An item, although it is not germane to the story, who still is Johnny’s girl, wife, known as Mrs. Toyota now.

But enough of this downstream stuff Sam thought. The hell with Johnny and his cheapjack tricks (although not to those three beautiful touchdowns days, okay) this thing gnawing at him was about old age angst and not the corner boy glory days at Phil’s, although it is about old time corner boys and their current doings, some of them anyway. So yeah he had other things he wanted to think about (and besides he had already, with a good trade-in, gotten his latest car from Mr. Toyota so enough there), to tell a candid world about how over the past few years with the country, the world, the universe had been going to hell in a hand-basket. In the old day, like he kept going back to, back in the day he was not the least bit interested in anything in the big world outside of sports, and girls, of course. And endlessly working on plans to own his own business, a print shop, before he was twenty-five. 
Well, he did get that small business, although not until thirty and had prospered when he made connections to do printing for several big high-tech companies, notably IBM when they began outsourcing their work. He had prospered, had married (twice, and divorced twice), had the requisite tolerated children and adored grandchildren, and in his old age a woman companion to ease his time.

But there had been for a long time, through those failed marriages, through that business success something gnawing at him, something that Sam felt he had missed out on, or felt he had do something about. Then a few years ago when it was getting time for a high school class reunion he had Googled “North Adamsville Class of 1964” and came upon a class website for that year, his year, that had been set up by the reunion committee, and decided to joint to keep up with what was going on with developments there. He would wind up not going to that reunion as he had planned, a long story about a slight ill-advised flirtation with an old flame classmate although that too is not germane to the story here except as one more thing that gnawed at him. But mostly in the end he could not face going home, came to believe what Thomas Wolfe said in the title of one of his novels, you can’t go home again).

After Sam had registered on the site giving a brief resume of his interests and what he had been up to those past forty years or so years Sam looked at the class list, the entire list of class members alive and deceased (a rose beside their name signifying their passing) of who had joined and found the names of Peter Markin. He had to laugh Peter had been listed as Peter Paul Markin since everybody was listed by their full names, revenge from the grave by his poor mother, and that leafy suburban first wife who tried to give him Mayflower credentials, he thought.  He also found the name of corner boy Jimmy Jenkins among those who had done so. (Jack Dawson had passed away a few years before, a broken man, broken after his son who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan had committed suicide, according to Peter, as had their corner boy leader, Fritz Fallon, homeless, and found down along a railroad trestle in New Jersey, after going through a couple of fortunes, his own and a third wife’s).

Through the mechanism established on the site which allowed each class member who joined to have a private cyberspace e-mail slot Sam contacted both men and the three of them started a rather vigorous on-line chat line for several weeks going through the alphabet of their experiences, good and bad. The time for sugar-coating was over unlike in their youth when all three would lie like crazy, especially about sex and with whom in order to keep their place in the pecking order, and in order to keep up with Fritz whom lied more than the three of them combined. Peter knew that, knew it better than anybody else but in order to keep his place as “scribe” in that crazy quill pecking order went along with such silly teenage stuff, stuff that in his other pursuits he would have laughed at but that is what made being a teenager back then, now too, from what Sam saw of his grandchildren’s trials and tribulations.

After a while, once the e-mail questions had worked their course, all three men met in Boston at the Sunnyvale Grille, a place where Markin had begun to hang out in after he had moved back to Boston (read: where he did his daytime drinking) over by the waterfront, and spent a few hours discussing not so much old times per se but what was going on in the world, and how the world had changed so much in the meantime. And since Markin, the political maniac of the tribe, was involved in the conversations maybe do something about it at least that is what Sam had hoped since he knew that is where he thought he needed to head in order to cut into that gnawing feeling. Sam was elated, and unlike in his youth he did not shut his ears down, when those two guys would talk politics, about the arts or about music. He now regretted that he had not listened back then since he was so strictly into girls and sports, not always in that order (which caused many problems later including one of the grounds for his one of his divorces, not the sports but the girls).

This is probably the place for Sam to introduce Peter Markin although he had already given an earful (and what goes for Peter goes to a lesser extent for Jimmy who tended to follow in Pete’s wake on the issues back then, and still does). Peter, as Sam has already noted, provided that noteworthy, national security agency-worthy service, that “intelligence” he provided all the guys (and not just his corner boys, although they had first dibs) about girls. Who was “taken,” a very important factor if some frail (a Fritz term from watching too many 1940s gangster and detective movies and reading Dashiell Hammett too closely, especially The Maltese Falcon),was involved with some bruiser football player, some college joe who belonged to a fraternity and the brothers were sworn to avenge any brother’s indignities, or worse, worse of all, if she was involved with some outlaw biker who hung out in Adamsville and who if he hadn’t had his monthly quota of  college boy wannabes red meat hanging out at Phil’s would not think twice about chain-whipping you just for the fuck of it (“for the fuck of it” a  term Jimmy constantly used then, and now, so it was not always Markin or Fritz who led the verbal life around the corner). Who was “unapproachable,”  probably more important than that social blunder of ‘hitting on” a taken woman since that snub by Miss Perfect-Turned-Up-Nose would make the rounds of the now legendary seminar, Monday morning before school girls’ locker room (and eventually work its way through Markin to the boys’ Monday morning version ruining whatever social standing the guy had spent since junior high trying to perfect in order to avoid the fatal nerd-dweeb-wallflower-square- name your term existence). Strangely Markin made a serious mistake with Melinda Loring who blasted her freeze deep on him and he survived to tell the tale, or at least that is what he had the boys believe. Make of this what you will though, Peter never after that Melinda Loring mistake, had a high school girlfriend from North Adamsville High, who, well, liked to “do the do” as they called it back then, that last part not always correct since everybody, girls and boys alike, were lying like crazy about whether they were “doing the do” or not, including Markin.

But beyond, well beyond, that schoolboy silliness Markin was made of sterner stuff (although Sam would not have bothered to use such a positive attribute about Markin back then) was super-political, super into art and into what he called culture, you know going to poetry readings at coffeehouses, going over Cambridge to watch foreign films with subtitles and themes at the Brattle Theater that he would try to talk about and even Jimmy would turn his head when he went on and on about French films, especially those films by Jean Renoir, and super into music, fortunately he was not crazy for classical music (unlike some nerds in school then who were in the band) but serious about what is now called classic rock and roll and then in turn, the blues, and folk music. (Sam still shuttered at that hillbilly folk music stuff Markin tried to interest him in when he thought about it).

That folk music was how Peter had first met Josh Breslin, still a friend, whom he introduced to Sam at one of their meetings over at the Sunnyvale Grille. Josh told the gathering that Markin had met him after high school, after he had graduated from Hull High (the same town where Johnny Callahan was burning up the Toyota sales records for New England) down at the Surf Ballroom (Sam had his own under twenty-one memories of the place, some good, some bad including one affair that almost wound up in marriage). Apparently Josh and Peter had had their wanting habits on the same girl at one Friday night dance when the great local cover band, the Rockin’ Ramrods held sway there, and had been successively her boyfriend for short periods both to be dumped for some stockbroker from New York. But their friendship remained and they had gone west together, gone on that Jack Kerouac-drenched On The Road for a number of years when they were trying their own version of turning the world upside down on. Josh also dabbled (his word) in the turning upside down politics of the time.

And that was the remarkable thing about Peter, not so much later in cahoots with Josh because half of youth nation, half the generation of ’68 was knee-deep in some movement, but in staid old North Adamsville High days, days when to just be conventionally political, wanting to run for office or something, was kind of strange. See Peter was into the civil rights movement, nuclear disarmament, and social justice stuff that everybody thought he was crazy to be into, everybody from Ma to Fritz (and a few anonymous midnight phone-callers yelling n----r-lover in the Markin home phone).  He had actually gone into Boston when he was a freshman and joined the picket-line in front of Woolworth’s protesting the fact that they would not let black people eat in their lunchrooms down south (and maybe Markin would say when he mentioned what he was up to they were not that happy to have blacks in their northern lunchrooms either ), had joined a bunch of Quakers and little old ladies in tennis sneakers (a term then in use for airhead blue-haired lady do-gooders with nothing but time on their hands) calling on the government to stop building atomic bombs (not popular in the red scare Cold War we-are-fighting- against- the- Russians-terror North Adamsville, or most other American places either), running over to the art museum to check out the exhibits (including some funny stories about him and Jimmy busting up the place looking at the old Pharaoh times slave building Pyramids stuff uncovered by some Harvard guys way back), and going to coffeehouses in Harvard Square and listening to hokey folk music that was a drag. (Sam’s take on that subject then, and now.) So Peter was a walking contradiction, although that was probably not as strange now as it seemed back then when every new thing was looked at with suspicion, and when kids like Peter were twisted in the wind between being corner boys and trying to figure out what that new wind was that was blowing though the land, when Sam and the other corner boys, except Jimmy and sometimes Jack would try to talk him out of stuff that would only upset everybody in town.

But here is the beauty, beauty for Sam now that he was all ears about what Peter had to say, he had kept at it, had kept the faith, while everybody else from their generation, or almost everybody, who protested war, protested around the social issues, had hung around coffeehouses and who had listened to folk music had long before given it up. Markin had, after his  Army time, spent a lot of time working with GIs around the war issues, protested American foreign policy at the drop of a hat and frequented off-beat coffeehouses set up in the basements of churches in order to hear the dwindling number of folk artists around. He had gotten and kept his “religion,” kept the faith in a sullen world. And like in the old days a new generation (added to that older North Adamsville generation which still, from the class website e-mail traffic he received when classmates found out they were in communication had not gotten that much less hostile to what Peter had to say about this wicked old world, you already know the genesis of that term, right), was ready to curse him out, ready to curse the darkness against his small voice.

One night when Peter and Sam were alone at the Sunnyvale, maybe both had had a few too many high-shelf scotches (able to afford such liquor unlike in the old days when they both in their respective poverties drank low-shelf Johnny Walker whiskey with a beer chaser when they had the dough, if not some cheapjack wine), Peter told Sam the story of how he had wanted to go to Alabama in high school, go to Selma, but his mother threatened to disown him if he did, threatened to disown him not for his desire to go but because she would not have been able to hold her head up in public if he had, and so although it ate at him not to go, go when his girlfriend, Helen Jackson, who lived in Gloversville, did go, he took a dive (Peter’s words).

Told a redemptive story too about his anti-war fight in the Army when he refused to go to Vietnam and wound up in an Army stockade for a couple of years altogether. (Sam thought that was a high price to pay for redemption but it may have been the scotch at work.) Told a number of stories about working with various veterans’ groups, throwing medals over Supreme Court barricades, chainings to the White House fence, sitting down in hostile honked traffic streets, blocking freeways complete with those same hostile honkings, a million walks for this and that, and some plain old ordinary handing out leaflets, working the polls and button-holing reluctant politicians to vote against the endless war budgets (this last the hardest task, harder than all the jailings, honkings, marches put together and seemingly the most fruitless). Told too stories about the small coffeehouse places seeing retread folkies who had gone on to other things and then in a fit of anguish, or hubris, decided to go back on the trail. Told of many things that night not in a feast of pride but to let Sam know that sometimes it was easier to act than to let that gnawing win the day. Told Sam that he too always had the gnaw, probably always would in this wicked old world. Sam was delighted by the whole talk, even if Peter was on his soapbox. 

That night too Peter mentioned in passing that he contributed to a number of blogs, a couple of political ones, including an anti-war veterans’ group, a couple of old time left-wing cultural sites and a folk music-oriented one. Sam confessed to Peter that although he had heard the word “blog” he did not know what a blog was. Peter told him that one of the virtues of the Internet was that it provided space (cyberspace, a term Sam had heard of and knew what it meant) for the average citizen to speak his or her mind via setting up a website or a blog. Blogs were simply a way to put your opinions and comments out there just like newspaper Op/Ed writers or news reporters and commentators although among professional reporters the average blog and blog writer were seen as too filled with opinions and sometimes rather loose with the facts. Peter said he was perfectly willing to allow the so-called “objective” reporters roam free to state the facts but he would be damned if the blog system was not a great way to get together with others interested in your areas of interest, yeah, stuff that interested you and that other like-minded spirits might respond to. Yeah, that was worth the effort.

The actual process of blog creation (as opposed to the more complex website-creation which still takes a fair amount of expertise to create) had been made fairly simple over time, just follow a few simple prompts and you are in business. Also over time what was possible to do has been updated for ease, for example linking to other platforms to your site and be able to present multi-media works lashing up say your blog with YouTube or downloading photographs to add something to your presentation. Peter one afternoon after Sam had asked about his blog links showed him the most political one that he belonged to, one he had recently begun to share space with Josh Breslin, Frank Jackman and a couple of other guys that he had known since the 1960s on and who were familiar with the various social, political and cultural trends that floated out from that period. 
Sam was amazed at the topics that those guys tackled, stuff that he vaguely remembered hearing about but which kind of passed him by as he delved into the struggle to build his printing shop. He told Peter that he got dizzy looking at the various titles from reviews of old time black and white movies that he remembered watching at the old Strand second-run theater uptown, poetry from the “beat” generation, various political pieces on current stuff like the Middle East, the fight against war, political prisoners most of whom he had never heard of except the ones who had been Black Panthers or guys like that, all kinds of reviews of rock and roll complete with the songs via YouTube, too many reviews of folk music that he never really cared for, books that he knew Peter read like crazy but he could not remember the titles. The guys really had put a lot of stuff together, even stuff from other sites and announcements for every conceivable left-wing oriented event. He decided that he would become a Follower which was nothing sinister like some cult but just that you would receive notice when something was put on the blog.

Peter also encouraged him to write some pieces about what interested him, maybe start out about the old days in North Adamsville since all the guys mined that vein for sketches. That is what Peter liked to call most of the material on site since they were usually too short to be considered short stories but too long to be human interest snapshots. Sam said he would think about the matter, think about it seriously once he read the caption below:                                                                           

“This space is noted for politics mainly, and mainly the desperate political fight against various social, economic and moral injustices and wrongs in this wicked old world, although the place where politics and cultural expression, especially post-World War II be-bop cultural expression, has drawn some of our interest over the past several years. The most telling example of that interest is in the field of popular music, centrally the blues, city and country, good woman on your mind, hardworking, hard drinking blues and folk music, mainly urban, mainly protest to high heaven against the world’s injustices smite the dragon down, folk music. Of late though the old time 1950s kid, primordial, big bang, jail-break rock and roll music that set us off from earlier generations has drawn our attention. Mostly by reviewing oldies CDs but here, and occasionally hereafter under this headline, specifically songs that some future archaeologists might dig up as prime examples of how we primitives lived ,and what we listened to back in the day.”

Sam could relate to that, had something to say about some of those songs. Josh Breslin laughed when he heard that Sam was interested in doing old time rock and roll sketches. He then added, “If we can only get him to move off his butt and come out and do some street politics with us we would be getting somewhere.” Peter just replied, “one step at a time.” Yeah, that’s the ticket.