Saturday, October 03, 2020
He’s Been A Bad Boy, He’s Been A Bad Boy-Again-The Very Loosely Film Adaptation Of Homer’s “The Iliad” Bad Boy Brad Pitts “Troy” (2004)-A Review
He’s Been A Bad Boy, He’s Been A Bad Boy-Again-The Very Loosely Film Adaptation Of Homer’s “The Iliad” Bad Boy Brad Pitt's “Troy” (2004)-A Review
By Alden Riley
Troy, Brad Pitts
That dude, that max daddy poet who wrote in weird meter indeed, some hex hexameter thing only poets and English Lit majors would understand Homer (no known last name or place of residence although assuredly not homeless in the modern sense) knew how to tell a story, kept the crowds humming, kept the boys and girls fixated to see what they could learn about allure and love trampling power, glory and a side order of hubris which is after all a Greek word.
Yes, that daddy, oops, max daddy poet whose works were only slightly shorter than the late Professor Alan Ginsberg, he of Howl angel hipsters and homoerotic fantasies got the whole thing about the ten major themes in Western literature right-especially the boy meets girl idea, the hubris of the gods (God in latter day mono speak) defining some ill-thought out fate for mere mortals, the mortals taking their own bad ass fates with grains of salt, the hubris and rage, fury maybe a better word and the seemingly never-ending wars for power, glory, etc. maybe love in the mix too if Helen was as beautiful as the man said, the tormented life of the hero-heroine and the like. Good job brother, good job indeed. How old Homer’s idea translate to the big 21st century screen is another question as the Bad Boy Brad Pitt-led cast of the film adaptation of Homer’s epic Troy bring to a crude point what our max daddy was trying to say on his way to numero uno in the Western literary canon, the now doomed old white men canon which has been given short shrift of late. (For no known academic reason except style and politics because after all you could in my humble opinion make world literature a “big tent” including all the unjustly forgottens-but later on that since we are into the roots today).
Here’s the play as old-time film reviewer Sam Lowell a man locked in his own literary battles with Sarah Lemoyne, a young up and coming reviewer, was fond of saying in his salad days. Needless to say, love drove things batty back then, back three thousand years ago just like today if you can believe the news, fake, alternative, truthful or otherwise and take a look at what is going on around you. Paris, excuse me if I don’t run the litany of other aliases he went under especially after he went down to infamous and unmanly defeat at the hands of his girlfriend’s husband, Menelaus, king hell king, another Sam Lowell expression, of virtuous and manly Sparta who was full of that rage, maybe fury is a better word, and swore to kill the bastard who took his woman away without so much as a by your leave had eyes for one Helen. Helen, hellion, formerly of Sparta and now address unknown but suspected to be in a place called Illium and hence the Illiad but who in those days when men, women, gods (God in that damn mono-speak) worked like seven dervishes to keep the place safe from infidels, greedy kings and warlords, con men and priests under the name Troy, not Troy, New York which was only a Dutch sailor’s wonder dream back then if anybody was living in Dutch land.
The presiding dignity of the fortress unbreachable King Priam, played in the film, remember to follow the bouncing ball because we are reviewing a film along the way, by the oldest brother of Peter O’Toole or maybe father because he had lost a step or seven since he played Lawrence of Arabia in another war is hell film and Henry some number in The Lion In Winter going mano a mano with Eleanor of Aquitaine speaking of salad days. Priam father to ninety-eight pound weakling Paris who was totally outmatched by old man Menelaus and his mega-death brother and heir apparent Hector who as older brothers often have to do finished off Menelaus just in a nick of time. So Hector he-man and Paris light on his feet match up in the sibling contest to bring some excitement to Illium town.
Funny this older brother had it right when he heard Paris had bewitched Helen, that beauty so they say who would go on to launch a thousand ships-and not in a good and jovial way like at a ship’s christening. War ships and plenty manned by rough-hewn sailors who took their love anyway they could get it under the whip just like Carl Solomon of Ginsberg hipster dreams and madness. This kidnapping, some say the whole thing was an early high-end wife-swapping but those harpies have malicious tongues, of Helen was bad news, was predicted by Mr. Hector, also no known last name or abode, except that silly Illium, of bringing down everlasting hell and damnation on the town, would make guys, gods, like Apollo go crazy with ire, maybe fury is a better word. Proved right but at what cost when senile and nerve-deadened Priam indulged his freaking younger son and who knows maybe had twilight designs on her himself if she really was that beautiful. (The gal who played her Diane Kruger no question an ice queen beauty was built for sweaty nights and silky sheets but who would soon wear on a man’s nerves with her damn harping about that bloody lost to her ex-husband now mercifully dead by the hand of Hector mentioned already).
War, war to the death, like half of the Western literary canon that would follow this path-breaking epic was all that could resolve this deadly dispute. Not surprising the leader of the war party in Greek was Menelaus’ older brother Agamemnon, king of flea-bitten Mycenae and a guy who lived to breath everlasting hell and damnation on anything that breathed over in Illium town-wanted power glory and a few good wenches, slaves to keep his bed warm. Naturally this is only the barest outline of what got the conflict going and be assured that no way could Hollywood dole out enough dough to do the whole Trojan War, Trojan remember the other name for residents of wacky Illium. The cost for the billion extras along would break Universal or Paramount. The war lasted years as one might expect of guys who fought with axes, spears, and arrows so this film will only detail the last gripping episodes where Troy is burned to the ground by the greedy Greek governors led by brother-less child Agamemnon and that cast of thousands who roiled the Aegean finding love wherever they could-savage rapine if the occasion called for it and wenches and shipboard romances if they hit an lively port.
While the boy meets girl story drives the film, has to since after all Helen’s face launched that one thousand ships and the guys who played the Greek kings except the pretty boy kind of Ithaca who seemed to have some sway over him, the real focus is on the warrior class, on guys like one Achilles, later in history as predicted by myopic mother to be known as painful Achilles heel but then a stone-cold killer, a warrior to put every Marvel Comic cinematic character in the shade, even Captain America if you can believe that. This Achilles is ranked number one in the world, the known world which was basically the Greek city-states, Troy, Dutch lands if inhabited by static dreamers and maybe bloody England since many of the actors had distinctive British accents and had that sun never sets on the Empire demeanor.
The problem with being Achilles, warrior for hire to the highest bidder or if he liked the take, remember played by modern day bad boy, and bad boy again Brad Pitts, is some ass is always looking to knock you down, take you down a peg. Or have some hireling do the dirty work. No question Achilles, another guy with no known last name or address except the battlefields of whoever has the best deal, had a long run at number one stone cold killer maybe the legendary Greek psycho but he also had his sensitive side, that brooding philosophy king in waiting Plato was always dogging us mere mortals with. Worried maybe about his strange obsession with bedding vestal virgins especially those who served one Apollo, a god among gods (God in mono-speak), also with no known last name or place of residence. Emphatically not worried about his fate, knowing what dear mother had spun her crystal ball around, knowing too a soldier’s destiny but ready to throw the dice that glory would come with living fast, dying young and making a good ashen-strewn corpse. And we still speak his name, speak of the warrior king if not of his vestal virgin with the unpronounceable first name, also with no last name although her former residence was One Temple Of Apollo Place. Yeah, that max daddy Homer sure knew how to tell a story-even in weird meter.
It’s Only A Chocolate Moon, June-Version 2 Million And Seventy-One Of The “Boy Meets Girl” Saga-Jean-Pierre Ameris’ “Romantics Anonymous” (2010)-Better “Les Émotifs anonymes » -A Film Review
It’s Only A Chocolate Moon, June-Version 2 Million And Seventy-One Of The “Boy Meets Girl” Saga-Jean-Pierre Ameris’ “Romantics Anonymous” (2010)-Better “Les Émotifs anonymes » -A Film Review
By Sarah Lemoyne
Les Émotifs anonymes-Romantics Anonymous, starring Benoit Poelvoorde, Isabelle Carre, 2010
I have only been in the film reviewing business, profession really since I went to graduate school at NYU for a short while (at least let me call it a profession to satisfy my beleaguered parents who wound up paying for me to become a professional at something, paid a ton of money so bear with me). I have had many conversations with my unofficial “mentor” Seth Garth who has been particularly helpful in my struggle to be the “Queen” of 21st century film noir against the limitation posed by the so-called “King” of film noir in the middle of the 20th century or thereabouts Sam Lowell. (In the inevitable interest of transparency Sam an old friend of Seth’s from high school days which has not hindered him from helping me.) Fortunately today I do not have to lock horns with Sam in doing this review of the French-Belgian film Romantics Anonymous but Seth helped me nevertheless. Or maybe better Sam through Seth when he pointed out that Hollywood and later other film centers has survived by playing about two million versions of the “boy meets girl” theme which they grabbed from early in the Western literary canon, maybe Homer with his sweet music hexameter The Illiad. When I thought about it later I checked through the recent film review archives and noticed from Robin Hood grabbing Lady Marion to Phillip Marlowe grabbing some ravishing blonde that theme really does resonate.
All this lead-in to let the reader know that the film under review, except maybe to say “man meets woman” is deeply indebted to that trope-doesn’t actually make an sense otherwise. Doesn’t grab the viewer, as it did me, unless you take it for granted that the film is trying to pull at your heartstrings-and succeeds. The only addition that I make to the genre is the observation that this meeting was a very unusual- two social misfits meeting and cavorting despite their anxieties. Their social shyness.
Angelique, played by fetching and doe-eyed Isabelle Carre, is a bundle of social anxieties who is in an anonymous group trying to overcome her affliction. She also happens to be one great chocolatier, a natural who is befriended by a fellow candy man who let her make her chocolate confections at home and let the legend of her work thrive in secret. Problem though is that eventually that candy man died and left her high and dry looking for another job. That job search was finally successful when she was hired at the Chocolate Mill, a struggling old-fashioned candy operation headed by Jean-Rene who as it turned out was also filled with about six million social anxieties as well. Second problem-Angelique was hired by Jean-Rene, played by antic, frantic Benoit Poelvoorde, to be a sales representative-to go sell chocolate not make confections. Not good. As the film moves along Jean-Rene who is seeing a therapist is given various exercises to help break his social patterns (or lack of social graces) just as Angelique is using her group sessions to get a handle on her anxieties. The two are a carnival of mixed messages and misunderstandings.
That “collision” triggers the couple getting together for dinner and other social misadventures, some scenes which are funny and are added by Jean-Rene’s facial expressions and Angelique’s doe-eyed responses. Also along the way she helps bail out the firm by getting secretly back into her great chocolatier hermit character through a thin guise. At some point, probably well before they actually spent the night together-unintentionally, you know, you can bet six, two and even as Seth says (which he later told me he got from Sam who got it from an old high school friend known as the Scribe who was addicted to film noir private detective films) they will be together, will get married, or be together some way, even if they have to run away from each other for a while. A little gem of a feel good film but I wonder, given my own social anxieties and that of my partner, whether two people really would get together like this pair based on their personalities. Just a question though in the eternal “boy meets girl” mix (which is now expanded to whatever coupling anybody is into-which is okay too).
The Death Of A Super-Hero-Ben Affleck’s Batman vs. Superman (2016)- A Film Review
By Associate Film Editor Alden Riley
Batman vs. Superman, starring Ben Affleck, based on the DC comic series character, 2016
There were no tears shed in these quarters when I heard that so-called super-hero Superman cashed his check, parted this life. My feeling is that the times, these times, require plenty of heroes, of that there can be no doubt, but that super-heroes are a drug on the market, a dime a dozen, maybe less. So I could to use an expression that the former film editor in this space was fond of using going back to his ancient corner boy, his expression, youth give a rat’s ass about the demise of a guy who wasn’t even from earth, was an alien, and not even an alien from another country but from a woe begotten planet, Krypton, I never heard of, don’t remember reading about in high school when we studied astronomy. We will never know, and maybe it is better that way, of the how and why of his going off the track, of his nefarious activities at the end against the interests of dear Metropolis/ Gotham, an American city (which we all know is New York City where else could it be). The powers that be covered up, covered up big time after Superman bought it, after he allegedly fell on his own sword, so that “the people” could have something to believe in during these trying times. Yeah, that was the “alternate facts” story from the bowels of Washington. Figures, right.
Let me explain how I drew this assignment, the assignment to review Batman vs. Superman in this space. I have to admit that the few months I have been doing the associate editor’s job here that the film editor, my boss, Sandy Salmon has except on rare occasions given me films to review that are of interest to me. This though is one of the times I have drawn an assignment that Sandy has “ordered” me to do but for an unusual reason so I am placating him on this one. Sandy freely admits that in his youth, afterwards too, he was addicted to DC and Marvel comics, super-hero comics mostly. He felt that he could not emotionally handle the idea that one of the key guys who brightened up his benighted youth had passed on, would be no more. He told me that he had tried to write the thing but just couldn’t finish it.
I know that Sandy had grown up in tough circumstances so maybe he needed some super heroes to get through the tough times. My own youthful times were not nearly as traumatic. In fact we used to beat up on kids who wore Superman costumes for Halloween or some occasion like that. Used to call such kids the “f” word or as my gentile father used to say they were “light on their feet” and you know what I mean. Well I know better now about such stuff but the super-hero business still leaves me cold.
Let me get to the story line as Sandy likes for all of us to summarize so the readers get an idea of what the film is about. As with most comic-based films it is kind of simplicity itself-good vs. evil and little middle ground. This is where homegrown boy, Batman, played by Ben Affleck, gets his dander up about this in the end alien Superman. It seems that through several misunderstanding and some sleight of hand by log time nemesis Lex Luthor who is never up to any good Batman thinks Superman has gone over the edge. From one stand-point that looks to be the case, especially when a guy like Superman who has a long track record of saving humanity from rescuing little girls in distress to fending off monsters and other bad guys is the last guy standing when a bomb exploded in a Senate committee hearing on how to safeguard the world against those like Lex who want to use a recent find of kryptonite as a “safeguard,” a deterrent against any Krypton-initiated attacks.
Admittedly Batman fell into a lot of traps which were made to look like old pal Superman was in on the “fix.” It was not until too late that Batman found out that Superman alter ego love interest Lois Lane and his adopted earth mother were being held ransom to get Superman to do some nefarious bidding. Superman in the end though has to fall on his metaphysical sword attempting to fight off a mega-monster to save the world. Tough break though he is mortally wounded and in the cover-up he is once again an international hero and given an appropriate send-off. (Alter Ego Clark Kent, Lois’ honey gets a quiet hometown Kansas send-off.) Yeah, no tears shed in this corner for the guy since he knew he was in way over his head but maybe one should shed a tear for Batman because who knows what he will get embroiled in next. There Sandy I did your freaking review for you. You owe me, owe me big.
Friday, October 02, 2020
To Seek A Newer World-The Trials And Tribulations Of The Non-Violence Path To Social Change -Join The Resistance Now!
To Seek A Newer World-The Trials And Tribulations Of The Non-Violence Path To Social Change -Join The Resistance Now!
Frank Jackman comment:
Recently I noted in a short comment about my checkered political past concerning my very often wavering adherence to the principles of non-violent action that Anna Riley my maternal grandmother was a great believer in the social message of the Catholic Worker movement, gave great credence to the essentially non-violent social change message that leaders like Dorothy Day had to say about pursuing the course. I failed to mention then that around the old neighborhood, the Acre section of North Adamsville, the geographic fate of the working poor section, mostly Irish from “famine ships” times to “just off the boat,” most definitely mostly Catholic, that sweet Anna Riley was considered a “saint.” That saint designation provoked primarily by her ability for over fifty years to put up with one curmudgeon, and I am being kind here, named Daniel Patrick Riley, her husband and my maternal grandfather. Virtually everybody in the neighborhood, the older folks and his many local relatives, including me, had except on his deathbed and when they laid him down to rest which in Irish tradition forgives even the most wicked, had nothing but curses when his name was spoken. He was that kind of man, unfortunately.
But dear sweet grandmother Anna was also known around the neighborhood by all except the most hardened heathen Protestants, few as they were, who had nothing but scorn for the raggedly shanty Irish, as a saint for her gentle but persistent adherence to her well-defined Christian-etched social gospel. She was always among the leaders when someone was to be evicted from one of the crummy three-decker apartment buildings for which the section in imitation of the far larger ones in the Dorchester and South Boston sections was locally famous, or infamous. Moreover when the “boyos” were on strike against the shipbuilding companies which drove the economy of the town in those days (now long gone and almost forgotten once the shipbuilders headed off-shore to cheaper labor markets leaving the Acre even poorer and less stable) Anna was the first to knock on doors to get the women and non-shipbuilding men down to the picket lines in support of the brethren. She did a million small and unacknowledged kindnesses as well but also made sure that the local authorities (they were always called the authorities, governmental, court, police around the Acre) knew when children were going to bed hungry in the land of plenty, the 1950s land of plenty.
What drove Anna like I said was her simple but strong sense of social gospel which was derived not from the main tenets of the Roman Catholic Church (that “Roman” not necessary in North Adamsville but as I am addressing a wider audience Roman to separate from other forms of Christianity) but from her allegiance to a small group of “renegades” the Brethren of the Common Life led by old Father Joyce who was constantly in hot water with the very conservative Cardinal who presided over the Archdiocese of Boston. That old goat threaten ex-communication and perdition to anybody who adhered to such basic principles as opposition to war, charity to the poor and bedraggled, and any communal what he called communistic sensibilities ( I never did get the whole list of their principles but these general categories give an idea of what the organization was about). Hence Anna’s kinship with the old-time Catholic Workers movement.
Hence also her very great influence over my youthful political and social formation. She never pressed the Brethren issue on me, per se, since my mother and uncles were adamantly opposed to her views and maintained a strict orthodox Roman Catholic view of the world but just being around her gave me a sense of what she was about. And as I came of age in the red scare Cold War anti-communist keep your head down and let Ike handle everything late 1950s her bromides against the craziness of the known world egged me on. Egged me on too when I began to spent more and more time at her house which was only a few blocks from my family house as my mother got to be more and more (and more) overbearing. Those were the days too when Daniel had been placed in what today would be called an “assisted living” home and back then a rest home after he suffered a stroke. So the place was tranquility itself, a place to read stuff like the Catholic Worker which she subscribed to and other books and pamphlets put out by the Brethren and other such organizations like the Quakers
I mentioned in that previous comment about non-violent action that in my youth, my younger days, the idea of non-violent action was not an abstract question. I was especially (and so was Grandma) impressed by the assertive and definitely not passive non-violent lines of the black civil right movement in the South that were unfolding before my eyes seemingly every night on television and which held great sway over me. In those days sympathy for the black civil rights struggle down South was almost non-existent in the Acre. Any sympathy even in school debating the merits of the case against Mister James Crow and its equivalent in the North was met with snarls of “n----r-lover,” or worse. (Belying the old-time leftist notion that the poor and working people have much in common no matter what race or ethnic grouping which should override everything else. Unfortunately almost the direct opposition was/is true since down there at the margins of society down there where the working poor meet the thugs, gangsters and rip-off artists it is every person for him or herself-and theirs). So very early on I had had to take a very close look at some of the trends that had developed in the struggle for human emancipation. The central debate in my mind, and remember too I was a child of the Acre as well, was about passive non-violence argued by the likes of Tolstoy or a more muscular one that was beginning to form in action down South. I gravitated toward the more muscular variety (and so did Grandma).
Naturally direct non-violent actions in the North other than solidarity actions with the struggle down South were few and far between in those days. Mainly sit-ins around equal access to places that were supposed to serve the general public-but didn’t. I have mentioned elsewhere that my very first public political street action demonstration had been a SANE-Quaker and other religious pacifistic organizations rally at historic Park Street Station on Boston Common around the struggle against nuclear weapons in the fall of 1960 (at a time when I was also campaigning like crazy to get one of our own, Jack Kennedy, elected President, even though he was rattling the “missile gap” saber-go figure).
In retrospective those heady days when the black civil rights movement was carrying all before it were also the heydays of my belief in creative non-violent action. The time when whatever Doctor King and the other leadership said about bowing our heads before the aggressors held me in its thrall. Although, and here is my contradiction of the time if you will, I was enamored under the spell of my maternal grandfather, that old curmudgeon Daniel Riley, an ardent Irish nationalist of the struggle in Ireland that got its modern start around Easter, 1916. Despite his gruffness and meanness I would sit by and listen as he told tales learned from cousins who had been in the 1916 fight even if at other times I avoided him like the plague. So let’s put it down that I was probably more tactically committed to non-violent actions (and under current circumstances still am with what I see of the huge disparity of forces on our side and those leveled against us-and the passive quiescence of the working populations).
The great change, maybe of emphasis, maybe of getting older and wiser, and maybe, just maybe as a result of my truncated Army career which was a watershed of sorts since that service happened during the Vietnam War (where I didn’t go although I was 11 Bravo, an infantryman but that is a story also told elsewhere). The savagery of the American government against a small but real national liberation struggle (like the British for a long time against the Irish if you want an analogy until they got noses bloody in 1916) which could not be fought any other way except under the gun led me away from even that previous total tactical acceptance of the idea that non-violent action could slay the evil dragon. And that stance has not changed much in the last forty years or so, although I wish those who can “keep the faith,” the faith of my youth, well.
Once Again-The Summer Of Love, 1967-Postcards From A Lost Planet-The Complete Trilogy
“The Scribe Turns The World Upside Down”- “Buddha Swings-Jack Kerouac Wings”- “When Butterfly Swirl Swirled”
[The well- known writer and book critic Zack James eventually began to feel that he had signed on to an assignment from hell after spending a fair amount of time this summer of 2017 chronicling the 50th Anniversary of the San Francisco-centered Summer of Love, 1967. Especially so since he was far too young by about a decade to have any personal affinity to that celebration. His whole involvement had come about after his oldest brother, Alex, had taken a business trip to San Francisco and had noticed an advertisement for an exhibition at the de Young Art Museum in Golden Gate Park entitled The Summer of Love Experience. For Alex it was crucial that he attend that exhibition since he had actually been out there in that decisive summer of 1967 and for about two years afterward before settling down to pursue his current life as a high-end lawyer in Boston. When Alex returned to Boston he gathered together whatever friends were left standing as he called it from his growing up town of North Adamsville and who had also gone out to the Bay area for various amounts of time in 1967.
As a result of that meeting the group of seven agreed with Alex that they should commission Zack to help write, edit, and prepare for publication a small book of memoirs of those times. The book to be dedicated to the late Peter Paul Markin, forever known among that crowd as “Scribe” once Frankie Riley the acknowledged leader of the guys he hung around dubbed him with that title for his blasted tenacity about knowing every possible fact in the universe for any occasion. More importantly the Scribe had always been something of a bell-weather for all kinds of trends like the rise of folk music in the early 1960s, the anti-war movement, and what he called according to Alex who was his closest friend at the time, the “fresh new breeze coming through the land.” The Scribe was the first to head out to San Francisco after quitting college in the spring of 1967. (The consequences of that ill-advised decision will be mentioned below.) He came back a couple of months later and rounded up every “corner boy,” that is what they were called then, to head back by bus, by hitchhiking or whatever means they could get there.
Zack put together the book and saw to its publication thinking that was the end of the matter. Not so. Alex, and then the others, kept asking him to write more stories about the Scribe and those times. That led to some reviews of the music, books, and other social events of the times. Some ten pieces in all. That is when he said enough. Told Alex to tell the “brethren” (Zack’s word) he needed to finish a book on the legendary revolutionary pre-Civil War abolitionist John Brown which was running up against a publication dead-line. That is when he “drafted” me to do some short pieces remaining from that period. Of course I am even younger than Zack so I had only heard about the Summer of Love through books and lately through looking at YouTube videos which are plentiful. Since I owned Zack couple of favors I agreed to finish up for him.
At first the three pieces that I contributed stood by themselves based on some postcards Alex had given Zack as prompts to write up about. But as I looked into more background material especially that Scribe tribute memoir book Zack had carefully put together I came to see that they all were linked together. Linked together by the character of the mad monk Peter Paul Markin, the Scribe. So I have, after re-writing some of the material, put the pieces together as a trilogy. If Alex and his guys want to dedicate this stuff to the Scribe then that is okay by me-Jeffrey Thorne]
The Scribe Turned The World Upside Down
The Scribe said it best one night, one Summer of Love, 1967 night, one cold San Francisco night, a summer night when the Japan currents went awry and reminded one of old Mark Twain’s witty sayings about the coldest winter he had ever spent-August in the city of sweet brethren Saint Francis, when he declared (so like that mad man to use the seventh person imperative, to declare in his world-historic way, for such small letter asterisk events), that the breeze coming through the land would shake society to its foundations. Would make nine to five work-a-day world a bore (and give his poor brethren a chance to partake of the golden age that he, his parents, his Acre neighborhood, and most of the known world had been short-changed of for millennia), make that long suburban tract complete with dishwasher and sanitary garbage disposal obsolete before the last mortgage payment hit the dirt (get people to think differently about space, about community, and give that same and give that poor brethren a chance to partake of the golden age of living space that he, his parents, his Acre neighborhood, and most of the known world had been short-changed of for millennia), would make those three point two kids and that one dog a victim of old-fashioned thinking (well, okay).
Said, get this for a guy who became a non-believer, a non-believer in risen Christ if you can believe that very early in his teens (and went to church, sliding side door church solely to sit a few rows behind some lovely he was pining over just to watch her ass so yes a non-believer) that the new dispensation was at hand-if they could keep it, keep the bastards, and you know who the bastards were then-the night-takers and guys who conned you into nine to five dreams, suburban flats and, what was it three point two kids (we will pass on the not mandatory dog) from barking at the door.
Sure the Scribe talked the talk and walked the walk, oh boy did he, spouting forth about one love, about the new garden of eden (small case is right remember he was a non-believer, maybe had always been something of an outlaw even when he cruised the books, had his nose in some book, for a sign), about that turning the world upside down and making it stick. Making the night-takers back down (night-takers Zack’s word via the Scribe which I am happy to ‘steal”). Hell, from what the corner boys said in their memories of the guy he sounds like he was always a closet Digger. Not the Diggers who fed the people in down-trodden Haight-Ashbury when the desperate young had wandered to San Francisco with nothing but dreams and knapsacks but the people around Gerrard Winstanley on Saint George’s Hill who, for a while before they were kicked off that spot by Oliver Cromwell’s agents, tried a form of primitive communism based on communal living and common use of land. Check that out sometime if you delve back into the 17th century English revolution. They appear to have been forbears of what went down in 1967 before the experiment got out of hand through hubris, dope and confusion about how to keep the thing going against the wrath of the night-takers. Of course coming “from hunger” he, the other guys, Zack’s brethren and the Scribe’s corner boys, were not above certain larcenies, scams, cons to keep body and soul together. That contradiction was suppressed for a time, for the time before the night-takers came back with a vengeance. The ebb the Scribe called it as he descended down a slippery slope in the mid-1970s.
That was the rub, that was the factor that got away from the Scribe as much as he knew that he/they were on tender mercies ground, knew that that little counter attack from out of the blue would come when he thought the world had stopped turning on itself and had gone upside down that eventually would do in even the Scribe. Would turn his mouth to ashes, would turn a sainted brethren (not many out in Frisco in those days knew his full given name began with Francis at a time when everybody was “reinventing” themselves including clustering up new monikers to get washed clean, also a Scribe expression and so only knew the moniker) down the gutter road, float him out to the Japan seas long before he ever heard the Duke blast that high white note. Yeah, blast the times, blast the whole fucking world for taking down a brethren as pure as snow.
[I was not sure where I should put a bit of information about the Scribe’s fate although I knew that I had to bring some information out in the interest of completeness and to give sense of the Scribe’s contradiction so I am placing it here. I have mentioned above something about “wanting habits” and how they were suppressed for a time. The Scribe’s downfall, as witnessed by all who mentioned him from the old days, started with his quitting college given up a scholarship to “find himself” out in San Francisco in fateful 1967. Such were the times that a lot of people did that. His problem, a big problem, was that left his subject to the draft which came the next year. For reasons I could never understand at this remove he accepted induction and wound up in Vietnam as an infantryman, did his tour and came back to what he called the “real” world where he on the surface thrived for the next few years while the spirit of the communal vision 1960s still held sway. Stayed on the West Coast and did some good journalism around the fate of some returning fellow Vietnam veterans who were “lost” and living out in camps and other places away from the “real” world. But all his guys mention that there was something that Vietnam had taken out of him, had left him internally shattered. When the 1960s faded, when that “newer world” idea faded he lost his mooring. Got more heavily into dope, into cocaine. Started dealing to keep his growing habit intact. Then took a mysterious trip to Mexico to consummate a drug deal. Whatever happened and nobody has much to go on he wound dead in a back street in Sonora with two bullets in his chest. The situation was so fraught with danger that he was buried in a potter’s field down there. Like I said I still am not able to get a handle on all of that but there it is-maybe the contradiction of the times if it came right down to it.]
“Buddha Swings-Jack Kerouac Wings”
Beat down (not to be mistaken for abuse, child abuse or anything like that against up against it mothers and distant fathers but just poor, bedraggled poor, “wanting habit” as the Scribe would have coming jointly out of their respective Acres). Beat around (check beat down except just hanging around luckless, shoeless, waiting for somebody else’s shoe to drop). Beat sound (hell easier to figure, listen to the swish of the sticks battling the pots and pans, some out of Africa our mother riff culled into cool be-bop be-bop and all that jazz away from big swing and into the big blast air). Beat to the ground (luckless fellahins stashed away in back room closets, gambling, washing endless dishes, what did some wit call it-diving for pearls, losing always losing, losing worst when blood-lust bullies take the law into their own hands).
Fuck it, fuck explanation since everybody will get it wrong just like the guys back in the Acre could never figure what was bothering the guy, what made him jump. Fuck it Jack just jumped into it, into its sea, into it misty sea, foghorn blasting some jazz-like moan, from his beautified beatified skull, maybe thinking of youthful skull behind some bushes or out on some back road highway jumping the bones of some friend’s one and only, that is pure speculation though. But really and truly Jack man, Jean-bon in old times jumped from some river of life, mill town life like a million guys before him and now in foreign lands a million guys after him, the river flowing to steam up some engine to grind the fabric that will clothe the world. Ha, like we who come naked into this holy coil can take solace from that low catholic trip it took him, and not just him but lots of others who broke the square habit at least for a time, for the youth duration. Damn beatitude in the end when all the shouting was over and Jack in some drunken grave under a pile of suffering dirt (the Buddha in him cried out as it did for that guy down in Sonora before they found him in some hideous back alley unnamed and unloved, maybe un-nameable if there is such a word) Why couldn’t he have listened to that guy out in Frisco town, the guy, a kid really, maybe sixteen set up in a too big older brother 1940s zoot suit, a wisp of beard which could not be shaven so wisp, eyes glazed on dope , on love on the high, on the low, who all nervous on bennie nevertheless blew that high white note that was in his DNA, provided by grandma, mother left for parts unknown, father shiva blew town with some chick who had a stash and gave her gash, to like everything else out to the fucking China seas. But that was at the end. That was when the music was over, when it no longer made sense. At the beginning hell no said Jack.
The world wasn’t big enough to hold all his desperations, keep them in check, keep those wanting habits every poor boy has inside him talk about DNA. Even rama jamma Buddha didn’t have no cure for that except maybe some jimson and jetsam and mystical balm for a shattered world. Like I say that was at the end though. At the beginning our boy took off as fast as he could from that mill town river and never looked back (except to take the dust off his shoes and bow down before our Lady of the River when luck ran out, the booze ran out, hell, the sweet tea sticks ran out and all of beat solace ran to catholic rivers, yeah I know capital C but those were the breaks, the end knotted up in some rat hole, some mother-forgotten rat hole and no more joy, stick either). Took it on the lam, went west east south north (I think on that last direction maybe back to the homeland, back to the stinking big river up north that some earlier Jack, some Jacques, crossed to get to that fucking mill river, Jesus, looking for the holy grail, looking for about six ways to get out of that beat down, beat around, beat sound, beat to the ground bitch stuff. Took up with some fat fast mad secular monk with crazed mom and sweet word poet father, not father William Blake but worldly father, who spouted stuff about negro streets (and angel-headed hipsters like we didn’t know he hung around Time Square Joe and Nemo’s midnight coffees looking for queers, con artists and hustlers, always hustlers, crazies (in and out of the asylums of the mind) and Moloch devouring the land (make no mistake ancient and evil dressed in grey flannel suits and quoting stock prices into those same China seas as that benny-suckled kid blowing that high white Frisco note), the land of milk and honey, rama rama, went to the mat (secret love in more ways than one with that loose bastard who couldn’t keep his mouth shut or cock in his pants -and that was that-for a time). No, not then that street wise New Jack City gangster poet taking liberties with the language and ladies’ pocketbooks or that highbrow junkie hanging around New Orleans looking for quick fixes although they qualified if it came to that.
For a time no question since the pull of fast fat monks could wear off fast under the sun of boze, booze, bennies and grand simon jimson ladies. Took his hat off and let the world slip in-thought maybe the way was the way. Startled guys like desolation angels and dharma bums into thinking they could do what had never been done like some lead pipe cinch. Ran up the mountain (no Prometheus Adonis more likely who was to know) to place incense in the fatted calf body singing, singing, singing some cross between the stations of the cross and plastic nirvana (just to be cute, cute as a nine thieves). Saw Siva run the river gauntlet and leave satiated beyond compare, saw Rama too walking down Post Street in his nightshirt.
Then fame got in his way, somebody bought into his million word notebook thoughts wanderings this is poor boy long time waiting wanting habits Jack we are talking about remember in case you have lost the drift. Make him surly and brazen wondering why the hell if fame was fame didn’t it jump out at him when he started on his Calvary Road road(and it was such a road breaking from deep incense and Adam and Eve free falls so much for free will, started out in dirty sneakers and crusted blue jeans, and when he jumped out of his skull and fled that mountebank river town. Funny no more Harvard hipsters and Columbia ranters and raspers or Denver Adonis. Now fools and jesters following his every move, hiding in bushes and make that fat monk look like some holy fool, like a goof (again remember please not that street-wise New Jack City gangster poet taking liberties with language and ladies’ pocketbooks). Ah, sullen lost planet life.
How was he to know, how was Jack to blessed know that his illegitimate children, not child, children would abandon their flea-etched sins only a short time later, hang out their own signs, reach for their own suns, reach with thumbs furled, and follow the pied piper. Follow the brethren saint mad man with the wooly beard and the incense announcing his arrival at the table singing, singing, singing and it wasn’t hosannas but some odd unspoken tune which ripped across the land for a while. Defying that man in the grey suit (defying mother and father got to dust and never figured out). Drew magnetic forces around themselves and expected the kingdom to last until end times. Hah, Jack could have given them the word on that little mistake. I am the light Jack thought and then he faded from the scene into utter darkness those unwashed, unloved, unspoken for illegitimate children to lay waste to the desert for forty years. Jesus
Once Again-The Summer Of Love, 1967-Postcards From A Lost Planet-When Butterfly Swirl Swirled
By Jeffrey Thorne
The times were out of sort, the times were frankly a mess and in that little window of time, the time of Josh Breslin’s Summer of Love, 1967 time he saw a little chance to jailbreak out of his humdrum existence, to skip the nine to five world that his parents thrived in and expected him to follow like a lemming to the sea and thrive too for a while anyhow. We will skip all his thinking that got him there, got him to act on his jailbreak impulses, he had done enough thinking on lonely desolate roads heading west in placed like Neola, Iowa, Grand Island, Nebraska, Winnemucca, Nevada and a whole slew of nameless Main Street pass-through towns to last a lifetime. Except to say that he was not alone in his jailbreak passions as the decade as it progressed gave ample evidence of and that he was maybe unusually sensitive for a guy who ran in circles that were anything but receptive to jailbreak ideas. Let’s get him to Summer of Love epicenter Frisco and into the whole thing, the passion thing, the thing that happened between Butterfly Swirl and the Prince of Love.
For those who are already confused by the now seemingly strange fetish for monikers that somehow were expected to wash one clean that latter one was Josh Breslin’s self-anointed moniker once he hit Russian Hill in that Bagdad of a city (Bagdad not of these times, not humbled bombed-out times, but back when that town was an epicenter of the world and whole civilization flocked to imitate the latest ideas, cultural artifacts and visionary experience and Frisco could stand the comparison without shutter). In those days, in that little window of time when the world was turned upside down(an expression from back in the 17th to express what was happening in revolutionary England when lots of amazing similar experiences were being attempted as that Cromwellian Puritan-like brethren tried to in its turn wash itself clean), or a small segment of society, mainly young, when you looked back from a fifty year view, everybody was try to “reinvent” themselves, making a new washed clean beginning and so an epidemic of name-changing rushed the land. (Of course those who were trying to seek the “newer world” a Lord Tennyson phrase but apt assumed that everybody was on board that everybody was into the turmoil but while the media-driven headlines were large the nine to five world went about its nine to five business which encapsulated that great majority of young-don’t be fooled by universal long hair, granny dresses and talk, endless talk of dope and sexual fantasies those were just signposts not the real deal.) Josh a very good looking guy what with that Sam Shepard father-aided gene and mother- aided Quebec flair, with some ego, a lot of ego for a working class kid from up in ocean-side Maine, Olde Saco to be exact, decided that he was royalty or something and so tagged himself with that moniker. (The Scribe, whom we will get to in a moment, used to kid him that he was really the Prince of Lvov, a Podunk town in Poland just to tweak his ego a bit. By the way after careful research the long-held rumor that the Scribe gave Josh his moniker is erroneous. Josh had been thinking about that moniker almost all the way from that Maine until he reached the Pacific shores).
So Josh Breslin just out of high school and full of the getting the dust of Podunk Maine off his shoes hit Frisco town, hit first stop Russian Hill after being told by some holy goof, that term no put down but a real live Yippie freak who called attention to himself using that idea, in Golden Gate Park, the epicenter of the epicenter at a certain point, that righteous dope could be had up that hill. (Holy goof as Josh was later to find out from the Scribe a term used to describe certain personages by Scribe hero “beat” writer Jack Kerouac who got it from Buddha himself.) As he walked up the long drawn out hill in a city with a fistful of hills, mostly long and drawn out, he stopped near a park when he saw this amazing sight, amazing to him then but common to the emerging scene as he would find out later, a converted yellow school bus. Converted the operative word. The bus had been transformed on the outside into some fantastic psychedelic moving art show and inside a cheap travelling mobile home of a new sort after the seats had been ripped out and mattresses completely covered the floor and in the back boxes filled with spare clothes, food, and utensils. Topped off by a big sound speaker system just then blaring out some unheard of by him music from he thought maybe India or something (music which turned out to the Jefferson Airplane as they moved into the acid rock music world which took a spin as the rock genre of choice among the dope aficionados of the time like cool jazz had sustained the tea head “beats” a half generation before).
More importantly for our tale as he approached the bus for closer inspection Josh noticed a young guy, a guy who looked a few years older than him but still young with a long beard and long hair (Josh was beardless, would never have much more than stubble whenever he tried to grow a beard, a wisp of a beard really, and had only let his jet black hair start to grow after he fled staid bi-weekly routine barber shop Olde Saco and got on the road) sitting on the sidewalk beside this monster of a bus. Without hesitating a moment Josh walked up to the guy and asked if he had a joint. The guy, the Scribe, Peter Paul Markin, also without hesitation, reached into his denim jacket pocket and passed Josh a big old joint, a blunt in the dope world language of the day, and said “fire her up brother, fire her up.” (Josh’s first dope experience which is a bit outside what we are trying to get across here was the usual endless and chaotic coughing that seized beginners not used to the harshness of the dried plant once he took a few “hits” and a kind of trance-like feeling in his brain that the cares of the world had been left behind.) That exchange began the Josh-Scribe friendship, a little rocky at times, but a lasting time until the Scribe’s untimely and mysterious early death several years later.
What that converted yellow school bus was about to give an idea of the times was that the owner, although don’t make a today’s assumption about the owner part, Captain Crunch (real name Jack Shepard, Yale, Class of 1958) had bought it or traded for it that never was clear to Josh as he heard different stories from different sources for a bag of dope in order to roam up and down the West Coast ocean-side highways picking up and letting people off along the way. The Scribe, who had quit college in Boston to head west once he heard about the Summer of Love stuff happening. Stuff which had confirmed for him his long time prediction that a new breeze was about to hit the land, to hit youth nation in particular had met Captain Crunch in Golden Gate Park and had already taken one trip up and down the coast to San Diego and back. It was on that trip back up the coast in Carlsbad about forty miles north of San Diego that Kathy Callahan, Carlsbad High School Class of 1968, the Butterfly Swirl of this scenario comes into the picture.
Kathy, let’s call her Butterfly Swirl to keep with the times and her time, had been nothing but a Southern California surfer girl meaning in those days that she looked beautiful, tanned and curvaceous on the beach while her golden-haired surfer boyfriend went hunting for the perfect wave. It was along the Pacific Coast Highway one late afternoon as it passed through Carlsbad where the yellow brick road bus had stopped to see the breath-taking ocean view that the Scribe spied Butterfly Swirl sunning herself waiting for her by then pruned surfer boy to come ashore for the day. The Scribe used to the more intellectually driven and somewhat neurotic co-ed who he was addicted to in the Boston-Cambridge haunts he frequented was fascinated by Butterfly Swirl fresh new world look. (The Scribe would admit later that he was totally unprepared to see hundreds of such beauties up and down the coast waiting on land for their own golden-haired surfer boys seeking their won perfect waves.) He went up to her and started asking questions about surfers, surfing, a subject he knew nothing about having come from the East where such a sport did not have any cache then. They talked for a while and during that time the Scribe found out that Butterfly, kind of restless going into her senior year of high school about what to do with her life, whether to go to college, whether she should work on her art, was intrigued by what she heard was happening up in youth nation San Francisco.
Yeah, the times were like that. You would expect a guy like the Scribe to head west once he got the message. Hell he, driven by his faded beat dreams, was built for that experience. Maybe even expect a guy like Josh before heading on to other things, as most of the brethren who formed that small segment of youth nation would eventually do, to head west and see what was what. What was extraordinary was the jail breakout of a gal like Butterfly Swirl who if she was a few years older would have been so totally immersed in the surfer culture that she could have given a damn about some weirdos up north where the weirdos congregated and had done so for a couple of generations. The long and short of it was that a couple of days later Butterfly Swirl after the Scribe’s coaxing was “on the bus” heading north.
One of the things that guys like the Scribe was trying to break out of was the old girl-guy one and only thing although breaking through that barrier had been easier said than done. For a few weeks though as the bus headed to Xanadu, Big Sur, Carmel, and Monterey then up through Pacifica before landing once again in Golden Gate Park the Scribe and Butterfly Swirl were lovers. The Scribe gave Butterfly Swirl her first experiences with dope mostly marijuana, peyote buttons and mescaline, the LSD, the Kool-Aid acid test would come later. And Butterfly being an easy-going young woman began to fit in with the travelling band of gypsies spiritual and intellectual wanderers who populated the bus.
Then the same day Josh met the Scribe on Russian Hill after he had brought Josh on board the bus Butterfly Swirl who had been out pan-handling to get some provisions for the bus saw him and that was that. Something happened between them from minute one but it was not until later that night that the big switch happened after they were all stoned. The Scribe who had taken a half-lover, half-fatherly interest in Butterfly Swirl once he saw that she was not very intellectually curious beyond her restlessness and her fear of a surfer girl’s fate (although very sexually curious and inventive) saw the writing on the wall and “blessed” the union, became head of that little trio family. Being just a few years older in youth nation made him a logical little father. A couple of weeks later at a Grateful Dead concert at the Fillmore Butterfly Swirl and the Prince of Love had their first Kool-Aid acid test and through the dreams and colors became “one with the universe.” The Scribe, satanic love preacher that night “married” them. Yeah, like I said the times were like that, exactly like that.
[As mentioned above the Scribe and Josh would be friends until the Scribe’s untimely death in the mid-1970s. As for Butterfly Swirl by summer’s end she had had enough of roaming and cavorting and returned to her golden-haired surfer boy still looking for that perfect wave. Not everybody was built to go the distance even in the Summer of Love. J.T. ]