Saturday, December 12, 2020

One Last Time-At The Ebb Tide Of The 1960s- With Helter-Skelter Charles Manson Who Passed At 83 In Mind

One Last Time-At The Ebb Tide Of The 1960s- With Helter-Skelter Charles Manson Who Passed At 83 In Mind

By Greg Green  

[Recently, shortly after the death of Charles Manson [November, 2017] was announced and then later when I felt under some pressure at the time to write a bit more about the 1960s than I was aware of at the time which had more to do with the beginnings of the internal struggle over the direction this site was taking and going to take, as something an introduction of myself into this space, I wrote two shorter versions of this piece.

I felt those pieces were as much about my understanding of went on, and what went wrong, in that big 1960s “jail-break” that the then administrator of this space Allan Jackson (who used the moniker Peter Paul Markin on this site) now deposed and off in “exile” (his term according to Sam Lowell his close friend who wound up as the lone older writer siding with the “Young Turks” as they styled themselves in the internal struggle) somewhere in Utah looking for a by-line in some Salt Lake newspaper was looking at from me when he was in charge. That was before a sudden vote of no confidence was taken by the whole staff at the urging of the younger writers whom he had brought in over the past several years but who were in their words, under-utilized and narrowly directed to write, as I was asked to do as well, about the turbulent 1960s whether they knew or cared a damn about those times or not. I, who had come over from the American Film Gazette where I had held a similar position, was supposed to take over the day to day management of the site and pass out assignments under Allan’s guidance, found myself asked to run the whole operation without him after the vote (with the assistance of the newly–formed editorial board, an organization which Jackson had virtually ignored during his tenure).

Jackson ran a funny mix, a core group of writers whom he had either known since high school and who had been exposed to the Peter Paul Markin who was the guy who Allan was trying to honor by using his name as his moniker and who was a big influence on that whole group exploring all kinds of situations in the 1960s or had met in hotbed places like San Francisco, LA, the Village, Harvard Square after high school when everything according to the older guys exploded and you had to take sides from drugs to sex to wars. Then several years ago he brought in those young guys (and a few gals but they were mostly stringers, free-lancers) who knew nothing of the 1960s but were force-pressed to write about subjects related to that time which they only vaguely had heard about (or again cared about). His argument to the younger writers something not necessary to throw at the old guard “true-believer” older writers was that this was a watershed period, a period when many were “washed clean” and the period needed to be dealt with accordingly.    

So the gist of my article was as much about Allan and the older writers being “washed clean” by the experience as about what the criminal mind of someone like Charles Manson who while a sensational figure and a prime example of what went wrong with the 1960s when the still thriving cultural counter-revolutionaries took to the offensive and needed an example to feed off of when that moment ebbed. Some of the writers in this space like Sam Lowell, Frank Jackman, Bart Webber, Si Lannon, and Josh Breslin knew the real Markin, known to them as always as “Scribe” either from the North Adamsville neighborhood where they grew up or met him as a result of a very fateful (according to Sam Lowell’s estimate in any case) decision that he made during the turbulent days of the Summer of Love in 1967. That year and that event marked them all once Scribe was able to fire them up to head out west to San Francisco the epicenter of the whole explosion and consummate the jail-break.        

I am, like Zack James, Jack Jamison, Bradley Fox, Jr. and Lance Lawrence at least a decade removed from that 1960s experience and sensibility and that second-hand knowledge was reflected in the original articles. I had no axe to grind with those times. But neither did I bow down to what guys like Frank, Sam, and Josh told me about their experiences. That said, Allan Jackson the then supposedly soon to be retired administrator and something of a guiding light in this space (and the on-line version of The Progressive American) suggested after several talks that I expand my article somewhat to include his and the others reflections of the 1960s in order to give a more rounded approach to those days and events. As I did with that second article I do here as well-Greg Green]      

A couple of writers in this space, I think Zack James and Bart Webber, have spent a good amount of cyber-ink this past summer commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the San Francisco-etched and hued Summer of Love in 1967. The million things that occurred there from free concerts in Golden Gate Park by the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and the Grateful Dead, names that I recognized although I was not familiar with their music (the free concert concept in line with a lot that went on then under the guise of “music is the revolution” and the recruits would be those who got turned on by the music, straight or doped –up, and lived by it too), to cheap concerts at the Avalon and Fillmore West (the beginning of an alternative way to entertain the young in formerly rundown arenas which would keep ticket costs down and provide indoor night space for those same young patrons against predators and cops), to plenty of drugs from Native American ritual peyote buttons to Owsley’s electric Kool-Aid acid much written about by “square” Tom Wolfe in a book dealing with writer Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters (I think that should be capitalized at least I have always seen it that way in books) to high end tea, you know, ganga, grass, marijuana, which you can smell even today at certain concerts in places where the stuff is legal or the young don’t give a fuck who knows they are smoking stuff, communal soup kitchens (to curb those midnight ganga cravings taking a tip from the old hobo, bum, tramp railroad “jungle” camps and just throwing everything in a stew pot and hope for the best), to communal living experiment (say twelve people not related except maybe some shacking up sharing an apartment or old house and dividing up tasks and expenses or in country on an old abandoned farm not very successful although I hear in Oregon and Vermont if you look closely enough will find the “remnant”), communal clothing exchanges (via ironically given the pervasive anti-war sentiments Army-Navy Surplus or Goodwill/Salvation Army grabs)and above all a better attitude toward sexual expression and experience (the “pill” helping ease the way, the drugs too and a fresh look at the Kama Sutra no doubt) reached something like the high tide during that time.

(According to Josh Breslin who at the time was just out of high school and looking for something to do during the summer before his freshman year of college much to the chagrin of his hard-working parents who expected him to work that summer to help pay for tuition it was almost like lemmings to the sea the draw of San Francisco was so strong. For many kids like Josh and others he met out there aside from Scribe and the North Adamsville guys it really was something of a jail-break although I still can’t feel the intensity which drove Josh and the others to forsake, most for just a while, some family, career, settle down path during those admittedly turbulent times. My generation, and I was among the loudest up in Rockland, Maine where I grew up and where a cohort of the hippie-types encamped once the cities became too explosive, kind of laughed off the whole experiment as the hippies liked to say “ a bad trip,”  a waste of time and energy. Although the idea of free or cheap concerts seems like a good idea especially when you see the ticket prices today for acts like Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones who were ready to perform gratis then, the rampant uncontrolled use of illegal drugs, the idea of communal living outside of say very safe dorm life, wearing raggedy second or third hand clothes which looked like and were out of some Salvation Army grab box or Army-Navy surplus store, the idea of even eating out of some collective stew pot of who knows what composition and unbridled and maybe unprotected sex seemed weird, seemed seedy when I would see these people on the streets in town when they came for provisions or whatever they were looking for that brought them to town.)     

So as even Josh and a couple of others would admit not all of it was good or great even at that high tide which he personally placed at 1967 (others like Sam placed it at the Stones’ Altamont concert in 1969 and Scribe for his own reasons had placed it at May Day, 1971 when the government counter-attacked a demonstration in Washington with a vengeance and they took devastating amounts of arrests, tear gas, and billy-clubs) since casualties, plenty of casualties were taken, from drug overdoses to rip-offs by less enlightened parties to people leeching off the work of others who were doing good works providing energies to go gather that food, work that kitchen, rummage for those clothes, keep the house afloat with the constant turn-over of desperate “seeking” something people. (Allan chided me on this point originally because he did not believe that those he knew, he met were desperate, most had come from comfortable middle class homes and just wanted to shake things up a little before, which many, too many according to him did, going back to that lifestyle without a murmur when the tide ebbed.)  

Not good either which was also noted by Zack James (who got the information from oldest brother Alex another veteran of 1967  who while on a business trip to San Francisco this spring stepped back into that halcyon past at a Summer of Love exhibit at the de Young Art Museum in Golden Gate Park) and which I used as a counter-argument to Allan’s wisp-of-the will attitude about desperate people flocking to the coast a photograph taken at a police station where one whole wall was filled with photographs from desperate parents looking for their runaway children. No so much the runaway part, all of those who flee west that year and the years after to break out of the nine to five, marriage, little white house syndrome were actually doing that, but the need to do so just then against the wishes, in defiance of those same parents who were looking for their Johnny and Janie. Who know what happened to them.

Frank Jackman, another writer in this space, basing himself on his friendship with Josh Breslin and with the latter’s with Scribe spent some time a few years back taking a hint from the gonzo writer Doctor Hunter Thompson trying to figure out when that high tide crested and then ebbed.  The Scribe as far as I know the story himself a classic case of those who started with high ideals and breath of fresh air attitudes who wound up getting killed down in Mexico after a busted cocaine deal in the days after he became a coke head and was dealing and who now sleeps in a potter’s field grave down in Sonora. Years like 1968, 1969, 1971 came up as did events like the Chicago Democratic Convention in the summer of 1968, the disastrous Stones concert at Altamont in 1969, and May Day, 1971 in Washington when they tried to bring down the government if it would not stop the damn Vietnam War and got nothing but massive arrests, tear gas and police batons for their efforts. Those things and the start of a full-bore counter-revolution, mainly political and cultural which Frank has said they have been fighting a rear-guard action against ever since. 

Whatever the year or event, whatever happened to individuals like Scribe and those forlorn kids in that police station photograph, there was an ebb, a time and place when all that promise from the high tide of 1967 to as Scribe would say seek a “newer world,” to “turn the world upside down” as Frank likes to say when recounting his youthful days out west and in New York City when he was starting out as a writer and make it fit for the young to live came crashing down, began to turn on itself. A time when lots of people who maybe started out figuring the new world was a-borning turned in on themselves as well. My very strong feeling after having had a small personal bout with cocaine when that was the drug of choice and you could hardly go anywhere socially without somebody bringing out a mirror, a razor and rolling a dollar and daring you not to snort just to be friendly maybe it was the drugs, too many drugs. Maybe too it was the turnover as those who started the movements headed back home, back to school and back to the old world defeated and left those who had nowhere to go behind (those photographs on that forlorn wall in that anonymous police station a vivid reminded that not everybody was “on the bus” as Allan mentioned was a term used frequently to distinguish the winners from the losers in those days).           

And as if to put paid to that ebb tide there were all the revelations that something had desperately gone wrong when cult figure and madman leader of a forsaken desert tribe of the forgotten and broken Charles Manson who died the other day [November 2017] after spending decades in prison had been exposed for all the horrible crimes he had committed or had had his followers commit. Allan, Frank, Josh, Sam and I am sure Scribe if he were around would write that off as an aberration, a fluke. Still sobering thoughts for those guys like Frank and Josh who are still trying to push that rock up the hill toward that “newer world” that animated their youth.  

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

From The 2017 Archives- French Rocker Johnny Halliday Passes At 74-Hail, Hail Rock and Roll-“The Greatest Rocker You Have Never Heard Of”

From The 2017 Archives- French Rocker Johnny Halliday Passes At 74-Hail, Hail Rock and Roll-“The Greatest Rocker You Have Never Heard Of”    

By Josh Breslin

[As of December 1, 2017 under the new regime of Greg Green, formerly of the on-line American Film Gazette website, brought in to shake things up a bit after a vote of no confidence in the previous site administrator Peter Markin was taken among all the writers at the request of some of the younger writers abetted by one key older writer, Sam Lowell, the habit of assigning writers to specific topics like film, books, political commentary, and culture is over. Also over is the designation of writers in this space, young or old, by job title like senior or associate. After a short-lived experiment designating everybody as “writer” seemingly in emulation of the French Revolution’s “citizen” or the Bolshevik Revolution’s “comrade” all posts will be “signed” with given names only. The Editorial Board]


If you have read the above note you know that there has been great internal turmoil on this site of late with the “exile” to as of today an unknown place Allan Jackson (who used the moniker Peter Paul Markin on this site, a man he knew from high school and I knew from meeting out in the Summer of Love, 1967 San Francisco) the former site administrator, really managing editor and publisher combined. A commentary on a passing public figure, in this case legendary rocker, Johnny Halliday, the French “Elvis” of cancer at 74 would not normally be the place to bring up those squabbles however enlightening in other contexts. But as noted in the headline of this piece Johnny was according to more than one source “the greatest rocker that you have never heard of.”  At least in the English-speaking world that he was never able to break into.       

As I write this short tribute/commentary I have just noticed on the news feed that in Paris something like a million people have lined the streets of Paris, including every high-ranking dignitary and political of the past generation, to bid farewell to Johnny as the casket goes by. And every self-respecting French “Motorcycle Bill” as well so you can see that in France he was without any doubt he was beloved. The place where Johnny virtually unknown in America and the recently concluded internal strife at American Left History meet is what I want to mention since it was at least partially Allan’s stubbornness which if you check the archives makes not a single mention of Johnny despite the overwhelming space given to his, our growing up rock and roll music which has been given more than amble space. More than amble space for Anglo-American rock and roll but has given, had consciously given, short shrift to other rock and roll traditions, I guess you would call it “world music” traditions due entirely to the whims of Allan Jackman. (I would note here that I whole-heartedly supported Allan in the struggle against the “Young Turks” but he certainly was, is a man who had his short-comings including a certain narrowing of subject matter vision with age.)

As I have mentioned I have known Allan for a long time and up until a few years ago he acted much as he had when I first met him out in San Francisco those many years ago when we were all trying to turn the world upside down but then something changed, maybe like Zack James, one of the “Young Turks” noted, he just grew old (he is over seventy)-and cranky. He just wanted to withdraw back to that 1960s personal experience stuff and the hell with the rest of it. Part of the problem I think is that Allan finally realized that he would not outshine the long gone and still lamented despite his tragic and unnecessary fate Scribe’s star (the “real” Markin moniker). Even back in the day he was always in the shadow of Scribe, always a bit off-putting when around him. That is why the direct causes of his downfall, the eternal Dylan syndrome and the over-the-top stuff around the Summer of Love, loomed so large since he had somehow staked his whole reputation to finally best Scribe on those twice pillars. Twin pillars of sand.

Lest you think that I am getting off point here, not doing real justice to the late Johnny Halliday far from it. This fatal flaw stubbornness, obtuseness in Allan was always somewhere in the background. Where it came up in relationship to Johnny (and the whole emergence of “world music” in Johnny’s wake, or a strand of it anyway) was that narrow definition in his mind of rock and roll being in a time warp from about 1955 to 1965 and anything after or different did not exist. And in America with a slight tolerance for England. It might have been worse since he hated the Beatles (as in truth we all did mocking them as a modern day vaudeville act, what they call in England a music hall act except when they covered American rock and roll songs from the 1950s from guys like Chuck Berry) but loved the Stones to perdition since they cherished the blues root of rock as much as he did (under Scribe’s guidance I might add). Beyond that if you asked him to assign you say African drum music, or Latin America rhumbas, he would frown that imperial frown that said no dice, forget it, get out of town.       

But you see I, maybe alone in America, in critic circles anyway, knew Johnny Halliday as part of my growing up rock and roll immersion back in the 1960s during my high school days (Class of 1967). I grew up in Olde Saco in Maine, in French-Canadian come down form the farms in Quebec to the Maine and New Hampshire mill towns to find that pot of American streets gold through my mother (nee LeBlanc) so I spoke the patois growing up as much as English. Knew from cousins in Quebec this big Johnny Elvis-like sound coming from France-rock and roll in French forget the Maurice Chevalier chanson noise my mother loved. Belt out rock for bikers, babes and be-boppers to go crazy over. I tried more than a few times to get Allan interested in my doing stuff on Johnny over the years so that he could get a hearing in the English-speaking world. A little beachhead as Elvis, as the Stones found out would go a long way. So this site, Allan, must take their small part as millions of French people bid their Johnny adieu is why he is the greatest rocker you have never heard of. Meanwhile, RIP, Johnny, RIP.    

Searching For The American Songbook - In The Time Of The 1960s Folk Minute-With The Joy Street Coffeehouse In Mind-Introduction

Searching For The American Songbook - In The Time Of The 1960s Folk Minute-With The Joy Street Coffeehouse In Mind-Introduction


Sketches by Jack Callahan

[As of December 1, 2017 under the new regime of Greg Green, formerly of the on-line American Film Gazette website, brought in to shake things up a bit after a vote of no confidence in the previous site administrator Peter Markin was taken among all the writers at the request of some of the younger writers abetted by one key older writer, Sam Lowell, the habit of assigning writers to specific topics like film, books, political commentary, and culture is over. Also over is the designation of writers in this space, young or old, by job title like senior or associate. After a short-lived experiment designating everybody as “writer” seemingly in emulation of the French Revolution’s “citizen” or the Bolshevik Revolution’s “comrade” all posts will be “signed” with given names only. The Editorial Board]

[As many readers may know now and if not then the above note should inform you in general there had been a serious shake-up on this blog site (which is linked in with several related although independent other websites that have cross-posted relevant materials) with the untimely, untimely by my lights, ouster of long time administrator Allan Jackson (who as is not unusual in cyberspace for all kinds of reasons simple or nefarious used the moniker Peter Paul Markin, a name which has much meaning to me but which will be explained soon by either Zack James, formerly the cultural czar here, or the new administrator Greg Green so I will move on). Although his current whereabouts are unknown to me since what some of us call a “purge” which will also be gone into by others at some later point Allan and I go back a long way to our high school days in seriously working poor North Adamsville (he said we met in junior high school but I don’t remember him that far back). We have been permitted, encouraged in fact to air our perspectives about what has gone on over the past several months (years really but things have come to a head in this period).
I always got along with Allan even in high school when he stood deep in the shadow of the real Peter Paul Markin whose name he appropriated for his on-site moniker and whom he feared above all for being both intellectually smarter than him and more larcenous. I don’t want to tell tales out of school but will say that I stood by Allan in the recent onslaught against his management mostly by the younger writers who dubbed themselves somewhat dramatically as the “Young Turks” like nobody ever used that designation before and am sorry to see him go.  
On one point though and this can be taken as either a new introductory point or as a second introduction where Allan and I locked was over this project that I started several years ago to look back to the folk minute of the early 1960s as my vivid part of discovering the American songbook that I was interested in. I wished to continue well beyond what I had started and he had posted but he put a stop to the series when he told me that he needed me more for political work and so scrubbed what I was doing.
As it turned out the real story behind Allan’s denial of my project was that he was putting together his own series in the days when he used to write material for the site and solely manage as he has done the past couple of years entitled “Not Bob Dylan” (and later another series “Not Joan Baez”) and wanted no competition for his folk minute work. When I asked Greg Green, by the way no fan of folk music which he said made him want to throw up since he heard it constantly in his growing up home from his old folkie parents who had it on the recorder player or tape deck all day, if I could revive the series he gave me the green light. So I have an initial very good opinion of him and the new direction. Maybe like the younger writers kept harping on Allan’s time had come but I still miss the old bastard wherever he is these days. Jack Callahan]
(Praise be work-saving computers below is the original introduction I had written before I was dragooned into other work. It reads well enough to start with only a couple of points needing updating.)
I recently completed the second leg of this American Songbook series, sketches from the time of my coming of age classic rock and roll from about the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, a series which is intended to go through different stages of the American songbook as it has evolved since the 19th century, especially music that could be listened to by the general population through radio, record player, television, and more recently the fantastic number of ways to listen to it all from computers to iPods. This series was not intended to be placed in any chronological order so the first leg dealt, and I think naturally so given the way my musical interests got formed, with the music of my parents’ generation, that being the parents of the generation of ’68, those who struggled through the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s.

This third leg is centered on the music of the folk minute that captured a segment of my generation of ’68 as it came of social and political age in the early 1960s. It is easy now to forget in the buzz of the moment that this segment was fairly small to begin with cluttered up people who stayed with it for a few years and then like the rest of us got back to the new rock and roll driving by the British “invasion” and the West Coast “acid” rock that was taking center stage by the time of the summers of love in the mid to late 1960s. Today when talking to people, to those who slogged through the 1960s with me, those who will become very animated about Deadhead experiences, Golden Gate Park Airplane goings on, their merry-prankster-like “on the bus” experiences, even death Altamont when I ask about the influence of folk they will look at me with pained blank expressions or cite ritualistically Bob Dylan confirms how small and where that folk minute was concentrated.

Early on though some of us felt a fresh breeze was coming through the land, were desperately hoping that it was not some ephemeral rising and then back to business as usual, although we certainly being young did not dwell on that ebb tide idea since like with our physical selves we thought our ideas once implanted would last forever. Silly kids. Maybe it was the change in political atmosphere pulling us forward as men (and it was mostly men then) born in the 20th century were beginning to take over from the old fogies (our father/uncle/godfather Ike, General Ike, Ike Eisenhower  and his ilk) and we would fall in behind them. Maybe it was the swirl just then being generated questioning lots of old things like the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) red scare investigations, like Mister James Crow in the South and  the ghettos of the North, like why did we need all those nuclear bombs that were going to do nothing but turn us into flames. Maybe it was that last faint echo of the “beats” with their poetry, their be-bop jazz, their nightly escapade trying to hold onto that sullen look of Marlon Brando, that brooding look of James Dean, that cool pitter-patter of Alan Ginsberg against the night-stealers, and Preacher Jack, Jean-bon Kerouac, pushing us on to roads not taken.  Heady stuff, no question.

Maybe too since it involved cultural expression (although we would be clueless to put what we felt in those terms, save that for the folk music academics complete with endnotes and footnotes in bigh dissertations to warm their night-fires after the fire had burned out) and our cultural expression centered around jukeboxes and transistor radios it was that we had, some of us, tired of the Fabians, the various Bobbys (Vee, Darin, Rydell, etc.), the various incarnations of Sandra Dee, Leslie Gore, Brenda Lee, etc., wanted a new sound, or as it turned out a flowing back to the roots music, to the time and place when people had to make their own music or go without (it gets a little mixed up once the radio widened the horizons of who could hear what and when). So, yes, we wanted to know what on those lonely Saturday nights gave our forebears pause, let them sit back maybe listen to some hot-blooded black man with a primitive guitar playing the blues (a step up from the kids’ stuff nailed one-eyed string hung from the front porch but nowhere near that coveted National Steel beauty they eyed in the pawnshop in town just waiting to rise up singing), some jazz, first old time religion stuff and then the flicker of that last fade be-bop with that solid sexy sax searching for the high white note, mountain music, all fiddles and mandolins, playing against that late night wind coming down the hills and hollows reaching that red barn just in time to finish up that last chance slow moaning waltz. Yes, and Tex-Mex, Western swing, Child ballads and the “new wave” protest sound that connected our new breeze political understandings with our musical interests.

The folk music minute was for me, and not just me, thus something of a branching off for a while from rock and roll in its doldrums since a lot of what we were striving for was to make a small musical break-out from the music that we came of chronological age to unlike the big break-out that rock and roll represented from the music that was wafting through many of our parents’ houses in the early 1950s.

In preparing this part of the series I have been grabbing a lot of anecdotal remarks from some old-time folkies. People I have run into over the past several years in the threadbare coffeehouses and cafes I frequent around New England. You know, and I am being completely unfair here, those guys with the long beards and unkempt balding hair hidden by a knotted ponytail, flannel, clean or unclean, shirt regardless of weather and blue jeans, unclean, red bandana in the back pocket, definitely unclean and harmonica at the ready going on and on about how counter-revolutionary Bob Dylan was to hook up the treasured acoustic guitar to an amp in about 1965 and those gals who are still wearing those shapeless flour bag dresses, letting their hair grow grey or white, wearing the formerly “hip” now mandatory granny glasses carrying some autoharp or other such old-time instrument like they just got out of some hills and hollows of Appalachia (in reality with nice Ivy League resumes after their names and affirmative action-driven jobs-that to the good) arguing about how any folk song created after about 1922 is not really a folk song both sexes obviously having not gotten the word that, ah, times have changed. In short those folkies who are still alive and kicking and still interested in talking about that minute (and continuing to be unfair not much else except cornball archaic references that are supposed to produce “in the know” laughs but which were corny even back then when they held forth in the old Harvard Square Hayes-Bickford of blessed memory).

For those not in the know, or who have not seen the previously described denizens of the folk night in your travels, folk music is still alive and well (for the moment, the demographic trends are more frightening as the dying embers flicker) in little enclaves throughout the country mainly in New England but in other outposts as well. Those enclaves and outposts are places where some old “hippies,” “folkies,” communalists, went after the big splash 1960s counter-cultural explosion ebbed in about 1971 (that is my signpost for the ebb, the time when we tried to “turn the world upside down” in Washington over the Vietnam war by attempting to shut the government down and got nothing but teargas, police sticks and thousands of arrests for our troubles, others have earlier and later dates and events which seemed decisive but all that I have spoken to, or have an opinion on, agree by the mid-1970s that wave had tepidly limped to shore). Places like Saratoga, New York, Big Sur and Joshua Tree out in California, Taos, Eugene, Boise, Butte, Boulder, as well as the traditional Village, Harvard Square, North Beach/Berkeley haunts of memory.
They survive, almost all of them, through the support of a dwindling number of aficionados and a few younger kids, kids who if not the biological off-spring of the folk minute then very much like those youthful by-gone figures and who somehow got into their parents’ stash of folk albums and liked what they heard against the current trends in music, in once a month socially-conscious Universalist-Unitarian church basement coffeehouses, school activity rooms booked for the occasional night, small local restaurants and bars sponsoring “open mics” on off-nights to draw a little bigger crowd, and probably plenty of other small ad hoc venues where there are enough people with guitars, mandos, harmonicas, and what have you to while away an evening.            

There seems to be a consensus among my anecdotal sources  that their first encounter with folk music back then, other than when they were in the junior high school music class where one  would get a quick checkerboard of various types of music and maybe hear This Land Is Your Land in passing, was through the radio. That junior high school unconscious introduction of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land had been my own introduction in Mr. Dasher’s seventh grade Music Appreciation class where he inundated us with all kinds of songs from everywhere like the Red River Valley and the Mexican Hat Dance. For his efforts he was innocently nicknamed by us “Dasher The Flasher,” a moniker that would not serve him well in these child-worried times by some nervous parents.    

A few folkies that I had run into back then, fewer now, including a couple of girlfriends back then as I entered college picked up, like some of those few vagrant younger aficionados hanging around the clubs, the music via their parents’ record collections although that was rare and back then and usually meant that the parents had been some kind of progressives back in the 1930s and 1940s when Paul Robeson, Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Pete Seeger and others lit up the leftist firmament in places like wide-open New York City. Today the parents, my generation parents would have been in the civil rights movement, SDS or maybe the anti-war movement although the latter was drifting more by then to acid rock as the foundational music.

That radio by the way would be the transistor radio usually purchased at now faded Radio Shack by frustrated parents, frustrated that we were playing that loud unwholesome rock and roll music on the family record player causing them to miss their slumbers, and was attached to all our youthful ears placed there away from prying parents and somehow if you were near an urban area you might once you tired of the “bubble gum” music on the local rock station flip the dial and get lucky some late night, usually Sunday and find an errant station playing such fare.

That actually had been my experience one night, one Sunday night in the winter of 1962 (month and date lost in the fog of memory) when I was just flipping the dial and came upon the voice of a guy, an old pappy guy I assumed, singing a strange song in a gravelly voice which intrigued me because that was neither a rock song nor a rock voice. The format of the show as I soon figured out as I continued to listen that night was that the DJ would, unlike the rock stations which played one song and then interrupted the flow with at least one commercial for records, drive-in movies, drive-in theaters, maybe suntan lotion, you know stuff kids with disposable income would take a run at, played several songs so I did not find out who the singer was until a few songs later.
The song was identified by the DJ as the old classic mountain tune “discovered” by Cecil Sharpe in the hills and hollows of Appalachian Kentucky in 1916 Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies, the singer the late Dave Von Ronk who, as I found out later doubled up as a very informative folk historian and who now has a spot in the Village in New York where he hailed from named after him, the station WBZ in Boston not a station that under ordinary circumstances youth would have tuned into then since it was mainly a news and talk show station, the DJ Dick Summer a very central figure in spreading the folk gospel and very influential in promoting local folk artists like Tom Rush on the way up as noted in a documentary, No Regrets, about Rush’s fifty plus years in folk music. I was hooked.

That program also played country blues stuff, stuff that folk aficionados had discovered down south as part of our generation took seriously the search for roots, music, cultural, family, and which would lead to the “re-discovery” of the likes of Son House (and that flailing National Steel guitar that you can see him flail like crazy on Death Letter Blues on YouTube these days), Bukka White (all sweaty, all feisty, playing the hell out of his National face up with tunes like Aberdeen, Mississippi Woman and Panama, Limited) Skip James (all cool hand Luke singing that serious falsetto on I’d Rather Be The Devil Than Be That Woman’s Man which got me in trouble more than one time with women including recently), and Mississippi John Hurt (strumming seemingly casually his moaning Creole Belle and his slyly salacious Candy Man).

I eventually really learned about the blues, the country stuff from down south which coincides with roots and folk music and the more muscular (plugged in electrically) Chicago city type blues that connects with the beginnings of rock and roll, which will be the next and final leg of this series, straight up though from occasionally getting late, late at night, usually on a Sunday for some reason, Be-Bop Benny’s Blues Hour from WXKE in Chicago but that is another story. Somebody once explained to me the science behind what happened on certain nights with the distant radio waves that showed up mostly because then their frequencies overrode closer signals. What I know for sure that it was not was the power of that dinky transistor radio with its two nothing batteries. So for a while I took those faraway receptions as a sign of the new dispensation coming to free us, of the new breeze coming through the land in our search for an earthly Eden. Praise be.          

If the first exposure for many of us was through the radio, especially those a bit removed from urban areas, the thing that made most of us “folkies” of whatever duration was the discovery and appeal of the coffeehouses. According to legend (Dave Von Ronk legend anyway) in the mid to late 1950s such places were hang-outs for “beat” poets when that Kerouac/Ginsberg/Cassady flame was all the rage and folkies like him just starting out were reduced to clearing the house between shows with a couple of crowd-fleeing folk songs, or else. But by the early 1960s the dime had turned and it was all about folk music. Hence the appeal for me of Harvard Square not all that far away, certainly close enough to get to on weekends in high school. With Club 47, the “flagship,” obviously, Café Nana, the Algiers, Café Blanco, and a number of other coffeehouses all located within a few blocks of each other in the Square there were plenty of spots which drew us in to that location.
(That Club 47, subject a few years ago to its own documentary, was the spawning grounds and the testing ground for many folk artists like Dylan, Baez, Rush, Von Schmidt, Paxton, and Eric Saint Jean an up and coming performer who got laid low early taking too much sex and too much cocaine before it was the drug of choice among the heads, to perform and perfect their acts before friendly appreciative audiences that would not heckle them. The Club which has had something of a continuous history now operates as a non-profit as the Club Passim in a different location in Harvard Square near the Harvard Co-Op Bookstore.)    

The beauty of such places for poor boy high school students like me or lowly cash-poor college students interested in the folk scene was that for the price of a coffee, usually expresso so you could get your high a little off the extra caffeine but more importantly you could take tiny sips and make it last which you wanted to do so you could hold your spot at the table in some places, and maybe some off-hand pastry (usually a brownie or wedge of cake not always fresh but who cared as long as the coffee, like I said, usually expresso to get a high caffeine kick, was fresh since it was made by the cup from elaborate copper-plated coffeemakers from Europe or someplace like that), you could sit there for a few hours and listen to up and coming folk artists working out the kinks in their routines. Add in a second coffee unless the girl had agreed to an uncool “dutch treat,” not only uncool but you were also unlikely to get to first base especially if she had to pay her bus fare too, share the brownie or stale cake and you had a cheap date. 

Occasionally there was a few dollar cover for “established” acts like Joan Baez, Tom Rush, the Clancy Brothers, permanent Square fixture Eric Von Schmidt, but mainly the performers worked for the “basket,” the passing around of the hat for the cheap date guys and others “from hunger” to show appreciation, hoping against hope to get twenty buck to cover rent and avoid starving until the next gig. Of course since the audience was low-budget high school students, college kids and starving artists that goal was sometimes a close thing and accordingly the landlord would have to be pieced off with a few bucks until times got better.

Yeah, those were “from hunger” days at the beginning of their careers for most performers as that talent “natural selection process” and the decision at some point to keep pushing on or to go back to whatever else you were trained to do kept creeping foremost in their thoughts when the folk minute faded and there was not enough work to keep body and soul alive whatever the ardent art spirit. Some of them faced that later too, some who went back to that whatever they were trained to do and then got the folk music gig itch again, guys like Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin from the Kweskin Jug Band, David Bromberg, gals like Carolyn Hester, Minnie Smith after somebody said “hey, whatever happened to….” and they meant them. That natural selection thing was weird, strange for those who had to make decisions in those days (now too) about talent and drive over the long haul. You would see some guy like Paul Jefferson a great guitar player who did lots of Woody Guthrie covers and had a local following in the Café Nana working hard or Cherry LaPlante who had a ton of talent and a voice like floating clouds and had steady work in the Café Blanc fold up their tents once they hit a certain threshold, a few years working the local clubs and no better offers coming along and so they bailed out. They and those like them just did not have the talent or drive or chutzpah to keep going and so they faded. You still see Paul once in a while at “open mics” around Boston performing for much smaller crowds than in the old days and the last I heard of Cherry was that she had drifted west and was getting a few bookings in the cafes out in Oregon. But in the day it was all good, all good to hear and see as they tried to perfect their acts.   

For alienated and angst-ridden youth like me (and probably half my generation if the information I have received some fifty years later stands up and does not represent some retro-fitted analysis filtered through a million sociological and psychological studies), although I am not sure I would have used those words for my feelings in those days the coffeehouse scene was the great escape from household independence struggles of which I was always, always hear me, at the short end of the stick.

Probably the best way to put the matter is to say that when I read J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, over a non-stop weekend I was so engrossed in the page after page happenings, I immediately identified with Holden Caulfield whatever differences of time, place and class stood between us and when asked my opinion of him by my English teacher I made her and the whole class laugh when I said “I am Holden Caulfield”), or when I saw The Wild One at the retro-Strand Theater in downtown North Adamsville if one could call it that term I instinctively sided with poor boy Johnny and his “wanting habits” despite my painfully negative experiences with outlaw motorcycle guys headed by local hard boy Red Riley who hung out at Harry’s Variety Store as they ran through. If I had been able to put the feelings into words and actions it would have been out of sympathy for the outcasts, misfits, and beaten down who I identified with then (not quite in the Jack Kerouac beaten down hipsters or night-dwellers who survived with a certain swagger and low hum existence sense).
So yeah, the coffeehouses offered sanctuary. For others (and me too on occasion) those establishments also provided a very cheap way to deal with the date issue, as long as you picked dates who shared your folk interests. That pick was important because more than once I took a promising date to the Joy Street Coffeehouse up on Boston’s Beacon Hill where I knew the night manager and could get in for free who was looking for something speedier like maybe a guy with a car, preferably a ’57 Chevy or something with plenty of chromes, and that was the end of that promise.  For those who shared my interest like I said before for the price of two coffees(which were maybe fifty cents each, something like that, but don’t take that as gospel), maybe a shared pastry and a couple of bucks in the “basket” to show you appreciated the efforts, got you those hours of entertainment. But mainly the reason to go to the Square or Joy Street early on was to hear the music that as my first interest blossomed I could not find on the radio, except that Dick Summer show on Sunday night for a couple of hours. Later it got better with more radio shows, some television play when the thing got big enough that even the networks caught on with bogus clean-cut  Hootenanny-type shows, and as more folkies got record contracts because then you could start grabbing records at places like Sandy’s in between Harvard and Central Squares.               

Of course sometimes if you did not have dough, or if you had no date, and yet you still had those home front civil wars to contend with and that you needed to retreat from you could still wind up in the Square. Many a late weekend night, sneaking out of the house through a convenient back door which protected me from sight, parents sight, I would grab the then all-night Redline subway to the Square and at that stop (that was the end of the line then) take the stairs to the street two steps at a time and bingo have the famous (or infamous) all-night Hayes-Bickford in front of me. There as long as you were not rowdy like the winos, hoboes, and con men you could sit at a table and watch the mix and match crowds come and go. Nobody bothered you, certainly not the hired help who were hiding away someplace at those hours, and since it was cafeteria-style passing your tray down a line filled with steam-saturated stuff and incredibly weak coffee that tasted like dishwater must taste, you did not have to fend off waitresses. (I remember the first time I went in by myself I sat, by design, at a table that somebody had vacated with the dinnerware still not cleared away and with the coffee mug half full and claimed the cup to keep in front of me. When the busboy, some high school kid like me, came to clear the table he “hipped me” to the fact that nobody gave a rat’s ass if you bought anything just don’t act up and draw attention to yourself. Good advice, brother, good advice.)

Some nights you might be there when some guy or gal was, in a low voice, singing their latest creation, working up their act in any case to a small coterie of people in front of them. That was the real import of the place, you were there on the inside where the new breeze that everybody in the Square was expecting took off and you hoped you would get caught up in the fervor too. Nice.        

As I mentioned in the rock and roll series, which really was the music of our biological coming of age time, folk was the music of our social and political coming of age time. A fair amount of that sentiment got passed along to us during our folk minute as we sought out different explanations for the events of the day, reacted against the grain of what was conventional knowledge. Some of us will pass to the beyond clueless as to why we were attuned to this music when we came of age in a world, a very darkly-etched world, which we too like most of our parents had not created, and had no say in creating. That clueless in the past about the draw included a guy, me, a coalminer’s son who got as caught up in the music of his time as any New York City Village Jack or Jill or Chi Old Town frat or frail. My father in his time, wisely or not considering  what ill-fate befell him later, had busted out of the tumbled down tarpaper shacks down in some Appalachia hills and hollows, headed north, followed the northern star, his own version, and never looked back and neither did his son.

Those of us who came of age, biological, political, and social age kicking, screaming and full of the post-war new age teenage angst and alienation in the time of Jack Kennedy’s Camelot were ready for a jail-break, a jail-break on all fronts and that included from the commercial Tin Pan Alley song stuff. The staid Eisenhower red scare cold war stuff (he our parents’ organizer of victory, their gentile father Ike). Hell, we knew that the world was scary, knew it every time we were forced to go down into some dank school basement and squat down, heads down too, hoping to high heaven that the Russkies had not decided to go crazy and set off “the bomb,” many bombs. And every righteous teenager had restless night’s sleep, a nightmare that, he or she, was trapped in some fashionable family fall-out shelter bunker and those loving parents had thoughtfully brought their records down into the abyss to soothe their savage beasts for the duration. Yelling in that troubled sleep please, please, please if we must die then at least let’s go out to Jerry Lee’s High School Confidential. And as we matured Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind.    

We were moreover, some of us anyway, and I like to think the best of us, driven by some makeshift dreams, ready to cross our own swords with the night-takers of our time, and who, in the words of Camelot brother Bobby, sweet ruthless Bobby of more than one shed tear in this quarter, quoting from Alfred Lord Tennyson, were “seeking a newer world.” Those who took up the call to action heralded by the new dispensation and slogged through the 60s decade whether it was in the civil rights/black liberation struggle, the anti-Vietnam War struggle or the struggle to find one’s own identity in the counter-culture swirl before the hammer came down were kindred. And that hammer came down quickly as the decade ended and the high white note that we searched for, desperately searched for, drifted out into the ebbing tide. Gone.

These following sketches and as with the previous two series that is all they are, and all they pretend to be, link up the music of the generation of ‘68s social and political coming of age time gleaned from old time personal remembrances, the remembrances of old time folkies recently met and of those met long ago in the Club 47, Café Lena, Club Paradise, Café North Beach night.

The truth of each sketch is in the vague mood that they invoke rather than any fidelity to hard and fast fact. They are all based on actual stories, more or less prettified and sanitized to avoid any problems with lose of reputation of any of the characters portrayed and any problems with some lingering statute of limitations. That truth, however, especially in the hands of old-time corner boys like me and the other guys who passed through the corner at Jack Slack’s bowling  alleys must always be treated like a pet rattlesnake. Very carefully.

Still the overall mood should more than make up for the lies thrown at you, especially on the issue of sex, or rather the question of the ages on that issue, who did or did not do what to whom on any given occasion. Those lies filled the steamy nights and frozen days then, and that was about par for the course, wasn’t it. But enough of that for this series is about our uphill struggles to make our vision of the our newer world, our struggles to  satisfy our hunger a little, to stop that gnawing want, and the music that in our youth  we dreamed by on cold winter nights and hot summer days.  

From The Marxist Archives-In Honor Of Martin Luther And The Protestant Reformation (1517)- "Historical Materialism and the Protestant Reformation"

From The Marxist Archives-In Honor Of Martin Luther And The Protestant Reformation (1517)- "Historical Materialism and the Protestant Reformation" 

Workers Vanguard No. 1123
1 December 2017
Historical Materialism and the Protestant Reformation
(Quote of the Week)
October 31 marked the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses criticizing the Roman Catholic church to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. Friedrich Engels explained that behind the cloak of religious ideology lay a clash of class interests between the rising bourgeoisie and the decaying feudal order that was more starkly shown in the 17th-century English Revolution led by Oliver Cromwell.
When Europe emerged from the Middle Ages, the rising middle class of the towns constituted its revolutionary element. It had conquered a recognised position within medieval feudal organisation, but this position, also, had become too narrow for its expansive power. The development of the middle class, the bourgeoisie, became incompatible with the maintenance of the feudal system; the feudal system, therefore, had to fall.
But the great international centre of feudalism was the Roman Catholic Church. It united the whole of feudalised Western Europe, in spite of all internal wars, into one grand political system, opposed as much to the schismatic Greeks as to the Mohammedan countries. It surrounded feudal institutions with the halo of divine consecration. It had organised its own hierarchy on the feudal model, and, lastly, it was itself by far the most powerful feudal lord, holding, as it did, full one-third of the soil of the Catholic world. Before profane feudalism could be successfully attacked in each country and in detail, this, its sacred central organisation, had to be destroyed....
The war-cry raised against the Church by Luther was responded to by two insurrections of a political nature: first, that of the lower nobility under Franz von Sickingen (1523), then the great Peasants’ War, 1525. Both were defeated, chiefly in consequence of the indecision of the parties most interested, the burghers of the towns—an indecision into the causes of which we cannot here enter. From that moment the struggle degenerated into a fight between the local princes and the central power, and ended by blotting out Germany for two hundred years, from the politically active nations of Europe. The Lutheran Reformation produced a new creed indeed, a religion adapted to absolute monarchy. No sooner were the peasants of North-East Germany converted to Lutheranism than they were from freemen reduced to serfs.
But where Luther failed, Calvin won the day. Calvin’s creed was one fit for the boldest of the bourgeoisie of his time. His predestination doctrine was the religious expression of the fact that in the commercial world of competition success or failure does not depend upon a man’s activity or cleverness, but upon circumstances uncontrollable by him. It is not of him that willeth or of him that runneth, but of the mercy of unknown superior economic powers; and this was especially true at a period of economic revolution, when all old commercial routes and centres were replaced by new ones, when India and America were opened to the world, and when even the most sacred economic articles of faith—the value of gold and silver—began to totter and to break down. Calvin’s church constitution was thoroughly democratic and republican; and where the kingdom of God was republicanised, could the kingdoms of this world remain subject to monarchs, bishops and lords? While German Lutheranism became a willing tool in the hands of princes, Calvinism founded a republic in Holland, and active republican parties in England, and, above all, Scotland.
In Calvinism, the second great bourgeois upheaval found its doctrine ready cut and dried. This upheaval took place in England. The middle class of the towns brought it on, and the yeomanry of the country districts fought it out. Curiously enough, in all the three great bourgeois risings, the peasantry furnishes the army that has to do the fighting; and the peasantry is just the class that, the victory once gained, is most surely ruined by the economic consequences of that victory.
—Friedrich Engels, Introduction to the 1892 English edition of Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880)

“The Last Of The Beats”- Frank Jackman’s In Search Of Todo el Mundo-A Critical Review

“The Last Of The Beats”- Frank Jackman’s In Search Of Todo el Mundo-A Critical Review

Book Review by Professor V.E. Grant, Chair, Creative Writing Workshop-University of Wisconsin-Racine   

In Search Of Todo el Mundo, Frank Jackman, Black Dog Press, Boston, 2014     

In Search of Todo el Mundo (hereafter Todo) is Mr. Frank Jackman’s first longer work since he received some acclaim several years ago for his compilation, Ancient dreams, Dreamedincluding from this reviewer who saw in that effort a turning away from his earlier, there is no other way to put it, self-indulgent jabs at the world in his prior short story compilations. More than that move away from self-indulgence though was a turn toward a, for a lack of a better expression, more karmic sense of the universe, a more spirited work which broke some new ground in reflecting on the condition of humankind in the last third of the 20th century among those who had come of age in the generation before mine, what he called the generation of ’68, those who came of age in the 1950s post-World War II baby boom. A generation whose reflections we will be inundated with as that generation takes stock of itself and its follies now that it will have more time on its hands and access to more self-publishing outlets.

[The good professor has hit the nail on the head since over the past couple of years during my tenure first as day to day operations manager and now has site manager the number one kind of works, generally unsolicited, seeking publication, are from that very demographic finding time apparently to take infinite “nostalgia” trips back to those times, those 1960s when as one of the prospective writers put it quoting early Wordsworth-“to be young was very heaven.” Since any publication can only bear the weight of some many pieces of a similar kind most ate rejected, including the piece that had the Wordsworth quote. Greg Green]   

Unfortunately, Mr. Jackman has reverted back to that former incessant self-indulgence in this short tale of his addictions, mainly but not exclusively drugs, back in the 1980s when he went to Todo on the Central California coast in a failed bid to “dry out” thinly veiled and explored through his main character, Josh Breslin, in this short work.  (A work which he has called a sketch, although it reads more like a short novella and probably could have been judiciously trimmed to a longish short story). Perhaps it is the distaste that I have for the current seemingly endless wave of post-addiction cautionary tales that the reading public favors if the best-seller charts are any indication which has colored my take on the work but this one that could have been left in Mr. Jackman bottom drawer until he had some other trimmed short stories with which to surround it.

[The good professor has also, perhaps accidentally, hit upon another aspect of that nostalgia business mentioned in the bracketed comments above which is driving many, many of those still standing and coherent, of the confessional tales being submitted of late. Centrally concerning their own over the top drug experiences back when, according to Si Lannon, you couldn’t go into a room in most young adult apartments and communes without grabbing a big whiff of second-hand marijuana smoke. Later or current problems with addictions are not discussed, or hopefully have been overcome or at least suppressed. G.G.]
The eminent cultural critic, Stanley White, a man who has imparted  many very important insights about the writers of the so-called “beat” generation which surfaced in the 1950s and to avoid any additional generation-naming Mr. Jackman’s subsequent “generation of ’68” put the problem, put my problem with the book, in perspective when he wrote in the introduction the following:       

“It is always hard to fathom at this remove, a remove now of well over fifty years, what effect writers and poets like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, William Burroughs and the lesser lights associated with publicizing that cultural phenomenon, known collectively as the “beat” generation (Jack’s coined word meaning beaten down, beaten around, from hunger beat, from unsated wanting habits beat, from Zen-like karma angel-dream beatitude beat all meshed in one and hence all misunderstood by a rush to judgment world) had on the subsequent generations other than the obvious romance of the road that most young people associate with that term.  And hard as well to fathom the effect characters created by and lives led by the beats such as attractive-repulsive fugitive figures like William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, his various wives and mistresses, and the winos and wistfuls who populated the Route 66, or whatever route, roads and the way that mass culture was shaped for a period by such personalities. In a sense the answer to that question will determine whether this nifty little work by Frank Jackman will have a shelf-life or will be submerged by an onslaught of more pressing and expressive post-modern literary movements.”

I had asked that very question myself long ago about those who influenced my own youth, a youth influenced by those writers two generations before mine, the hard shell, no nonsense razor-like writings of Ernest Hemingway in his best novels and short stories, the flight of metaphoric language by F. Scott Fitzgerald, all bow down before Jay Gatsby, in describing the ebb and flow of the Jazz Age, the rugged cross adventures portrayed by John Steinbeck in his classic tales of American uprooted-ness The Grapes Of Wrath and down in the depths skid row Cannery Row, and, of course, Thomas Wolfe and his sagas of a nation turning in on itself and which came up short of the promised land once that damn frontier stopped at Western ocean’s edge.

I grew up not doubting in the least the influence those writers exercised on me including my exercise books filled with little pieces “cribbed” from their handsome books. But I also had an uneasy feeling then that Mr. Jackman must have had when he wanted to extend the life of the beat generation beyond its “sell by” date. I found that it was not accidental, if somewhat mystifying, that he fashioned himself in Todo (through that main and only non-stick character Josh Breslin the other characters being mere foils for his jabs) as he put it in in one of his earlier  short sketches “the last of the beats,” much as I had in my youth fancied myself as the “lasts of the modernist realist school writers” (although unlike Mr. Jackman I never made that declaration in any published work putting such words in the mouth of some character that I created in order for future doctoral students to be able to titter at and to make erudite remarks and endless footnotes about what I was referring to). Such are our vanities, and our debts.

But in the writer’s world there is a need to move on and not keep on re-packaging the same old material which in the end is what Mr. Jackman had left us with, faded beat-ery. Faded beat-ery owning a huge debt to Jack Kerouac’s lightweight alcohol addiction book, Big Sur. I often wondered about the purpose of that incessant sameness, that incessant re-packaging of some small beat ideas while reading this work and had been surprised when I read in Literary Age that Mr. Jackman had said in an interview that to be candid he thought the “beats” had become “old-fashioned” by the time he began to appreciate their virtuous writings. Join the club brother, join the club but why the continual re-hash and the failure to move on if you had enough insight to know that these days nothing but nostalgia publications and workshops lean on the major “beats” works, and less so the other lesser lights. (Although I do not intend this remark to bolster my argument very rarely these days does the writing institute I am associated with and other workshops with which I am familiar accept applicants who claim their muse is say Jack Kerouac or William Burroughs unless they have some stronger credentials, very much stronger credentials, going for them.)  

That tension between the “old-fashioned” beat epiphany and the jail break- out that their writings represented to those who came of age in the post-World War II period is more than evident in this work, this admittedly Mr. Jackman’s most ambitious work to date that pays at least fleeting homage to the beats who enchanted his youth. One can see almost from the first pages that he is satisfied with some vapid post-beat anthologizing, some pallid re-rerun of the Kerouac/Cassady/Ginsberg/Burroughs gas-fueled, pedal- floored, thumb-stuck out bologna sandwich, coffee and bennies run across cultural America in the immediate post-World War II period. Strangely satisfied to my mind for the simple reason that he was not formed by the Great Depression and the sloughing through World War II that formed the pool for their social facts, formed their generation, and the same hard fact that had precluded me from totally understanding what drove those writers two generations before me like Hemingway to prostration and Fitzgerald to the bottle in the aftermath of the glow of the gilded Jazz Age back in the 1920s.

Frankly though I have felt more alienated from the beats, mainly from their manic antics, and from their fudgy flinging of language as the be all and end all of literary life at the expense of coherent narrative, who were in the cohort a generation before mine than the Jazz Age writers since I had worked the more traditional avenues of writerliness in the 1980s being much closer to the “other” 1950s New York writers like Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Jim Jones, and Bill Styron.   

And I feel that same sensation, that same sense of off-key alienation from the direct heat of the beats in Mr. Jackman’s efforts. For one thing his sketch has more interior dialogue than anything the explosive self-publicizing beats ever tried to do. Of course addiction writing, either under a powerful opiate like that which sustained old Sam Coleridge searching for some modern Xanadu or post-addiction writing which is in favor in this confessional age complete with a happy ending and plenty of cautionary tale which actually withers into the maudlin has a long and cherished history so that Mr. Jackman has tapped into a well-versed literary genre. With this difference that he offers this short sketch from the perspective of some thirty years after the events and sensations described in the narrative so his claim to some studied spontaneity which was a hallmark of the beats runs dry. He, on the facts known to me about his life from his biographical information, was not looking for any particular Xanadu (on the contrary he was just looking for his next eight-ball), and he emphatically was not providing us with some cautionary tale. So while Mr. Jackman owes much to the “beat” rhythm, the “beat” pacing of the drama he has failed to move on past that, tellingly, as he told a reporter for the Boston Globe once in a review of his beat-etched short stories he did not believe that he was breaking new ground, was not doing an exercise in spontaneous writing (which he did not believe was either possible or a good thing since every writer likes to tinker with what he or she has written and if they did not then the damn editors and copyists would when they grabbed  hold of any manuscript).             

But enough of  searching Searching For Todo el Mundo for its niche in the literary pantheon because what is good, what is exquisite if I may use that old-fashioned word, what is essential in the sketch although it cannot save it is that shift of voice and person that floats through the eighty some pages. Use of such literary devices has not been unheard of but they are rarely used now especially in a short piece where it is hard enough to develop a character and a narrative never mind switching up voice and person. Yet the piece would disastrously fall apart if there were no such shifts. Mr. Jackman in an interview with Jerry Gomes of radio station WMEX mentioned that he had originally tried to tell this story strictly from the vantage point of the main character Josh’s experience in the 1980s when he went to Jack K.s cabin in the canyon at Todo el Mundo to dry out from his rather severe addiction to cocaine, nose candy he called it then, although there are a plethora of names out in the junkie world for it that the reader may be more familiar with. He told Mr. Gomes that he was unsuccessful in that effort since he did not have the advantage of writing the sketch under the influence of drugs and that his remembrances of the events back then needed to be fortified by the introduction of Josh’s (his) friend Sam Lowell’s recollections.

At first reading I thought that having Sam introduce the drug problem, put the problem in the distant past only to be dragged up again in later years after they had reconnected with each other would work. When I started reading though, once I got past the first pages where Sam set the story up, basically from the point where Josh in all his desperate struggles to get through from one day to the next takes over the story line there is a sense of incompleteness, a falling off of the power of the sketch to convey that sense of isolation, physical, mental, and social that was driving Josh crazy back then and which made it a very close thing that he would ever survive the experience if Sam had not set us up for what was to  follow. Although I was glad that Josh in the end grabbed that rainy day ride out of the canyon I felt empty of any emotion that he did not get the “cure” on that trip. Or that thirty years later Mr. Jackman thought he would be able to stir us about the experience. Too bad.