Friday, March 26, 2021

March Is Women’s History Month-Honor Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg- The Rose Of The Revolution

Click on the headline to link to the Rosa Luxemburg Internet Archives.

March Is Women’s History Month

Markin comment:

Usually I place the name of the martyred Polish communist revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg, in her correct place of honor along with Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht when we of the leftist international working class movement honor our historic leaders each January. This year I have decided to, additionally, honor the Rose of the Revolution during Women’s History Month because, although in life she never fought on any woman-limited basis in the class struggle, right this minute we are in need, desperate need of models for today’s women and men to look to. Can there be any better choice? To ask the question is to give the answer. All honor to the memory of the Rose of the Revolution- Rosa Luxemburg.
From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-The Revolutionary Heritage Of Rosa Luxemburg- The Rose Of The Revolution

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Rosa Luxemburg-the "Rose Of The Revolution".

March Is Women's History Month

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Sprong 1982 issue of "Women and Revolution" that has some historical interest- for old "new leftists", perhaps. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during this Women's History Month.


The Revolutionary Heritage of Rosa Luxemburg

The present situation in Poland cries out for a revolutionary proletarian leadership to cut through the disastrous polarization between a particularly vile and utterly discredited Stalinist bureaucracy and the counterrevolutionary nationalist/clericalist Solidarity "trade union" which lines up with U.S. imperial¬ism's bloodthirsty drive to "roll back Communism" throughout the world. The Trotskyist vanguard which must be forged to defend and extend socialized property in Poland will build on the strong traditions of Polish socialism—the party Proletariat, the SDKPiL, the early Polish Communist Party, ruthlessly purged and finally dissolved by Stalin, and above all the revolutionary heritage of Rosa Luxemburg.

It is striking that all sides in the Polish crisis are united in their silence on Rosa Luxemburg, the greatest proletarian revolutionist in Polish history. Certainly the Stalinist usurpers cannot claim Luxemburg; they have had to obscure and slander her revolutionary example for decades.

Still less will Luxemburg, a woman, a Jew and a communist, find defenders among the fans of Solidarity, a "movement" which embraces virulent anti-Semites and ultra-reactionaries. Solidarity program is openly counterrevolutionary—for private ownership of the land, a bourgeois parliament, a dominant role for the Catholic church in government, for turning the nationalized Polish economy over to the International Monetary Fund, the bankers cartel that starves the Chilean masses. That Solidarity', which openly spurns even the word "socialist," disdains Luxemburg and all she stands for, is fully appropriate.

The social-democratic "left" outside Poland embraces Solidarity and wants therefore to separate itself from Luxemburg. At a February 7 forum in Boston, a Socialist Workers Party (SWP) spokesman solidarized wfth Polish "dissident" Marta Petrusewicz when the latter stated, "The problem with Rosa Luxemburg in Polish minds was that Rosa Luxemburg considered... that the existence of the Polish national being was not an important problem for Polish workers."

It is true that Luxemburg incorrectly opposed the right of Poland to national self-determination, for which Lenin took her to task, pointing out that socialists must support this basic democratic right in order to take it off the agenda and expose the underlying class conflicts which national oppression masks. Her error in his eyes lay in not taking the national question sufficiently into account, thereby rendering more difficult the exposure of nationalism as a mortal enemy of the proletariat. Needless to say it is the height of hypocrisy for the SWP and kindred anti-communists to manipulate Lenin's criticisms of Luxemburg in order to make common cause with the deadly enemies of Leninism, the Pilsudskiite reactionaries who hate everything that Lenin and Luxemburg stood for.

Despite errors on the national question (and other questions), Luxemburg was a communist and in Lenin's phrase "an eagle." Leon Trotsky summed up her historic role with these words:

"We can, with full justification, place our work for the Fourth International under the sign of the'three L's,'that is, not only under the sign of Lenin, but also of Luxemburg and Liebknecht."

—"Luxemburg and the Fourth International," New International, August 1935

The Polish proletariat must recover its revolutionary heritage, the socialist heritage of Rosa Luxemburg, hated by the counterrevolutionaries (and feared by the Stalinists) as a revolutionary leader and martyr. We are reprinting below excerpts from some of Luxemburg's works, which with every word breathe a spirit of militant proletarian internationalism. The first selection, from "The Crisis of Social Democracy" (better known as the "Junius Pamphlet," from her penname), written in prison and published in 1916, indeed "saved the honor of the German proletariat" by condemning the German Social Democratic Party's (SPD) historic betrayal in supporting its "own" bourgeoisie in the first imperialist World War. We reprint also an excerpt from Luxemburg's "Socialism and the Churches" (first published in Cracow in 1905 under the penname "Jozef Chmura") because of its almost eerily appropriate condemnation of attempts by the Catholic church to mislead the workers.

We include the last part of her final work, "Order Reigns in Berlin," written when she and Liebknecht were already in hiding during the bloody of the 1919 Spartakus uprising by the Social Democratic hangmen of the German revolution, Scheidemann and Noske. Luxemburg had opposed the uprising as premature; nonetheless she and Liebknecht took their place in the struggle alongside the best of the German proletariat. Finally, we include as well Karl Liebknecht's final rallying cry, "Trotz Alledem" (In Spite of All). The latter two items are taken from J.P. Nettl's biography Rosa Luxemburg, the former two from Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, Pathfinder Press, 1970.

-from the Junius Pamphlet" (1916)

In refuting the existence of the class struggle, the social democracy has denied the very basis of its own existence. What is the very breath of its body, if not the class struggle? What role could it expect to play in the war, once having sacrificed the class struggle, the fundamental principle of its existence? The social democracy has destroyed its mission Its only mission now is to play the role of the gendarme over the working class under a state of military rule… The leaders of the social democracy are convinced that democratic liberties for the working class will come as a reward for its allegiance to the fatherland. But never in the history of the world has an oppressed class received political rights as a reward for service rendered to the ruling classes....

The war has smashed the Second International. Its inadequacy has been demonstrated by its incapacity to place an effective obstacle in the way of the segmentation of its forces behind national boundaries in time of war, and to carry through a common tactic and action by the proletariat in all countries.

In view of the betrayal, by the official representatives of the socialist parties in the principal countries, of the aims and interests of the working class; in view of their passage from the camp of the working-class International to the political camp of the imperialist bourgeoisie; it is vitally necessary for socialism to build a new workers' International, which will take into its own hands the leadership and coordination of the revolutionary class struggle against world imperialism.

To accomplish its historic mission, socialism must be guided by the following principles:

The class struggle against the ruling classes within the boundaries of the bourgeois states, and international solidarity of the workers of all countries, are the two rules of life, inherent in the working class in struggle and of world-historic importance to it for its emancipation. There is no socialism without international proletarian solidarity, and there is no socialism without class struggle. The renunciation by the socialist proletariat, in time of peace as in time of war, of the class struggle and of international solidarity, is equivalent to suicide....

The immediate mission of socialism is the spiritual liberation of the proletariat from the tutelage of the bourgeoisie, which expresses itself through the influence of nationalist ideology. The national sections must agitate in the parliaments and the press, denouncing the empty wordiness of nationalism as an instrument of bourgeois domination. The sole defense of all real national independence is at present the revolutionary class struggle against imperialism. The workers' fatherland, to the defense of which all else must be subordinated, is the socialist International.

— from "Socialism and the Churches" (1905)

The clergy has at its disposal two means to fight social democracy. Where the working-class movement is beginning to win recognition, as is the case in our country (Poland), where the possessing classes still hope to crush it, the clergy fights the socialists by threatening sermons, slandering them and condemning the "covetousness" of the workers. But in the countries where political liberties are established and the workers' party is powerful, as for example in Germany, France, and Holland, there the clergy seeks other means. It hides its real purpose and does not face the workers any more as an open enemy, but as a false friend. Thus you will see the priests organizing the workers and founding "Christian" trade unions. In this way they try to catch the fish in their net, to attract the workers into the trap of these false trade unions, where they teach humility, unlike the organizations of the social democracy which have in view struggle and defense against maltreatment.

When the czarist government finally falls under the blows of the revolutionary proletariat of Poland and Russia, and when political liberty exists in our country, then we shall see the same Archbishop Popiel and the same ecclesiastics who today thunder against the militants, suddenly beginning to organize the workers into "Christian" and "national" associations in order to mislead them. Already we are at the beginning of this underground activity of the "national democracy" which assures the future collaboration with the priests and today helps them to slander the social democrats.

The workers must, therefore, be warned of the danger so that they will not let themselves be taken in, on the morrow of the victory of the revolution, by the honeyed words of those who today from the height of the pulpit, dare to defend the czarist government, which kills the workers, and the repressive apparatus of capital, which is the principal cause of the poverty of the proletariat.

In order to defend themselves against the antagonism of the clergy at the present time, during the revolution, and against their false friendship tomorrow, after the revolution, it is necessary for the workers to organize themselves in the Social Democratic Party.

And here is the answer to all the attacks of the clergy: The social democracy in no way fights against religious beliefs. On the contrary, it demands complete freedom of conscience for every individual and the widest possible toleration for every faith and every opinion. But, from the moment when the priests use the pulpit as a means of political struggle against the working class, the workers must fight against the enemies of their rights and their liberation. For he who defends the exploiters and who helps to prolong this present regime of misery is the mortal enemy of the proletariat, whether he be in a cassock or in the uniform of the police.
— from "Order Reigns in Berlin" (1919)

It was a matter of honour for the revolution to ward off this attack with all its energy, if the counterrevolution was not to be encouraged to further efforts— The revolutions so far have brought us nothing but defeat, but these inevitable defeats are themselves one stepping-stone on top of another to the final victory....

But the leadership has failed. None the less, the leadership can and must be rebuilt by the masses out of the masses… The masses were up to the mark, they have forged this defeat into the chain of those historical battles which are themselves the strength and pride of international Socialism. And that is why a future victory will blossom from this "defeat."

"Order rules in Berlin." You stupid lackeys! Your "order" is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will rear ahead once more and announce to your horror amid the brass of trumpets: be!"

—from Karl Liebknecht's "Trotz Alledem" (1919)

Hold hard. We have not fled. We are not beaten ... for Spartakus—that means fire and spirit, heart and soul, will and deed of the proletarian revolution. For Spartakus—that stands for all the longing for achievement, all the embattled resolution of the class-conscious proletariat... whether or not we shall survive when all is achieved, our programme will live; it will dominate the world of liberated peoples. In spite of all.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

From The 1930s-1940s Golden Age Of Screwball Comedy-Rosalind Russell’s My Sister Eileen” (1942)- A Film Review

From The 1930s-1940s Golden Age Of Screwball Comedy-Rosalind Russell’s My Sister Eileen” (1942)- A Film Review

DVD Review

By Laura Perkins

My Sister Eileen, starring Rosalind Russell, Janet Blair, 1942

I like to listen to my own drummer when I am thinking through “the hook” for any film review I do (probably with any piece of public writing come to think of it). But once in a while some advice my long-time companion and now occasional writer since his retirement in this publication Sam Lowell filters through. Sam who over a long career made something of a specialty out of reviewing black and white films from the 1930s and 1940s (as a result of a youth spent watching this fare in a local retrospective theater in his hometown on angry Saturday afternoons) has always worked under the principal that even the flimsiest production from this era can produce at least a “slice of life” highlighting the times angle when all else fails. Good advice even for the better productions as here with this film under review directed by Alexander Hall and starring Rosalind Russell as Ruth one of the two leading characters in this classic golden age screwball comedy My Sister Eileen.     

So here’s the slice of life of the times angle. Two sisters, the aforementioned Ruth and the Eileen of the title, played by Janet Blair, are for their own reasons ready to break out of some Podunk small town a too small for big dreams town out in the heartland, out in Ohio. The first “hook” is that we are dealing with two women seeking professional careers the former as a writer the later as stage actress. That in itself is worthy of comment in marriage and little white house with picket fence women big dreams times (and maybe a fair part of the female audiences which Sam told me one time made up the majority of the movie population especially during World War II).

The more interesting part though is a look at the dynamics between the two sisters, especially how they will navigate in the world. Ruth, although hardly an ugly duckling is the serious intellectual type (if ironically funny as befits a screwball comedy) is not the kind of gal a whole bunch of guys then, maybe now too, would do a double take over. Eileen is the flirtatious, naïve, beauty of the family who guys will trip over themselves to check out and give it a shot. My wonder is off of this form beyond the entertainment value of the screwball comedy aspect whether such a film could be produced with that stark contrast and feminine competition in mind.

The two sisters in any case see eye to eye that they need to blow that small town and head well where else would budding writers and actresses head but New York City then and still the cultural heart and soul of America. While Ruth may be a step-up over Sis in the naïveté contest and more of a pure go-getting on the merits of her skills she has plenty of hayseed around the edges. The whole caper depends on the place in the big city given their cash flow where they land an apartment, which turns out to be a basement apartment which today might be seen as a golden dream but then was strictly from nowhere which a holy goof of a landlord cons them into renting (“holy goof” Frank Jackman’s term via Jack Kerouac which I feel free to steal every once in a while where it applies). The place winds up being a waystation for a rogue’s gallery of guys and other strays (the guys mostly courtesy of Eileen and her beauty/gullibility) with a whole rafter of slapstick some of it still funny but the rest a relic of the period.

Not to worry, remember this is a comedy, a slightly romantic comedy where even Ruth catches a guy, a magazine editor to boot, as the pair of sisters go through their paces adjusting to New York and working their ways up their respective food chains. But the whole caper was a close thing since their father rushing to the city to save his woe begotten daughters almost forces them to go back to small dream Ohio. The saving grace is that Ruth gets her short stories published in that magazine the editor works for and Eileen well she will work her charms with the publisher of that magazine who has a ton of contacts on old Broadway. Yeah, now that I think about it they couldn’t make one like this now but that’s my “hook” anyway.      

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

We’ve Got To Get Back To The Garden-Serpents And All-Dennis Covington’s ‘Salvation On Sand Mountain: Snake Handling And Redemption In Southern Appalachia” (1995)-A Book Review-Of Sorts

We’ve Got To Get Back To The Garden-Serpents And All-Dennis Covington’s ‘Salvation On Sand Mountain: Snake Handling And Redemption In Southern Appalachia” (1995)-A Book Review-Of Sorts

Book Review

By Bart Webber

Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handing and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, Dennis Covington, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1995 
Josh Breslin had always been the running kind. Not the running kind in the famous country song by the late Merle Haggard The Running Kind where the unnamed narrator is ready to hightail it out some forlorn lonesome door at the first sign that he might have to settle down to some nine to five straitjacket life. Not for him. Nor is it that great American restlessness that physically drove plenty of forebears to run from the “civilized” East to seek fame and fortune or beat the law out to the great American blue-pink night West in the 19th century before Professor Turner’s frontier hit its limits, closed down on some Pacific Ocean splash. Josh Breslin until very recently had been running away from his past, from his heritage, from his what shall we call them-roots. From what made him tick for good or bad when the deal went down.         

Josh had for most of his life after he actually escaped his growing up home (the word he used when talking about this subject to his friend Lenny Lynch one night over drinks at Fisherman’s Wharf in York, Maine), house in the working class Five Corners section, the mill town factory section, of Olde Saco further up the road in Maine hard by the Sacco River maintained a studied ignorance of his roots, of where his people had come from. Really his father Prescott’s people since he could have hardly missed the French-Canadian roots on his mother’s nee LeBlanc side (and that of half the town) since she had come down from Quebec with his maternal grandparents and a whole shew of relatives from grand aunts and uncles on down.

Yes that father’s people question was buried deep in Josh’s  psyche to remained undisturbed until his was in his early 60s  when maybe taking some early accounting of his life he felt that he had a corner or two of his heart missing. Not that the taciturn Prescott ever really broached the subject, never brought in up at least in his presence that he recalled. (As it turned out when he did begin to research his roots his oldest brother Paul was a fountain of information since Prescott in the few times he felt expansive would confide in the eldest son.)

A few things kind of pushed Josh in that direction beyond that summing up process. He had gone back to the old town after an absence of many years when he had reconnected with an old high school friend Rene Dubois on Facebook and Rene had invited him up for a few days. During that stay Rene’s wife, Anne, had mentioned over dinner something about his father that stopped him in his tracks a bit when the subject came up about the fates of various relatives. His father had passed away in the mid-1980s after spending most of his adult life in Olde Saco, working in the mills before they headed South (and then off-shore) in search of cheaper labor and then whatever jobs an uneducated man could scrape up from what was left.

What Anne had mentioned that night at dinner was that Prescott had never really been accepted by the Five Corners people, by the hordes of French-Canadian transplants who worked the mills with him including Josh’s mother’s relatives. His father had been shunned and made fun of for his soft Southern accent (which Josh never really noticed). Apparently, later confirmed by Paul, his Kentucky birth, his not being a Roman Catholic in the days when that counted in the Five Corners section, and most of all not being French-Canadian (Quebecois now) were held against him. Josh was shocked since he believed that Prescott whatever else he was had been respected as a hard worker and under the circumstances a good provider for his family given what he had to offer.

That started Josh in a tailspin, started him thinking more seriously about what the hell he had grown up in, what his poor benighted father had to endure and maybe explain a little why he had never been interested before in his roots. Not so unnaturally, given that Josh has spent almost all his adult life writing for various publications small and large, mostly specialty journals and small press publications, his other impetuses were from books. One from re-reading a book by Michael Harrington written in the early 1960s and said to be a book that President Kennedy had taken as a signpost for eliminating poverty in America, The Other America. Re-reading that book brought back a painful memory from high school which Josh had also kind of suppressed since then.

The Harrington book centered on rural poverty among whites (what were called “white trash” in some quarters) in the hills and hollows of Appalachia. Mentioned by name the town in Kentucky, Hazard, that his father had been born and grew up in and that was one of the most severely depressed and forsaken areas in the region with all the pathologies inherent in poverty running full force. That brought on a remembrance of the time in high school that the headmaster around Thanksgiving time had come on the P.A and announced that the school was sponsoring a food and clothing drive for the impoverished citizens of Hazard. He had turned about twenty shades of red because the whole class knew that his father was from that town. He had left school early that day he was so embarrassed.                   

The other book that got him thinking about his father’s roots, his roots and how they had affected the course of his life was a strange book about fundamentalist religious people down in the rural South, down in Appalachia who practiced snake-handling as part of their religious observance-as part of their acceptance of the strange ways of their savior Jesus Christ. (They also practiced speaking in tongues and the laying on of hands.) The book Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handing and Redemption in Southern Appalachia by writer Dennis Covington hit a nerve in a couple of ways. Mr. Covington too was, as a result of his exposure to snake-handling when he was on an assignment, thinking hard about his roots, about his own people’s from Appalachia’s relationship to these exotic practices.

The other was a direct reference in the book to Hazard, to people in that area into religious snake-handling as part of their bid for salvation, his people, his father’s people who knows. That really hit home when Josh’s brother Paul mentioned that before Josh was born Prescott and their mother Delores had taken him down to Hazard to see if things could work out there, see if there was work for uneducated ex-soldier. Paul wasn’t sure of the reasons but things didn’t work out, their mother either didn’t like the set-up or was homesick. This was the kicker though when Paul and Josh worked the numbers. The numbers worked out that Josh had been conceived down in Hazard. The both laughed when Paul mentioned that Josh has those hills and hollows in his DNA.     

The book made him wonder though, wonder without any proof one way or the other, whether Prescott had known or delved into the practice of snake-handling as part of his growing up religious practice. But that was sort of secondary since his father (or Paul when he asked) never mentioned anything like that when he was growing up. Mainly Josh knew that Prescott was not a Roman Catholic and not much else. Had agreed to raise his kids in the Roman religion (there would have been hell to pay if he had not in Catholic-dominated Five Corners). Knew now that Prescott had paid a price for being different, for being from a very different people and that got Josh speculating on what those people were like-and how they had marked him. Had marked him without his every having met any of his father’s people. None from grandparents down to siblings.                     

Mr. Covington was much closer to getting some concrete results in seeking his roots having grown up in the South, having been able to trace certain parts of the family, or at least family residences which coincided with “burnt over” snake-handling observance territory at some point in the 20th century. Got so involved in the people that he was covering, his “people” despite his very different professional path and despite his academic writing background, that he took the leap and did some snake handling himself. But Josh thought that was very different from what he wanted to think through since part of Mr. Covington’s search involved a quest for spiritual, if not religious, meaning in his own life. Josh just wanted to know if those traits, those staying very close to his recent roots inherited from his father (which he never acknowledged when Prescott was alive) were in his DNA.          
He wondered what isolated in the boondocks existence led people to carve out a very precise way in which they took their religion, took their Jesus Christ as their exemplar. Didn’t know much of the outside world but knew their Bible front and back. Knew enough that they would be tempted by the serpents (those snakes anyway) in order to get back to the Garden, get out of exile East of Eden. What degree of faith permitted snake-bitten men and women to trust in something enough that they would not seek medical help but “trust in the Lord.” They might not if met be his people, people he could talk to but they certainly were his “people.” He would have to thank Mr. Covington for pushing him on some unknown path back to those etched roots.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The So-Called Unmasking Of The Sherlock Holmes Legend, Part IX-Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s “Dressed To Kill” (1946)-A Film Review

The So-Called Unmasking Of The Sherlock Holmes Legend, Part IX-Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s “Dressed To Kill” (1946)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Seth Garth

Sherlock Holmes: Dressed To Kill, starring Basil Rathbone which is the well-known screen name for the actor who played Holmes in this British series, Nigel Bruce who did have his medical license suspended for a time for prescribing too many opium-laced drugs but who was given a suspended sentence and never saw the inside of Dartmoor Prison unlike the congenital thief in this film, 1946   

[I have mentioned more times than I care to remember that not everybody who starts out in the film review, film criticism if you have an academic bent and want to upscale the profession, makes it to the end. The profession eats its own, has more treachery per square inch that the denizens of academy with all their conferences and learned papers and incessant back-biting ever thought off. A professor, let’s say a professor of cinematic studies, would last about two minutes in this dog eat dog business. That is why a lot of them spent their two minutes and then headed fast to the groves of academia.

Like I was telling somebody recently in dealing with a bunch of fellow reviewers who work at this publication it was a lot easier in the old days when the studios would pass out their so-called press releases. You just rewrote from there or if you were drunk and hungover just signed your name on top either way mercifully you did not have to actually watch the stinker. Which many of them, too many to count, were. (My estimate of the ratio is that about one in ten even rates a review and that might be too high of late.)  

All this intro talk to say that something has happened to Bruce Conan, or whatever name he was using in this Sherlock Holmes debunking mania he got himself caught up in. The last review of his I had seen maybe Part Four (I think I saw that his last one was Part VIII Greg Green supplied the Part IX in the title so assume I was correct) he was using the name Danny Moriarty so it could have been any name-except his real one which I will not divulge out of fear for his safety or his wrath if he resurfaces anytime soon.    

When I say the vague “something has happened to Bruce” that is exactly what I mean. He did not show up at the Ed Board meeting last week to turn in and have his latest review worked over. Greg Green asked me to pinch-hit for him. All I know is that Bruce was setting himself a very tall task trying to bump old Sherlock Holmes down a peg or two. How many times have I, you, we uttered “elementary, my dear Watson” to some rattled-brained holy goof who was clueless about everything including which was his or her left hand. Yes, a tough task indeed. I think the job might very well have driven him over the edge, he was certainly kind of paranoid when I would ask him how his crusade was going. Didn’t want to talk about it much and although he said he trusted me what about the “others” they could be working for those “damn Irregulars” (his term). 

Before the reader goes off the deep end along with Bruce in conspiracy theory speculation I very much doubt that the crew known as the Baker Street Irregulars according to him but who I found out after a little investigation is actually called the Sherlock Holmes Preservation Society (SHPS) had anything to do with his disappearance. The SHPS is NOT a group of nefarious criminals, pimps, whores and dope fiends but well-respected Holmes (and Conan Doyle) scholars. They are very perturbed I guess would be the word that Bruce has denigrated Holmes and Watson as bullshit amateur parlor pink private detectives. Incensed that he had “outed” them from their homosexual closets, something that a spokesperson told me the Society was well aware of but was keeping private out of respect for their respective relatives and for the hard fact that it was irrelevant to their adventures in sleuthing. But that spokesperson also assured me that they would take care of Bruce in the public prints not in some dark alley like they were agents of the dastardly Professor Moriarty or like in the old days a group of Stalinist thugs. I believe them because I think now that I am armed with that information poor Bruce got caught up in something that was too big for him, something that drove him over the edge.    
That is where the treachery of the business comes into play. As some readers may know there was a big internal power struggle inside this publication last year which resulted in a dramatic change of site leadership and the addition of a watchdog Editorial Board. The new leadership wanted livelier coverage of, well, of everything from politics, culture to reviews and that after the rather lax atmosphere toward the end of the last regime’s time meant to get a bit more edgy. One form of that edgy feel I am very familiar with and may be the reason that I was assigned this review is a continuing “battle” between two reviewers here over who is more representative of the 007 James Bond cinematic character Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan. Another manifestation is old time reviewer Sam Lowell’s reported change of heart about the virtues of Bette Davis as an actress from Oscar-worthy to nothing but a repetitive same old untamed shrew and hack actress.

I think fellow film reviewer Laura Perkins was on to something when she mentioned in that Bette Davis business that the “boys” were trying to one up each other like in the old neighborhood where some of them grew up (even if not the same neighborhood the same ethos, mostly working class). What I called, not her, please, a “pissing contest.” Bruce a less stable character than the ones that I have mentioned got himself up in lather as well when he decided to pick on poor misbegotten Holmes. That unseen pressure and the yardstick that he used to declare who was a real private detective from the 1930s and 1940s got him in too deep. His standard, a good one but hardly universal, for a private eye were guys like Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe two tough as nails guys who weren’t afraid to throw a punch, take a slug, take a few whiskey shots from the bottom of a hacked up desk drawer and bed an off-hand dangerous femme before hand-delivering the villains personally to the clueless public coppers. Of course the bloodless Holmes and the hapless and laughable Watson pale by comparison but that was hardly after all this time a reason to go on the warpath.          

A few examples should close this introduction out until we find out the fate of insecure and frantic Mr. Conan. He was on fairly safe grounds when he left his “critique” of Sherlock (whom he called Lanny Lamont after a while which I will get to in a minute) when he noted that the guy couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a gun, let the bodies pile up sky high before his vaunted deductive reasoning kicked in and when he let the public coppers grab the bad guys instead of handling the task himself. (Bruce went crazy and maybe rightly so when Holmes let some innocent fourteen year old girl get wasted for no reason except his own sloth.) Where he went off the track was when he started “investigating” Holmes’ background, started looking at records and such which led him into that Baker Street Irregular trap.         

First off was the not really surprising fact that Sherlock Holmes was not his real name, nor was Basil Rathbone a name he used on occasion to keep the bad guys guessing. Bruce claimed to uncover proof that the guy’s real name was Lanny Lamont who was born in the slums of the West End of London of an unwed mother who shunted him off to a charity orphanage. This is where Bruce really started breaking down. The first crack may have been his “discovery” that nobody named Holmes had ever lived on Baker Street in London. That suspicious fact led him astray though. See everybody in London knew that Holmes was an alias but also knew that his real name was Lytton Strachey, a gentleman born and bred. Bruce was so crazed to “get the goods” that he traced the trail the wrong way working on that Rathbone lead. Tough break.        

The worst thing though and here I agree with the Sherlock Holmes Preservation Society’s take on the matter even if as was obvious to even the most naïve Holmes and Watson were more than just roommates, were homosexual lovers, today gay, in a time that was socially and legally dangerous what of it. Pulling this rather cold and unattractive pair out of the closet just because they didn’t take a run as Sam did with Brigid or Phillip with some thumb-sucking Candy and a few other dishes in their professional work. Strangely as well since he admitted openly that if this was the situation today nobody, including him, would think anything of it. Would yawn it off. I know Greg Green and a couple of others were concerned with the allegations and worried about law suits from their respective estates. Worried too about image having taken early stands in favor of gay rights and self-sex marriage. Bruce can sort it out if and when he surfaces. For now here is a straight review of Sherlock Holmes: Dress to Kill without conspiracy theories and Irregular goblins.  

Willie Sutton the legendary bank robbery cowboy angel rides was often quoted as having been asked by the coppers after he was caught why he robbed banks. Easy answer when you think about it-that’s where the money is, or was before all sorts of things made bank robbing kind of old-fashioned in the brave new world of white collar fingerless crime. That same premise at one remove is where this Holmes adventure leads. Why steal bank note plates from the Chancellery of the Exchequer (Treasury in America)-that’s how to make the money. That is the logic behind a congenital thief in Dartmoor prison. (Remember neither Holmes nor Watson spent time there unlike Bruce’s contention that that was where the pair met and became lovers and partners in crime solutions.)  

That thief got them out of the jail via some three music boxes-not a bad decoy but the damn things wound up in an auction and sold to highest bidders. The race then becomes between the clueless Sherlock and the brains of the criminal enterprise that wants those boxes to unlock a secret code necessary to go into the printing business in a very profitable way with very low overhead and that criminal . Of course the idea that the villain, the brains of the operation, is a female would have had   Bruce apoplectic, would have had him beside himself when Sherlock didn’t make play number one for her before he sent her over. Like I said a private detective’s love life, of whatever preference, is not germane to the solution of the crimes. Now this Hilda who ran the operation, played by Patricia Morison really was a 1940s-style femme and Sam and Phillip would have a field day with her but she still had to go down, had to take the big step for her actions, including a fistful of murders along the. Sherlock was able to snag the last music box and keep the Bank of England from going under in a bale of counterfeit pounds. The only knock I have on Sherlock’s efforts is that as Bruce pointed out he lets the bodies pile up before he can figure stuff out. That and why the hell he has a holy goof like Watson dragging him down.          

Sunday, March 21, 2021

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

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

By Allan Jackson

[One of the conditions that has allowed me to claim full attribution to this Root Is The Toots series of almost seventy sketches and coming in at about seven hundred pages if it was published as one hard copy volume is that I not bring up the internal struggle at this publication which began in early 2017 and wound up with me losing a key vote of no confidence. And my job. Having been through a million such fights both in the industry and when I was younger and my politics were on the radical side where “no prisoners were taken” I accepted that defeat obviously without liking it. I have agreed through the good offices of Sam Lowell who negotiated with current site manager Greg Green for my by-line to abide by those restrictions.

As part of that agreement though beyond my being allowed to make new introductions to each piece to give some background about how the piece came about or what was going on back in those days that made the piece a germane look back I have the right to bat back the slew of rumors, mostly outrageous or overblown, that have accumulated around my name since my departure. I had authorized my old friend Jack Callahan, a significant financial contributor to the success of this operation in both its previous hard copy form and now on-line, to swat as many rumors as he could when they came to the surface around this series. I will take some advantage here to give as Jack said “my take” on these rumors in order to clear my good name in the industry. That may require touching a little around the edges of that internal struggle but I feel the need to explain some things and Greg Green can always blue-pencil those parts if they go counter to the agreement.

Whether I had been “purged,” had gone into self-imposed exile out West or had simply gone into retirement is now beside the point. Except on that latter point which was clearly not possible for me to do since my financial situation prohibited me from retiring without taking care of some pressing matters. Those pressing matters included alimony payments to three ex-wives and more critically to the college tuitions for Lorry, Sean and Kenneth from my last marriage to Mimi Murphy and the last of my brood needing that assistance. So once the axe fell here I needed to grab some kind of editorial job someplace to make ends meet. The first place I tried here on the East Coast was American Film Gazette a place where I had worked when younger and where I knew the managing editor Ben Gold. This had also been the last place Greg Green had worked before I brought him over to do the day to day operations here as well.

Ben turned me down for any job and I thought maybe it was because of my age which while not allowable under various federal statutes and laws happens all the time in an industry where old is somewhere around forty and there is always the crush for young blood even in the editorial offices. That was not the case as Ben informed me on the QT. What had happened was that he had contacted his old employee and friend Greg to see why I was looking for work. Apparently (according to Sam Lowell’s take on the matter) Greg held some bitter animosities from the internal struggle and put “the kiss of death” on me. I was “hard to work with.”  Those few words were enough to allow Ben to pass, and allow every other place that I tried on the East Coast to do so as well. Places like Esquire, American Book Review, Progressive Nation (which I had helped start) and Music Today. Hell in desperation I tried places like Vogue and Elle. No soap.          

Seeing the writing on the wall in the East I headed west to the Coast figuring that Greg’s comment would not travel that far. Wrong, which I should have expected in these high tech communication days. All the West Coast publications including West Coast Review where they had put up with the craziness of dope and gun freak the late “Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson for years turned me down. That is when I had the last chance gasp idea of going to secondary and tertiary markets and the start of the overblown rumor that I was in self-imposed exile out in American Siberia (and it really is except not so cold) Utah sucking up to the Mormons. What really hurt was the libel which I think Lenny Lynch published that I had “sold out for a mess of pottage.” I will admit that I might have been close on that issue but I never crossed the line. Couldn’t.

My selling point to the editor of the Salt Lake News was an article that I had written many years ago during 2008 when well-known Mormon (and ex-Massachusetts governor) Mitt Romney made his first bid for the U.S. presidency on the Republican side speaking admiringly of Mitt’s great-grandfather who had five wives-all at one time when polygamy was okay among the early Mormon settlers where the ratio of men to women was totally skewed. I assumed that the man had extraordinary executive skills to juggle that situation without murder and mayhem when I couldn’t even manage one (of three) at a time. The problem was that any reference to polygamy even though it is still practiced among hard-shell Mormons out in the canyons is anathema to the mainstream brethren. Another point was a slice of life article about the practice of Mormons wearing white underwear as part of their practice but that didn’t get me anywhere either. What I came to find out was that like a lot of other operations on the fringes of religion, politics, race, ethnicity and such that they “hire their own” keep it in the family.   

The worse part of the rumor mill about my stay, short stay, in Utah was a total slander, maybe libel too although I did not see it in any piece from this publication was that I had pitched myself trying to get a job as press secretary with Mitt Romney’s U.S. Senate campaign once ancient Orrin Hatch called it a day. What happened is that I showed up at some press conference where Mitt was going on and on about some issue and I spoke to a couple of his people during which I threw out the idea in jest that I would be a prefect “press secretary” for Mitt. The joke was that during both the 2008 and 2012 presidential bids by the man I had gone out of my way, gone way out of my way, to skewer him every chance I got for being so crooked that he couldn’t put his pants on by himself. Needed a valet to squeeze him in and even that was a close call. Those were the days when he was so “possessed” about being President that he changed his policies like he changed his socks. Didn’t know the truth if it came up and bit him. And that was the gentle stuff. Whoever back here caught that employment remark obviously missed the point. Maybe should have looked at the archives for 2008 and 2012 and gotten the real story. Allan Jackson]                      
 Sam Lowell thought it was funny how things worked out sometimes in such a contrary fashion in this wicked old world, not his expression that “wicked old world” for he preferred of late the more elastic and ironic “sad old world” but that of his old time North Adamsville corner boy Peter Markin who will be more fully introduced in a moment (Markin aka Peter Paul Markin although nobody ever called him that except his mother, as one would expect although he hated to be teased by every kid from elementary school on including girls, girls who liked to tease him, tease him when they wanted to show their interest usually, and his first ill-advised wife, Martha, a heiress of the local Mayfair swells who tried, unsuccessfully since they sensed right away that he was not one of them, to impress her leafy horse country Dover suburban parents with the familiar waspy triple names).
Neither of those expressions referred to however dated back to their youth since neither Sam nor Peter back then, back in their 1960s youth, would have used such old-fashioned religious-drenched expressions to explain their take on the world since as with all youth, or at least youth who expected to “turn the world upside down” (an expression that they both did use although each in very different contexts) they would have withheld such judgments or were too busy doing that “turning” business they had no time for adjectives to express their worldly concerns. No that expression, that understanding about the wickedness of the world had been picked up by Sam from Peter when they had reconnected a number of years before after they had not seen each other for decades to express the uphill battles of those who had expected humankind to exhibit the better angels of their nature on a more regular basis. Some might call this nostalgic glancing back, especially by Peter since he had more at stake in a favorable result, on a world that did not turn upside down or did so in a way very different from those hazy days.  

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

That made Phil’s among other things a natural hang-out place for wayward but harmless poor teenage corner boys. The serious “townie” professional corner boys, the rumblers, tumblers, drifters, grifters and midnight sifters hung around Harry’s Variety with leader Red Riley over on Sagamore far from beaches. Night haunting boys far from sweated sun, tanned daytime beaches, with their equally pale, black dress-etched “tramps,” well known the boyos network at the high school for those few adventurous enough to mess with an off-hand “from hunger” girl looking for kicks and a fast ride in some souped-up Chevy or on back of fat hog Harley, the bike of choice around the town. Although tanned daytime beaches rumors had it that the beach, the isolated Rock Island enough, had been the site of more than one nighttime orgy with “nice” publicly virginal girls looking for kicks with rough boys down among the briny rocks. Rumors they remained until Sam ran into Sissy Roswell many years later who confessed that she and the “social butterfly” prom/fall dance/ yearbook crowd she hung around with on a couple of occasions had been among the briny rocks the summer after graduation when school social ladders and girls’ locker room talk didn’t mean a thing.   

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

Sam had recently thought about that funny story that Markin had told the crowd once on a hot night when nobody had any money and were just holding up the wall at Phil’s about Johnny Callahan, the flashy and unstoppable halfback from the high school team (and a guy even Red respected having made plenty of money off of local sports who bet with him on the strength of Johnny’s prowess any given Saturday although Johnny once confessed that he, rightly, avoided Harry’s after what had happened to Timmy Fallon). See Johnny was pretty poor even by the median working poor standard of the old neighborhoods in those days (although now, courtesy of his incessant radio and television advertising which continues to make everyone within fifty miles of North Adamsville who knew Johnny back in the day aware of his new profession, he is a prosperous Toyota car dealer, called Mr. Toyota,  down across from the mall in Hull about twenty miles from North Adamsville, the town where their mutual friend Josh Breslin soon to be introduced came from). Johnny, a real music maniac who would do his football weight-lifting exercises to Jerry Lee’s Great Balls of Fire, Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula and stuff like that to get him hyped up, had this routine in order to get to hear songs that he was dying to hear, stuff he would hear late at night coming from a rock station out of Detroit and which would show up a few weeks later on Phil’s jukebox just waiting for Johnny and the kids to fill the coffers, with the girls who had some dough, enough dough anyway to put coins into that jukebox.

Johnny would go up all flirty and virile to some young thing (a Fritz expression coped from Jerry Lee and not an invention of Markin as Peter would later claim to some “young thing” that he was trying to “score”). Maybe, depending on whatever intelligent he had on the girl, maybe she had just had a fight with her boyfriend or had broken up with him Johnny would be all sympathy, or maybe she was just down in the dumps for no articulable reason like every teen goes through every chance they get, whatever it took. Johnny, by the way, would have gotten that intelligence via Peter who whatever else anybody had to say about him, good or bad, was wired into, no, made himself consciously privy to, all kinds of boy-girl information almost like he had a hook into that Monday morning before school girls’ locker room talkfest. Everybody already knew that he was hooked into the boys’ Monday morning version and had started more rumors and other unsavory deeds than any ten other guys.  Spreading ugly rumors about a guy whose girl he was interested in a specialty. But the guy was like Teflon, nobody ever thought to take him out for his actions they were so dependent on his information to keep their place in the social pecking order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The actual process of blog creation (as opposed to the more complex website-creation which still takes a fair amount of expertise to create) had been made fairly simple over time, just follow a few simple prompts and you are in business. Also over time what was possible to do has been updated for ease, for example linking to other platforms to your site and be able to present multi-media works lashing up say your blog with YouTube or downloading photographs to add something to your presentation. Peter one afternoon after Sam had asked about his blog links showed him the most political one that he belonged to, one he had recently begun to share space with Josh Breslin, Frank Jackman and a couple of other guys that he had known since the 1960s on and who were familiar with the various social, political and cultural trends that floated out from that period. 

Sam was amazed at the topics that those guys tackled, stuff that he vaguely remembered hearing about but which kind of passed him by as he delved into the struggle to build his printing shop. He told Peter that he got dizzy looking at the various titles from reviews of old time black and white movies that he remembered watching at the old Strand second run theater uptown, poetry from the “beat” generation, various political pieces on current stuff like the Middle East, the fight against war, political prisoners most of whom he had never heard of except the ones who had been Black Panthers or guys like that, all kinds of reviews of rock and roll complete with the songs via YouTube, too many reviews of folk music that he never really cared for, books that he knew Peter read like crazy but he could not remember the titles. The guys really had put a lot of stuff together, even stuff from other sites and announcements for every conceivable left-wing oriented event. He decided that he would become a Follower which was nothing sinister like some cult but just that you would receive notice when something was put on the blog.

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

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

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